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Lan WangJi wrapped his right arm around Wei WuXian's waist and took up Bichen. Mounting the sword, the two of them landed on the boat. Wei WuXian's figure wavered slightly. He only spoke up after Lan WangJi steadied him, "What happened to Wen Ning? Didn't you say you were only going to take a look?"
Wen Ning, "I'm sorry, Young Master. It was my fault. I couldn't hold back from…"
Jin Ling turned the blade of the sword toward him and roared, "There's no need for you to act so pretentious!"
Wei WuXian, "Jin Ling, just put down the sword first!"
Jin Ling, "I won't!"
Wei WuXian was just about to speak again when Jin Ling suddenly broke into tears.
As he cried, all of the people had frozen solid. In confusion, Wei WuXian walked a step toward him, "What's… What's wrong?"
Even as tears streaked down his face, Jin Ling still shouted, sobbing, "This is my dad's sword. I won't put it down!"
What he hugged tightly in his arms was Jin ZiXuan's sword, Suihua. This sword was the only thing that his parents had left him.
Right now, Jin Ling, who cried so loudly in front of the crowd, could almost make him see what Jiang YanLi looked like as she bawled her eyes out in such extreme despair. Among the boys at Jin Ling's age, some had married already, and the older ones had already become fathers. To them, crying was quite the humiliating act. To cry before such a large crowd—just how frustrated did he feel?
For a while, Wei WuXian didn't even know what to do. He looked at Lan WangJi as if he was asking for help, but it was even less likely for Lan WangJi to know what to do. At this point, a voice came from across the river, "A-Ling!"
Around half-a-dozen larger boats surrounded the fishing boat that they were on. Every one of those boats was filled with cultivators, with one sect leader standing at the foremost. The YunmengJiang Sect's boat was at the right side of the fishing boat. It was the nearest, with no more than thirty metres between the two. The one who called was Jiang Cheng, who stood near the edge. Still teary-eyed, as soon as Jin Ling saw his uncle, he immediately wiped his face, sniffing. He looked here and there and finally made up his mind to fly over, landing at Jiang Cheng's side.
Jiang Cheng grabbed him, "What happened to you? Who did this to you?!"
Jin Ling rubbed his eyes roughly, refusing to speak up. Jiang Cheng lifted his head, casting a nasty look at the fishing boat. His cold glare passed by Wen Ning, just about to land on Wei WuXian as Lan WangJi stepped out and blocked Wei WuXian's silhouette, whether intentional or not.
One of the sect leaders was alarmed, "Wei WuXian, why are you on that boat?"
His doubtful tone, quite uncomfortable to the ear, made it clear that he thought Wei WuXian had ulterior motives.
Ouyang ZiZhen spoke, "Sect Leader Yao, why are you talking in such a tone? If Senior Wei really wanted to do anything, then I'm afraid none of us could be sitting on our boats as safely as we are now."
As soon as he said this, many of the older cultivators looked a bit awkward. Although it was the truth, nobody wanted to hear it spoken so frankly. Lan SiZhui immediately followed, "ZiZhen is right!" Many of the other boys agreed as well.
Jiang Cheng lowered his chin slightly, "Sect Leader OuYang."
Having been named, Sect Leader OuYang could feel his eyelids throb the way his heart did. He heard Jiang Cheng icily continue, "If I remember correctly, the one who spoke is your son, isn't he? He sure has a silver tongue."
Sect Leader OuYang hurried, "ZiZhen! Come back, come over to Dad!"
OuYang ZiZhen was confused, "Dad, weren't you the one who told me to get on this boat so that I didn't annoy you guys?"
Sect Leader OuYang wiped at a few beads of sweat, "Enough! Haven't you shown off enough times today? Come here right now!" His sect was located at Baling, close to Yunmeng but incomparable in power. Naturally, he didn't want Jiang Cheng to bear a grudge against his son just because he spoke up a couple of times for Wei WuXian.
Jiang Cheng glared at Wei WuXian and Lan WangJi one last time before he returned to the cabin, arm wrapped around Jin Ling's shoulders. Sect Leader OuYang sighed in relief. He turned to his son and scolded, "H-H-How dare you! You're really listening to me less and less! Are you coming over or not?! I'll go get you if you don't!"
OuYang ZiZhen seemed concerned, "Dad, you should go in and take a rest too. Your spiritual powers haven't recovered yet, so you won't be able to come here. Please don't mount your sword so rashly."
Right now, most people's spiritual powers were recovering slowly. If they forced themselves to mount their swords, they might end up falling flat on the ground. This was why they could only travel by water. On top of this, Sect Leader OuYang's physically was unusually hulky. He really couldn't fly over and go grab his son. Enraged, he turned around with a flip of his sleeves and returned to the cabin. On another boat, Nie HuaiSang laughed loudly. All of the other sect leaders looked at him speechlessly, but most of them had already somewhat dispersed. Seeing this, Wei WuXian let out a long sigh of relief. As soon as he relaxed, heavy exhaustion suddenly passed over his face. He fell to one side.
It seemed that he didn't waver because he couldn't balance himself on the boat, but rather because he really was so tired that he couldn't stand steadily.
The boys didn't care about the blood and grime on him either. In a flurry, they all went up to him, wanting to help him up like they did with Lan SiZhui. However, without requiring their help at all, Lan WangJi bent down slightly. With one hand at his arm and another behind his knees, Lan WangJi picked Wei WuXian up at once.
Carrying Wei WuXian just like this, he walked into the cabin. Inside the cabin, there wasn't anywhere to lie down, only four long benches. Thus, Lan WangJi held Wei WuXian's waist with one arm, letting his head lean on his shoulder, and with his other hand he pieced together the four benches into a platform wide enough to lie on. He gently laid Wei WuXian on the benches.
Lan SiZhui suddenly realized that even though HanGuang-Jun was drenched in blood, the bandage that Wei WuXian tore from his sleeve and wrapped around that tiny wound of his was still knotted properly, tied around a finger of his left hand.
Before this, he didn't have time care about his appearance. Right now, Lan WangJi finally took out his handkerchief, slowly wiping away the blood clots on Wei WuXian's face. Soon, the snowy handkerchief had been dyed with red and black. Although he'd finished wiping Wei WuXian's face, he hadn't wiped his own yet.
Lan SiZhui immediately handed over his unused handkerchief, "HanGuang-Jun."
Lan WangJi took it over and looked down. With a wipe of the handkerchief, his face was back to white. The boys finally eased up. As expected, HanGuang-Jun only looked normal if his face was so icily clean.
OuYang ZiZhen, "HanGuang-Jun, why did Senior Wei collapse?"
Lan WangJi, "Fatigue."
Lan JingYi was amazed, "I thought that Senior Wei would never get tired!"
The other boys felt somewhat astonished as well. That the legendary YiLing Patriarch could collapse from fatigue from dealing with walking corpses—they all thought that the YiLing Patriarch should be able to settle them with just a snap of his fingers. However, Lan WangJi shook his head. He only said four words, "We are all human."
They were all human. How could a human be tireless? How could they stand forever?"
All of the benches had been put together by Lan WangJi, so the boys could only squat in a circle, looking anxious. If Wei WuXian were awake, he'd joke around, teasing this one before he teased the next. Right now, the cabin would be so very lively. Yet, he was lying down right now, and HanGuang-Jun was the one sitting beside him, his back as straight as ever. Usually, someone would say a few things to liven up the atmosphere, but if Lan WangJi didn't talk, the others didn't dare speak up either. After they squatted for some time, it was still a dead silence within the cabin.
The boys all commented in silence, "… It's so boring."
They were so bored that they began to communicate with their eyes, "Why isn't HanGuang-Jun saying anything? Why hasn't Senior Wei woken up yet?"
Hands cupped around his cheeks, OuYang ZiZhen stealthily pointed here and there, "Is HanGuang-Jun always this untalkative? How could Senior Wei stand being around him all the time…"
Lan SiZhui nodded gravely, silently assuring him, "HanGuang-Jun has indeed always been this way!"
Suddenly, Wei WuXian wrinkled his brows, his head tilting to the side. Softly, Lan WangJi moved his head back where it was, so that he wouldn't end up with a stiff neck. Wei WuXian murmured, "Lan Zhan."
Everyone thought that he was waking up. They were ecstatic, but Wei WuXian's eyes were still tightly shut. Lan WangJi, on the other hand, looked just as usual, "Mn. I am here."
Wei WuXian was quiet again. As though he felt safe, he shifted closer toward Lan WangJi and continued to sleep. The boys stared at the two blankly. For some reason, their cheeks suddenly flushed. Lan SiZhui was the first to stand up, stammering, "H-HanGuang-Jun, we will go out and get some fresh air…"
They almost fled the scene, rushing to the deck. With the night wind, it seemed that their suffocating feelings from before were finally blown away. One of them asked, "What happened? Why did we have to come out?! Why?!"
OuYang ZiZhen covered his face, "I don't know what happened either, but all of a sudden I just felt that we really shouldn't be in there!"
A few of them pointed at one another, "Why did you blush?!"
"I only blushed because you blushed!"
Wen Ning never stepped forward to help Wei WuXian up in the first place. He didn't follow them into the cabin either, squatting on the deck. Back then, the group all wondered why he didn't go in. Now, they realized that the Ghost General really made the right decision.
Not a single third person could fit inside!
Watching them come out, Wen Ning made space for them to squat, almost as if he expected all this. However, Lan SiZhui was the only one who walked over, squatting down beside him. A few of the boys muttered on the side, "Why does SiZhui seem like he's really close with the Ghost General?"
Wen Ning, "Young Master Lan, may I call you A-Yuan?"
All of the boys felt their hearts shiver, … So the Ghost General is so quick to friendship?!
Lan SiZhui replied gladly, "Sure!"
Wen Ning, "A-Yuan, have you been well these years?"
Lan SiZhui, "Very well."
Wen Ning nodded, "HanGuang-Jun must've treated you kindly."
Hearing him speak of Lan WangJi in such a respectful tone, Lan SiZhui felt even closer to him, "HanGuang-Jun treated me as if he were my brother or my father. He even taught me how to play the guqin."
Wen Ning, "When did HanGuang-Jun start looking after you?"
After some thought, Lan SiZhui responded, "I cannot remember either. It was probably when I was around four or five. I do not have many memories of the things that happened when I was younger, but when I was younger, I doubt HanGuang-Jun was able to take care of me. I think HanGuang-Jun had been in secluded meditation for many years back then."
He suddenly remembered that when HanGuang-Jun was doing secluded meditation, the first siege on Burial Mound happened at the same time.
Inside the cabin, Lan WangJi looked up at the door that the juniors closed as they barged out. He then looked down at Wei WuXian, whose head had tilted to the side again. Wrinkling his brows once more, Wei WuXian turned his head left and right, as though he was feeling really uncomfortable. Seeing this, Lan WangJi stood up, walked over to bolt the door, and sat back down beside Wei WuXian again. He held up his shoulders and gently let him lean in his arms.
This time, Wei WuXian's head finally stopped moving. Shifting against his chest, he finally found the best position to sleep in. Watching him relax again, Lan WangJi looked down, gazing at the features of the person within his arms. His ink-colored hair fell from his shoulders. Suddenly, eyes still closed, Wei WuXian grabbed onto his lapel. His fingers just so happened to be around his forehead ribbon.
His grip was quite tight. Lan WangJi pinched one end of the ribbon and tugged. Not only did he fail to pull it out, he even made Wei WuXian's eyelashes tremble. Soon later, he woke up.
When Wei WuXian finally opened his eyes, what he saw first was the wooden ceiling of the cabin. He sat up. Lan WangJi was standing before a wooden window, gazing at the glowing moon sitting atop the end of the river.
Wei WuXian, "Huh, HanGuang-Jun, did I pass out?"
Lan WangJi turned slightly to the side, answering calmly, "Yes."
Wei WuXian asked again, "Where's your forehead ribbon?"
After he asked, he looked down, exclaiming, "Huh, what happened? Why is it in my hand?"
He swung his legs down the benches, "I really am sorry. I like to hug things when I sleep, or else I tend to grab around. My apologies, here."
After a moment of silence, Lan WangJi took back the forehead ribbon, "It is fine."
However, Wei WuXian was trying so hard to hold back his laughter that he almost suffered an internal injury. Back then, there was indeed a moment when he really wanted to fall asleep, but he wasn't so weak that he'd faint just like that. However, just as he wavered the slightest, Lan WangJi picked him up as fast as possible. Wei WuXian didn't even have the face to open his eyes and say hey, there was no need to do this, he could stand up on his own. On top of that, he didn't want to be put back down either. If he could be carried, why should he stand?
Wei WuXian touched his neck. In silence, he gloated as he regretted, Lan Zhan, he really… If only I knew, I wouldn't have woken up. If I remained unconscious, I'd be able to lie in his arms for the entire journey!
At three in the morning, they reached Yunmeng.
Lights burned brightly before Lotus Pier's gates and its docks, reflecting against the water to form pieces of gold. In the past, it was rare that so many boats of so many sizes could gather at the dock at the same time. Not only the guards at the gates, even the old men still at their stands selling midnight snacks were wide-eyed in astonishment. Jiang Cheng was the first to disembark the boats. He said a few words to the guards, and countless armed disciples immediately rushed out the gates. The people disembarked one after another, led inside by the YunmengJiang Sect's guest cultivators. Sect Leader OuYang finally caught his son. Chastising in a low voice, he dragged him away. Wei WuXian and Lan WangJi walked out the cabin and leaped down the fishing boat.
Wen Ning, "Young Master, I'll wait for you outside."
Wei WuXian knew that Wen Ning wouldn't enter the gates of Lotus Pier. Jiang Cheng definitely wouldn't let him in, either. He nodded.
Lan SiZhui spoke up, "Mr. Wen, let me keep you company."
Wen Ning, "You'll keep me company?" He was quite happy, having never expected this.
Lan SiZhui smiled, "Yeah. The seniors are going inside to discuss important matters anyways. There is not much need for me to be present. Let us keep chatting. Where were we again? Did Senior Wei really plant a two-year-old child in the soil like a radish before?"
Although his voice was small, the two walking in the front had acute hearing. Wei WuXian almost tripped on his own foot. Lan WangJi's eyebrows curved, but immediately went back to normal.
When their silhouettes finally disappeared into the gates of Lotus Pier, Lan SiZhui finally continued, whispering, "Poor child. But, in reality, I remember that when I was young, HanGuang-Jun had also put me in a pile of rabbits before. They are actually quite similar in some ways…"