Jiang Cheng is taken to Nightless City, not Lotus Pier, after being captured by the Wens
“Why’d you bring him here?” Wen Xu asked. His eye was twitching, which didn’t look healthy.
Actually, he just…didn’t look very healthy at all, really. His skin was off-color and he had circles suggesting he hadn’t slept in too long; he’d lost weight, too. Unlike Wen Chao, who was positively bursting with good humor now that he’d personally ‘won’ a great victory, he looked as though he weren’t having a good time at all.
“Why not?” Wen Chao said carelessly. “He’s the last heir of the Jiang sect, once I track down that stupid girl, and it’s not like he’s a threat; he’s got no cultivation left, courtesy of Wen Zhuliu. I can put him on display.”
“Like an animal in a menagerie? You’ve got to be joking.” Wen Xu was scowling. “Do you know the trouble he could make for us if he escaped? A living heir – even without a golden core, he can still sire the next generation. He’s practically a symbol of rebellion!”
“Oh, don’t be such a stick in the mud. Father will enjoy it.”
“If he escapes, that undermines our credibility, injures morale,” Wen Xu argued. “Our troops are fighting for us because they see us as the sun in the sky, and if we slip up…the enemy will know that as well as I. There are spies everywhere. We’ll be facing a non-stop wave of rescue attempts!”
“And we’ll repel them all! Anyway, you’re exaggerating –”
“I am not –”
“What is the cause of all this noise?” a low, calm voice drawled from the door to the hall, causing Wen Chao and Wen Xu to all but trip over themselves in order to salute.
Jiang Cheng, bound and beaten bloody, without even his cultivation, utterly helpless, turned his head slowly, not wanting to draw attention to himself. That was Wen Ruohan himself standing there, cruel smirk twisting his lips – the man who had ordered the burning of the Cloud Recesses, the man who had ordered the massacre of the Lotus Pier, the man in whose name all these terrible things were done.
Both Wen Chao and Wen Xu tried to explain at once, and Wen Ruohan listened to his sons, looking thoroughly disinterested.
“A captive like this can be kept as a prize, but not displayed,” he finally said, sounding bored. “A-Xu is right, if they know we have him, they’ll only try to rescue him…still, there’s no harm in keeping him for now; he might be useful someday. Who can tell..?”
“I got him as a present for you,” Wen Chao blurted out. “Father –”
“If you want to impress me, bring me Nie Mingjue,” Wen Ruohan said. “Alive, and in chains. Whoever does that will win my esteem.”
“But – Father –”
“As for this one, I care far less. Figure it out between you.”
With a dismissive wave of his hand, Wen Ruohan left.
“Now you’ve gone and ruined it,” Wen Chao said to Wen Xu resentfully. “It was going to make him happy, and now he’s just back on the same old thing about Chifeng-zun…you deal with him.”
“Me? He’s your prisoner!”
“Yes, well, now I don’t want him any longer,” Wen Chao tossed his head. “You ruined all the fun of it – anyway, you’re the one who cares about whatever rescue attempts or whatnot. I’ve had my fun, I’m done…you do the rest.”
“A-Chao!” Wen Xu shouted, but Wen Chao clearly didn’t care. He’d turned his nose up and marched away down the hall. “Damn, A-Chao!”
But he was gone.
Wen Xu scowled after his younger brother, then turned back, his gaze dropping down to regard Jiang Cheng.
“Fuck,” he said, fervently, and for a crazy moment Jiang Cheng felt something almost like fellow-feeling, a wholly unexpected and unwelcome stab of sympathy for someone else who had to deal with a complete lunatic for a brother, always stuck being the one to clean up the mess…but that was completely crazy. This was Wen Xu. “Where can I even put you that people won’t immediately know who you are?”
He thought about it for a moment, then reached out and nudged at Jiang Cheng’s side with his shoe, making Jiang Cheng hissed a little in pain.
“Do you require a doctor?” he demanded.
Jiang Cheng had no idea what to say about that. He’d been hit by the Jiang sect’s discipline whip – he’d need a doctor for some time yet. Everyone knew those wounds never healed right…and that was for cultivators, a class to which he no longer belonged.
“Fuck,” Wen Xu said when Jiang Cheng didn’t respond. “All right. Fine. I can – deal with this. You…fine.”
That completely incomprehensible stream of words finished, he reached down and scooped Jiang Cheng into his arms as if he were some weak young lady, then strode off purposefully.
“Stupid A-Chao,” he was mumbling, not paying any attention to Jiang Cheng. “Stupid, stupid A-Chao…as soon as someone doesn’t have their golden core, he stops thinking of them as a threat. Stupid! People are capable of so much more than just cultivation…”
Jiang Cheng stared up at Wen Xu’s chin, the only part of him he could really see from this angle, and wondered a little. He’d certainly assumed that he’d become wholly useless once he lost his golden core – his parents had both stressed cultivation as one of the most important things in life, all about being the best, cultivating the most, and he’d spent his whole life working as hard as he could on building his core, forming it and then strengthening it, refining it. And yet here Wen Xu was, speaking as though he thought Jiang Cheng was something to fear.
As though he were still dangerous.
From anyone else, Jiang Cheng would have assumed it was simply pity or an attempt to comfort him. But Wen Xu could have no such motives – Wen Xu was the enemy.
Wen Xu kicked open a door and put Jiang Cheng down on a bed.
“Stay here,” he said, as if Jiang Cheng had any idea where he was or any inkling of where he could run to even if he wanted to, and left once more.
Jiang Cheng glanced around the room he’d been left in. It was one room off of a large and spacious courtyard, luxurious but oddly impersonal, as if all the signs of personality had been shoved away and hidden for fear that they’d bee seen.
Not long after, Wen Xu reappeared with a woman, who looked annoyed.
“This isn’t why I came back from Yiling, you know,” she said reproachfully. “I could be doing actual work there. Running a Supervisory Office isn’t like having a vacation…”
“A-Qing, please,” Wen Xu said, and she fell silent. “Just…take a look at him, all right? I’ll handle the rest myself. I don’t want anyone knowing he’s here, not even the servants…I trust you, though.”
“Emotional blackmail is cheap,” Wen Qing grumbled, but Jiang Cheng could tell she was convinced. “Fine. Are you really planning to care for him yourself, though? I mean, keeping him in your own bedroom? This was supposed to be a place for one of your concubines.”
“The last one that got shoved in here committed suicide,” Wen Xu said stiffly. “They usually do, once Father’s done with them, and it’s not like I’m going to take one willingly. The room’s empty, he might as well use it, and this way we can keep his presence here secret.”
“Aren’t you worried he’ll try something?” she asked, and Jiang Cheng wondered again what it was that made all these powerful scions of the Wen sect look at him, beaten bloody and robbed of his golden core, and see something worth worrying about.
What did they see in him that he didn’t?
“I’ll handle it,” Wen Xu said shortly. “Don’t I always handle it?”
She was quiet for a moment. “You’re still not sleeping, are you? Those nightmares of yours –”
“It’s a weakness I can’t afford, A-Qing. Father could order me back to the army any day.”
“I can try to talk to him. Make him leave off, at least for a little while…I don’t like the thought of you going up against Chifeng-zun. Uncle wouldn’t be nearly as obsessed with him if he wasn’t actually as good as they all say he is.”
Wen Xu laughed without humor. “I’ve fought him a few times before, friendly spars in discussion conferences. I know exactly what our skill levels are. That’s why I can say with a great deal of certainty that if he gets anywhere near me, he’ll chop off my head without blinking twice, and there’ll be exactly shit all I can do about it. But Father won’t care. I doubt he’ll even notice – no, I’m wrong. He will notice, in the sense that it’ll make him all the more desperate to capture Chifeng-zun.”
Jiang Cheng wouldn’t have believed that any father, no matter how negligent, would be so indifferent as Wen Xu was describing, but the other man seemed sure, and Wen Qing didn’t look like she disagreed.
“I’ll talk to him,” Wen Qing insisted. “I’ll tell him something.”
She glanced around, then looked down at Jiang Cheng.
“I’ll tell him you’re working on the Jiang heir,” she said, and looked away from Jiang Cheng as if she couldn’t bear to hear what she was saying, even though she was still saying it. “Breaking his spirit, molding him into something we can use in the future. He’ll like that.”
Wen Xu scoffed. “Right, and then A-Chao will tell him that he’s already had Wen Zhuliu melt his golden core and it’ll all be a waste of time. He’ll just laugh at me and send me out to die all the faster.”
“Not if I can find a way to fix it,” she said.
“Fix it? Fix what?” Wen Xu blinked. “You’re not serious. His golden core?”
“Why not?” Wen Qing asked, tossing her head, sounding haughty and arrogant like all the Wens – but her words lit a fire in Jiang Cheng’s heart. She actually sounded confident, like she thought she could do it. “Listen, cousin, I’m not about to lie down and resign myself to losing you; you’re the only one in the main branch worth anything. You do your part, I’ll do mine.”
“No one can resurrect a golden core that’s been melted,” Wen Xu protested, but even as Jiang Cheng watched he could see him being swept away by her enthusiasm. “Anyway, I don’t actually know how to break a man. I never went in for that Fire Palace stuff, not the way A-Chao did.”
“Well, get over it,” she said shortly. “I don’t care if you beat him every day or dress him up in veils and take him as your concubine – just find a way to make Uncle believe that you’re sincerely devoted to the task and I’ll get him to leave you alone, and find a way to fix that golden core problem, too. Just stall, you hear me? Stall.”
“…fine. Will you take a look at him now?”
Wen Qing pulled out her needles and Jiang Cheng didn’t even have time to move before he was completely paralyzed, feeling more than seeing her hands loosening the rope around him and start an examination as impersonal and efficient as any doctor. He didn’t care, though – he wasn’t going to escape this himself, he knew that already.
He wasn’t even going to try.
Not when staying meant that Wen Qing could find him a way out of his current predicament, not when staying meant the chance to figure out from Wen Xu what exactly it was that he saw in Jiang Cheng…maybe he could even find some of those spies Wen Xu had spoken so fearfully of and pass information along to them.
Maybe he could still do something, after all.
Had some thoughts ab vague urban fantasy vampire Xicheng au
the Jiang family r apothecaries and serve both humans and non-humans. The Yu line has been p involved in criminal underbelly type stuff but Yu Ziyuan stopped doing that several yrs before they had kids together. She still teaches her children how to defend themselves.
Wei Wuxian is great at experimenting and creating new elixirs and shit, Yanli excels at putting customers at ease and figuring out what options there r for whatever help theyre seeking, and Jiang Cheng is bookkeeper/paper work extraordinaire.
YZY and JFM still hv a troubled marriage bcut the fact that since the 3 siblings started working, they fill different but essential roles and work in tandem at the shop, its gotten a bit better.
In this part of the city, non-humans r p chill and the humans who r aware of them r like “oh thats just my flatmate Marleen shes chill but like i hv to hose her down after she comes back covered in mud and twigs from a full moon romp”
So hunters r not particularly well liked even by humans bc of History, but they deal w monsters and demons that ur average person cant.
Lan Zhan walks into the shop one day looking to restock his toxin antidotes and Wei Wuxian is immediately and obliviously smitten and invites him to various parties and shit, to which he declines but keeps finding reasons to visit the shop and see Wei Ying <3
Lan Xichen is in the depression zone bc he was tricked by a black market trader (JGY?? Idk yet) into killing several innocent non humans and is seriously doubting whether he can make sound judgements and actually protect ppl. LWJ recently made him move back into their shared apartment but hes still hving a rough time.
the Wens r a vampire clan, and the Wen siblings frequent the shop too and deliver them warnings that Wen Chao is going to try to extort them
after the Jiangs refuse to give in to their extortion attempts, they burn down their shop. Their parents r alive but comatose and the siblings go into hiding
Wen goons r ab to nab WWX but JC sacrifices himself and gets killed and turned.
WWX gets LWJ’s help since the Wen extortion stuff was already a big no-no but an attack and kidnapping like this is under the Lan hunter’s perviee. WWX goes apeshit and takes 10000 psychic dmg when he goes to rescue his babie brother only to find a feral and hungry babie vampire JC.
JC is subdued and put into needle coma by Wen Qing while and WWX recuperates before going to make Wen Chao regret being born but uh oh! The Wens hv gone into hiding now that the Lans r involved.
WWX feels at fault for JC getting kidnapped and turned bc He is supposed to b Protective Older Brother and convinces Wen Qing to bag his own blood to feed JC. Yanli also offers her own blood, altho she cant donate as much.
JC eventually is pulled out of the coma, feeds, becomes lucid, and then falls in depression times as he struggled to come to turns w being a vampire now and he is an extremely hungee boy bc the Wens did something to him.
The Yunmeng sibs stay in hiding for a bit. Yanli salvages what she can from the family shop and w Wen Qing’s help, still meets w clients. WWX runs himself ragged trying to donate enough blood to keep JC lucid and sated and also trying to come up w a tonic to suppress his unnaturally strong hunger.
JC is an anxious mess wrt losing control again and also how WWX is exhausting himself w how much blood hes giving him. JC does what shop paperwork he can while learning the vampire basics from Wen Ning.
WWX finally perfects a tonic to suppress JC’s hunger and is able to recover physically and while they both love each other a lot, things r a bit rocky rn.
Now that hes feeling better, WWX starts to spend the weekends w LWJ looking for the Wens. JYL by chance gets into contact w JZX, werewolf heir to a Business Place or sth and starts trying to negotiate a deal to acquire funds to rebuild the shop while they also both navigate their own awkward mutual-but-believes-its-unrequited-attraction.
WWX and LWJ dont come back one day, and arent answering their phones. JC suspects that theyve finally gotten their heads out of their ass and r fucking. He has negative desire to bug them while Thats Happening but hes unexpectedly run out of hunger tonic and WWX’s notes r illegible.
So he finds LWJ’s address and breaks into their apartment, LXC is just vibing, lying down in bed, w the lights off when he hears someone pick the lock. The Lans hv a fair amount of enemies so hes ready to beat someones ass, esp if theyre the reason Wangji hasnt come home.
LXC catches JC by surprise and pins him against the wall in a kind of sexy way and after a lot of snark from JC LXC’s like oh ok ur chill and lets him go. Theyre both v worried ab their brothers and JC eventually explains his situation and LXC offers himself for JC to feed on while they look for them.