Cangse Sanren and Lan Qiren being friends and cssr dragging him into shenanigans, like the cloud recesses trio and a platonic version of wangxian?
“I cannot believe you did that,” Lan Qiren said.
“I can,” Cangse Sanren chortled, slapping his back in delight. “I totally can!”
“You do remember that I’m the acting sect leader now, right?” Lan Qiren asked, rubbing his temples. “I can’t just run off and take breaks whenever the mood strikes me.”
“Oh, I’m aware of your role,” Cangse Sanren said. “Don’t worry! There’s nothing wrong with my memory.”
Probably intentionally, that distracted Lan Qiren from the actual subject of conversation at once.
“I assume that you are in jest,” he said sharply. “There is a great deal wrong with your memory. You have the poorest memory of any person I have ever had the misfortune of sharing a classroom with.”
“I wouldn’t say poorest –”
“The only creature on earth that has a memory to rival yours, Cangse Sanren, is the goldfish.”
Cangse Sanren put her hands on her heart. “Ouch,” she said. “Ouch. When did your tongue grow so sharp, Lan-xiao-gege?”
He glared at her. He’d told her a thousand times not to call him that, and she only did it when she felt like being annoying.
“Couldn’t you at least have compared me to a bird, Qiren-gege?” she complained, smoothly apologizing-without-actually-apologizing the way she always did. “That way you could still get the insult in, calling me a birdbrain, only it’d be a little less hurtful –”
“Fine,” he said. “Are you familiar with the golden-headed cisticola?”
It took her a moment.
“Qiren-gege!” she howled. “That bird is less than three cun long! Its brains can’t even fill a thimble!”
“A perfect match, then,” he said tartly. “For a wit like you.”
Cangse Sanren tried to continue being offended, but her lips were already twitching; it didn’t take more than a moment before she was laughing hard enough to bring tears to her eyes.
“How do you even know about that bird, Qiren-gege?” she asked, giggling and snorting like she was an especially cheerful pig. “Doesn’t it mostly reside all the way away in Yunnan?”
“I read books,” he reminded her. “How do you know about them? Weren’t you raised your whole life on a single mountain somewhere?”
“Mm, new subject!” she said, extremely unhelpfully. “You need to go out and gain experience for yourself. How else can you call yourself worthy of upholding the important office of Sect Leader Lan?”
“I’m the acting sect leader, and nice try. Not all sect leaders go out on night-hunts of their own.”
“Lao Nie does!”
“Sect Leader Jin doesn’t.”
“Well, yeah,” she said. “But who do you want to be more like? Lao Nie or Jin Guangshan?”
Lan Qiren winced.
Smelling blood in the water, Cangse Sanren grinned. “It’s not a break, not really,” she wheedled. “It’s a night-hunt! You have to uphold your sect rules, don’t you? Uphold the value of justice! Perform acts of chivalry! Banish demons, establish laws, immortalize the Dao!”
“Why is it,” Lan Qiren said mournfully, “that you can’t remember what you were doing yesterday or if you’ve ever met some important sect leader that you were once classmates with, but you can immediately recall the Lan sect rules whenever you’re trying to be annoying?”
“I can do anything, as long as it’s in service of being annoying. I call it ‘the rule of annoying’. Now just give in already! We’re going night-hunting!”
“We have to make sure nobody finds out about this,” Lan Qiren said, inspecting the damage.
“You’re joking, right?” Cangse Sanren said, bouncing on her heels. “I’m telling everyone we know at once.”
“I heard you went night-hunting recently, Sect Leader Lan,” Wen Ruohan said, settling down into his seat comfortably – the usual set of announcements that kicked off every discussion conference were being made, and that meant at least a half-shichen or even a full shichen in which the Great Sect leaders had nothing to do but talk amongst themselves.
Well, he said ‘talk’, but ‘joust’ might be more accurate.
Lan Qiren’s eyebrow twitched.
“I heard about that as well,” Jiang Fengmian put in, probably innocently – he wasn’t the sort of person who deliberately tried to get a rise out of people, unlike most of his peers. He was, however, closely associated with Wei Changze, who was very close with Cangse Sanren, and there were rumors abounding that he was in love with one or the other. “You went with Cangse Sanren, didn’t you?”
There it was.
“…that is correct,” Lan Qiren said. He sounded as if he were gritting his teeth.
Wen Ruohan’s lips curled up into a smirk and he tilted his head to the side, casting a look over to Lao Nie to see if he could incite him to join in on the fun – now there was a man who was always up for causing trouble, even for people he liked.
Make that especially for people he liked.
“How exciting,” he said smoothly. “That would be your first solo night-hunt since you were confirmed to your role as sect leader, wouldn’t it? You must tell us about it.”
Lan Qiren looked alarmed.
As well he should, if even half the rumors about what happened on that night-hunt were true.
Wen Ruohan had initially wondered, upon reading the reports, whether Cangse Sanren had somehow managed to get Lan Qiren intoxicated – that Lan sect weakness rearing its head in yet another generation, that entire family cursed to be unable to handle either their liquor or their love – but had ultimately dismissed that theory as improbable. She might have managed it once, but multiple times?
Not even he could accomplish a feat like that.
“Oh, yes!” Lao Nie put in, eyes bright with humor: he must have read some of the same reports Wen Ruohan had. Really, Lao Nie would be a lot less dangerous if he actually was the idiotic muscle-bound friendly-but-temperamental dog-man he sometimes pretended to be, but sadly fate had gifted him with an astute set of brains as well. “You must tell us everything, Qiren. If I have to listen to the recitation of rules one of more time, I may be forced to decide between taking my own life out of boredom or flipping a table and starting a fight.”
Wen Ruohan discreetly inched back from the table. He wasn’t the only one, either.
“What’s so interesting about a night-hunt?” Jin Guangshan asked, very unhelpfully. He was fanning himself with a gilt-gold fan – which might actually be a solid gold fan, now that Wen Ruohan was looking at it. Utter extravagance: more expense and less utility. Classic Jin sect. “Surely there are more interesting ways to pass the time than talking about something like that.”
It was not, Wen Ruohan reflected, that Jin Guangshan had not read the reports on the highly entertaining antics that Cangse Sanren and Lan Qiren had apparently gotten up to while tearing a path through the countryside – sometimes literally, in the case of one poor mountain that probably even deserved what was coming for it if Lan Qiren had been involved – but rather that he thought that it served him better to appear older and more mature than the persons who had been involved with it.
He was wrong, of course. Childish behavior had nothing to do with the amount of respect a person got.
Just look at Lao Nie.
“I agree,” Lan Qiren said quickly, clearly looking for a way out. “There has been a great deal of activity in the cultivation world as of late, and –”
“There’s plenty of time to talk business later,” Wen Ruohan interrupted. He wasn’t going to let Jin Guangshan ruin his fun. “I want to hear about this night-hunt first.”
“Me, too,” Lao Nie said, and Jiang Fengmian nodded genially.
Lan Qiren looked trapped.
“Tell me,” Wen Ruohan purred. “What’s this I hear about – chickens?”
“Whatever you do,” Lan Qiren told Cangse Sanren. “Whatever you do, you are not to let anyone – and I mean anyone – find out about the thing with the chickens. Do you understand me? No one.”
“I understand you completely,” she said, nodding and smiling fit to burst. “You don’t need to worry. My lips are sealed tighter than a winecask being buried for preservation.”
Lan Qiren looked at her.
“…everyone’s going to know before the month is out, aren’t they.”
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