The Wen Sect contingent is approaching the Cloud Recesses, and Wen Chao has a smirk on his face that's even stupider than average for a Wen Chao facial expression.
Two Lan disciples stand before the gates of the Cloud Recesses. They look unnerved seeing Wen Chao's approach; the one on the right smiles tersely. "Sir, please present your invitation."
"An invitation is required for entry into Cloud Recesses. No invitation, no entry. No jade token, no entry. Arriving late, no entry."
Wen Chao thrusts out a hand to force-choke the Lan disciple, smoke rising from his collar.
He gasps, hand flying to his throat. His companion guard starts forward, alarmed.
One of the other members of the contingent hastily steps between him and the Lan disciple.
"Cousin, cousin, there's no need to sully your own hands with the likes of such as they," she assures him.
He drops his hand, releasing the disciple. "What do you suggest, then?"
She bows to him.
"If you will but give this one a moment," she says, and turns to the wards. Her eyes narrow, and she chews on her lip. After a moment, her hand comes up and she traces a bright orange talisman in the air, which rushes forwards and impacts the barrier at the gate. It ripples and shatters.
"After you," she says, gesturing.
He nods and sweeps past her, giving the Lan disciples an imperious look. "As you can see, the Wen sect needs no invitation to go wherever we please," he sneers.
The Lan disciples gape after them in mingled fear and shock, the one on the right still clutching the smoking collar of his white robes.
No one else impedes their path.
Did the Lan disciples say something about their being late? Well that would explain why all these people are already gathered.
He breezes in, shoving past the guy who was already at the front.
"You know, it was unnecessarily difficult to get in."
"...The Lan sect apologizes, then, for not having anticipated your arrival. It's only that nobody from the Wen sect has come to attend our lectures for the past hundred years. Are we to be honored with your presence, then?"
"Absolutely not. I'm only here as an escort. Besides, how could the Lan sect possibly have anything to teach the Qishan Wen?"
How dare he.
She starts fiercely forward, hand gripping Bichen's hilt, but catches herself. Glances at Brother for permission. Let me demonstrate what the Lan can teach him.
Headshake. He REALLY REALLY REALLY DOES NOT NEED THAT POLITICAL HEADACHE RIGHT NOW.
"Gongzi, that being the case--we're here, you've escorted us, you can go now, surely you have more important things to do than loiter around here."
As he turns to leave, he grips her arm and says, low and in her ear, "Don't spend so much time having fun that you forget why you're really here."
She nods stiffly.
Once it's only her, Qing-jie and Ning-di, she drops to one knee on the floor and bows deeply.
"This one apologizes for not having been able to restrain Wen-Gongzi. To defy the will of the main house is not safe for oneself or one's loved ones, in the Qishan Wen sect. Myself, Wen Ying, my older sister, Wen Qing, and my younger brother, Wen Ning, have been ordered to attend these lectures by Sect Leader Wen. We swear that during our stay we shall do our best to follow the Lan strictures and redeem ourselves for this failure."
Hmmmmm. It cannot be a good thing that the Qishan Wen are here, but it seems as though they at least want to avoid outright conflict. Qiren also wants to avoid conflict. Turning them away feels safest, but ultimately wouldn't be.
Part of their redemption will be abiding by the protocol of the opening ceremony, as much as they still can after barging in two hours late. Wen Qing motions for A-Ning to hand her their gift, then steps forward to offer the large, polished mahogany box in a bow to Sect Leader Lan. "Please forgive us for the commotion. Wen-er gongzi was not familiar with the rules of Cloud Recesses, but we will learn quickly."
"If they have spoken truly," says Lan Qiren slowly, eyeing the box like it might explode, "Then we will accept it."
To the extent that they spoke truly, he is saying, the Lan Sect welcomes them. And no further.
Damn it, she is actually going to have to follow the Lan sect's absurd number of rules, fuck you Wen Chao. She adds this to the bottom of her very, very long list of reasons why Wen Ruohan and his sons Must Go.
He accepts the box and eyes the three of them critically. "The opening ceremony is over. You may retire to a guest house. Please be on time to classes tomorrow."
She watches them Suspiciously. Lan Zhan isn't going to follow them, exactly, but she is going to eye them judgmentally and make sure they're walking in the right direction without any rulebreaking as everyone files out of the mansion