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.
"--Well, I suppose that's less worrying than it would have been before Wen Ying managed her coup."
"I wish I had more information to put you currently at ease. Apologies for my inadequacy, Zewu Jun."
"You're not inadequate. Even this much information is incredibly useful," Lan Xichen says firmly.
"Then perhaps these will also be useful." He pulls the three letters neatly from his sleeve and offers them to Lan Xichen with a smile. "Letters to Zewu-jun from Nie-zongzhu, Wen-zonzghu, and Lan-guniang."
He takes the letters as quickly as he can without outright snatching them and opens Lan Zhan's first.
Lan Zhan's letter is written to her family. To Uncle or to Brother, whoever it finds first. (Whoever is alive.)
To her Senior, she writes: she is alive. She is well. She hopes that Uncle and Brother are both unharmed and safe.
Wen Ying has disposed of Wen Ruohan and his sons. She is now positioned as Sect Leader, and Lan Zhan is her wife. Lan Zhan offers reassurances of Wen Ying's intention to support the Lan Sect, offer aid and withdraw Wen occupation.
She was not forced into the marriage. It had been initially an accident, necessary in the Cold Pond Cave and proposed by Lan Yi, but it was Lan Zhan's own decision to inform Wei Ying what the ribbon-binding meant. This is what she wants.
Lan Zhan will visit (as soon as is permitted by her doctor) once she hears of Brother or Uncle's location. They will be safe to emerge from hiding. She hopes to see them soon.
That sure explains a whole lot about A-Zhan's reactions after the Cold Pond Cave.
What the hell, Lan Yi.
Okay, well, wife is...objectively better than "concubine," although he would cheerfully have settled for "girlfriend." And now he gets to explain this to Uncle, joy.
Still. A-Zhan is alright. And happy. That's what's important.
"Thank you," he says sincerely to Meng Yao.
"You have good news, then?" says Meng Yao, who definitely has not already read and resealed all the letters.
"A-Zhan is well. And a wife, apparently, rather than a concubine," he says firmly. "Before they even left Cloud Recesses, even--I really have to wonder what Lan Yi was thinking..."
"I couldn't presume to speculate... I do not know Lan Yi or her intentions. But perhaps it will at least afford the Lan Sect more security to have given Qishan Wen a bride." He smiles. "I'm glad to hear that she is well."
"If marrying Wen Ying were necessary to secure the Cloud Recesses...I can't say Lan Zhan wouldn't do it, but she wouldn't be happy about it. If Lan Zhan is happy, which she says she is, then the Cloud Recesses were safe regardless as soon as Wen Ruohan died."
Meng Yao considers that a questionable assumption to make, but doesn't argue.
"It must have been hard on Zewu-Jun, worrying all this time. Are you alright?"
"I'm fine." He smiles at Meng Yao. "It seems likely to be safe to return to Cloud Recesses now. Will you accompany me?"
His eyes brighten. "I would be honored."
The first thing Lan Xichen feels when he sees the Cloud Recesses again is guilt.
He knows that Uncle was right, that running away with as much of the library as he could carry was the right choice, but he still feels guilty that he left the rest of the sect to fight and die without him.
He sets that aside. He can deal with that later. Everyone is overjoyed to see him; he takes command of the rebuilding and regrouping efforts.
It is four worry-filled days before they find Lan Qiren.