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Private Ghosts & Grottoes

Lan Wangji

The Untamed
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40
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Human
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Early 30s
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January 30th
@Wei Wuxian
As with most of Pandora, there was plenty to explore and find beyond the cave they had spent their first night in together, or the towns they had briefly looked around for Wangji's own birthday. Perhaps it would be a welcome distraction from what seemed to be a struggle in finding a cure for Wuxian, or maybe a change in scenery would align things in a positive manner and end up leading them to the answer they sought. If not, Wangji was grateful for the time they were spending together anyway and their lives were even beginning to feel somewhat normal.

Their curiosity for more had taken them beyond where they had been in the Crystal Vales already, further towards what was called the Cold Harbour that lead out onto a very vast looking ocean. Apple and the rabbits had been left at the inn where they also left what little belongings they had, safe and sound, fed and taken care of, an ease on Wangji's mind who more often than not would worry over his little furry friends.

With it being winter everything was cold and biting still, more so when they were near the water. They'd just been wandering about one one of the small villages when they had heard about trouble in an area close enough. The locals had complained about how they were having problems visiting the grotto as spirits and a foreboding feeling kept those who normally would go there to dive for special trinkets and more, were now too scared to go. This seemed to coincide with a tale from the village over about a young girl who had gone missing, off to the grotto she had told her mother, though by the time night had fallen, the girl had not come home.

"Wei Ying." Wangji murmured to his cultivation partner, the both of them sharing a look as they were finishing a light, late afternoon meal in one of the small, rundown inns dotted about the village. With that single look, Wangji knew that Wuxian was thinking the same thing as him. Whatever had happened to that young girl was no doubt the cause for the strange feeling and eerie happenings villagers on this side of the harbour were gossiping over.

They'd set off not long after that, the directions taking them right up through the intricate tunnels that led to the grotto. Wangji used Bichen as their light, the sword hovering in front of them as they went, casting a cold blue glow over the rocky walls they sometimes had to side step between just to get through. Anyone could have gotten lost, and the pair almost had a couple of times, though they had managed to find the opening to the grotto by the time evening had long set in. However, no one had warned them the only way in to the grotto was to be dive, apparently.

As Lan Wangji glanced down into the semi-dark water below, he swore he could see things moving about, his golden eyes narrowing as he wondered just what else was in there, waiting for them to jump. Perhaps ghosts and wayward children would be the least of their problems tonight. The movement coming from the corner of his eye was Wuxian seemingly getting ready to dive in, causing Wangji to grab hold of the man's elbow and tug lightly, frowning as he looked at him with unquestionable worry.
"Wei Ying. Are you sure?" He cast another furtive glance at the waters waiting below, mockingly quiet and seemingly deeper than they could begin to fathom. Being here reminded the cultivator of Cai Yi Town and the water ghouls Wuxian had saved him from, lurking just beneath his boat.

He hoped there would be no need for such heroics tonight.
 
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Wei Wuxian

The Untamed
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38
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Human
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Late 20s / Early 30s
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Male
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Chaotic Good
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Pandora had much to offer when it comes to different locations and the like; different towns, locations, people, and...everything basically. Wuxian knew that Wangji was concerned. He was never the type to be okay with a problem just sitting there; when Wuxian practiced demonic cultivation, he had wanted the man to come back to Gusu with him. Because...Lan Wangji had been worried.

Now, he was worried when the curse would activate. Wuxian had heard that sometimes people don’t age here, but he didn’t know if something like that would affect him. He had no idea of knowing...unless something happened.

They had traveled to the Cold Harbor, which was the coastline in the Crystal Vales. He took a deep breath, smelling the salt on the ocean breeze as well as the biting cold. He’s never seen the ocean before. It looked beautiful. However, the grotto nearby had been having problems with spirits, as well as a young girl has gone missing. Naturally, this happening after the girl had vanished only lead one conclusion, a conclusion he shared with Wangji.

They shared a look and decided it’d be best to investigate what was occurring at the grotto. Wangji led them with the light of Bichen through the tunnels, and despite almost losing their way a few times. The compass Wuxian had, unfortunately, didn’t help at all which was strange in and of itself. It would point to evil spirits and the like, but it wasn’t moving. So was there anything evil here?

As they looked towards the water, Wuxian grimaced at whatever was lurking underneath. Were they water ghouls? Bloated fierce corpses? Or some of the various creatures that existed in this world? It does look like, the only way to enter this grotto is to dive underwater.

Wuxian stretched his muscles and leaned a bit down to look into the waters, while Wangji asked if he was sure about this. Pursing his lips, Wuxian gestured through the tunnels as he took off his outer robe; he kept the flute wrapped around his waist just in case they needed it for a spirit. “Lan Zhan, we’ve been going through these tunnels for the past hour and haven’t found an entrance. Since Pandora is all mysterious, it makes sense that to get to this Grotto, is by diving.” He looked over at Wangji’s face, before nudging his shoulder. “Don’t worry. We’ve faced the Tortoise of Slaughter together! How hard could this be?”

And with a wink and a smile, Wuxian dived into the water.
 
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Lan Wangji

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The cultivator knew what was coming before Wuxian had even opened his mouth. Goodness knows he had seen that smile often enough to know what followed not long afterward. Sure enough, he was being given that reassuring attitude the other man tended to carry with him in a manner that seemed as natural as breathing, but often entangled with the carelessness Wuxian held for his own life. At least Wangji was sure by this point that he at least knew how that wasn't going to fly for the cultivator anymore, to the point he valued this life, this second, chance more than his own existence at times.

With a resigned sigh that was smothered out by the sound of Wuxian connecting with the water below, Wangji peered over the small cliff edge to at least check the other man was alright. Before he joined him he undid his outer robe and left it folded to one side, figuring they would be climbing back out later anyway and exiting the same way they had come in. Wangji placed Bichen on top of his clothes and his head piece too, though he kept on his clan ribbon and even adjusted it somewhat to make sure it was straight and in place properly.

His main reassurance was knowing Bichen would unsheathe itself and come to his aid should he need it, and that no one else was likely to come wandering about the tunnels and bump into them or steal his belongings. Finally, Lan Wangji took the plunge and joined Wuxian with a splash not a moment too soon, resurfacing in the crisp water while his long hair seemed to be a little wayward compared to how neatly tied back the strands often were, no doubt thanks to the water now.

"Wei Ying?" He'd murmured, wading over to said man before he looked over him, making sure there seemed to be nothing wrong from his dive. Turning his liquid gold gaze on the rest of their surroundings, Wangji was making a mental map of the best route to climb out for later when he felt something brush against one of his legs, cold and quick, he knew it could not have been Wuxian.

Now on high alert, the cultivator turned his head to one side slightly, tipped just a bit with one ear inclined toward the water as if he were listening to it. When silence fell, it was broken soon enough as a figure erupted from the surface behind both men, causing Wangji to turn around as quickly as he could in the water. When he saw what seemed to be the swipe of a clawed hand coming for them, the cultivator pushed both of his feet against his partner's chest in time, forcing them to part and away from one another so the attacker had missed.

As if on cue, Bichen had arrived at its master's silent command and need, the sword diving down and hovering over their heads. With its blue light, it illuminated a figure in front of both men now, covered in scales, slim but lean and seemingly with gills along the sides of its waist. This was no spirit, perhaps closer to a 'monster', but Wangji would decide that depending on the outcome of this encounter.
 
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Wei Wuxian

The Untamed
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Late 20s / Early 30s
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The water was freezing, almost as cold as those springs at Cloud Recesses. Wuxian kept his mouth shut when he was underwater and kicked his legs as he breached the surface, the water was soaking into his robes. While stripping, even more, would have been the best choice, there was no changing that now.

It took a minute or so, but Wangji joined him. The splash echoed through the cave, as they were both dripping wet. At his question, Wuxian smiled, even though he felt his teeth chattering a bit from the cold, paddling a bit closer to Wangji.

But the moment was gone and suddenly, Wuxian felt something brush against his leg. “Ah! Something brushed against my leg.” He had seen something in the water, but he thought they had more time to figure out where they had to dive.

And then...a creature showed up. Suddenly, it sped towards them and aimed to attack. Wuxian felt the wind knocked out of him when he was pushed away by Wangji. It was painful since he was kicked and the water made it more difficult to move in, but they would have to deal with it.

With his spiritual energy, Bichen was called and Wangji keeps it in the air, ready to attack as it glowed. The creature looked like it has scales of some kind and some frills and gills around its’ body. It looked lean and menacing but it simply kept its eyes on them as it growled. And yet...it wasn’t attacking them now.

Why was that? He swam closer to Wangji as he lowered his voice to speak to his friend. “Lan Zhan, I think this is a guard. I think we are trespassing.”

Wuxian gently raised his hand and spoke, “We don’t mean any harm or to trespass in your territory. We just want to know what has been happening in the grotto.”
 
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Lan Wangji

The Untamed
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Early 30s
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It's complicated
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The waters settled while Bichen hovered above their heads, its blue, cold glow promising of a swift strike should the cultivator be forced to make such a move. He probably would have if it wasn't for Wuxian trying to reason with whatever it was they were dealing with, and it would have been fair considering they were the ones who had been attacked first. Because of this Wangji was reluctant to lower his sword, keeping it pointed at the being that now looked at them both with eyes that reflected the light in an eerie manner, causing the Lan to feel on edge still.

He'd seen that clawed hand and how close it had come to touching them both, he'd had no doubt in his mind the kind of damage it could do to either men should it have come to that. Of course Wangji would apologise for the shove he'd given Wuxian's chest but it had been needed given the current situation. Lan Wangji would do whatever he needed to to keep his soulmate safe, he was done asking for permission or waiting until someone hurt the other man first, no one was coming between him and his destined partner. Not in this life, not in the next.

His hardened gaze darted from the opponent to Wuxian, though he still didn't lower Bichen and instead kept his attention focused on those eyes staring right back at him, ready to strike at the slightest sign of danger toward his partner. Wangji waited though, not wanting to fight if they could avoid it, especially considering they were at a disadvantage here and in the water, without solid ground to support them. To his relief, the creature rose from the water a little more, looking between them both but never coming closer, Good, Wangji thought.

"Not many people are foolhardy enough to dive right in these days, especially after the stories that have spread among the villagers." Wangji was surprised he could understand this being, but then he'd also heard himself able to understand bears walking around on two feet in the city, where he had expected to just hear nonsensical roaring. Alright Pandora, you proved your point.
"You ask what has been happening? I guess you wouldn't know the whole story up on land, would you?" This made the cultivator tilt his head somewhat, realising that yes, there were indeed two sides to this story as there were so many before too.

"I shan't attack, but you must both promise you won't do the same. I think... you might be what we're looking for. You'll have to swim underwater though, and judging from your figures, I doubt you're hiding gills under there." Looking down at himself, Wangji noticed his white robes had turned quite transparent and showed off much of his chest and... well, the rest of him in general. In a sudden feeling of panic, he drowned out what the merfolk was saying, glancing over his shoulder to see how visible it was there as well.

Sure enough he could spot the end of one of his scars, the raised skin kissing the back of his shoulder and leading down into a much longer line his vision couldn't follow. Great. He'd have to make sure he was close to Wuxian but away enough that the man couldn't glimpse at his back and see the scars there. Sighing under his breath, the cultivator was resigning to another troublesome job when he heard the word 'kiss', it was enough to have him whipping his head around.

"What?" Wading closer to Wuxian, the cultivator was glaring down the merfolk now, his golden eyes hardening from their usual warm, liquid kind to something a lot more shielded and unforgiving. Rage kissed the edges of those spheres, rage and jealousy, combining in his chest while he stared down the stranger who was looking increasingly sheepish and unsure as time went on. They held their hands up, a universal sign of peace before speaking again.

"It's the only way you'll be able to breathe down there. A single kiss from my lips and you will be able to accompany me, under the water so you can continue your investigation. Unless... I am mistaken and that's out of question for you both...?" Yes! Damn right it was out of question! Wangji's chest puffed up the more the being spoke, his jaw clenched, looking like he was about to climb right back out the grotto, with Wuxian dragged behind him in one hand if he had to. Instead, he exhaled, still angry though as he glanced at Wuxian from the corner of his eye and asked.

"And you are fine with this, Wei Ying?"
 
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Wei Wuxian

The Untamed
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Late 20s / Early 30s
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Wuxian was going to try and be diplomatic of the two—Bichen was still over their heads and while he could understand why he didn’t think it’d be necessary for the long run. Hopefully, they could get through to this...being and perhaps get assistance in their case.

Or they would fight. They’d see how it goes.

The creature’s eyes narrowed for a moment before they rose a bit higher and spoke. He was surprised they could understand this creature, but apparently it was something Pandora did, as usual. And their voice sounded almost...like a hum of sorts. Wuxian didn’t know how to describe it.

However, even while he was paying attention, he noticed that Wangi’s inner robe was sticking to his back because of the water. He remembered that the man had been muscular in their youth but damn, he definitely saw more of them. But that wasn’t what caught his eye.

There were scars on Wangji’s back.

Wuxian felt his throat tighten as he observed them. There were so many. He’d never seen these before and while he had felt something when he had touched his back days ago, this had to have happened during these sixteen years. The cloth was in the way but they looked like they were...from a discipline whip? The only people who could discipline Wangji were his brother and uncle—but how could they do so many? When Zewu Jun loved his brother and old man Lan considered Wangji one of his pride and joy?

There was a twisting in his chest as he felt so angry if this was the case. But he didn’t know—he’d have to see them clearly at some other point. Maybe sneak a peek when Wangji was bathing. Besides, it was rude to ignore the other being talking to them. So, he focused on the now. The other mentioned that they would need to be underwater and Wuxian sheepishly nodded at that. “You’re right about that.”

He briefly noticed Wangji looking down on himself, and perhaps had seen what Wuxian has noticed. A quick side-glance to his friend confirmed Wuxian’s suspicions; Wangji didn’t want him to see them…what was on his chest?

There was a brand. On his chest. It was old, scarred but...it looked so much like the one he had—the one Wen Chao’s bitch had branded him with. Clenching his hand, he decided he’d get to the bottom of this.

And that was when he heard the other creature saying he needed to kiss them. Wuxian blinked owlishly while Wangji had a more...aggressive response? This was the first time he’s seen Wangji react so strongly to something like this. It must be because he detested people coming into contact with him. And yet...he’s never told Wuxian to not do that. Maybe it was because Wuxian never gave him a choice in the matter.

The being explained it’d be a simple kiss because they needed to breathe underwater. It was probably something that their species could do, and yet...Wuxian felt a bit embarrassed by this. This would technically be his first kiss. Ever. And it’s not with a beautiful woman but with a...fish creature. Who didn’t even have defining features of whether it was male or female?

At the question, Wuxian sighed. No, he wasn’t fine with this, but did they really have a choice? “There is more to this case. We need to see if this is a vengeful spirit or if we can help in any way. While the circumstances aren’t...the best, I don’t think there are any other options for breathing underwater.” Wuxian turned to the other. “How far underwater is this? Does this...spell last long?”

“The spell lasts as long as you remain in the Forgotten Grotto. If you leave, but then return, it will still last since it’s the magic of our pod. Where we need to go is quite far, but I’m strong enough to pull both of you along.”

The being looked down towards the water before he continued. “Please. If you can help us—her—then the pod will be eternally grateful to you.” Well, that is a plus if they ever decide to visit again...and they do look like they need the help. Wuxian sighed a bit, trying to get his nerves settled before he turned to Wangji.

“I think we should do it. It’s thebest way we can help them, Lan Zhan.” He wanted to make sure the other was alright with this as well, before it was decided. “Let’s do this.” With that, the other swam towards them. He briefly saw a tail in the back. They glanced at both of them, bowing their head before they thanked them. “Thank you for considering. This will only take a moment.”

Clawed webbed hands gently grasped Wuxian’s face before pulling him closer. His stomach was turning with nervousness and anxiety, as he closed his eyes. There was a brief moment where their lips met, a gentle surprise to the sensation before he felt a tingle on his skin. And as quickly as it happened, it was over. That wasn’t so bad...at least, that’s what he thinks.
 
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Lan Wangji

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Early 30s
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It's complicated
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So that was it then. Not only was Wei Wuxian's first kiss going to a member of the merfolk, but it was also going to take Lan Wangji's first kiss. He didn't know this was Wuxian's first, to this day he still thought that Lan Sizhui was quite possibly Wei Wuxian's biological son, considering he had had no one else to explain to him the real origins of the child. And in fairness, with the way he had seen his friend flirt so shamelessly in their youth, and how his partner so often acted, it was not the hardest thing to believe that he would have possibly fathered a child so young. The point was, Wangji didn't know if Wuxian was going along with this for just the good of the case, or perhaps something else as well.

As Wuxian had given him his answer and gone on to ask the merfolk about the trip and whatnot, it left Wangji somewhat deflated as he stared down at the water they were still wading in. He could only nod reluctantly when the other man told him this was perhaps the only way, and they needed to do what they had to to help these people. Still, that didn't mean Wangji couldn't glare daggers at the merfolk.

Of course this only got worse when they dared touch Wuxian like that, holding his face in their hands and kissing him. Wangji turned his own face away angrily, just before the kiss had finished he'd forced himself to focus, to remember that this was for the greater good and that most importantly, Wei Ying did not belong to him. He was free to kiss who he liked, even if it should have been him and only him.

Wading forward and using his body as a guard between Wuxian and the merfolk, Wangji glared them down still, watching as they shrunk slightly under his hard gaze. With his back to his partner he trusted his long hair would hide most of his scars for now, floating like coils of ink through the water, swaying and revealing those lines here and there but obscuring the old wounds for the most part.

Skittish and seeming less than brave in the moment, the stranger didn't dare hold onto Wangji's face and instead tipped its head to one side only. This kiss was shakily considered a peck at most, their lips barely keeping contact but just long enough that the enchantment would work. Wangji wouldn't even give it the pleasure of imagining it had been Wuxian, no, instead he barely resisted wiping his mouth and instead motioned for the merfolk to get into position.

"Wei Ying." Wangji began, turning back to his partner with a still very stern expression in place. He sent his sword back up to its scabbard, slipping in with ease and casting a darkness over them now in the absence of its light.
"Don't stray far from me. No matter what." It was his only request, a small one considering what he'd just done to continue with this mission of theirs. Sighing softly under his breath, he moved over to the other side of the merfolk, glaring even in the dull lighting, before sliding his hand into the creature's own.

"Hold on tightly. You don't want to get left behind and swept off into another tunnel, or even the sea." A mere grunt came from Lan Wangji, the creature twitching when he used some of that famous Lan sect arm strength to give it's hand a particularly hard squeeze. Not wanting to sound petty, the cultivator kept his mouth shut, at first holding his breath as they were submerged before finding he could in fact breathe - rather helpful when they were being dragged along through the water at top speed.
 
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Wei Wuxian

The Untamed
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Human
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Late 20s / Early 30s
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There was a nervous tension in his skin. Wuxian wanted to put a brave face to Wangji, to basically show that he didn’t think much of it, that he was fine. But...was he? It wouldn’t mean anything, it was to basically to make sure they’d breathe underwater. But it was still his first kiss. Even with all the flirting, with all the jokes and admiring he did, he’s never actually kissed anyone. There were a few times that it could have happened, when he was young and at Lotus Pier. Flirting with some girls...but every time something like that could happen—either initiated by him or the lovely girl he was with, Jiang Cheng would always interrupt him. Like he had a sense whenever Wuxian was up to something.

So, yeah. He doesn’t have any experience in this aspect. The only thing that could count as experience were those books he read. But again, was it really a kiss when this was necessary for them to breathe underwater?

It was gentle and brief, almost as if it were a couple that kissed for the public. There was no emotion behind it, no anything. It was just two parts of their flesh meeting. And yet, he could almost feel that Wangji was mad. What, did he think that Wuxian was flirting? Sure, he’d do that, but he wouldn’t do it when they were on a case. He frowned when he saw Wangji move in front of him, almost as if to defend him from an unknown enemy. While he was defenseless, they didn’t have a reason to be on guard now. He was also scaring off their guide with his demeanor. Ah...it must be because he had to get kissed too. Wangji didn’t like it when others touched him, so he could understand. That must be why he was acting like this. Could it be...this was Wangji’s first kiss?

No—no. He must have a family back home. Wangji was in his thirties, he must have gotten married to continue the bloodline, as his brother must have as well. Maybe he felt like this because he was betraying his wife? Yes...that must be it. Did...Wangji have children? Aspiring cultivators of the Lan sect? He had to; it made sense. Maybe he had a son, among the junior disciples he sent to the Mo household. That had to be it, when he came to their aid as well as when they fought the statue.

And yet, here he was: stuck in a world with Wuxian, away from his family and needing to kiss someone besides his spouse.

Wuxian felt his chest hurt when he thought of this, even more so when Wangji was kissed...the other cultivator must hate him now, because of what he put them through. His train of thought was disrupted when he heard Wangji’s voice in the darkness. The young man nodded at his words, before moving his hand to the merfolk’s and gripping it tightly.

And then...they were underwater and Wuxian’s used both of his hands as they moved through the sea. It was completely pitch black before the merfolk’s skin suddenly glowed; it was as if there were a million fireflies or stars on them, as they moved through the water.

Wuxian saw in the darkness more lights going off as they took a turn; he was surprised his eyes weren’t stinging because of the salt. Maybe that was part of the enchantment? After a few more turns...they broke the surface. The moon shining from another opening. Their guide turned towards them. “Stay here. I need to ask for permission before we enter.” And suddenly, five more merfolk appeared; they all looked so similar, but their expressions looked harsh.

Wuxian drifted closer to Wangji, before clutching onto the wet fabric of the man’s robes. He felt that this would be difficult to negotiate.
 
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Lan Wangji

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Despite his foul mood, the cultivator could appreciate the beauty of the things they passed by while moving through the water. The light coming off of the merfolk was enough to illuminate their surroundings, though the man was slightly more wary when he was sure he had seen the reflection of eyes sometimes. Wangji and Wuxian had this merfolk's promise that there shouldn't be any ill-will aimed at them, hostility could be expected considering their differences, they were intruders too, after all.

They had come to a stop not too much later, Wangji pulling his hand back almost immediately before he was trying to adjust his headband, wanting it to be as straight as always. He'd only noticed the others after their guide had left and Wuxian moved over to him, causing Wangji to look down at his friend while he clung onto his robes. With the moonlight shining down on them both and floating in water, the partners looked like the symbol for yin and yang, entangled with one another but still so separate - in need of the other but starved.

Or at least, that was how it was for Wangji.

Wangji did not open his mouth or speak to these new merfolk but instead he created a link between his mind and Wuxian's, allowing them to speak to one another. It used some of his energy, but it wasn't enough to hinder the cultivator.
Wei Ying... He tried, knowing Wuxian would be able to hear his voice, soft but clear in his mind. Turning his gaze away from the merfolk, he looked down at his partner beside him again.

Are you alright? I won't let them harm you, its okay. Wuxian was somewhat more vulnerable in these kinds of situations. He didn't have a sword he could use and he didn't have his flute, but he did have Wangji there with him. Moving one of his hands beneath the water, the cultivator lifted his hands and placed it at the small of the other's back, keeping his palm there while he had his chest turned toward Wuxian too now. Everything about his body language screamed protective.

Lifting his gaze once more he set it on the merfolk around them, all of them turning their head toward where their guide had gone, now reappearing and beckoning them over. Giving Wuxian's back a small nudge he encouraged him to swim forward first, letting Wangji take the rear as he kept his senses open and threw a glance at the other merfolk. They disappeared, begrudgingly, as quickly as they had appeared, leaving the two men to follow their guide.
 
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Wei Wuxian

The Untamed
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Late 20s / Early 30s
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Wuxian just observed their surroundings. It appeared to be an underwater cave, and the illumination from the moon and merfolk’s skin brightened up the area. His eyes drifted to Wangji, already seeing the strict man fix the headband of his clan. It was a bit funny, however, seeing the merfolk talk between themselves made him more anxious. What if they didn’t want their help? What if the merfolk got hurt because of them?

He could see their hair flowing like wisps in the water, as well as the black and white robes. It looked interesting to see that, to distract himself from the possibility of this backfiring. But suddenly, he heard Wangji’s voice. He abruptly turned to Wangji, already seeing him look at him. His mouth hadn’t moved...could it be?

Lan Zhan? When he heard the question but not Wangji’s mouth moving, his suspicions were confirmed. Wangji used the technique where they could speak through their minds for some time. They had last done this when they fought the Tortoise of Slaughter...a time when things were drastically different.

I’m fine—just a bit worried that things won’t end well. But thank you; I know you’ll protect this weak and feeble man, Hanguang Jun. He responded with a cheeky smile. A little bit of something to distract him from this—since he should have taken his flute with him in the end.

And apparently, since tonight was full of surprises—he stiffened when he felt a hand on his back. Wangji then turned further into his direction, almost in a protective manner. Despite feeling cold and wet, he felt his cheeks flush from heat. ...Are you alright? He asked brow creased as he looked in Wangji’s direction.

Soon enough, their guide gestured for them to come forward, Wangji gently pushing him forward as Wuxian began moving his limbs to swim over to their guide. It was at this moment, Wuxian asked, “So, what is your name? And...what has happened to the one you said?”

Their guide blinked in confusion before he replied. “You may call me Assan. And what has happened...well, I’ll show you.” And with that, the merfolk began leading the way again.
 
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Lan Wangji

The Untamed
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Human
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Early 30s
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There was no point in correcting Wuxian about him being weak and feeble, he was in fact quite the opposite. But he was sure that it was meant as a joke considering how he was now smiling at him, that cheeky glint ever present even when he was worried in a situation like this. It made Wangji hold him a little tighter, squeeze his waist before he'd let him go to swim on ahead, following close behind shortly afterward.

Wangji didn't answer about if he was alright or not, he didn't think there was much point since he wasn't enjoying what had become of their little trip. Still, he would keep to his promise and help those in need, no matter who they were or what they had done, money or none, he promised to help them all.

He was pretty sure he could feel Lan Qiren rolling his eyes from here.

Ah, to be the family's biggest disappointment. A faint smile tugged at the corners of his lips before he heard the being refer to themselves as Assan, swimming until they were brought to a cavern with walls encrusted in pretty gems, reflecting light about the place like a kaleidoscope, mimicking that of a large stained glass window.

It was beautiful, even Wangji could admit that, but his attention was focused on the two other beings that were in the cavern. The first was much like Assan, just more... frilly, ornate was probably the better word. Their skin looked soft and reflected the light and colours around them like a mirror, while they were perched on a throne-like chair, half sunken into the water. The cultivator noticed it seemed to have fallen into disrepair and perhaps had not been cared for in some time, much like the merfolk who sat on the edge of it now.

Beside them, sitting at the foot of the throne with their legs in the water, was what seemed to be a spirit, that of a young girl and quite tangible to the naked eye. While the couple were odd enough as it was, they were more so for the immense amount of emotions they were both exuding. Anger, worry, protectiveness... but most of all pain. Wangji knew these feelings well, and just as he had moved into a protective stance over Wei Ying earlier, he watched as the little ghost girl did the same for the merfolk.

They're looking after each other... He'd spoken in Wuxian's mind before he could realise what he was doing, his own self giving off an immense feeling of empathy. One look in either of the pair's eyes and he knew, he knew the intense feeling of loss and holding onto something, someone, who wasn't meant for the same world as himself anymore.

Someone who the world had been too unkind to, who gave up and left him behind.

Climbing out of the water and onto the rocky grounds, Wangji was careful where he stepped for the precious stones were even encrusted in the floor, stopping at a safe distance before he bowed formally. He did not speak and instead stood dutifully to one side, waiting for Wuxian to do that since he was used to him voicing their business and concerns when necessary.

"Your Highness. These two men have come to help, let them hear your story. Please..." As Assan pleaded with their fellow merfolk, Wangji's eyes drifted from one to the other, realising that this was beyond a normal haunting as they had feared, some kind of wrong had been done and was in need of rectifying if they were to have any hope of leaving successfully.
 
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Wei Wuxian

The Untamed
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Late 20s / Early 30s
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Feeling Wangji’s hand on his waist, made him feel...strange. He didn’t know why; his friend was protective since he didn’t have a weapon and a weak core. And yet, he felt a tingle down his spine—something...else.

The lack of a response didn’t make him feel better. It only cemented that he caused discomfort to his friend by accepting this case. But even then...they had to do what was right. If Wuxian backed off from this, when he’s sworn to fight for the weak and for justice, he’d be throwing all of his beliefs away.

Assan led them further into the cave, seeing a variety of gems and there looked like there were tiny glowing lights in the water? How could that be? And with the light reflecting from the water, it looked like colorful stars, twinkling above.

The merfolk on the throne looked quite ornate and magnificent; the frills moving almost like large flower petals, like a lotus—and there seemed to be a crown above their head? And yet, the seat they were on, didn’t look like it had been good condition. This merfolk looked...so sad.

And at the edge of the water...was the spirit. A young girl, who almost looked like a normal human, if it weren’t for the slight glow on her feet. The spirit jumped in front of the other in a protective manner, to which it surprised Wuxian, just raising the eyebrows slightly. Wangji’s mental reply, the rush of empathy he felt...it made sense. There were so many emotions between those two that it made sense. Why a spirit was lingering, why she hadn’t moved on.

Assan spoke to—apparently, the royalty. Wuxian was near Wangji, but he observed the two. The ruler seemed to observe them, had a wary but also apathetic look in their eyes. He suspected that even though they were wary, they were tired and filled with pain.

The spirit on the other hand—her expression was venomous to say the least. So angry and protective. “Assan! Why are landwalkers here? They could be hunters, murderers! And you just led them Kai? What if they kill the pod? How can you be so—!” She let out an angry growl, gems cracking under the negative energy she was exuding. Wuxian felt his breath hitch, just when the royal merfolk gently placed their hand on the girl.

“Willow, please. Enough. My brother is worried for me...for us. Calm down.” The spirit suddenly stopped, looking so confused and sad before she took a deep breath. Wuxian wondered if this was because she thought she was still alive or just...wanted to make the others more comfortable.

“Speak. Who are you and what are you here for?”

Wuxian took it as his time to bow. Placing his hands in front of him and bowing to them, he began. “Thank you for your time, Your Highness. My name is Wei Wuxian and this is my partner, Lan Wangji. We are cultivators.” He said, indicating Wangji before turning back to the others. He had barely hesitated using the word partner before he realized how that must have sounded. Maybe sworn brother would have been better? Friend? Though he has heard mercenaries referring to those they work with as partners, so it should be fine, right?

“We don’t mean to intrude in your territory...however, we heard a few rumors of what has been occurring in the nearby town. They spoke about how there were malicious spirits haunting the grotto, chasing people away. We had also heard about a young girl that has gone missing here...” Wuxian looked over to Willow before back to them all. His eyes were filled with concern and understanding. He hoped they would believe them. “We wished to know what has truly happened here. There is always more than one side, and we’d like to hear your side if that’s acceptable.”
 
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Lan Wangji

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Human
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Early 30s
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It's complicated
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The gems cracking were enough to make Wangji try reaching for his sword, though of course it wasn't there and all he grabbed was a fistful of air. He glanced around the place while the spirit seemed to be hissing at them still, now turned on their guide and letting them know how stupid they had been to lead land walkers like themselves right here to this spot. They weren't welcome, that had been obvious from the moment the other merfolk had surrounded them, but this... this unbridled anger coming from the spirit was another thing entirely.

As Wuxian introduced them both, the elder of the two bowed his head in acknowledgement, shifting his gaze between the spirit and the merfolk once more. A strange sense of pride swelled up inside of his chest when Wangji had heard his friend refer to him as his partner, though he had no doubt Wuxian meant it in just the work sense, he couldn't help but imagine it in another way.

Wuxian had offered his piece to Willow and Kai, the waiting game they now played to see how it would turn out was another situation entirely. No words came then, instead Willow seemed to cross her arms and huff, looking more like the child she actually was than a protective adult she had been projecting up until then.

But instead of words came... action.

Wangji stepped back slightly when Assan seemed to have been given some kind of go-ahead, moving over to the dilapidated throne. There, the merfolk tugged and pulled at one of the few remaining rainbow coloured gems there, causing a small splash back in the water when they finally freed it. The cultivator was confused but gave them a chance, watching as Assan brought the gem over to a small spot seemingly made just for it.

The gem was put into the little capture spot before brilliant rays of light came from it, shining all different colours about the cavern, leaving Wangji looking on in awe for the second time tonight. Kai bowed their head as the ribbons of light turned into something else, something more tamed until they formed actual moments of thought... memories.

Right there in front of them were the memories of that night, what had transpired to make Wuxian and Wangji meet the people they had now, to find them as they were. These were Kai's own memories, too painful for the merfolk to relive again, but enough to explain to the two cultivators what had gone on from their side of the story at least.
"He lied..." Wangji whispered, the memories coming to an end before they faded, the gem they had been stored in crackling before it broke into nothing more than just coloured dust.

Realising now the girl's own father had lied about that happened made the cultivator form a fist, angry that mankind seemed to insist on making the same mistakes and not taking up responsibility for their own actions. Even if it had been a mistake, an accident, it didn't change how he had lied. Being sorry and repenting was one thing, playing victim was another entirely. And it made Wangji so incredibly angry that he couldn't possibly begin to explain it himself.

Not trusting himself to speak, Wangji had a deep frown appearing in his usually pretty features, causing him to look unfathomably frightening, so much so that even a glance from Assan had their guide shrinking back just a bit.
"You see now, what has become of my family and their treasured one. You see that now... but- ...can you help?" Assan asked timidly, looking from Wangji who had now turned himself away from the group slightly, and to Wuxian instead, hopeful though unknowing of exactly how they might have been helpful. Assan just wanted Kai back, like how things used to be.

Lan Wangji could understand that.
 
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Wei Wuxian

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Late 20s / Early 30s
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Assan moved through the water and took a peculiar looking gem and placed it on a pedestal of some kind? It looked more colorful than the others, and Wuxian wondered about the importance. Was it magical in some way?

His internal question was answered when suddenly, lights flickered around the cavern with what appeared to be...images? Were these...memories? The cultivator suspected this was a form of recollection, as the memories of their ruler were shown to them. There was caution, wariness, happiness...and heartache, pain, and sorrow.

Wuxian felt his heart ache at this injustice—at the stupidity of what one man could cause, a father no less; all in the name of greed and prejudice. While he didn’t know these individuals, this was...wrong.

Wangji’s whisper almost seemed to echo in his head, just as the gem cracked and the memories stopped. When he saw Wangji’s hand clenching into a fist, he reached out toward him and placed a hand on his arm. In an attempt to soothe, to give Wangji a sense of compassion...because Wuxian felt his emotions would get out of hand if he didn’t ground himself with Wangji. Making the father realize the hurt he’s caused, giving it back to him tenfold when that was a kindness compared what he did to these people and his own child.

Taking a deep breath, Wuxian looked over to the others. Assan was concerned for their family—wanted their sibling to be happy, and yet, Kai is miserable and Willow—their treasured one...is dead. He pursed his lips as he thought about this. They could try to appease Willow, and help her move on. But what about the father? That man...needed to pay for his crimes.

Wuxian spoke, a bit unsure of how this solution would be taken. “We can...if that is what you want.”

Assan perked up at those words, but Willow narrowed her eyes. “I don’t trust you two! You obviously know my father—I bet he filled your heads about the riches and how the merfolk were hurting people trying to make a living in the village. Bullshit! They never caused any trouble and then you—”

“Let him speak, Willow.”

Willow looked over in surprise at the mermaid, her expression changing to shock. Before the spirit could even utter an objection, Assan spoke up. “What needs to be done?”

Wuxian cleared his throat. “First, we need evidence—something to prove that Willow’s father is the one who caused this and his lies are just that; lies.” Assan nodded and dived into the water, before suddenly reappearing from the water, holding...a piece of cloth and a ring?

“Wait, you’re giving them—!”

“It’s proof enough, is it not? These belonged to him...and he must have kept your body somewhere if the landwalkers believe you are missing.”

Wuxian nodded as he gently took the items. They both had an insignia of some kind—the same one the father had—they would probably need more proof than that, but as Assan mentioned, they’d have to find the body. “We’ll also need something else. Like...a musical instrument of some kind. Similar to a flute? If you have something like that?”

Assan frowned for a moment before he looked over at Kai, to which they just motioned behind the throne. Willow frowned at Wuxian. “What the hell do you need that for? Gonna play a happy song and hope shit is fixed? This is the real world—that shit won’t work!”

Assan drifted back to Wuxian and brought...what looked like to be a peculiar instrument made out of bone? It didn’t look like the dizi he normally used, but it looked interesting. He thanked Assan before he looked over at them.

“Willow...you are angry. Resentful. We all understand your pain, your sorrow, but...you are also causing Kai to suffer as well. They aren’t happy...because you are not happy, and you’re here because of resentment. Because your time was cut short. Is this what you want?”
 
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