Fanfiction: Mo Yuan and Shao Wan - Chapter 16 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)
Chapter 16written by kakashi
edited by JoAnne
For reasons not entirely clear to the Water King of the Western Seas and his Queen, this year’s White Rock Sea Festival drew a much larger crowd than any of the previous festivals. As usual, they had sent out a generous amount of invitations to this cultural celebration of Realm diversity, expecting many polite refusals. However, more and more immortals had put their name on the guest list this year as the festival drew closer.
Because it was thus, the Water King saw himself confronted with a irksome problem days before the festival started - there weren’t enough guest rooms, not by far. He and his first son debated putting only Celestials (and Foxes) into the available space at the palace, but that was likely to create bad blood or even a crisis with the Demon and the Ghost clans.
Luckily, his clever wife came up with a solution: put everyone into tents at the beach! Not only would this add a touch of adventure and playfulness to the festival, it also freed space at the palace to host more small events … and political side-meetings. The White Rock Sea Festival was a celebration of peace and unity, but everybody knew that tensions were rising in the Demon Realm due to the return of the ancient Demon Overlord. The Water King of the Western Seas had felt honored, even thrilled when Dijun had asked to use the opportunity of the festival for diplomatic meetings between Celestials - represented by the God of War - and Demons - represented by the Demon Ancestor and the other attending Demon Kings.
Mo Yuan meditated for a few hours after his arrival at the Western Seas, then stepped out of his tent into the salt-laden air. The Water King had assigned him a tent that was slightly elevated on a dune. It awarded him a spectacular view across the entire encampment with its hundreds of small and large tents. Apart from difference in size, all of them looked the same, deliberately denying the guests signs of status and power. However, the Water King had decided to put Clan members with Clan members instead of randomly assigning and mixing them - which was probably wise, given the history of war between them. The tents of the Demon Clan were the farthest away from the Celestial encampment and, though visible from where he stood, he could not tell who had arrived and who had not. All he knew was the Demon Goddess had accepted the invitation, which meant she was alive and (most probably) well. This knowledge had been enough to stop the violent dreams so that he slept much more soundly of late and felt sufficiently rested.
Mo Yuan had brought his Senior Disciple and Sixteenth with him, leaving Second Disciple in charge of the school. The two were sharing a tent next to his. Die Feng had tried to hide how proud he was about his family hosting this grand meeting, but he was smiling much more than usual. Sixteenth on the other hand … when Mo Yuan had found out about his oath to guard the Sea of Innocence until the end of his life, he had scolded his disciple. He had told him that it was wrong, even likely to anger fate, to take punishment for saving someone’s life - especially a baby’s life. A child was an innocent life and had no guilt, even if they were a child of the Ghost Tribe. This child’s mother - Xuan Nu, who had betrayed them so nastily during the Ghost War - was already dead, as was her father Li Jing. No debts were owed.
This was what Mo Yuan had said to Sixteenth, even raising his voice a little in anger, and Sixteenth had bowed and apologized profoundly … but he remained gloomy and had stopped smiling altogether after rejoining them at Kunlun. From the little he knew about what had happened in the Ghost Realm, Mo Yuan could guess why Zi Lan had done what he had done and he understood what was eating away at his disciple. Unable to help him directly, the Master of Kunlun had taken him to the Festival hoping that Zi Lan might be able to talk to Seventeenth here and that it would help to cheer him up a little or even give him some of his spirits back.
The festivities were about to start. Given Mo Yuan’s status, he had to be there on time and sit in the front row next to the Crown Prince and the Crown Princess. Dutifully, he started walking towards the palace. It was a strange sensation, but the encampment reminded him of war; for a moment he felt out of place here without his armor and his sword. In fact, the tents reminded him strongly of his most recent war, which felt all the more recent because he had scattered right after and only recently returned. That made him think of the eve of battle, when he had taught Si Yin the Sealing Spell - knowing well that he might not survive the next day. It made him think that if she hadn’t known how to seal the bell, she would not have gone up against Ghost Lord Qing Cang, she would not have become a mortal, she would not have met Ye Hua …
Wrong. Mo Yuan stopped these blasphemous thoughts, cursing himself inwardly for his continuing lack of fortitude and reason.
Turning around the corner of one of the bigger tents, he almost bumped into Bai Qian. She appeared to be in a hurry but stopped to stare at him, blushing deeply. Mo Yuan noticed that her luminous turquoise robe and matching jewels played up her womanly beauty.
“Shifu,” she murmured and bowed, hiding her face.
“Litt… Si Y… Sister-in-Law,” he said, greeting her in turn.
She must be lost, he realized.
Before he could offer to walk her to the palace, she cast him another embarrassed look and hurried away - in the wrong direction. Mo Yuan furrowed his brow. What was that about now? He briefly thought about going after her, but held himself back. She was not his Little Seventeenth anymore. She did not beg for her Shifu to hold her when she lay wounded on her bed. She did not need him to pat her back when she drunkenly cried over a broken heart. She would find the way to the palace in time and if not, it was Ye Hua’s task to find and escort her.
Mo Yuan walked on and was just stepping through the coral gate between the beach and the palace when somebody bumped into him, rather forcefully. It was Shao Wan, flashing him a challenging look as she shouldered past. Her mount, running after her on much shorter legs, looked chagrined as he bowed deeply and apologetically to Mo Yuan. The Demon Goddess strode forward confidently, clearly seeking to arrive at the palace before him. Feeling relief that she was obviously fine, Mo Yuan smiled at her back and let her win.
The opening ceremony was pure agony. Through meditation practice, Mo Yuan knew how to sit still for days, months even, but he really did not feel like sitting still here. He detested large gatherings, always had. This one happened to be particularly large - in fact, there were more immortals at this Festival than ever before. He understood exactly why as soon as he spotted Si Ming, Lian Song and Cheng Yu putting their heads together after casting a furtive look in his direction. The Heavenly Tribe’s most infamous gossipers seemed to think that the God of War would provide them with a special kind of entertainment - and it was likely that this assumption was shared by half the realm.
He turned his head to scowl at Dijun, who had come as the companion of his Queen wife and was at this moment whispering something to his son Gun Gun, a miniature version of his father. Dijun paid Mo Yuan no heed at all despite knowing how angry being the main attraction at the festival would make him. Zhe Yan, with no official mission, had informed the hosts he would join the festivities later - meaning after the tedious parts. Bai Qian had made it in time, barely, and now sat at the first table to the right of Mo Yuan’s, at the far end, not looking at her shifu. Ye Hua sat in the middle, with Bai Qian to the right and little beaming A-Li to the left.
On the other side, facing the Celestials, sat the Demon kings and queens. The Blue, the Black, and the Red King, the Purple Queen, and Shao Wan (occupying the top table) were already here. The one pointedly and rudely absent: the Yellow Demon King, Cheng Yin. Mo Yuan could think of many reasons why Cheng Yin staying away completely was very convenient, but if they wanted to mediate between the Demons and ensure peace, the biggest troublemaker had to be engaged and his absence would preclude this.
It was little surprising to Mo Yuan that Shao Wan did not look in his - or any of the Celestials’ - direction even once. She wore a haughty, annoyed expression on her face during the Water King’s welcome speech and made a point to yawn very often. When food was finally served, she pulled faces to show her disgust and hardly touched anything. She did drink a lot of wine, though, and Mo Yuan noticed a fine rose flush spreading over her face as time progressed. It seemed more and more likely that she would cause trouble later - as always.
Since she was by far the most pleasant sight in front of him, Mo Yuan studied her more closely. He could look all he wanted, knowing her as he did: since she had made a point earlier of ignoring all the Celestials, she would rather die than turn her head even if she felt his gaze (which she most certainly did.) Something was different about her, but he could not quite put a finger on it. Did she look thinner than when he had last seen her? Was it her hair? She had often worn it beautifully braided at festive occasions before, but today she wore it loose, almost like Bai Qian, only using a silver hairpiece in the shape of a snake. She also dressed differently, but Mo Yuan had not often seen her in Demon clothes - he was more used to her wearing school white. He had only seen her once in full body armor and even if he wanted to forget everything about that incident he had never seen anything as glorious, not before and not after.
He kept looking at her all through the announcement of a marriage alliance between the 1st son of the Water King of the West Sea (Mo Yuan’s sickly vessel) and the sister of the Water King of the East Sea (Miao Qing was her name) and the lengthy zither performance that followed. All of a sudden, in the middle of a particularly long song, Shao Wan got up and left. Without thinking, Mo Yuan got up too. Everybody in the hall stared at him. Well, he thought, he might as well give them something to gossip about if they had come for gossip - and followed her.
She was leaning against a tree in one of the gardens, staring up at the sky. Causing trouble seemed far from her mind. If anything, she looked thoughtful, even melancholic. She turned her head when she heard him approach, but did not move otherwise.
"Are you still not done with your observations?” she asked.
“Demon Goddess,” Mo Yuan answered, stopping at a safe distance from where she stood, “I meant no disrespect, but it was a perfect opportunity for inspection.”
She snorted, looking amused - and tired. She pushed herself away from the tree to fully face him. Mo Yuan braced himself, expecting her to attack, but she didn’t. He realized then with some surprise that she did not have her weapon with her. The vicious Demon Tongue Whip, which he'd had the “pleasure” of getting to know quite closely during many a battle. Surely, she would have immediately gone for it in the Demon Realm. Could it have burned with her back then?
Without speaking, he looked at her and she looked at him - it felt very strange and a little discomforting.
“You are much stronger than before,” she remarked dryly. “You must have sat in that boring cave of yours day and night, cultivating like the fool you are.”
He smiled, not for the first time feeling amused by her familiar antics, and retorted, “I could not help but notice that you look thinner than when we last met. Do the demons not feed you enough meat, High Goddess?”
“I do admit I’m feeling a bit low on energy,” she gave back, the corners of her mouth curving upwards slightly. “Why do you think I’m not picking a fight with you right now? I’m planning to eat four baskets of raw sea-snails tomorrow. Meet me again afterwards and I promise you blood."
“Alas, it’s forbidden to shed blood during this festival of peace, Demon Goddess. There will be no fights between us.”
“Whoever came up with this rule is an idiot. Was it you, God of War?”
Mo Yuan continued to smile. Why had they never talked like this before if it was that easy? Elated, he decided to try a more serious topic.
“We wish to preserve the peace.”
She narrowed her eyes at him and the almost-smile disappeared from her face. “And if we don’t comply, you will crush us.”
“I … only if there is no other choice.”
“Ah. Choice.” She looked at him more intensely and he wasn’t sure how to read her expression when she added: “I hear you chose to save me? Why?”
Why? Because nobody, not even a rock, would be able to turn his back on such apparent agony, on such pleading eyes. Nobody in all the realms would have stepped back and not forward when life itself was being destroyed right in front of them.
“I owe you,” she added quietly when he remained silent. “I will sit through your peace-talks, Celestial. I will get the other demons in line. I will do this to pay this debt.”
“You died, Demon Goddess.” Mo Yuan said with regret, “You owe me nothing. If a debt is owed, then it is mine. I killed you.”
She snorted again. “So like you to think this way, you halfwit. Here I am, promising to behave for your much-coveted peace. And there you are, spouting nonsense, making me angry. No wonder we remain enemies.”
“Don’t tell me the peace-talks have started without me?” asked a balmy yet unpleasant voice from close behind Mo Yuan.
Mo Yuan whirled around and looked into the cold violet eyes of Cheng Yin, the Yellow Demon King. The dislike was instant and quite clearly mutual. The Demon had gotten much too close without them noticing it, Mo Yuan thought - he was very dangerous.
“I don’t believe we have been introduced,” said the Demon King with a smirk, “but of course, I do know who you are.”
The King did not offer any titles, nor did he bow. The insult was deliberate but Mo Yuan cared little about such formalities. However, it was much harder to keep his countenance when the Demon King leered at Shao Wan and said: “I still have a hard time getting used to seeing you fully dressed, my dear.”
Mo Yuan was able to catch Shao Wan’s arm and swing her away when she sprang forward to attack Cheng Yin - who was quite obviously counting on such violence, surely to have her banned from the festival for breaking the peace. Looking into the Demon Queen’s furious face, realizing with a pang of regret that the rumors about these two had to be true after all, Mo Yuan whispered “Whatever he does, don’t let yourself be provoked!”
“I will rip his damn heart out,” Shao Wan growled, shaking with rage, but it seemed she had her fury under control for now. They both turned to face the Demon King.
Cheng Yin shifted his gaze to Mo Yuan’s hand, still gripping Shao Wan’s arm. “I once took a weak Celestial to bed with me and the poor woman died miserably because of our opposing energies. I had a lot of fun though, she died slowly. If that was fun, it must be quite phenomenal for you two. Care to share him with me once in a while, Wan Wan?”
Mo Yuan was glad he still grasped her arm, because Shao Wan wanted to jump forward again. She struggled against him briefly before she gritted her teeth and cursed under her breath, regaining her control.
Cheng Yin watched them, still standing much too close, when suddenly the expression in his eyes changed. Instinctively, Mo Yuan let go of Shao Wan and moved in front of her, but she, who had never hidden behind anyone, pushed him aside and let Cheng Yin’s spell hit her right in the chest. Instantly, sky power started to pour into her. The upsurge in energy was so great that all the trees around them were uprooted and the walls of the garden crumbled.
Mo Yuan, standing his ground in the maelstrom around her, reached out his hand and grasped Shao Wan's arm again. He turned her around until she faced him and then locked eyes with her. She was terrified and and struggling for control, but he knew she had never bothered to practice what he and his father had tried to teach her. In her arrogance she had laughed at all their attempts to teach her control, but he would not let her burn again. Never again.