Birdsong faded back in, hoof-beats dropping away as the Nies reined to a stop beside him. His chest was too tight, thinking of Nie Mingjue tortured, of then-Meng Yao – Jin Guangyao – who’d taken Wen Ruohan from behind, of his own brother who thought everything was fine now that the war was over.
Lan Xichen, who’d informed Jin Guangyao of Lan Wangji’s clandestine visit to the Burial Mounds, because he was so worried about his little brother being tainted by Wei Wuxian’s use of resentful energy. Who would be equally alarmed that a foreign guardian spirit chose to be his little brother’s partner, entangled in his qi deeper than any brush of the ghost path could ever be. Who would want his sworn brother’s advice on how to handle a Lan who could reach out to other minds whether they shared a talisman or not….
Who bent like a willow in the wind to Jin Guangyao’s words; always so reasonable, always so polite, always what ended up favoring Jin Guangyao.
Kellen’s steadiness was all that let Lan Wangji breathe, summoning the will to force words out. “Won’t. Be a spy.”
“Oh,” Nie Huaisang breathed, face paper-white. “Oh, not good, not good – I don’t know what to do, I really don’t-!”
“Everyone, hold.” Nie Zonghui raised an empty hand. “Young Master Nie. Our sect leader put me under your command. Order me to be silent, and I will.”
:He can do that?: Kellen asked.
:He can.: Lan Wangji breathed in, forcing his racing thoughts to slow. :It is understood that any sect leader, or heir, will be strong enough in their cultivation that they might stumble on secrets of another sect…:
He felt Kellen listening, unwilling to breathe and disturb that gossamer-thread of a thought.
It might work. Lan Wangji straightened in his saddle. “Heralds have a philosophy. There is no one, true way.”
Nie Zonghui frowned. Nie Huaisang brightened, fan out again. “So you’ve said, and the townsfolk agreed.”
“Meditation practices,” Lan Wangji went on. “Training in the use of qi. Organized teachings. Hunting what preys on ordinary folk. Dispensing justice.” He patted Kellen’s neck. “Spirit beasts.”
:Not the same as yours,: Kellen observed. :But keep going. You’re cute when you’re sneaky- eh?:
Hmm. A mental recitation of the three thousand rules of Gusu might be a bit much, for a being who’d never heard of them before a few days ago. But those rules, and his elders’ lectures on history, were quite clear. “Heralds,” Lan Wangji declared, “fulfill the requirements needed to be a cultivation sect.”