[镇魂|Guardian fanfic] Even with My Life Decay

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Disclaimer: Characters belong to their respectful owners

Fandom: 镇魂|Guardian

Rating: T

Pairing: Shen Wei x Zhao Yun Lan

Genres: fanfiction, AU

Characters: Shen Wei, Zhao Yun Lan, mention of Ye Zun

Preview:

A gentle voice entered his ears, and at the same time, a hand caressed his left chest as if to console his erratic heart.

“Yeah,” Zhao Yun Lan replied, taking the hand on his chest and squeezing it in order to assure himself that Shen Wei would not crumble into ashes like in his nightmare. He wasn’t sure if it was the autumnal weather or his own rising heat that Shen Wei’s hand felt so cool to his skin. He pressed the hand to his cheek, allowing his skin to soak in the coolness for a brief moment before lightly kissing the palm.


Vietnamese translation: Here


What greeted his sight after Zhao Yun Lan opened his eyes was a scene that was both familiar and strange.

Familiar because he’d seen it before, and it wasn’t just once.

Strange because he hadn’t seen it for a long, long time. Perhaps a hundred, a thousand or ten thousand years, he couldn’t be sure.

Inside the Lamp, time was indefinite, only the heat and agony were definite and real.

Whether he closed or opened his eyes, it was only fire that he saw, and nothing else. Anywhere he looked, fire was everything.

It was said that when we suffered physically, time seemed to stop at the moment where the pain began. However, he could tell by experience that time flew, and it flew so fast he couldn’t help grieving over the fact that ten thousand years was congealed in a blink of an eye.

Standing in the vastness of the space, he suddenly felt a sharp sting in his eyes. A single tear rolled down his cheek and dissolved in the passage of time.

“I’ve been waiting for you for ten thousand years…”

Zhao Yun Lan heard a voice behind his back. Although he hadn’t heard this voice for so long, it had been the only thing to anchor and keep his soul from being washed away by wave after wave of ferocious pain. Having existed in spiritual form this whole time, he already forgot that he used to have a thing called heart until a painful jab in his left chest reminded him. The condensed silence of the space was shattered with the rapid beatings of his heart. He laid a hand on his chest as if this gesture would soothe the raging little beast trapped behind his ribcages.

“So it’s been ten thousand years already,” Zhao Yun Lan mumbled so quietly he was unsure whether it was meant to be heard by himself or the man behind his back. “How time flies…”

Zhao Yun Lan stayed rooted in his spot, not even daring to turn back. He needed to adjust his tumultuous feelings before facing that person, he told himself, and was fully aware the true reason he didn’t dare to turn and look at Shen Wei was because of fear.

After ten thousand year, was Shen Wei still the Shen Wei he had known or had he turned into a different man, an unrecognizable man?

No, it was not the reason.

Zhao Yun Lan held an unwavering confidence that no matter what form Shen Wei had, he would still be able to see through it and reach the real Shen Wei, for he’d known this man by his soul, not his appearance.

What made Zhao Yun Lan afraid was himself. He was afraid that having been burned in the Lamp for ten thousand years, he was no longer the Zhao Yun Lan that Shen Wei had known. He was not even a man called Zhao Yun Lan but a pile of ashes temporarily put into human shape. Moreover, he was afraid he was not worth Shen Wei’s waiting.

Nevertheless, Zhao Yun Lan gathered his scattered courage and slowly turned back.

There was but one way to deal with the inevitable and that was to face it; besides, Shen Wei had already waited for too long that it would be cruel to keep him waiting.

Finally, Zhao Yun Lan saw Shen Wei the very first time after ten thousand years.

At the sight of Shen Wei, he suddenly got a pain so acute in his left chest that it was as if a hand had stabbed into his ribcages and plucked his beating heart out.

Shen Wei was disintegrating, such was the first and only thought in Zhao Yun Lan’s mind. Disintegrating as though his body was made from nothing but ashes. Without the adhesive of life, they were quick to return to their original form.

Right, ten thousand years ago, Shen Wei had died right before his eyes. His body had been entirely destroyed, leaving nothing but the pendant rolling on the ground as the only proof that a person named Shen Wei had once existed.

“Why… Why have you become like this?” Zhao Yun Lan asked, though he had partly figured out the cause.

Shen Wei smiled his ten-thousand-year-old smile. “I’ve made a bet that no matter how long it takes, I will wait for you… And I’ve won, but it seems I’ve also reached my limit…”

Shen Wei’s pale face was fading.

“No!” Zhao Yun Lan shouted, rushing to Shen Wei’s side. Had he known that they were running out of time, he wouldn’t have wasted those precious few seconds for his useless fear. “You can’t just disappear on me like this! Both of us have waited for too long to see each other again.”

His arms caged Shen Wei’s body. He wanted to hold him, even just once. Would fate be so cruel as to deny him of this one hug?

“I’m sorry…”

“Don’t you say sorry, just don’t…!” Zhao Yun Lan cried, closing his embrace.

But… it was too late. There were merely ashes dusting the sleeves of his arms.

“No!”

Zhao Yun Lan screamed and opened his eyes to the blurry overfamiliar sight of the ceiling fan working diligently. His chest heaving in the attempt to get some air into his deprived lungs, he rubbed his eyes with his palms. The dampness on his palms painted a bitter smile on his face. How could a dream feel so real? So real that he wanted to turn on the light and checked if there were ashes in his hands.

Still, he didn’t turn on the light and wake the person beside him, although it was likely he had already been awake thanks to Zhao Yun Lan’s cry earlier.

“That dream again?”

A gentle voice entered his ears, and at the same time, a hand caressed his left chest as if to console his erratic heart.

“Yeah,” Zhao Yun Lan replied, taking the hand on his chest and squeezing it in order to assure himself that Shen Wei would not crumble into ashes like in his nightmare. He wasn’t sure if it was the autumnal weather or his own rising heat that Shen Wei’s hand felt so cool to his skin. He pressed the hand to his cheek, allowing his skin to soak in the coolness for a brief moment before lightly kissing the palm.

Shen Wei’s hand was dry and smelled like paper and new ink. To Zhao Yun Lan these symbolized tranquility.

“A recurring dream like this must be a knot in your subconscious. How about both of us taking a day off tomorrow and paying a visit to the hospital—”

“My dear Professor,” Zhao Yun Lan cut him, “you should know it better than anyone that ‘hospital’ to me is like Christ’s name to demons, and yet you want to drag me to the hospital?”

“But—”

“Jeez, it was just a dream, and I’m pretty sure it’ll have gotten off my mind come tomorrow morning,” Zhao Yun Lan said. “It was probably the by-product of me fighting tooth and nail with your clingy brother over you, and now I’m so scared of losing you that it manifests in my dream. Just let me hold you and I’ll be fine.”

To make good of his words, Zhao Yun Lan immediately pulled Shen Wei into a lung-crushing embrace. And as if that was not enough, he wrapped his limbs around the other man’s body in the same manner a giant octopus would treat its juicy, delicious prey.

Although he had a feeling the air was being squeezed out of his lungs, Shen Wei did not protest, wordlessly allowing Zhao Yun Lan’s possessiveness to be in full swing. “I know you and Ye Zun aren’t exactly besties but do you really have to turn every family gathering into a battlefield and make it incredibly awkward for everyone present, myself included?”

That little brat started first with his condescending smiles and snippy remarks, Zhao Yun Lan wanted to retort, but he swallowed those words and said instead, “Alright, my bad. Sorry. Let’s just fall back to sleep. We still have to work tomorrow.”

“Zhao Yun Lan.”

“Huh?”

“Is it inconvenient for you, to hold me like this?”

“Nah, not in the least. On the contrary, I think I’ll sleep like a log. Is it inconvenient for you?”

Being wrapped in Zhao Yun Lan’s arms and his body heat, Shen Wei smiled. “No, it’s not. I was afraid that you might not be able to sleep. If it’s fine with you then good night.”

Zhao Yun Lan chuckled, feeling the burden in his chest caused by that nightmare had evaporated by half.

“‘Night.”

Zhao Yun Lan placed a butterfly kiss on Shen Wei’s forehead and closed his eyes.

When he opened them, morning had arrived at his doorstep for a while. Sunlight in filtered through the blinds and danced on his face. Squinting his eyes, Zhao Yun Lan glanced at the clock on his nightstand. It was already past seven.

Zhao Yun Lan sat up, massaging his stiff neck. How fortunate it was to not have to go to work today, he thought; otherwise he would have to rush his ass if he didn’t want to be late and got chewed out by his boss.

That dream again.

Zhao Yun Lan rubbed his eyes with his palms. Though his eyes stung, there was no moisture on his hands. He breathed a sign. How could a dream feel so real? So real that he had to touch the bedsheet. The fabric was cool to his touch, and it meant he had been the only occupant of his bed during the night.

It had remained true for over a year.

Scratching the crown of his head, Zhao Yun Lan got off the bed, not bothering to make the bed or at least folding his blanket. If that person were here, he would knit his eyebrows for a few seconds before folding the blanket, puffing the pillows and smoothing the bedsheet, all of which took no longer than five minutes.

Since he wasn’t here, Zhao Yun Lan couldn’t care less even if his apartment was reduced to a pigsty.

Zhao Yun Lan stepped into his bathroom and studied his face in the oval stained mirror. Red-rimmed eyes, protruding cheekbones, stubbly chin. Exhaling, he turned on the shower. Frigid water poured down his head, raising his goosebumps and washing away the residues of the dream from his mind.

Turning off the shower, he reached for the razor and the shaving foam on the shelf. If it was any other day, he would give zero fuck about how he looked; however, today was different.

Today he had a place he needed to go.

Eight o’clock was still pretty early, Zhao Yun Lan thought, because it seemed he was the only soul in this whole area. The only living one, that was. He took in a deep and long breath, filling his lungs with the cool, fragrant air after a whole night of rain. In the Dragon City, this quiet, unperturbed place was a real gem.

Languidly Zhao Yun Lan climbed the stone steps, his shoes making steady sounds like a monk chanting a mantra. In his hand was a bouquet of dew-moistened white lilies. Today, he had been lucky to be the very first customer of the florist and as such, the lady owner had given him only the freshly picked lilies.

He was counting as he walked. When he reached the 85th step, he stopped and looked to a row on his left-hand side, searching for a familiar name amongst a dozen carved in the same style. Counting was his method to precisely find the gravestone he came to visit in this cemetery which housed thousands others.

“I’ve come to visit you,” Zhao Yun Lan mumbled, walking past the other gravestones.

Zhao Yun Lan stopped in front of a gravestone in the middle of the row, staring at a bouquet of white roses laid before the slab of black marble on which the dates of birth and death of a name was carved.

The name was Shen Wei.

Zhao Yun Lan studied the spotless marble slab and the fresh pristine roses. Who had come before him and laid it here, he wondered.

The sole caretaker of this cemetery was a middle-aged man of humble stature, who had had his skin tanned by the sun and his hair grayed by time. No one knew his real name, so he was intimately called Uncle by the visitors.

Zhao Yun Lan considered himself acquainted with Uncle, so when he spotted Uncle’s familiar figure, he immediately greeted him. Uncle nodded in reply.

“Can I ask you something?” Zhao Yun Lan asked, pointing at Shen Wei’s gravestone. “Do you happen to know who came here earlier this morning?”

Uncle propped his broom against his arm, contemplated for a few seconds and replied in a rusty voice of a heavy smoker, “There was a young man. He was quite tall and wore all white. Even his shoes were white. He stood for a long time before that gravestone and only left just before you arrived.”

“Did he say who he was?”

“No, he just stood there, muttering something incoherently and left.”

“Thank you.”

Uncle nodded, taking his old and trusted broom to get back to work.

“Shen Wei, can you see it? One of your students just paid you a visit,” Zhao Yun Lan said with a smile, laying his bouquet of lilies down, next to the roses. “He must have missed you.”

His fingers caressed Shen Wei’s face in the black and white photo etched to the gravestone. “I miss you too,” Zhao Yun Lan whispered. “I miss you so much. Last night I dreamed of you. Was it because you also missed me that you came back for me?”

Zhao Yun Lan smiled, sitting down the aisle. “It’s been a while since I took a day off. I’ll spend the day with you.”

Even when the sun was setting and it was time to go, Zhao Yun Lan still had no idea that he had been being watched by a man at the top of the hill. But Uncle knew, because while doing his job, he had been stealing some discreet glances at this strange young man from time to time.

He was fairly tall and dressed all in white. Even his shoes were white.

At six thirty, when he arrived at the cemetery, that young man had already been standing at the spot Zhao Yun Lan was sitting. There was a bouquet of white roses in front of a gravestone, which must have been brought here by him.

Early visitors weren’t many, but neither were they rare; however, what had captured Uncle’s attention was the young man’s visage – the same as the one on that gravestone. Although he had a job at a cemetery, he didn’t believe in the supernatural; otherwise he would think he was seeing a ghost or a doppelganger and be scared to death. Surprised as he was, Uncle left the young man to his own device and went to change into his working uniform.

It was a few minutes past seven, and Uncle had already finished some of his work. When he turned to look, the strange young man was still standing there, motionless and quiet as though he were one and the same with the countless gravestones. His curiosity piqued, Uncle asked, “Young man, that person named Shen Wei, was he your brother?”

The young man stayed mute, almost making Uncle think either his voice was entirely deaf to his ears or he simply chose not to notice him. It took a while for him to open his lips and speak, “Shen Wei… wasn’t the name of the person under this grave, but rather his older brother’s.”

Uncle was shocked. He considered himself an acquaintance of the regular visitor of that grave, a man named Zhao Yun Lan. From Zhao Yun Lan, he had learned that the man buried here had been a most important person of his life.

“If the younger brother had died in place of the older brother, it would be the older brother’s responsibility to live his life and fulfill his wishes, don’t you think so?” the young man asked.

Uncle didn’t know how to answer such a question. Not having spent much time at school while he was a youth, not to mention the generation gap, he was completely unable to follow these young intellectuals’ thoughts. He just thought of the man called Zhao Yun Lan and his melancholy-veiled face, who paid regular visits and would spend a whole day talking to the gravestone each time he came. Did he know of this?

“May I ask you a small favor?” said the young man. His voice was clear but soft, and his tone polite and gentle. “It may be small but it’s very important to me.”

Uncle nodded despite not knowing what his favor was. He didn’t know why he had a hunch that the young man would not be asking too much of him.

“If the person called Zhao Yun Lan asks, can you keep what I just said a secret? A time will come when I will tell him myself, but it must not be now.”

Uncle didn’t understand why he asked him to do so, but he didn’t ask; it had always been his principal not to poke into others’ business. He nodded.

“Thank you.”

As he stood at the top of the hill, Uncle’s gaze followed Zhao Yun Lan until he got into his car, and then it landed on the young man by his side. In the depth of his eyes that were glued to Zhao Yun Lan’s back, there was a quiet and profound sadness that Uncle could only feel but not comprehend.

End (?)

The title comes from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 71:

No longer mourn for me when I am dead

Then you shall hear the surly sullen bell

Give warning to the world that I am fled

From this vile world, with vilest worms to dwell:

Nay, if you read this line, remember not

The hand that writ it; for I love you so

That I in your sweet thoughts would be forgot

If thinking on me then should make you woe.

O, if, I say, you look upon this verse

When I perhaps compounded am with clay,

Do not so much as my poor name rehearse.

But let your love even with my life decay,

Lest the wise world should look into your moan

 And mock you with me after I am gone.

 

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