The Advance of the Mountain Wind – Three

Yunlan calls bullshit, at the very end, and everything changes, including himself. The SID can probably cope, but the Ministry may never be the same, to say nothing of Dixing. Romance, Drama, Porn, I-4

The three of them snuck out of Yunaln’s own apartment and into his car as carefully as if they were smuggling a body, which he had to admit amused him. After all, in a way they were. It was Shen Wei’s directions they followed, though, through the city and skirting around the edge of Yashou territory to one of the parks near the University. Shen Wei led them through the trees, keeping out of human or mechanical sight with an unthinking ease that made Yunlan mark this place in his mind as one xiao-Wei considered his own. Through a tunnel of concrete and twining vines and past a round brick plaza, they came to a concrete fountain, a low burble of water from a square, tiered base.

“Here.”

Shen Wei’s voice was tight and controlled, the voice that Yunlan had heard often from the Envoy, at the start of their acquaintance. Hearing it now locked Yunlan’s attention like a chain wrapped around it, and he stepped up quickly to lay a hand on xiao-Wei’s shoulder. Sure enough, it was straight and hard and still under his hand.

“Hey,” he said, softly, just between the two of them. “Quit worrying. Whatever came of the change in you, we’ll deal with it.”

Xiao-Wei released a breath, shoulder easing just a little bit. “All right. Step back, though. Just in case,” he added, glancing over to see Yunlan’s brows going up. Yunlan scoffed, but took a couple steps back, arms spread.

“Good enough?”

“I suppose we’ll see.” Before Yunlan could try again to ease that sharp tension in him, Shen Wei closed his eyes and lifted a hand. Slowly, far more slowly than the flash and burst of power Yunlan was used to seeing, a glow built.

He’d gotten used to the colors of Shen Wei’s power, the flowing black threaded with deep blue. More than just familiar, now, the memory of it alone made him smile, called up echoes of playfulness and peace from deep inside him. The familiar colors were still there, in what grew and flowed between xiao-Wei’s hands, but now it was the blue that predominated, like a cloud of evening sky drawn into daylight.

Shen Wei wavered on his feet, as if he’d stumbled without taking a step, and his eyes snapped open, wide and startled. Yunlan started forward to catch him with a hand under his arm, and marked the depth of xiao-Wei’s shock by the complete lack of any warning to stay back. “Xiao-Wei?”

“There’s no… I’m not…” Xiao-Wei swallowed and took a deep breath, hands steadying around his own power as he found his balance again. “I think you were right. Before now, my power drew somewhat through my own life but mostly through the lives around me. Now… now it’s entirely through my own life, my own place within this world.” The next breath he took shook a little, and his voice turned softer. “My own soul.” Yunlan could feel all the remaining tension bleeding away as xiao-Wei straightened, reaching out with both hands to direct the flow of his power toward the fountain.

The shifting blue of it flowed across the water, around it, and the water rose in answer, sparkling up through the air to form thin bubbles, leaf shapes, even a snowflake or two out of running water. Yunlan had seen Shen Wei fight and heal, entrance and command, but he’d never seen such delicate shaping as this—though that deep echo inside him felt like it had. Had even seen xiao-Wei play with his strength, perhaps—had coaxed or maneuvered him into it, most likely. Predictably, xiao-Wei looked entirely serious the whole time, as if this little whimsy was nothing but a functional test of control. Someone, at some point, must have convinced him that it was an appropriate test, though, and Yunlan was pretty sure that someone had been him. He gave his past self an approving internal nod.

Eventually, xiao-Wei let his power fade back into the air and his skin, flexing his fingers. “It will take a little getting used to, having that much to work with again,” he murmured, and then frowned. “Zhang Shi. In the past year, has there been any deterioration in the Division staff who come into contact with lao-Chu Shuzhi?”

“That would be xiao-Guo, and no one else,” Zhang Shi noted, a bit dryly. “No. Though if you’re right about what xiao-Guo’s becoming, there wouldn’t be. They haven’t taken harm from me, either, though, even without a host to absorb my power. And there haven’t been any reports of strange wasting deaths at all. I did start looking for them when I recognized the unbinding of my own power.”

“Possibly just luck, so far,” Shen Wei murmured. “We’ll have to keep an eye on that.”

Yunlan’s mind flickered through the connections—unbinding, old legends of ghosts eating life, the one thing Shen Wei had said he had taken into himself. “The Guardian Treaty or whatever was a literal binding on all Dixingren?” When Shen Wei and Zhang Shi both nodded, he prodded at the echo-memories, but couldn’t make head or tail of the tangle of ruefulness and hope and grief he got out of them. “How does that work?”

“I am the ghosts’ ruler,” Shen Wei said quietly, not looking at either of them. “The strongest among them, and the most feared.”

“Not only feared,” Zhang Shi interjected, but softly, as if he wasn’t sure it would be allowed.

Shen Wei shrugged, a faint motion under his jacket, as if he could barely be bothered to make the gesture. “Whether it’s for fear or loyalty, greed or love, the one who’s the focus of a whole people can affect all of them.”

“So,” Yunlan summed up, “you’re saying that you’ve been sacrificing your power and safety for thousands of years, to keep humanity safe, and that now, having sacrificed your actual life, you’re worried you haven’t done enough.” He shook his head, smile tilting crookedly, and reached up to rest a hand on xiao-Wei’s cheek, turning him to look at Yunlan. “You know, I’m not even surprised, any more?”

Xiao-Wei’s eyes were wide again. “I—”

“Ah!” Yunlan stroked his thumb along the sharp line of xiao-Wei’s cheekbone. “I dare you to say that’s not what you’re doing.”

Xiao-Wei huffed softly, turning his head a little into Yunlan’s hand as he looked away. “You are ridiculous.”

Yunlan smiled. “Sometimes, I’ve been told.” And now it was probably time to move along, because he could just feel Zhang Shi paternally doting on them again. “So! Do we have to visit the hospital next?”


Dr. Cheng didn’t even blink to see two of him, just shook her head with an expression that suggested she was resigned to the SID’s nonsense.

“This way.” She led them back through some utility corridors. “The patient’s name was Li Huiliang. Her husband and son were both killed in the fighting, a year ago, and the shock wasn’t good for her mind or her heart. She’s been in and out of the hospital often, since then.” She brought them back into one of the regular corridors and paused in front of a closed door, head bowed. “Last night was the final time. She just… slipped away, this morning. I was about to report it when you called.”

“I give you my word, Dr. Cheng,” Zhang Shi said soberly, in what Yunlan had long mentally labeled as his father’s ‘responsible official’ tone, “I will honor this gift, and keep her place in the world.”

Dr. Cheng turned with such a steely look in her eye that Yunlan straightened up on pure reflex. “You will invite me to her memorial.” It wasn’t a question; it was an order. Yunlan suddenly found it a lot more understandable than he had, that this woman was Shen Wei’s friend.

“I’ll make the arrangements today, Doctor.” It would have to be private, of course, but she was quite right—it was the least they could and should do. Dr. Cheng nodded firm acceptance and opened the door.

Li Huiliang had been an older woman, hair just starting to gray in streaks here and there. There were lines of stress around her mouth, even now with all muscles slackened in death. Yunlan watched quietly as Zhang Shi stood beside the hospital bed for a moment, one hand resting gently on hers where they’d been folded over her stomach. When he stirred, though, Yunlan had to ask, “So, how are we doing this? There’s about to be an unexplained body, isn’t there, since you weren’t sharing mine?”

Dr. Cheng made the face of someone who wished she were a bit less capable, right this moment. “I suppose I can arrange something, as long as you can make sure the documentation matches outside the hospital…”

“Actually,” Zhang Shi hesitated, glancing between Shen Wei and Yunlan. Finally, he spoke to the air between them. “It takes a great deal of energy, to inhabit a body that’s died. I’d planned to ask the Envoy’s help, but it might be… cleanest to use what’s bound up in this form.” He spread a hand over his (Yunlan’s) chest.

Shen Wei stilled for a breath, but it eased away as soon as he looked over at Yunlan. Yunlan spread his hands and shrugged. “It’ll be a little strange,” he answered the question in xiao-Wei’s eyes, “but honestly it was already a little strange, when I feel like all of me is right here,” he waved at his current body. “I say go for it.”

Xiao-Wei nodded slowly and turned back to stand beside Zhang Shi, one hand on his shoulder. One slow breath, and the night-blue flow of his power rose around them. “Begin,” he ordered, quietly.

A darker something flashed between Zhang Shi and Li Huiliang’s body, and Yunlan pushed back the shiver that wanted to walk up his spine, watching his own body (as was) just… dissolve into that blue, ribbon away in streamers like blowing dust. It reminded him sharply of what he’d seen Ye Zun do, of the fact that Ye Zun and Shen Wei had been twins—the most powerful among their kind—and that when it had come to a contest between them, Ye Zun had lost. Twice. Part of him was wary of that kind of power, while part of him, especially the deep echos of his past self, was just mildly pleased and approving and blasé. The clash felt like it should be giving him a headache, even though it wasn’t.

All right, and a little part of him was turned on by how effortlessly Shen Wei wielded that power, but he was ignoring that right now. That was for later.

As the last of ‘him’ faded away, the body on the bed drew a slow breath, healthy color flushing her cheeks and hands. Dr. Cheng, standing beside Yunlan, let out a breath that it sounded like she’d been holding for a while, and smiled a bit wryly when Yunlan patted her shoulder.

“Remember your promise,” she said, softly. “Honor her memory.” Yunlan nodded, accepting the weight of that.

“We will.”

A sudden flash of golden brightness snapped his head back around toward the bed. Shen Wei was starting back from it, and Zhang Shi had jerked upright, one hand clenched tight in the light blue cotton over his (her) chest, eyes wide.

“What happened?” Yunlan snapped, mind suddenly full of all the physiology he’d ever read, including neurology, and all the ways it could go wrong, Dixingren powers or no.

“Was that…?

“That was…”

Shen Wei and Zhang Shi just stared at each other some more, while Yunlan waited. “That was?” he prodded.

“Soul-fire,” Shen Wei finally answered, barely above a whisper.

Zhang Shi sucked in a shaking breath, and her (his?) voice came out even softer, reverent. “My Lord…”

Memory wasn’t just an echo, this time. It washed over Yunlan like a flood, and for a breath he knew himself as Kunlun, knew xiao-Wei’s distaste for the formless, mindless nature of so many ghosts with the depth of centuries, knew triumph that he’d succeeded in giving his dearest friend and love the full gift he’d intended. It took long moments for the knowing to ease, and it left Yunlan shaky, leaning against the wall for support. “The focus of a people affects the whole people,” he repeated back to xiao-Wei, a little breathless.

Xiao-Wei spun to stare at him. “You… this…” He pressed a hand to his throat, where the pendant had rested for so long. Yunlan spread his hands with a flourish, smiling.

“All part of the plan. Apparently.” After a moment’s reflection, he added, “Da Qing definitely isn’t allowed to insult my ideas of courting gifts, any more.”

That drove a faint breath of stunned laughter out of xiao-Wei.

“You’re going to tell me all of what that was about, later,” Dr. Cheng ordered, going to to peer into Zhang Shi’s eyes and measure her pulse with quick fingers, eyes on her watch. “For now, just tell me: is it going to cause any health problems?”

“No.” Xiao-Wei slid his glasses up to rub his eyes briefly. “No health problems. Much larger political problems, perhaps, but that needn’t concern anyone but me.” Yunlan cleared his throat meaningfully, and xiao-Wei added, on a bit of a sigh, “And perhaps the SID. Speaking of political problems and their solutions,” he went on, otherwise ignoring Yunlan, “will there be any problem with the paperwork showing I was hospitalized here for the past year?”

“No, we had several cases that needed long-term care, after the fighting.” Dr. Cheng stepped back, giving Zhang Shi an approving nod. “The fact that you were an SID consultant will actually help explain why we would have kept your presence confidential.” She gave xiao-Wei a stern look. “You’d better be back to explain things, later, but for now, let’s get Ms. Li discharged.”

“And then maybe ask lao-lao-Chu to drop by the apartment?” Yunlan suggested quietly, as they headed out into the halls once more.

Shen Wei glanced at him once before fixing his eyes straight ahead. “I think that would be wise, yes.”

Yunlan nodded, satisfied. However much this whole contagious soul-fire thing might have been a gift of his past self, his present self wanted to know exactly what it was going to take from Shen Wei before letting his lover go haring back off through the gate between realms.


Yunlan read personnel and case files with all his concentration while they waited for lao-Chu, pressing Zhang Shi for details of temperament, of flexibility, of fears and dreams and motives. Clearly, he was going to need to take his re-entry into life at a run, and he didn’t want his own Division tripping him up. When lao-Chu arrived, attention immediately fixing on Shen Wei to the exclusion of anyone else, Yunlan barely took the time to roll his eyes.

Shen Wei explained the situation, voice quiet and steady. Reassuring. Yunlan thought that might be the voice his students were used to hearing. “We’re not sure if this is normally transferable, or if it only happened because I was involved so deeply in the process of Zhang Shi’s transfer and revivification. I don’t know, yet, how deep I might need to reach into the being of another of my people, or…” He broke off as lao-Chu snorted and flipped his coat aside to kneel down at Shen Wei’s feet and wait there, head bowed.

Really, it was enough to make a mere boss feel inadequate.

“Not only fear,” Zhang Shi murmured, from Yunlan’s other side, and xiao-Wei closed his eyes for a breath.

“I know.” Yunlan thought the ruler-straight line of lao-Chu’s back eased a little at xiao-Wei’s soft words. He was sure xiao-Wei saw it, too, because he reached out, the way he almost never reached out to anyone but Yunlan, and laid a hand on lao-Chu’s shoulder.

And golden brilliance flickered around his fingers.

lao-Chu jerked upright like it was an electric shock, staring up at xiao-Wei. “Lord…!” That sounded shocked out of him, too.

Xiao-Wei was holding very still, which meant he was just as startled, but slowly he tightened his hold on lao-Chu’s shoulder. “So.” Finally he smiled, achingly slow but with a brightness in him like the sun rising. “It can be done.”

Lao-Chu, who Yunlan had never seen willingly discomposed unless he was trying to scare the liver out of someone, looked like he was one breath from bowing his head to the ground before xiao-Wei, and his voice was rough. “Noble Lord, thank you. I’ve watched Changcheng every day, ever since we were unbound, every day ready to leave if he started to fail. I never thought…”

Xiao-Wei’s face tightened, so much pain in the flinch of his brows together that Yunlan started to get up, to go to him, even as xiao-Wei lifted his hand to rest it gently on lao-Chu’s head, quieting him. “I know.” Xiao-Wei’s eyes rose and Yunlan froze under the darkness of them, breath stopping. Xiao-Wei was talking about him. That certainty went right down to the bone. Some time, somehow, he had died because of xiao-Wei’s nature.

Suddenly, xiao-Wei’s fierce insistence on his safety felt a lot less like a Dixingren underestimating a human and a lot more like frantic, desperate grief. Suddenly, the information that xiao-Wei had been the one to create the instrument that halved his people’s powers in the human realm felt less like politics, or even compassion, and more like love—reckless, headlong love and a deep fear running under it.

“Xiao-Wei,” Yunlan whispered, reaching out, and xiao-Wei came to him at once, caught him close with an absolute disregard of anyone watching that told Yunlan everything he suspected was painfully true. He let out a slow breath and wound his arms around xiao-Wei, one hand sliding up to urge his head down against Yunlan’s shoulder. “I’m here,” he said softly, and promptly lost most of his breath to the way xiao-Wei’s arms tightened around him. He barely registered the apartment door closing behind Zhang Shi and lao-Chu. “Tell me?” he asked, hands rubbing slowly up and down xiao-Wei’s back.

“You did something foolishly noble and got injured. I was the only one there. I couldn’t leave you like that.” Xiao-Wei’s hands tightened on him. “And then I couldn’t leave you.” His voice was muffled against Yunlan’s shoulder. “I should have known better, but part of me still couldn’t believe…” A quick, hard breath in and out again. “In two years, you were dead.”

And then Shen Wei had spent who knew how many years and how much power changing the world so that it wouldn’t happen again. Yunlan closed his eyes, breathless with the weight of the thought. It was like the morning he’d found Shen Wei draining his blood, allegedly to repair the wound he’d taken sharing his life force with Yunlan, all over again, only turned on its head. Instead of furious shock that anyone would sacrifice himself so completely and unhesitatingly for Yunlan, it was a warm weight of certainty inside him. Because Yunlan had spent twenty-eight years waiting for the man in his arms, barely looking at another person, even casually, and he was sure in his heart, all the way down to the echoing memory of his first life, that he’d spent ten thousand years worth of lives that way.

Shen Wei’s devotion wasn’t the alarming imposition it had seemed, in the shock of that morning. It was the answer Yunlan hadn’t realized he was listening for, so intently he hardly noticed any other.

“I’m here, now,” he repeated, smiling against the darkness of xiao-Wei’s hair. “And so are you.”

A faint laugh shook xiao-Wei’s shoulders, and he finally lifted his head, starting to smile again despite the redness of his eyes. “Yes.” Whatever he saw in Yunlan’s face, it eased the tension out of his body, and Yunlan made a pleased sound as they leaned more comfortably together.

“That’s better.” He linked his hands behind xiao-Wei’s neck, thumbs stroking absently up and down xiao-Wei’s nape, and smiled wider at the sudden heaviness of his eyes, the quick, soft draw of his breath. “Xiao-Wei. Come to bed?” Personally, he could think of no better way to ground them in the present. In fact, when xiao-Wei lifted a hand to cup his cheek, thumb stroking along the curve of Yunlan’s mouth, Yunlan stopped being able to think of anything but the present moment.

“Yes,” xiao-Wei agreed, softly.

Yunlan suddenly wanted very much to have xiao-Wei’s bare skin under his hands, and made such short work of undoing xiao-Wei’s vest and shirt that xiao-Wei was laughing under his breath by the time Yunlan went after his pants. He was willing enough to stretch out on Yunlan’s bed and be touched, though, and that was the important part. The soft contentment in dark eyes as Yunlan’s hands slid down his body, fingers tracing along his ribs, over his hips—that was the important part.

One such thought led to another, and Yulan made a thoughtful sound as he pressed a kiss under xiao-Wei’s ear just to hear him laugh again. “Hey.” He leaned up on his elbows, looking down at xiao-Wei. “Okay if I try something?”

“Anything you like.” The promptness of xiao-Wei’s answer, so ready and unthinking, made Yunlan smile, probably quite foolishly. He didn’t care.

“Thanks.” He stole another kiss and slid down the bed, nudging just a little hesitantly in to lie between xiao-Wei’s legs. The sharp intake of xiao-Wei’s breath was promising, though, so Yunlan went ahead and leaned down to close his mouth around xiao-Wei’s cock.

“Yunlan…!”

He made an inquiring sound around his mouthful, and observed the way xiao-Wei’s hands clenched tight on the blankets. That seemed like a good sign, too. Yunlan slid his mouth carefully further down, tongue stroking against smooth skin, taking in the taste of it—a little flat, a little salt, ever so faintly sweet, all twined together into one. The newness of it faded into the back of his mind, though, when xiao-Wei moaned, low and open.

Yunlan.” The huskiness of it locked Yunlan’s attention, and he glanced up at xiao-Wei as he drew back. The pleasure and heat in the heaviness of his eyes on Yunlan, the part of his lips, made Yunlan grin, quite pleased with his experiment, so far. He wrapped his mouth back around xiao-Wei and sucked on him. He could feel the tremor that ran through xiao-Wei, the fierce control that caught short the lift of his hips, and positively purred around him. He liked this. He liked knowing that he could bring xiao-Wei pleasure, and he liked xiao-Wei’s care for him, even in the midst of it.

The same part of him that enjoyed the possessiveness of xiao-Wei’s hands sliding over his shoulders liked even more the thought that he was the only one who was ever going to see xiao-Wei like this. Ever see him flushed, head tossed back against the pillows, breathing deep and fast. Ever hear that clear, precise voice turn velvety with hunger.

When xiao-Wei gasped out a warning, Yunlan just made a pleased sound and sucked harder.

Xiao-Wei groaned, body arching taut as long shudders rolled through him. The upward surge of his hips drove him deeper into Yunlan’s mouth, and Yunlan suddenly understood the warning. It put a curl of excitement down his nerves, too, though, and he relaxed into it the way he would into an unexpected fall, hot and breathless with the rush that filled his mouth.

He did wonder, as xiao-Wei dropped back against the bed, suddenly lax, whether there was a graceful way to wipe one’s mouth after this kind of thing. He suspected there might not be, but it could be worth a little research, later. Right now, it was far more important to slide back up to settle against xiao-Wei and bask in how gorgeous his lover was, panting and undone, eyes closed as he slowly relaxed from the edge of pleasure.

When xiao-Wei opened his eyes again, he huffed a soft laugh, reaching up to run his fingers through Yunlan’s hair. “You look pleased with yourself.”

“Mmm, I think I am,” Yunlan agreed, and leaned down to kiss him. Against xiao-Wei’s mouth, he added, “We’re here, and it’s now. You can feel it here,” he spread a hand over xiao-Wei’s chest, “can’t you?”

Xiao-Wei stared up at him for a moment, eyes wide and dark. Finally he laughed again, soft and rueful. “I can,” he murmured, hands sliding down Yunlan’s back. “And yet, you’re still the same.” He drew Yunlan down to him and kissed him, slow and deep. “Still the one I love with all my heart.” Another lingering kiss. “That will never change.”

Yunlan made a breathless sound at the surge of wanting that shook him. Xiao-Wei caught him closer and turned Yunlan under him. “Always,” he promised, and the intensity of it left no room for doubt, no room for anything but the certainty that Shen Wei would never let go. Yunlan let out a slow, shuddering breath, holding him tight as that certainty settled into his chest, warm and soothing.

“Yes.”

They lay quiet for a while, twined together, and Yunlan relaxed into the rare peacefulness. Eventually, though, xiao-Wei stirred against him.

“Don’t think this gets you out of eating a decent dinner, tonight.”

It startled Yunlan into an open, genuine laugh, and xiao-Wei leaned up on an elbow, smiling down at him, eyes soft and warm just for him. “I think I probably have some fried rice cakes that should still be good,” he suggested, just to see the exasperated look xiao-Wei gave him. It eased away when Yunlan reached up to touch his cheek, though. “We’re going to be all right, now, yeah?”

Xiao-Wei leaned into his hand, smiling. “We will.”

Yunlan thought it was getting a little easier for both of them to believe it.