Wei Wuxian has been dead for over a month when Lan Xichen hears music coming from the Jingshi.
Wangji is still too ill to move, the thin scabs across his back sometimes breaking and bleeding anew if he breathes too deeply. The playing is too tentative and uncertain to be his even if he could force himself to sit up straight for long enough to play the chords. It’s Healing, the music rough and uncertain but unmistakable, and he feels a rush of affection for whichever disciple has risked being thrown from their sect to sneak into his brother’s room as he sleeps to try to help him.
For a moment he considers turning around, pretending he never heard anything, but doesn’t. He is willing to overlook this. Uncle and the clan elders won’t be. Wangji is in seclusion and he has to heal on his own, under his own spiritual power, which he will. He’ll live and he’ll heal.
The thirty three lashes hadn’t killed him. He’ll live. He’ll heal. But he has to do it on his own.
He pushes open the door and freezes.
His brother’s guqin is playing itself. The strings are plucked slowly and carefully, but no one is there except his brother who lays unconscious on his stomach. He breathes in through his teeth, too quickly and too loudly, and the playing cuts off with a discordant twang.
The door closes on his face, nearly slamming except softening at the last second. He rushes to yank the door open again, but it doesn’t budge. Healing starts up again, and he bangs on the door, trying to rip it open with brute strength when talismans prove useless. There is something in there with injured baby brother. He tries a window next, which won’t move, won’t be shattered, but at least now he can see.
He should call for help, call for Uncle and the other disciples, but as he reaches for the talisman he sees something that makes him pause.
Rippling across the strings of the guqin are whisps of red spiritual energy.
Lan Xichen passes the night standing at the window, watching. Healing is played again and again, for hours, until the sky turns grey with morning, until it’s nearly but not quite five. The song is stronger and smoother at the end of the night than at the beginning.
When the song doesn’t start up again, he pushes the window. It opens easily. The door is the same, opening with no resistance.
He sits next to his brother, watching as his eyes slowly slide open. “Wangji,” he greets quietly, “how are you?”
Wangji looks at him. It doesn’t feel like he’s seeing him.
Lan Xichen leans forward and carefully lifts the sheet off of his brother’s back. His brother is a strong cultivator, one of the strongest of their generation, of course. Anything less and thirty three lashes would have killed him. But the thick scabs covering his skin are so much more than he’d had even when Lan Xichen saw him a week ago. There’s not even any blood on the sheet.
“You’re healing well,” he says, trying to keep his voice even.
Wangji’s face doesn’t so much as twitch.
He doesn’t know, then.
Lan Xichen can’t decide if Wei Wuxian’s ghost is acting out of kindness or cruelty by hiding itself from Wangji.