Fanfiction: Mo Yuan and Shao Wan - Chapter 49 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 49

written by Chimera and MiniOrchid 
edited by kakashi

The air was changing. The weather had been blistering hot for the past few days, like it hardly ever was on a peak as high as Kunlun Mountain. But now, a thunderstorm was approaching on the horizon, gathering destructive power as it grew in size. Die Feng stopped to have a look at it. He was not one to believe in ominous signs, but he could not help but think that the black, towering clouds looked like they were going to bring what they all feared: the end of peace. As the 2nd Prince of the West Sea and the 1st Disciple of Kunlun, he was well accustomed to war - but like any sane man, he dreaded the bloodshed, the fear, the crushing sadness of loss that any war inevitably brought.

Turning his back on the distant thunder, he headed towards the library, where Li Ying had been spotted last. He was just returning from the West Sea and he really needed to see her tonight. Strange, he had never felt such urgency before - what was this ominous feeling he could not shake? Yes, there was something about the Demon Princess he wanted to decipher, but he had always told himself there would be ample time to get to know her better. By now, he had accepted that she was in his dreams every night, always smiling at him, always teasing him. It was a mirror of their daytime interactions, when he let her tease and taunt him to her heart’s content. He marvelled at her wit, her knowledge, and her vast experience. She most often won their word battles, leaving him flustered and tongue tied, yet strangely happy. In those moments, she would smile, and it was so radiant and inviting, he often found himself smiling back at her. And yet...and yet, there was something underneath that smile that spoke of sadness, of fear, of caution. As a result, he had begun to feel a fear of his own - that he could soon lose this source of extra sunshine in his monotonous life.

Yes, his life had been repetitive, by choice rather than pure necessity. He liked routines and order. He still did, but he had come to realize that he liked disorder and surprises just as much, if she was the source of it. The Yellow Demon Princess was an oddity he simply did not understand, but that constant puzzlement was something he had come to cherish. A few times, for example, she would show up while he was reviewing documents at his desk. She told him she had nothing to do and would like to practice painting instead. Since that was certainly much better than having her injure herself during her training with the Demon High Goddess, he had readily consented. While painting, she would continue to glance at him, and he would become more and more self-conscious, coming to believe this would be the day she would create a painting of him. But every time she showed him her drawing afterwards, it was something else. Either it was his dolphin paperweight, the ink marble, the paintbrush stands, or the scrolls on his desk. Maybe, he concluded, she could only paint everyday objects. That was until the day he saw her painting Qiao Er by the pond. Baffled, he opened his mouth to ask her why she never tried to paint him in his studies, but he closed his mouth again as soon as he realized he didn’t know how to breach the subject without sounding like he was jealous or offended.

He had thought they had become friends, but now, he was not quite sure he understood what that even meant. Before her, he had never had a female friend (Si Yin did not count, he had not known she was a woman when he had befriended her). There were moments when being with her was easy and joyful, when it did not matter where they were or that she was the Yellow Demon King’s sister. But there were other moments when he felt her suddenly withdraw, shy away from him, as if he had touched something sensitive that she sought to hide away from the world. He had thought that maybe, he had lost her trust when he had kissed her the other night. Kissing was not something friends did, he knew that, even if it had been “just a kiss” and “nothing more”. Neither did he feel like apologizing for something that he had enjoyed so much. Was it necessary they talked about it? She had not volunteered and he did not know how to bring up the subject without embarrassing her. Would she, the outspoken one, not have said something if he had breached some unwritten protocol that threatened their friendship?

Die Feng stepped into the library - and found it did not look like the way he had left it. Not even remotely close. Scrolls and books strewn all over the floor. Shelves toppled over. Paper floating around. Ink all over his desk. And in the middle, Li Ying, scrambling to put it all back.

“Princess?” he ventured.

Li Ying started and whipped around. “Die Feng! I thought you wouldn’t return till tomorrow!”

“Work finished earlier than expected,” he said, looking at her with concern. Her face was strained.

“I’m so sorry,” she wailed. “I understand if you’re angry. I wanted to help you with the rearranging – I…I studied the new cataloguing system you’ve developed. I thought it could be done faster with magic…that I could finish it by the time you returned and surprise you. But I just made a mess…a horrible mess. I’m so sorry, I’m useless, I’m completely useless - I should just leave. Your Shifu will be so angry-”

“Princess,” Die Feng held her shoulders. “Stop. Look at me.” She looked up, her chin trembling. “It’s all right. It’s not a big deal. This place has survived much worse when Si Yin and Zi Lan used to team up together. Shifu is too busy contemplating matters of higher importance to either care or notice. As long as you’re okay, it can all be fixed. It’s just paper.”

“But I destroyed the library. Why are you smiling?”

A warmth had been spreading through him. At her question, his smile widened. “I can’t believe you cared enough to help me with the cataloguing. Nobody has ever done that before.”

“Oh.” She suddenly looked shy. “Of course I care.”

“And you did not destroy the library. None of the texts look damaged. They’re just...scattered? Come on, I will help you put it all back.”

Die Feng was relieved to see that Li Ying soon calmed down from her extreme distress as they returned the library to its previous state, step by step, scroll by scroll. He had come feeling great urgency. Now that she was next to him, he simply felt content.


By the time they finished, the sun had set. The awaited storm was upon them, thunder and lightning striking in the distance. The rustle of the wind blown leaves had given way to the steady hum of falling rain and the crackling of a fire in the grate. How delicious, thought Li Ying. Perfect for a night of curling up with a good book.

Li Ying was glad, grateful, that Die Feng was not angry. He didn’t even raise his voice! She still couldn’t fathom how he could be so nonchalant about her undoing all his hard work. He was so meticulous about maintaining the library. And the Kunlun library did house some of the most valuable texts in all the realms. She should’ve left things alone; disaster struck anytime she got herself involved. But the only thing to be done now was to help Die Feng fix it. She did not want to think about how her father or brother would have reacted if she had created a mess like this in their chambers. As it was, her clumsiness often made her brother lose his patience. Die Feng must have the patience of a saint. But everyone had their limits. She must be careful to not make him reach his.

Things were alright for now, though. It didn’t seem like Die Feng was hiding his annoyance. He was still at ease, leaning against the desk while she flopped on one of the cushions. “Die Feng, I wanted your opinion on something,” she began, “since you know a lot about old texts.”

“Sure,” he replied.

“Remember that lost toy I mentioned the other day? It’s a mouse figurine that came with a play.”

“A mouse? You lost it?”

She shook her head. “I, uh, think the Demon Ancestor’s mount took a liking to the mouse and took it.”

Understanding dawned on his face, “Ah.”

“It was a cute figurine,” she shrugged, “probably valuable too. I hope to still find it before… But the mouse is not what’s important,” she said, reaching into her sleeve. “I wanted to ask you about the play scroll it came with. It is supposed to be very rare and old and after looking for it for years it fell into my hands through sheer luck. But I noticed that the ink looks very fresh, not at all like faded antique scrolls. Do you think it might be fake?”

“Let me see,” he extended his hand. “Where did you acquire the scroll?”

“A man gave it to me that time we were in the mortal realm looking for your junior.”

Die Feng paused and frowned. “Huh? But I didn’t see it.”

“It was when I told you to wait. The man was following us and I went to take care of it.”

“What? Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I would’ve when I returned but you ran ahead. That was foolish, by the way, running headlong into danger like that.”

He looked indignant. “You couldn’t have told me to wait while you ran away without an explanation and expected me to stand there while my junior’s life was in danger.”

Li Ying felt her own temper rise. “Do you think I didn’t understand that your junior needed you? That I would do that without a good reason? Do you not trust me?”

“Then why not tell me the reason? Or are you the one without trust?”

“It was a Demon following me, okay? I could tell from the scent. I couldn’t lead more danger to you and your junior. I had to take care of it. There was no time to explain! The longer we talked the more your junior’s time ran out. And I couldn’t very well tell you ‘Go ahead, I’ll catch up’ when I didn’t know myself where the scent trail led, could I? There were no directions to give!”

Die Feng paused, “The man was a Demon?”

“A bodyguard on my brother’s orders it turned out. But it could have been more sinister.”

“Why would your brother-”

“He is overprotective, I told you,” she said shortly. “I made the man leave.”

He looked at her with furrowed brows. “Why would you do that? If we were heading into danger, having more fighters on our side would be a good thing.”

Li Ying fell silent. “I don’t know. There was something about him...I didn’t trust him. I don’t like the idea of someone watching without my knowledge.”

“Yet you accepted the scroll he gave,” Die Feng said incredulously.

She felt her conscience prickle. “That is different! Do you know how rare this scroll is? I have been looking for it for ages! What harm can mere paper do?”

“Oh I don’t know. Carry curses, enchantments, hidden words, threats…shall I go on?”

Li Ying folded her arms. “I’ll take my chances.”

He frowned. “You’re being stubborn.”

“And you’re being paranoid!”

“You were the one who didn’t trust that man,” he pointed out.

“The man, yes. But this is paper!”

“Given to you by that man!” he snapped, looking exasperated.

“Fine! Unroll the scroll and see,” she snapped back.


Die Feng put the scroll on the table, untied the string and slowly unrolled it. A deep blush spread over his features as he read the characters narrating the story of The Golden Dragon and His 24 Maidens. When she broached the topic of the scroll, Li Ying had been thinking of his reaction with glee but now the whole thing had taken on a more serious air. Closing his eyes, Die Feng ran his fingers over the paper and tried several spells. Nothing changed.

“Satisfied?” Li Ying snapped.

“It seems…all right,” he said. “The ink looks fresh but there are certain varieties that don’t fade,” he cleared his throat, “I don’t think it’s fake.”

“Good,” she rolled the scroll closed. “Now will you promise me that the next time I tell you to wait, you will wait instead of rushing into battle without backup?”

“You know I can’t do that if someone I care about is in danger. And it’s not as if you didn’t do the same, going to “take care” of that Demon alone. You’re just lucky he turned out to be a bodyguard.”

She felt like shaking him. “You stubborn man! What if I had not found you? What if I had been a few seconds late? Those Demons would have killed you, make no mistake!”

“I know! And if I had been late Zi Lan would have-- Wait. Did you say Demons?”

“Those assassins were Demons. Couldn’t you tell?”

“I suspected but they were hiding their aura. There was no way to tell for certain.”

“I suppose I could smell them.”

Die Feng raised his hand to his forehead. “Isn’t it strange? A Demon sent by your brother follows you and then Demons attack the Ghost Princess and Zi Lan.”

Li Ying felt her stomach drop. “Die Feng, what are you implying? There are 7 Demon tribes; they could have been from any one of them.”

“But they disappeared. As soon as you arrived. No, as soon as they heard your name. They left.”

“You’re saying they were protecting me? Because my brother sent them?”

Die Feng looked distinctly uncomfortable. “Princess…”

She wanted it all out in the open. Enough tiptoeing, “Is that why you didn’t want me staying at Kunlun? Why you came up with those feeble excuses to make me leave? And then avoided me for days?”

“Princess, your brother and my Shifu are on the brink of war. Surely you must know that.”

War? “What do you mean?”

“Do you trust your brother?” he asked.

“Of course I trust my brother,” she snapped. “What kind of question is that?”

“But you didn’t trust the man he sent to protect you. So do you really trust him?”


“Your brother is concerned about your safety but he doesn’t want you to cultivate and be able to defend yourself. Don’t you find that a little fishy?”

“You don’t understand. My brother, he...he is not rational when it comes to my safety...You don’t know what--Anyhow, he doesn’t want me helping him so I stay out of politics. They don’t interest me that much anyway. But our kingdoms must still be able to work it out. Isn’t that why the Demon Ancestor is here? Surely things cannot be all that dire when there are negotiations being done?”

“Princess, the Demon High Goddess is here in the first place because there was a skirmish with your brother. She is not here representing Demons.”

Li Ying was abruptly reminded of a conversation she had been puzzling over the entire day. That morning, she had been strolling through the corridors when the God of War had approached, looking formidable as ever. Nervously, she greeted him and to her surprise, he invited her for tea.

After enquiring about whether she was enjoying her stay at Kunlun, he proceeded to tell her that Die Feng looked much more lively ever since she arrived. Unsure what to make of it, Li Ying listened in silence. He then asked how her training with the Demon High Goddess was proceeding. Li Ying told him that it was going well and the God of War sighed that it was a pity that the Goddess did not have her own whip to train them with. The Goddess really missed her weapon, he added. Li Ying asked about the whip and he told her that it was currently being held by her brother under a magical seal. That did not make sense to Li Ying, since all Demons were the Demon Ancestor’s to command.

The conversation left her unsettled, as if the God of War had eyes all around the castle walls. She had proceeded to rearrange the library for Die Feng right after and ended up with the colossal mess as her magic went awry, sending everything flying. The thought of the God of War’s dark, serious eyes turning to her as he surveyed his library made her even more scared. But then Die Feng had come and everything had become all right again.

But now that she thought of it, a lot of things were not adding up. If the Demon Ancestor was not here in an official capacity, why did she not claim her palace? The only reason could be a dispute between the Ancestor and her brother but when had her brother grown powerful enough to challenge the Ancestor? What was her brother up to? And why did Die Feng and the God of War speak as if he was a decided enemy? And had she, Li Ying, been making matters worse, trusting indiscriminately? Li Ying’s head was buzzing.

At her silence, Die Feng spoke, “Princess, it’s complicated, I don’t understand half of it myself. But I assure you there is a war coming--why do you think I have been so busy?”

“You have been mobilising troops?” she said, still thinking. “I thought you were busy with your brother’s wedding.”

“It’s all tied together. The security of the Celestial Realm depends on the water tribes being united...that is common knowledge.”

“What am I doing here then? I need to speak to my brother. I must return-” She half moved towards the door.

“Princess, I struggled with this for a while but for some reason I feel I can trust you. Even if our kingdoms are on the brink of war. You have honour and-”

He was interrupted by a buzzing from his robes. He took out the copper mirror from his sleeve.

“Your Highness!” A voice was calling from the mirror.

“I’m here, speak,” said Die Feng, frowning.

“Your Highness, His Royal Highness, the 1st Prince cannot be found!”

“What?” Die Feng’s face drained of colour.

“We have searched everywhere. There is no trace of him. The East Sea is accusing us of reneging on our promises. Their Majesties are extremely agitated, they request your immediate return to the West Sea.”

“I am on my way,” he said and pocketed the mirror. He turned to Li Ying, “Princess, I must go. I don’t know what tomorrow will foretell but I have faith in our friendship.” He hesitated, moving forward as if to touch her face. At the last moment, he shook his head and pulled his hand back. Pulling on his cloak, he looked back. “Regardless of the war, have no doubt of my goodwill towards you.”

Before she could reply, he was gone.

Alone, Li Ying paced the chamber.

Friendship. Goodwill. Loyalty. Treason. The words floated in her head.

She didn’t know if she had made a mistake staying here. She didn’t know about the rest of Die Feng’s tribe. She did not trust the God of War. She didn’t know who was betraying whom and what her brother would say. But the connections she had formed at Kunlun--with Yan Zhi, with Qiao Er, and with Die Feng’s juniors had been pure. And the Demon Ancestor, her mentor, had claim on the loyalty of all Demons. That was incontrovertible.

Trusting a man like Die Feng could not be wrong. He had never hidden things or lied or demanded anything of her. He was right, there was friendship between them. Friendship and trust and more...but for now friendship would do. And now he was in trouble. He needed to find someone important to him and Li Ying was an exceptionally good finder. Friendship demanded that she help.

She would go to him, help, make sure he was alright, and then she would return to the Demon Realm to talk to her brother. Then she would confront the facts she had avoided for so long and understand what was going on.

Decision made, Li Ying followed Die Feng out the door.

The politics had waited this long. They could wait a little longer.

Chapter 50