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Jul 25, 2021 7:03 PM
More time travel with Lan Wangji and Jiang Cheng
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Wei Wuxian, Lan Wangji, and Wen Ning left.

Jiang Cheng raced through the walkways of Lotus Pier as he had been instructed to by Wen Ning, and as he had to because he had to know.  Anyone who wasn't smart or fast enough to get out of his way was ordered to pull Suibian from its sheath.  To try and find any hope that what Wen Ning had shouted at him was a lie.  Rather than everything else in these past years having been built on a lie.  

It wasn't.

After his golden core was crushed, Jiang Cheng thought he'd gone to Baoshan Sanren.  He'd been ordered to claim to be Wei Wuxian, the son of her disciple.  That she would heal his core.  And it had seemed to work - he'd woken up on the side of that mountain with his abilities as a cultivator intact.  However, it had all been a ruse.  Wei Wuxian and Wen Qing had found a way to transfer golden cores.  They had removed Wei Wuxian's own golden core to put in Jiang Cheng.  

Jiang Cheng fell asleep that night still clutching Suibian, curled around it.

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When he wakes up still holding the sword, the memories come flooding back.  He stares at it, the intricate details of the finely-crafted sheath and hilt, and the shining blade within that he can reveal when no one else in Lotus Pier can.

In the stillness of the morning its easy to for Jiang Cheng to sense the golden core within him.  It had become a habit of his to drift into the meditative state that allowed him to feel it.  Just to check that it was still there - not the hollowness he'd felt those horrible few days between being captured by Wen Chao and the Core Crusher and going up the mountain to-

Wei Wuxian.

What had made him do it?  It couldn't have been a sense of duty - or Wei Wuxian wouldn't have stopped there and abandoned his duties at Lotus Pier.  It couldn't have been that he'd cared - or Wei Wuxian wouldn't have abandoned Jiang Cheng.  Gone away to live in the squalor and graveyard dirt with the last of the Wen clan.

It didn't make sense.  Or maybe, Jiang Cheng thought, maybe he was just too stupid to figure anything out.  Wei Wuxian had never used his sword after that day.  Jiang Cheng had never realized why, before it was finally spelled out for him.

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He takes a deep breath.  There are things that need to happen today and he can't lie around in bed forever.

It takes him until that moment to look past the immediate sword in his hand and realize he's not in his room.  Or any room at all, in fact.  This appears to be a tent.  

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It does in fact appear to be a tent!  The fabric of the walls is letting through just a bit of light, indicating early dawn.

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Whatever is going on, at least his camping supplies are in here with him.  He changes and prepares for the day.

He considers Suibian.  Jiang Cheng had made quite a commotion last night, and he's dreading having to deal with any of the people who'd seen him running around shouting about Wei Wuxian's sword.  If he were back in his room like he was supposed to be he'd leave it behind.  As horrible as everything it implies is, he still doesn't want to leave it in a random place like this tent.  Suibian joins Sandu in his hand as he cautiously opens the tent flap and exits.

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Outside are more tents set up in a small war camp.  The closest tents are Jiang colors, his symbol on the banners overhead.  Not far away is an adjoining camp with a few Lan tents.  Those are arrayed into perfectly neat rows along the central path.

The only other people currently awake are the sentries.  The nearest one notices and salutes him before going back to scanning the distance.

Jiang Cheng has had enough experience with war to read camps like this as if they were scrolls.  From the presence of smoldering fires, they felt confident enough to not concern themselves with alerting enemies.  Someone is passed out drunk outside of their tent beside the fire (on the Jiang side, not the Lan side, of course).  This feels like a camp which has recently been victorious.

Beneath the campfire smoke, the air is tinged with the sulfurous scent of volcanic activity.  This implies they're in Qishan and somewhat close to Nightless City.

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He should probably go over there and chastise the drunk for improper discipline, but he'll get a break today because Jiang Cheng is very confused.  Was he so distraught that he... formed a small army and marched on Qishan?  That doesn't explain the Lan presence.

Jiang Cheng is hardly going to admit that he doesn't know what's going on.  Putting on his best air of dignity and station, he walks up to the sentry.  

"Do you have anything to report?"

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After another bow, the man answers.  "Everything has been quiet, Jiang-zongzhu.  I haven't seen any Wen infiltrators or scouts."

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Of course he hasn't.  The Wen have all been dead for over a decade.  Jiang Cheng glares and assumes the man is humoring him, then walks away.  It's not looking any less likely that he did some very embarrassing things last night (or however long it took to set all of this up and march everyone out here.)  

Jiang Cheng will head towards the Lan section.  Perhaps he'll get a better idea of what happened once he sees which Lan joined this whatever-this-is.

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He wakes up.

By now it is unconscious instinct for Wangji to tense upon waking, bracing himself for waves of grief and pain to come crashing down.

The grief comes as it always does, hollow and heavy and aching.

The pain does not.

 

He opens his eyes. Wangji is alone, which is correct, and beneath the canvas roof of a tent, which is not. His head pounds, so he cannot have lost all sensation, but his back feels like... nothing.

He sits up too quickly and flinches, expecting to feel the tearing and cracking of skin as scars reopen. That does not happen. He reaches back and touches a shaking finger to his shoulder blade: nothing. No pain. No bandages beneath his thin nightshirt.

He stands and dresses quickly in only two layers, enough to not be indecent. Exits the little tent.

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He does not know what he expected, under the circumstances, but it wasn't this.

The scent of ash and sulfur turns his stomach. He hates this smell. Perhaps this is some strange new extension of his punishment, taking him back -- but no, no, that doesn't make sense. That doesn't explain his completely uninjured back, nothing explains that. He must... be dreaming then. Somehow.

Wangji looks around the campsite. 

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It is quiet, though won't be for long.  The tents immediately surrounding his own are all Lan colors and their occupants are on the same early-rising schedule as Lan Wangji.  There are the beginnings of quiet rustling coming from inside of a few as the other Lan wake up.

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Jiang Cheng spots Lan Wangji from several tents down in the wide pathway between them.  It just had to be Lan Wangji.  Why would he have thought it'd be anyone else.

He stomps over.  In a tone that doesn't do anything to mask his annoyance, "A pleasant morning to you, Lan-er-gongzi.  As always it's a privilege to see you setting such a good example for everyone by waking up early."

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He flinches, which Jiang Wanyin will not be able to notice. He summons Bichen to his hand and draws her blade, which Jiang Wanyin presumably will be able to notice. (He may also notice that Lan Wangji is wearing his swirling silver hairpiece from when they were teenagers.)

 

This is a nightmare, then, but if it isn't -- and it still does not feel like a dream at all -- he cannot murder Jiang Wanyin in the middle of a crowded campsite. After a crime like that he will never get a chance to raise A-Yuan properly, if he even survives --

where the fuck is A-Yuan --

 

Wangji glares at Jiang Wanyin in a very heated way that means stay the fuck back and fucking explain. 

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What the fuck?

He halts and backs up a step, hand twitching towards his own sword when Bichen is drawn.  With two in his hand he almost grabs the wrong one.  Though, he supposes it wouldn't matter anyway.  

He doesn't want to just ask what's going on because he doesn't want to admit to Lan Wangji that he doesn't know what's going on.  What is he supposed to say upon having a sword drawn at him?

"Is there a problem, Lan-er-gongzi?"

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Is there a PROBLEM? Somehow it gets even harder to not kill Jiang Wanyin than it already was.

 

"Why are you here."

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That is a good question.  

Jiang Cheng is initially very confused.  Why wouldn't Lan Wangji know?  However, Lan Wangji probably didn't mean it at the same scale he wants to know on.  That was probably a question about why he was on the Lan side of the camp.  That makes far more sense.  

"Do I need your permission to walk around camp?"

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"Why are we in Qishan?"

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"...Damn.  You don't know either?  I just woke up here and was looking for information."  

On one hand, it's nice to know that he's not the only one confused.  On the other hand, this probably means they're in serious danger.  Whatever managed to steal him from inside of Lotus Pier's defenses and also capture Hanguang-jun must be powerful.

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Well.

Has anyone in the gradually-rousing Lan camp come outside of their tents yet, that he can question?

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It doesn't take long before the first emerges, and several more follow in quick succession.  They don't look confused about where they are or what they should be doing about it.

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He sheathes his sword and walks to the nearest one. "Summarize our movements yesterday."

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Even if the random Lan thinks this request is strange, he does not think that it's his place to question Lan Wangji.

"Yesterday we reached the Indoctrination Bureau and attacked the Wen forces there.  We fought and were victorious.  We currently control this outpost and have retrieved the swords that were being held here."

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Random Lan should not be able to read his shock.

Attacking the Indoctrination Bureau. This could mean...

 

 

Wei Ying, Wei Ying -- 

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He nods curtly. Retraces his steps to Jiang Wanyin and looks and - sure enough, Suibian is grasped at his side. Wangji holds out his hand without offering any explanation.

"Give Suibian to me."

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He doesn't want to!

It's bad enough that Lan Wangji just carried off Jiang Cheng's brother.  Now he wants the sword too?  He clings to it protectively.

"No!  It's not like he can use it any more, anyway."

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