Someday I will post things for an event in chronological order XD Anyway! Please enjoy day one of Xichen Week 2020, written for the prompt Gentians! They're a pretty purple flower that carry the meanings of passion, charm, and sweetness...and have also been used as a homeopathic cure for depression :D


One year, spring doesn't come. The forest covering the mountains and surrounding countryside stays barren of new life, the slumbering trees a harsh contrast to bright blue skies. Weeks turn into months and nothing changes; no explanation can be found.

Inside the depths of the death and solitude, the spirit of the forest weeps. The only life for miles blossoms around him, curling vines that crawl across his body and entwine in his antlers before leaves rain down. From cracked, dry earth, purple flowers spring forth.

Outside of his sorrows, offerings are made, begging for anything the forest is willing to give- spring and its new life or even just an answer, a simple explanation for why nothing is working. The warmth of the sun scorches dead fields further and nothing changes. Rain falls and washes away seeds that refuse to grow, leaving nothing but hunger and loss in their wake.

One day, the forest refuses to awaken, for its heart is drowning in the bleakness of loneliness. Flowers, delicate purple blossoms that smell sickly sweet, surround him in his secluded home, and they are all the sustenance he'll accept. Branches and vines snarl together, blocking out all else, and within…

Zewu-Jun, the gentle and steadfast guardian of the forest, refuses to face the light.

・x・x・x・x・x・

Once upon a time, a young man changed his fate.

He tried to seek out a new life and was spurned by his father, driven out without a home to return to and a head injury to remind him of his failure. Winter raged around him on his lonely travels, pushing him off the main roads and onto the twisting paths of a sprawling forest. Snow and wind turned the world into an endless expanse of white between the trees, and he stumbled blindly through them, hoping against all odds to find shelter from the cold.

Instead, he found blood-splattered snow, and, with nothing else left to guide him, he followed it to its source. Pale moonlight shone through branches into a clearing and onto a silvery white deer, laid out in a puddle of blood with an arrow protruding from its side.

Meng Yao stepped forward, his heart urging him to help despite being unable to help himself. But this- this was important. With gentle steps and soft words, he got close enough to look over its wounds. Under the thin light from above, he removed the arrow and tended to the injury with steady hands, silently hoping it won't spook and try to run while he works.

Days of travel without rest eventually took their payment, and Meng Yao couldn't stop himself from collapsing against the solid warmth of the deer he'd tried to help.

・x・x・x・x・x・

Humans rarely travel in winter and even more rarely find themselves in the hidden depths of the forest, even in nicer weather. Lan Xichen had been surprised by hunters, but he was even more surprised to awaken to find his injuries cared for and a human resting against him. He was still too weak to do much, the blood loss more severe than he'd realized, but he was determined to do what he could to help the man who helped him.

The spirit of the forest gently moved the strange young man onto his back and traveled deeper into the woods, to the safety of his home. A life for a life, or, at the very least, care for care. He was a god, and although his injuries would not have taken his life, he could smell the threat of death upon the young man's brow.

He gently cleaned the dried blood from the man's temple and murmured healing words into the wound. He could do nothing for the small scar it left behind, but hopefully he had lessened the blow enough that the scar could live as a reminder instead of stilling his breath for good. Humans could be so fragile and sturdy at the same time, and Lan Xichen only knew so much about helping them. His skills lay in the passing of the seasons and the flourishing life of the forest.

Together, though, he hoped to learn enough to do more.

・x・x・x・x・x・

Meng Yao awakened and flourished under Lan Xichen's gentle care, telling him stories of human traditions and his own life. Lan Xichen reveled in his cleverness and enthusiasm, happily welcoming his opinions on the ways of the forest and answering his questions.

"Magic is a thing of stories and nothing more," Meng Yao told him, a deer now in human form with glittering antlers and the ability to create life from almost nothing. "It's not for practical people to believe in."

"Are you practical?"

Meng Yao chuckles, fingers running through delicate vines impossibly flourishing in the dead of winter. "I thought I was. But perhaps I can learn something new."

・x・x・x・x・x・

One day, after spring brought fresh life and summer's long days began to melt into the early chill of fall, Lan Xichen sent Meng Yao away. Humans weren't meant to be part of this world, lest they become forever entwined in it, and he could never force him into this life.

"I'll miss you."

"I know," Lan Xichen said sadly.

Meng Yao leaned up, almost close enough to touch, but shook his head and pulled back. "Goodbye, Zewu-Jun."

Lan Xichen watched him go, long after he faded from sight, and it took every part of his control to stop the rainstorms that usually came with his tears.

・x・x・x・x・x・

One year, winter doesn't end. Instead, it keeps its grasp on an entire region, spreading from the sprawling emptiness of a forest that refuses to reawaken. There's no frost, but there's no life, only cold nothingness in a once lively land.

One day, a young man hears of the unusual phenomenon and sets out to make it right. He doesn't know the way, but he's determined to find it again. He walks further and further into the wilted forest, taking every backwards, twisting path, until everything around him is filled with the creeping outlines of trees desperate for leaves. He is more lost than he's ever been, and finally, Meng Yao knows he's close.

Thick vines and slowly decaying flower petals guard his goal, trying to push him away. Meng Yao stubbornly pulls at gnarled branches strengthened by the heart of the forest, shoving them aside even as sharp edges cut into him. Somewhere in this mess, Lan Xichen is suffering, and he's not going to let him do it alone.

More plant life springs up to fight him, desperate to keep their master in his self-imposed isolation. Meng Yao is having none of it, slipping through cracks and staying just out of reach, until—

Sprawled out amidst a mess of wilting and fresh flowers is Lan Xichen, the mighty spirit of the forest, reduced to a forlorn deer. He's the same dull gray and white as the day they met, the sharp contrast of blood the only thing missing. It's not right. Meng Yao knows he should be so sleek and glossy that he glows with the life of the forest.

Not this. This isn't right.

Meng Yao fights off the forest's last attempts to stop him and steps forward carefully.

"Zewu-Jun," he says gently. "Xichen, I'm here."

Flowers spill from Lan Xichen's mouth as he slowly turns to look at Meng Yao. His eyes are dull with a pain that cuts through Meng Yao's heart, and all he can do is try and make it right.

"Look at yourself," he says, brushing flowers away to sit at Lan Xichen's side. "There's no life anywhere else and you're in here eating flowers. What happened?"

Lan Xichen opens his mouth to answer and more flower petals tumble out, spilling into the mess around him.

"Oh, Xichen," Meng Yao says, throwing his arms around his neck and nuzzling against him. "What are you doing eating gentians?"

He doesn't get an answer, but he has a plan. He pulls encroaching plants away from Lan Xichen and clears the flowers the best he can, coaxing more out of him until, finally, thankfully, he hears Lan Xichen's raspy words of gratitude.

"A-Yao…you came back," he manages, words stretched between drinking water from Meng Yao's hands.

"Of course. I heard something was wrong, and I only hoped you'd allow me to fix it."

Mournful eyes meet his. "I never expected to see you again."

Meng Yao doesn't say anything at first. Lan Xichen sent him away, after he allowed himself to trust someone despite vowing to never open himself up again. Lan Xichen sent him away and now he looks at Meng Yao like he's the sole light of his life.

"You sent me away," he says.

"For your safety."

He sighs. "Come now, Xichen…you never even asked me what I wanted."

Lan Xichen's eyes widen. "There are consequences to staying this deep in the woods," he says slowly, every word a warning come far too late.

"And to return to a mundane world after learning there's so much more isn't its own kind of suffering?"

"A-Yao—"

"Besides, look at this mess. Is this really from missing me?"

He nods. "Every day has been bleak without the light of your smile in it."

Meng Yao's cheeks flush despite himself. "Don't talk like that unless you promise not to send me away again," he says firmly.

Lan Xichen's eyes meet his, grim as a world without spring and true as a song, and he slowly nods. "I give you my word. These woods are yours for as long as you desire."

There's a power in his words, power that Meng Yao can feel in the air and the ground, entwining their fates together. "Good," he says, offering Lan Xichen a hand. "Let's clean this up."

Lan Xichen's dull and dusty pelt melts away as he returns to his more humanoid form, grasping Meng Yao's hand tightly in his. He pulls them up and together, warmth flowing from them, and Meng Yao finally leans up into a kiss they should have shared long before.

・x・x・x・x・x・

One year, spring came late, so late it was almost forgotten, but in the end it blossomed brighter than ever before.