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Aug 08, 2020 8:13 AM
Untamed characters travel back in time
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He is pulled along with no resistance, focusing on the point of contact.  

"Yanli?  You're alive?"  He chokes out, voice hoarse.  

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"I am alive," she assures him, patting his arm.  "Did you have a nightmare, A-Cheng?"

It seems more than that, but she can't imagine what else might have happened between the time that they'd been sent to bed and now to make him that concerned.  Certainly nothing that wouldn't have brought him into her room with his sword, raising some kind of alarm.  

"Perhaps it was the unfamiliar bed," she suggests, when he finds himself unable to answer.  "Or worry for the upcoming ceremony?  Everything has been taken care of - I checked on our tribute before waking A-Xian earlier."

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"He's here?"

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"He is!  I was informed when I woke up that he'd returned from town with the missing invitation, then let himself inside.  It's good he'll be able to attend the ceremony with us."

They had originally been denied entry into Cloud Recesses the previous evening due to having lost their invitation.  Rather than all of them walking back together, most had stayed and made camp in a clearing outside of the gate.  Wei Wuxian had been sent down to Caiyi Town to get their invitation.  Not long after he'd left, Lan Wangji had arrived to invite them in, having received permission to bring them to their rooms to sleep instead of making them stay in the forest.  Jiang Yanli had worried about him coming back and finding them all missing, but Jiang Cheng had insisted they follow Lan Wangji.

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Cheng does not agree with this sentiment.  

He also isn't sure what ceremony she's talking about, but that's taking distant second in his priorities at the moment.  

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He will receive more arm pats. 

"Speaking of which, we only have a few more minutes before we need to leave.  You don't want to be late, right, A-Cheng?"  While remaining gentle, she adds just enough command to her voice to show that there is no arguing.  He will only be more upset if he is also late to the ceremony, even if he isn't thinking about that now.

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He should at least get dressed.  Whatever's going on here, he's going to need his sword.  Because apparently Wei Wuxian was here.

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Yanli will be right outside.

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A low bell rings from somewhere. Within moments there is some audible scrambling, and then Yanli will be joined outside by someone.

"Shijie! Did you get enough sleep? They told me that you got let in, was the bed okay - where's Jiang Cheng?"

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"I slept well.  A-Cheng may not have - he's running a bit late."

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"Late?" He clucks his tongue. "What a slacker! Shijie you should really scold him, you know if were running late Jiang Cheng would already be yelling. So unfair."

(Wei Wuxian is technically also running late, but less and so the point still stands.)

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Jiang dresses as quickly as possible.  Every moment that his sister isn't in his sight is one where she might inexplicably vanish.  

The few minutes are enough to let panic and horror and anger to give way more thoroughly to confusion.  The notes for his speech were next to his clothes.  He remembers giving that speech and the described gift years ago.  He'd been interrupted halfway through by the Nevernight contingent arriving and everyone drawing swords.

Had the last several years been a dream?  Was this a dream?  Normally, dreams were recognizable upon waking, but everything he remembers still seems so real - Lotus Pier burning, the Sunshot campaign, Nevernight, the years of raising A-Ling.  Much of it was terrible and senseless, but the kind of senseless of real wars not the inconsistencies of nightmares.

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When he steps out, he immediately spots Wei Wuxian.  Also strangely young, face less hollowed than he remembers, wearing white robes that look so different on him compared to the black.  

He is standing far too close to a-jie.  Without thinking, Cheng shoves him backwards.  

"How dare you!  You-" he cuts off for just a moment.  A-jie was right there?  Now on his other side from Wei Wuxian, protected.  "What did you do?"

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He stumbles back and clutches his chest. "Aiyah, Jiang Cheng, how could you! I didn't do anything at all. It's not my fault you were lazy - Shijie, look how mean he's being to me!"

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Yanli will grab onto A-Cheng, serving double-duty at trying to hold him in place and reassure him.

Did they have some kind of fight?  But no, A-Xian doesn't know what's going on with A-Cheng either.  

"Now, this isn't the time to start a fight, you two.  We're nearly late to the salute ceremony as it is."

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Something weird and unnatural is going on, and the number one suspect for anything weird and unnatural is the Yiling Patriarch.  

(Also, if he stops being angry he's probably going to start crying.)

"What are you doing, pretending you have no idea what's going on?"

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...Jiang Cheng seems actually unusually upset. Wei Wuxian can't think of a single thing that could make Jiang Cheng so angry. Unless it's...??

"Did someone tell you about the fight last night already? Listen, wasn't the one who started it so you don't even need to shout at me, I was being perfectly respectable and willing to go on my good way, with or without bribing law enforcers, how was I supposed to know that the law enforcer was a stubborn prick who hates the concept of joy - and look, I was only out that late in the first place to fetch our invitation for you!" He shakes his head and tsks. "So ungrateful, Jiang Cheng, really."

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Right.  Wei Wuxian had somehow managed to pick a fight with Lan Wangji back when he first arrived.  Which was either a few hours ago or a few years ago.  Jiang Cheng does know about the fight, and he's pretty sure he hadn't been told up to this point.  Was Wei Wuxian managing to get into a fight just so obviously inevitable that his memories matching up was a coincidence, or did this imply that what he remembers from the future is true?  Students arriving from Nevernight was far more unusual than Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji fighting.  He should go to the ceremony and see if that happens before making a decision.  

Still glaring suspiciously, still keeping A-jie and Wei Wuxian on opposite sides of himself, he straightens up.  "Let's go to this ceremony."

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He's still clearly bothered by something, but honestly when is he not.

Wei Wuxian shrugs this off. Together they can all hurry to the Lan Clan Mansion, where the ceremony will shortly begin.

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The Nie and Jin Clans are already present and seated, along with a large number of Lan disciples. (Lan Wangji is not among them). Everyone who should be alive continues to be.

Wei Wuxian sits affably in the same desk he picked - last time, or in the dream, or whatever it was. He leaves the desk in front open for Jiang Cheng, of course.

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It would hardly be proper for him to sit anywhere else, even if it does itch to not keep the other two in his sight at all times.  He goes over the notes for the speech which may or may not get interrupted later.  

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Lan Wangji arrives just in time for their bows.

He looks straight ahead, straight ahead, doesn't look over to his right even a little bit. First of all, he still hasn't had time to examine the evidence for this being possible and/or real. Secondly, Xichen is already watching him, and he will ask questions if Wangji seems too upset.

Thirdly, he's afraid that Wei Ying won't be there when he looks.

 

Everyone stands and bows. The Lan principles are read out loud, while they stay standing. Midway through this, Nie Huaisang's bird starts chirping quite a lot.

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Wow Who Could Have Possibly Predicted This.

People are looking, because of course they are. Meng Yao smiles pleasantly ahead and leaves no indication on his face that he thinks Huaisang is absurd in bringing a canary to the introduction ceremony for everyone's literal first impression.

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Whoa. A bird is exponentially more interesting than any of the rules that are being recited right now, this is a fantastic development.

He leans over a little bit. "Psst, hey! What kind of bird is that?"

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He glances around to make sure that only the people who won't yell at him are watching.  The canary is shown off from a gap between his wide sleeves, angled so that only Wei Wuxian can see.  

"It's a canary!  I tracked it down while coming here, for three days before I caught it," he whispers conspiratorially.  

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