Wei Wuxian sighed, eyes checking over the tiny village’s worth of people he’d dragged so far from home. Fourth Uncle had just helped Granny off the gentlest horse they had, A-Yuan clinging to his neck like a monkey. The dozen-odd Wens who had a little cultivation looked worn; everyone else slumped, exhausted. Though the Yiling Patriarch’s concubines were fresher than the elders-
He took a deep breath, hauled that thought out to a mental target range, and riddled it with arrows. Why, why, why had Wen Qing told him what kind of rumors were swirling around in Yiling? He could have lived his entire life without knowing the gossips of the cultivation world painted him as some unholy combination of Wen Ruohan and Jin Guangshan, complete with an army of the undead, a sect teeming with rogue demonic cultivators, and an endless harem of stolen beauties held captive in golden chains.
If Wen Ning and three bride ghosts were an army, then four rowboats were an invasion fleet. Just about every rogue cultivator roaming the land had been snapped up by the legitimate sects recruiting to fill out war losses. The very few idiots who’d shown up to become his apprentices had screamed at one quiet Hello from Wen Ning; the saner ones had run, before the real fierce corpses could tear them apart. As for the endless harem….
Patting down a black horse with a white blaze, dark-eyed Meifeng winked at him, amusement turning her lovely no matter how many water-ghoul scars crossed her face. Then she turned back to the swarm of women and youngsters and elders, pulling out snacks from the saddlebags for anyone too tired to eat.
Wei Wuxian tried not to sigh again, and manfully stifled the urge to fling himself to the ground wailing about the general unfairness of the world. All he’d tried to do was run off with Wen Qing, Wen Ning, and a couple dozen half-starved prisoners. To the Burial Mounds, horrible as that place was, because every sect’s hands were against the Wens, down to the smallest child, and he was just one man.
Every sect. Not one righteous cultivator would lift a sword to defend Wen-dogs. Not even Jiang Cheng, who’d owed Wen Qing and Wen Ning his life. Even Lan Wangji had-
He slapped that memory back into the darkness. It hurt too much.