Fanfiction: Mo Yuan and Shao Wan - Chapter 40.5 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 40.5

written by Chimera
edited by/with input by MiniOrchid

While Die Feng stayed at Kunlun, he received regular reports from the West Sea regarding the kingdom’s borders and neighbours. After managing his studies, his juniors’ studies, the library, and practicing his martial arts, Die Feng’s time was wholly engrossed by the reports. There were simply no spare moments to be spent with guests, as regrettable as that was, and he had to delegate the day to day hospitality to Chang Shan. At least, that’s what he told himself.

In truth though, he found himself frequently wandering around whichever part of the castle the Yellow Demon Princess happened to be in. When she played with the little Ghost Princess, or hovered over his juniors’ shoulders asking about their lessons he couldn’t help listening. When she visited the library to look through the books he couldn’t help glancing from his desk as she flitted about the shelves. But all of that was only to keep an eye on her as per Shifu’s orders. She was, after all, his responsibility.

The problem was when talking to her it was too easy to forget she was the Yellow Demon Princess, sister of the Yellow Demon Lord; a potential spy and enemy. He could remind himself to be formal and reserved as much as he wanted but soon enough he would find himself letting his guard down and laughing. And so, before he knew it, Die Feng was avoiding direct interaction with the Princess. Fond as she was of novelty, there were plenty of objects and people at Kunlun to keep her occupied, he assured himself.

However, today, when he walked into the kitchen, for some reason the sight of Chang Shan’s hand in hers made him...he wasn’t sure what it was but something sent a pang through him. He was reminded of the time he had lost his favourite wooden horse, the one he had had since he was a baby. Da-ge had gone strawberry picking with all the other kids, leaving him behind. Die Feng had run after them as soon as he found out, his little horse clutched in his fist. While scrambling through some brambles Die Feng had dropped the horse and, in his haste, had barely noticed. But Die Feng didn’t find the other kids that day. He returned, shoulders slumped, and realised his horse was nowhere to be seen.

This was hardly the same situation though. All Die Feng knew was that Li Ying wouldn’t look at him and he couldn’t stand the sight of her and Chang Shan giggling with their heads bent together for a second longer. Chang Shan was annoying, Die Feng was angry; Chang Shan needed to be gone. At Chang Shan’s worried look, Die Feng looked down to see he had been clenching his fist.

He forced his hand to relax. Why was he acting this way? It wasn’t like him to get random mood swings. Strange.

As soon as Chang Shan left, Li Ying snatched the bamboo mould from Die Feng’s hand. “Thank you, I’ll be needing that.”

Why wouldn’t she look at him? Die Feng moved forward to pick another mould from the table.

Li Ying snatched it back, “I need that too.”

His scowl returned, “Let me help you.”

“I don’t need your assistance.”

“You were happy with Chang Shan’s,” he accused.

She shot him a look of pure disbelief. “Your junior was teaching me the recipe.”

At least she was looking at him now. “I want to help too.”

“I wouldn’t dare intrude on your time. You have many responsibilities to attend to as First Disciple of Kunlun,” she said, nose in the air.

Die Feng found that unfair. “I was busy-”

“Yes, yes,” she rolled her eyes and began spooning the candy mixture into the first mould. “You made that abundantly clear.”

“Princess, I entrusted you to 2nd while I was busy but you are still my guest.”

“Oh so now you care about that? You’ve ignored me for more than a week."

What was she talking about? True, he had decided to determinedly focus on work every time she approached until she gave up, but he had made sure her all her needs were met. Unless she thought- “Did it appear that I was making excuses on purpose?”

She raised her eyebrows, “Why, was that the case?”

So she did think that. Guilt stabbed at him and he tried to deny, “No, I really had work to attend to-”

“Go attend to it then.” She turned away.

He stood there not sure what to do. “I’m sorry, I thought you would be too happily occupied with other company to care for mine. I saw you training with the Demon High Goddess.”

Her expression told him she saw this as a feeble excuse. He wasn’t sure he was entirely convinced himself.

“I thought we were friends,” she said in a lower voice.

That made him pause.

Friends. Friends cared for each other’s company because they enjoyed it. Is that how it was between them? Die Feng had told himself she only considered him as a source of novelty but now he realised he had hurt her. Had he truly been that busy? Being cautious was one thing, but to disregard someone who had done nothing to deserve it was another. He moved forward, “Forgive me; I’ve been negligent as a host. Please let me make up for it today.”

“There must be other matters more fitting to your role that need attention,” she said.

“I assure you I am available now. I apologise. At the moment there is nothing more important than helping you prepare the peach blossom candy.”

“All right, let’s stop arguing. The candy needs attention,” she looked down at the mould in her hand.

“Yes, of course.” Die Feng picked up the second mould.

Li Ying glanced up, her expression much mollified despite her next words, “But that doesn’t mean I accept your apology.”

He nodded solemnly. “Understood.”

She stirred the pot. “Okay, let’s start! If we get this right maybe I can setup a successful candy business in the mortal realm. Don’t expect a share of the profits though,” she added over her shoulder.

Die Feng ducked his head to hide a smile.

Yes, she disarmed him. So what? Was laughing with someone really such a scary thing? She would be gone soon enough anyway. So far, she had done nothing to raise his suspicion except have a sweet tooth. When the moment to deal with the politics arrived, he would deal with it. Avoiding her in the meantime when they could be friends was just silly. And Die Feng was done being silly.


At the best of times, Li Ying was not a very accomplished cook. At the worst of times, she set fire to the kitchen. That didn’t prevent her from trying through the years though. The peach blossom candy was the most complicated recipe she had attempted yet. What she lacked in skill, she made up for with enthusiasm, happy that 2nd disciple had finally found time to teach her.

When Die Feng appeared at the kitchen door, Li Ying found herself dragging his junior’s hand closer. Aware of Die Feng’s gaze, Li Ying’s instinct prompted her to see how he would react. Would he care enough to remain while she prolonged the palm reading, a task that she was usually fast at?

She did feel guilty for involving 2nd, who had been nothing but a great host to her. But it was unusual for Die Feng to seek her out. Was he really was not interested in her at all? She had to know. To her surprise, not only did 2nd almost fall over in his sudden haste to leave, Die Feng remained and apologised and insisted on helping despite her giving him every chance to make himself scarce. It seemed unlike the Second Prince of the West Sea to take on a task he was obviously not at ease with. She was probably missing something, and she was angry at Die Feng, so why did she feel like smiling?

However, she couldn’t dwell on her thoughts when there was work to be done. When 2nd left, Li Ying let him go cheerily, confident that the only task left was to press the candy into the moulds with a spoon. Now she wasn’t sure. She glanced at Die Feng who was watching her expectantly, mould in hand. “How do we use this?” she asked, holding out her mould.

Die Feng paused, stared at the mould and back at her. “Um, I’ve never actually used it before.”

Li Ying stared at him in disbelief. “You don’t know how to use this, yet you scared your junior away?”

“How hard can it be if 2nd can do it?” he scowled.

“Your junior is accomplished at the hardest of tasks,” she pointed out.

“Well we can’t call him back now,” he snapped. Taking a deep breath, he added, “Sorry. I’m sure we can figure this out.”

“I don’t think spooning the mixture in is working. It’s filling only half the mould.”

“So what do we do?”

Li Ying picked up the mould lid and turned it over. “Ah. Do you see paper anywhere?”

“You mean these?” Die Feng pointed to the sheets lying on the side of the counter.

“Yes, bring them over,” she held out her hand. “I have seen a mortal cook use this technique before. I didn’t see how he made the cone but it should be simple enough.”

“Cone?” he sounded puzzled.

Li Ying pointed at the small holes at the top of the mould lid. “We close the mould and use a paper cone to squeeze in the candy mixture through these holes so that it sets into perfectly round balls. Then, when it is ready, we open the mould.”

Die Feng looked doubtful.

She smiled. “You’ll see.”

He watched as she used the knife to cut the paper into a triangle. Li Ying paused. “Hmm, maybe we should grease the paper. So that the mixture doesn’t stick.”

Die Feng passed her the oil jar. “Here.”

Li Ying greased and rolled the paper into a cone shape. It took a couple of tries but she figured out how to make the pointy end and have the shape hold.

“Take the pot off the flame and keep stirring,” she instructed Die Feng as she worked. “The trick is to get the timing right. The mixture can’t be too hot for fingers to hold the cone but it can’t be allowed to cool down so much that it becomes stiff.”

“That makes sense,” he said as he followed directions, far more confidence in her ability evident on his face than a minute ago.

“Okay, let’s see.” She held the paper cone in one hand and put in a spoonful of the mixture with the other. The cone held and, carefully, she put in another spoonful. The mixture slowly slid down as she pressed the top of the cone. And then, just as she thought it was working, the cone unraveled at the bottom, dripping the hot, sticky, gooey candy mixture everywhere.

Li Ying swore, dropping the now shapeless paper.

“Princess!” Die Feng grabbed her candy covered hand and dunked it into water.

“It’s…it’s all right,” she said. “It wasn’t that hot.”

“Are you sure?” he asked anxiously.

She took the kitchen rag and wiped herself, waving him away. “Let me try again. There’s probably a trick to holding the paper together.”

“All right, but please be careful,” he said.

Li Ying tried several more times, folding the paper this way and that while Die Feng watched, putting in a word of encouragement here and there. Each time, either the cone fell apart at the bottom or the mixture oozed back out from the top.

At the end, the kitchen was a mess, there was candy all over their clothes and Li Ying was slumped against the counter, head bowed. “I really thought I could do it this time. But I always make a mess.”

Die Feng ducked down to catch her eye, “Princess, nobody is good at something on their first attempt. One cannot master a new skill without guidance.”

She shook her head, “I’ve never had a cook willing to let me stay in the kitchen more than a few days.”

He sounded contrite, “I’m sorry I sent 2nd away.”

“I was being so careful. I thought of everything,” she said, putting her hands over her eyes.

He patted her shoulder, “Don’t be so hard on yourself. You were very creative but nobody can figure out all the possibilities beforehand.”

“And now we don’t have time; the mixture is cooling down. The whole batch will be ruined,” she almost wailed.

“But is it necessary?” asked Die Feng, his brow furrowed. “To get a perfect shape for the candy to taste good?”

Li Ying stared at him. “You’re right!” she exclaimed and sprang forward to grab a fresh sheet of paper. “Of course! Why on earth does it have to be perfectly round?”

They grabbed a spoon each and set about doling out the candy mixture onto the paper in small chunks. After spooning out all the candy and laughing at each other’s shapeless blobs, they got to work cleaning the kitchen. Silently, they mopped the spilled mixture and washed the dishes while the candy hardened.

There was a moment when Li Ying looked up from licking the spoon to find Die Feng’s eyes on her. A sly thought entered her mind. Without breaking eye contact, she moved forward, closing in, slowly, until she had to tilt her head to hold his gaze. She could hear his heartbeat or maybe it was hers as she reached up and his eyes fluttered close. She leaned forward, unable to take her eyes off his lips...and smeared the candy mixture across his mouth. Die Feng blinked and she spun away, laughing. A sheepish grin spread over his face and he licked the candy off.

Later that evening, when Li Ying returned to her room with her batch of misshapen candies, she couldn’t stop smiling. She had not felt this relaxed in days, tired as she was. The candy tasted even better than usual and she decided to celebrate by finally unrolling her scroll of The Golden Dragon and His 24 Maidens. She’d been saving it for an appropriate moment and now seemed better than ever.

Excitement building, she untied the string. The play was a rare collector's’ item, more a legend now than something mortals circulated. She unrolled the scroll inch by inch, mindful of the ancient paper. Surprisingly, the ink was bright as if applied only yesterday. Could it be a fake?

There was a tiny bronze mouse figurine sitting in the middle of the scroll. Li Ying picked it up and held it against the light. The detailing was exquisite, from whiskers around its small round nose and nails on its tiny paws down to each strand of fur on its body. The look in its eyes was the cutest thing she had ever seen. She carefully set the mouse down on her bedside table, reminding herself to keep it away from the Demon Ancestor’s mount, and returned to the scroll.

Fake or not, the play was certainly engrossing. There were the dragon and the 24 maidens, as promised, and there was also a mouse, doing some very unmouse-like things. That night, Li Ying fell asleep, reading, with a wide smile on her face. When she opened her eyes the next morning, the Demon Ancestor’s mount was hopping near her face. She sat back with a yelp and her eyes fell on her bedside table. The mouse figurine was gone. Li Ying looked at Fong Hung mournfully. Alas, the frog had gotten to it before her! Offending the Ancestor by accusing her mount of stealing was out of the question. There was nothing to be done. Fong Hung croaked as he hopped, looking very pleased with himself.

Li Ying gave him a surreptitious look and scrambled to hide her peach candy box.

Chapter 40.75