up on melancholy hill

06 May 2021

At any other time, Nie Mingjue would have teased his brother relentlessly and given Jiang Wanyin the worst terrifying talking-to of his life. But they’re in hiding and on the run, being hunted by both their own people and the rest of the world – and this is such a painfully normal teenage thing to experience in the midst of all the bullshit they’re dealing with.

Nie Mingjue figures that he can let his brother have this much, at least.

(Snapshots of some quiet moments during a war)

Chapters: 10
Words: 21,652

up on melancholy hill

Chapter 3
departures, arrival


The group splits up.

Chapter Notes:

da-ge is not crying YOU’RE crying



Nie Huaisang watches as Jiang Yanli hugs her younger brother goodbye. She hands him a small item and says something, then Jiang Cheng nods, bowing his head and closing his eyes when she presses a kiss to his forehead. She smiles and cups his cheek for one last time before walking off towards her ride to Meishan: an old and well-used delivery truck, inconspicuous. There’s a van too, and what looks like an ordinary bus.

Nie Mingjue and Wen Qing were waiting for her. She exchanges a short but tight hug with Wen Qing, then accepts the hand that Nie Mingjue offers to help her up the passenger seat of the truck. She doesn’t let go right away, and their hands stay linked as she leans down and says her goodbyes with the man.

Huaisang smiles as he looks away. It’ll be sad to see her go. Over the past months, she’s been one of the people that the others in the safehouse look up to. Her emotional stability and rational calm is grounding for anyone around her. Huaisang doesn’t know if that’s an effect of her gift, since as far as he knew she could only affect emotions through touch, but either way she has been an essential presence to have around.

Plus, she seems to be the only one capable of convincing Nie Mingjue and Wen Qing to take a break.

Huaisang will miss her, but this is for the best. Jiang Yanli is effectively the new head of the Jiang family, and her presence would reassure the people they’re sending off. They’ll be okay. They have to be.

He looks up when someone stands beside him.

Xiao Xingchen smiles at him in greeting. Once again Huaisang thinks the gift is a perfect fit to the person. Xiao Xingchen’s presence is always light and comforting, the same way the wind soothes and relaxes.

(Though it can be deadly if it wants to.)

“You’re not going out there?” Huaisang asks.

“I’ve already said my goodbyes to Zichen. He won’t be gone long, anyway.”

Huaisang turns towards the vehicles again, where Song Lan is standing, looking at them. The man waits for the last passenger to go inside before he nods at him in acknowledgement and climbs in at the back of the truck.

“So Jiang Wanyin is staying then?” Xiao Xingchen asks.

“Yes.” Huaisang answers as they watch the vehicles leave, going in different directions, following the plan to take different routes for subtlety and safety.

Jiang Cheng stands beside Wen Qing and Nie Mingjue, listening to whatever they tell him. Mingjue pats his shoulder and Wen Qing rubs his arm.

“He wants to help hold off whoever might come after his sister and the others.”

“And Wei Wuxian?”

“He left last night, with Wen Ning and Lan Wangji.” Huaisang answers. “They’re going to the Lan safehouse in Caiyi.”

Xiao Xingchen looks worried. “The Lans? Is it… that bad?”

Nie Huaisang takes a deep breath. “A lot of us grew up with our abilities, and even now we have to work hard to control it, right? Wei Wuxian didn’t have a gift, as far as everyone – including him – knew, until months ago. Nobody knows how his gift works, he doesn’t know how to control it, he doesn’t even know how he made Wen Ning… the way he is now.”

“Wen Ning? That was him?”

“You weren’t here, but he was dead when they brought him, Xingchen.” Huaisang frowns. “And now he’s… well, you’ve seen him.”

“Not dead.” Xingchen provides. He doesn’t have to add, ‘Not alive, either.’

Huaisang nods. “The only reason Wei Wuxian hasn’t been unintentionally controlling people, alive or dead, while he was here… is because of Wangji. And Wangji has been… flagging.”

Lan Wangji came to the Nie safehouse to deliver a message, Huaisang knows, but he had to stay when he realized his powers were needed there. Huaisang is certain that they all know that Wangji can’t keep neutralizing Wei Wuxian’s outburst of power every other hour. Lan Wangji is strong, with incredible control over his gift, but he’s still human. He’ll get tired, too.

“I suppose Lan Xichen can help them?”

“I don’t know, but he should be able to do something . Wangji’s gift is more suited for battle. Xichen-ge’s is for… healing, I guess.” Huaisang shrugs. “Either way, Wei-xiong must think it’s for the best. He made the call himself.”

He recalls his friend’s words, when he told them that he was planning to go with Wangji to Gusu: ‘It doesn’t matter if I stay here or leave for Meishan. While I’m like this, I’m a liability. I can’t endanger all of you in here.’

He recalls Yanli crying, and Jiang Cheng trying not to do the same, his concern translating to anger. It took him a while to accept his brother’s decision to part ways for the time being.

“Let’s hope he sorts it out. It must be hard for him and his siblings to be apart like this so soon. They just lost their home, their parents…” Xiao Xingchen sighs. “I heard your brother wanted you to go to Meishan too?”

“He did.” Huaisang smiles, strained. “But my place is here, with him.”

“I wish it wasn’t.” Xiao Xingchen whispers, making Huaisang look at him, questioning. “You’re… what, sixteen?”


“And I’m barely nineteen.” Xiao Xingchen lets out a little, sad laugh. “Whatever our age, I wish our place wasn’t in safehouses and bunkers, never settling because we’re always waiting for a signal on when to run next.”

Jiang Cheng is walking towards them now. Xiao Xingchen, never missing a beat, pats Nie Huaisang’s arm before walking off, exchanging a polite nod with Jiang Cheng as he passes the other.

“Hey.” Jiang Cheng says, reaching a hand out.

Nie Huaisang takes his hand without question, but he jerks back at the unexpected electric shock when they touch. It’s not a normal one, not the static kind that one gets when accidentally touching someone else. It’s more like touching a live wire, though it’s not strong enough to really hurt.

“Shit, sorry.” Jiang Cheng curses, stepping back. “Are you okay? I just-… I was in my head, I didn’t mean to-”

“No, I know. I’m okay. Just surprised.” Huaisang says, letting out a chuckle. He offers his hands, both of them. “Ready when you are.”

“Yeah. Yeah, okay.” Jiang Cheng nods, and wrings his hands first before he touches Huaisang again. He squeezes the other’s hands in his. “Good?”

“Good.” Huaisang answers, looking up at him. “How about you? Will you be okay?”

Jiang Cheng doesn’t say anything, only vaguely nods as he pulls him closer and leans down to press their foreheads together.

“They’ll be safe.” Huaisang tells him. “Yanli-jie has Song Lan with her. A-Xian has Wangji and Wen Ning. They’ll be fine, A-Cheng.”

“I know.” He takes a deep breath, raises their linked hands, and then presses a kiss to Huaisang’s fingers. “I’ll try to be fine, too.”





“You’re telling me,” Jiang Cheng looks like he wants to burst out laughing. “-that Lan Qiren – the Lan Qiren – is training you ?”

The voice from the phone is loud but tinny. If Jiang Cheng had thought that Wei Wuxian was annoying to talk to in person before, he now knows he’s even more irritating to hear via a cheap phone on speaker.

“No, no, you got it wrong – Master Uncle is trying to train me. There’s a difference! He wants me to meditate all day and do breathing exercises-”

“Now you know what it’s like, then.”

“It sucks! And it doesn’t work, I still suck! I hate this gift thing. I’m always sad, and I’m always pissed, and my head aches and I’m always tired. It’s like I have… what do you call it? The period thing? PMS?”

Jiang Cheng shakes his head. He feels Huaisang tap his shoulder, scolding, then he stills again. Huaisang is ticklish – it’s a miracle Jiang Cheng can lie his head on his lap without him bursting into giggles.

“-and someone is always possessed. Or there’s ghosts. The other night, a ghost knocked on my window! Some old lady. How did that even happen, I was asleep! I don’t know if Lan Zhan believed me, he made me shut up and go back to sleep. I think he didn’t see the ghost lady.”

“Wei-xiong, your gift is weird.” Huaisang says, absently playing with Jiang Cheng’s hair. “So there’s really no improvement? Even with er-ge helping?”

“Oh my God. Nie Huaisang! You know how Lan Zhan’s gift just… leaves me feeling dumb? Like, there’s someone being possessed by something and there’s a dead guy moving over there, then Lan Zhan does his thing and that’s all gone, so I just feel dumb. But that’s okay. I’m okay. I’m fine with that. But Huan-ge’s powers? Huan-ge’s powers sent me to sleep! What the hell?!”

Jiang Cheng laughs. “You raised the dead and then slept?

“I know, right?!”

Huaisang chuckles. “Isn’t Xichen-ge’s gift supposed to calm you down? So you can think more clearly?”

“Well, it calmed me down, alright, it calmed me down so much I dozed off. Lan Zhan thought I fainted!”

Wei Wuxian laughs, and Jiang Cheng pauses for a moment before looking up to Nie Huaisang, who smiles lightly at him. It’s a familiar cheerful laugh – which already says a lot about how despite his complaints, Wei Wuxian must be feeling better , more himself. They’d never heard him laugh like that in his months in the Nie safehouse.

“He was so worried! You know, it was kinda cute. Lan Zhan is cute when he’s not being a killjoy, huh?”

“Oh? Someone thinks one Lan Wangji is cute, then?” Huaisang teases.

“Gross.” Jiang Cheng chimes in. “I thought you hated that- Wait.”


Jiang Cheng sits up and both he and Huaisang turn towards the doorway where Xiao Xingchen is looking at them, face grim and filled with worry.

“We just got word that Wen Ruohan’s men are on the move. They’re trying to follow our people heading to Meishan.”

“Shit.” Jiang Cheng mumbles, getting to his feet and looking for his shoes. “What’s the plan?”

“We’ll intercept them.”

“We’ll be right there.” Huaisang says. Xiao Xingchen nods, and then heads off, probably to inform others too.

Huaisang picks the phone up, watching as Jiang Cheng laces his boots on. “Wei-xiong, we have to go.”

“Yeah… I heard. A-Cheng?”

Jiang Cheng walks over, taking the phone from Huaisang. “Yeah?”

“Be careful, okay?”

Jiang Cheng nods. “I will.”


Nie Mingjue, Jiang Cheng, Xiao Xingchen and others head out to intercept the Wens.

“Xiaoyu,” Huaisang says, tapping the myna’s head with a finger. “Be good.”

Xiaoyu flies off and perches on Jiang Cheng’s shoulder. Jiang Cheng sends him a small grim smile before he gets in the van after the others.

“Now we wait.” Huaisang whispers.

“No.” Wen Qing says, eyes steely as they watch the two lone vehicles drive off. Then, she turns and walks away. “Now we prepare . I’ll be at the clinic.”


The safehouse is at a tense standstill in the hours that follow. Huaisang tries to relay to the others what he can see through Xiaoyu as best as he can, but both the distance and Xiaoyu’s panic made it hard to see things clearly.

He feels faint when he snaps out of the mental link. He’s lucky that when he stumbles, Nie Zonghui is there to steady him. As always.

“They’re on their way back. We’ve got five wounded, and-… and da-ge. He’s hurt, bad.”

He looks up and sees Wen Qing frowning before she makes a sharp turn to her group of volunteers. “We’ll meet them outside. Get some stretchers. Let’s go.”

Nie Mingjue is bleeding from his side. Xiao Xingchen’s white jacket is stained red as he helps the man get off their shot-up vehicle. Nie Zonghui rushes to help them and together they lay the man on a stretcher as Wen Qing directs everyone else. Huaisang trails after them, grabbing his brother’s bloody, bandaged hand when he reaches for him.


“I’ll be fine, A-Sang.” Mingjue grunts. “Go and help the others.”


“Let me see him.” Wen Qing says, and Huaisang backs off quickly, knowing that she’ll be able to help his brother the most. Her eyes are glowing a brilliant green as she lays one hand on the man’s wound, the other on his chest. “We have to stop this bleeding, and quick. Nie Zonghui, here, press down on it. Hard.” She snaps more quick instructions to the people around her as she puts on some gloves. “Listen to me, Nie Mingjue. We just got word from A-Li. They made it safe to Meishan. And I told her you’ll call her back.”

Mingjue finds it in himself to chuckle. “Yeah, sure.” He breathes, deep, hissing through the pain. “Better patch me up good then, Miss Wen.”

“That’s Doctor Wen to you.”

He coughs. “Bossy.”

“Shut up. Save your energy.”

Huaisang has to look away when Wen Qing instructs Zonghui to step back so she can work on patching his brother up. He’d seen his fair share of battle wounds and worse, but it hits differently, when it’s his family injured. Two other people crowd around Wen Qing to assist her, so Huaisang steps back again, letting them do their jobs uninterrupted.

Then he feels the familiar feeling of a bird landing on his shoulder, and he whirls around to see Jiang Cheng stumble in, holding up someone with a bloody – but familiar – face.

“A-Cheng!” Huaisang calls, running to them. “Are you okay?”

“Just got roughed up a bit. I’m okay.” Jiang Cheng answers, then tips his head to his companion. “This guy’s not.”

Huaisang blinks. “Jin Zixuan?”

“Hi.” Jin Zixuan hisses, voice partially muffled by the cloth he had pressed to his wounds.

Nie Huaisang looks around – all the others were occupied with the other wounded – so he grabs his own set of supplies and runs back towards the spare chair that Jiang Cheng helped Jin Zixuan settle down on.

He sets about applying first aid, making sure to clean the wound first. “There goes our inside man.”

“I told you guys, didn’t I? I’m a terrible actor.” Jin Zixuan sighs, flinching slightly at the wet cloth dabbing at his wounds. “Sorry. I didn’t know how Wen Ruohan found out.”

“Why were you even there?” Jiang Cheng asks, pressing a cold pack to his own bruises. “I thought you just followed him and your father around while they do business? That was an attack team.”

Jin Zixuan hisses when Huaisang applies disinfectant on a cut near his temple. “I’m pretty sure Wen Ruohan bypassed my parents altogether. Father said I was going to help ‘supervise’ a team from afar. Next thing I know, I’m stuck in a van just like the others.”

Jiang Cheng frowns. “Wen Ruohan probably hoped you’d get caught in the crossfire.”

“…Or ordered his men to make sure I did.”

Nie Huaisang shakes his head. “Well, you’re alive.”

“Yeah. There’s that.” the other shrugs, then winces again from the pain of his bruises.

“Welcome to Qinghe, I guess.”





It’s late when Huaisang comes back to the clinic. With his brother out of commission for the time being, he had to take over, just making sure everyone is alright, that the other safehouses are updated and their communication is secure, and that their usual patrols are out. It wasn’t easy, but he had no choice but to see it through.

When he gets there, his brother is asleep. Nie Mingjue’s torso is wrapped in bandages and he still has several cuts and bruises, but otherwise he looks much better, on the way to recovery. He heals faster than most people, so Huaisang knows he’ll be up and moving around again in no time.

Besides, Wen Qing is the best doctor they know. She is always thorough in her work, leaving no need unattended. Her gift may allow her to instantly understand one’s biological profile and condition, but that really would be nothing without her in-depth knowledge and practical skills.

Right now, she is sitting on the chair beside Mingjue’s bed, also asleep, leaning on a pillow she had propped up by her head, one of her hands out and laid on top of Mingjue’s on the bed.

Huaisang is pretty sure that if he asks (or teases), she’ll probably say something about having to keep a close eye on her patient’s vitals or something like that. So he just says nothing and pulls up his own chair on the other side of the bed.

He strokes his brother’s hair, tucking stray strands behind his ear, then adjusts the blanket to make sure it’s snug around him. Then Huaisang props his arms on the bed, rests his head there, and closes his eyes. He reaches out to hold his brother’s free hand – rough and calloused but always so warm.

He doesn’t move just yet when he hears his brother’s familiar grunt, followed by his deep, gruff voice saying, “You guys know I’m wounded, not dying, right?”

Then there’s Wen Qing’s voice, half-muffled by her pillow, tired and annoyed – “Don’t ruin it.”

Nie Huaisang giggles, and feels his brother’s hand squeeze his own.




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