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Apr 16, 2021 6:42 AM
More time travel with Lan Wangji and Jiang Cheng
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This time he flinches hard enough for Jiang Wanyin to see. 

It's physically painful, how much that hurts. How much the anger hurts. His blood boils and rage nearly blacks out his vision, but attacking Jiang Wanyin in the campsite is still a very bad idea. Telling Jiang Wanyin that Wei Ying is alive (maybe, maybe, maybe, Wei Ying) and will absolutely have use for his sword again is an even worse idea.

 

Fine. Wangji will go get Wei Ying from the Burial Mounds (maybe) and then he can come back here and murder Jiang Wanyin over Suibian somewhere more discreet. 

He turns on his heel and stalks off, away from the camp entirely.

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This gets Lan Wangji a head start, as Jiang Cheng needs to go ask someone where he is separately.  He also spends a few minutes making sure that the camp knows where he and Lan Wangji have run off to and to hand over command to the next highest ranked person.

Then he too starts flying towards the Burial Mounds.  

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Wangji, of course, gets there first. Touches down on one of the rocky paths that leads up towards dark smoke and mist and black mountains. The shadow of the Burial Mounds is a touch darker than he remembers.

He runs up the path, the air growing colder and the clouds thicker the further he gets. Wangji remembers this path, and he remembers the snarl of dark, tangled trees that block the way ahead of him. He doesn't hesitate before plunging on into the howling, windy, shadowy woods. 

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The Burial Mounds are not peaceful.  Their roiling darkness is not as oppressive as it had been a few months prior, but it still has a way to go before becoming the merely gloomy land that Wei Wuxian's presence would transform it into.  

The path is not quite the same as it would have been in the future.  Fetid and deceptive algae-capped pools cover dips in the path, and dead twisted trees almost seem to ambush him from spots he'd expected to be cleared.  Heavy black fog oozes from between the branches, clinging despite the wind as if it could hold him in place and obscuring everything beyond his arms reach.  Beneath, the ground almost seems to writhe.  There are so many corpses, piled on one after another, trapped within the knotted embrace of the tree roots and screaming from the muck.  Even knowing the general location of the cavern at the heart of the Burial Mounds, every step forward is hard-fought to gain and keep.

And the mostly intact corpses gather towards the intruder from across the hills.  

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"Wei Ying!" he screams, though he can barely hear himself. Drawing Bichen fails to break the darkness around him. "Wei Ying!"

He forces a step, another step, leaning into the awful, clinging fog. His foot sinks deep into something soft; Wangji shudders. With the next step, foul mud seems to rise and curl around his ankle, squeezing tight for one moment before releasing him. The fog drags at him as well, pressing his chest.

In the dark and with this much resentful energy close on all sides, Lan Zhan cannot detect any encroaching fierce corpses until they are fully upon him.

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This is going to make them quite hard to fight.  

The first few, which had already been wandering close by, approach.  Their mouldering clothing reeks but even that is lost in the general affront to the senses that is the burial mounds.  With their shambling gait they aren't travelling much faster than he is in the mud and roots, but they're coming from every direction and more arrive with each passing minute.

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Those first ones, he dispatches easily. As more converge on him, he cannot guard every side no matter how fast Bichen flickers through the gloom. Nails scratch down the length of his arm and he hisses, quickly cutting down the offender.

Desperation flares within him; Wei Ying is in here, Wei Ying is in here and alone and without even his sword. He can only defend himself with a cultivation method that causes him pain. Wangji needs to get to Wei Ying immediately, but the constant assault prevents him from moving onward.

"Wei Ying! Wei Ying!" he cries. Something cold wraps around his throat and squeezes, lifting his feet from the clinging mud. Wangji struggles, kicking out at the nearest corpses and slashing Bichen overhead.

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It is struck down, releasing him back into the muck.  Another takes its place after mere moments.  

A stalemate is reached - if he puts all of his energy towards fighting, he can keep them at bay for now.  This doesn't give him any extra energy to progress closer to the caves.

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Meanwhile, Jiang Cheng has just arrived in Yiling.  He can't remember if there would still be Wen there or not, so he can't take much time to look around.  He pauses just long enough to check for any cultivators in pure white robes, then heads towards the Burial Mound itself.

Then he leaps in after him.  Jiang Cheng had been here too, once.

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He has a slightly easier time getting to where Lan Wangji is stuck than Lan Wangji had - the undead between there and the outer edge having already been dealt with.  Now any they fought would be coming from the front and sides.  Uncontrolled corpses weren't intelligent enough to try flanking strategies.  They just came in waves until they were all cut down.

The black fog blocks out the purple light of Zidian as it crackles through the few that broke off their attack on Lan Wangji to get at the other target, but nothing else in the howling forest sounds quite like the crackle of lightning once he's close enough to be audible.  Followed shortly afterwards by a great deal of cursing directed at the zombies and also Lan Wangji.  Who is an idiot and could have waited for five minutes to tell him so they could have gone in here together to rescue Wei Wuxian.  What was he thinking going in here alone?

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Fuck him, actually!!!

This is technically a tactical improvement over being intermittently strangled by angry fog, but if Wei Ying's life weren't at stake Wangji would take angry fog over Jiang Wanyin any day.

"If you touch him --"

Wangji is barely audible, and looking back in order to yell earns him another thin scratch. Fuck. He will yell at Jiang Wanyin later, and then also stab him.

But for now, thanks to the Zidian, he can resume forging ahead,

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Jiang Cheng has an astonishing lung capacity for yelling at people, but it's true that this is hardly the time and place.  Personal issues set aside for a common goal, they fight side by side with skill and practice.

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This earns them slow but steady progress towards the place where Wei Wuxian should be.

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The slow progress gets easier the further they go. Fewer corpses, in this direction, and patches of the forest that are shadowed but visible, passable. The ground becomes more solid beneath their feet. There are bones everywhere, but as the resentful energy thins, it becomes easier to avoid stepping on them.

They reach a clearing that both of them will recognize, free of bodies and bones and trees. Across it, the entrance to a familiar cave. The Demon-Subdue Palace.

 

Wei Wuxian is inside. He knows intruders are approaching; the Burial Mounds have told him. They whispered, visitors, visitors. Bright ones. Wei Wuxian, Wei Wuxian, let us have them.

He waits, curious to see who else the Wen Sect hates enough to condemn to this fate.

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It hurts to be here again. This place where for so long Wei Ying was happy (and starving, and lonely). This place that he first abandoned and then failed to protect.

It hurts.

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He steps forward cautiously and calls out.  "Wei Wuxian?  Can you hear us?"

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What.

He's heard plenty of voices since he arrived here, Jiang Cheng certainly among them. But never so loud and clear and isolated from ghastly shrieking.

Wei Wuxian gets to his feet and gingerly ventures from the cave, eyes narrowed. 

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"Wei Ying."

He lurches a step forward, eyes wide. Wei Ying looks terrible: pale and starved and smudged with dirt. Wei Ying looks beautiful and alive. So impossibly alive. 

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Well what the fuck is he supposed to do now. 

"Sorry, I didn't know I was expecting guests," he says mildly, looking at Jiang Cheng. "I would have set out tea."

(He is aware that his voice is hoarse and slightly too flat. He is aware that resentful energy drifts like smoke from his shoulders. He does not look at Lan Zhan, because wow telling Lan Zhan about any part of this had super never been the plan!)

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alive alive alive alive

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Jiang Cheng is at a loss for words as his face cycles through a dozen emotions.  His brother, who is brilliant and stupid and always managing to do everything he sets his mind to even when it's impossible.  His first thought is to ask if Wei Wuxian is okay, but that's... too obviously wrong.  Jiang Cheng needs to drag him back to where his sister can feed him until he stops looking so thin.  He needs to break his legs so he stops running into danger too far for anyone to help. 

He needs to hug him. 

"Never mind tea.  We're here to get you out."

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"Aw, but Jiang Cheng, I'm not done with my landscaping project yet. You don't like the decor?" 

He walks forwards. He hasn't touched another living person in three months, but he's sure he can hug just fine.

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No he can't.

Wangji inserts himself between them in an instant, Bichen brandished in her sheath. "Wei Ying --"

 

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God Here It Comes

He figured Lan Zhan would be angry about -- well, everything here, everything Wei Ying has been doing to survive -- but he didn't expect him to stop him from hugging his brother just in order to be lectured first.

"Lan Wangji," he sighs, tilting his head so he only sees Lan Zhan in the corner of his eyes. "Your Gusu rules really don't say anything about waiting your turn?"

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That hurts as much as it did the first time they reunited, that Lan Wangji. It should be better, knowing that this passes and Wei Ying doesn't hate him forever, but it still hurts.

Wangji exhales, doesn't move. "Wei Ying," he says again, softly. "Do not go near him."

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