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Dec 02, 2022 1:55 AM
A different Wei Wuxian lands in Lotus Pier
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There might be a good explanation for this.  If there is, Wei Wuxian still deserves to be hit for starting trouble will understand Jiang Cheng taking the precaution.  If message spells are not going to a person when they ought to, the person might not be there.  That this is either a doll of some kind or an imposter.  The Burial Mounds are to the west.  If Wei Wuxian had never been here-

Zidian sparks to life and Jiang Cheng sends it out to wrap around "Wei Wuxian's" body, pulling his arms against his sides and pinning them there.  It catches the blankets and extra robes Wei Wuxian covered himself in, resulting in an awkward wrapped bundle.  Zidian in this mode feels bathwater-warm and slightly buzzing in the few places not too insulated by the layers of cloth.  It's intelligent enough to shift as needed to prevent attempts to escape without being too tight, and the feeling is much like being climbed on by a purring snake. 

Once his quarry is fully immobilized, Jiang Cheng steps forward.

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From his perspective, Wei Wuxian experiences something sufficiently like being shaken awake. (Usually people just knock on his door! But sometimes for various reasons they do come inside.)

“mmm I’m awake,” he mumbles out toward whoever it is. But, people who are taking steps to get him awake are usually pretty committed that he get awake. He opens his eyes. 

…Right, alternate universe! He hopes he didn’t crumple any of other him’s notes, oops. Aaaaand other Jiang Cheng got into his room without him noticing again. (Yes, yes, heads of household can go wherever in their household they feel like.)

”Sorry, Jiang Cheng!” (Ha, right one, A+ Wei Ying!) As it transpires, he cannot get out of bed and kneel - or get out of bed and stand - because he is tied up with Zidian. …Why is he tied up with Zidian? It’s not even hurting him. And he’s wrapped in a blanket, it’s going to be very hard to hit him like this!

Well, hey, no need to figure out how to ask when he’s getting punished! He knows that’s gonna stop feeling like a bright side very soon, but, this was going to happen sooner or later and at this point he’s been seeing the pros of sooner.

He'd cocooned himself enough in his sleep not to really leave any unisolated places. Moving, even wrapped in Zidian, shifted some layers of cloth enough to change that here and there. He can feel the buzzing and warmth through thinner layers. ...Aw, Zidian is being nice today. (Other Jiang Cheng is having Zidian be nice.) The purring snake effect is weirdly kind of nice, like being petted.

He tenses anyway. Can feel that. It's not that he's gotten new information! He already knew other Jiang Cheng had an other Zidian. If anything being tied up with Zidian should make it less likely he's going to be punished with Zidian. (So he's afraid of his (alternative universe) brother's horrible lighting whip. It's very reasonable to be afraid of horrible lighting whips. That's most of the reason to even have a horrible lighting whip.)

(No escape attempts to prevent here. He doesn't know anything about alternate universe punishment rules but he thinks he can safely bet that one's a universal.)

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With Zidian occupied Jiang Cheng pulls out his sword.  His face is angry, and scared, and pleading.  His hand is steady.  Sandu glows a faint purple at the edges; it is not quite the same shade as the whip.

"Who are you?  What did you do to Wei Wuxian?  Anything you did to him, I will repay it tenfold."

He thinks back to all of the things that he should have taken as clues earlier.  Wei Wuxian needing multiple hints before calling him by his name.  Acting deferential and subservient like Wei Wuxian was supposed to but never did.  The strange clothing, the unusual writing implements he had just thought was Wei Wuxian being his usual inventive self and making due with whatever he scrounged up in the Burial Mounds.  Failing to turn on the heating array to the point of choosing to bundle in too many layers of robes instead.  His flute was gone, replaced with one only superficially similar. 

Jiang Cheng imagines Wei Wuxian giving a good explanation and him feeling stupid about reacting this way.  He also imagines Wei Wuxian hurt or trapped somehow, waiting for hours as Jiang Cheng failed to notice the signs.  There's really no way this is going to end well.

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The sight of other Jiang Cheng angry like that, and also pointing a (magic) sword at him turns out to be bare heart and nerve fucking scary enough that he almost tries to push back a few inches in the bed before being preempted by Zidian.

Right. Well. Fuck. (...In retrospect he should maybe have thought earlier that if and when other Jiang Cheng realized he wasn't the right Wei Wuxian it would be very obvious to suspect he'd done something to the right Wei Wuxian. Hindsight is really 20:20.)

He considers (very quickly!) his chances of trying to keep pretending to be other him when other Jiang Cheng has guessed he isn't. No, that won't work at all. He wasn't even doing that great and he has no idea how other Jiang Cheng figured it out.

...He considers his chances of successfully pretending that he also hadn't guessed yet until just now. No, bad idea, not that.

If he makes other Jiang Cheng literally torture him for information, neither of them are going to have a good time, his Jiang Cheng will kill him (not literally), it won't help whatever's going on with other him or House Jiang at all, and Shijie will definitely be upset.

 

"I didn't do anything to him! He's wherever he was before, I've never seen him! I did get teleported here, it wasn't me, but it was from another universe. I'm Wei Wuxian, I have a you, sir," (it slips out with the 'you'. What is the correct title for your alternate universe brother who currently thinks you did something to his actual brother, he has no idea.) "and a Shijie. I'm sorry, I should have told you earlier, sir, I didn't know at first but then I shouldn't have pretended, I'm sorry."

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Given that "Wei Wuxian" did not respond to being called out by revealing that his true form was a giant face-stealing eel and slipping out of Zidian, Jiang Cheng probably does not need his sword.  Sandu is kept up for the moment, just in case that is still a possibility and this is another lie designed to get his guard down.

"You're saying that there's another universe.  With a copy of Wei Wuxian, A-jie, and I, but different clothing."

Jiang Cheng's mind keeps coming back to the clothing.  Not surprising, given how much time he spends researching trends and making certain that he is properly dressed for the ever-shifting cycle of fashion.  (Or even without it.  Good looking clothing is its own reward.)  Powerful cultivators stay young-looking for a while.  It's possible that ...that... is just what everyone is going to be wearing in thirty years.

Which would mean that Wei Wuxian would have seen Jiang Cheng walking around in wildly outdated robes and not said anything?  How dare he be better dressed by future standards than Jiang Cheng!  Also how dare fashion standards drop that low - that looks like some kind of uniform.  No, that isn't important.  Wei Wuxian telling him a way to avoid real Wei Wuxian being executed for 30 years might be important, but there's no way of guessing if he's from the future or something more exotic.

Or lying.  There's no reason to assume that this is the real story.

Jiang Cheng approaches further, sword still drawn but angled downwards, posture ready to jump back at a sudden move.  With his other hand he lightly scratches at the side of Wei Wuxian's face with his fingernails, looking for the edge of some kind of mask.  Does anything seem wrong up close?

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His eyes keep going to the sword. Not very useful of them - other Jiang Cheng is not going to be more or less able to stab him whether or not he's looking. But he has learned a new fact about swords, which is that they're so much more attention drawing when they're unsheathed and pointed at you.

Clothing?? Right that's what other Jiang Cheng will have seen so far, he hasn't seen the magic or the tech difference. "Yes, sir. And more people, sir, and other differences." This feels like a speak when spoken to occasion but he still doesn't want other Jiang Cheng to end up with the wrong idea.

He successfully doesn't flinch at all, go him. No sudden moves; he is as still as Wei Wuxian can make himself for whatever other Jiang Cheng is doing right now.

(Nothing seems wrong or unusual or different from what Jiang Cheng would expect if he touched someone's face.)

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"Which differences have you noticed?"

While he's still there, Jiang Cheng grabs a few of the notes that look like they were made by the non-brush implements.  Then he walks backwards to a safer distance where he can skim their contents without being in range of an attack, and coincidentally "Wei Wuxian" can be less menaced by Sandu.  Do they seem to support his story?

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Sharp sword: farther away from him. He likes this trait in sharp swords.

That's a very broad question! He's just going to go with how his Jiang Cheng likes his reports until told otherwise. (...Nothing like giving an account while tied up with Zidian and held at swordpoint to make one appreciate more usual ways of giving account, like on his knees with his hand stinging!) His Jiang Cheng likes his reports concise so he can ask more if and where he wants; does not like being rambled at. 

"I think we have more technology sir, and you have power use we don't." Is he supposed to mention all the etiquette and dom-befitting-actions stuff? Nope he is so absolutely not touching the second one. "Etiquette's different sometimes.

Different events happened? Here than where I'm from, sir, I don't know about the other way yet."

 

(More things he should have thought of earlier: if he suspected him of, for instance, doing something to the right Wei Wuxian, other Jiang Cheng would probably not be polite about not reading his notes! He doesn't think he wrote anything terrible? Just going to have to hope he didn't doodle 'prison breaks are awesome' while falling asleep or something like that.)

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(Wei Wuxian's notes are in fact devoid of celebrations of prison breaks. Assuming Jiang Cheng can make out Wei Wuxian's personal-notes handwriting, he can read what very much looks like someone who has no idea how talismans or any cultivation demonic or otherwise works (but does seem to have some ideas about how something not completely dissimilar is expected to work) attempting to figure it out entirely from local Wei Wuxian's notes and the contents of this bedroom. There are some doodles in the margins - Wei Wuxian in more weird robes riding a sword (not even slightly in a manner anyone actually rides swords), a sketched figure Jiang Cheng won't recognize saying 'you're a genius Wei Wuxian'. Some scratchpaper level math, including notation he may not recognize.

From notes to doodles, modulo the different writing implement, everything looks exactly as though it could have been made in his Wei Wuxian's hand.)

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"Was one of the differences you getting taken in by the Lan instead?" Jiang Cheng says without thinking, tone irritated and insulting, not looking up from the notes.  The phrasing reminds him of Lan Wangji, on the rare occasions that man spoke at all. 

Jiang Cheng knows that to speak concisely and with as few words as possible is elegant, but it isn't Wei Wuxian.  Jiang Cheng has seen Wei Wuxian in worse situations than merely tied up and held at sword-point, talking everyone's ears off and making grand sweeping gestures all the while.  Not that Jiang Cheng condones that behavior, nor does he want to give the other Wei Wuxian lessons on how to pretend to be Wei Wuxian, so he shouldn't say anything more.

He is more than capable of reading Wei Wuxian's messiest and most casual handwriting, he's just in the habit of complaining about it anyway.  His eyes linger on the assumptions about magic.  With real Wei Wuxian possibly being okay, he focuses on the fact that these are Yunmeng Jiang techniques.  Alternate universe Wei Wuxian or not, this person is not a member of the Jiang sect!  Given that he did so only when Jiang Cheng personally set him into a room containing the notes and all but ordered him to go through them, he can't say anything about that, either. 

Given that the notes aren't, say, attempts to master Wei Wuxian's handwriting, or fake repeated lines that some kind of mimicry monster could produce, this narrows down the possibilities.  And the conclusions about talismans are, he will grudgingly admit in his head, brilliant on the level that only Wei Wuxian makes even if some of the base assumptions are off.  Jiang Cheng takes far better notes and would not be able to make connections like this with them.  When he needs a second hand to adjust the papers, he puts away Sandu.  Zidian alone is enough.

"You think you can walk in here, read about our proprietary techniques, then provide so little information of your own?  I wanted an explanation, and that was at best the table of contents for one.  Start with the different events."  With one of them tied up, etiquette is out the window already.

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