Fanfiction3: A-Li's Three Lives, Three Worlds - Chapter 6 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 6

written by LigayaCroft
edited by kakashi & panda

Born with perfect lives, Celestials rarely suffered need or want of anything. This, however placed Heaven in a quandary; how could a clan rule over the lower clans such as the Mortal Clan if they knew nothing about the seven emotions and six desires [1]?

Mortal calamity was thus invented and designed to cultivate empathy for fairy-born Celestials. Still, a two-immortal-month stint could not be compared to a life that spanned hundreds of millennia and one could not blame the gods if they eventually forgot what their mortal trials had been about.

Growing up, A-Li had wished he had this problem. Though an immortal, it couldn’t be overlooked that he had been born out of a mortal’s womb. As the mortal Su Su, she had been stripped of her powers, her privilege and her birth right as Queen of Qing Qiu— now, Holy Empress Bai Qian’s life was marked by sympathy for the weak and downtrodden. This key trait she had passed on to her son and thus, the problem remained— A-Li was extra sympathetic by nature, especially for an immortal.

Some Celestials thought he was too soft, that he had a heart that was easily moved. A trait not desirable by most and especially wrong for one whom everyone expected to become a future High God, and their future Crown Prince. It was often pointed out how it was a shame that he was a far departure from how his ruthless great-grandfather had been — which was history conveniently rewritten to mask how most Celestials had hated the former Tiānjūn.

His sympathy betrayed his mortal roots all too well. Many resented him for his lineage and added it to the growing list of why his family no longer deserved to lead. Though nobody dared to call him out about it, he had heard the whispers.


The snickers.


The passive-aggressive remarks.

Impure Blood.

Cheng Yu, a former mortal, took 300 year-old A-Li under her wings and taught him how to fake nonchalance.

“This,” she once said, holding her hand against her chest, “will always tell you what’s real. But it doesn’t have to show here.” She finished, gliding her hand over her face. “Sympathy is not a weakness as long as it’s discriminating. It’s only a weakness when you can’t control it.”

His Granduncle’s response to the bullying had been more unexpected. When A-Li was 13’000 years old, Lian Song took advantage of the newly-acceded Heavenly Emperor and Heavenly Empress’ busy calendar, and together with Cheng Yu, started introducing A-Li to the kind of exploits an old-timer like him liked.

“I’ll show you how your sensitive nature is actually one of the good things about you. Believe me, Zhízi,” He said then, his elbow perched on top of A-Li’s head, “as the youngest in my family, we can be worse than our clan expects us to be. We just need to make sure we don’t get caught while doing it. Or if we are, we will never admit to it.”

It had been effective. Being labeled a hedonist effectually took away the power from A-Li’s old label as a sympathetic immortal. The irony was— it turned out that rich, spoiled, self-indulgent, and a ladies’ man were far more acceptable characteristics of a Royal than being helpful, considerate and kind to others.

Thus, A-Li had adopted a secular approach to his private life but the sympathetic foundation on which his mortal roots rested remained mostly unscathed. It was a weakness so easily exposed— that when it came to real suffering, he couldn’t bear to just stand by and watch like gods often did.

It got tested again today.


The small town, Jiāngyuán, was literally in dust and smoke when they arrived. Houses and establishments had been felled, some razed by fires, and everywhere they looked, people walked in a daze. Cries for help could be heard all over the town from women and children.

A-Li was immediately moved. He had seen worse disasters in history before but it still took all his restraint not to use his powers to set the whole town back in order again.

His heart splintered as he saw a desperate father carrying his heavily injured child, calling for the town’s medicine man to help. Ah, but could anyone else see? There were about ten, twenty, death gods with black robes made of flowing smoke, moving around listlessly as they harvested souls.

The death gods’ white faces turned in shock as they finally noticed him standing there. They floated towards him and bowed. After looking at one another, one of them stepped forward to greet him.

Diànxià [2], to what do we owe the honor of your visit?”

“I’m just passing through.” He replied although his eyes were already scanning the rubble. For her. A-Li waved dismissively. “But carry on.”

Leaving the death gods to their gruesome task, A-Li walked toward the direction where he last saw Wang Ling pass. It took longer to find her though as he inevitably made stops: he helped locals prop up posts, threw water and dirt to fires, lifted collapsed roofs, and dug through the rubble of what was once people’s home or livelihood.

A-Li was on his knees digging through the ruins of a house, half-buried under a landslide, using only the faint cries of a baby underneath as his guide when he heard Wang Ling ask from behind, “What do you think you’re doing?”

“There’s a baby underneath all this.” He answered, instantly noticing that there was an injured, older man holding on to her arm.

A death god hung around, waiting, like a desert vulture would around something dying. A-Li returned his attention to the exhausting task at hand. How easy it would be to use his powers to lift all these up but at least for a spell of time, he no longer could.

He had sealed his powers when he started helping out a while ago. Like his granduncle taught him, the fate-versus-human free will conundrum allowed immortals to help out as long as their powers were sealed. A rescue or help could be offered and exempted from magick bite back if done with mortal-level abilities. Furthermore, sealing off his powers during events like this also served as a precaution from magick-powered reactions driven by his sympathetic tendencies.

“Wang Ling, I need your help.”

Wang Ling didn’t need to be told twice. She made her companion take a seat on top of the trunk of a felled tree and carefully approached him over the rubble until she was able to kneel down next to him. A-Li noticed her moss green skirt was already stained with blood— not hers, hopefully. The skin on her fingers were scraped and bloodied, the nails already broken and uneven. She looked like she didn’t mind getting further roughed up and dirtied though so A-Li didn’t air out his concern.

They dug past the thatched roof ceiling, throwing wood and packed mud debris to the side as they went. It was an arduous and dangerous task but after some time, they gained headway.

“I hear the baby!” Wang Ling cried out. “The sound is so faint. How did you know there’s someone underneath?”

“I surmise I have a good set of ears. Come, let’s work faster.”

With care, they dug and lifted until finally, they saw the straw cradle near what was a dead fire pit. As with houses belonging to poor folk, the floor of the house was made of packed mud dug a few feet below ground level because this gave its occupants added insulation from the cold during winter.

Unfortunately, this also made for a riskier rescue.

Wang Ling grabbed his right forearm with both hands. “Li Géxià, the floor is about twenty chi [3] high from us. You need to lower me inside.”

A-Li recognized the look in Wang Ling’s face. It was one his Heavenly Empress Mother often used with his Heavenly Emperor Father whenever she meant to have her way, whether his Father approved or not.

In this regard, A-Li’s Mother taught him well.

This woman needed no hero, because she was one.

“Alright.” He nodded, going against the call of masculine pride. “Wait here.”

A-Li carefully crossed toward the rope he spotted earlier at a nearby well. It was thick and long enough to be used to hoist a full container of water, or to pull a water buffalo along. He securely tied the rope to the nearest tree, wrapped the middle around his waist and brought the remainder to Wang Ling.

As if she sensed his approaching proximity, Wang Ling removed her head from the hole they made, her hair now in such total disarray that birds would be happy to nest in it. She stretched out her hands impatiently for him to hurry.

A-Li was momentarily stunned at the picture she made.

Wang Ling stood up and made a grab for the rope, breaking his momentary reverie. A-Li shook his head and wordlessly asked her to raise her arms up so he could tie the other end of the rope around her waist.

“I don’t need to tell you to be careful and not take unnecessary risks.”

It was his way of telling her to be careful, just like how his Father would talk to his Mother.

Wang Ling nodded, and with A-Li backing up from the hole to control the rest of the rope that was wrapped around his own waist and hands, she slowly lowered herself down the hole.

The rope went slack. A-Li stood waiting and for the first time learned how long and torturous the interval between an inhale and an exhale was. To make matters worse, another tremor passed, lower in intensity than the one that took place while they were still digging, but it still shook the ruined house and affected A-Li in a way the whole morning failed to do… all because of her.

“Wang Ling!” He shouted, carefully crossing through the wood, packed mud and thatch, and hoping it wouldn’t cave in underneath. Now he really wished he hadn’t sealed off his powers so he could fly. From the periphery of his vision, he also saw her companion worriedly stand up, wanting to get close but looking helpless to do anything anyway. “Wang Ling! Wang Ling, tell me you’re alright!”

A-Li peered through the hole and immediately noticed wood and packed mud bricks that hadn’t been there before she went in a while ago.

His heart dropped to his stomach.

He called for her several times more, hope dimming after each try. The one death god turned to two. A-Li hoped the new arrival was only attracted by his desperation rather than the scary reality that Wang Ling was below, dying.

Because if so, A-Li was willing to find out how much power he had and if it was enough to steal a soul back from the dead.

Tell me, is she alright? He wanted to ask the two death gods who hovered close by, but of course they would never tell, would they? These gods were too greedy, too focused, over nothing getting in the way of their harvest.

Desperate, A-Li raised his hand and was about perform the precautionary spell to release his seal when he felt the rope move.

A slight tug.

Then another, this time with greater force so that it almost pulled him down the hole.

Then he heard a cough.

Her cough.

“Li Géxià?”

A-Li stuck his head inside the hole, scanning the semi-darkness for her.

“I’m here. I’m here, Wang Ling. Where are you?”

“I’m several chi away from where you lowered me. There is some debris blocking my way. But the baby is fine, Li Géxià.”

Relief washed over him like cleansing summer rain.

She’s alive. That’s all that matters.

When A-Li looked up to the direction of the death gods, they were gone, in pursuit of a more plentiful harvest. How disappointed they must be that no harvest occurred from this spot today.

“My baby!” A distraught woman screamed from below the incline, and screamed even louder as she approached. “My baby! Oh, my baby!”

Wang Ling’s companion met the woman, and tried to calm her down.

“Alright, you can pull me up now!”

A-Li stood up and backed up slowly to solid ground, this time capturing more rope to help hoist Wang Ling up. It took all of A-Li’s mortal-level strength but it was worth it in the end when her head appeared, followed by her shoulders and then the rest of her climbed up along.

The mother met Wang Ling with so much gratitude and tears as she took her daughter back in her arms. A-Li walked back to where the rope they used was tied and sank against the tree’s roots, suddenly exhausted from the day’s activity.

This day… was strange. Too many emotions roiled and toiled throughout his body. Strange emotions, emotions he couldn’t make sense of… for now.

A shadow fell over him. A-Li looked up, surprised to see Wang Ling in such close proximity.

For the first time in two years, she came to him.

“Thank you for letting me save the baby. Thank you for helping me.”

Blood trickled down her forehead. Worried, he asked, “Are you hurt?”

“It’s just a little cut. I can see straight and I don’t feel dizzy at all. How about you? Are you alright?”

A-Li looked at his hands and forearms and only then noticed that they were actually hurting. “Oh, this? It’s just rope burns.

“Oh— was I too heavy?”

“Not at all.” He answered with a soft, reassuring smile when in fact, his whole body ached to the bones. His skin normally itched or his tongue tasted sour as a result of turning off any spell. Instead, today he felt as if a whole house toppled over him.

A-Li tried to stand up but found he was too exhausted to even lift his bottom off the ground. With a cough against his sleeve, he gave up and leaned on the trunk. Fresh blood marked the fabric he had coughed on, and the discovery caused A-Li to lift his fingers to the sides of his mouth.

His fingerpads came back red and his tongue belatedly recognized the metallic taste of blood.

Even stranger. He might have gotten hit somewhere when he helped out other locals earlier, and failed to realize it.

Wang Ling sat down next to him. A-Li turned his head to look at her but she also had her head turned away from him.

He had no idea what she was thinking of. And he was exhausted all over.

A-Li leaned back against the tree and closed his eyes.


Wait, did she just talk? A-Li’s eyes flew open and he turned to look at Wang Ling again.

She had her head down and her fingers were busy pulling the grass that was unlucky enough to be on the ground right where the lining of her skirt ended.

A-Li was drained of strength and so he felt he must have imagined hearing her voice. He was about to settle back against the tree when she spoke again, this time her voice louder and clearer.

“I think after what we’ve been through together today, you can call me Jia’er. That’s my nickname. Or if you want something more formal, you can call me Jiao Long.”

Her head turned as she met his eyes with a small smile. It didn’t escape A-Li’s notice that her cheeks were unnaturally flushed.

“Jia’er.” A-Li tested her name and liked the way it rolled off his tongue. “Jiao Long.”

“Xue Jiaolong.” She stretched out her hand to point to the older man who was helping the mother and baby settle down. “And over there’s my father, Xue Yuan.”


1. A foundational tenet of Buddhism and Confucianism. (7 Emotions: joy, anger, grief, worry, fear, sentiments, affection) (6 desires: lust, vanity, dignity, pleasant sounds, good life/death, sensual pleasures)

2. (殿下) Literally means "beneath your palace". Used when addressing members of the imperial family, such as princes and princesses

3. Similar, but not exactly equivalent to, Western measurement for feet (China 1/3 m, Taiwan & Japan 10/33 m)