Contemplate the Wind Above

Four people are wakeful at night. Shen Wei thinks about Ye Zun. Zhang Shi thinks about her new life. Ya Qing thinks about Zhu Hong. Zhao Yunlan thinks about his own past. Drama, Character Study, I-3

Shen Wei

Shen Wei leaned with his head propped on one hand and watched Yunlan sleep. Watched, on another level, the deep weight of him reach out to the world around them, touch the weave of the world with the same soft affection as he’d always had.

Watched how the brightness of Yunlan’s potentiality reached out to Shen Wei, in particular, now.

He loved the familiarity of that brightness and power, loved it with the wild relief of feeling his past finally, truly, connected to his present. But sometimes, as tonight, watching how Yunlan reached for him first and foremost also made him think about his brother.

He wished Kunlun’s gift could have been completed a little sooner.

It was a vain wish, of course. Cohesion had never been a significant part of his brother’s make-up, and his being had unravelled swiftly at death. It had taken Shen Wei’s assistance to stay together even as long as he had. And perhaps a new beginning wouldn’t even have helped; no one knew better than Shen Wei that madness had been at the core of his brother from the start.

And yet…

Ye Zun’s fractured awareness had seized such immediate hold of the story-seed Shen Wei had given to the Holy Tools. Such a firm hold that Shen Wei was fairly sure Ye Zun’s own part of that story was at least half his brother’s own making. Shen Wei had tried to work with that, at the end, to give his brother as much comfort as might be had, to assure him that he’d always had Shen Wei’s love. Even if that wasn’t quite the truth.

In the early days of their existence, Shen Wei hadn’t known, yet, what it was he was seeking. What he’d been trying to feel, beyond hunger. And by the time he’d known, he’d been with Kunlun. It hadn’t been the truth back then, but then… Ye Zun wouldn’t have wanted Shen Wei’s love back then, he didn’t think. In their early days, all Ye Zun had wanted was to be one being with Shen Wei. As if that would stop the hunger.

The story-vision wasn’t the truth of their beginnings, but it was the truth of the two of them now, perhaps. And so he couldn’t help but wonder—might a new beginning have changed his brother, the way one after another after another had changed his lover, made the shape of his love so much more human?

Or perhaps it had truly taken complete dissolution to make peace enough for Ye Zun.

Either way, he couldn’t change it now, and so he did what he always did on these nights and curled closer around Yunlan, closed his eyes and let the warmth of Yunlan’s presence and attention to him—even asleep—ease him down into sleep, himself.

Zhang Shi

Zhang Shi completed her evening routine, as best she’d been able to reconstruct Li Huiliang’s habits, by watering the plants on her tiny balcony and brushing her teeth. She still had to think about each action, a little. This had all been so very much easier when she’d had a host to deal with routine things, and she was very glad she’d had a year of being Zhao Yunlan to figure out how to fall asleep, to wake up, to get dressed, to think about all of that, before moving to Li Huiliang’s body. It had been a long time since she’d last been a woman, after all, and all of that at once would have been very trying to deal with. So many little things were just so much easier when Zhang Shi had a host to take care of them.

On the other hand, the lack of pressure on her mind was an undeniable relief. He hadn’t realized how loud a host was until he’d convinced Xinci to push him into Yunlan’s body.

That had been a loud argument inside and out. Worth it, though.

To be sure, he hadn’t thought so immediately. The first few months had been full of floundering as he had to feel all the little urgencies of a body first-hand. Sometimes it had felt like solid weeks of nothing but swallowing and pissing. But once he had some attention to spare, he’d realized that those things felt so all-encompassing exactly because he wasn’t having to argue, to coax, to lean, to try to steer another mind and will.

When it had really sunk in that the only thing he was feeling was his own emotions, wants, needs… well, fortunately he’d been at home with no one else to notice a couple hours of crying.

And now she wasn’t even having to be Zhao Yunlan. She didn’t even have to be Li Huiliang. The feeling was honestly a little alarming, which was why she’d stuck to what of Li Huiliang’s habits she could make out from her surroundings. That little bit of structure was comforting.

She wondered, often, how Xinci was doing. If he’d felt as adrift, that first little while. She thought maybe he hadn’t, and the thought hurt a little. He hadn’t sought out his ‘son’ any more after Zhang Shi had been Yunlan than before, at least. Honestly, the man could be so stubborn! Gifted with a brilliant child, and all Xinci could see was how messy the boy was—physically, mentally, procedurally. It was the same inflexibility Zhang Shi had had to push against their whole time together, never more than during the crisis of Ye Zun’s invasion, and he hadn’t quite realized how exhausting it was until he was out.

So maybe Xinci also felt relieved not to have to argue all the time. Relieved to be rid of her.

She sighed as she pulled on pajamas. They’d been such good partners, when they weren’t arguing! And often even when they were, for that matter. She missed him, exhausting as he’d been, missed being connected to another heart.

At least she could still watch over their son, though, and probably a good deal better now. That was a comfort, and not a small one.

She pulled the covers up, and made a pleased little sound at the soft drape of them around her body. Her body alone, and she really did enjoy that, now.

Zhang Shi closed her eyes and composed herself for sleep.

Ya Qing

Ya Qing was a Crow and crows were known, among other things, for their senses of humor. So she chose to find amusement in the fact that she and Zhu Hong only had compatible sleeping habits when in human form.

Even then, it took a little negotiation.

Ya Qing settled back against the pillows, combing her fingers through Hong-er’s hair, and smiled at Hong-er’s contented little murmur as she snuggled closer in her sleep and wrapped her leg a little more snuggly around Ya Qing’s. Her little serpent liked nothing better than to be wound around something warm. She’d been a bit flustered, at first, to wake up nestling between Ya Qing’s breasts, but she’d also understood very quickly that Ya Qing needed her arms free.

It wasn’t the kind of understanding Ya Qing had ever expected from another tribe, especially from someone as young as Hong-er, but of course that was what made her little serpent special. It wasn’t that Hong-er had a brilliant mind or great learning; she could be stubborn and short-tempered and petulant when thwarted. But she had an instinct for putting puzzles together, even living puzzles, and she hated like fire to fail.

Ya Qing found the combination delightful.

She knew Hong-er’s uncle, cranky old snake that he was, was still suspicious of her reasons for partnering with Hong-er, but honestly it was very simple. Zhu Hong had ambition.

It was astonishingly hard to find that trait in the Yashou. Perhaps it was the perspective of beasts, that focused on the now rather than the future. For years, Ya Qing had thought she might actually be the only one. At first, she’d thought Hong-er’s reluctance to accept the judgement of the sacred branch was just another sign that she’d been correct about that. It hadn’t taken more than two conversations, though, to understand that the part Hong-er actually objected to was having that victory chosen by someone else. No sooner was the girl acclaimed than she turned around and started over from the beginning. Presenting ideas. Making alliances. Persuading others to her support. Stubbornly making her way through every step she’d normally have needed to walk to be considered a candidate for leadership.

Ya Qing had found it a pleasure to watch.

She didn’t know where it would lead them, but she was comfortable in the certainty that it would not be into a bad bargain or over treacherous ground.

Besides, it would probably be amusing.

She pressed a kiss to Hong-er’s hair and settled deeper into the soft pillows, smiling.

Zhao Yunlan

Yunlan listened to Shen Wei’s breathing even out into sleep and turned his head on the pillow to give his lover a wry smile.

He’d tried asking, once or twice, what xiao-Wei was brooding over on the nights he woke and watched over Yunlan for a while. That had gotten him a whole lot of evasion, which usually meant xiao-Wei was trying to shield him from something, but this time Yunlan thought there was also some guilt xiao-Wei himself was feeling. He didn’t want to press too hard on that kind of pain, so he’d let it go, and usually just let himself drift right back to sleep if the weight of xiao-Wei’s attention woke him.

Tonight, though, he had some thoughts of his own keeping him awake.

In the months since they’d returned, he’d pretty much managed to go on as usual. The strongest of his memories as Kunlun mostly had to do with Shen Wei, which wasn’t much different from how he felt as himself. It was only now and then that something else would catch, like a nail snagging, and he’d suddenly be thinking and feeling something completely different.

The summer rains had been a bit of a trial, this year, as the city’s perfectly tame river kept dragging at his attention with the itchy feeling that it should be flooding.

Ironically, it had all been much easier right after the Lamp, when those memories had been most intense and pervasive. Everything had been changing, in those couple weeks, so it had made a kind of sense to accept this change too—to roll with it. As things settled down a little, though, the moments of feeling like someone else had gotten clearer edges on them. Yunlan wasn’t particularly interested in being anyone but himself, so he’d started pushing past those moments as quickly as he could. He had a feeling, though, that it wouldn’t work forever. There was too much power and bone-deep awareness of the world lying under those memories. He had a feeling there was a choice ahead of him, and coming up fast, like a rock in the middle of those flooding rivers he remembered. He could choose to lock the power down, lock it away, and likely most of the memories with it. He was pretty sure of that. Or he could choose to change. To become…

Well he wasn’t sure what, or who, and that was the problem wasn’t it?

Life was change, of course. But this big? Enough to make his own the vast weight of power he could feel waiting? What would he be then?

The one guiding light in all this was the man sleeping beside him. Xiao-Wei had lived like a human while still holding immense power, an immensity like the breadth of the sky itself. Yunlan could feel that. And xiao-Wei still smiled at kids running past on the street, insisted on a specific fabric blend for his shirts, and was a bit of a tea snob. When Yunlan thought of it like that, his own power seemed less of a potential threat.

Less wasn’t entirely, though, which led to nights like tonight.