Fanfiction: Mo Yuan and Shao Wan - Chapter 44 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 44

written by MiniOrchid
edited by kakashi

Yan Zhi thought of herself as patient. Yes, she had been a patient person throughout her life. With her family and even her subordinates, she had shown great restraint, even when they had been selfish, cold, and ruthless. In the mortal realms, she had been patient when dealing with unruly customers or perverts. She had shown restraint when her brothers had harmed each other, while doing all she could to subdue the damage as a bystander. She found virtue and control when she was able to hold back her negative emotions and clear her head of negative thoughts. Rage did not solve anything, as she had learned from observing her father, who had been an angry hostile man, only sometimes calmed by her presence.

Despite being raised as the Warrior Princess of the Ghost Tribe, and personally killing thousands of immortals under her name, she had never felt rage during a kill. Adrenaline, yes, accomplishment, yes… but never anger. That emotion she found unsettling, and a weakness against opponents who did not thrive on emotions themselves. And in the years of fighting to protect herself and Qiao Er, she had found that detachment from one’s kill was beneficial to one’s ability to discern an opponent’s next move. Remaining calm in the most dangerous situations had helped her to survive.

Today, however, she felt her Ghost blood burn in her veins - blood fueled by bloodlust and warrior’s glory. Yan Zhi was ready to harm due to furious rage: today was the day she wanted to take a life. Like a thin silk thread that could no longer withstand the pressure or the lid on a teapot whose contents boiled over - her patience had run out.

And all this uncontrollable fury was because of one man.

The man who continued to play games with her emotions, seduce her heart, tease her body. The man who kept his mischievous smile, even when she held her blade against his throat on many occasions.

Whatever she did… he was never deterred.

For days he had been relentless. No matter how much she fought with him, he still persisted. The stubborn unforgivable man, who continued to haunt her dreams since the day he had made his intentions known, ignoring all propriety of a respectable Disciple of Kunlun. He was indeed not the man she’d known. He taunted, teased, bargained, and challenged her… no longer the noble reserved hero from before. He had not been toying with her when he had said he would no longer play the hero of her dreams.

Yet, he didn’t go further when she stood her ground. Had he pushed her further, she may not have been able to resist him, but no matter how much of a rogue he had become, he would not cross the line. Yes, his tactics changed without warning daily. She could never anticipate his next move. One day he’d be flirtatious, playing the gentleman catering to her needs. The next day he’d attacked her, using the excuse of improving each other’s martial arts. But worst of all, every day he’d remain the perfect father figure for Qiao Er. They had bonded since he had come to the mortal realms to protect them, and that bond had grown ever since. Many times had she wanted to put an end to it, but how could she when Qiao Er idolized her En Gong so much?

Today, he had been outrageous again. Yan Zhi had just finished tending to Qiao Er’s hair before sending her to her morning lessons, when Zi Lan had entered their room unannounced. He had stood behind her while chatting cheerfully with Qiao Er.

“En Gong, what do you have in your hand?” Qiao Er asked enthusiastically and with anticipation.

Zi Lan smiled and opened the silk handkerchief he had in his hand. He kneeled down to her level. “I went to mortal realms to have this specially made for you.” He pulled out a small hairpin with a single white jasmine flower design.

“Jasmine! Mom’s favorite...thank you En Gong!” She gave him a tight hug.

Zi Lan then placed the small hairpin on Qiao Er’s head, the happy child falling for him even more. Yan Zhi could only watch, baffled…defeated.

“Is that one for mom?” Qiao Er’s question to Zi Lan caught her by surprise. There was indeed another jasmine hairpin nestling within the silk handkerchief. A larger design, with three jasmine flowers at its end, white as snow. It was beautiful.

“Clever little one.” He pinched her cheek playfully. “Do you want to see it on mom?” he asked Qiao Er, but glanced at Yan Zhi with mischief in his eyes.

“Yes!” Qiao Er consented immediately.

Yan Zhi couldn’t escape when he approached. Moving closer, Zi Lan did not touch her before explaining it was only to place the hairpin on her hair. When she tried to decline, Qiao Er’s encouragement blocked her retreat. Relenting, Yan Zhi didn’t think it would be much harm, but before she knew, it turned into an unexpectedly intimate moment, with intimacy she had not known she craved. His fingers touched her hair lightly with articulate and gentle skill, as he took his time to entice her, then he slid the hairpin into her braids. Distracted by the allure, Yan Zhi could only stare into his captivating gaze. When he tucked some loose hair behind her ear, his fingertip brushed the outer edge, tingling the surface of her delicate lobe, and hot color spread to her cheeks.

“Beautiful,” he whispered, the edge of his thumb lightly tracing her jawline. Her breath caught. Yan Zhi recognized it too late as his form of seduction. She could only turn and usher Qiao Er away to get dressed for class, avoiding his gaze.

After Qiao Er was dressed and ready, she left for the lessons with scrolls in her hands. Yan Zhi sensed 16th’s approach immediately after. She swiftly whipped around, pulled the hairpin from her braids, and held the sharp edge against his throat.

Surprised by her sudden attack, his brow furrowed. “Yan Zhi…?”

“How long are you going to continue your games?” she demanded icily, though flushed with anger.

Zi Lan glanced at the unexpected weapon at his throat. His usual smile did not appear, instead he frowned at her. “You are no game to me,” he answered hoarsely.

“I don’t believe you.” She shook her head, her grip tight.

His gaze was dark, yet perplexed. “Why?” he asked. He then took a step towards her, allowing the needle’s edge to scrape his skin, forcing her to retreat. “What are you afraid of?”

Zi Lan took his chance at her momentary distraction, caught her wrist that held the hairpin, twisted her arm behind her back and pressed her against him. His lips were near her ears as she struggled against his grip. “I’m not playing games, I am dead serious.”

Flushed at his response, she continued to struggled against his hard chest, but the infuriating man wouldn’t budge. Zi Lan pulled back slightly, his smoky gaze held hers and continued to strip away her defenses. His silence became more maddening.

Before she could attempt to break away again, 12th Disciple entered the room.

“I apologize, I didn’t mean to intrude. I’ll come back later,” he said, shocked yet smiling.

At Yan Zhi’s continued struggling, Zi Lan reluctantly released her. She hurried towards 12th Disciple who was already about to retreat from the room.

“12th Disciple what do you need?” she asked breathlessly.

“Princess, I came to inform you that you have guests. They are waiting at Kunlun’s gates.”

“Thank you, I will see to my guests,” she told him.

Yan Zhi was about to head out the door when Zi Lan grabbed her arm, forcing her to face him.

“You don’t know who they are,” he said with concern. “It could be the assassins!”

“I do know,” she said matter of factly. Glancing at the hand that held her arm, she coldly added, “and would you kindly remove your hand.”

“I’ll escort you,” he insisted.

She tore her arm away from his grip. “No thank you, I feel much more comfortable unescorted,” she told him curtly.

*******

Since the death of Li Jing, the late and last King of the Ghost Tribe, the Ghost realm had never been the same. Without a royal heir to the throne, the new generation of young and ruthless Generals fought among themselves for hundreds of years of civil war. Nobody from another realm interfered because they either did not care, were weak themselves, or thought it beneficial to watch another clan slaughter and destroy itself.

But the destruction had never come, because the Ghost Clan remained a power to reckon with even in a time of weakness. To everyone’s big surprise, the bloody civil war had ended within three days upon the appearance of mysterious shadow figures. This new powerful faction took control over the Ghost realm so quickly and swiftly that sources were unable to confirm what had really happened during those three days.

These shadow figures were called “The Elders” among their people. Little was known about them, because they had ceased to be involved in the politics of the Ghost realm many millennia ago. However, they had decided to surface to end the Ghost Clan destruction and made everybody feel the extent of their powers immediately. The Ghost Generals they selected to represent them were mere puppets who did their bidding. To everyone outside the Ghost realm, the turn of events at the time was perplexing and trustworthy information about the new holders of power impossible to obtain. A central figurehead would have been easier to assess and manage. But without the face or the name of a leader, the Ghost Clan became an enigma to them.

What Zi Lan knew was that the Elders had been observing Yan Zhi and Qiao Er. It wasn’t just assassins that had come to haunt her in the mortal realms, but also a flood of messengers from her people, who had insisted Yan Zhi had to return at once. She had turned them down countless times. He was not surprised they had found her again in such a short amount of time. Ghost Clan spies were the best in all the realms.

After Yan Zhi had left, Zi Lan had quickly ascertained who those “guests” were. He had cloud jumped himself on top of Kunlun’s gates and had hidden his presence, observing what was happening below. The same two generals that had brought messages before had arrived, only this time, they did not look like they would leave easily. Their bodies were tense as they approached Yan Zhi.

“Your Highness,” they bowed respectfully.

“Generals.”

“Your Highness, we know we failed to protect you. That’s why you had to take refuge with the Celestials. We are ashamed you had to take such drastic measures,” one apologized, his bow even lower than before.

Yan Zhi sighed. “Generals, if you’re here to persuade me again, I told you, I will not return. Please tell the Elders...”

“Please your Highness, this is urgent,” the older general begged. “General Kai was murdered two days ago!”

“What? By whom?” her voice sounded alarmed by the news.

“It was an assassination, most likely instigated by the Yellow Demon King, cursed be his name. The Elders immediately ordered us to request your return. We can’t delay any longer. The longer we wait, the more dire the situation will become for the Ghost realm. We fear they cannot control the situation any longer.”

She shook her head. “Generals, we all know the Elders are more capable than me in bringing peace to the Ghost realm. They have done so in the past and they can do so in the present.”

“Princess, the Elders insisted that only you can bring peace to our realms.”

”But I am far less powerful than they are.”

They immediately went to their knees, bowing to Yan Zhi once again. “Your Highness, it is not just the Elders who insist on your return. Your loyal subjects have waited so long for the day the Ghost realm can finally return to its former glory again,” the younger General insisted.

“Generals…”

“Please listen to us, there is more you need to know,” the older general beseeched her.

Yan Zhi was silent at first, but she soon relented to their plea. “Please continue.”

Zi Lan knew time was limited. Things had changed quite drastically in the Ghost realm as of late, they had heard. Cheng Yin was clearly the main culprit, but thanks to his slyness, his manipulations could not be tracked to him. Yet, it was him who needed a vast army and who had tried to get those who were unhappy about the rule of the Elders to join his side. Stability within the Ghost realm was not beneficial to him under these circumstances - only the dissatisfied would fight in wars that were not their own. He had taken drastic measures to sow discontent, had even tried to assassinate the legitimate heir. After the murder of one of the figureheads of the Ghost clan, The Elders were obviously in dire need of a central leader to capture the hearts of the masses and to ensure the further control of their people. That leader was Yan Zhi and her legitimacy to the throne.

Curiously, seeing how powerful the Elders were, why had they not taken the throne as their own? Were they friend or foe? Could they be trusted? Those were the questions forming in Zi Lan’s head as he continued to listen to the Generals’ further attempts of persuasion. He could tell by Yan Zhi’s body language she was wavering, and his heart began to ache in knowledge of what was to come.