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What Does Kill You Can Make You Stronger, Too

Chapter 15: The Young and the Restless Dead

a funerary pyre - dinner conversation with the juniors - *Aradia voice* C0RPSE PARTY! three fierce corpses on the road

Xiao Xingchen’s body burned easily. Xue Yang’s best arts—for surely this desperate preservation was the closest he’d come to doing good—had nonetheless left it far dryer than a natural corpse. The smoke was light, and aromatic from the herbs tucked into his robes; it blended smoothly into the lingering fog. (The resentful energy was dissipating with the absence of the Tiger Seal, but the river and cliffs remained, and thus so did the fog.)

It wasn’t entirely traditional, but everyone agreed he’d spent more than enough time in a coffin.

Song Lan stood at Xiao Xingchen’s head and recited a voiceless prayer. His left arm had been retrieved and sewn back on. The indomitable young A-Qing, whose story Jiang Yanli had heard mostly in overlapping chorus from the junior disciples, stood beside him with a bamboo cane clutched in white-knuckled hands, and an expression of savage and victorious relief. She did not weep.

Jin Ling and his friends ranged awkwardly around the bier, several crying sympathetically. Wen Ning lurked further back, still wary and shy. Jiang Yanli stood by her son, of course—but as the body burned, as the smoke drifted up, she sidled over to Xiao Xingchen’s martial nephew and squeezed his hand until just before she snapped it.

Wei Wuxian laid his head on her shoulder and did his weak best to squeeze back (don’t let go). He was so much shorter, now.

[keep reading on AO3]

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A love story for Song Lan and Xiao Xingchen

In a modern world, in a modern city that still has need for cultivators, Song Lan 

(war hero, rogue cultivator, orphan)

goes for a run in the park, kills a dankang, makes a friend, and meets a beautiful man with a dog, all before he has to go to therapy. It’s the best day he’s had in ten years.

Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3

Read over on AO3 instead

Title from molly ofgeography’s song Runaway, Run

Rated E for Explicit sexy times, mild demon killing, and swearing.

image

Part 1

Song Lan wakes to the sound of screaming

familiar

 too familiar

and he knows it is his own voice seconds

long seconds

before he can snap his mouth closed around the last trailing sob.

The thrum of the city leaks back in, pushing past the roaring in his ears, and reminds him to ground himself. The clean white walls of the stark room around him. The feel of the bed underneath him, the smell of lemon dryer sheets, the glow of the neon light across the street. All known. All safe. He skips the taste of morning breath.

If he could remember the nightmares, the exact details, maybe he’d tell his therapist. It would at least give them something to talk about instead of the silent hour he wastes twice a week now.

No. That’s a lie. He knows what’s in them. He still wouldn’t talk about it.

The clock by his bed claims it’s 5:04 am, a fairly reasonable time to be awake, so he gets up. May as well get his run over with.

— ⚔ —

“Do you run every day,” Dr. Wen asks.

Song Lan nods.

Dr. Wen writes something down.

“Do you enjoy running?” Dr. Wen asks.

Song Lan nods.

Dr. Wen writes something down.

“Why do you enjoy it?” Dr. Wen asks.

Song Lan shrugs.

Dr. Wen writes something down.

— ⚔ —

Song Lan doesn’t really enjoy running any more than he enjoys digesting food. But it’s too ingrained in him now, the rhythm of air and feet and arms. He couldn’t stop if he wanted to. It is the anchor of his day.

Ten miles covers a lot of the city, and as familiar as it is, as long as he’s lived and run here, it looks different every morning, like noticing a light freckle on the back of his wrist. When it’s cloudless before dawn like today, he runs down the lakeshore path to watch the sunrise at the halfway mark. On cue, with all the fanfare and flourish of a seasoned professional, at 6:17 am, the sun erupts in yellow and pink over the horizon and turns the water to diamonds. It looks like magic every time.

This he loves and doesn’t have to lie about.

Song Lan is two miles from his place, running through the park, when the skin on the back of his neck prickles, and he slows his pace. Is it a hundred yards away? Maybe closer? He opens his mind and sends out a questing wave of qi from his core. He doesn’t know if he needs to draw the sword strapped to his back yet. There’s no one else around. Maybe whatever it is will just…mind its own business.

He doesn’t hunt anymore, not actively, but he still runs with his sword. It’s just habit, probably. He would feel incomplete without Fuxue’s weight between his shoulder blades. And even if he doesn’t go looking for danger, danger is often waiting.

Without warning, an enormous dankang explodes from the bushes by the running path and careens toward him. The green pelt that had camouflaged it glows in the early morning light, and Song Lan is swinging Fuxue almost before the sword is even in his hand. The boar roars in a very un-pig-like way, and he idly wonders, as the blade cuts into the demon’s hide, what the taxonomic difference between dankang and pigs is. Are they different families? Orders? Or is there some divergence further back? It squeals in pain but doesn’t give up the attack, changing direction mid-stride and flashing wicked yellow tusks at him.

It takes six strikes to kill the monster. He always counts. The counting, like the running, is an integral part of him. One downward hack. One thrust to the shoulder. One spinning jab in the dankang’s ribs. Two upward slashes. One strike in the throat and the beast is dead.

Song Lan texts the Nie cleanup crew his coordinates and takes a thin cloth from his pocket to wipe the blood off of Fuxue, dropping it on to the body when he’s done. He’ll clean the sword properly when he gets back.

“Six strikes,” a voice says from behind him, and he whirls, surprised to be surprised. “Was it luck, or are you really that good?”

There’s a man in a long trench coat standing on the path with a dog sitting next to him. The dog is one of those scruffy brown mutts that would be completely ordinary in every way except it looks far too clever to be a dog. It cocks its head and one floppy ear flips inside out.

The man is backlit by a golden ray of sun

not ordinary

 in no way ordinary

and Song Lan can’t see his features clearly enough, not from this distance

a hundred and thirty-three feet

 wind from the east

but it looks like he might be carrying a sword.

— ⚔ —

Sometimes in therapy, Song Lan counts the holes in the acoustical ceiling tiles.

Sometimes he counts the colored pencils on Dr. Wen’s desk.

Sometimes he counts the number of times Dr. Wen spins his pen in his fingers, waiting for Song Lan to answer a question. Any question.

— ⚔ —

Song Lan counts to seven before he answers, the numbers slowing his heartbeat.

“It was one more than last time.”

The man laughs, a bright chime of bells that wrinkles his nose. The dog looks up at its master, and its mouth drops open in a doggy grin.

“Clearly a failure, then. I hope the next time I see you, you will have improved.”

Song Lan is distracted by his voice, deeper than he expects, more musical than he expects, and he’s acutely disappointed when the man turns and walks away, the dog at his heels. He’s almost overcome by the impulse to call the man back, just so he can see his face again, so he can decide if it’s real or not.

“I’m here every day at 7 am,” the man calls over his shoulder before he disappears around a corner. Or maybe he disappears into a beam of light. Song Lan can easily believe either.

He takes one step to follow, and then realizes what he’s doing. It’s ridiculous. He takes a second step anyway. But a woman is suddenly at his elbow, handing him a clipboard, asking for his ID and signature. He has no idea how the cleaners got there so fast.

“I haven’t seen a dankang in this park before, have you?” the woman asks.

Song Lan shakes his head.

“Yeah, they usually prefer the suburbs. More hedge rows,” she says, and Song Lan isn’t sure if this requires an answer, so he doesn’t.

She takes the clipboard when he’s finished and peers at it. “Oh, I should have known. You’re the silent rogue—not technically a hunter, but still has more kills than most of the competitive cultivators? Wild!”

Silent rogue, he wonders. As opposed to what?

The woman hands him a card as her team finishes loading the demon into a step van.

“Luo Qingyang. Call me directly next time. I have an office competition to win.” She winks at him and saunters away.

By the time Song Lan gets to the corner where the man disappeared, there’s only cars and pedestrians and noise, and it’s 7:30 am. He has somewhere to be at 9 am, and he doesn’t want to be asked why he’s late.

Keep reading

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this is part 9 of the au where Xiao Xingchen is the one to raise Wei Wuxian

Quiet voices outside their door make Xiao Xingchen and Song Lan pause in their nightly routine, their movements going still as they try to guess who the voices might belong to, though they both relax once they realize one of the voices belongs to their nephew.

“He’s back before curfew, barely.” Song Lan murmurs, coming to stand just behind Xiao Xingchen, a hand resting underneath his elbow. Smiling and huffing out a quiet laugh, Xiao Xingchen lets himself lean back against his husband.

“He got into trouble enough times for breaking it, he should have it memorized by now.” Xiao Xingchen says, shaking his head fondly. There’d been a laundry list of rules Wei Ying had broken that Xiao Xingchen had only just begun to dig through when they’d been caught in the forest, his mind trying to walk down the same paths Wei Ying’s had when the rule had been broken. “Who do you think he’s with?”

“I overheard Jiang Wanyin say something about a going away party in the dorms.” Song Lan says, his eyes squinting at the silhouettes cast by the light of the full moon. “Someone might’ve walked him back.”

Casting a look over his shoulder, Xiao Xingchen shakes his head. “A-Ying knows better than to let us catch him drinking or drunk, he would’ve stayed in the dorms until he sobered up.” As close as he’d been to coming and retrieving him then, Xiao Xingchen had written his nephew a letter longer than he’d truly intended, but it had gotten the effect he’d desired, even if it had surprised both himself and Song Lan.

“What are you thinking, then?” Song Lan asks, moving his hand from Xiao Xingchen’s elbow and onto his hip. Wei Ying seemed to be doing most of the talking, his voice naturally louder than whoever he was with, the most Xiao Xingchen and Song Lan could hear from them was a deep and low mumble, a sigh of their nephew’s name coming every once in a while if they truly listened.

Keep reading

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hear my voice and it’s been here, part five of ‘from the other side of sorrow

Jiang Yanli POV, featuring Jiang Cheng, Wei Wuxian, Lan Wangji, Lan Xichen, Wen Qing, Wen Ning, Nie Huaisang, Mianmian, and sundry others. Jiang Yanli/Nie Huiasang, Wei Wuxian/Lan Wangji. 56K, E, graphic violence, detailed warnings in the A/N.

Jiang Yanli never expected to lead the Jiang Clan. But here she is, and the people she loves need her to lead it well. Her weapons are not conventional, but she’ll use everything she has.

Jiang Yanli props her chin on her hand and considers. Decides. She is going to have to leap, now, often, while the ground is unsteady beneath her feet.

“Nie-er-gongzi,” she says. “I can’t tell if you’re threatening me, trying to warn me, or just making fun of me.”

visions of glittering rooms

Juniors ensemble plus A-Qing. 1400 words, T, no warnings. 

Five friends watch Cats (2019).

“Oh, God,” Jingyi says, loudly enough that Jin Ling can hear him from three seats away. “Faces.”

Jin Ling kind of can’t blame him. The cockroaches most definitely have faces.

display my heart for you to see

Jiang Cheng/Wen Qing, postcanon. M, 5500 words, no archive warnings.

Jiang Cheng has his own secrets. Some of them are part of the unburied past; some of them are about how long it’s been since anyone has touched him.

“Lan Sizhui,” Jiang Cheng says, around the dry and clumsy thing that is his tongue. “This is your aunt, Wen Qing.”

“A-Ning,” she whispers, and then they’re in each others’ arms, her face pressed into Wen Ning’s dead shoulder. It’s blinding, the relief, the joy.

High in a different mountain range, Wei Wuxian is busy annoying the Lan. He has not written to Jiang Cheng since Guanyin Temple. He left Jiang Cheng with a golden core and a soft exchange of unwanted apologies. A thumb on his cheek; a hand on his shoulder. An urge to leave pain in the past.

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What Does Kill You Can Make You Stronger, Too

Chapter 14: The Girl in the Coffin

the Ghost General and the juniors - the girl in the coffin - A-Qing’s story - the liberation of fierce corpses; the death of Xue Yang

Wen Ning walked quickly but carefully through the fog-laden city, avoiding as many fierce corpses as he could. On the plus side, they weren’t intelligent, driven only by their own hunger and whoever held the…

If Jiang Yanli said the Stygian Tiger Seal was destroyed, or was supposed to have been destroyed, he believed her. But he prodded at a space in his memory where cold iron had been. It spilled out over more than it should—he remembered the nails going in very clearly, but the before was nearly as hazy as the after. Jins, certainly. Dungeons, chains, bright smiles and too many knives…

By whatever means it was here, the Tiger Seal whispered through the fog an invitation of vengeance, fulfillment, death, death, death….  Wen Ning ignored it. It’d had no part in the making of him, and anyway (he reminded himself firmly), he’d been there and done that. (One of his last truly clear memories, however colored by mindless wrath, was of crushing the skull of the man who’d killed his sister. It was…never mind.)

On the minus side, there were a lot of nonsentient fierce corpses, and he didn’t want to come to the attention of whoever was directing them. Especially not before he found Jiang Yanli, and preferably Wei Wuxian, and told them what he’d found in that coffin house. And the fog was very thick and the streets, frankly, were poorly paved. So he stepped carefully and quietly as he followed the pull of gravity back toward Wei Wuxian.

Jiang Yanli described it as an anchor line, which was also apt. But Wen Ning spent too much time feeling like he was in freefall, certain only that he would, unavoidably, land.

Wen Ning had met Jiang Yanli once or twice in life, and now they’d travelled together for nearly a week, and he was still reeling a little at how kind she remained in death. At how good it felt to, tentatively, be pretty sure he had a new friend.

Then a whistle shrieked and gravity yanked, and Wen Ning took off running.

[keep reading on AO3]

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It occurred to me during the last episode that all female characters died in the untamed. Like pretty much all of them. Except Mian Mian. All of the female characters in this show were incredible. And I loved so many of them.

Honestly I am just blown away and flabbergasted by the fact that this show is Chinese! It’s a bl for one. But also all of the female characters are amazing! They’re all so strong and powerful and speak up and have significance to the plot. Like seriously. Blown. Away.

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blood, dust, ashes | The Untamed

Summary:

What’s a little stab wound when you have a resurrection to perform?

(A bigger problem than bargained for, it turns out.)

Notes:

Written for the “blood loss” prompt, combined with my desire for fix-it fics (or at least gestures in that direction) and my deep and abiding affection for the weird-as-shit relationship between a-Qing and Xue Yang. I just find it very interesting.

Boy would I love to follow this AU through into the epic-length thing it could definitely become if I let it! Probably a good thing I don’t have time for that right now.

With special thanks to @silvysartfulness for brainstorming with me for this prompt, and of course to @ameliarating for her hard, hard, hard work. I owe commenters my life.

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