Duel of the Twins - Theladyofravenclaw - 魔道祖师 - 墨香铜臭 | Módào Zǔshī (2023)

Chapter Text

The lava outside reflects onto Wen Ruohan's face as he looks out onto the horizon of Mustafar's harsh and foreign landscape. A transmission from Coruscant rings out from his desk and he turns to answer it, revealing a small hooded figure standing there waiting for him.

"Master." Wen Ruohan kneels. "I wasn't expecting your call."

The figure nods.

"I see you are still reeling from the loss of your son." They say. "I have no doubt Wen Chao will be missed."

Wen Ruohan shakes his head.

"Wen Chao has always been brash." He says. "I tried to warn him against this new enemy."

"And yet he still died." The figure says. "What a pity. Both him and his guard dog were valuable assets."

Wen Ruohan looks up at him.

"Master, I beg of you." He says. "Grant me permission to seek justice for his death."

The figure laughs.

"Justice?" They ask. "From what I learned there is no justice to be found. Your son reaped the consequences of his own actions. Besides, there is a greater loss from your side that has yet to be recouped."

Wen Ruohan's entire body goes stiff.

"Yunmeng was only one planet out of many under my control." He says. "There is very little loss on my end in return for them regaining the territory."

The figure shakes their head.

"My dear misguided apprentice." They say. "You forget the most important lesson I ever taught you."

Wen Ruohan looks up at him.

"And what is that?" He asks.

The figure leans forward.

"Hope is a disease." They say. "One you must learn how to destroy."

Wen Ruohan clenches his jaw.

"I will regain control over Yunmeng." He says. "And once I tear down the Republic, the galaxy will finally be free of their tyranny once and for all."

The figure laughs.

"Such strong words for such a small man." They say. "I wonder how you plan to deal with these new enemies."

Wen Ruohan shakes his head.

"It's like you said." He tells him. "If hope is a disease, then I intend to cure it."

The Senate erupts into chaos as people argue over each other while Jin Zixuan and Mianmian keep to themselves.

"Remind me again why I volunteered to do this?" He asks.

"Beats me." She says. "You're the one that was getting tired of staying cooped up in Koi Tower all day."

He crosses his arms.

"Well the last time I stayed home my father engaged me to a stranger that I've never even met." He says. "Yunmeng has still yet to respond to my request by the way."

Mianmian rolls her eyes.

"You have to give them time." She says. "After what they went through with Wen Ruohan I have to imagine that your request is pretty low on their list of priorities right now."

Jin Zixuan nods.

"I am aware." He says. "But still, between trying to annul the engagement and stepping in to help my father, I'm a little stressed."

Mianmian huffs.

"Oh trust me, I know." She says. "Why don't you talk to Jiang Yanli about it? She should be here today."

Jin Zixuan shakes his head.

"I would if I knew what she looked like." He says. "Yunmeng just barely got their seat back on the Senate. How am I supposed to know which one is her?"

The shouting grows louder as Jin Zixuan and Mianmian look up to see Nie Huaisang from Mandalore doing his best to control the chaos.

"Why should we pay for Mandalore's defenses!?"

"This little insurgency should be handled by those of the Outer Rim!"

"What happens when it's not just the Outer Rim that's being attacked!?"

Jin Zixuan shakes his head.

"Nie Huaisang really has his work cut out for him today." He says.

Mianmian nods.

"They're currently trying to push back against the foreign occupation of their Outer Rim territories." She says. "Wen Ruohan must be feeling pretty bold if he thinks he has a chance against Nie Mingjue's Mandalorians."

Jin Zixuan looks down as she says this.

"I don't know what that means for the rest of us." He says.

The shouting comes to a halt as a pod from the upper left corner steps out. Jin Zixuan looks up to see a young woman in purple robes with a white sash tied around her waist take the floor. She raises up her chin with a determination in her eyes that he's never seen before.

"Senators." She states. "I must say I am disappointed. Our allies from Mandalore join us here today not asking for anything more than reassurance that we will not close our trading routes with them, and how do we respond? With chaos? With indifference? In our time of crises, this is when we must learn to work together the most."

One of the senators scoffs.

"Jiang Yanli," Senator Ouyang states. "Your parents were highly respected in this court, however, you are still new to the world of politics. Matters such as these are much more complicated than whether or not we can learn to get along."

She shakes her head.

"On the contrary." Jiang Yanli states. "My parents have been taking me to court since I was a child. I am aware of the intricacies that go into making this Republic a working democracy. However, I am also aware of its shortcomings as a government."

Several of the senators laugh.

"Silly little girl!"

"Not even a senator yet!"

"Has no idea what she's talking about!"

Jiang Yanli takes a deep breath and looks up at the crowd.

"It's true." She says. "I lack the experience you all have from years of work in this court. I am young, I've only ever experienced these policies from the outside, and in many ways I have no clue what I am doing."

She lifts up her chin.

"But I know how to lead." She says. "My father led our planet to prosperity with patience, my mother led our cavalry to victory with discipline, and I have led my people to freedom with courage. I am no longer just a little girl."

The room falls silent as all eyes turn towards her.

"I know what the Republic stands for." Jiang Yanli says. "Just as well as I know what Wen Ruohan promotes. We are a democracy united, not out of necessity, but choice. The Republic is built on the very foundation of our people, from all corners of the galaxy, standing together in the face of adversity. No army that Wen Ruohan creates will ever be able to compete with that. But our strength falls apart the moment we allow division and fear to control us."

She turns towards Nie Huaisang.

"We may not have much." She says. "But Yunmeng stands with you. I will not let Mandalore endure the same hardships that my people had to suffer."

The other senators whisper to each other before stepping up.

"Alderaan stands with Mandalore!"

"Lothal stands with Mandalore!"

"Bogano stands with Mandalore!"

All around him, Jin Zixuan looks up to see hundreds of voices standing in unison to parrot Jiang Yanli's message. He glances back at her, and sees the young Yunmeng girl standing tall amongst the crowd.

"Well now you know what she looks like." Mianmian tells him. "What do you think?"

Jin Zixuan shakes his head.


His sentence trails off into silence as Mianmian smiles.

"She's what?" She asks. "Beautiful? Badass? A combination of both?"

Jiang Yanli turns her head towards him and he sees the light from the senate floor illuminate her face.

"Amazing." Jin Zixuan says. "She's amazing."

Mianmian gives him a knowing look.

"Then let's go talk to her."

Jin Zixuan gets pulled out of his thoughts as he turns towards Mianmian.

"What?" He asks. "No, absolutely not! I don't even know what to say!"

Mianmian shakes her head.

"Tough luck." She says. "That's your fiancée, you have to talk to her at some point."

Jin Zixuan turns to walk away as she grabs him by the arm and drags him down the hallway. He struggles to break free before shaking off her grip and bumping into someone.

"Sorry, I'm just-"

His words get cut off as Jiang Yanli stands there staring up at him.

"Jin Zixuan?" She asks. "From Lanling Jin, correct?"

Mianmian glances in between the two of them and nods.

"Senator Jiang." Mianmian says. "Pardon our rudeness. My young master was just stepping out to get some fresh air."

Jiang Yanli nods.

"I understand." She says. "That room can get a bit stuffy sometimes."

Jiang Yanli turns to look up at him and Jin Zixuan finds himself unable to speak.

"Um, y-yes well, you'll just have to get used to it." He says. "Afterall, you're expected to inherit your father's seat in the Senate."

She nods.

"I guess I will." Jiang Yanli says. "I hope I make them proud."

They stand there in silence, not knowing what to say, before Mianmian nudges him in the shoulder.

"Senator Jiang." Jin Zixuan states. "I've been meaning to speak with you about our engagement."

She nods.

"So have I." Jiang Yanli says. "I'm relieved to hear that you and I are on the same page regarding this matter."

Jin Zixuan shakes his head.

"We are?" He asks.

She smiles.

"My planet is in no condition to be planning a lavish wedding right now." She says. "Yunmeng needs my full attention at the moment so that we can rebuild. I don't wish for you to feel as if you have any obligation to me over a promise that our parents made in the past."

She walks up towards him and hands him the gold peony his mother sent.

"Which is why I think it's a good idea to terminate the engagement."

Jin Zixuan feels the weight of the world come crashing down on him as he holds the flower in his hand.

"I-I see." He says.

Jiang Yanli nods.

"Thank you for understanding." She says. "Please excuse me, I must go speak with my brother."

She turns to leave and Jin Zixuan watches as she disappears into the crowd.

"Mianmian?" He asks. "What just happened?"

She pats him on the shoulder.

"I think you got dumped." She says. "Come on, let's go grab your cousin."

Jiang Yanli steps into the elevator and leans back against the wall.

"Jiang Yanli." Her mother said. "You must be strong.You must be strong for me."

She shakes her head.

"I hope I'm making the right choice." She says. "I don't know how you did it, a-niang."

The elevator doors open and Jiang Yanli straightens up. She makes her way over to the balcony where Jiang Cheng is waiting for her and smiles.

"A-Cheng." She says. "We should be done for today. Are you ready to go home?"

He nods but keeps his eyes staring forward.

"It feels weird coming back here but not visiting the temple." He says. "So much of my life was spent growing up on Coruscant, but I feel like I barely even know the planet."

She walks up towards him.

"Do you regret it?" She asks. "Leaving, I mean?"

He shakes his head.

"I could never regret choosing our family." He tells her. "You know, Wei Wuxian once told me that if we were to become Jedi Masters we'd be the Twin Prides of Yunmeng. I didn't believe him back then, and now…"

Jiang Yanli places one hand on his shoulder.

"We're going to find a way to bring him back." She says. "I truly believe that."

Jiang Cheng looks up at her.

"You didn't see what I saw that day." He says. "I have no idea what happened to Wei Wuxian, but I'm not even sure if that man is my brother anymore."

Jiang Yanli shakes her head.

"Don't say that." She says. "Of course he's our brother. Wei Wuxian wouldn't have helped us take back our home if he wasn't still in there"

Jiang Cheng huffs.

"Then why did he leave?" He asks. "All the atrocities, the devastation that he left in his wake, perhaps I could forgive. But why didn't he come back home with us after the battle?"

She sighs.

"I don't know A-Cheng." Jiang Yanli says. "I don't have all the answers right now. But there's good in him, I feel it. He's our brother, even now, and nothing in this galaxy will ever change that."

Jiang Cheng turns away from her.

"I'm not so sure."

She opens her mouth to say something before a voice catches their attention.

"I must say I'm impressed."

They both turn to see a handsome young man with long dark hair and elegant gold robes make his way over. Jiang Yanli's eyes grow wide as she realizes who he is and she steps forward.

"Supreme Chancellor." She says. "I'm surprised to see you."

He nods.

"I just wanted to congratulate you on your first day here." He says. "You've made quite the first impression. Not many people can say they brought the entire senate to their feet in agreement with only one session."

Jiang Yanli looks up at him.

"All I did was talk." She says.

The Chancellor nods.

"Sometimes that's all it takes."

He glances over to see Jiang Cheng standing there by her and smiles.

"Pardon my intrusion." He says. "I did not realize you were seeking council with the jedi."

Jiang Yanli shakes her head.

"Oh, this is my brother." She says. "His name is Jiang Wanyin, he's no longer a jedi."

The Chancellor raises one eyebrow.

"You left the order?" He asks.

Jiang Cheng nods.

"I left in order to protect my family." He says. "Yunmeng is my home now."

Jiang Yanli smiles.

"Yunmeng has always been your home." She says. "Just as well as I have always been your family."

The Chancellor watches their exchange and smiles.

"Protecting one's family is always a noble cause." He says. "I often wonder who I might have become if I were given the same opportunity. You are an admirable man, Jiang Wanyin."

Jiang Cheng glances up at him.

"Thank you." He says. "I appreciate that."

The Chancellor turns towards Jiang Yanli.

"If there is ever anything that I can do for you," He says, glancing over at Jiang Cheng. " Both of you, please, do not hesitate to ask. I remember how hard it was to enter into the world of politics at your age. You're already off to a great start."

"You're too kind, Chancellor." Jiang Yanli says. "Thank you, for your kindness."

He turns to walk away and Jiang Cheng glances over at his sister.

"Who was that?" He asks.

"That was the Supreme Chancellor." She says. "The head of state here on Coruscant."

Jiang Cheng shakes his head.

"He looks a little young to be the head of state." He says.

Jiang Yanli nods.

"He started off as a representative from Mandalore at a young age." She says. "For a while he worked as Nie Mingjue's second in command. Then the banking clans recruited him to act as a senator on their behalf. Not long after he rose through the ranks to become one of the youngest Chancellor's in Republic history."

Jiang Cheng raises one eyebrow.

"He's from Mandalore?" He asks.

Jiang Yanli shakes her head.

"No one really knows where he's from." She says. "He grew up as an orphan from the Immortal War. I'm not even sure if he knows who his family is."

Jiang Cheng crosses his arms.

"It might be nice to have an ally in this fight." He says.

Jiang Yanli nods.

"Chancellor Guangyao is a powerful ally to say the least."

Lan Xichen wanders through the halls of the Jedi library searching for his brother. It pales in comparison to what he's used to back home, but he's not here to skim their selection.

He makes his way back towards the archives and it's there that he finds his brother, pouring over old files while the blue light from his research illuminates his face.

Lan Xichen sighs.

"Wangji." He says. "When I gave you permission to access the archives I didn't think you'd hole yourself away in here for three whole days."

Lan Wangji shakes his head.

"This can't be all there is." He says. "I'm missing something, I know it."

Lan Xichen walks up towards him.

"I need you to take a break."

Lan Wangji ignores him and Lan Xichen places one hand on his shoulder.

"Wangji, please." He says. "Don't wither yourself away in grief."

Lan Wangji looks up at him, bags under his eyes as evidence of sleepless nights, and takes a deep breath.

"How can I not?" He asks. "There has to be a way to help him. No one else wants to do it, no one else even cares."

Lan Xichen shakes his head.

"That isn't true." He says. "The Jedi Council-"

"The Jedi Council is only concerned with what sort of threat he may pose in the future!" Lan Wangji snaps. "None of them are interested in finding a way to save him! Not even his master!"

Lan Xichen looks up at him.

"...Perhaps Master Wei is beyond saving?" He asks.

Lan Wangji's eyes grow wide.

"No." He says. "I refuse to believe it."

Lan Xichen sighs.

"Wangji." He says. "Master Wei left the Jedi Order to protect his family, and three months later he returned as a Sith Lord. Even if you were able to convince him to walk the path of light again, he would not return to the temple."

Lan Wangji turns away from him.

"It doesn't matter." He says. "I have to try."

Lan Xichen looks up at his brother and sighs.

"We've already lost so much from this war." He says. "Please, don't make me lose my brother too."

Lan Xichen turns to walk away and Lan Wangji watches him leave.

Nie Huaisang sits with Chancellor Guangyao as they enjoy a meal late into the afternoon. The Chancellor looks up at him and raises one eyebrow.

"Huaisang?" He asks. "Are you getting enough sleep?"

Nie Huaisang shakes his head.

"We're being run ragged by Wen Ruohan and his forces on Krownest." He says. "Not to mention our Outer Rim territories are being bombarded with warfare every day while I sit tight here on Coruscant playing politics."

The Chancellor shakes his head.

"You know er-ge is just trying to protect you." He says.

Nie Huaisang nods.

"I know." He says. "Trust me, I would much rather be here doing this than back home right now. But I'm worried about him. The war is dragging on much longer than any of us expected."

The Chancellor looks up at him.

"I was under the impression that er-ge had everything under control." He says. "Afterall, you declined my proposal to accept assistance from our armies last week."

Nie Huaisang shakes his head.

"That was da-ge's decision." He says. "The peace that we've enjoyed under my brother's rule has always been fragile. It's in our blood to be at odds with one another. And now with this new threat, Clan Saxon and the others have decided to break off from our treaty and join Wen Ruohan."

Chancellor Guangyao's eyes grow wide.

"That is shocking news to say the least." He says. "But if Nie Mingjue believes that he does not require assistance, then there is little I can do."

Nie Huaisang looks up at him.

"It's not just that." He says. "A few days ago, I lost contact with him."

The Chancellor stops.

"Nie Huaisang-"

"My brother may not believe that we need help." He says. "But I do. After what happened to the Cloud Recesses, I fear for his safety. However, I can't in good faith ask for your assistance without further dividing the clans back home."

Chancellor Guangyao leans back in his chair.

"Perhaps it is not me that you should ask for help from then."

Nie Huaisang looks up at him.

"What do you mean?" He asks.

The Chancellor smiles.

"Yunmeng made a very public show of support for you on the Senate floor today." He says. "I'm sure if you can convince Senator Jiang to rally up her troops the others will follow."

Nie Huaisang shakes his head.

"Yunmeng is too fragile to be expending resources to another cause." He says. "Besides, what difference does a handful of soldiers make against Wen Ruohan's army?"

The Chancellor leans forward.

"It's not her soldiers that will lead your people to victory." He says. "But rather something far more valuable."

Nie Huaisang looks up at him before his eyes grow wide.

"I see." He says. "Perhaps you are right."

Jiang Cheng makes his way through the gardens on Lotus Pier, looking out over the lakes that they finished cleaning last week. It took a lot of patience and time, but this place is really starting to look more like a home.

He still remembers all the corpses Wen Chao left in his wake, the smell of rot and blood that lingered in the air. Sometimes it's hard to think back on the dilapidated state that he and Wei Wuxian found this place in when they first arrived.

"Don't worry Jiang Cheng." Wei Wuxian said. "Everything is going to be alright."

Those were his brother's last words before disappearing into the night. He can't get the image of Wei Wuxian cloaked in darkness with the red glow of his lightsaber out of his mind. How can that still be his brother? He knows Wei Wuxian, better than anyone, and yet the person that he met that day may as well have been a stranger.

What happened to him?

Why won't he come home?

Is that still his brother?

These questions bounce around inside his head as he rounds the corner to find his sister's office door slightly open.

"I'm surprised to see you come to me for this." Jiang Yanli says. "Surely there are more powerful allies in your corner that can help."

"One would assume." The stranger says. "However, assumptions can be dangerous. A lesson I'm sure you are aware of."

Jiang Cheng glances inside to see Nie Huaisang from Mandalore sitting across from her.

"I see." Jiang Yanli says. "However, I'm not exactly sure what it is you expect from us."

"My brother's calvary is running thin." Nie Huaisang says. "We're capable of holding onto the majority of our territories, however the Outer Rim colonies are suffering the most. I've tried contacting my brother but as of late he's gone quiet. We need the extra support, but it would go against Mandalorian custom to request for such."

Jiang Yanli nods.

"Our armies are almost entirely depleted." She says. "I'd lend you my soldiers if they were in any shape to fight."

"It's not your soldiers I'm in need of." He says. "Yunmeng drove Wen Ruohan away from their borders without any formal support from the Republic. Do you know what that means?"

Jiang Yanli shakes her head.

"It wasn't easy." She says. "It took all of our manpower, as well as some help from my…"

Nie Huaisang nods.

"I'm aware." He says. "Regardless of the circumstances, you've created something precious."

"What is that?" Jiang Yanli asks.

Nie Huaisang leans forward.


She shakes her head.

"Hope?" Jiang Yanli asks. "Hope for what?"

"For the end of the war." He says. "For victory, for freedom from Wen Ruohan. Hope is a dangerous weapon in the eyes of a tyrant, and you've managed to wield it beautifully."

She looks up at him.

"...What do you need?"

He opens his fan.

"A small battalion of troops to show your support." He says. "Led, of course, by your brother."

She shakes her head.

"No." Jiang Yanli says. "I can dispatch a group of soldiers to send aid, but A-Cheng is not a weapon for the other systems to use. He is my brother."

"He is a symbol." Nie Huaisang says. "He is the face of your victory. In the eyes of the Senate, he is the reason you led your people to freedom. A jedi-"

"Not anymore." She tells him. "A-Cheng left the Jedi Order to come here and be with his family."

Nie Huaisang nods.

"I know that." He says. "And trust me, there is no one who understands what it means to defend your loved ones from the greedy interests of the Galactic Court more than me."

He takes a deep breath.

"But if your brother doesn't lead this effort on the frontlines then nothing else matters." Nie Huaisang says. "I'll never garner the support I need from the Senate to save my brother, and Mandalore will surely fall."

Jiang Yanli looks up at him.

"I'll let you think about it." Nie Huaisang says. "However, I might urge you not to make this decision alone. Whatever choice you make I'll honor it."

He turns to leave as Jiang Cheng ducks out of the hallway. He waits for Nie Huaisang to exit the room before glancing back at his sister.

Her eyes are cast downwards as she leans back in her chair before glancing up to see him.

"A-Cheng." She says. "What are you doing out here?"

"I was taking a walk." He says. "Are you alright?"

She nods, standing up from her desk.

"I'm fine." She says. "Come on, let's go for a stroll."

They walk along the lotus ponds as Jiang Cheng glances back at her. Her eyes look tired with a sullen expression as they explore the newly planted flowers.

Jiang Cheng turns towards his sister.

"I heard the conversation between you and Nie Huaisang." He says.

She nods.

"I figured as much." Jiang Yanli says. "Then I assume you also heard my answer."

He shakes his head.

"A-Jie." Jiang Cheng says. "It might not be wise to turn down his request so quickly. I don't mind going into battle if it means garnering more allies."

She looks up at him.

"But I do." She says. "I don't want you to feel as if you're just another soldier to me. I know what you're capable of, I know that you can protect yourself, but…"

Her words drift off into silence and Jiang Cheng places one hand on her shoulder. She looks up at him with tears in her eyes and takes a deep breath.

"...you're the only family I have left." She says. "Mom, dad, A-Xian, they're all gone. I don't want to lose you too."

He shakes his head.

"You won't." He says. "A-Jie, I promise, you will never lose me."

She looks up at him before pulling him into a hug. Jiang Cheng feels her physically shaking as she holds him close.

"Alright then." She says. "I'll contact Nie Huaisang and let him know I've reconsidered."

He smiles as she pulls away.

"But A-Cheng, you have to remember something." She says.

"What is it?" He asks.

"You're not going there as a Jedi." Jiang Yanli says. "You'll be going there as my brother, a son of Yunmeng, first and foremost."

Jiang Cheng and Nie Huaisang make their way forward through the ship with a handful of soldiers marching by their side. They head towards the command center where a Mandalorian dressed in gray beskar armor is waiting for them.

"Master Jiang." Nie Huaisang says. "This is Nie Zonghui, my brother's second in command. He's been leading our armies on the frontlines against Wen Ruohan's assault for the last three months."

Nie Zonghui steps forward.

"We heard how you liberated your planet from Wen Ruohan." He says. "It will be an honor to work beside you in our effort to liberate mine."

Jiang Cheng nods.

"It was a group effort." He says. "I'm sure we can manage the same here on Krownest."

Nie Zonghui glances over at Nie Huaisang before pulling up a map.

Several areas along the mountains are marked red as Nie Zonghui points at a fortress.

"The Wren family were able to hold onto as much of their territory as possible." He says. "However, Wen Ruohan's son took advantage of the scattered troops and claimed their ancestral home for himself. He's now holding prisoners of war captive there and torturing them for information."

Jiang Cheng shakes his head.

"His son?" He asks. "Wen Chao is dead, I saw him decapitated myself."

Nie Zonghui nods.

"I'm aware." He says. "This would be the work of Wen Ruohan's older son, Wen Xu. He's less volatile, but infinitely more dangerous. If there's anywhere they're managing to keep Nie Mingjue prisoner, it's here."

"I see." Jiang Cheng says. "What do you need from me then?"

Nie Zonghui zooms in on the map.

"You'll lead your troops here, towards the northern front." He says. "It's currently being guarded by three Walkers, making it impossible to break through. If you manage to take control of one of them before destroying the others, we'll have enough time to cave in and weaken their defenses."

Jiang Cheng nods.

"Consider it done." He says. "You just need to get me close enough without getting blasted."

"We'll have the other one cover for you." Nie Zonghui says.

Jiang Cheng raises one eyebrow.

"The other one?" He asks.

The door opens behind them and Jiang Cheng looks back to see Lan Wangji make his way forward. The two of them stare at each other for a moment before Lan Wangji greets him.

"Jiang Wanyin." He says. "It's been a while."

Jiang Cheng straightens up his back.

"It has been." He says. "Last I heard you were still cooped up in the library on Coruscant. What brings you here?"

Lan Wangji ignores his jab.

"Brother heard about the circumstances surrounding Chifeng-Zun's disappearance." He says. "I insisted he was in no condition to fight and came instead."

"So the Jedi are now involving themselves in the politics of war?" Jiang Cheng asks. "I thought they had chosen to remain neutral in this conflict. Or is it only when they have a personal interest in our affairs that they decide to take up arms?"

Lan Wangji looks up at him and glares.

"I could say the same about you." He says.

Jiang Cheng steps forward to confront him before Nie Huaisang steps in.

"I'm aware the two of you share a history from your time working together." He says. "But we have a war to fight. Unless, of course, this is going to get in the way of the mission."

Jiang Cheng thinks back to the promise he made Jiang Yanli before leaving and sighs.

"Of course not." He says. "Let us proceed."

Lan Wangji nods.


They end up on a shuttle with a handful of troops and prepare to depart. Jiang Cheng glances over at Lan Wangji standing near the back and huffs.

"He won't be there." He says. "I don't know where Wei Wuxian is, but it's not here."

Lan Wangji glances back at him.

"Don't presume to know me." He says. "Or what it is that I seek."

Jiang Cheng rolls his eyes and walks forward towards the front.

They're able to make it past the first level of defenses Wen Ruohan has set up. Blasting through his blockade with very little issue as they come across the landing site. Soon enough they see enemy freighters approaching over the horizon and Jiang Cheng turns back to face his men.

"Hold on tight!" He says. "This is going to be a bumpy ride!"

They all strap in as the shuttle ducks in and out of the sky, avoiding the enemy. Soon enough they hear footsteps on the rooftop and Lan Wangji pulls out his lightsaber.

"Mandalorians." He says. "I'll go handle them."

Jiang Cheng shakes his head.

"You don't have a jetpack." He says.

Lan Wangji rolls his eyes.

"I don't need one."

With that he departs and Jiang Cheng watches as Lan Wangji climbs the side of their ship and pushes the enemy off. He then leaps onto one of the flying Mandalorians and steers them to clear a path from above.

"Showoff." Jiang Cheng says. "Get us closer, we'll be able to jump out from over there."

The pilot nods and brings them over towards the landing site. Jiang Cheng and his soldiers depart from the shuttle and move forward towards the rendezvous point. A command of Mandalorians fighting alongside Wen Ruohan's army greet them with blaster fire as Jiang Cheng takes the lead.

Pulling out his lightsaber, Jiang Cheng protects his men as they mow down their enemies. The Zabrak soldiers fall as soon as they're hit, but the opposing Mandalorians prove to be much more difficult.

Their beskar armor makes it hard to land a shot as they move forward. Jiang Cheng prepares to take on a large group by himself before Lan Wangji shows up.

"Go!" He says. "I'll cover you!"

Jiang Cheng nods and heads straight for the Walkers.

Three large metal beasts tower over him as he avoids their blaster fire. Jiang Cheng manages to weave his way towards one of them before leaping into the air and landing on its back.

He breaks in through the top and finds a small crew of Zabraks working the machine. Pulling out his lightsaber, Jiang Cheng makes quick work of them before grabbing the controls.

He turns their weapons on them and fires at the two remaining Walkers, destroying them. Wen Ruohan's forces take note of this and turn towards each other.

"Retreat!" They shout.

Jiang Cheng watches as the remaining enemies scatter into the forest and sighs.

He gets up out of the tank and goes to meet with Lan Wangji.

"Well that went better than expected." Jiang Cheng says. "Thanks for having my back."

Lan Wangji shakes his head.

"It's not over yet."

Jiang Cheng raises one eyebrow before he hears it. The high pitched whistle of an incoming attack.

"Take cover!" He shouts.

A proton torpedo fires from above and the Walker he was piloting bursts into flames. Jiang Cheng and the rest of his crew shield themselves from the explosion before they look up to see a new squadron of Mandalorians descend.

"We're surrounded." Jiang Cheng says. "There's no way out."

Lan Wangji ignites his lightsaber.

"There is one."

They hold up their weapons, ready for the fight as the air turns cold.

Jiang Cheng hears a musical note ring out and Lan Wangji lowers his weapon.

"Wei Ying."

A red lightsaber comes flying through the air, striking beneath the helmet of their Mandalorian opponents, decapitating them. The opposing army turns to find a figure dressed in black slowly approaching. Wei Wuxian looks up, revealing his glowing red eyes while he summons the lightsaber back into his hands.

"It's the Yiling Patriarch!" One of them shouts.

Wei Wuxian smiles.

"Pardon the intrusion." He says. "Just wanted to stop by and say hi."

The opposing Mandalorians turn their blasters on him. Holding out one hand Wei Wuxian pushes back the group to his left before using his red lightsaber to cut down the group to his right. A man tries to sneak up on him from behind before Wei Wuxian grabs him by the throat and shakes his head.

"Now, now." He says. "That wasn't very nice."

He snaps the man's neck and tosses him into the crowd. Jiang Cheng turns to see his men raise up their weapons before shaking his head.

"Don't shoot!" He says. "He is not our enemy."

But glancing back at the twisted glee that Wei Wuxian is displaying, Jiang Cheng hesitates to believe his own words.

The sound of the bomber coming back around rings through the air and they all duck for cover. Wei Wuxian merely glances up at the incoming projectile before raising one hand.

Both the aircraft and the torpedo are left suspended in midair. Jiang Cheng watches Wei Wuxian slowly push the bomb back, smiling as he sees the explosion go off from inside. He then closes his fist and crumples the ship into a ball of scrap before tossing it at the enemy.

The remaining Mandalorians scramble to their feet.

"Retreat!" They shout. "Go back to the base!"

Wei Wuxian stands there amongst the wreckage and turns towards Jiang Cheng. He stares at the man who used to be his brother, illuminated by the light of his own red eyes, and shakes his head.

"Wei Wuxian." Jiang Cheng whispers.

Wei Wuxian turns off his lightsaber and walks up towards them. Lan Wangji stands there next to Jiang Cheng, his eyes wide but mouth shut as he stares at the young Sith Lord.

"...A-Cheng." Wei Wuxian says. "What are you doing out here?"

Jiang Cheng shakes his head.

"I could ask you the same thing." He says. "As far as I'm concerned, you have no business on Krownest."

Wei Wuxian nods.

"You're right." He says. "I have no interest in the Mandalorian conflict. Wen Xu on the other hand, that is an entirely different matter."

Jiang Cheng glances down at his brother's lightsaber.

"That's not your real one." He says.

"Define real." Wei Wuxian scoffs. "As far as I'm concerned, this is my real one. Afterall, I made it myself."

Jiang Cheng looks up to see Wei Wuxian staring over his shoulder at Lan Wangji.

"Of course." Jiang Cheng huffs. "I guess some things never change."

Wei Wuxian ignores his brother jab and turns towards the jedi.

"Lan Wangji." He says. "Pray tell, what are you doing out here in a warzone? Do your pacifist ideals have a limit when it comes to the cost of war?"

Lan Wangji shakes his head.

"Wei Ying." He says. "Please, we are not your enemy."

Wei Wuxian's eyes slowly flicker from their bright glowing red to their normal silver gray. He looks in between the two of them for a moment and sighs.

"If it's Chifeng-Zun you're searching for, you won't find him here." Wei Wuxian says. "All of Wen Xu's prisoners were transferred to a new location overnight."

Jiang Cheng shakes his head.

"How do you know that?" He asks.

"I've been scouting out this prison for over two weeks." Wei Wuxian says. "I saw the transfer happen myself."

"And you did nothing to stop it?" Jiang Cheng asks.

Wei Wuxian turns away.

"I was waiting for someone." He says. "I couldn't intervene without compromising their safety."

Lan Wangji shakes his head.

"Who was it?" He asks.

Wei Wuxian smiles.

"Lan Zhan, you're so nosy." He says. "Allow this one to keep a few of his secrets closely guarded, won't you?"

Jiang Cheng crosses his arms.

"So if all the prisoners have been relocated, then why are they still guarding the Wren Stronghold?" Jiang Cheng asks.

Wei Wuxian shrugs.

"To lure you in." He says. "Wen Xu has a nasty habit of setting up traps."

Jiang Cheng glances over at Lan Wangji.

"We need to warn Nie Zonghui." He says. "If this is true, we may have no choice but to retreat."

Wei Wuxian nods.

"You two will retreat." He says. "I'll stay here to finish the mission."

Jiang Cheng shakes his head.

"No, you're coming with me." He says. "A-Jie and I have waited far too long to have you slink back into the darkness."

Wei Wuxian looks up at him.

"A-Cheng." He says. "You know why I can't go back."

"No I don't." Jiang Cheng says. "I don't get why you're being so stubborn about this. Why you insist on running around acting like an idiot instead of coming back home."

Jiang Cheng pulls out his old lightsaber and holds it out towards him.

"Wei Wuxian." Jiang Cheng says. "Do you still trust me?"

Wei Wuxian's hand hovers over the handle before he pulls back.

"Do you?" Wei Wuxian asks.

Jiang Cheng stands there for a moment, staring at his brother, before letting out a sigh.

"Fine then." He says. "Be like that."

He turns to leave and Lan Wangji glances in between the two of them. His eye catches Wei Wuxian's, who stands off to the side staring at him with a softness in his gaze.

"Lan Zhan." Wei Wuxian says. "Why are you out here? You shouldn't be back on the battlefield."

Lan Wangji shakes his head.

"I came in my brother's place." He says. "He is the one who is still incapable of fighting."

Wei Wuxian nods.

"I guess that makes sense." He says. "But that doesn't mean that I have to like it."

He turns to leave and Lan Wangji grabs his arm.

"Wei Ying." He says. "Please, whatever it is that you're doing out here, we can help."

Wei Wuxian shakes his head.

"I don't need your help." He says. "Just get back on your ship and go home to Coruscant. I'll rescue Nie Mingjue while I'm here."

"And after the war?" Lan Wangji asks. "When all of this is over, what will you do?"

Wei Wuxian stands there for a moment staring out at nothing before letting out a sigh.

"Goodbye, Lan Zhan."

Jiang Cheng opens his comms link to connect to Nie Zonghui. The other Mandalorian answers within seconds and Jiang Cheng takes a deep breath.

"Commander Zonghui." Jiang Cheng says. "I have pressing news."

Nie Zonghui nods.

"Have you taken control of the northern front?" He asks.

"We have." Jiang Cheng says. "However, we just learned that the prisoners they were keeping here have been transferred to a new location."

"Do you have any idea where?"

Jiang Cheng shakes his head.

"No but I can find out." He says. "In the meantime, we're going to need to reroute our troops to somewhere else."

"I understand." Nie Zonghui says. "We'll send reinforcements to pick you up."

Jiang Chengs nods before looking back at his brother. He thinks back to his conversation with Jiang Yanli on Coruscant and stops.

"There's good in him," She said, "I feel it. He's our brother, even now, and nothing in this galaxy will ever change that."

Jiang Cheng lets out a sigh.

"I'm staying." He says.

Nie Zonghui looks up at him.

"I thought you said it was a trap?" He asks.

"It is." Jiang Cheng says. "But Wen Xu doesn't know that we know that yet. It'll be easier for me and Lan Wangji to sneak into the real prison and rescue Nie Mingjue if they believe our efforts are still focused on the Wren Stronghold."

Nie Zonghui nods.

"It's a gamble but I'm willing to risk it." He says. "Are you positive that your source of information is correct?"

Jiang Cheng feels the weight of his brother's old lightsaber tucked inside his robes.

"I am." He says. "I trust them."

"Then I trust you." Nie Zonghui says. "Send us your coordinates as soon as you locate the prisoners."

"I will." He says.

Jiang Cheng turns off the transmission and heads back towards his brother.

"I'm going with you." He says.

Wei Wuxian stops.

"What?" He asks. "No you're not. You are going back home with Lan Zhan."

Jiang Cheng rolls his eyes.

"I can't make you go home and you can't make me leave." He says. "So this is what we're doing. I'm not letting you walk into this deathtrap all by yourself, it would be reckless."

Wei Wuxian shakes his head.

"You'll only slow me down." He says.

Jiang Cheng lets out a huff.

"Then we better get moving."

They wait until after Nie Zonghui's men show up to escort Jiang Cheng's soldiers out before leaving. Lan Wangji, Wei Wuxian, and Jiang Cheng move through the forest in silence, keeping their eyes forward as they make the journey east.

As the sun sets over the horizon Wei Wuxian looks up at the sky.

"We'll have to finish this tomorrow." He says. "Come on, let's set up camp."

Jiang Cheng and Wei Wuxian stay behind to start a fire while Lan Wangji catches dinner. Jiang Cheng looks over at his brother keeping their eyes low and shakes his head.

"A-Jie's coronation is next week." He says. "I'm sure she'd appreciate it if you were there."

Wei Wuxian looks up at him.

"So soon?" He asks.

"It couldn't be helped." Jiang Cheng tells him. "With mom and dad gone, Yunmeng is too fragile to be left without a leader."

Wei Wuxian nods.

"I see." He says. "I can't make any promises."

Jiang Cheng scoffs.

"Now that's an understatement."

Wei Wuxian falls silent and turns away as Jiang Cheng looks up at him and sighs.

"...We miss you." Jiang Cheng says. "I want you to come home, and so does a-jie."

Wei Wuxian shakes his head.

"I know." He says. "It's complicated, but I can't go back to Yunmeng right now."

Jiang Cheng looks up at him.

"Why?" He asks. "You were there for us on the frontlines of our battle against Wen Ruohan. So what happened? A-jie is concerned, she wants to know if you're alright."

"I am." Wei Wuxian says. "I'm just dealing with a lot right now. Look, I can't explain what's going on but I promise, once this is all over I will make it up to you. To both of you."

Jiang Cheng shakes his head.

"Does it have to do with your new…?"

Wei Wuxian looks down at his red lightsaber and nods.

"Yeah." He says. "Something like that."

Jiang Cheng glances down at the sith weapon.

"...Fine." He says. "I trust you."

Wei Wuxian looks up at him.

"A-Cheng, I-"

"But you can't just shut us out like that." Jiang Cheng says. "You can't disappear into a puff of smoke and expect us to be okay with it. We're your family, and whatever it is that you think you need to do we'll support you. But you have to trust us first."

Wei Wuxian nods.

"I know." He says. "Thank you A-Cheng. I'm sorry for…everything."

Jiang Cheng shakes his head.

"We're not the only ones that you hurt."

Jiang Cheng looks over in the direction that Lan Wangji left and Wei Wuxian sighs.

It doesn't take long for Wei Wuxian to find Lan Wangji. He stands out in the dark with his white robes kneeling next to a river. Wei Wuxian leans up against a tree and crosses his arms.

"Lan Zhan."

Lan Wangji looks up at him.

"Wei Ying." He says. "I thought you stayed behind."

"I did originally." Wei Wuxian says. "But I wanted to make sure you were alright."

They stand there in silence, not sure of what to say as they hold each other's gaze. Wei Wuxian reaches inside his robes and pulls out the jade pendant Lan Wangji gave to him.

"I've been meaning to give this back." He says. "Here, you can have it."

Lan Wangji shakes his head.

"It was a gift." He says. "You should keep it."

"That was before…" Wei Wuxian stops. "I don't think I'll be welcome at Cloud Recesses anytime soon."

He holds out the pendant and Lan Wangji looks up at him.

"You will always be welcome there." He says. "I want you to keep it."

Wei Wuxian holds his gaze for a moment before putting it away.

"I'm sorry." He says. "I wasn't there for you when you woke up. I wanted to make sure you were alright when you heard about Master Lan."

Lan Wangji nods.

"We've had time to grieve." He says. "Losing Uncle has been a difficult process. Brother and I, we're doing what we can to take our home back on Hoth."

Wei Wuxian reaches forward and grabs his hand.

"Your Uncle would be proud of you." He says. "If there's anything you need, anything at all, you can just ask."

Lan Wangji pulls his hand away.

"Wei Ying." He says. "I'm worried about you."

Wei Wuxian feels his heart grow dark and he shakes his head.

"There's no need to worry Lan Zhan." He says. "I have everything under control."

"But this darkness that you're wielding, it's dangerous." Lan Wangji says. "The Sith's methods of utilizing the force work to corrupt their users. I don't want you to-"

"Lan Zhan, can we not do this?" Wei Wuxian asks. "For just one night, can we pretend like everything is the same?"

Lan Wangji looks up at him.

"Promise me." He says. "Promise me that you can control it. That it won't corrupt you."

Wei Wuxian holds his gaze for a moment and nods.

"I promise."

Daylight breaks over the horizon as they pack up their things and finish the journey east. Over the snowy mountains they discover a Wen encampment surrounding what looks like a transmitter tower off to the side.

"Looks like you were right about them moving the prisoners." Jiang Cheng says. "But why protect the tower?"

Wei Wuxian shakes his head.

"My guess is that they're using it to intercept messages between you and your superior." He says. "Which would explain how they've been able to sabotage so many of Nie Zonghui's plans."

Lan Wangji glances down at the encampment.

"There." He says. "That's where they're keeping the prisoners."

He points towards a building where a large starship is parked. The soldiers are moving supplies inside with urgency, causing Wei Wuxian's eyes to grow wide.

"They're taking them off planet." He says.

Jiang Cheng shakes his head.

"Then we have to act now." He says. "I'll contact Nie Zonghui and let him know-"

"No!" Wei Wuxian stops him. "Did you not hear what I just said? You'll blow our cover if you contact him. If you want to rescue Nie Mingjue, you're going to have to take out that tower first."

Jiang Cheng lets out a huff.

"Fine." He says. "How do we do that?"

Wei Wuxian glances down at the encampment and nods.

"There's too many guards." He says. "I'll go down there and create a distraction so that you can sneak in."

"Create a distraction?" Jiang Cheng asks. "What exactly are you planning?"

Wei Wuxian shakes his head.

"You'll know it when you see it." He says. "Come on Jiang Cheng, do you trust me?"

Jiang Cheng looks up at his brother and sighs.

"Fine." He says. "We'll do it your way."

They move downwards towards the base and wait for Wei Wuxian's signal. Jiang Cheng glances over at Lan Wangji and watches his stoic face.

"You look nervous." He says.

Lan Wangji shakes his head.

"Not for the mission."

There's a loud bang off to the side and they look up to see one of the Wen's Walkers explode. The other's rush off to see what all the commotion is about before Jiang Cheng glances over at Lan Wangji.

They move forward towards the building, taking out any leftover guards before finding the control center. It doesn't take long to disable the tower as they look down to see reinforcements enter the camp.

"That's not good." Jiang Cheng says.

Rushing outside they find Wei Wuxian taking on a battalion of soldiers trying to mow him down. As soon as Jiang Cheng and Lan Wangji approach, Wei Wuxian glances over at them.

"Did you disable the tower?" He asks.

Jiang Cheng nods.

"So much for not blowing our cover!" He shouts.

Wei Wuxian shrugs.

"We just need to hold them off until reinforcements arrive." He says. "Come on, let's go."

They manage to fend off the remaining onslaught before breaking into the facility. The prison itself is makeshift enough that they don't have trouble locating the prisoners. Wei Wuxian holds out his hand and takes a deep breath.

"He's being kept in the last cell to the left." He says.

Jiang Cheng nods.

"Got it." He says. "Come on, there's no time to waste."

They turn to leave as Wei Wuxian stays put.

"You two go on without me." He says. "I'll catch up."

"You're not coming with us?" Jiang Cheng asks.

Wei Wuxian shakes his head.

"I need to go take care of something." He says. "Go, before it's too late."

Lan Wangji looks up at him like he wants to say something before Jiang Cheng throws him a glare.

"Alright." Jiang Cheng says. "Come on, let's go."

Lan Wangji hesitates before nodding.

It's as they're navigating the hallways that Jiang Cheng glances back at Lan Wangji.

"You don't have to worry about him." Jiang Cheng says. "He'll come back."

Lan Wangji looks up at him.

"Are you saying that because you are certain?" He asks. "Or because you don't know?"

Jiang Cheng shakes his head.

"...I'm saying it because I have to."

Lan Wangji doesn't respond, just keeps his eyes staring forward as they move through the building.

They find Nie Mingjue's cell hidden towards the back and Lan Wangji pulls out his lightsaber to cut through the lock. However, as soon as they open the door, the person they find bound in chains is not Nie Mingjue. Jiang Cheng's eyes grow wide as he recognizes the set of orange horns and black tattoos laying there in front of him.

"Wen Ning." He whispers.

Lan Wangji shakes his head.

"What is the meaning of this?" He asks.

A slow clap is heard from behind as they turn back to see a large Zabrak, leaner than his brother but no less menacing, approach. Wen Xu smiles as Jiang Cheng and Lan Wangji raise their weapons.

"Congratulations." Wen Xu says. "You found the prisoner. But wait, why the long face? Not the one you were looking for?"

"Where is Nie Mingjue?" Jiang Cheng asks.

"Oh wouldn't you like to know?" Wen Xu smiles. "Don't worry, I take great care of all my guests. Wouldn't you agree, Wen Ning?"

Wen Ning doesn't answer, causing Wen Xu to strike him in the ribs. Wen Ning doubles over, almost slipping on the blood gathered at his feet, as he lets out a cough.

"You'll answer me when I speak to you, traitor." Wen Xu sneers. "Don't make me look bad in front of our guests."

Jiang Cheng shakes his head.

"I don't have time to play your little games." He says. "Tell us where you're keeping the Mandalorian leader or I'll make you talk."

Wen Xu raises one eyebrow.

"Oh?" He asks. "That doesn't sound very Jedi of you."

Jiang Cheng narrows his eyes.

"I am no Jedi."

Wen Xu smirks.

"So I've heard." He says. "The Twin Prides of Yunmeng, fallen far from grace. Your brother is living in exile, while you sit comfortably in the lap of luxury. How does it feel to go from one master to another?"

Jiang Cheng raises up his lightsaber and strikes first. Wen Xu quickly deflects the attack and stands to the side.

"Did I strike a nerve?" He laughs. "What's the matter? Can't bear to hear the truth?"

"You leave my siblings out of this." Jiang Cheng sneers.

Wen Xu shakes his head.

"Like you left mine?" He asks. "Or have you forgotten? Do you know how it feels to find your own blood beaten to a pulp and slaughtered like a dog? Their head severed from their body and tossed aside like an animal? No Jiang Wanyin, I think this little game of ours is far too personal to remain civil."

Wen Xu pulls out a glowing red ax flowing with electricity.

"I shall return your brother's mercy a thousand times over with my own." He says. "And deliver your head at his feet before gutting your sister and destroying her planet."

He strikes forward towards him and Jiang Cheng blocks the attack. Lan Wangji moves to protect Jiang Cheng as they take the fight outside.

Wen Xu baits them as they follow him towards the exit. Jiang Cheng tries to land a good hit, but he's too fast. Whereas Wen Chao was blunt and headstrong, Wen Xu is quick and light on his feet.

Jiang Cheng just narrowly avoids a strike below his chin as Lan Wangji pushes the young Zabrak back. Wen Xu gathers his bearings before looking up at him.

"Lan Wangji." Wen Xu says. "I suppose an apology is in order. You were supposed to die that day alongside your Uncle. Allow me the honor of rectifying such a mistake."

Lan Wangji side steps his attack and raises up his weapon.

"You will answer for your family's crimes before the Republic." He says. "We will escort you to Coruscant ourselves."

Wen Xu sneers.

"The Republic." He says. "Just a bunch of self-important hypocrites who lust for power. How fitting that the Jedi would ally themselves alongside their lot."

"The Republic stands for justice." Lan Wangji says.

Wen Xu laughs.

"Justice?" He asks. "Where was that justice when the Nightsisters turned my Uncle into their puppet against his will? Or when they sent assassins to kill my mother in retaliation for his escape? No, the Republic only values self-preservation. And you wonder how my Uncle knew they wouldn't retaliate for his attack on Dathomir."

Wen Xu moves forward to strike before his hands stop short. They watch as he lets out a choked gasp and drops his ax. Jiang Cheng and Lan Wangji look back to see Wei Wuxian approaching with glowing red eyes as he glares at Wen Xu. He lifts him up by the throat into the air and tosses him across camp.

Wen Xu gasps as he looks up at the Sith Lord.

"Yiling Patriarch." He says. "I was wondering when you'd show up."

Wei Wuxian doesn't respond, his eyes filled with rage as Wen Xu laughs at him.

"Did you like my gift?" Wen Xu laughs. "That bastard cousin of mine was easy to catch. Even easier to get information out of."

Wen Xu moves to try and strike before Wei Wuxian kicks him in the ribs. Wen Xu lets out a cough before looking up at him.

"I know where you're keeping the rest of them." He says. "And once you kill me, my father will too."

Wei Wuxian shakes his head.

"Is that a threat?" He asks.

Wen Xu smiles.

"It's a promise."

Wei Wuxian stares down at Wen Xu for a moment before igniting his lightsaber.

"Then I guess I'll have to kill him too."

Wen Xu closes his eyes as Wei Wuxian raises up his weapon-

"Wei Ying!"

Wei Wuxian's hands stop short as he sees Lan Wangji approach.

"The battle is over." He says. "You don't have to do this."

Wei Wuxian shakes his head.

"So what?" He asks. "You just want me to let him go?"

"We will take him back to Coruscant." Lan Wangji says. "Have him stand before the Senate and face justice-"

"There is no justice!" Wei Wuxian states. "Not after everything his family has done!"

"So you will enact your own?" Lan Wangji asks. "Wei Ying, please, don't let this darkness consume you."

Wei Wuxian looks down at Wen Xu and sneers.

"I will bind you in the same chains that you put Wen Ning in." He says. "And you will have to live without the satisfaction of dying by my hands."

He turns to walk away as Wen Xu laughs.

"So this is the so-called ruthlessness of the Yiling Patriarch!" He shouts. "It's a wonder that my brother fell to your blade!"

Wei Wuxian ignores his comment as Wen Xu continues.

"My father will lay waste to this pathetic planet as well as everyone on it!" He shouts. "Just like we did the first time! And once we find my cousin, we'll have her strung up from our ship and made into an example for the entire galaxy to see!"

Wei Wuxian shakes his head as Wen Xu smirks.

"Or maybe we should keep her." He says. "Apparently she's very talented. Wen Ning told me all about how she helped you after Wen Zhuliu-"

His words get cut off as Wei Wuxian grabs him by the throat.

"I've changed my mind." Wei Wuxian whispers. "Since you want my attention so badly, here, you can have it."

Wen Xu's face goes from smug to scared as he struggles in Wei Wuxian's grasp. His skin turns pale as an aura surrounds him and Wei Wuxian's eyes burn brighter with rage.

Before either of them can do anything, Lan Wangji and Jiang Cheng watch Wei Wuxian fling Wen Xu into the tower before raising up his hands and striking him with lightning. The electricity pouring out of Wei Wuxian's fingers lights up the whole structure as Wen Xu lets out a blood curdling scream. The building explodes, and Wei Wuxian watches as the flames consume his body before turning back to face them.

Jiang Cheng stares at him in horror as Wei Wuxian walks forward.

"Nie Mingjue is safe." He says. "You should call your superior."

Jiang Cheng and Lan Wangji find Nie Mingjue freed but unconscious inside the building as Nie Zonghui's reinforcements arrive. They escort him onto the ship before looking back to see Wei Wuxian carrying an unconscious Wen Ning outside. Jiang Cheng walks up towards him as he exits the prison and looks down at the young Zabrak.

"How is he?" Jiang Cheng asks.

Wei Wuxian shakes his head.

"Just barely alive." He says. "It's a miracle he's still breathing. Wen Xu really took a toll on him."

"We can give him medical attention on Coruscant." Jiang Cheng says.

Wei Wuxian looks up at him.

"He's Wen Ruohan's nephew." He says. "The Republic will not accept him."

Jiang Cheng shakes his head.

"...Is that why you won't come home?"

Wei Wuxian holds his gaze for a moment before pulling away.

"...Here." He says. "If you or jiejie ever need me you can reach me on this."

He hands Jiang Cheng a transmitter before leaning down to grab Wen Ning.

"May the force be with you, Jiang Cheng."

Jiang Cheng doesn't respond, just stands there and watches as his brother disappears into the forest, neither one of them noticing Lan Wangji watching from a distance.

"You never know what life has in store for you."

Wei Wuxian sits alone at the front of his starship waiting to come out of hyperspace as he reads his mother's journal.

"I never thought I'd become a mother." He reads. "But I guess I also never thought I'd meet someone like Wei Changze. Funny how that worked out. One minute I'm consumed with grief over the loss of my master, the next I'm traveling the galaxy with the love of my life and an unborn child. I've never given much thought to the idea of a future, and yet, as of right now, it's all I can think about.

"I wonder what sort of galaxy our son will grow up in. And yes, I said son. Even now I can feel him, bursting with energy, impatient to get out here and explore with the rest of us. Just you wait little one, the stars aren't ready for you yet. And it's not just the stars, I'm nervous too.

"What sort of future will I be able to provide for our child? As a woman who could never settle down in one place, I worry that this lifestyle will not translate well into motherhood. I've never had a family before, just my master and Xiao Xingchen. How am I supposed to know how a mother acts when I have such little experience?

"Qingheng-Jun and his wife make it look easy. Their boy is a gift, and now Jiang Fengmian and Yu Ziyuan are expecting a little girl! I feel like I'm late to the party. Everyone else seems to know what to do and how they want to do it. But all I know right now is that I'm scared. I don't want to mess this up. I've already made so many mistakes in my life, I don't want this child to regret having me as a mother.

"Wei Changze has been a saving grace throughout this entire process. He calms my nerves and reassures me that everything is going to be alright. When I feel like the stars are spinning all around me, there he is, my loving anchor pulling me back onto this floating ship. He tells me stories of our future, so bright and promising, I can't wait to see it. And I'm sure our son will feel the same. There's no telling where this life will take us. I hope wherever it is, our child will flourish."

The ship slows to a halt as they come out of hyperspace and Wei Wuxian looks up to see the red planet looming overhead. He puts down his mother's journal and grabs the controls, preparing to land.

They fly across a small settlement on Dathomir as Wen Qing lowers the shields. As soon as he parks the ship she resets the defenses and runs up to greet them.

Her eyes scan his face for any signs of distress.

"Where is he?" She asks.

Wei Wuxian shakes his head.

"He's not well."

The moment Wen Qing lays her eyes on Wen Ning she falls to her knees. His face is swollen, covered in welts and bruises from Wen Xu's beatings, and several of his horns have been sawed off. His breath is so faint there's barely any oxygen entering his lungs.

She slowly reaches towards him with shakey hands as she holds his face.

"...He's still breathing." She whispers.

Wei Wuxian nods.

"Just barely." He says. "I should've gone in there sooner. I'm sorry."

She shakes her head.

"Don't be." Wen Qing says. "You brought him back home. Words can not express how grateful I am right now."

Wei Wuxian looks down at her.

"I'll do everything I can to wake him up."

She takes a deep breath.

"You don't owe me anything anymore, Wei Wuxian." She says. "My family is safe and my brother is home. Your debt is paid."

Wei Wuxian places one hand on her shoulder.

"My debt is not paid until your brother wakes up." He says. "Besides, there's something you need to know."

She looks up at him.

They transport Wen Ning inside their cave and lay him down on a large table. Wen Qing holds out her hands as a green mist surrounds them and whispers a series of chants.

"Sisters," She summons. "Grant me your strength."

A glowing green light surrounds them as her spell comes to life. She looks up at Wei Wuxian and shakes her head.

"It doesn't matter if Wen Ruohan knows that we're here." She says. "He won't attack, that much I know."

"Why?" Wei Wuxian asks.

"Wen Ruohan holds a deep hatred for this planet." She says. "He wouldn't want to come back here on a good day. But the Burial Mounds in particular hold a special meaning to him. He believes it's cursed."

Wei Wuxian raises one eyebrow.

"It's cursed?" He asks. "Is that true?"

"No." She says. "This place is a cemetery for fallen Nightsisters. As long as you respect their graves nothing bad should happen to you."

"So why does he think it's cursed?" He asks.

Wen Qing sighs.

"When he was younger my Uncle was paid by a pirate to desecrate one of the graves." She says. "He thought the money would help him start a new life. But when he went to go open the Nightsister's tomb…"

Wei Wuxian nods.

"Nothing good?" He asks.

"No, nothing good." Wen Qing tells him. "After that night the other Nightsisters knew what he did and forced him into servitude to pay for his crime. He eventually escaped, but his debt to the Nightsisters had not been repaid. They sent assassins to kill him and his family in retaliation but he was just barely able to escape with his two sons. His wife on the other hand didn't make it."

Wei Wuxian shakes his head.

"Let me guess." He says. "He tried to get the Republic to intervene and nothing happened?"

She nods.

"And now we all pay the price." Wen Qing says. "I'm sorry."

Wei Wuxian looks up at her.

"You are not at fault for your family's mistakes." He says. "We will find a way to make this right, together."

She glances down at his lightsaber.

"Has it gotten any worse?" She asks.

Wei Wuxian shakes his head.

"No, but he's getting stronger." He says. "I can feel it."

She purses her lips.

"How long has it been since you spoke with him?"

Wei Wuxian glances towards the hallway leading further down the cave.

"...A few days."

She takes a deep breath.

"Be careful." Wen Qing tells him. "We don't know what we're dealing with yet."

He looks up at her.

"I know."

The pathway leading forward is shrouded in darkness, just as it was the day Wei Wuxian found it. He comes across a large room with a broken doorway and places his lightsaber in the middle of it.

The weapon deconstructs itself until all that remains is a blood red crystal. Its menacing bright glow emanating off the walls as it illuminates the room.

"Welcome back, my dear apprentice."

Wei Wuxian looks up at the crystal.

"You lied to me." He says.

The crystal laughs.

"Oh dear." It says. "What did I lie about this time?"

"You said that I wasn't ready to perform a life-drain on someone." Wei Wuxian says. "That it was beyond my capabilities."

The crystal hums.

"A slight miscalculation." It tells him. "You've grown stronger these past few months. Stronger than anyone else I've ever trained."

Wei Wuxian raises one eyebrow.

"So you've trained others?"

The crystal laughs.

"Curious, aren't you?" It asks. "Yes, there were others. Young and impressionable scholars who came to me seeking power. All of them, failures. Weak, indispensable morons who didn't have what it takes to achieve greatness."

Wei Wuxian shakes his head.

"And I do?" He asks.

"Time will tell." The crystal says. "There's a darkness in your heart, one that grows stronger with every morsel of power that you feed to it. You can feel it can't you?"

Wei Wuxian places one hand on his chest.

"You told me that this darkness is a gift." He says. "That it's your power flowing through me that grants me access to the dark side."

"But it would not work if you could not wield it." The crystal says. "Your anger, your rage, they make you stronger. As long as you allow me to gain access to this fury, you will become more powerful than you could ever imagine."

Wei Wuxian thinks back to Wen Ning upstairs, beaten and bloodied, fighting for his life.

"Strong enough to wake the dead?" He asks.

The crystal laughs.

"Strong enough to destroy death itself."

Jiang Yanli stands alone on a balcony overlooking Coruscant. She clutches the transmitter Jiang Cheng gave her and takes a deep breath. The sound of footsteps behind grabs her attention as she turns to see a familiar face approach. Gold robes and a cinnabar mark on the middle of their forehead come into view as she greets her former fiancé.

"Jin Zixuan." She says. "What are you doing out here?"

Jin Zixuan shakes his head.

"Pardon my intrusion." He says. "The rest of the Senate were looking for you."

She nods.

"My apologies." Jiang Yanli says. "My mind has been rather preoccupied lately. I seem to have lost track of time."

Jin Zixuan glances up at her.

"Are you alright?" He asks. "Not that it's any of my business, but you seem distracted."

She tucks the transmitter away.

"It's nothing." She says. "I'm just worried about my brothers."

Jin Zixuan nods.

"Jiang Wanyin will return." He says. "If he's even half the warrior that people say he is then I have no doubt he will be fine."

She shakes her head.

"He's not just a warrior." Jiang Yanli says. "He's my brother, and I worry for him. For both of my siblings."

Jin Zixuan looks up at her and hesitates before stepping forward.

"Perhaps I phrased it wrong then." He says. "If they're anything like their sister, they should be fine."

Her face heats up as he says this and she shakes her head.

"And why would you say that?" She asks.

He blushes.

"Because you are a force to be reckoned with."

Her heart skips a beat as she looks up at Jin Zixuan. This is the man who she was engaged to, who she was content to spend the rest of her life with had life not worked out the way it did. He's handsome, if not a little tall, but not imposing like she thought he'd be. No, he seems kind, like someone she might have learned to get along with over time.

Like someone she might have even chosen.

The door opens behind them and a young woman comes rushing forward.

"Jin Zixuan!" She states. "The meeting is starting! Both you and Senator Jiang are being summoned!"

Jiang Yanli's eyes turn towards the young woman and she pulls her hands back.

"Then we should get going." She says.

Jin Zixuan nods.

"O-of course." He says. "We'll be right there, Mianmian."

They enter the Senate floor to find the room in chaos. Representatives shout over one another as tensions rise amongst the Outer Rim. The Supreme Chancellor stands there in the middle of all of it, his face calm but eyes filled with worry.

"Something has to be done about Wen Ruohan!"

"Our forces are too scattered! We're being slowly picked off!"

"We need an army! One the entire Republic can stand behind!"

The shouting grows louder as they stand there to the side unsure of what to do. Jiang Yanli steps forward amongst the chaos and takes the floor.

"Perhaps you're right." She says. "The Republic has been far too content to stand by and allow Wen Ruohan to take control of whatever he wants. We need to find a way to fight this threat together."

Senator Ouyang scoffs.

"The Republic has never stood under a single military presence in history." He says. "Not even the Supreme Chancellor has jurisdiction to call for such a ludicrous idea."

"Then maybe he should!"

The room falls silent as a familiar low voice booms out. They all turn to see Nie Mingjue step forward, supported by his brother and Jiang Cheng.

"A-Cheng." Jiang Yanli whispers.

Nie Mingjue takes the floor.

"I know some of you may not be taking this threat seriously." He says. "Afterall, for most of you this is just an Outer Rim dispute. But trust me when I say that Wen Ruohan will not stop with the Outer Rim. He will burn down everything and everyone until the Republic is nothing more than ashes beneath his feet."

A cold chill runs through the air as they let his words sink in.

"Wen Ruohan is counting on us to be divided." Nie Mingjue states. "He knows this Senate's weakness is its own division. But when we work together to fight back against his arrogance, there is little he can do to stop us."

Nie Mingjue glances over at Jiang Yanli.

"I have Senator Jiang to thank for my life." He says. "Were it not for her assistance, I'd still be locked up in a jail somewhere off planet."

Jiang Yanli shakes her head.

"The pleasure was all mine." She says. "I'm glad to see you back in good health."

He nods before turning back to face the Senate.

"Wen Ruohan thinks we are weak!" He shouts. "He sees us as nothing more than pathetic floating rocks roaming through the galaxy. Well, I say that if Wen Ruohan wants to consider himself brighter than the sun, we will simply have to shoot him down!"

There's a cry of support at his words as people lean forward.

"I propose we grant emergency powers to the Supreme Chancellor!" Nie Mingjue shouts. "So that we may form an army so great, it will put Wen Ruohan back in his place once and for all!"

The Senate rises to their feet.

"We second this motion!"

"Let us all stand together!"

"We stand with Mandalore!"

Chancellor Guangyao raises one hand and nods.

"I see we are all in agreement." He says. "Alright then, I accept this motion. Let it be known that I will establish an army across the galaxy to protect our people and take down Wen Ruohan. Once the war is over I will relinquish these powers in the name of the Republic."

The crowd cheers as Jiang Yanli glances over at her brother, not noticing the sinister smirk that Chancellor Guangyao is throwing his way.

The Sunshot Campaign begins.

Jiang Cheng turns to see his sister from across the room and rushes towards her. She pulls him into her arms and hugs him as the worry built up in her shoulders melts away.

"I'm so glad you're alright!" She says. "How did it go? Are you hurt? When did you get back?"

Jiang Cheng pulls away.

"I'm fine a-jie." He says. "I came out unscathed. We just got back now."

She shakes her head.

"I got so worried when you didn't call." She says. "Nie Huaisang has been keeping me updated on the mission. Why did you go dark for a couple of days?"

"It's complicated." Jiang Cheng says. "Things got a little out of control. I'll tell you all about it but first, a-jie, there's something I need to tell you."

She looks up at him.

"What is it?" She asks.

He takes a deep breath.

"I saw Wei-"

"There they are!"

Jiang Cheng turns to see Chancellor Guangyao make his way towards them. He tucks the transmitter Wei Wuxian gave him away and straightens up his back.

"Senator Jiang," Chancellor Guangyao says, "Jiang Wanyin, we are honored to have you here safe and sound."

Jiang Yanli nods.

"Thank you Chancellor." She says. "We're lucky to have your support in this fight against Wen Ruohan."

"Well we couldn't just ignore it." He says. "The Republic needs to prove they are better than that. A feat we may be able to accomplish should we follow in your footsteps, Senator Jiang."

Jiang Yanli smiles.

"You're too kind." She says. "Any success we've had in this war should be attributed to my brother. He's been the one out there putting his life on the line."

"That's actually what I came here to talk to you about." The Chancellor says. "Do you mind if I borrow your brother for a bit?"

She looks up at them, and hesitates.

"...Of course." She says. "You'll meet me on the patio when you're done, right A-Cheng?"

Jiang Cheng looks in between the two of them and nods.

"Y-yeah." He says. "I'll be right out there."

She squeezes his hand before turning to leave.

"Come along." The Chancellor says. "Let's go for a walk."

They end up wandering down the hallway towards a large corridor with sunlight pouring in.

"I was hoping to ask you for advice." Chancellor Guangyao says. "Afterall, you've managed to best Wen Ruohan's forces not only once but twice. As I attempt to form this Sunshot Campaign, I am going to need all the assistance that I can get."

Jiang Cheng raises one eyebrow.

"And you want me to help?" He asks.

The Chancellor smiles.

"You're a capable man, Jiang Wanyin." He says. "Something that has not gone unnoticed by the Republic. You and your sister have proven to be pivotal in this fight against Wen Ruohan."

"But I'm not a soldier." Jiang Cheng says. "I don't have the experience or the skills to command a battalion of troops."

The Chancellor shakes his head.

"Yet you've won in both battles where others would've failed." He says. "I consider this to be ample experience."

Jiang Cheng turns away.

"Thank you for the offer." He says. "But my priorities lie with Yunmeng."

"And they'll stay with Yunmeng." Chancellor Guangyao says. "But the Republic needs leadership moving forward. I believe your sister is a strong candidate, with you as her ward leading the war effort."

Jiang Cheng looks up at him.

"Really?" He asks. "But what about the Jedi? I'm sure the Council has plans to step forward."

The Chancellor sighs.

"Unfortunately the Jedi Council remain steadfast in their neutrality." He says. "Their interests are more aligned with the investigation of a rising sith lord, one you may be familiar with."

Jiang Cheng feels the weight of his brother's transmitter tucked away and shakes his head.

What will the Jedi do to Wei Wuxian after the war? Will they persecute him? Lock him away after deeming him a threat? All those years of training under their care, could they really be persuaded to turn on him so easily?

"...After the war," Jiang Cheng asks. "If we were to take the lead in this opposition, would it be possible to request for someone to be pardoned?"

Chancellor Guangyao nods.

"Of course." He says. "Afterall, the Republic would be in your debt."

Jiang Cheng hesitates for a moment before he takes a deep breath.

"I'll do it." He says. "I'll lead your armies."

The Chancellor smiles.

"I'm looking forward to our partnership."

The war goes on for months, with both the Jedi and the Republic fighting back against Wen Ruohan. After many unsuccessful attempts, Lan Xichen and his brother are able to take back their home on Hoth and reclaim the Cloud Recesses. The rebuilding effort takes weeks, and as the dust settles around them, the Jedi Council pushes for someone to take over their Uncle's position.

But neither one of them wants to talk about that right now. Lan Xichen refuses to bring up the conversation while Lan Wangji isolates himself in the East Library. Whispers echo through the halls as people wonder what will happen to the famous Ice Jades.

"I heard he's obsessed with destroying the Yiling Patriarch."

"His brother won't even let him leave the grounds."

"Can either one of them ever live up to their Uncle's legacy?"

Lan Wangji ignores the gossip as he makes his way over. The scattered remains of what little research he was able to salvage in the middle of the chaos lay tattered and burned there on his desk. He hears footsteps from behind and looks back to find Lan Xichen watching him.

"Are you looking for these?" He asks.

Lan Wangji glances down at the stack of papers his brother is holding out.

"...How did you find them?" He asks.

Lan Xichen smiles.

"Master Wei's work is invaluable to our archives." He says. "It would be a shame to let it go up in flames."

Lan Wangji nods.

"Thank you brother." He says. "You didn't have to do that."

Lan Xichen hands him the papers.

"Of course I did."

Lan Wangji holds the research close to his chest as his brother steps forward.

"I hate to pull you away from your studies." Lan Xichen says. "But do you mind going on a walk with me?"

Lan Wangji nods.

They find themselves amongst the trees in what little is left of the forest. Large frost covered foliage towers over them as they make their way forward.

"I noticed since we got back our mother's pendant has gone missing." Lan Xichen says. "I have to assume it is still in the possession of Master Wei?"

Lan Wangji doesn't say anything and Lan Xichen sighs.

"It's alright." He says. "I know why you gave it to him."

Lan Wangji looks up.

"You do?" He asks.

Lan Xichen nods.

"I'm glad you did." He says. "If it wasn't for that pendant, he never would've found you that day."

They come to a halt in front of the cave where Lan Wangji hid with the younglings. The water surrounding the entrance is still frozen as they enter the clearing.

"Do you know why father gave mom that pendant?" Lan Xichen asks him.

Lan Wangji shakes his head.

"The Republic put a bounty on her." Lan Xichen explains. "She was on the run with nowhere to hide when our father found her. They had already met before, during the war, when she tried to kill him."

Lan Wangji looks up at him.

"She tried to kill him?" He asks.

Lan Xichen nods.

"She was hired to take him out." He says. "Although, for some reason, she decided not to. When our father ran into her again, he remembered that act of mercy, and offered her his help. At first she didn't trust him, but after proving himself time and time again, mom finally came around.

"They came to the Cloud Recesses looking for safety, but father knew the Jedi Council would never allow her to stay. So he constructed this forest, and tied it to his connection to the force. Afterwards he found a jade stone, and carved it into a pendant before giving it to her. The forest was built to protect our mother, and the jade pendant was made to always find each other.

"When we were born the forest recognized us, and it protected you from harm the way our father would've that day. The pendant on the other hand, I believe that was our mother guiding Master Wei to find you."

Lan Wangji pauses for a moment before looking up at him.

"Father did everything he could to protect our mom." He says. "And it still wasn't enough."

Lan Xichen shakes his head.

"No." He says. "It wasn't."

Lan Wangji looks down at the assembly of mismatched notes in his hands and clutches them.

"...I can't give up." He says. "I won't abandon him."

Lan Xichen lets out a sigh.

"I know." He says. "That's what makes me worried."

He turns to walk away as Lan Wangji glances up at him.

"Is that why Uncle couldn't leave?" Lan Wangji asks. "Because of this forest?"

Lan Xichen stops and turns to face him.

"Uncle's dedication to his family was always his first priority." He says. "Everything he did was to protect us."

Lan Wangji walks up towards him and places one hand on his shoulder.

"But it wasn't just father who made this forest, was it?" He asks.

Lan Xichen looks up at him and shakes his head.

"No." He says. "It wasn't."

They stand there for a moment and look up at the gentle fall of snow. Lan Wangji folds the handful of notes his brother gave him and puts them away.

"Whatever choice you make, I will support you." Lan Wangji tells him. "But I am drawn towards that pendant just as much as our father was."

Lan Xichen smiles.

"It's not just the pendant though." He says. "It's something else."

Lan Wangji thinks back to the image of silver eyes flashing red and nods.

"Mn." He says. "It is."

The coronation ends up being pushed back in favor of the war. Jiang Yanli doesn't mind, in fact, it gives her time to catch her bearings.

With Jiang Cheng spending more time on Coruscant it's really just been her all alone. She spends her days going over legislation and scheduling meetings with other senators, but it's hard for her to look forward to these sessions. At least it used to be before she met Jin Zixuan.

Despite their broken engagement, the two of them have gotten close these past few weeks. He encourages her to speak out when others put her down, and she pushes him to pursue legislation that he feels is important. Their time together has already caused members of the Senate to speculate, but even if her feelings have come to the surface that doesn't mean she wishes to presume how he feels.

Besides, they're both dealing with a lot right now. There are more important things for them to worry about than matters of the heart.

But as she looks down at the lotus brooch that he gave her last week, she can't help but wonder…

Is it really too much to hope?

There's a knock on the door and Jiang Yanli looks up to see Nie Huaisang standing there watching her.

"Hello Senator." He says. "Or should I wait until after the ceremony to call you that?"

She shakes her head.

"It's good to see you again, Nie Huaisang." She says. "Come in, I'll serve us some tea."

"No need." He says. "I was just checking up on you before the festivities tonight."

She smiles.

"Thank you, Master Nie." She says. "That's very kind of you."

He sits down at her desk and hands her a fan.

"I painted it myself." He says. "It took me a while to truly capture the beauty of your lakes, but I trust you will inform me if I got it wrong."

She looks down at the delicately crafted gift and runs her hand over the image. The lake Nie Huaisang painted is almost a perfect rendition of the one outside their gates. She tears up at the gesture and smiles.

"It's beautiful." She says. "I don't know what to say."

"Don't say anything then." He tells her. "Just promise me you'll have it on you tonight during the coronation."

She looks down at the mention of tonight's ceremony and Nie Huaisang raises one eyebrow.

"What's wrong?" He asks. "Shouldn't you be excited? Today is your big day."

She looks up at him.

"...I don't know how to feel right now." She says. "My parents both died not even a year ago and I am still fighting in the war that killed them. I haven't seen my brothers in months, we've only just barely finished rebuilding, and I'm supposed to stand there in front of the entire planet and pledge my lifelong devotion to them. How do I know that I won't just mess things up? I'm not a leader, I never was."

Nie Huaisang looks up at her.

"Have I ever told you the reason why I don't wear my family's armor?" He asks.

She shakes her head.

"It's a point of contention between me and my brother." He says. "One that he still struggles to understand, but has since come around to. You see, when we were younger, I was really bad at fighting. The weapons were too heavy, my arms were always sore, and I just did not have a taste for it.

"Da-ge tried to help me in any way he could, but it was no use. He was everything a Mandalorian should be, and I was not. However, after our father died, he needed someone to help him lead. I watched as the clans united under his banner, but when it came down to the Republic, he was lost.

"A-Yao helped us with those first few years, but once he left I knew that someone else would have to fill that role. I don't really know why I did it, but I remember taking the Senate floor one day. I tried to give them my proposal, but someone told me they couldn't hear what I was saying because of the helmet.

"So I took it off. Strangely enough, it was only after I had discarded my armor that I felt like I was ready for war. I got us what we needed that day, and the next time that I took the senate floor, I wore my robes. I've never felt more like a warrior than I do when they're on."

He places one hand over the fan.

"My armor is not made from beskar." He says. "I forged it by myself, for the battles I had to fight. You'll forge your own too, I can already see it now."

She shakes her head.

"How will I know that it's forged?" She asks.

Nie Huaisang smiles.

"You'll already be wearing it."

"I used to hate change."

Wei Wuxian waits beneath an old oak tree as a large procession of legislators makes their way through Yunmeng. Politicians from all across the galaxy traveled here today to celebrate his sister, and the locals are enjoying the huge show they're making in the process. He shakes his head at the grandiose carriage the Jins are arriving in and goes back to reading through his mother's journal.

"The day Wei Ying was born was the most terrifying day of my life." He reads. "I knew that it was coming, I'd been looking forward to it for months, and yet the moment that I saw my water break I was petrified with fear. Wei Changze rushed me to the nearest medical bay, and I spent an agonizing twelve hours in labor. I felt like I was being split open, the doctor said we almost didn't make it.

"But after all of that, there he was. I saw Wei Changze cradling him in his arms, and the nurses asked me if I wanted to hold him. I almost didn't, I was scared. This was my child, my son, what if I failed him? How could I look him in the eyes and know whether or not I was worthy of being his mother? I felt the doubt rushing through my head as they placed him in my arms.

"And then I held him, and in that moment, the world just fell away. Wei Ying rarely ever cries, but when he does make noise, he giggles. I catch him playing with his dad more than he does with all his toys. Sometimes, when we're cruising on the ship, I'll place him on my lap and he'll just sit there chewing on my hair until we make it out of hyperspace. With every passing moment, he brings a new form of joy into our lives that I never knew existed.

"Jiang Fengmian has been very helpful with this process, but it was Yu Ziyuan that gave me some really good advice. She showed me how to hold Wei Ying properly, and reminded me to stay off my feet the first few weeks after giving birth. I laughed as she berated me for trying to take a job only two days later, but in some strange way I think she cares.

"There's been no word from Qingheng-Jun or his wife these past few months. I'm starting to get worried about him and his family. It's getting harder and harder to stay in touch. I hope that Lan Qiren isn't too overwhelmed with his new duties at the Cloud Recesses. If he ever needs help he can always ask, although, I can't imagine a scenario in which he would.

"Xiao Xingchen was very happy to meet Wei Ying, but he couldn't stay for long. He's just been promoted to Jedi Master alongside his friend, Song Lan. They look very happy together, and the Jedi lifestyle seems to have suited him well. Despite this, my heart still aches. I miss my precious shidi. I feel like I just blinked and now he's all grown up. I hope that doesn't happen to Wei Ying, I want him to stay small forever.

"As I'm writing this now he keeps trying to steal my pen. Wait your turn little one, you'll write your own story one day. I guess that's my cue to put this kid to bed. I hope he has nothing but pleasant dreams tonight."

"How long are you staying?"

Wei Wuxian's heart stops as he looks up to see Wen Qing watching him.

"Wen Qing!" He huffs. "You can't just sneak up on me like that."

She rolls her eyes.

"So?" She asks. "Are you going to stay for the whole ceremony or head back after she's crowned?"

Wei Wuxian shakes his head.

"I just want to see her." He says. "I always knew this day would come, I just thought I'd be there in the crowd. Uncle Fengmian was supposed to crown her, like his father did before him."

Wen Qing nods.

"She was also supposed to be married to Jin Zixuan by now." She says. "And you should've been a Jedi Master with your brother."

Wei Wuxian lets out a huff.

"I guess you never really know what life has in store for us." He says.

The sound of trumpets ring through the air as they look up to see Jiang Yanli make her way forward. The crowd cheers as they see her approach and Wei Wuxian takes in his sister's elegance from afar.

He remembers the last time they saw each other, how he promised he'd come back home with Jiang Cheng and Madam Yu. It feels like a lifetime ago that he's had the privilege of even speaking to his sister.

She looks beautiful, the perfect image of her father's gentleness and mother's intensity. The crowd stares at her in awe as she makes the first stretch of her walk back to Lotus Pier.

"Well?" Wen Qing asks. "Are you sure you don't want to stay?"

Wei Wuxian watches as his sister turns her head in his direction, and for a moment it feels as if she can see him. Like she knows that he's there. And yet, in that same split moment, she looks away.

"Of course I want to stay." He says. "But that doesn't mean I can."

He looks up at Wen Qing and smiles.

"Let's go." He says. "Your brother is waiting for us."

She hesitates before nodding, neither one of them noticing the way that Jiang Yanli's eyes turn towards them, as if she realized they were there.

Jiang Cheng stands there in front of a mirror as he waits for his sister to come back. Once she finishes her march across the capital they will gather inside Lotus Pier and start the ceremony. He looks up at his reflection and scrutinizes his clothes. The only fancy outfit he has are his old jedi robes. They're plain, but comfortable, something he could wear during training and classes.

There's a knock on the door and he looks up to see his old Jedi Master, Song Lan, standing there waiting for him.

"Jiang Wanyin." He says. "You look well."

Jiang Cheng nods as he looks up at his former teacher.

"Hello Master." He says. "Is it alright if I still call you that?"

Song Lan nods.

"Of course you can." He says. "You were my padawan, afterall."

Jiang Cheng winces as he says this and Song Lan walks forward.

"How has Yunmeng been treating you?" He asks.

"It's been nice." Jiang Cheng says. "Although, I feel like I spend more time on Coruscant than I do on Yunmeng."

Song Lan raises one eyebrow.

"Coruscant?" He asks. "What are you doing there?"

Jiang Cheng looks up at him.

"The Chancellor asked me for my advice in regards to the war." He says. "I'm one of his most trusted advisors regarding the Sunshot Campaign."

Song Lan shakes his head.

"A war counselor?" He asks. "I thought you left the Jedi Order to protect your sister?"

"I am protecting a-jie." Jiang Cheng says. "The only way we'll ever be safe is if we put an end to Wen Ruohan. After everything he did, we can't let him go free."

Song Lan lets out a sigh.

"Jiang Wanyin." He says. "Revenge is not the Jedi way."

Jiang Cheng lets out a huff.

"Then I guess it's a good thing I'm not a Jedi."

Song Lan doesn't say anything, just glances down at his old padawan's lightsaber hanging by Jiang Cheng's hip.

"...How is your brother?" Song Lan asks.

Jiang Cheng straightens up.

"He's fine." He says. "He's been helping us, from afar."

Song Lan purses his lips and Jiang Cheng looks up at him.

"...He isn't a threat." Jiang Cheng says. "The Jedi Council doesn't need to investigate him."

"That was not my decision." Song Lan says. "Xiao Xingchen was the one that decided to put that motion into action."

Jiang Cheng's eyes grow wide.

"Xiao Xingchen?" He asks. "His old master?"

Song Lan nods.

"It isn't ideal." He says. "But we must do what is necessary to keep the peace."

Jiang Cheng shakes his head.

"Wen Ruohan devastates the galaxy, burns down the Cloud Recesses, and murders my parents, but it's Wei Wuxian that disturbs the peace?"

Song Lan takes a deep breath.

"I don't expect you to understand-"

"Understand!?" Jiang Cheng shouts. "I understand that the Jedi Council is full of cowards! They would rather attack my brother who is trying to help instead of fighting in this war!"

"The Jedi are not soldiers." Song Lan says. "They are peacekeepers."

Jiang Cheng scoffs.

"Look at how peaceful you've kept the galaxy."

Song Lan looks down at him glaring and sighs.

"I see my presence is not welcomed here." He says. "Excuse me, I will make myself sparse."

Jiang Cheng watches as he closes the door behind him and leaves. As soon as he's alone Jiang Cheng takes a deep breath and sighs.

He's never yelled at his Master like that. This is the same man that trained him everyday, taught him everything he knows, and Jiang Cheng just kicked him out like it was nothing. He didn't even look mad, just, disappointed.

He shouldn't have lost his temper like that. Song Lan was the first person to truly advocate for him when he joined the Jedi Order. He believed in him when no one else would, and never looked down on his poor attitude or quick temper. This isn't how he wants to leave things between them.

There's a knock on the door and Jiang Cheng rushes over to open it, ready to apologize, before he realizes it's not his master standing there, but instead Chancellor Guangyao.

"Hello Jiang Wanyin." The Chancellor says. "I hope you don't mind me stopping by early, but I wanted to deliver a gift."

He holds out an ornate box and Jiang Cheng looks down at it.

"Thank you for your kindness." Jiang Cheng says. "But a-jie won't be here for a while."

The Chancellor smiles.

"This isn't for her." He says. "Although, don't worry, I brought a suitable gift for your sister as well."

Jiang Cheng raises one eyebrow.

"Then what is this?" He asks.

"It's for you." The Chancellor says. "A show of gratitude for all the hard work you've done."

Jiang Cheng's eyes grow wide as he opens the box and finds a new set of robes sitting inside. They're dark purple silk with a series of lotuses embroidered along the hem. He runs his hands over the design and shakes his head.

"I don't know what to say." He says.

"Then don't say anything." The Chancellor tells him. "I hope you like them. I asked your sister for your measurements. I thought they'd be suitable for the celebration tonight."

Jiang Cheng looks down at his old Jedi robes and nods.

"...I suppose you're right." He says.

The Chancellor looks up at him.

"Is something wrong?" He asks. "You seem…distracted."

Jiang Cheng thinks back to his outburst against Song Lan and sighs.

"...Have I compromised my values by joining the war?" He asks. "When I left the Jedi Order, did I not also betray them and the years of training they put into me?"

The Chancellor raises one eyebrow.

"Do you have doubts?" He asks. "Is fighting back against Wen Ruohan no longer an act of justice?"

Jiang Cheng shakes his head.

"That's not what I meant." He says. "I spoke to my master just now, and he said something that made me stop. The Jedi pride themselves on being peacekeepers, and as a result they're not able to participate in the war. Perhaps I was too fast to judge?"

Chancellor Guangyao nods.

"Perhaps." He says. "But then again, does the maintenance of peace require turning a blind eye to tyranny? Does it require complacency instead of conflict when dealing with an adversary? Despite what your old master might say, the Jedi are not above violence to defend what is theirs."

Jiang Cheng turns away from him and Chancellor Guangyao sighs.

"Your parents were perhaps the best at maintaining this balance." He says.

"They were?" Jiang Cheng asks.

Chancellor Guangyao nods.

"Your mother in particular always impressed me." He says. "I remember watching her in the Senate, fierce and relentless to those who looked down on her. She was a true leader, and everyone could see it."

The Chancellor looks up at him.

"I see a lot of herself in you." He says.

Jiang Cheng's eyes grow wide.

"Really?" He asks. "I don't really remember much about her. I was taken by the Jedi Order when I was young."

"Too young, some would say." The Chancellor states. "I know she did. The day they took you to the temple she took to the senate floor and demanded your return. There was little they could do though, as the Jedi Council is outside of the Republic's control. But she never stopped fighting for you, afterall, you were her son."

Jiang Cheng thinks back to the last memory he has of his mother. How she held him tightly in her arms as the Jedi pried him away.

"Perhaps your old master is right." The Chancellor says.

Jiang Cheng looks up at him.

"Meaning?" He asks.

"The Jedi are not soldiers." The Chancellor states. "They do not fight in wars, nor do they get involved in political affairs. But you are no jedi."

The crowd outside grows louder as they turn to see Jiang Yanli make her way towards the gates. The Chancellor places one hand on Jiang Cheng's shoulder and gestures towards the robes.

"You are Jiang Wanyin." He says. "A son of Yunmeng, chosen by the council to lead all of us to victory."

Jiang Cheng allows his words to sink in as the Chancellor turns away.

"You'll have to excuse me." He says. "But I must return to the party. I look forward to seeing you and your sister at the ceremony."

Jiang Cheng nods, and as soon as he's alone he looks down at the robes Chancellor Guangyao gave him.

He chose to leave the Jedi Order, to stand beside his sister in the name of Yunmeng, and to fight alongside the Republic. Every choice he's made, every sacrifice, has led him here to this very moment.

Could he really say he regrets it? No. But does he have doubts…?

Jiang Cheng looks down at his old lightsaber, his last connection to the Jedi Order and his brother. After all the choices that he's made, where has Wei Wuxian been? He didn't even show up tonight, Jiang Cheng would know, he would sense him.

But he doesn't feel Wei Wuxian.

He doesn't feel anything.

Jiang Cheng turns to see his mother's lightwhip sitting off to the side. He hasn't touched it since his outburst. He slowly walks towards it and picks up the hilt.

This weapon is powerful, filled with a history of bloodshed and rage, but it weighs almost nothing in his hands. He never got to see his mother wield it, and yet, it feels at home resting in his grip.

Jiang Cheng puts his own lightsaber down and changes into the new robes, placing the lightwhip on his belt before he turns to enter the party.

"A toast!" Jin Guangshan cries out. "To the beautiful, and diplomatic Jiang Yanli!"

The crowd cheers as Lan Wangji watches from the side.

He was surprised to learn that both him and his brother had received an invitation to Jiang Yanli's coronation. Lan Xichen reminded him of his time with Jiang Wanyin searching for Wei Wuxian, and how Senator Jiang was grateful for his efforts in the search party.

He didn't need an invitation as a show of gratitude for that. He would searched to the ends of the galaxy to find Wei Wuxian. He still would.

He will.

But he can't do that while he's stuck here. Lan Wangji didn't really want to participate in tonight's festivities, but his brother reminded him that a certain someone might show up. Part of him realizes that this was wishful thinking, but the other part of him dares to hope.

So much for hoping.

The only people present here tonight are a handful of "important" Senators acting far too drunk for men of their station. Right now Jin Guangshan has his arm wrapped around Chancellor Guangyao, raising his fifth toast of the night to Jiang Yanli.

"I always knew Senator Jiang would follow in her parents footsteps." Jin Guangshan laughs. "You know, I was herfirst supporter on the senate floor."

The Chancellor smiles.

"Yes, I recall." He says. "Senator Jin, you and her father once held a close relationship, yes?"

Jin Guangshan nods.

"Of course we did!" He shouts. "Jiang Fengmian was one of my closest friends."

"Then are you eager to see this relationship persist into the next generation?" Chancellor Guangyao asks. "I hear your son and Jiang Yanli have grown quite fond of each other."

Jin Guangshan huffs.

"Oh, that boy." He says. "Don't even mention my son's stubbornness to me right now. I've already pushed him to re-establish the engagement between those two, but he won't budge."

Lan Wangji looks up to see Senator Jiang standing off to the side with her brother. Jin Zixuan watches from afar, a softness in his gaze directed towards her that Lan Wangji recognizes. It's one that he finds himself familiar with all too well.

"I'm sure you'll get through to him." Chancellor Guangyao states. "Why don't we go for a walk?"

Jin Guangshan nods and they watch as the two diplomats turn away from the table.

"A-Yao and Jin Guangshan have always been close." Lan Xichen states. "I wonder how the war has affected their relationship."

Lan Wangji looks up at him.

"The Banking Clan has ties with the Supreme Chancellor?" He asks.

Lan Xichen nods.

"Jin Guangshan nominated A-Yao for the role years ago." He explains. "He used to work for him as an advisor. A-Yao was grateful for the position, but he never told me why. I have to imagine that with the cost of their army, the Republic and the Banking Clans have only gotten closer."

Lan Wangji glances over at the Chancellor and Jin Guangshan speaking with one another before they run into Jiang Wanyin. As soon as they see the former Jedi, Chancellor Guangyao focuses all his attention on him while Jin Guangshan runs off to go flirt with one of the servants.

"Jin Guangshan uses the Chancellor for power." Lan Wangji states. "And the Chancellor uses Jin Guangshan for money. If their relationship is built on what they want from one another, then what does he gain from his relationship with Jiang Wanyin?"

Lan Xichen shakes his head.

"That isn't true." He says. "I've known A-Yao for a long time, he is the most generous person I've ever met. There are no ulterior motives in his heart."

Chancellor Guangyao gestures for Jiang Wanyin to accompany him towards another group, separating him from his sister. Something about the way that his smile never meets his eyes sends a shiver down Lan Wangji's spine.

"I'm not so sure about that."

The partygoers enjoy themselves as Jiang Yanli stands to the side, overseeing all of the festivities. People raise their cups and toast to her while they get drunk off of wine and music.

Jiang Cheng was supposed to stay by her side and help her manage everything, but the Chancellor pulled him away to talk about the war. Jiang Yanli can't complain, Chancellor Guangyao has been incredibly generous to them in these trying times. But she feels as if she's losing her brother, and she doesn't know what to do.

Jiang Yanli clutches the fan that Nie Huaisang gave to her and sighs. She can do this, she just needs to breathe.

"Focus." Her mother's voice rings out. "Don't let your guard down."

Jiang Yanli's eyes grow wide.

Where did that voice come from? Why did it sound so much like her mother?

"Excuse me." She hears someone say. "I was wondering if you would like to dance?"

Jiang Yanli turns to see Jin Zixuan standing there with his hand outstretched.

"T-that would be great." She says. "Thank you."

He leads her towards the middle of the dancefloor and she allows him to take the lead. Jin Zixuan looks down at her face and sees the anxiety painted in her eyes.

"Are you alright?" He asks.

She nods.

"I think I'm just tired." She says. "All of the people and the crowds is just a little overwhelming. We've never had this many visitors in Lotus Pier before."

Jin Zixuan smiles.

"Well you're doing an excellent job of maintaining it." He says. "My father likes to throw large soirees like this at Koi Tower all the time. These sorts of parties can get a little out of control."

"I guess your father is quite the socialite." She says.

Jin Zixuan glances up to see Jin Guangshan flirting shamelessly with a group of women and sighs.

"It's not to socialize." He says. "But I've grown used to it over the years."

Jiang Yanli looks up at him.

Something about the way the stars are sparkling overhead fills her heart with whimsy as she stares at Jin Zixuan and smiles.

"Do you want to get out of here?" She asks.

Jin Zixuan shakes his head.

"What?" He asks. "Where would we go?"

"Anywhere." She says. "Come on, let's sneak out."

Jin Zixuan stares at her, in shock, before nodding his head.

"Alright." He says. "Lead the way."

Lan Wangji walks through Lotus Pier while the people outside party. His brother went off to go speak with Nie Mingjue, leaving him alone to wander.

Trying to escape all the noise, he comes across a large room filled with books and a desk. He has to imagine this is where Jiang Yanli's office is. Glancing around the space he sees a locked wooden box off to the side and walks towards it.

Something about the contents hidden inside calls to him and he shakes his head. This item must be old, perhaps from Jiang Fengmian's time, as it beckons. Lan Wangji waves his hand over the lock and opens it to find a letter folded neatly inside.

"For Wei Ying." It reads.

Lan Wangji's eyes grow wide as he reads this and he hears a pair of voices from outside growing closer. Lan Wangji shuts the box before ducking behind a pillar.

Chancellor Guangyao and Jiang Wanyin make their way inside. Lan Wangji glances around the room, looking for an escape, when they start talking.

"It's a shame what the Jedi Council is trying to accomplish with this investigation." Chancellor Guangyao says. "I wish there was more that I could do, but it's out of my control."

Jiang Wanyin looks up at him.

"Do the Jedi Council not answer to the Republic?" He asks.

"Afraid not." The Chancellor states. "Although we hold a great relationship with one another, the Jedi and the Senate are two separate entities. They have been for very a long time."

Lan Wangji watches how Chancellor Guangyao circles Jiang Wanyin with a cold and calculating look.

"So what's going to happen to Wei Wuxian if they decide to take action first?" Jiang Wanyin asks.

The Chancellor sighs.

"It might be too late for me to do anything." He says. "Afterall, there are folks out there who think I already overstep my boundaries."

Jiang Wanyin shakes his head.

"Then they're wrong." He says. "Perhaps it might be time to consider holding more jurisdiction over the galaxy."

The Chancellor smiles.

"I couldn't agree more."

Lan Wangji feels a chill run down his spine at just the thought.

The Jedi are not soldiers for the Republic to use. Wielding such power with little concern over what that could mean for the rest of the galaxy, he's not sure that he trusts it. Lan Wangji worries what might happen if Chancellor Guangyao gets his hands on Wei Wuxian first.

He won't let that happen.

Lan Wangji sneaks out of the office with the letter he found tucked away inside his robes. Eventually he discovers a large room with Jiang Wanyin's stuff scattered on the ground and holds out his hand to see if he can sense the communicator Wei Wuxian gave him.

He feels a familiar call, a pull towards the back, and Lan Wangji discovers the transmitter sitting there beside Jiang Wanyin's lightsaber. He picks it up and holds it in his hand, determined to succeed in this mission before anyone else does.

He needs to find Wei Wuxian.

Jiang Yanli and Jin Zixuan wander through the streets as people celebrate the coronation. Music pours through the air as people cheer and drink, making Jiang Yanli smile at the crowd.

"We used to hold big festivals like this when I was a kid." She says. "I would beg a-niang to let me come down here and celebrate but she would always say no. My father liked to take me out and watch the fireworks towards the end, and sometimes we'd buy a gift on our way back to try and mitigate her anger."

Jin Zixuan smiles.

"It's lively." He says. "We don't have large gatherings like this back home."

She raises one eyebrow.

"I thought you said that your father threw lavish parties all the time?" Jiang Yanli asks.

Jin Zixuan shrugs.

"Yeah, but those are more for his own enjoyment than they are for anybody else." He says. "I can't remember the last time we just wandered up and down the streets like normal people."

She looks up at him and smiles before grabbing his hand.

"Come with me." She says.

Jin Zixuan lets Jiang Yanli guide him through the crowd before they come across a large temple sitting at the top of a hill.

They climb the stairs of the empty building as she guides him towards a balcony overlooking the city. His eyes grow wide as he takes in all the lights glistening off the lakes and sighs.

"This…is amazing." He says. "I can't believe you get to live with this view."

She smiles.

"This is nothing." Jiang Yanli tells him. "Just wait."

They look upwards towards the sky as a series of fireworks go off and a glittering design of pyrotechnics light up the night. Jin Zixuan's eyes grow wide as he takes in the sight and he hears her giggle to the side.

"What?" He asks.

"Nothing." She says. "It's just, you'd think this was the first time you've ever seen fireworks."

He looks back out towards the city and nods.

"It is." He says.

Jiang Yanli's eyes grow wide.

"Oh." She says. "I'm sorry I didn't know-"

"It's alright." He says. "It is a bit strange, isn't it? My mother was always very protective of me growing up, never letting me step one foot outside of Koi Tower. And my father, well, he never really cared about what I did one way or another."

He looks back out towards the city.

"But this…" he says, "this is why we fight. All these people, alive and well, celebrating openly and happily in the streets, it's all because of you."

Jiang Yanli feels a slight blush rise up to her cheeks and she turns away.

"I wouldn't say that." She says. "None of these people really know who I am. In their minds I'm just the continuation of my parents legacy. I worry that I'll never be half the leader that they were."

Jin Zixuan turns towards her and reaches forward.

"Look out onto the streets." He says. "Yunmeng was a planet ravaged by war no less than a year ago. You're the one that brought it back to life. None of these people would be here today without you. They are your legacy."

Her eyes grow wide and she looks up at him.

"Jin Zixuan." She says. "Do you really mean that?"

He nods.

"Of course." Jin Zixuan says. "No one in this galaxy shines as bright as you."

Jiang Yanli holds his gaze for a moment before leaning forward and placing a soft kiss on his lips. They linger there for a moment before she pulls away.

"I'm sorry." She says. "I just-"

He captures her lips and Jiang Yanli wraps her arms around his neck, pulling him in closer. They stumble backwards into the building as Jiang Yanli fumbles with his robes. Jin Zixuan pulls away for just a moment and stops.

"Are you sure?" He asks.

Jiang Yanli nods.

"Yes." She says. "More sure than I've ever been about anything."

He smiles and leans in to capture her lips as she melts under his touch. The night goes by as the people outside celebrate the beginning of a new era. Meanwhile, in the quiet calm between two souls, a newfound love is born.

"There is no light without shadows, and there are no shadows without light.

"Wei Ying has been struggling to fall asleep lately, so I've been staying up late reading to him. One story in particular has caught his interest, the same one my master used to tell me when I was a child.

"A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, there were two siblings with a deep connection to the force. The daughter held a love for all things full of life. Her connection to the force was full of warmth, flowing all around us in a way that breathed hope into the galaxy. The son, her brother, liked to stay in the shadows. He embodied everything that fell into the darkness. His connection to the force was cold but powerful, filled with anger and decay that devoured all that he could get his hands on.

"Their father held them in balance for years, maintaining the peace by keeping them apart. However, one day he disappeared, and no one was around to stop them from confronting one another. The siblings began to fight for the soul of the galaxy. Their battle raged on through many centuries, and many lifetimes.

"However, as much as they fought, they could never truly destroy one another. The daughter loved her brother, she wanted to protect him, and the son hated his sister, but couldn't let her go. They went on like this for a millennia, until one day they decided to put their pain aside and live together in peace. That is why there is no light without shadow, and there are no shadows without light. Balance within the force will always depend on this peace.

"I never understood that story. If the brother truly hated his sister why wouldn't he try to get rid of her? And how can a person whose entire existence is threatened by one person still find a way to love and care for him? I remember my master smiling and shaking her head when I asked these questions, telling me that I simply was too young to understand.

"I'm older now, and yet I still don't understand. But it puts Wei Ying to sleep, so maybe that's all it's meant to do. I wonder what my master would've thought of Wei Ying. I can imagine her pinching his cheeks as he squeals in her lap, a huge smile on his face as he plays with his grandmaster. I'm sure she would've loved him, almost as much as his parents do."

"Wei-gege." A tiny voice calls out. "What are you reading?"

Wei Wuxian turns back to see A-Yuan staring over his shoulder from his piggyback ride.

"It's my mother's journal." He says. "You told me you wanted to hear the story I used to listen to as a kid."

A-Yuan smiles.

"Did you find it?" He asks.

Wei Wuxian nods.

"Yup." He says. "I'll tell you all about it once we get home."

A-Yuan lets out a groan.

"I want to hear it now." He says. "Are we almost done shopping?"

"Almost." Wei Wuxian says. "We just need to pick up some meilooruns for Uncle Four and then we'll be on our way."

A-Yuan nods.

"Alright." He says. "I'll keep an eye out."

Wei Wuxian smiles as the four year old toddler descends from his back until he sees the necklace A-Yuan's wearing almost get dislodged.

"Careful A-Yuan!" He says. "You don't want to lose this."

They stand still as Wei Wuxian adjusts the talisman.

"Why do I have to wear this whenever we go shopping?" A-Yuan asks.

"I already told you." Wei Wuxian says. "It's to make sure that nobody recognizes you're a Zabrak."

A-Yuan shakes his head.

"What happens if people find out that I'm a Zabrak?" He asks.

Wei Wuxian sighs.

"Nothing good." He says. "Now come on, the sooner we find that fruit the sooner we can go home."

A-Yuan nods.

They wander through the market in Yiling Outpost while Wei Wuxian listens to the merchants gossip.

"They got married in less than a month!"

"Well they were engaged before the war."

"And now a baby is on the way? I think something happened between those two."

Wei Wuxian shakes his head as he tries to ignore the speculation.

He can't believe he wasn't there for Jiang Yanli's wedding. Even if it was to that pompous asshole from Koi Tower, he wanted to support her. And now the idea of a baby on the way just makes his head spin.

But he can't go home yet, not while Wen Ruohan is still out there. He needs to finish what he started, before it's too late.

"Is that what you think?"

Wei Wuxian stops as he hears the crystal's voice enter his head.

"You think once this war is over everything will just go back to the way it was?" The crystal asks. "You'll run home to your loving siblings and hang up your lightsaber like nothing ever happened? Don't be absurd. You're way too far gone to pretend like that place is still your home."

"Shut up." Wei Wuxian says. "Get out of my head."

The crystal laughs.

"Poor little jedi." It says. "You're the one that invited me in."

"Get out!" Wei Wuxian shouts.

The people on the streets stop and stare at him while Wei Wuxian shakes his head.

He's never been able to hear the crystal outside of the cave. In fact, it shouldn't be able to speak to him outside of Dathomir. What does this mean? Is his control over the dark side getting stronger? Or, is the crystal growing stronger over him?

Wei Wuxian takes a deep breath.

"Sorry about that A-Yuan." He says. "Come on, let's go."

He reaches down to grab the toddler's hand, only to find he isn't there. Wei Wuxian's eyes grow wide as he glances around the market.

"A-Yuan?" He asks. "A-Yuan! Where are you!?"

He rushes through the stalls, trying to catch a glimpse of the tiny child, before he hears the sound of A-Yuan crying down the road. Wei Wuxian turns towards the source to find A-Yuan clutching onto the legs of a familiar handsome face dressed in white robes.

There, standing in the middle of the street, is Lan Wangji.

He looks lost, unsure of what to do, as little A-Yuan grips onto his legs. Wei Wuxian hasn't seen Lan Wangji since the siege on Krownest. Just the sight of his old friend is enough to make Wei Wuxian stop, but now, he can't help but hold pity in his heart for the Second Twin Jade.

A group of onlookers whisper to each other as they watch the scene play out.

"Must be a first-time father."

"Why doesn't he just pick him up?"

"Won't even buy him a meiloorun."

Wei Wuxian shakes his head.

"Lan Zhan!" He shouts. "Over here!"

Lan Wangji's eyes grow wide as he sees Wei Wuxian approach.

"Wei Ying." He says. "You're here."

Wei Wuxian nods and leans down to pinch A-Yuan's cheeks.

"What did I say about running off?" He asks. "Don't you know how scared I was? You're lucky you ran into the Second Twin Jade and not some monster who wants to gobble you up."

A-Yuan turns towards him and sniffles.

"I just wanted to buy a meiloorun." He cries. "But I didn't have any money. So I asked rich-gege to help me and he said no."

Wei Wuxian shakes his head.

"Wow Lan Zhan." He says. "I didn't know you could be so heartless."

Lan Wangji looks down at him.

"I was only concerned about where his parents were." He says. "Had I known he was with you I would've brought him back immediately."

Wei Wuxian smiles.

"Did you hear that A-Yuan?" He asks. "This rich-gege just wanted to make sure you got home safe. Why don't we thank him with a hearty meal?"

Lan Wangji shakes his head.

"You don't have to-"

"It's my treat." Wei Wuxian says. "Besides, how often do we get to enjoy a moment of peace like this between the two of us?"

Lan Wangji hesitates for a moment before nodding.

"Mn." He says. "I guess you're right."

"I usually am." Wei Wuxian says. "Funny how that works."

Lan Wangji rolls his eyes, and for a brief moment Wei Wuxian forgets. He forgets about the burning of the Cloud Recesses, his defection to the dark side, or the raging war not two sectors away from this outpost.

At this moment, right now, they're just two friends who never got the chance to reconnect after school. A-Yuan is just another kid, full of life and love, that doesn't have to worry about disguising himself as human should people target him for being a Zabrak. They both have happy homes and loving families waiting for them afterwards, and it is incredibly peaceful.

It makes him long for a normal he knows they never had.

The three of them enter the restaurant and order a round of food as A-Yuan wanders between the two of them with a smile on his face.

"Wei-gege." A-Yuan says. "Can we bring back some lotus cakes for Auntie Qing before we leave?"

Wei Wuxian shakes his head.

"Only if we can afford it." He says. "If not we'll try and bring back something else."

Lan Wangji looks up at him.

"If money is an issue I can pay." He says.

"Don't worry about us, Lan Zhan." Wei Wuxian says. "Everybody is a bit short on credits nowadays. Most folks around here are pretty understanding."

Lan Wangji nods.

"You visit this outpost often?" He asks.

Wei Wuxian smiles.

"It was the first place I liberated from Wen Ruohan on my own." He says. "That's why they call me the Yiling Patriarch. Funny, with how much time I've spent on other planets, you'd think they would've updated the name by now."

Lan Wangji rolls his eyes.

"It isn't safe to frequent the same place over and over again." He says. "I thought you were in hiding."

"I am." Wei Wuxian tells him. "Which begs the question; how did you find me?"

Lan Wangji holds his gaze for a minute before pulling out a transmitter.

"Jiang Wanyin needs to be more mindful of his surroundings." He says.

Wei Wuxian stares at him in shock before bursting out laughing.

"You stole that from my brother!?" He asks. "That's amazing Lan Zhan!"

Lan Wangji's ears turn pink.

"I was worried about you." He says. "It isn't safe to have your location so easily compromised."

Wei Wuxian shakes his head.

"My location has already been compromised." He says. "First by Wen Ruohan and now by you. I guess I'm not very good at staying hidden in the shadows."

Lan Wangji's eyes grow wide.

"Wen Ruohan knows where you are?" He asks. "Then why haven't you moved?"

"Because he won't attack." Wei Wuxian says. "Trust me, our base is the safest place from Wen Ruohan at the moment."

Lan Wangji looks up at him and Wei Wuxian smiles.

"What?" He asks. "You don't believe me?"

Lan Wangji turns away.

"It's not that." He says. "But I have good reason to believe that it's not just Wen Ruohan you should be worried about."

Wei Wuxian looks up at him and sighs.

"Why don't I show you?" He asks.

Lan Wangji raises one eyebrow.

"Show me what?"

"Show you our base." Wei Wuxian says. "Let you see for yourself how safe it is."

Lan Wangji hesitates before he glances over at A-Yuan.

"...I don't want to intrude." He says.

Wei Wuxian reaches forward and grabs Lan Wangji's hand.

"I insist." He says. "Besides, you've come this far. How rude would it be for me to turn you away now."

Lan Wangji looks down at the spot where their hands are interlocked and nods.

"Mn." He says. "I will go."

Wei Wuxian smiles.

They ride back to Dathomir as Lan Wangji trails behind, moving past the defensive barrier and landing near the village. He watches Lan Wangji's eyes grow wide once A-Yuan takes the talisman off and their little orange horns come into view.

"Who is his mother?" Lan Wangji asks.

Wei Wuxian shakes his head.

"Isn't it obvious?" He asks. "I birthed him myself."

Lan Wangji throws him a glare and Wei Wuxian laughs.

"I'm just messing with you." He says. "I found A-Yuan with the rest of Wen Qing's family on Iridonia. They were being held captive by Wen Ruohan as leverage for the war. Once Wen Qing defected he publicly executed A-Yuan's parents in retaliation. She still hasn't forgiven herself for letting that happen."

Lan Wangji sees Wei Wuxian's eyes grow somber and he places one hand on his shoulder.

"It's not your fault either." He says. "This war has taken plenty from all of us."

Wei Wuxian looks up at him.

"I wish I could believe that." He says. "Maybe one day I will."

They hear shouting down the road and Wei Wuxian looks up to see Granny Wen approaching.

"Master Wei." She says. "What are you doing out here at the shipyard? Come in, and bring all those groceries you were supposed to pick up."

Wei Wuxian smiles.

"Alright Granny." He says. "I'll be there in a minute."

She nods before turning back to face Lan Wangji.

"And you brought a guest!" She exclaims. "Where are my manners? It's good to meet you Young Master. We don't usually get visitors around here."

Lan Wangji nods.

"Nice to meet you." He says. "My name is Lan Wangji, I am a friend of Wei Ying."

"How wonderful!" She smiles. "Well you're welcome to join us for dinner tonight. We're getting everything set up right now."

Wei Wuxian shakes his head.

"Lan Zhan was just going to take a quick look around and head out." He says.

Granny Wen waves her hands.

"Oh that won't do." She says. "You must stay and join us for dinner, I insist."

Wei Wuxian opens his mouth to say something before Lan Wangji nods.

"I would be glad to." He says. "Thank you."

She smiles before gesturing them forward.

"Well come along." She says. "Uncle Four has been waiting anxiously for those meilooruns."

They watch her walk a small distance ahead before Wei Wuxian turns towards Lan Wangji.

"You don't have to stay." He says. "I'm sure they'd understand if you have to head back to the temple."

Lan Wangji looks back at him.

"The temple can wait." He says. "Besides, how often do we get to enjoy a moment of peace like this between the two of us?"

Wei Wuxian smiles as his words get thrown back in his face.

"Alright then." He says. "Let me show you around."

They walk through the settlement, greeting members of Wen Qing's family from Iridonia as he shows Lan Wangji the Burial Mounds. A-Yuan catches them taking a tour of the grounds and climbs onto Lan Wangji's back, insisting he help.

Lan Wangji is saddened to hear what these people have been through at the hands of their own family. He can't imagine the horrors that Wen Ruohan has inflicted upon them in order to get back at Wen Qing. That, mixed with the fact that Zabrak's aren't welcome by the Republic nowadays, they have been put into a terrible situation.

And yet, here they are, making the best of their circumstances on this abandoned planet. Lan Wangji sees Wen Qing stalking them from the shadows, keeping a close eye on him, but he does not mind. Lan Wangji would be cautious too if he were her.

They welcome him at their table and turn to poke fun at Wei Wuxian as dinner is served.

"Where have you been hiding this nice young man from us Master Wei?" Granny Wen asks. "How rude of you to keep such a handsome guest hidden away from the rest of us."

The family members laugh as Wei Wuxian's face turns red.

"Granny, you know we can't have people visiting all the time." He says.

"Oh but I miss having visitors." She says. "Master Lan, you must promise me you will make the effort to come down here and check up on the rest of us every once in a while."

Lan Wangji nods.

"I will try." He says. "Thank you for opening your home to me."

Uncle Four laughs.

"We've never hosted a Jedi before." He says. "Except for this one over here. I was suprised to learn you lot have manners."

Wei Wuxian huffs.

"I have manners." He says. "You just don't see me use them very often."

Uncle Four turns towards Lan Wangji.

"Young Master, do us a favor and be a good influence on him." He says. "You seem to me like you have a good head on your shoulders."

Wei Wuxian shakes his head.

"Alright that's enough wine for you." He says. "Come on, I'm cutting you off."

The table bursts into laughter as Wei Wuxian and Uncle Four bicker. Lan Wangji watches as the family chats, breathing life onto this desolate planet where there used to be none. A-Yuan makes his way over to Lan Wangji's seat and places himself in his lap.

"Rich-gege?" He asks. "Can you stay here with us tonight?"

Wei Wuxian watches as the two interact.

"Mn." Lan Wangji says. "If it is alright with your family."

A-Yuan smiles.

"Yay!" He exclaims. "Granny, did you hear that? Rich-gege is going to stay here tonight!"

Granny Wen nods.

"That sounds wonderful." She says. "We don't have much space, but perhaps you can stay with Master Wei in his cave?"

Wei Wuxian lets out a cough.

"Ah, Lan Zhan, you really don't have to-"

"I don't mind." He says. "If that is alright with you?"

Wei Wuxian's face turns red and he nods.

"Yeah, no, of course." He says. "You're more than welcome to stay."

Lan Wangji smiles and he turns to see Wen Qing glaring at him from a distance. She turns to walk outside and Lan Wangji follows.

As soon as they're alone she turns towards him and stops.

"Why are you here?" She asks.

He looks up at her.

"I was worried about Wei Ying." Lan Wangji says. "I wanted to make sure he was alright."

She shakes her head.

"The Jedi Council could care less about our safety." She says. "I'm guessing they didn't send you?"

"No." He says. "No one else knows that I'm here."

She places her hands on her hips.

"They will." Wen Qing says. "Nothing escapes Wen Ruohan nowadays, not even you."

Lan Wangji pauses.

"...It's not Wen Ruohan I'm worried about."

She raises one eyebrow.

"What do you know?" She asks.

Lan Wangji hesitates for a moment before pulling out the letter.

"The Republic is harboring a dark secret."

Wei Wuxian watches from a distance as Lan Wangji and Wen Qing speak. He can't make out what they're saying, but whatever it is they're talking about it must be important.

Wei Wuxian makes his way inside the cave and sees Wen Ning laying there, still struggling to stay alive. He and Wen Qing have been doing their best to wake him up, but some of the internal damage that he suffered is just too severe. The most they can do is keep him in this comatose state while they stabilize his vitals.

Wei Wuxian shakes his head, he wishes he could do more.

"You can." The crystal says. "The only question is, whether or not you are willing to try."

Wei Wuxian feels a cold chill run down his spine as he looks down at his lightsaber.

"Stop that." He says. "How are you able to speak to me like this?"

"The apprentice still has much to learn from his master." The crystal says. "As your connection to the dark side grows stronger, so does my connection to you. Despite all that it has given you, you still fear this power."

Wei Wuxian shakes his head.

"That isn't true." He says. "I'm not scared of the dark side."

The crystal laughs.

"Then why do you hold back?" It asks. "You know as well as I do that if you wanted to, you could wake that boy up right now."

Wei Wuxian glances over at Wen Ning, reaching forward with shakey hands, as if they're being guided by somebody else.

"Go on then." The crystal says. "Wake him up."

Wei Wuxian shakes his head, his heart beating out of his chest as he takes a deep breath and-

"Wei Ying?"

Wei Wuxian turns to see Lan Wangji approaching and quickly lowers his hands.

"Lan Zhan." He says. "Sorry, I was just…"

Lan Wangji glances over towards Wen Ning and nods.

"Mn." He says. "I see. How is he?"

Wei Wuxian shakes his head.

"...Not good." He says. "Wen Xu really did a number on him. He hasn't woken up in months."

Lan Wangji looks up at him.

"He will wake up." He says. "That much I know."

Wei Wuxian crosses his arms.

"No lecture this time?" He asks. "I thought for sure you'd say something about having him treated at the temple."

Lan Wangji shakes his head.

"He doesn't need the temple." He says. "He has you."

Wei Wuxian's heart skips a beat and he watches Lan Wangji turn around to take in his working station.

"Is this what you've been busy with?" He asks. "Protecting these people?"

Wei Wuxian nods.

"No one else was going to do it." He says. "I couldn't just leave Wen Qing to fend for herself, not with the entire galaxy on her tail."

Lan Wangji looks up at him.

"It's admirable." He says. "They are good people."

Wei Wuxian smiles.

"They are." He says. "Although, they can get a bit rowdy sometimes. I hope our dinner tonight wasn't too noisy for you."

Lan Wangji shakes his head.

"Of course not." He says. "It's been a while since I've had a family gathering like that."

Wei Wuxian raises one eyebrow.

"You used to have family gatherings like that?" He asks. "No offense, but, I just can't imagine your Uncle shouting and laughing over dinner."

Lan Wangji smiles.

"Not my Uncle." He says. "My mom."

Wei Wuxian stops as Lan Wangji says this and he turns to face him.

"When I was a child she would fill the dinner table with laughter and joy." Lan Wangji says. "I remember trying to imitate my Uncle by staying silent the whole meal. She liked to pinch my cheeks in retaliation, trying to get me to open up."

Wei Wuxian looks up at him.

"She sounds like a wonderful person." He says. "You've never really told me much about your mother."

Lan Wangji nods.

"I suppose I haven't." He says. "I haven't really spoken about her since…"

Wei Wuxian feels the tell tale weight of the pendant Lan Wangji gave him and he walks foward.

"Back at the Cloud Recesses, your brother said something to me." He says. "He told me that this pendant used to belong to your mother."

Lan Wangji nods.

"Mn." He says. "It did."

Wei Wuxian shakes his head.

"Then why did you give it to me?" He asks.

Lan Wangji looks up at him.

"My father carved that pendant out of a jade stone he found in the Frozen Forest." He says. "It served as a way to protect my mother should anything happen. It also served as a way to help him find her should she ever get lost."

Wei Wuxian looks up at him.

"Your father must have loved your mother very deeply." He says.

Lan Wangji nods.

"He did." He says. "Everything he did, he did to save her. And then one day, she got sick."

Lan Wangji turns away from him.

"The only medicine that worked came from the Central Rim." Lan Wangji explains. "In order to construct the Frozen Forest my father tied his connection to the force on Hoth, keeping him trapped there for eternity. No one else in the Cloud Recesses was allowed to help us."

Wei Wuxian looks up at him.

"No one…but your Uncle?"

Lan Wangji nods.

"He tried to get the medicine back in time." He says. "But he was too late. Afterwards my father fell into a state of disrepair, and he followed her into the next life."

Wei Wuxian shakes his head.

"Lan Zhan." He says. "I'm so sorry."

Lan Wangji looks up at him.

"The forest was never finished." He says. "That's why my Uncle completed it, to protect me and my brother."

Wei Wuxian thinks back to that day, the gut-wrenching feeling he had as they left Lan Qiren to escape. How he wanted to turn back and drag him onto the ship, but knew in his heart that they just didn't have enough time. The wave of cold air that rushed over him as he felt Lan Qiren's life fade from the galaxy still haunts him to this day.

"I wish I had been there for you when you woke up." Wei Wuxian says. "I'm sorry."

Lan Wangji shakes his head.

"Do not apologize." He says. "Between you and me, there is no need for 'thank you' and 'sorry'."

Wei Wuxian looks up at him.

"You can't mean that Lan Zhan." He says. "Not after everything I've done."

Lan Wangji grabs his hand.

"I do." He says. "I mean every last word."

Wei Wuxian stares up at him, their faces only a hair's breadth apart, as he takes a deep breath.

"Why did you come looking for me?" He asks. "Why waste all that time trying to track me down?"

"I was worried about you." Lan Wangji says.

Wei Wuxian shakes his head.

"Why?" He asks. "Why would you, or anyone else for that matter, fear for the Yiling Patriarch's safety?"

Lan Wangji stares down at him for a moment before reaching forward.

"Because I love him."

Wei Wuxian closes the distance between them and captures his lips. He feels Lan Wangji wrap his arms around him, pulling him in closer and further deepening the kiss. Wei Wuxian pulls away for just a moment and looks up into those golden eyes.

"The Jedi forbid attachments." He tells him.

Lan Wangji nods.

"...But they do not forbid love."

The first rays of sunlight hit Dathomir as Wei Wuxian wakes up to find Lan Wangji's ribbon still wrapped around his wrist.

He looks up at Lan Wangji's handsome face and brushes the hair out of his eyes. Their clothes are still left scattered on the floor as a result of their activities from last night, and for the first time in months, he feels safe.

Wei Wuxian turns his eyes towards the discarded lightsaber he put down and shakes his head.

Perhaps, there is still hope.

"Is that what you think?"

Wei Wuxian's eyes grow wide as the crystal's voice enters his head.

"Pretty little thing, isn't he?" It asks. "I wonder how long it will take for you to ruin him."

Wei Wuxian sits up in bed and pulls on his inner robe.

"What are you doing?" He asks. "Get out of my head."

"I already told you." The crystal says. "You're the one that invited me in."

Wei Wuxian walks towards the lightsaber.

"You're not welcome anymore." He says. "Not here, not now."

The crystal laughs.

"You can't honestly believe that this boy is your saviour?" It asks. "I thought I taught you better than that. Think with your head, boy. He's a jedi, and a good one at that. What are you? An empty husk of Sith Lord, constantly consuming, constantly destroying."

Wei Wuxian picks up the lightsaber.

"Can't you see?" The crystal asks. "You've already begun to tarnish him."

The room grows dark and Wei Wuxian looks up to find himself back in that cave where he first found the crystal. The lightsaber hilt is gone, and all that remains is the red glow of his crystallized master.

"You will ruin him." It says. "Just like you ruin everything else. From your family to your lover, you were born for destruction. What do you think will happen when he realizes the truth? How you emptied yourself into a shell of a man, only to allow my darkness to take hold inside of you."

Wei Wuxian shakes his head.

"You don't know anything!" He shouts. "Get out of my head!"

"He will abandon you." It says. "Just like your brother. Just like your sister! Just like your master!"

"Shut up!"

"Just like your parents!"

"Get out!"

"Just like your mother!"

"I said get out!"

Wei Wuxian strikes the wall as the crystal's voice echoes inside his head and he takes a deep breath. He's no longer in the cave, back safe inside his room with Lan Wangji stirring in bed. He quickly pulls on the rest of his robes and glances down at the weapon.

"Wei Ying?"

Wei Wuxian jumps, startled by the sound as Lan Wangji wakes up.

"Wei Ying." Lan Wangji says. "Are you alright?"

Wei Wuxian turns back to face him and places the lightsaber on his dresser.

"Lan Zhan." He says. "You need to go."

Lan Wangji stops.

"Your eyes…"

Wei Wuxian catches a glimpse of himself in the mirror and sees what Lan Wangji is staring at. His silver eyes are consumed with a deep crimson red as he shakes his head. The crystal's words echo inside his mind.

"This was a mistake." Wei Wuxian says. "Grab your things and go, I never should've brought you here with me."

Lan Wangji's eyes grow wide.

"A mistake?" He asks. "Wei Ying, please, just tell me what is going on."

Lan Wangji gets up out of bed and hastily puts on his inner robe. Wei Wuxian watches as he reaches forward to grab his hand, only to pull away.

"Don't touch me!" Wei Wuxian states. "Just stay away!"

He reaches inside his robes and tosses Lan Wangji the pendant.

"Get out of here." Wei Wuxian says. "And please, don't come back."

Lan Wangji looks down at the object in his hands and hesitates before slowly nodding.

"...Alright then." He says. "If that is what you wish."

Wei Wuxian can't turn back to see his reaction, it would only make things harder. He straightens up his back and walks out the door, leaving Lan Wangji alone to gather up his things.

Wei Wuxian hides inside his workspace until he hears Lan Wangji's cruiser take off. Wen Qing approaches him late into the afternoon and raises one eyebrow.

"Do you want to tell me what happened?" She asks.

Wei Wuxian shakes his head.

"No." He says. "I don't."

She looks up at his face and sighs.

"Before Lan Wangji left-"

"I don't want to hear it, Wen Qing!" He shouts. "Just leave me alone!"

Wen Qing takes a step back, shocked by his sudden outburst, before placing a letter down on the table.

"Fine then." She says. "I'll leave."

He watches as she turns to go before Wen Qing stops and faces him.

"Whatever it is you're dealing with, this isn't the solution." She says. "You're not going to solve anything by hiding away in your office."

Wei Wuxian looks up at her as she shakes her head.

"If you get the chance to see Lan Wangji again, you should apologize." She tells him. "There's no telling how much time we have left in this galaxy."

And with that, she leaves. Wei Wuxian looks down at the letter that she left on his desk and turns it over.

"For Wei Ying." It reads.

He recognizes that handwriting. It's the same handwriting he's spent hours pouring over since Lan Xichen gave him a small leather journal.

This letter is from his mom.

Xiao Xingchen looks out over the horizon from the temple gardens as Song Lan approaches, stopping short of his friend.

"The Council has reached a decision." He says.

Xiao Xingchen turns to face him.

"And?" He asks.

Song Lan shakes his head, causing his friend to slump down in defeat.

"...Oh." Xiao Xingchen says. "I see."

"This isn't over." Song Lan tells him. "We can still try and appeal."

Xiao Xingchen looks down at the lotus pond in front of him and sighs.

"No we can't." He says. "They already made up their decision regarding my padawan long before I asked for an acquittal."

A cold breeze runs through the air as he takes a deep breath.

"Something is coming." Xiao Xingchen says. "A major shift in the galaxy."

Song Lan raises one eyebrow.

"The end of the war?" He asks.

Xiao Xingchen shakes his head.

"The beginning of a conquest."

The door slams open.

"They can't ban him from the jedi temple!" Lan Wangji shouts. "That is his home! He grew up there!"

Lan Xichen looks up at him.

"There's nothing we can do about it now." He says. "The Council has made their decision."

Lan Wangji shakes his head.

"Brother, please." Lan Wangji pleads. "He is not what they say he is. Wei Ying is still good, I have seen it. You have to convince them-"

"I am not going to convince them of anything." He says. "It was my decision."

Lan Wangji stops.


Lan Xichen looks up at the devastation written on his brother's face and reaches forward.

"Listen to me Wangji." He says. "This is for the best. Master Wei has already cut ties with the Jedi Order, there is nothing else that we can do."

Lan Wangji takes a step back.

"So you will abandon him?" He asks. "Like the Jedi Council abandoned our Uncle?"

Lan Xichen turns away.

"That was different." He says.

"How?" Lan Wangji asks. "Everything he did was to protect us, and they left him for dead on a desolate planet!"

Lan Xichen takes a shuddering breath.

"They weren't the ones that left him behind." Lan Xichen says. "It was me, I made that choice, and I will regret it for the rest of my life."

Lan Wangji looks up at his brother.

"Then you must understand why I can't accept this." He says. "Brother, please, I'm begging you."

Lan Xichen sighs.

"I can't lose you Wangji." He says. "The Council says that this is for the best, and I believe them. Master Wei is on a path that only he can walk. I will not stand by and do nothing as you try to follow him."

Lan Wangji shakes his head.

"I need to warn him." He says.

"It's too late." Lan Xichen tells him. "I already returned that transmitter you stole to Chancellor Guangyao. You will not be stepping one foot outside of the Cloud Recesses."

Lan Wangji looks up at his brother.

"...You would confine me to this planet?" He asks.

Lan Xichen nods.

"If it means keeping you safe, then yes." He says. "I would do anything."

Lan Wangji shakes his head.

"Then you're more like our father than I thought." He says.

Lan Xichen's eyes grow wide as he watches as Lan Wangji turn on his heel and walk away. He tries to reach out and say something, but it's too late.

He's already gone.

"With the end of the war upon the horizon, there is one crucial issue we have yet to address." The Chancellor states. "There are several territories along the Outer Rim that we liberated from Wen Ruohan now seeking independence."

The Senate floor erupts into laughter while Jiang Yanli glances around the room. She rests her hand on the large baby bump forming at her stomach and shakes her head.

"Why shouldn't they?" She asks. "We have never forced outside systems to take part in The Republic in the past. It would not make sense to start now."

Her father in-law laughs.

"Perhaps." Jin Guangshan says. "But these are territories that already belong to the Senate. To think, after sending out our troops to liberate them, they would want to turn around and commit an act of treason."

Jiang Yanli shakes her head.

"We're getting ahead of ourselves." She says. "Our enemies are not a handful of Outer Rim planets advocating for the right to self-govern. Wen Ruohan is still at large, and he does not care about whether or not we decide to grant amnesty to these planets."

"But I do." The Chancellor states. "Without support from the Republic, how can we be sure that they won't slip back into Wen territory? I am here to propose we reinstate them now while we still have the chance."

Cheering can be heard from all around as Jiang Yanli's eyes grow wide.

"None of the aforementioned planet's representatives are here today!" She states. "It would be undemocratic!"

"None of those planet's representatives are alive today!" Senator Ouyang scoffs. "I say we go forward with this motion and reinstate them now, for their own good."

She sees the room nod in agreement and Jiang Yanli tries to stand up before a wave of nausea hits. Jin Zixuan steps forward to help his wife and turns towards the crowd.

"My wife is right." He says. "Any move made without the presence of these planet's representatives will be considered unconstitutional by the Banking Clan's standards. We will cease to do business with anyone who advocates for it."

The reaction from those in opposition is explosive as the room erupts into shouting. Jin Zixuan turns towards Jiang Yanli and holds her steady.

"Are you alright?" He asks.

"I am." She says. "Just a bit dizzy."

Jin Zixuan smiles.

"I hope the little one isn't causing you too much grief?" He asks.

She shakes her head.

"It's not the baby that's stressing me out." She says. "I just hope that this meeting comes to a close soon. I really want to go home and lay down for a bit."

Despite the unanimous agreement to approve Chancellor Guangyao's proposal, no one wants to be left bankrupt by Jin Zixuan's outburst. They decide to table the decision for another session and move on to their discussion surrounding the war.

Jiang Yanli watches as her brother stands beside Chancellor Guangyao at the center of the room.

"...I'm worried about the amount of time that Jiang Cheng has been spending with the Chancellor." She says.

Jin Zixuan shakes his head.

"It's unavoidable." He says. "Jiang Wanyin is the one leading the war effort for the Republic, he needs to be there at the Chancellor's side for these sessions."

Jin Guangshan turns towards her.

"You should be honored, Senator." He says. "Having such a powerful influence in the Senate is a good thing. Your brother made a wise choice."

Perhaps, but she can't shake the feeling that something's wrong as she watches the two of them interact.

"Don't trust any of them." Her mother's voice calls out. "Especially the Chancellor."

Jiang Yanli's eyes grow wide.

"Did you hear something?" She asks.

Jin Zixuan shakes his head.

"Is something wrong?"

She looks up to see the Chancellor staring straight at her with his signature smile. The friendly expression is shrouded in darkness, hiding a malice she never really noticed until now.

"No." Jiang Yanli tells him. "I'm just tired."

But her mother's warning weighs heavily in her mind.

Who can she trust?

Jiang Cheng stands there across the room from Chancellor Guangyao as he stares outside the window.

"I'm afraid the Jedi Council has made their decision." The Chancellor says. "Master Wei has been banished from the temple, and labeled as a threat against the Jedi Order. He is to be detained on sight at the first opportunity they get."

Jiang Cheng shakes his head.

"What do I do?" He asks. "There has to be a way to fix this."

Chancellor Guangyao turns towards him.

"I find your resolve admirable." He says. "But I have to ask, is he worth it? Can you advocate with unwavering certainty that your brother is not the monster that they say he is?"

Jiang Cheng thinks back to their time in the war. All the death and destruction that Wei Wuxian left in his wake, the chaos and carnage he brought to the battlefield, only to hold back when it comes to his brother.

There has to be good in him.


"Yes." Jiang Cheng says. "I can advocate for my brother. Please, help me save him."

Chancellor Guangyao nods.

"There is a mission." He says. "Our final stand against Wen Ruohan. I'm planning an attack on Mustafar, there we'll take control of his head of operations and get rid of the Wen Empire once and for all. I want you to lead the siege with your brother by your side."

Jiang Cheng's eyes grow wide.

"You want me to lead the charge on Mustafar?" He asks. "If we succeed…"

"It will be the end of the war." Chancellor Guangyao says. "You will be lauded as a hero, and your brother will be granted immunity."

Jiang Cheng looks up at him as he says this and nods

"I'll try and speak with him." He says. "I used to have a transmitter but-"

"You lost it?" The Chancellor asks. "No need to worry, the Cloud Recesses turned it in today."

Jiang Cheng's eyes grow wide as he sees the Chancellor hand him Wei Wuxian's transmitter.

"How?" He asks.

"It seems as if the Second Twin Jade does not approve of our plan to bring Master Wei into the fold." Chancellor Guangyao says. "He stole this from you in an attempt to derail us."

Jiang Cheng feels a dark anger boil up inside of him as he shakes his head.

"Lan Wangji." He sneers. "I thought the Jedi had decided to stay out of this war?"

The Chancellor nods.

"They have." He says. "But I've heard rumors that the Second Twin Jade wants to take down Master Wei himself. However, it is possible he could have ulterior motives."

Jiang Cheng raises one eyebrow.

"Meaning?" He asks.

The Chancellor shrugs.

"The two of them hold a special bond with one another." He tells him. "I wouldn't be surprised if Lan Wangji wants to keep Master Wei all to himself."

Jiang Cheng lets out a huff.

"I'll have to get to Wei Wuxian first." He says. "No one is going to get their hands on him. He's coming home with me."

The Chancellor smiles.

"I'm glad to hear that."

"Despite what most people think, I never stopped looking for my master."

Wei Wuxian pours over the contents of his mother's last entry as his hand brushes over the white ribbon Lan Wangji left tied to his wrist.

"In all my years, the best that I could find was a fairytale.The reason as to why she disappeared, the meaning behind her final mission, it was all lost to time.

"I thought I was done with this obsession, that I could focus on my family and leave it all behind. But I can't, not anymore, not now that I know the truth. I finally understand what it was she asked me to do all those years ago. Her final message, her last mission, entrusted to me as her loyal apprentice.

"I never had a mother, or a father, but I had her. She raised me when no one else would, saw potential in me for greatness where I saw none, and trusted me as a parent trusts her daughter, maybe even moreso. I owe my life to Baoshen Sanren, but that was before I became a mother.

"Wei Ying sleeps peacefully in his crib as I write this, lost in his dreams, and I am forced to make a decision. A decision that will ultimately change the course of the galaxy forever. The question remains, will my actions reflect that of a hero or a mom?"

Her words fade off into nothing and Wei Wuxian looks down to see the last few pages of her journal torn out. He runs his hands over the tattered edges before glancing towards the letter Wen Qing gave him.

Whatever choice his mom made, she has to have explained it in that note. His hands slowly reach out to grab it but he stops. Is Wei Wuxian prepared to find out the truth behind his parent's disappearance? Does he really think he can confront the past that has haunted him for the majority of his life?

He doesn't know, but it's all that he has left. Wei Wuxian's eyes drift towards the letter as his door swings open.

"Wei Wuxian." Wen Qing says. "You're going to want to see this."

She motions him forward and Wei Wuxian puts down the journal.

He's not ready.

She takes him to the holodeck and opens their communications array. A message from Yunmeng pops up from not too long ago as Jiang Cheng comes into view.

"Wei Wuxian." The message states. "I hope this transmitter is still working, I understand that someone might have tried to interfere with it recently."

Wei Wuxian's hand moves towards the white ribbon as he stands up straight.

"We need your help." Jiang Cheng states. "In two weeks time we're planning an attack on Mustafar to bring down Wen Ruohan once and for all. I know that you've held your doubts regarding the Republic, but I am begging you to join me in this mission as my brother. We can finish this together, the way we always intended, and go back home as a family. I won't leave you behind this time, just like I know you won't leave me."

Wei Wuxian looks up at the holo projection and takes a deep breath.

"Well?" Wen Qing asks. "Are you going?"

He nods.

"If there really is a chance that we can put an end to this war, I need to take it." Wei Wuxian says. "This might be our greatest opportunity to finally get rid of Wen Ruohan."

She shakes her head.

"But do you think you can handle it?" She asks. "The last time you went into battle, your lightsaber…"

Wei Wuxian looks down at the weapon, the voice of his crystallized master still ringing in his ears, as he nods.

"I have to try."

Jiang Cheng stares through the window of his star destroyer as they come out of hyperspace, approaching Mustafar. They send out a squadron of tie-fighters to attack, which Wen Ruohan's pilots try to intercept. Nie Mingjue stands beside Jiang Cheng as the first round of fighting ensues and he takes off his helmet.

"Wen Ruohan wasted most of his arsenal on trying to control my sector." He says. "Now we finally get the chance to pay him back."

Jiang Cheng nods.

"We have to be careful." He says. "Even with limited resources, Wen Ruohan has proven to be crafty in the past."

Nie Mingjue grunts.

"No amount of craft can compare to that of a Mandalorian." He says. "Excuse me, it's time to join the battle."

With that he puts on his helmet and walks towards the back where Nie Mingjue's men are waiting to depart. Jiang Cheng watches as the crew of Mandalorians descend from their ships and lend support, taking down the blockade with very little effort.

They're able to make it past the first level of defenses, breaking through the surface of the planet and descending from the atmosphere. Jiang Cheng walks over towards the command center and gestures towards a field of shield generators.

"Focus blaster fire over there." He says. "We should be able to take down his shields if we overload the power systems."

"Yes, General!" One of the lieutenants say.

He watches as his fleet takes down the thin layer of defenses before they're in. They take the ships down towards the surface of the planet and park the star destroyer off to the side. Jiang Cheng exits his ship and glances around the area.

"Squadron six, stick to the east end." He says. "We'll circle around and take down any leftover insurgents before reconvening at the rendezvous point. Squadron eight, you're with me."

His soldiers nod and follow him down the path that Jiang Cheng has marked on his map.

The planet is silent, eerily silent, as they make their way forward. Jiang Cheng shakes his head as they approach another abandoned village, left empty and pillaged by whichever soldiers were still living here.

"I don't understand." Jiang Cheng asks. "Where are all his soldiers?"

There's a creaking noise behind them, and they turn back to see a handful of his men suddenly missing. Jiang Cheng ignites his lightsaber and looks out into the dark.

"Ready positions." He tells them. "We're not alone."

The sound of footsteps echoes in the air as Jiang Cheng raises one eyebrow.

He recognizes those robes.

They're the same ones his soldiers are wearing.

The battalion of soldiers come into view and Jiang Cheng's eyes grow wide as he sees their pale skin and dead eyes. A series of markings has been engraved on their skin as they let out a low growl.

"These are corpses." He says.

The undead army lunges towards him as Jiang Cheng's squadron opens fire. The corpses ignore their blaster hits as they attack like feral monsters.

Jiang Cheng slices a handful of them down, but even with their limbs cut off they still keep fighting.

"Fall back!" He shouts. "We need to lead them outside!"

His soldiers move to lead the corpses towards the empty streets, trying their best to keep them at bay. As they move further down the road more groaning can be heard and they look up to see a new wave of corpses lunging towards them. Mandalorian beskar, purple Yunmeng robes, and Naboo armor comes into view as the hoard of corpses pile out of the woods.

"Hold your ground!" He shouts. "Don't let them get too close!"

Jiang Cheng glances around the area, searching for a way out, when he hears it, a musical note ringing through the air.

"Wei Wuxian." He says.

A red lightsaber comes flying through the air, decapitating their undead rivals as the rest turn to see a figure dressed in black approach. Wei Wuxian glances over at the markings made by Wen Ruohan on the corpses and smirks.

"I see you're still making use of Wen Qing's work." He says. "It might have been impressive if it wasn't so sloppy."

The corpses lunge towards him and Wei Wuxian steps out of the way before summoning back his lightsaber and striking them down. Jiang Cheng and his men watch as Wei Wuxian plays with his enemy, dancing around them while he obliterates their forces.

"Don't just stand there!" Jiang Cheng shouts. "Shoot the corpses!"

His men nod before raising up their blasters and firing at the enemy. Jiang Cheng rushes towards his brother and cuts down the enemies on his right.

"I was wondering when you'd show up." Jiang Cheng tells him.

"Sorry I'm late." Wei Wuxian says. "I was trying to find you."

Jiang Cheng shakes his head.

"Well you found me." He says. "Too bad it's like this."

Wei Wuxian smiles.

"Oh come on, A-Cheng." He says. "We've been in worse spots than this."

One of the corpses bites into Jiang Cheng's shoulder and he lets out a cry before striking it down.

"This one is pretty bad!" He shouts.

Wei Wuxian shrugs.

"I can't argue with you there."

They manage to take down the majority of their enemies, but before they kill the last one, Wei Wuxian raises his hand.

"Wait." He says. "Hand him to me."

Jiang Cheng's soldiers stare at him warily before nodding. They watch as Wei Wuxian approaches the walking dead and grabs him by the throat.

The corpse thrashes in his grip, letting out a blood curdling cry as Wei Wuxian's eyes turn red and a dark aura surrounds them. Eventually the animated corpse stops moving and Wei Wuxian tosses the body down at their feet.

"Wen Ruohan has traps like this set up along the perimeter of his base." He says. "We're going to have to tread lightly around the area."

Jiang Cheng shakes his head.

"How can you be sure?" He asks.

Wei Wuxian gestures towards the markings.

"Work like this belongs to the Nightsisters." He says. "Wen Ruohan connected these bodies to his use of the force, making it easy for me to enter his mind."

Jiang Cheng's eyes grow wide.

"His mind?" He asks. "Wei Wuxian, isn't that dangerous?"

Wei Wuxuan shrugs.

"This is war." He says. "Everything is dangerous. The only difference is I intend to kill Wen Ruohan today."

Jiang Cheng stares at his brother, apprehensively, before reaching out his hand.

"Then we'll kill him together." He says. "As brothers."

Wei Wuxian looks down at his outstretched hand and takes it.

"As brothers." He says.

They turn towards the base of Wen Ruohan's operations and look up.

This ends today.

Jiang Yanli stares out over the horizon as she rests her hand on her baby bump. The Yunmeng lakes sparkle as the sun sets beyond, creating a picturesque scene. Her husband walks up behind her and places a kiss on her cheek.

"Are you alright?" He asks.

She nods.

"I'm worried about my brothers." She says. "I wonder if today is the day we finally bring an end to this war."

Jin Zixuan shakes his head.

"We can't know that for certain." He says. "All we can do is hope for the best."

She looks up at him.

"And what comes after?" Jiang Yanli asks. "When this war is finally over, what sort of future will it leave for our child?"

Jin Zixuan takes her hand.

"I don't know." He says. "But I know that we will build it together."

He raises up her hand to his lips and leaves a soft kiss there. She smiles before a wave of dizziness hits her.

A sudden pounding in her ears makes her stumble back as she feels a pressure rise up in her temples. Jiang Yanli takes a deep breath as the sound of voices fill her head.

"The Republic is coming."

"You are his greatest weakness."

"I am a Jedi."

Jiang Yanli feels a cold dampness form at her legs and looks down to see her robes soaked through.

"The baby is coming." She says.

Jin Zixuan's eyes grow wide.

"Today?" He asks.

She looks up at him.


Wei Wuxian walks up to his brother.

"Any word from the others?" He asks.

Jiang Cheng shakes his head.

"Nie Mingjue and the rest of their crew must be busy taking down those corpses." He says. "Let's hope for all of our sakes that they were able to make it past the first wave."

Wei Wuxian nods before pulling up a map.

"I've been studying the layout since you contacted me." He says. "We won't be able to break in with a full frontal assault, not with these defenses. Our best bet is to sneak in through the back and weave our way towards the throne room."

Jiang Cheng looks up at him.

"How are we going to do that without getting shot down?" He asks.

Wei Wuxian points towards a loading dock.

"Most of Wen Ruohan's arsenal is being held here." He says. "We send one group of soldiers down to blow it up before making a break for it, and sneak in during all the chaos."

Jiang Cheng shakes his head.

"It's risky." He says.

Wei Wuxian nods.

"I know."

Jiang Cheng hesitates for a moment before turning back to face his men. They turn towards the layout, their faces solemn as they realize the risk they'd be taking, before one of them steps forward.

"...We'll do it, General." They say. "We're not afraid of failure, not today."

The rest of them nod as Jiang Cheng takes a deep breath.

"Alright then." He says. "Let's do this."

They make their way towards the dock and watch as a handful of Zabraks survey the area. The small group of soldiers turn towards them and nod before heading out.

They wait for the others to begin their assault before beelining for the building. The sound of blaster fire fills their ears as they bypass the security system and make their way inside.

Wen Ruohan's base is filled with soldiers stationed at every checkpoint along the way. They manage to sneak past the first set of soldiers before making it to the command center and opening fire.

Wei Wuxian gets to work cutting down their forces while Jiang Cheng secures the door. Once they clear the area of all their opponents Wei Wuxian turns towards Jiang Cheng and gestures towards the panel.

"Shut off all his defenses." Wei Wuxian says. "We need to leave him in the dark."

Jiang Cheng nods and goes to cut the power when the lights flare red and a siren goes off. They look up to see an onslaught of Wen soldiers make their way inside and hold them at gunpoint. Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng glance over at each other before a voice rings out.

"The Twin Prides of Yunmeng." Wen Ruohan states. "Here to see me at last."

They both look up to find a large, imposing Zabrak towering over them. Wen Ruohan makes his way forward, dressed in black robes, with his red horns growing jagged out his skull.

"I had imagined you'd be taller." He says. "But no, it seems my men have been bested by the likes of two children."

Wei Wuxian sneers.

"You must be disappointed." He says.

Wen Ruohan shakes his head.

"No." He says. "Just surprised."

He turns towards his soldiers and gestures towards Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng.

"Escort them to my throne room." He says. "If word gets out that either of them tried to escape, kill their men and the other captives."

Jiang Cheng's eyes grow wide.

"The other captives?" He asks.

Wen Ruohan smiles.

"Your little friends are being taken care of as we speak." He says. "Don't worry, as long as you behave they have nothing to fear."

Wei Wuxian glances over at his brother and sighs.

"...We will comply." He says.

Jiang Cheng scowls before slowly nodding.

"Fine." He says. "We'll go with you."

Jiang Yanli lets out a cry as the medical droids take her away.

"Is she going to be alright?" Jin Zixuan asks.

"Please sir, you have to be patient." They say. "We're doing everything we can right now."

Their voices fade into the background as Jiang Yanli tries to focus. She feels the pounding at her head grow unbearable as the droids prepare her for birth.

"...a footnote in my legacy."

"...nothing more than a traitor. "

"...the end of democracy."

A sharp pain shoots through her abdomen and Jiang Yanli cries out.

"I can't do it." She says. "I can't do it. I'm scared."

Her husband reaches out towards her but the droids hold him back. Jiang Yanli shakes her head, unsure of what to say before she sees it, a faint glowing figure looming in the distance.

The mysterious person steps forward and grabs Jiang Yanli's hand.

"Jiang Yanli." Her mother's voice rings out. "You must be strong."

For a brief moment, the figure's face comes into view, and Jiang Yanli sees her. Her mother, standing tall and proud, as she squeezes her hand. Jiang Yanli remembers the words her parents gave her before they died, and lets out a sob before taking a deep breath.

"I can do this." She says. "I can do this."

Jiang Yanli looks up at the droids.

"I want my husband with me." She says. "Let him in."

The droids shake their heads.

"Senator, we don't recommend-"

"I don't care." She says. "I want him here. Let him in."

They look over at each other before letting out a huff and reluctantly allowing Jin Zixuan in. He rushes towards Jiang Yanli and takes her hand.

"I'm here." He says. "I'm here, I'm not going anywhere, I promise."

She smiles up at him and brushes the hair out of his face.

"I know." She says. "I'm not scared, not anymore."

Wen Ruohan has them escorted to his throne room before they're stripped of their lightsabers and placed in front of him. Wei Wuxian glances over at his weapon, the voice of his crystallized master calling out to him even now.

"Finish the job." The crystal says. "You know what it takes."

Wei Wuxian shakes his head.

"Distracted are you?" Wen Ruohan asks. "Perhaps there's something on your mind?"

Wei Wuxian glares up at him.

"What do you want?" He asks.

Wen Ruohan smiles.

"It isn't about what I want." He says. "Most people might be surprised to learn that I'm not the one who started this conquest."

Wei Wuxian shakes his head.

"I already took care of your sons." He says.

Wen Ruohan walks up to him and strikes him in the ribs. Wei Wuxian doubles over in pain before he is grabbed by the hair and lifted up.

"I am aware." Wen Ruohan growls. "Trust me, if I had it my way, you'd be dead a thousand times over by now."

He tosses Wei Wuxian across the floor before turning towards Jiang Cheng.

"Yiling Patriarch." Wen Ruohan sneers. "I require information out of you."

Wei Wuxian's eyes grow wide as he pulls out a red lightsaber.

"Leave him alone!" He shouts.

Wen Ruohan shakes his head.

"I know how much you care for this one." He says, grabbing Jiang Cheng by the hair and raising his lightsaber up to their throat. "So I will give you one last chance."

Wei Wuxian shakes his head.

"What is it?" He asks. "You already know where Wen Qing is hiding."

Wen Ruohan laughs.

"Silly little witch." He says. "Her research has been useful, but incomplete. I know that she was holding back this entire time. Fine then, you will provide the answers that she would not."

Wei Wuxian looks up at him.

"...You were searching for something on Dathomir." He says. "But you didn't dare step foot on that planet again."

Wen Ruohan nods.

"You're a clever man, Wei Wuxian." He says. "So clever you almost ruined everything. But I can see it, the missing piece, the debt by which I owe my master, is brewing inside of you."

Wei Wuxian's eyes grow wide.

"You're stalling." The crystal tells him. "Finish the job!"

"...How do you know?" Wei Wuxian asks.

Wen Ruohan smirks.

"Then it is true." He says. "I'll grant you a trade. Your brother's life, for Xue Chonghai's soul."

The crystal screams at him, echoing inside his head as Wei Wuxian struggles to stay focused.

"You mentioned your master." Wei Wuxian says. "Why does he seek Xue Chonghai?"

Wen Ruohan shakes his head.

"Why wouldn't he?" He asks. "You don't even know the scope of your own power, do you? I suppose you thought that this war was all my idea. Well you couldn't be further from the truth."

Wei Wuxian looks up at him.

"And what does that mean?" He asks.

"The war was started in my name." Wen Ruohan states. "But it was not me who spearheaded the carnage. No, my master was the one that granted me this power. In return, I would bring him the one thing in the galaxy that no one else could, but you beat me to it."

Wei Wuxian glances over at his lightsaber as Wen Ruohan tightens his grip on Jiang Cheng.

"I won't ask twice." He says. "Hand it over."

Wei Wuxian straightens up his back.

"Well since you asked so nicely."

He reaches forward with his palm and summons the lightsaber. Wen Ruohan lets go of Jiang Cheng reluctantly as he tries to deflect Wei Wuxian's attack and turns to glare at him.

"Clever little jedi." He says. "That trick won't work on me twice."

Jiang Cheng scrambles to his feet, grabbing his lightsaber and igniting it. The two of them circle their opponent, weapons at the ready, as Wen Ruohan sighs.

"I'm sorry master." He whispers. "Let it be known that I tried."

Wen Ruohan makes the first strike, swinging towards Jiang Cheng and knocking him off his feet. Wei Wuxian moves to intercept, blocking the attack but getting pushed back in the process.

Wen Ruohan fights like a storm, every motion flowing like clouds thundering up above. His lightsaber is old, but powerful, as he takes down the two Yunmeng soldiers.

Wei Wuxian feels his body run cold as the crystal calls out to him.

"It's not enough!" The crystal says. "You're still holding back!"

"Shut up!" Wei Wuxian shouts.

Wen Ruohan smirks.

"Hearing voices?" He asks. "Perhaps you are not as strong as you think!"

Jiang Cheng turns towards him.

"Wei Wuxian!" He shouts. "You have to stay focused!"

Wen Ruohan takes advantage of the situation and knocks Jiang Cheng to the ground. Wei Wuxian moves to try and stop him as a sharp pain rings through his head.

"Pathetic!" The crystal shouts. "Weak little jedi! Scared little jedi! Too frightened of his own shadow to do what needs to be done!"

"Shut up!" Wei Wuxian screams.

"Too weak to finish the job!"

"Stop it!"

"Too weak to save his own brother!"


"Too weak to save anyone!"

Wei Wuxian lets out a cry as he rushes forward and attacks Wen Ruohan. The Zabrak responds with wide eyes as he tries to parry Wei Wuxian's assault.

"That's it!" Wen Ruohan shouts. "Show me who your real master is!"

Wei Wuxian swings his lightsaber with terrible fury as Wen Ruohan laughs. With every strike he feels himself getting lost in his rage. Jiang Cheng watches from the side as his brother morphs into someone he doesn't know.

"Wei Wuxian?" He asks.

But Wei Wuxian doesn't hear him. All he can hear is the pounding in his ears as he moves to strike forward. Wen Ruohan's glee turns into frustration as he struggles to hold him back, letting out a gasp as Wei Wuxian breaks his stance.

Wen Ruohan stumbles for a bit before Wei Wuxian plunges his weapon into his heart. The Zabrak lets out a cough before Wei Wuxian grabs him by the horns and smashes his face into the ground.

The sound of bone cracking sends chills down Jiang Cheng's spine as he watches his brother brutalize their enemy. Wei Wuxian doesn't stop though, he can't, all he can do is see red as he keeps fighting.

Keeps breaking.

Keeps tearing.

Keeps bleeding.

"Not enough!" The crystal shouts. "You're still holding back!"

Wei Wuxian lets out a cry as he stares down at the lump of flesh that was once Wen Ruohan. He lifts up his lightsaber and slashes him across the face, once, twice, three times, until there is nothing left. Jiang Cheng scrambles to his feet and tries to stop him.

"Wei Wuxian!" He shouts. "You have to stop! He's already dead!"

But Wei Wuxian doesn't listen, instead he turns his eyes on Jiang Cheng and attacks.

Jiang Cheng blocks the lightsaber in shock as his brother approaches him with glowing red eyes.

"Wei Wuxian!" He shouts. "What are you doing!?"

He doesn't respond though, struggling to speak as his lightsaber swings forward.

"Finish him!" The crystal shouts. "Finish them all!"

Jiang Cheng moves to try and block the attack before Wei Wuxian strikes, slicing through flesh and tearing off his hand.

His brother lets out a cry as he looks down at his wound and Wei Wuxian towers over him.

"A-Xian." Jiang Cheng pleads. "Don't do this."

Wei Wuxian lifts up his weapon as the crystal calls for blood before he lets out a bloodcurdling cry.

"No!" Wei Wuxian shouts, before plunging the blade into his own stomach.

Jiang Cheng watches in horror as Wei Wuxian stands there, bleeding from his abdomen before the doors swing open.

Nie Mingjue and their men make their way forward to see Jiang Cheng laying there injured while Wei Wuxian towers over him.

"Fire at the Yiling Patriarch!" Nie Mingjue shouts.

Wei Wuxian sees them lift their blasters towards him and he panics. Smashing through the glass, he leaps out the window into the unknown while Jiang Cheng lays there clutching his bleeding arm.

Nie Mingjue makes his way towards him and tries to help Jiang Cheng up.

"Are you alright General?" He asks. "Was that your brother?"

Jiang Cheng shakes his head.

"...My brother is dead." He says. "I just watched him die."

Jiang Yanli wakes up to the daylight peeking through her windows. She turns to see her husband sleeping by her and smiles.

"Hey." She says. "Wake up sleepyhead."

Jin Zixuan opens his eyes to see her smiling and yawns.

"I'm sorry I fell asleep." He says. "Should I get the nurses?"

She shakes her head.

"They'll be here any minute." She says. "Thank you for being there with me."

He nods.

"Of course." He says. "I wouldn't miss this for the world."

She reaches forward and places a soft kiss on his lips.

The door opens behind them and they watch as the medical droids come in carrying their baby. Jiang Yanli reaches towards them as they place her child in her arms.

"Your son appears to be in good health." They say. "Have you considered a name?"

She nods.

"Jin Ling." She tells them. "Courtesy name, Rulan."

Jin Zixuan turns towards her.

"Rulan?" He asks.

"A-Xian chose it for me." She says. "A few weeks into his training at the Cloud Recesses, when we were first engaged, he told me it would be a good name for a child. I hope he doesn't mind if we use it."

Jin Zixuan shakes his head.

"I think it's perfect." He says. "What do you think, Jin Ling?"

Jin Ling looks up at his parents and giggles as they hold him close. The door opens from outside and Jiang Yanli looks up to see Chancellor Guangyao step forward.

"Chancellor?" She asks. "I wasn't expecting to see you today. Where is my brother? Is everything okay?"

The Chancellor shakes his head.

"Senator Jiang." Chancellor Guangyao says. "There's something I need to tell you."

Jiang Cheng sits there and watches as the medical droids attend to his arm. The mechanical hand they attached to him is being wired to his nerve system, making him wince every once in a while. He barely registers what's going on around him until the door opens to reveal his sister with a baby in her arms.

Jiang Cheng's eyes grow wide as he sees the child.

"Is that…?" He asks.

She nods.

"Jin Ling," she says, "I want you to meet your jiujiu."

The baby reaches towards him and Jiang Cheng shakes his head.

"I am so sorry." He says. "I should've been there for you."

She takes his hand.

"It's alright." She says. "I'm just glad you're here."

She looks down at his robotic appendage and takes a deep breath.

"I heard what happened." She says. "Are you alright?"

Jiang Cheng shakes his head as deep sob rips through him. Jiang Yanli watches as he collapses in on himself and she pulls him forward.

"I don't know who that man was." Jiang Cheng tells her. "But he wasn't my brother. Wei Wuxian is dead, all that remains is the Yiling Patriarch."

She shakes her head.

"I don't believe it." She says. "There has to be a mistake."

Jiang Cheng pushes her away.

"Look at my hand!" He states. "How much more proof do you need!? That man is no longer Wei Wuxian, and I am tired of trying to pretend like he is."

Jin Ling cries in her arms as she stares at her brother.

"A-Xian is our family." She says. "Maybe if I talk to him-"

"No!" Jiang Cheng stops her. "A-jie, you have to promise me that you won't step one foot near that man. I can't risk losing you too, please."

She looks down at his pleading face and feels something in her gut twist as she nods.

"...Alright." Jiang Yanli says. "I promise."

She watches as the tension in his shoulders melts away while her heart breaks.

What is she going to do?

Wei Wuxian stumbles into the back of his cave as he tosses his lightsaber across the room. The voice of the crystal still laughing in his mind.

"Run away little jedi!" It taunts him. "Still just a boy, frightened of his own shadow!"

"You did this!" Wei Wuxian shouts. "You're the one that made me hurt A-Cheng!"

The crystal scoffs.

"That wasn't me." It says. "After everything you've done, you'd still deny the darkness in your heart."

Wei Wuxian lets out a cry as he collapses at Wen Ning's bedside.

"Poor little jedi." The crystal tells him. "You still have so much left to learn."

"I'm not listening to you ever again!" Wei Wuxian shouts. "I know who you are now. Wen Ruohan called you Xue Chonghai!"

The crystal laughs.

"Yes, curious fellow wasn't he?" It asks. "Too bad he didn't stay alive long enough for you to ask any questions."

Wei Wuxian sneers.

"I don't need you anymore." He says. "The war is over."

"And yet here you are." Xue Chonghai states. "No family, no friends, you don't even have the strength to wake up that boy. Face it, without me, you are nothing."

Wei Wuxian shakes his head.

"That's not true." He says.

Xue Chonghai huffs.

"Then prove it." He says. "Wake the Zabrak up."

Wei Wuxian glances over at Wen Ning and lifts his hand.

He feels it, the darkness coursing through him as he reaches out for Wen Ning's soul. His master taunts him as he feels the world go cold and he takes a deep breath.

"It's not enough!" Xue Chonghai tells him. "You aren't capable of it!"

Wei Wuxian shakes his head as he tries to stay focused. The overwhelming anguish pulsing through his heart making it hard to breathe.


Wei Wuxian's eyes grow wide as he recognizes that voice.

"A-Xian." Jiang Yanli says. "Where are you?"

The dark bitter cold coursing through his veins is replaced by a strange warmth as Wei Wuxian relaxes his shoulders. He feels a bright, dazzling light flowing through him for the first time in months and breathes.

"A-Xian." His sister says. "Come back home."

Wen Ning's eyes fly open.

Wei Wuxian takes a step back as he watches his friend sit up. Wen Ning lets out a gasp before clutching at his chest.

"Master Wei!" Wen Ning says. "Master Wei, I'm sorry. Please, I didn't want to tell him!"

Tears stream down his friend's face as Wei Wuxian pulls him into a hug.

"It's alright." He says. "It's not your fault. You had no choice."

Wen Ning collapses into his arms as Wei Wuxian holds him up. The voice of Xue Chonghai disappears as he stares down at his own hands.

He hasn't felt the light side of the force since…

"You're going to be alright, Wen Ning." Wei Wuxian tells him. "I won't let anybody hurt you."

Jin Ling plays with his father's hair as Jiang Yanli watches from the side. She runs her hand over the fan that Nie Huaisang gave her and sighs.

"Where are you A-Xian?" She thinks to herself. "Why won't you come home?"

"There's going to be a banquet tonight." Jin Zixuan tells her. "The Chancellor asked me if we were going to be in attendance."

She shakes her head.

"I'm too tired to travel off-world right now." She says. "Besides, who would take care of Jin Ling while we're gone?"

"I'm sure Mianmian could handle it." He says.

Jiang Yanli rolls her eyes.

"I don't think she'd appreciate that." She says. "Besides, I want to spend more time with my son."

Jin Zixuan nods.

"I understand." He says. "I'll let Chancellor Guangyao know we won't be there."

"None of us." She says. "Not even my brother."

Jin Zixuan looks up at her.

"Is that his decision or yours?" He asks.

She shakes her head.

"I don't have a choice." She says. "A-Cheng is in no condition to attend a party on Coruscant."

"It's not on Coruscant." Jin Zixuan tells her. "My father is hosting it on Mustafar."

She raises one eyebrow.

"Mustafar?" She asks. "In Wen Ruohan's palace?"

He nods.

"Tasteful, I know." He says. "Don't worry, I'll make sure we don't have to deal with it."

She smiles.

"Thank you." Jiang Yanli tells him. "I appreciate that."

Jin Ling grows fussy by his father's lack of attention and he reaches forward to grab his hand. Jiang Yanli smiles as she watches them play and turns to look out the window.

She wonders where her brother is now.

Wen Qing was overjoyed to see Wen Ning alive and well, pulling him into her arms as he wept. His limbs are still shaky, forcing Wei Wuxian to hold him up so he can stand.

Wei Wuxian's lightsaber is put to the side as he fills Wen Qing and Wen Ning in on his confrontation with Wen Ruohan.

"It has a name?" Wen Qing asks. "Does he come from Dathomir?"

Wei Wuxian shakes his head.

"I'm not sure." He says. "All I know is what Wen Ruohan told me."

Wen Ning furrows his brow.

"You said his name was Xue Chonghai?" He asks.

Wei Wuxian nods and Wen Ning straightens up his back.

"Help me to my desk." He says. "I have a theory."

Wei Wuxian and Wen Qing move Wen Ning across the room before they find his stash of research. Some of these papers come from their time at the Cloud Recesses, others were found digging through Dathomir.

"Here." Wen Ning says. "I think this might be our guy."

Wei Wuxian looks down to see the paper that he's holding.

"The Xuanwu of Slaughter?" Wei Wuxian asks. "From the Immortal War?"

Wen Ning nods.

"I spent months pouring over these articles." He says. "During that time, I was able to pin down a number of aliases regarding the Xuanwu. In one of these records, it is stated that the immortal Baoshen Sanren set off on a mission to take down a man by the name of Xue Chonghai."

Wei Wuxian shakes his head.

"The Sith Lord that Baoshen Sanren lost her life to was Xue Chonghai?" He asks. "Which means that my mother's final mission…"

Wen Qing places one hand on his shoulder.

"It probably led her here." She says. "To Dathomir."

Wei Wuxian glances over towards his desk where his mother's letter lays untouched.

The last piece of the puzzle, waiting for him to open.

Laughter rings through the air as a room full of dignitaries raise their cups. Jiang Yanli watches as their faces, filled with glee, cheer and celebrate the end of the war.

She travels down the hallway, her feet carrying her forward, before she hears the sound of a lightsaber igniting.

The once cheerful laughter turns into screams as she looks up to find the floor drenched in blood. Jiang Yanli's eyes grow wide as she runs towards the chaos, only to find all the doors locked. She's not allowed back in, forced to just sit there and listen to the sound of bloodshed from beyond the walls.

She pounds at the door, begging them to let her in, before it swings open and-

She wakes up.

Jiang Yanli lets out a gasp as she sits up in bed, grasping at her chest as she tries to catch her breath. She looks around the room to notice that her husband is gone and she's by herself.

"A-Xuan?" She asks. "Where are you?"

But there's no response. She pulls herself out of bed, wincing from the pain, before moving down the hallway. Jiang Yanli runs into one of the servants who rushes towards her and grabs her by the arms.

"Senator!" They say. "You shouldn't be out of bed!"

She shakes her head.

"I'm fine." Jiang Yanli says. "Don't worry, I can walk on my own."

The servant nods.

"Here, allow me to take you back to your room." They say.

Jiang Yanli stops her.

"Wait." She says. "Have you seen A-Xuan? He wasn't there when I woke up."

"Master Jin was summoned off-world by Chancellor Guangyao." The servant says. "He told me it was very urgent."

Jiang Yanli shakes her head.

"Did he say where he was going?" She asks.

"I'm not sure." The servant tells her. "Should I send a search party to go look for him?"

Jiang Yanli thinks back to her dream, the sound of people dying behind closed doors, as a cold chill runs down her spine.

"No need." She says. "I will go myself. Ready the shuttle for me."

The servant nods.

"Of course Senator." She says. "Where will you be flying off to?"

Jiang Yanli takes a deep breath.


The dark orange glow of the molten hot planet looms up ahead as Jiang Yanli arrives. It doesn't take long for her to locate Wen Ruohan's palace, the place is swarming with foreign space crafts parked along the side. But as she descends below the atmosphere Jiang Yanli can't help but notice that something is wrong.

She parks the ship amongst the others and slowly approaches. Jiang Yanli glances down the hall, eerily silent for a party to be taking place, before she hears it.

A voice.

"How generous of you to invite us to your soiree, Senator."

She looks up to see a faint glowing light leading towards a stairway.

"Of course my old friend!" The voices call out. "But you really need not thank me. The Chancellor was the one who specifically asked for your presence."

Jiang Yanli raises one eyebrow.

She recognizes that voice, it's Jin Guangshan. But that can't be true, he should've retired to his chambers by now. Are these voices from events that have already happened?

"Senator." Another voice echoes. "Would you care to join me for a walk?"

"Of course Chancellor!" Jin Guangshan states. "It would be an honor!"

Jiang Yanli shakes her head.

How is she able to hear all of this? The light from before fades away as she reaches the top of the stairs, only to make her stop in her tracks.


Pools of blood fill the halls along with scorch marks along the walls. Jiang Yanli doubles over and gags from the stench as she shakes her head.

The bodies of dignitaries that she recognizes from the Senate litter the floor. They've been brutally cut down and ripped apart by some unknown creature. Her heart races out of her chest as she tries to look for help.

"What do we have here?"

Jiang Yanli's eyes grow wide as she looks back to see a young man with a devilish grin staring at her from the staircase.

"It seems I missed one." The stranger smiles. "Apologies, my lady."

Jiang Yanli shakes her head before fleeing from the scene. The stranger laughs at her as she runs, igniting a red lightsaber before stalking towards her.

She watches as he drags the blade against the floor before ducking inside a room and locking it behind her. Jiang Yanli knows that door won't hold for long, and tries to glance around the area for an escape.

"I must say I'm impressed with how quickly you put this all together." The Chancellor's voice rings out.

"This isn't my first soiree." Jin Guangshan laughs. "Although, I must admit, it is an honor to celebrate the end of the war on behalf of the Senate."

Jiang Yanli looks up at the sound of the voices and sees the same glowing light from before leading her towards the back. She moves toward it as the sound of footsteps grow nearer and finds a small hidden lever, revealing a secret door.

The sound of metal melting grabs her attention and Jiang Yanli looks back to see the red blade of her attacker cutting through the lock. She ducks past the door and closes it behind her, hoping it buys her enough time to escape.

"I wanted to show you something, Senator."

Jiang Yanli follows the path forward as the voices continue chatting in her head.

"What is this?" Jin Guangshan asks.

"A lightsaber." The Chancellor states. "Wen Ruohan's to be exact."

The hidden corridor leads towards a room up ahead. Jiang Yanli picks up her pace as she sees the exit looming closer.

"What a rare gift!" Jin Guangshan states. "I shall keep it with me as a symbol of our friendship and the end of the war."

"You are mistaken, Senator." The Chancellor tells him. "There is much more history in this blade than just the Sunshot Campaign."

Jiang Yanli reaches the exit to find an ornate room filled with hidden treasures. She moves forward through it as the voices continue.

"Did you know that this blade didn't originally belong to Wen Ruohan?" The Chancellor asks.

"It didn't?" Jin Guangshan states. "Then who did it belong to?"

"An assassin." The Chancellor tells him. "The same one that trained Yu Ziyuan and Wen Zhuliu."

Jiang Yanli sees something up ahead as she walks forward towards it.

"It was given to Wen Ruohan as a gift from his Master." The Chancellor states. "So that he could wield it to instill chaos and spark the beginning of the war."

"His Master?" Jin Guangshan asks. "What are you saying? That the war isn't over?"

Her eyes grow wide as she uncovers a body dressed in gold with a black lightsaber discarded to the side.

"No." The Chancellor states. "This was never about a war."

"Then what was it about?" Jin Guangshan asks.

Laughter fills her ears as she hears the Chancellor respond.


There, laying at her feet, is the dead body of Jin Guangshan. She recoils from the corpse, not sure what to do before she hears the door from upstairs open. Jiang Yanli grabs the lightsaber and holds it out in front of her.

There's no exit in sight, not one that she can find, but she won't go down easy. If there is a chance she can hold off her attacker long enough to escape, she has to take it.

The sound of footsteps grow closer as she holds the weapon out in front of her. Jiang Yanli sees her pursuers shadow pour through the hallway as she lifts up the blade and-

"Senator Jiang?"

Jiang Yanli stops as she recognizes Chancellor Guangyao. She lowers the blade and takes a deep breath.

"Chancellor!" She states. "I'm so happy to see you! What happened here?"

He shakes his head.

"We were in the middle of our celebration when an old ally of Wen Ruohan attacked." He says. "I was able to escape, but when I saw you show up I knew I had to come back."

Jiang Yanli looks up at him.

"...My husband?" She asks.

Chancellor Guangyao shakes his head.

"He isn't here." He says. "I assume he's on Coruscant."

Jiang Yanli lets out a sigh.

"Thank goodness." She says. "Come on, we have to find a way to escape."

Chancellor Guangyao nods.

"Come with me." He says. "I know the way out."

She follows him outside the hidden corridor back towards the hallway covered in blood. Jiang Yanli keeps her eyes down so she doesn't have to see the carnage, before glancing up at a small communications room.

"Wait." She says. "Keep an eye on the door."

"What are you doing?" He asks.

She walks towards the room and turns on the monitors.

"We're going to need proof when we return to the Senate." She says. "I don't know if they'll believe us if we say there's still insurgents working for Wen Ruohan."

"We don't have time." He says.

Jiang Yanli pulls up the security files.

"We'll have to make time." She says.

Chancellor Guangyao watches as she downloads the files onto a small flash drive before glancing down the hallway.

"Wait a moment." She says. "I'm almost done."

He shakes his head.

"We don't have any more time." He says. "Come on."

Jiang Yanli tries to protest until she hears the sound of a lightsaber igniting. She grabs the downloaded files, what little she could find, and bolts.

The Chancellor guides her towards his ship and ushers her inside.

"We'll take mine." He says. "It's much faster."

She nods.

Chancellor Guangyao turns on the deck and lifts them into the atmosphere. Jiang Yanli watches as the planet fades into a distant dot before he hits the hyperdrive and they take off.

Jiang Yanli lets out a sigh.

"This nightmare is never going to end." She says. "We need to get this to the Senate before that person tracks us down. Who knows if there are more of them out there looking for us?"

Chancellor Guangyao shakes his head.

"I'm sure we'll be fine." He tells her. "Why don't you go get some rest and I'll look over the footage."

"No, I can do it myself." She says. "Besides, I want to see if I can recognize the face of our attacker. I could've sworn I've seen him somewhere before."

Chancellor Guangyao raises one eyebrow.

"You…saw his face?" He asks.

She nods.

"Only for a brief moment." She says. "Perhaps something in this footage will grant us more knowledge."

He looks down at the flashdrive sitting in her hands and smiles.

"You're very clever Senator Jiang." He says. "Where would I be without you?"

Something about the way he says that sends a chill down her spine. Jiang Yanli is reminded of the voices she heard back there and she steps back.

"Thank you Chancellor." She says. "Actually, now that I think about it, I should go get some sleep."

He nods.

"There's a small guest cabin towards the back." He says. "Why don't you go rest up."

Jiang Yanli smiles.

"Thank you." She says.

She clutches the flash drive tightly in her fist before calmly walking away. As soon as she's alone Jiang Yanli makes a beeline for the control room and locates a holodeck.

She opens the files that she was able download, only getting the tail end of the assault, before she sees footage from the room that she found Jin Guangshan in. The Chancellor circles around him with a smile on his face as he holds Wen Ruohan's lightsaber.

"Allow me to tell you a story." He says. "About a poor boy and his outcasted mother."

Jiang Yanli glances back at the door and locks it behind her.

"A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, a young woman fell in love with a Senator." The Chancellor states. "The Senator was handsome, charming, and wealthy above all else. He ended up courting the young woman, even though he himself was already married.

"One day, the woman showed up to tell him the good news. She was pregnant, and absolutely certain that the child was his. The Senator became outraged, and told her to get rid of it. When she refused, he sent assassins after her, in an attempt to rid himself of both his lover and his child.

"The woman went into hiding, and was able to stay lurking in the shadows until she finally gave birth to a baby boy. For a while they got along just fine, living job to job in an effort to keep hiding from his father. But the past eventually caught up to them, and the woman was murdered by an assassin who was known for being thorough and cruel.

"Before she died, the woman hid her child in an empty temple, and he stayed there for days waiting for his mother to come back. But she never did, and the little boy had to learn how to protect himself."

Jin Guangshan's eyes grow wide as the story comes to a close and he shakes his head.

"They told me you were dead." He says. "They promised me."

"They got bored of looking." The Chancellor states. "The corpse they brought you was that of another boy. I, however, did not die that night."

Jiang Yanli's eyes grow wide.

"I learned many things from you, father." Jin Guangyao tells him. "Patience, anger, rage, but most importantly, drive. I learned how to turn that anger into power, and with that power, I learned how to turn you into a pawn."

Jin Guangshan turns to run towards the door but it's locked behind him. Jin Guangyao ignites the lightsaber sitting in his hand and stalks towards him.

"I kept to myself for so many years." He says. "Waiting for the perfect opportunity to confront you once and for all."

Jiang Yanli watches as he raises up his hand and grabs Jin Guangshan with the force.

"But now I have a greater purpose." He says. "And you, my dear father, will become nothing more than a footnote in my legacy."

His words echo in her head and Jiang Yanli's eyes grow wide.

She's heard that phrase before.

Jin Guangshan pleads for his life.

"Please." He says. "I'll give you anything, just let me go."

The Chancellor dumps him on the floor and shakes his head.

"Anything?" He asks. "Then why don't you look me in the eyes and say my name?"

Jin Guangshan lifts his head up and stutters.

"Chancellor J-jin Guangyao." He says.

The Chancellor smirks.

"No." He says. "That is not my name."

Jin Guangshan's eyes grow wide as he is impaled by the Chancellor's lightsaber. Jiang Yanli watches as Jin Guangyao leans in closer to his father and grabs his face.

"My name is Meng Yao." He says. "Faithful child of Meng Shi, the Sith Lord who orchestrated the Sunshot Campaign, and I am your son."

The door opens behind her and Jiang Yanli just barely has enough time to react as she looks up to see her attacker from before standing side by side with Jin Guangyao.

"Hello Senator." Jin Guangyao states. "I see you're well rested."

Jiang Yanli reaches for the lightsaber she took off of Jin Guangshan's body and holds it up in front of her. Jin Guangyao smiles as he shakes his head and rips it from her hands with the force.

"Not today." He says. "I must admit, I am disappointed. You were never meant to be a part of my plan, but nonetheless, you are now."

She shakes her head.

"You're the one that killed them." She says. "You've had your assassin standing beside us this entire time as your bodyguard."

The assassin nods.

"Pleased to make your acquaintance." He says. "You may call me Xue Yang. I have to say, it's an honor for you to know the name of your killer. So many of my victims never had the chance."

She takes a step back.

"Why?" She asks. "Why did you kill them?"

Jin Guangyao sighs.

"You're an intelligent woman, Jiang Yanli." He says. "Why else would I need to dispose of those idiots?"

She looks up at him.

"Your strongest opponents in the Senate are now dead." She says. "You're planning on building an empire."

"No need to plan anymore." He tells her. "We're already in one."

Jiang Yanli moves to grab the flash drive, but is cut short by Xue Yang destroying the panel. She leaps back in fear and tries to regain her balance.

"How does my brother fit into all of this?" She asks. "What could you possibly want with A-Cheng?"

Jin Guangyao laughs.

"Your brothers are the most important part." He says. "They're about to hand me the keys to the galaxy."

Her back hits the wall as they corner her.

"Not if I have any say about it." She says.

He shakes his head.

"That's why you don't."

Xue Yang walks towards her and lifts up his lightsaber. She closes her eyes, ready for the attack, when she hears it.

"You must be strong!" Her mother's voice calls out. "You must fight back!"

Without realizing what she's doing, Jiang Yanli reaches out with one hand and pulls Jin Guangyao's lightsaber towards her. The weapon comes flying through the air, landing in her hands, before she ignites it and blocks the attack. Xue Yang and Jin Guangyao's eyes grow wide.

"You're a jedi!" He exclaims.

Jiang Yanli doesn't have time to process this. She pushes back Xue Yang before breaking down his stance and making a mad dash for the door. Jin Guangyao tries to grab her, but she reacts on instinct and slashes forward.

There's a high-pitched groan as the weapon makes contact with skin, and she slices him across the face. Jin Guangyao lets out a terrible cry before she escapes down the corridor.

Jiang Yanli isolates herself inside a backroom and locks the door. Her heart is beating wildly out of her chest as she tries to escape.

"You have to be strong, Jiang Yanli." She says. "You have to be brave."

But the closest escape pod she can find is across the ship. There's no way she'll be able to make it there in time before they catch her. A sob wracks through her body before she looks up to see a small red droid make its way towards her.

It's an L4 unit, shaped like an apple, and she watches as it slowly approaches before an idea pops up.

"...I'm not making it off this ship today." She says.

The droid looks up at her as she takes a deep breath.

"But you are."

By the time her attackers find her, Jiang Yanli is standing at a panel waiting for the assault. She rushes over to press a button, only to have Xue Yang thrust forward and impale her through the heart.

Jiang Yanli looks down at the spot where she's been struck before slamming her hand down on the button. Jin Guangyao watches as she collapses on the floor, finally dead, before realizing what she just did.

"Where is that escape pod headed to?" He asks.

Xue Yang shakes his head.

"No idea." He says. "She scrambled the coordinates."

Jin Guangyao lets out a huff.

"Find out whatever it was that she put on that pod and destroy it." He says. "We can't let the truth of what happened here today get out."

Xue Yang shakes his head.

"And if it does?" He asks.

Jin Guangyao takes a deep breath.

"I'll figure it out."

Jin Zixuan wanders through the halls on Coruscant with Mianmian by his side early in the morning.

"I don't know why he had to call me here so suddenly." He says. "I should be back home with Jiang Yanli and Jin Ling."

Mianmian shakes her head.

"Who knows?" She says. "I'm surprised he's had us waiting here for so long. You don't think it has something to do with the war, do you?"

Jin Zixuan shrugs.

"I don't know." He says. "But something isn't right."

It's as he says this that an attendant comes rushing towards them.

"Master Jin!" They shout. "The Chancellor is calling for you in their office."

Jin Zixuan shakes his head.

"No need to shout." He says. "I'm on my way."

They follow the attendant to the low lit room where Chancellor Guangyao is waiting for them. His face is partially covered with a large hood as he looks out the window.

"Chancellor Guangyao." Jin Zixuan states. "You summoned me?"

The Chancellor nods.

"I did." He states. "I have unfortunate news."

Jin Zixuan raises one eyebrow.

"What is it?" He asks.

The Chancellor turns to face him, his face swollen with a horrible wound down the middle, and in one fellow swoop, Jin Zixuan's world is changed forever.

The galaxy mourns the death of Jiang Yanli. There are cries in the streets as people gather from across worlds to pay their respects. The crowd weeps as her casket is escorted down the same path that she walked for her coronation no less than a year ago.

Amongst the mourners are her husband, her newborn baby, and Nie Huaisang. Jin Ling grows fussy in his father's arms as Nie Huaisang turns to face him.

"Would you like me to summon a servant?" He asks.

Jin Zixuan shakes his head.

"A-Ling is allowed to mourn his mother." He says. "I will not take that away from him."

Nie Huaisang sighs.

"I know." He says. "But you also need time to mourn your wife."

Jin Zixuan lets out a shuddering breath.

"I mourn her every waking moment." He says. "And I will mourn her until the day I die."

Nie Huaisang places one hand on his shoulder.

"We all will." He says.

They glance up at the procession and Nie Huaisang listens in on the conversations going on around them.

"What is going to happen to Yunmeng now?"

"All they have left is her brother."

"Which one? Neither of them are here today."

Nie Huaisang shakes his head.

"Where is Jiang Wanyin?" He asks. "Shouldn't he be here?"

"He didn't want to come." Jin Zixuan tells him. "He hasn't left his room since we got the news."

Nie Huaisang raises one eyebrow.

"And where is he now?"

Jin Zixuan travels through the halls of Lotus Pier until he arrives at Jiang Wanyin's quarters. He raises up his fist to knock on the door before he hears voices from inside.

"It is unfortunate, I know." The Chancellor says. "But there is no more denying it. The Yiling Patriarch was responsible for your sister's death, as well as the rest of the bloodshed that occured on Mustafar."

Jin Zixuan freezes.

"...You saw him?" Jiang Wanyin asks.

"Yes." The Chancellor states. "I haven't made this public yet, but you deserve to know the truth. The night your sister came to greet me, we were ambushed by your brother. He began attacking erratically, and when she moved to try and stop him he…"

Jin Zixuan feels his heart stop.

The person who killed Jiang Yanli was…?

"...That man is no longer my brother." Jiang Wanyin states. "The Yiling Patriarch is nothing more than a traitor."

Jin Zixuan leans in closer to the door.

"I will not allow this senseless act of violence to go unpunished." The Chancellor states. "However, there is one small problem."

"What is it?" Jiang Wanyin asks.

"The Yiling Patriarch is not alone." He says. "It is said that he has an army of former Wen soldiers aiding him on Dathomir. They serve a dark and powerful Sith Lord, one that even Wen Ruohan has coveted."

Jiang Wanyin takes a deep breath.

"Xue Chonghai." He states.

"So you know who they are?" The Chancellor asks.

Jiang Wanyin nods.

"Wen Ruohan mentioned him when last we fought." He says. "At first I thought Wei Wuxian's reaction to the name was that of anger, but if he's working for this Sith Lord then perhaps there is something deeper."

Jin Zixuan looks inside to see the Chancellor smiling.

"Bring me his Master." The Chancellor states. "And I will grant you your justice."

Jiang Wanyin looks up at him and nods.

"Of course." He says. "I am at the service of the Republic."

Chancellor Guangyao shakes his head.

"The Republic was too weak." He says. "Never again. Starting today, we begin the dawn of a new Empire."

Jin Zixuan's eyes grow wide and he steps back.

Something isn't right, he can sense it. The Chancellor isn't telling them everything that happened with Jiang Yanli's death. He needs to get to the bottom of this before something else goes wrong.

Dathomir, huh?

Wen Qing and Wen Ning wait outside of Wei Wuxian's cave as he reads his mother's letter. The two Wen siblings glance over at each other, unsure of what to do before he emerges from his workspace with the lightsaber in hand.

"Well?" Wen Qing asks. "What did it say?"

Wei Wuxian looks up at her.

"...I have to destroy it." He says. "It's the only way."

She shakes her head.

"What does that mean for you?" She asks.

Wei Wuxian reaches toward her and pulls her into a hug.

"It's alright." He says. "What's done is done. All we can do now is finish this."

In a rare moment of vulnerability, he feels Wen Qing's arms wrap around him as she lets out a sob. Wen Ning looks up at them and shakes his head.

"There has to be another way." He says.

Wei Wuxian takes a deep breath.

"There isn't."

The two of them open their mouths to say something before they hear a noise coming from up above. The three of them look up to see a Yunmeng spacecraft come out of hyperspace and enter the atmosphere.

"A-Cheng?" Wei Wuxian asks.

They rush over to let the ship in only to be taken aback when they watch Jin Zixuan exit.

"Master Jin?" Wei Wuxian asks. "What are you doing here?"

Jin Zixuan shakes his head.

"I need answers." He says. "We can still stop this."

Wei Wuxian looks up at him.

"What do you mean?" He asks. "What is going on Master Jin?"

Jin Zixuan steps towards him.

"Wei Wuxian." He says. "Why were you there on Mustafar that night?"

Wei Wuxian shakes his head.

"Mustafar?" He asks. "What are you-"

"The night of the attack!" Jin Zixuan states. "The night my wife was killed!"

Wei Wuxian's eyes grow wide.

"Jiejie was…"

"I don't believe it was you." Jin Zixuan tells him. "After everything your sister told me, I don't believe that you would kill her like that."

Wei Wuxian feels the world crumble around him as he says this and he takes a step back.

Jiang Yanli is dead.

His sister, the one he promised he would see again one day, is dead.

"Do you see now?" Xue Chonghai asks him. "You truly are alone in this galaxy."

"I need to know the reason." Jin Zixuan states. "I can still stop them. The Chancellor will be on his way any minute now to destroy everybody here!"

Wei Wuxian shakes his head.

"She's dead?" He asks. "And they think I killed her?"

Jin Zixuan grabs him by the shoulders.

"You need to tell me the truth." He says. "What happened that night?"

Wei Wuxian looks up at him, but all he can hear is Xue Chonghai's voice.

"Weak little jedi." His master laughs. "Couldn't even protect his own sister."

"Shut up." Wei Wuxian states.

Jin Zixuan furrows his brow.

"Wei Wuxian?" He asks.

"Too weak to save your own family." Xue Chonghai states. "Too weak to save your own friends, too weak to save yourself, too weak to do anything!"

"I said shut up!" Wei Wuxian shouts.

Jin Zixuan looks up at him concerned.

"What is happening?" He asks. "Wei Wuxian, look at me."

"You want to destroy me?" Xue Chonghai asks. "I'm all you have left!"

"Shut up!" Wei Wuxian shouts.

"Weak little jedi."


"Scared little jedi."

"Stop it!"

"My poor apprentice."

"Get out of my head!"

The lightsaber ignites and he looks down to see Jin Zixuan impaled upon his sword. Wei Wuxian's eyes fill with tears as he shakes his head.

"No." He says. "No, I didn't mean it."

Jin Zixuan looks up at him.

"They're…coming." He says. "The Republic…they're coming…to..kill you."

Wei Wuxian shakes his head.

"Wen Qing!" He shouts. "Please! You have to do something."

Jin Zixuan grabs him by his shoulders.

"Wei…Wuxian." He says. "You must…run."

He lets out a shuddering breath before closing his eyes. Wei Wuxian tries to keep him awake, but it's no use.

He's already gone.

"What have I done?" Wei Wuxian asks. "What am I going to do?"

Wen Qing rushes over towards him and turns his face towards her.

"We need to focus." She says. "He said something about an invasion."

Wei Wuxian nods as he takes a deep breath.

"The Republic is coming." He says. "And they're here to kill us all."

Lan Wangji sits alone inside the Jingshi as two guards stand outside his door. He tries to focus on his meditation, but the sound of voices gossiping draws his attention.

"They're saying that the attack is happening tonight." One of the guards says.

"Good riddance." The other one scoffs. "If the Jedi Council wasn't going to do anything about him, at least the Republic will."

Lan Wangji's eyes grow wide.

"They're no longer the Republic." One of them says. "Haven't you heard? The Chancellor has decided to re-establish the Senate as the first Galactic Empire."

The other guard shakes his head.

"Sounds like the end of democracy." He says.

"More like the beginning of a new age." The other one states. "Starting with the death of the Yiling Patriarch."

Lan Wangji's heart stops.

The Republic is planning on leading an attack against Wei Ying?

This can't be. He won't let it happen!

Lan Wangji glances out the window, looking for a way to escape. He doesn't know what Lan Xichen is going to do once he realizes that he's gone, but he can't think about that right now. He needs to get on a ship and back to Dathomir.

He won't let Wei Ying die.

Jiang Cheng sits alone in his cabin as he waits for the ship to come out of hyperspace. He looks down at the two weapons laying in front of him and takes a deep breath.

His lightsaber, the one he forged with his own brother, the one he carried by his side throughout the entire Sunshot Campaign, sits there untouched at an arm's length away.

And there, laying next to it, is his mother's lightwhip.

Jiang Cheng picks up the old weapon and holds it in his hand. He ignites lightwhip and watches as its red glow illuminates his face.

"General." One of the soldiers outside states. "We're coming out of hyperspace. Are you ready to depart?"

Jiang Cheng grips the weapon tighter in his grasp and nods.


Wei Wuxian watches as Wen Qing and her brother usher their family inside the ship. They grab whatever supplies they can from the settlement and squeeze themselves in.

"Where are we going to go now?" Wen Qing asks. "There's nowhere in the galaxy we'll be safe from the Republic."

Wen Ning shakes his head.

"We'll figure it out." He says. "Come on Master Wei, it's time to go."

Wei Wuxian looks up at them and steps back.

"...I'm sorry." He says. "But I can't go."

Wen Qing's eyes grow wide.

"No." She says. "We're not leaving you."

"You have to." Wei Wuxian tells her. "If you don't, you'll never make it out of here alive."

"And what about you?" She asks. "Who will be there to make sure you escape?"

Wei Wuxian looks up at her and smiles.

"I have to do this." He says. "I'm the only one who can."

She opens her mouth to say something before they hear thunder. The three of them look up to see a fleet of ships enter the atmosphere. Wei Wuxian takes note of the incoming invasion and takes a deep breath.

"I'll hold them back." He says. "Once you're gone, I'll lock myself inside the tomb and destroy the crystal."

"Will you have enough time?" Wen Ning asks.

Wei Wuxian sighs.

"No." He says. "But I have to try."

The Republic army piles out of their starships, weapons at the ready, as Jiang Cheng leads them at the front. They head forward towards the town, looking for any sign of life when they see him.

A dark hooded figure, holding a red lightsaber.

Jiang Cheng steps forward.

"Wei Wuxian." He sneers.

Wei Wuxian shakes his head.

"I'm not the one that killed our sister." He states.

"Why would I believe a word you say?" Jiang Cheng asks. "After everything you've done, after you abandoned us during the war to run off with your little insurgents!"

Wei Wuxian looks up at him.

"I don't want to fight you, A-Cheng." He says. "But I won't hold back if you intend to hurt them."

Jiang Cheng lets out a huff.

"Do you really think I care about what happens to them?" He asks. "No, I'm only interested in taking you down."

Wei Wuxian holds up his lightsaber.

"Then strike me down." He states. "If that is all that I have left to give."

Jiang Cheng ignites his lightwhip.

"No more holding back."

At the first strike of the whip, Wei Wuxian is taken aback. He has to block the assault from a distance, utilizing his lightsaber in an effort to protect himself.

Wei Wuxian hears the sound of his master trying to speak with him, but he pushes them back. Struggling to maintain his stance as his brother lashes out.

Jiang Cheng has him backed into a corner as they try to strike each other down before Jiang Cheng reaches out with one hand to grab him with the force. Wei Wuxian reaches out at the same time and they stand there stuck in time, holding each other back.

When they finally relent, both brothers go flying through the air, landing on their feet before circling each other.

"This isn't you Jiang Cheng!" Wei Wuxian shouts. "You can't let the path of hatred cloud your judgment."

Jiang Cheng shakes his head.

"And who says my judgment is clouded?" He asks. "I should've gotten rid of you from the first moment that we met! It was my naive heart that led me to believe that there was still good in you! A mistake I won't make again!"

He lashes forward as Wei Wuxian blocks the attack.

"So you'll destroy anybody else that gets in your way?" Wei Wuxian asks.

"No." Jiang Cheng states. "Just anybody that ever helped you."

Wei Wuxian watches as his brother moves forward to strike before side-stepping the attack and knocking him off his feet. Jiang Cheng pulls him down with him and the two end up wrestling on the ground.

Jiang Cheng wraps his hands around Wei Wuxian's neck, crushing his windpipe. He looks down at his brother, struggling to breathe, before they hear a lightsaber ignite.

A flash of blue light grabs their attention as someone pushes Jiang Cheng off and he looks up to see Wei Wuxian's savior standing there in white robes.

Lan Wangji holds his weapon out in front of him.

"Lan Wangji." Jiang Cheng sneers. "I should've known you'd show up."

Wei Wuxian shakes his head.

"Lan Zhan." He says. "You shouldn't be here."

Lan Wangji glances back at him.

"I won't leave you." He says. "I'm staying."

Jiang Cheng scowls before turning back to face his men.

"Fire at them!" He shouts. "All of you! Bury them in the ground!"

His soldiers raise their weapons.

Wen Qing watches as the area Wei Wuxian ran off to is ignited by the sound of blaster fire.

"I have to do something." She says. "They'll kill him before he gets a chance to destroy that crystal."

Wen Ning takes a deep breath.

"Jiejie." He says. "Please, you'd never make it back in time."

She pauses.

"...I know."

Wen Ning holds her gaze for a moment with glassy eyes as she reaches forward and pulls him into a hug.

"I can't run away again." She says. "Not this time."

Wen Ning wraps his arms around her.

"We can wait." He says.

"No." She says. "You have to protect everybody on this ship and get them all to safety. I'm trusting you with this A-Ning, promise me you'll do it."

Wen Ning nods.

"I-I promise." He says. "I won't let anything happen to them."

She smiles before glancing up at his face.

"I couldn't have asked for a braver brother." She tells him. "Now go, before it's too late."

Wen Ning lets out a sob before he enters the ship and flies away.

One last fight.

Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji are just barely holding their ground against Jiang Cheng and his men.

"Lan Zhan!" Wei Wuxian shouts. "You have to run! I won't let you go down with me!"

Lan Wangji shakes his head.

"This is the path I've chosen." He states. "I will not turn my back on you."

Wei Wuxian takes a deep breath and focuses on the blaster fire. Their arms grow tired as they defend one another before a green haze surrounds them. Wei Wuxian looks up to see a figure dressed in red approach and his eyes grow wide.

"Wen Qing?" He asks.

She looks down at him.

"Go!" She states. "I'll buy you some time!"

Wei Wuxian shakes his head.

"What about the others?" He asks.

She closes her eyes.

"They're safe." She says. "It's alright Wei Wuxian, this is my fight too."

He looks up at her as she glances over at Lan Wangji.

"Keep him safe." She says. "And may the force be with you."

Lan Wangji nods before grabbing his hand and dragging him away. Wen Qing watches as they disappear into the mist before focusing on the assault.


Her eyes grow wide.

Wen Qing looks up to see the glowing green eyes of her fallen Nightsisters staring back at her.

"You have returned." They say.

She shakes her head.

"I'm sorry." She says. "I abandoned you when this planet needed me the most. I will never forgive myself."

The Nightsisters circle her.

"But you came back." They say. "And now you are here to finish the job."

She feels one of them place their hand on her shoulder.

"Let us help you." They say.

She shakes her head.

"You would fight alongside a traitor?" She asks.

They smile.

"We will fight alongside our sister."

The green mist clears and Jiang Cheng's men hold their fire as they see the two force wielders gone, replaced by Wen Qing. Jiang Cheng steps forward.

"Out of my way, witch." He states.

She looks up at him.

"You'll have to move me."

He pulls out his lightwhip.

"How do you expect to hold back my army all by yourself?" He asks.

She smirks.

"Who said I was alone?"

Her eyes turn green and the sound of laughter fills the air. The hanging caskets of the Nightsisters surrounding the Burial Mounds burst open as a hoard of reanimated corpses burst to life.

They immediately lunge at his men and Jiang Cheng stares in horror at their gleeful violence. He remembers the sluggish, almost lazy, way Wen Ruohan's corpses fought back on Mustafar. This is what he supposes Wei Wuxian meant when he called them sloppy .

He slashes forward past the hoard and makes a beeline for her. Wen Qing dodges his attacks and hits him with a series of spells. Jiang Cheng lets out a cry of frustration as she knocks him back.

"So this is who my brother abandoned us for?" He asks. "A low-life traitor who turned her back on the galaxy."

She shakes her head.

"I'm not a traitor." She states. "I'm a Nightsister, the last Nightsister, and I'm not afraid of you Jiang Wanyin."

He sneers.

"You will be."

They strike forward, with her dancing around his attacks while he slashes at her. His men are being torn apart in the meanwhile as their screams resonate through the air.

Wen Qing manages to knock him off his feet and dislodge his weapon. He sees a blaster tossed across the battlefield and Jiang Cheng scrambles to his feet. He rushes for the gun as Wen Qing strikes him down.

He lands face down in the dirt, turning around just in time to see her towering over him before he raises up the blaster and-


Wen Qing looks down at the place where he struck her in the heart and she falls to her knees. Jiang Cheng scrambles for his lightwhip as she glances up at him and smiles.

"You are his greatest weakness." She says. "And he is yours."

He watches as the light fades from her eyes before turning back to see the corpses continuing to fight. Jiang Cheng looks up in the direction Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji left and shakes his head.

He has to finish this.

Wei Wuxian leads Lan Wangji back towards the cave where he found the crystal and releases his hand.

"This is it." He says. "This is where it all started."

Lan Wangji looks up at him.

"What are you going to do?" He asks.

Wei Wuxian grips his lightsaber.

"I'm going to finish the job."

Lan Wangji takes a deep breath and opens his mouth to say something when a blaster fires through the air. They both look up to see Jiang Cheng standing there disheveled as he holds both weapons in his hands.

"Wei Wuxian!" He shouts.

Lan Wangji ignites his weapon.

"Go!" He states. "I'll hold him off!"

Wei Wuxian shakes his head.

"Lan Zhan-"

"I said go!" He shouts. "While you still can!"

Wei Wuxian lets out a huff before racing down the hall. He hears the sound of fighting from upstairs, but he has to ignore it as he makes his way towards the tomb.

"And what do you think this will accomplish?" Xue Chonghai asks. "You think you can just get rid of me and not face the consequences?"

Wei Wuxian shakes his head.

"I know what you are." He states. "And I know what I must do."

"How brave." It sneers. "But bravery will only get you so far. You know what this will cost, the same thing it cost your parents."

Wei Wuxian nods.

"I know."

He makes it to the center of the tomb and rips his lightsaber open. The crystal pulses with an angry red glow as he holds it out in front of him.

"Go ahead then!" Xue Chonghai shouts. "Show me you can do it! Prove me wrong!"

He focuses his energy on the structure of the crystal and closes his eyes.

Immediately, Wei Wuxian feels his strength being drained from him as he makes an effort to crack the red stone. He hears Xue Chonghai laugh inside his brain as he taunts him, lashing out at Wei Wuxian as he collapses on the floor.

"You're too weak!" He shouts. "You don't have what it takes to destroy me! I am what makes you! Without me you are nothing!"

Wei Wuxian shakes his head and takes a deep breath before he feels something.

A warm and comforting light.

"A-Xian." His sister's voice rings out. "Don't give up.You must fight."

He looks down to see her hand covering his, and in that moment, all the darkness and resentment that's been building in his heart disappears. Wei Wuxian looks up at the red crystal floating in front of him and takes a deep breath.

"You're wrong Xue Chonghai." He says. "I have never been more than what you gave me."

The crystal laughs.

"Then what are you?" He asks.

Wei Wuxian smiles.

"I am a Jedi."

With a burst of energy Wei Wuxian cracks the red crystal and Xue Chonghai screams. A wave of power surges over them causing the walls to cave in as the tomb collapses and suddenly-

The crystal shatters.

Wei Wuxian sinks to the floor, exhausted. He barely has time to register his own death, as he closes his eyes and allows himself to be buried beneath the rubble of his old master's tomb.

It's over now.

He can finally rest.

Dear Wei Ying,

If you're reading this letter, then I've already made my choice. I'm sorry, I wish it didn't have to come to this, but I must do what is right for the galaxy. Even if that choice leaves you without a mother, a regret I will carry with me into the next life.

I want you to know that when I chose to walk this path, I was thinking of you. It tore me apart to know that I would be leaving you behind, but I trust that you will be loved regardless of if I am there. How could you not be? You are my son.

And you deserve an explanation. This whole thing is rather complicated, so let me see if I can sum it up in the only way I know how: As a story.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, there were two siblings. They were both very powerful, but could never get along. The oldest sibling, a force wielder by the name of Baoshen Sanren, learned how to hone her abilities so that she could cultivate to immortality. While her brother, Xue Chonghai, used his power to terrorize the galaxy and spread chaos in his wake.

They fought in a great and terrible war, battling for the right to claim superiority over all living things. But Baoshen Sanren always knew she could never truly defeat her brother. Not because he was too powerful, but because she loved him too much. So she gave up her immortal body to imprison him in a crystal, and fulfilled her duty to the galaxy while also keeping him safe.

However, this prison would never last. Xue Chonghai would seek a new apprentice one day to use as a host, and then there would be no one left to stop him from his conquest. So she asked her most trusted apprentice to carry out one last task.

To lock him up.

Wei Ying, I know that by accepting this mission I may never return. Your father insists that he come with me, and if we both fail to survive I don't know what will happen to you. Jiang Fengmian already promised me that he would give you this letter should we never return, but a letter isn't enough. I ran the scenario a million times over in my head, trying to come up with an alternative, until one day I had a dream.

In that dream I saw you there, standing side by side a man dressed in white as the sunrise illuminated both of your faces. In my dream you looked so happy, so at peace, and then I realized what it was.

It was the future.

If I don't go through with this, there won't be a sunrise for you to watch ever again. You won't live to have a future, no one will. And that is why I left, that is why I fight. My master taught me many things, but the most important lesson she ever taught me was this. We could spend an eternity trying to destroy the things we hate, and it will never be enough. But, when we choose to protect that with which we love, there is no force in this galaxy that we can not overcome.

And that is why I fight. Never let the hatred of this world guide your heart Wei Ying, you were born with a smile on your face for a reason. I love you, and I'll always be with you.


Your mother.

Jiang Cheng watches as his men excavate the remains of Wei Wuxian's cave, running his hands over the rubble of the small damp space as he explores what little is left of it.

"There's nothing here, sir." His soldiers say.

"Then keep digging." Jiang Cheng tells them. "And don't stop until you manage to bring me back a body."

He hears footsteps from behind and looks up to see Chancellor Guangyao make his way over.

"Jiang Wanyin." He says. "May I have a word?"

Jiang Cheng nods.

They exit the cave and leave to survey the remains of the battlefield. Many of Jiang Cheng's men were torn apart by Wen Qing, taking all of their manpower to destroy her corpses.

"I see the battle was fierce, but well fought." The Chancellor states.

Jiang Cheng turns away from him.

"He's not dead yet." He says. "I would know if he was dead. Wei Wuxian is still out there, I can feel it."

The Chancellor places one hand on his shoulder.

"Instead of dwelling on the past, perhaps it is best to prepare for the future?" He asks.

Jiang Cheng looks up at him.

"What do you mean?" He asks.

Chancellor Guangyao smiles.

"Later today I will be elected as the new Emperor by my constituents." He says. "I will use this position to extend my power beyond the Republic, and replace the Jedi Council with my own form of peacekeepers."

Jiang Cheng's eyes grow wide.

"That's amazing." He says. "The Senate agreed to your proposal?"

"Of course they did." The Chancellor states. "It was unanimous."

Jiang Wanyin watches as Chancellor Guangyao looks up at him.

"The future is bright, but I can't build it alone." He says. "I need a someone to help me as I guide this galaxy into a new era. A right-hand man, to act as my eyes and ears across the galaxy."

Jiang Cheng shakes his head.

"...Me?" He asks. "Are you sure?"

The Chancellor nods.

"Of course." He says. "You've already proven yourself to be worthy."

Jiang Cheng turns back towards the rubble of his brother's old cave and takes a deep breath.

"I would be honored, your majesty."

Chancellor Guangyao smiles.

"Go ahead and kneel Jiang Wanyin." He states. "Allow me the honor of granting you your title."

Jiang Cheng gets down on one knee as Chancellor Guangyao picks up a discarded electrostaff and raises it.

"From this day forward, you are no longer Jiang Wanyin, former Jedi Knight." He states. "You will be known as Sandu Shengshou, a son of Yunmeng, and loyal servant of the Galactic Empire."

Jiang Cheng looks up at him and the Chancellor smiles.

"Rise, my new apprentice."

Mianmian meets with a handful of supporters as they hide from their constituents on Coruscant. She looks over to see Nie Huaisang enter the room and walks up towards him.

"What are we going to do?" She asks. "With the Jedi Council under his thumb, along with the Banking Clans, there is no planet by which the Emperor does not control."

Nie Huaisang shakes his head.

"I am aware." He says. "It is taking all of my influence amongst the other planets to keep Mandalore from falling victim to his rule."

Mianmian crosses her arms.

"How are we supposed to fight this?" She asks. "Not even the Jedi are capable of taking him down."

Nie Huaisang looks up at her.

"Any word from Lan Wangji?" He asks.

She sighs.

"Not since the mission." Mianmian tells him. "He and his brother have both gone dark."

Nie Huaisang takes a deep breath.

"...And my brother?" He asks.

She shakes her head.

"...I'm so sorry."

Nie Huaisang sinks to the floor as Mianmian reaches out to comfort him. She feels something small bump into her leg and looks down to see an L4 droid shaped like an apple tug at her robes.

"What are you doing here little guy?" She asks.

The L4 droid jumps onto the holodeck revealing a projection of Jiang Yanli. They all stop as the room goes silent, turning to face the image of their long dead friend.

"Mianmian." The message states. "If you're listening to this, then that means that the droid I sent you successfully escaped. I only have a few minutes before they break in, so let me be quick…"

They stand there and listen as Jiang Yanli describes her last moments. By the end of it there is not a dry eye in sight. Mianmian shakes her head as they finish the recording and takes a deep breath.

"I can't believe it." She says. "What do we do now?"

Nie Huaisang walks forward towards the droid and holds out his hand.

"We deliver this message to the rest of the galaxy." He says. "Jiang Yanli has granted us with one last weapon."

Mianmian looks up at him.

"What is that?" She asks.

He turns towards her.


13 years later…

A battalion of stormtroopers surround a small shed as the young man guarding it takes a deep breath.

"You must be strong." He says. "You must be brave."

He grips the detonator in his hands and presses it.


The stormtroopers scramble to protect themselves as the blast sends them back. Mo Xuanyu steps out from behind his hiding spot and raises up his blaster.

"Come and get me Imperial Scum!" He shouts.

The stormtroopers gather themselves before chasing after him, abandoning the building altogether.

Hidden beneath the floorboards, underneath the shed, is a small makeshift lab with a series of monitors and a large bacta tank. Inside the tank lies a figure, with long black hair and a white ribbon tied around his wrist. As the fighting above grows louder the bacta tank releases him, and the water drains from inside.

The figure lets out a cough as he is brought back to life, and he clutches his chest before looking up to see silver eyes reflected back at him in a mirror.

Wei Wuxian is alive.

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