Fanfiction 2: Moyuan and Bai Qian - Chapter 3 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 3 - Disclosure

written by Lalaloop
consulting by Juls
edited by kakashi

Yehua, now a mortal named Zhao Ge, was sitting with his back facing Bai Qian, a book in his hand and deep in thought. Sitting opposite to him was a woman - a young woman who looked just like…

“High Goddess Bai Qian,” said a feigned sugary voice. She turned to see Sujin walking towards her.

Bai Qian felt a rush of dislike sweep through her body. She let out a sigh - an empty and pointless conversation in which two people commented on each other’s dress and exchanged notes on etiquettes and rules of the Heavenly Palace was the last thing she needed at the moment.

“Lady Sujin,” Bai Qian reluctantly greeted her back, barely keeping the disdain from her voice.

Sujin’s lips stretched into smile that made Bai Qian want to grind her teeth, “what a coincidence, don’t you think?”

“Why are you here?” asked Bai Qian, hoping the exasperation in her voice would drive Sujin away.

The moment Sujin began telling her the reason why she was here, Bai Qian regretted asking the question at all. For Sujin went on and on about how Yehua had been missed in the Heavenly Palace and how they had one thing in common, which was the devotion to Yehua. His name came up so many times in Sujin’s speech that Bai Qian wondered if she was capable of retaining any other information besides Yehua’s favorite dessert and color. Then, she started talking about herself and Yehua when they were children.

As she was busy guessing what Yehua and the woman sitting with him were discussing, Bai Qian did not bother giving much of a reaction to Sujin’s dull lecture on Yehua’s childhood. She kept looking at the gazebo where the two mortals were, only occasionally adding a ‘yes’ or ‘I see’ whenever she felt Sujin had reached the end of a sentence.

“You must be wondering about that woman, High Goddess Bai Qian,” said Sujin suddenly and slyly, noticing where Bai Qian was looking.

Too distracted and bored of Sujin’s company, Bai Qian said blankly “Yes, actually…”

Before she could finish her question, Sujin grasped the opportunity to give yet another tediously long account of the mortal woman as if she'd anticipated that Bai Qian would ask.

Bai Qian had almost fallen into a stupor by the time Sujin finished the history lesson on this mortal woman. She was awake long enough though to take in the fact that the woman was, in fact, a wooden doll molded by Sujin herself and after the image of A-li’s mother - Susu.

“I understand how you must be feeling. His Highness’ definite attachment to this Susu woman is something we all must overcome.”

Just as Bai Qian started wondering if Sujin had ever listened to herself while she talked, she continued.

“I must say, Susu looks very much like you, Your Highness.”

“Yes, she does,” replied Bai Qian tersely, knowing where this conversation was heading and decidedly running out of patience. She wanted to warn Sujin of the possible consequences should Yehua find out about the wooden doll. But considering she might just receive another empty and provoking answer in return, she decided not to. “Now, unless you plan to tell me something I don't already know, I’d like to leave.”

Sujin looked taken aback for a second, then curtsied and quickly moved to one side without another word. Bai Qian swifted away with her nose in the air, not at all sorry to depart this uncomfortable scene.

As insufferable as Sujin was, Bai Qian believed there was one thing she was right about - Susu occupied a special place in Yehua’s heart. Nainai had told her of Susu, so had A-li. She’d seen countless paintings of Susu in Yehua’s study, Nainai on the verge of tears every time Susu’s name was mentioned, and she, his bride-to-be, was said to be a splitting image of Susu. It was almost natural that he should pick a woman with the same face in his trial, as if the image had been imprinted on his subconscious. Si Ming’s Oblivion Potion had its limit after all, Bai Qian giggled.

But it wasn’t long before the smile quickly vanished from her face.

“Ghost Princess,” exclaimed Bai Qian. She looked around to realize she was nearing Kunlun’s territory. A figure was standing in her way, looking up in Kunlun’s direction as if debating whether to leave or stay.

The figure turned around at Bai Qian’s calling. It was Yanzhi.

“Siyin...” she said, but then quickly corrected herself, “High Goddess Bai Qian.”

“Just Bai Qian would do. You and I have never been anything less than friends.”

Yanzhi brightly smiled. Bai Qian wanted to ask her what she was doing here, but she had an inkling she already knew the answer.

The conversation that followed was so pleasant that Bai Qian almost didn’t want it to end. Yanzhi sincerely apologized for the mayhem Xuannu had caused. She then inquired after Yehua’s health for the last time she saw him, he was covered in blood, missing an arm, and could barely walk.

Then, just as everybody else, Yanzhi expressed her concern for Qingcang’s possible escape from the Bell of Donghuang. It was during this exchange that Bai Qian learned about the blood curse Qingcang had put on his children and the danger it posed to all the realms should Yanzhi or Lijing, for whatever reason, die.

After clarifying that she was only taking a stroll around this peaceful woods and admiring the view of Kunlun from afar, Yanzhi said her goodbye and hurried away, leaving Bai Qian wondering if she should have told her that Zilan, too, occasionally took strolls to the woods near the Ghost Realm borders.

Bai Qian slowly walked to the study with a large amount of fresh peach blossoms in her arms, thinking it was about time she switched out the old ones in there.

As she reached the room, the door was closed and there seemed to be talking inside. She raised her hand to knock when a sound of laughter caught her attention:

“Of course, the technique is what needs refining.” Zheyan’s voice was almost sarcastic.

“What went wrong?” Asked Moyuan, sounding uninterested.

“The windows that are vulnerable to the art of mind penetration - fully opened and possibly bound to be questioned soon if not shut.”

Not being able to make head or tail of this remark nor wanting to listen any further, Bai Qian raised her hand again to the door to announce her presence. Just then, she heard a faint swoosh on the other side and the door flung open. Zheyan was standing in the doorway, giving Bai Qian a quick searching look while she stared back at him.

“Next time you want to eavesdrop, steer clear from those peach blossoms; the scent is awfully detectable.” Zheyan jerked his head at the peach blossom flowers in Bai Qian’s hands, smirking.

“I wasn't eavesdropping, old Phoenix, I just got here.” Bai Qian was red in the face.

“Of course you weren't,” sneered Zheyan, leaning close to the peach blossoms. “Believe me, if you intentionally came to snoop, I'd know without the scent.”

Ignoring Zheyan’s tease, though she was sure there was some truth in it, Bai Qian thought for a few seconds and said, “If you're not in a hurry, Zheyan. I have something to tell you and Shifu. It's about the Bell of Donghuang.”

“I'm in no hurry,” Zheyan adjusted his tone back to normal, sensing it was time to stop joking, and slightly moved to one side so Bai Qian could walk in. He followed her and sank to his seat in front of Moyuan, who was sitting on his platform and behind his zither.

“Shifu, I’d like to speak with you and Zheyan about the Bell of Donghuang. It won’t take long,” Bai Qian bowed.

“I heard you,” he nodded, she realized, without his usual smile. She could have sworn he looked almost displeased about her presence. Her eyebrows suddenly wrinkled at the sight of a number of empty wine jars at the foot of his zither’s wooden stand.

She quickly set the peach blossoms down next to the vase on the table near the corner and went to join Moyuan and Zheyan, her eyes still traveling from an indifferent looking Moyuan to the wine jars, wondering if she had done anything to warrant this strangely detached attitude from him besides openly criticizing Lord Donghua earlier in the evening.

“Xiaowu, the Bell of Donghuang.” Zheyan reminded her.

“Right, er…” said Bai Qian, noticing Moyuan was still not looking at her. “I met YanZhi, Zilan’s… I mean, the Ghost Princess. She told me something about their... family.”

Bai Qian then told them of her conversation with Yanzhi.

Zheyan did not look too surprised but rather curious. Moyuan made no comment during the entire talk though it was clear he was listening to her every word.

“I doubt either the Ghost Lord or Princess Yanzhi would want Qingcang back in power,” concluded Zheyan when Bai Qian had finished. “We can be quite sure they will not submit themselves to this magic.”

“Did you know about this?” Asked Bai Qian, astonished.

“Not the details, but I am familiar with the concept of this magic, yes. It seems only natural that Qingcang would seek this. And I should say the Crown Prince may have mentioned a thing or two to me about the Ghost Lord during his last visit to the Peach Garden.”

“Yehua?” Asked Moyuan, a flash swept across his eyes.

“Why didn’t he…?” Bai Qian scowled, but then she rolled her eyes when it finally came to her, “oh, of course he didn’t tell me. The Crown Prince and his communication-is-beneath-me rule. In fact, it’d be a surprise if he did say something.”

“My spirit is no longer guarding the Bell of Donghuang,” said Moyuan, his fingers tracing the strings on the zither. “I know it’s only a matter of time before Qingcang attempts to break free. But I believe Lord Donghua has increased patrolling near Ruoshui River. He himself is capable of performing the Seal spell. And as long as Qingcang doesn’t receive external aid, it is within our control.”

“Lord Donghua is not exactly well lately,” Bai Qian reminded him.

“Resealing the Bell, as you know and have done, only requires a portion of one’s power. It’s the initial entrapping and sealing that’s the problem,” said Moyuan, almost acidly.

“I see,” nodded Bai Qian. “And I’ve also asked Yanzhi to tell that dim-witted… I’m sorry.”

Zheyan lazily waved his hand to let Bai Qian know he could not care less while Moyuan quietly cleared his throat.

“I’ve asked Yanzhi to tell the Ghost Lord to take care of himself and not die for our sake.”

“Yes, it would be a dangerous situation indeed,” Zheyan nodded. “But as long as the Ghost Lord and the princess take our side and, like you said, stay alive, the lands should not be in immediate danger.”

There was a short silence.

“Well, I must be off,” said Zheyan, standing up. “The elixir is almost done, you can plan your meditation as soon as you like.”

“Thank you,” answered Moyuan. Bai Qian privately felt Zheyan’s announcement was meant as a reminder of some sort.

After he’d left the study, Moyuan picked up a book from the pile next to his platform and started reading. Bai Qian too stood up from the cushion, and began to arrange the peach blossoms into the vase. The large and tangled bunch of flowers gave her an excuse to remain in the room longer than was needed while trying to find the right words to bring up those questionable wine jars under the wooden stand.

“Shifu?” She said at last.

“Yes?” Moyuan’s eyes were still glued to his book.

“You’re about to begin meditation soon.” Bai Qian was now slightly annoyed that Moyuan didn’t have the courtesy to look at her even once. “It might be a long time before I… we see you again. Is there anything you need from us?”

Moyuan slightly inhaled, his eyes left the book for a short moment, looking as though on the verge of revealing something important. Bai Qian put the last peach blossom twigs into the vase and waited attentively.

“No,” he said curtly.

Didn’t think so. Bai Qian thought to herself. “I’ll be leaving then,” she headed for the door, wishing she had learned to read minds.

But as she put her hand on the door handle, a voice from within told her to turn around and get to the bottom of this. She walked back to Moyuan’s side and got on her knees in front of the platform, forcing his gaze to instantly leave the book and move to her face.

“Are you…” Bai Qian stuttered. Then, brushing a persistent piece of hair from her face, she continued, “If something was wrong, you’d tell me, wouldn't you?”

The silence that followed was almost painful.

“Are you referring to anything in particular?” Asked Moyuan as he put down his book, his head slightly tilted and his lips curved into a smile.

“Er…” Bai Qian bit her lip, looking as if she had just flunked a test.

“If something was wrong,” he impatiently rephrased the question when Bai Qian gave no indication she’d be able to answer the original one, “What do you think it’d be?”

Bai Qian’s first thought was her confrontation with Lord Donghua.Though she had a feeling it wasn’t the right answer and certainly couldn’t be the explanation for those empty wine jars.

The unsought image of her wrapping her arms around an unconscious Moyuan at Ruoshui River suddenly flash before her eyes. Bai Qian instantly looked away with a start, wrenching her mind away from the memory at once, her heart racing. The piece of hair she’d just tucked behind her ear again fell out of place; and just as Moyuan reached up to her face in an attempt to fix it, she sprang to her feet, making him jerk back in slight bewilderment.

“I surmise you have something to tell me,” he asked.

Bai Qian, now hot in the face, thought again of her conversation with Zilan earlier. What is it about Shifu that causes you to yell nonsense in your sleep? He had asked, to which she had no answer. She wondered what other nonsense she’d been yelling beside ‘Shifu’. Then she thought about those nightmares and also about their last talk by the bridge.

“No,” said Bai Qian finally, shaking her head, deciding she'd rather take the nightmares than bring up any of those subjects to Moyuan. “No, sir.”

“Very well,” Moyuan nodded with a suggestion that he'd expected this answer. “Goodnight, Seventeenth.”

When Bai Qian arrived at her room, Zilan was on the floor with his hands behind his head, his eyes closed. She silently walked to the bed, took off her boots and sat down, rested her chin on her knees and stared out the window.

“Where did you sneak off to?” asked Zilan, which didn’t surprise Bai Qian, she knew he wasn’t sleeping at all.

“I met Princess Yanzhi on my way back here.”

“Oh?” Without looking, Bai Qian could tell Zilan’s eyes were now wide open at the sound of Yanzhi’s name.

“You’re right,” said Bai Qian, blinking. “She is much more beautiful than I am, and a lot nicer.”

“I told you so,” Zilan said quietly with a chuckle.

Neither of them spoke another word, both absorbed in thoughts.

Moyuan’s black eyes, Bai Qian recalled, which were overflowing with warmth just this evening when the four of them were sitting by the pond, were fathomless when they bore into hers moments ago, as if they’d been…

“Shut,” she whispered to herself.