Fanfiction 2: Moyuan and Bai Qian - Chapter 6, Part 3 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 6 - Drops of Rain

Part 3

written by Lala Loop
consulting by Juls
edited by kakashi

Bai Qian was slowly pacing up and down the library of Taichen Palace, waiting for the Star Lord to come. The room was lined with tall shelves that contained hundreds and thousands of carefully arranged books and scrolls and strange looking objects and instruments, which, Bai Qian would have been excited to explore had it not been for the amount of distressing and thoughts that were occupying her head.



She scanned through the scrolls on the shelves nearest to the table and pulled out an ancient looking one with a title that, for some reason, slightly peaked her interest. She opened it and ran her fingers through the writings and illustrations.

The Art of the Seven Musics - one of Moyuan’s favorites,” said a voice behind her.

Bai Qian gasped and swung around. Donghua was slowly approaching her. She hastily put the scroll back on the shelf, feeling herself blushing as she recalled their last encounter.

“Lord Donghua,” she curtsied.

Donghua did not make any comment, though Bai Qian understood she should give a reason for her presence in his residence.

“I’m here to see the Siming, one of your guards has gone to fetch him. I hope this isn’t inconvenient for you.”

“Not at all, I was just leaving,” he replied.

There was an awkward silence when Donghua turned to leave.

“Lord Donghua…” Bai Qian called in a small voice. As he turned around, she continued, “about the things I said to you…”

Donghua help up a hand, his jaw clenched in a way that made her believe he was definitely thinking about Fengjiu, “I deserved those words.”

“Of course you did,” said Bai Qian quickly, then went red when she realized what had just come out of her mouth. “I was just going to say that... I think… I think I understand your reason,” she added with sincerity.

Donghua’s eyes narrowed, he took a step forward and gave a long stare at the scroll she just shoved back into the shelf, “You sound as though I am not the only person to have gained your understanding lately, High Goddess,” he said with a faint smile and left while Bai Qian wondered why she kept running into mind-readers.

It wasn’t long after Donghua left that Siming came rushing into the room, as exuberant and eager for conversation as always.

“High Goddess Bai Qian,” he bowed. “To what do I owe this pleasure?”

“I am not bothering you, I hope?”

“No, it is my honor,” said Siming, waving to the low table. “What can I do for you?”

They both sat down and in the fewest words possible, Bai Qian told Siming of what she had seen from the broken piece of the Soul Gathering Lamp. He listened attentively with occasional utters of confusion and surprise while at the same time, gave words of confirmation that what Bai Qian had seen from the lamp had indeed happened and was not some kind of silly dream.

“I see,” said Siming after Bai Qian had finished, his eye glimmering with awareness from which she could tell his brain was working with speed to glue the pieces together.

“And what would you like to know?” He asked at last.

“I think... because ‘Susu’ was my past, the lamp only let me see what happened through her eyes, the memories don’t stray far from the places she went to or stayed.” Siming silently nodded in agreement. “I believe... actually, I hope, that you know the details of Susu’s stay in the Nine Heavens. Please tell me what I haven’t seen already. What was going on with the Crown Prince at the time? Why does Lady Lexu repeatedly say he ‘suffered’ because of Susu?”

Instead of answering right away, Siming furrowed his brows.

“May I ask you a question first?” He said and took Bai Qian’s silence as her permission, “I'm curious, High Goddess. You know what Lady Sujin has done to you, shouldn't you be at her place right now, demanding justice? It’s what most people would do.”

Bai Qian wearily sighed, hating Sujin had become something of a vague past she no longer bothered with. “She is not worth my time at the moment; I will deal with her later. Furthermore, I know how trials work,” her eyes flashed dangerously, “before I’m sure of the facts, I wouldn’t do anything to risk reversing my progress.”

“Ah, priorities,” Siming said and he bowed to her again, “you really are High God Moyuan’s disciple.”

Then, without further delay, he went on to give his account on ‘Susu’.

It was agonizing to listen to the end. Bai Qian was outraged and almost revolted to learn of how a cornered, helpless and lonely mortal was schemed against because they needed to protect the ‘good name’ of the royal family and the ‘untainted glory’ of the Nine Heavens Palace. She flinched at every mention of the Heavenly Lord and was petrified to imagine the kind of surroundings Yehua had been putting up with - the kind of surroundings A-li would have to adapt to.

Somewhere deep down Bai Qian’s general indifference towards Lady Lexu, she had started to understand why ‘Susu’ had earned such contempt from her. The sight of her own son enduring lightning everyday for three months must not have been easy for someone who was already so delicate.

“So you see, it is the utmost hardship you went through during your time as a mortal that enabled you to ascend to a High Goddess along with the addition of a number of magical abilities,” Siming said. “And of course, it wasn’t like the Crown Prince was going to a festival in the meantime,” he nearly laughed at his own joke, perhaps to reduce the tension in the room, but stopped himself when he caught sight of Bai Qian’s forehead scrunching.

Bai Qian took a deep breath and went on to ask Siming about something that had been bothering her the most.

“If I was Susu, that is, A-li’s mother, why is it that I do not feel the bond we must have had?” Her voice cracked in a most peculiar manner as she painfully admitted, “I love him dearly as anyone who has known that child would, but I don’t feel attached to him in the way I think I should.”

“That is a very complicated matter indeed,” Siming nodded. “Simply put, it was a trial, your connection to it ended the moment your feet touched the currents of Zhuxian Terrace. The Bai Qian High God Zheyan found in his garden was only aware of what happened as if in a dream. A vivid dream it might have been, but no more than a dream.”

“But Lord Donghua remembers everything about his trial.”

“Lord Donghua’s trial was a properly planned one. He entered and exited the mortal realm the way a mortal would. Many immortals choose to keep the recollection of what they have been through during a trial; they cherish the good memories and overcome the dark ones, a premise that, if successful, will allow them to gain even more cultivation.”

Siming held up a hand in patience when Bai Qian was about to interrupt him.

“But let me explain to you something else. I believe the Soul Gathering Lamp merely provided you with the knowledge of what has happened; it could not restore you to the state you were before you dived down Zhuxian Terrace. As you know, the magic of Zhuxian Terrace can vanquish the mortal soul. For immortals, it can do immense damage to our powers. But, as this was a trial, I gather it was at that very same time that you ascended to High Goddess rank. The two forces collided which resulted in your physical body, though injured, becoming once again good and new as if nothing had happened.”

“The Soul Gathering Lamp contains pieces of Susu’s memories, which attached themselves to your blood when you were injured, filling you with the bits of information they held, but they weren’t nearly strong enough to counter the formidable effect of Zhuxian Terrace, which, as far as I understand, has washed you clean of the physical memories of what ‘Susu’ had endured; pain or happiness, the sensation of it is gone.” He continued after a short pause, “the same could have happened to the Crown Prince but he was, like I mentioned, rescued before too late.”

“Perhaps that is why you do not feel connected to Prince A-li,” Siming concluded.

“In other words,” Bai Qian said, “if I had died like a mortal and came back the way Lord Donghua did from his trial, I would have… ‘remembered’?”

“That is true.”

Bai Qian rose from her seat and stared at the front.

“Would you know if ‘Susu’ was only one of my trials or the start of something else, something… eternal?” She asked, though Bai Qian felt she already knew the answer.

“I see, you would like to be certain if you and the Crown Prince are destined to be.” Siming gave her a peculiar look.

Bai Qian nodded.

“I keep records, High Goddess, not prophecies.” A mysterious smile spread across Siming’s face, he was now also standing with his hands behind his back. “‘Eternity’ is a bold assumption. I’m afraid only you can decide whether ‘Susu’ was just a trial.”

“Now, if you are anything like Princess Fengjiu, you would be thinking of the Stone of Reincarnation,” Siming remarked. “But I must remind you - Fate is not something to be accessed or tampered with. Lord Donghua is the greatest of all immortals, he has erased his name permanently from the Stone, but there are times when he wonders if he has ever succeeded or simply managed to anger Fate.”

“I don’t understand, Fengjiu was able to see the names on the Stone; and what's written on it must be true...”

“Princess Fengjiu saw what the Stone allowed her to see.”

Bai Qian tilted her head. She knew that was all the information about the stone she would get, but did this mean Fengjiu was not so foolish after all to cling on to hope?

Suddenly, a celestial guard came striding through the front gate. He quickly walked into the library while Siming and Bai Qian exchanged a look.

“Star Lord,” the guard bowed.

“Is something the matter?” Asked Siming.

“No, sir. As Lord Donghua has instructed, I’m just here to inform you that the Crown Prince is back. He is currently in the Nine Heavens Court.”

Bai Qian’s heart sank, she felt her legs turn solid and rooted to the ground below.

“What a… coincidence,” Siming remarked, giving Bai Qian a questioning glance.

“That’s not possible.” She shook her head, “I was at the mortal realm not a few days ago, how can he be back so quickly?”

“The Crown Prince’s trial was left blank,” said Siming in an even voice, he was not at all surprised. “I didn't control the date and time of his mortal death. In fact,” he added, “I can take a look at the mortal record if you’d like.”

“That won’t be necessary,” Bai Qian replied. “It wouldn’t make any difference now.”

She walked towards the door - hesitating would not make anything easier. She would rather go find Yehua than wait for him to come to Qingqiu or, Bai Qian felt a jolt in her stomach, Kunlun.

“Thank you, Siming. And please don't speak of this to anyone,” she said, surprised to find herself starting to sound a lot like Moyuan.

“You have my word, High Goddess.”


...


Bai Qian was sitting at the table in Yehua’s room - the same room where she had said she would marry him. It wouldn’t be long now. He would be here any moment. Nervousness and panic was rising inside her, intensifying with every moment that passed by.

“Your Highness,” Bai Qian quietly jumped as she heard the maid’s voice from outside. She didn’t have the courage to look. Her thumping heart echoed his approaching footsteps.

“Qianqian,” Yehua’s voice sounded like a silver bell. Her hand unknowingly rolled up in a fist as she stood.

He was standing at the doorstep, dressed in black as usual. The trial and whatever had happened to cause his mortal death didn’t seem to have any effect on him. His bright smile and glittering eyes stabbed her with a pain more excruciating than anything. Lie to her, leave her to the sharks of the Nine Heavens Palace, take out her eyes he had done, but he remained the person who had sacrificed his cultivation to revive Moyuan. And as untimely as Siming’s joke was, he was right - It seemed to Bai Qian he did try with all the power he could muster to prevent the tragedy.

The only thing he hadn’t tried was asking Susu what she’d wanted. Could the lightning Yehua had endured for Susu be considered compensation for this intolerable mistake? Bai Qian no longer knew which one of them owed the other more.

“I didn’t expect to see you here.” Yehua strode to her side and wrapped her in a hug so intense it nearly knocked her backward. Despite the warmth of his embrace, the air around her went cold. She stood motionless with her eyes opened wide, staring into space.

There was a short silence.

Unlike Bai Qian, there were certain things that Yehua could interpret with no difficulty.

“Qianqian?” Bai Qian’s hands were cold, her arms stiff and unable to respond to the comfort of his voice.

“Are you not well?” He asked, letting go, looking disconcerted. Somewhere underneath his calm voice, Bai Qian could feel he was praying the answer would be ‘yes’, that the reason for her unresponsiveness was simply ‘she wasn’t well’.

Bai Qian let out a bitter laugh, thinking it would be her turn to ask him that question very soon.

“Yehua, I need to speak with you,” she bit her lip.

“Evidently,” his brows furrowed. The smile had completely vanished from his face. Though his eyes still shone with anticipation and affection that Bai Qian thought she would be burnt if she stared too long. She kept reminding herself that standing in front of her was not Moyuan - someone who could take from her an indefinite number of insensitive remarks and still stood like one of the columns that hoisted up the ceiling of Kunlun hall.

But who was she to worry about Yehua when she herself was about to crumple any moment from the pressure.

“I cannot… I will have to refuse…” an invisible rope was tightening her throat. She tried to look away from Yehua’s intense gaze.

“We cannot go on with the wedding,” she said at last, gasping for air.

Though Bai Qian had no idea how she looked after Zheyan had finished telling her about Moyuan, she reckoned it couldn’t have been much different from the way Yehua looked at the moment. He stared at her as though she had just taken a number of darts and thrown them directly at his chest.

“What are you talking about?” He said in a strangled voice, confusion and terror reflected in his eyes.

“I know about ‘Susu’,” she said after another long silence.

Yehua’s face became white. Bai Qian went on, “I remember everything.”

“You remember... everything,” Yehua repeated, still struggling to grasp the reality of the information. “Everything...”

“Yes, but of course, that’s not…”

“Qianqian,” he interrupted, taking hold of her arms, breathing deeply. “Don’t… if this is about your eyes… let me explain...”

“No, it’s not,” she said plainly.

“It isn’t?”

“There's nothing to explain, I suppose I understand why you had to do what you did. I can’t say that’s something I would do, but…”

“You understand?” Yehua was now visibly frightened by the fact that she was not at all angry.

“Frankly, I don’t know what to think about it,” said Bai Qian with complete honesty, “but that’s not why I’m here… if you figure I’m refusing you because of what happened during my trial, then you’ve underestimated me.”

“Then what it is? Tell me.”

Bai Qian seemed to have lost her voice again. She noticed Yehua was now staring below her shoulder where the scar was. He took a step away from her, his eyes fixed on the scar.

“Tell me,” he repeated. “Whatever you have to say cannot possibly be worse than what I have imagined.”

“If it is not about the trial, then what it is?” He asked again.

“It is about the trial, not what happened during the trial, but the fact that it was a trial.”

Yehua was quick and clever; he always had been, she knew he had understood. Though she was certain his mind was not accepting what he’d just heard.

“Qianqian,” Yehua clasped her face with his hands, forcing her to look at him, “right where we are standing, you once said you accepted my proposal, that you’d be willing to spend the rest of your life with me despite Sujin, despite the fact that you and my mother don’t like each other, despite the fact that my grandfather is a strict and irascible ruler who doesn’t understand us - those were your words.” His hands slid down her neck and to her shoulders, slightly quavering.

Tears started to form in Bai Qian’s eyes. She did not forget. She had spent every second of the last few days reminding herself of what she had said, of the harm she might have caused. Her own words echoed in her head every time she stood in front of Moyuan.

“We have lived our lives together,” she said, her eyes beginning to blur. “We gave it all we had. I will never regret meeting you, Yehua. But now is the time we must face the truth - what you believe to last for eternity isn’t real. What you think you have found, that I thought I’d had, has never been there. You are part of a trial that I must overcome. Just as I am to you, a tri...”

“You are not a trial,” Yehua retorted in a loud voice, his grip on her arms tightening.

She did not resist. She simply did not bother.

“Do you know about the doll Sujin carved out of wood to accompany you in the mortal realm? She asked. “The woman who looked like me?”

“Yes?” Said Yehua uncomprehendingly.

“Then you do notice that no matter where you go under any circumstance, you'd always bring home a woman with my face, my personality, my nature.”

“What does that have to do with anything?”

“What if I told you that it was the same for me, that no matter how many more trials I took, how many times I gulped down Zheyan’s Oblivion potion, how many men I might think I'd fallen for, I'd still go back to the same person in the end.”

The last bit of hope left Yehua’s eyes. And despite his early insistence on hearing her reason, he uttered a breaking sound that hinted he could not listen any further. Bai Qian broke free from his hold and turned her back to him in an attempt to calm herself and find the right words to continue.

“The same person?” He asked in a breathless voice.

“It’s com…” before Bai Qian could finish, Yehua’s arms flung around her shoulders once more and pulled her toward him with formidable force, close enough for her to notice she wasn’t the only one trembling in panic.

“Qianqian,” he lowered his voice to a whisper, “please tell me you want Sujin punished, tell me you want your eyes back. Tell me you want to curse me and make me pay for what I did, for lying and failing to protect you when you were defenseless. Tell me that is why you’re here...”

Bai Qian collapsed to the ground, dragging Yehua down with her, his arms still clasped tightly around her shoulders. Her knees hit the the marble floor but she felt no pain, tears rolled down her cheek and dripped from her chin like strings of pearls. The world around them had gone dark. Bai Qian’s hand unknowingly found its way to the little handkerchief that was still wrapped around her other palm.

“I can,” she breathed, “but I would be lying.”

Yehua’s fingers tightened; for a moment, she thought they were going to crush her shoulders. She knew the rationality in her voice was what scared him. After a brief moment, he let go.

“Leave me,” his voice cracked. “I need to think.”

Bai Qian wanted to say she was sorry, but no sound came out.

She sprung upward, ran out of the room and hid behind the door. Tears continued to run down her face, some dripped onto her clothes, as if wanting to seep into that corner inside her where she’d once thought Yehua had been.