Chapter 11 Refinement—Part One
The residence of the Lan Sect was located in a remote mountain outside the city of Gusu.
Mist constantly enveloped the white walls and black roofs of the buildings, which stretched along the picturesque garden of the waterside pavilion, as if it was an ocean of clouds in the immortal realm. At dawn, the first rays of the morning sun shone through the hazy billows of mist that drifted far and wide, perfectly complementing its name—the “Cloud Recesses.”
In such a tranquil place, one’s heart would be like still water. Only the echoes of the bell tower could be heard vibrating through the air. Although it was incomparable to a holy temple, the cold mountains still send forth a lonesome air of Zen.
However, the ambience was suddenly shattered by a long wail, giving a few shudders down the backs of the disciples who were training or doing their morning readings. They couldn’t help but to glance at the direction of the main entrance, where the sound came from.
Wei WuXian was crying in front of the entrance, clinging onto his donkey. Lan JingYi spoke, “Stop crying! You said that you liked HanGuang-Jun yourself, so what are you wailing for, now that he has taken you back?”
Wei WuXian pulled a long face.
He never had the chance to summon Wen Ning again, after the night at Dafan Mountain. Neither did he have any opportunities to find out why Wen Ning was unconscious or why he had appeared in this world again, before he was carried back by Lan WangJi.
When he was in his early youth, he had came to study at the Lan Sect for three months, along with the disciples of other clans, so he had experienced the GusuLan Sect’s dull, boring atmosphere in person. In fact, he still shuddered at the thought of the three-thousand-or-so sect rules which crammed onto the Wall of Discipline. As he was tugged up the mountain, he passed by the rock wall again, and saw that a thousand more were carved on. Now, there were more than four thousand. Four thousand!
Lan JingYi spoke, “There, there! Stop making a ruckus. Noise is prohibited in the Cloud Recesses.”
He was making loud noises exactly because he didn’t want to enter the Cloud Recesses!
If he was dragged inside, it would be extremely difficult for him to come outside again. Back then, when he came to study, all of the disciples were given a jade token for passage. Only with the token, would a person be able to enter and leave freely, or else they couldn’t pass through the protective barrier of the Cloud Recesses. After ten years had passed, the security could only have gotten stricter, instead of looser.
Lan WangJi stood still in front of the entrance, turning a deaf ear to him, and watched the scene with an indifferent look. When Wei WuXian’s voice had somewhat quieted, he spoke, “Let him cry. When he becomes tired, drag him inside.”
Wei WuXian hugged the donkey and cried even harder, bumping his head against it.
How misfortunate! He thought that with a whip from Zidian, all of his doubts would be cleared. At the moment, he felt satisfied with himself and, along with his mouthful of teasing words, he offhandedly gave Lan WangJi a few repulsive comments. Yet, who knew that Lan WangJi didn’t follow the routine he had followed before? What was this all about? Was it possible that, after so many years, his level of cultivation had increased, but he became more intolerant?
Wei WuXian spoke, “I’m attracted to men, so with so many beautiful young men in your sect, I’m afraid that I won’t be able to control myself.”
Lan SiZhui tried to reason with him, “Young Master Mo, it was for your sake that HanGuang-Jun brought you here. If you do not follow us, Sect Leader Jiang will not be willing to let the matter go. During these years, there were countless people whom he caught and took back to Lotus Pier, and none of those people were ever let out.”
Lan JingYi spoke, “That is right. You have seen Sect Leader Jiang’s methods, have you not? They are quite cruel…” He paused here, remembering the rule that stated “talking behind other people’s backs” was prohibited, and secretly glanced at Lan WangJi. Seeing that HanGuang-Jun didn’t show any means to chastise him, he was bold enough as to mumble on, “It is all because of the unhealthy trend that the YiLing Patriarch started. There are so many people who copy him and cultivate that foolish method. With Sect Leader Jiang being so suspicious of everyone, is it even possible for him to catch all of them? Just look at you and your flute skills… Heh.”
The heh told more words than what any sentences could describe. Wei WuXian felt like he really needed to defend himself, “Well, actually, you might not believe me, but I usually play the flute quite well…”
Before he finished his defense, a few white-clothed cultivators walked through the door.
Each person wore the Lan Sect’s uniform, with flowing, plain robes as white as snow. The man standing in front was tall and slender. Hanging on his waist was a xiao made of white jade, aside from his sword. As Lan WangJi saw them, he slightly bowed his head to show respect, and the person did the same. He looked at Wei WuXian and smiled, “WangJi never brings guests home. This is?”
As the person stood in front of Lan WangJi, it was as if they were mirror images. However, the color of Lan WangJi’s eyes was extremely light, as if they were tinted crystals, while his eyes were of a gentler, darker shade.
This was Lan Huan, the leader of the GusuLan Sect—ZeWu-Jun, Lan XiChen.
Each place brought up the same kind of people. The GusuLan Sect had always been known for nurturing a lot of handsome men, especially the two jades of the clan’s current generation. Even though the two were not twins, they looked extremely similar to each other, which made it difficult to tell who was the superior one. Yet, although their appearances were similar, their personalities were not. Lan XiChen was gentle and benevolent, while Lan WangJi was overly aloof and stern, keeping everyone at an arm’s length and being the opposite of amiable. This was why, in the list of the best-looking young masters in the cultivation world, the former ranked first, and the latter ranked second.
Lan XiChen proved himself worthy of being the leader of a sect. Even as he saw Wei WuXian embracing a donkey, he did not appear to be affected at all. Wei WuXian let go of the donkey with a beaming smile on his face and approached him. The GusuLan Sect placed a lot of regard on the order of seniority. If he talked nonsense to Lan XiChen, he would most definitely be chased off the Cloud Recesses. However, when he just got ready to show his capabilities, Lan WangJi looked at him. Immediately, his lips were sealed close.
Lan WangJi turned around and continued his polite conversation with Lan XiChen, “Brother, are you going to visit LianFang-Zun again?”
Lan XiChen nodded, “To negotiate about the next Discussion Conference at Jinlin Tower.”
Wei WuXian was unable to open his mouth, so he sourly walked back to the donkey.
LianFang-Zun was the current leader of the LanlingJin Sect—Jin GuangYao, the only illegitimate son whom Jin GuangShan approved of. He was Jin Ling’s youngest uncle, being half-blooded brothers with both Jin Ling’s father, Jin ZiXuan, and Mo XuanYu. However, although they were both illegitimate sons, they were extremely different. While Mo XuanYu was in Mo Village, sleeping on the ground and eating leftovers, Jin GuangYao was sitting in the highest seat of the cultivation world, summoning the winds and controlling the rain. If he wanted to talk to Lan XiCheng or initiate a Discussion Conference, he could do so however he wanted to. Then again, no wonder the sect leaders of the Lan and Jin sects personally went along quite well—after all, they were sworn brothers.
Lan XiChen spoke, “Uncle has taken and examined what you brought back from Mo Village.”
Hearing the words “Mo Village”, Wei WuXian automatically started to pay attention. Unexpectedly, he felt his lips part. Lan XiChen had released his silence and spoke to Lan WangJi, “It is not often that you bring somebody home, being in such good spirits. You need to treat your guest with courtesy, unlike this.”
Good spirits? Wei WuXian carefully looked at Lan WangJi’s face.
How could he tell that he was in good spirits?!
After watching Lan XiChen leave, Lan WangJi spoke, “Drag him inside.”
Then, Wei WuXian was, indeed, dragged into a place which he swore not to step inside again.
In the past, only distinguished cultivators had came to visit the Lan Sect, and never had anyone seen a guest like him before. The juniors all crowded around him, interested by this new turn of events. If not for the sect rules being so strict, there would definitely be bouts of laughter along the journey. Lan JingYi asked, “HanGuang-Jun, where should we drag him to?”
Lan WangJi replied, “The jingshi.”
“… The jingshi?!”
Wei WuXian didn’t know what was going on. The rest stared among themselves, afraid to make any sound.
It was HanGuang-Jun’s bedroom and study, which he had never invited anyone inside…
The furniture in the jingshi was extremely simplistic, without any unnecessary belongings. On the accordion partition, there was a painting of drifting clouds, floating and morphing with its fine brushwork. A guqin table lay horizontally in front of it. On top of the three-legged incense stand in the corner, a hollowed out incense burner made of white jade emitted soft, lingering smoke, filling the whole room with the chilling scent of sandalwood.
Lan WangJi went to see his uncle to discuss serious matters, while Wei WuXian was pushed into the room. Right after Lan WangJi left, Wei WuXian also went outside. He strolled around the Cloud Recesses, and found that, as he had expected, without the jade token for passage, even if he climbed up the white walls of a few zhangs’ height, he would be immediately flung off by the barrier, attracting the attentions of the nearby patrolmen at once.
Wei WuXian could only go back to the jingshi.
He never really worried about anything, no matter what he came across. He walked around the jingshi with his arms behind his back, firmly believing that, sooner or later, there would be a solution. The refreshing scent of the sandalwood was cold and clear. Although it wasn’t sentimental, it had its own way of tugging one’s heartstrings. With nothing to do, he started to think random thoughts, Lan Zhan happened to smell like this scent. His clothes were probably tinged with the fragrance when he was practicing his guqin or meditating here.
After these thoughts, he couldn’t help but to shift closer to the incense stand at the corner. With this shift, he became aware that, beneath his foot, one piece of wood was significantly different from the other places. Wei WuXian bent down and started to knock here and there, due to curiosity. In his past life, he did a lot of digging pits, excavating graves, and finding holes in the ground. After a few moments, he turned a piece of board up.
Finding a secretive space in Lan WangJi’s room was already more than enough to surprise Wei WuXian. However, after he saw what was hidden inside, he was even more surprised.
After flipping the wooden board open, a mellow aroma had filled the air, unnoticeable when it was mixed with the sandalwood scent. Seven or eight black jars were packed into a small, square cellar.
Sure enough, Lan WangJi had changed—he even started to hide liquor!
The Cloud Recesses prohibited liquor. Because of this, the first time they met, they had a small fight. Lan WangJi ended up spilling a jar of the “Emperor’s Smile” which he brought back from the city of Gusu.
After he returned from Gusu to Yunmeng, Wei WuXian never had the chance to drink the “Emperor’s Smile” made exclusively by Gusu’s experts ever again. He had thought about this for his entire life, always telling himself to come back to taste it if he ever received the opportunity. But, the opportunity never came. Hidden in here was no other than the liquor—he didn’t even need to open and taste it, and knew that it was an “Emperor’s Smile” just by the smell of it. He would never have thought that he would find a liquor-hiding vault in the room of a person as scrupulous and abstinent as Lan WangJi’s. Karma really outdid itself with this reincarnation.
As Wei WuXian exclaimed upon the matter, he finished one jar already. He had a high tolerance for alcohol and loved to drink. After he came to the conclusion that Lan WangJi still owed him a jar of Emperor’s Smile and it was time to collect his interests, he drank another jar. When he was just starting to get tipsy, a thought suddenly passed his mind. How hard was it to get the jade token? In the Cloud Recesses, there was a cold spring with a lot of miraculous effects, for the male cultivators to use. It was said to be able to calm down one’s heart, clear one’s mind, quench one’s fire, and so on. When he went into the cold spring, he was bound to take off his clothing. Then, with his clothing already off, there would be no where to put it aside from holding it in his mouth, which was definitely out of question.
Wei WuXian clapped his hands and finished the last gulp in the jar. After searching, he found that there were no places to throw it away, so he filled the empty jars with clear water and sealed the lids again, stuffing them back inside and closing the wooden board. With this done, he ventured out to find the jade token.
Although the Cloud Recesses had been burnt down before the “Sunshot Campaign” happened, the rebuilt structure of the area was the same. Wei WuXian walked through the winding paths from memory, and soon found the cold spring, situated at a quiet and obscure place.
The disciple on duty for watching over the cold spring was quite a distance away. The female cultivators were in another quarter of the Cloud Recesses and didn’t come here to use it. Nobody in the Lan Sect did an impudent thing such as coming to the cold spring to watch others bathe, anyway. Therefore, the security wasn’t strict at all and it was extremely easy to overcome, making it easy for Wei WuXian to go and shame himself. And, coincidentally, there was a set of white clothes on top of the white rocks behind the crisscrossed eupatorium grasses, meaning that someone had already came.
The set of white clothes was folded extremely neatly, almost making one’s hair rise. It looked like a snow-white piece of tofu—even the forehead ribbon was folded without any creases. As Wei WuXian put his hand in and searched for the jade token of passage, he was almost reluctant to mess it up. Afterward, stepping over the bushes of eupatorium grasses, his gaze passed over the spring, and suddenly halted.
The water in the cold spring was freezing. Unlike a hot spring, there wasn’t any vapour to shroud one’s eyes, so it was possible to take a clear look at the upper half of the person in the spring who stood with his back to him.
The person in the spring was quite tall. His skin was fair and his hair was black, wet and gathered to one side. The lines which outlined his waist and back were smooth, graceful yet holding strength. In simpler terms, he was a beauty.
However, Wei WuXian was definitely not stunned and unable to avert his gaze because he was looking at a bathing beauty. No matter how beautiful he was, he wouldn’t actually be attracted to men. Really, it was the things on the person’s back that made him unable to avert his gaze.
There were dozens of intersecting scars.
They were the scars from a discipline whip. In the different sects, there was a type of discipline whip to punish disciples of that sect who made significant mistakes. After the torture, the scars would never disappear. Although Wei WuXian had never been hit by a discipline whip before, Jiang Cheng had been. Even after desperately trying, he couldn’t make the disgracing imprint fade one bit. This was why Wei WuXian would never misremember scars like this.
Usually, with only one or two strikes of the discipline whip, it would already be enough of a punishment for the bearer to remember it for their whole life, never to make the same mistake ever again. The amount of scars on this person’s back accumulated thirty at the least. Just what sort of monstrous crime did he commit for him to be whipped so many times? If it really was a monstrous crime, why didn’t they kill him?
At the moment, the person in the spring turned around. Beneath his collarbone and near his heart, there was a clear sear. Seeing the sear, Wei WuXian’s shock instantly reached its highest peak.
Cloud Recesses: The name of the Lan Sect’s residence came from the last phrase of Jia Dao’s poem. A very beautiful and accurate translation of this poem can be found here: http://chinesepoemsinenglish.blogspot.ca/2010/03/jia-dao-visiting-absent-hermit.html.
Morning readings: A common practice in China is for students to read out loud in their morning classes, because it makes them memorize the passages/teachings better.
Lotus Pier: The specifics of this place will be explained later. However, this name also came from a poem. It was the name of a poem by the famous poet—Wang Wei. I cannot find the translation of this poem online, but it doesn’t matter too much, as this doesn’t influence anything in the story.
Xiao: This is a vertical flute.
Lan Huan, ZeWu-Jun, Lan XiChen: Lan Huan is his birth name, Lan XiChen is his common name, and ZeWu-Jun is his “alternative name” or “hao” (but, in case anyone forgot, a hao is a name given by one to oneself).
Two jades: This term refers to two people who are especially good at something, on a generally equal level.
Summoning the winds and controlling the wind: There is nothing special to this proverb. It just means that he is very powerful and could do whatever he wanted to do.
Sworn brothers: The author of FoDC/GDC had stated that everyone in this book, apart from Wei WuXian and Lan WangJi, are straight. However, that does nothing to stop the fangirls from shipping practically every character with every other character. Feel free to ship Lan XiChen and Jin GuangYao, or any other characters you’re interested in, whichever way you’d like to do so.
Jingshi: This literally translates into “quiet room”. As there doesn’t seem to be any appropriate terms for this in English, it is kept as pinyin.
Guqin: This is the term for the type of zither that Lan WangJi plays. In past chapters, it was referred to as a zither, but the guqin is one specific type of zither, so it has been changed.
Quench one’s fire: Here, the exact term used is “quench one’s evil fire”. Wei WuXian may be referencing Chinese medicine, or he may be making an innuendo (which I happen to know because it is one of the most overused terms to describe the seme’s desires in Chinese BL smut). Who knows?