Fanfiction3: A-Li's Three Lives, Three Worlds - Chapter 8 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 8

written by LigayaCroft
edited by kakashi & panda

A-Li knew he deserved it that Xue Jiaolong turned him down when he called for her the day after their kiss… and the following days after that. He was aware that he had handled that night pretty badly — but to his credit, neither had he expected his granduncle’s words to mess with his mind so abominably he still felt unsettled about it even to this day.

Wed or Dead?

What was Lian Song even talking about? Of course the answer was neither. This was not some theatrical play nor was Xue Jiaolong a simpering miss whose affections he had to return with a marriage proposal.

She knew the game, and had probably played it tens or hundreds of times before. She probably found it a welcome diversion to get paid for her time whilst having some semblance of romance on the side.

He had been more than rational too.

While A-Li did crave to win her over, he had not dreamt to eventually forbid her from dancing, singing and playing for other men. Further, he had decided that even if they progressed from friends to lovers, it would be unfair for her if he kept her and took her out of her job. He had convinced himself that he had been pragmatic all along. After all, he had never been restrictive with any of his former lovers, hadn't he? Affairs could be nonexclusive, and he preferred it that way. There was no need to get worked up about something that involved transient companionship and sex.

A-Li just hated the way his chest tightened every time he thought of other men ogling her with their lustful stares. But, it’s a fair reaction, he justified. As the youngest in the Celestial Tribe for a couple of thousand years until Gun Gun arrived, he never liked to share what belonged to him.

Except, she didn’t belong to him.

Disgruntled at where his thoughts were taking him, A-Li slammed his fist on the stone table, stunning the five Jìnǚ’s Cheng Yu had hired to come to their small pavilion by the river to entertain them with afternoon tea and poetry.

Lian Song glared at A-Li and told the woman reading her poem to the accompaniment of a zither to continue.

Small hands enclosed A-Li’s fist. The Jìnǚ who attended to him only smiled when he flashed her an irritated look.

“Géxià, are you perhaps looking for news about Big Sister?”

A-Li took back his hand but his scowl lightened a bit. This little one was bold for directly approaching him. She looked new, too, so she was likely one of those juniors who fell under Xue Jiaolong’s mentorship.

“Big Sister is to dance for Wu Fangyu Huīxià [1]’s birthday tonight.”

A-Li’s jaw involuntarily clenched as he thought of one of his most avid nemeses for Xue Jiaolong’s affections. The well-decorated young general always sought to be her audience whenever he happened to be in Luoyang. Just thinking of that man’s hands on her—

“She hasn’t showed up the whole day and nobody can find her. Our Madam is very angry.”

A-Li was up on his feet even before he caught himself doing it.

“Zhízi, where do you think you’re going?”

He paid no attention to his granduncle and stormed toward the main house. Once out of sight of any mortal guest, he jumped onto the next cloud that passed by.


“Take your hands off me and let me die!”

When A-Li jumped off behind Jiāngyuán’s Home of Hope, he never expected to walk into a scene where almost-naked Xue Yuan was attempting to jump into the well and his harried daughter tried to prevent him from doing so.

“Xue Lǎoshī2!” He called out as he broke into a sprint to help Xue Jiaolong control her father. “Xue Lǎoshī, what do you think you’re doing?”

Xue Yuan’s eyes grew wide upon sighting A-Li. The old man made a hostile grab for his arms. “A-Li! A-Li, you need to let me die! My daughter is to dance for a general tonight, so close to the anniversary of her mother’s death. I have been a lacking father. I deserve to die!”

“He’s drunk.”

A-Li already smelled the strong scent of alcohol from Xue Yuan’s breath even without Xue Jiaolong’s flat explanation. What concerned him more was the defeated tone in her voice. As the old man shook him and cried, A-Li’s eyes remained fixed on Xue Jiaolong who looked a couple of breaths away from breaking down. He supposed the number of eyes that watched them didn’t help diminish the pressure on her either.

A-Li had no choice but to render the old man unconscious using magick by pretending he used pressure points to do so.

He called on Xue Jiaolong. “Take off my outer coat and put it on your father. Then let’s prepare a warm bath for him so he can get the alcohol out.”

They didn’t talk much as they brought Xue Yuan inside the house. They laid him down so Xue Jiaolong could prepare the stove while A-Li brought water from the well for boiling to pour in the bath.

Once the water was ready, A-Li asked Xue Jiaolong to wait outside while he gave the unconscious Xue Yuan a bath. A-Li only realized the absurdity of what he was doing as he sponged off the noxious smell of alcohol and dirt from the old man. Ah, if only the thirty-six skies could see him now. He had too many attendants to wait on his needs as he bathed and dressed even at Luoyang House, but here he was, half-wet and struggling to get an unconscious man dried and dressed.

A-Li called for Xue Jiaolong to return once he had the old man ready for bed. She smelled a little of alcohol when she came in but A-Li didn't mind, as he knew she had had a distressing day.

The hour of the dog3 was well underway when they finished with their task. Xue Jiaolong stepped out of her father’s bedroom and without looking back at A-Li, headed outside. On the way, she grabbed a discarded bottle of wine— probably hers— and resumed drinking as she walked the perimeter of the house.

“Jia’er!” He called out, running after her but her steps retained its steadfast, quick clip. She was headed for the woods and at this late hour, A-Li was sure it was no longer safe.

She turned before he could hold her arm. “Don’t touch me.”

A-Li’s eyes had already adjusted to the dark so when she turned, he saw that she was actually crying.

It made A-Li feel uneasy. Xue Jiaolong was tall, the top of her head reaching halfway up to his forehead, but tonight she looked small. Defeated. Quite unlike her normal, self-assured self.

The need to enfold her in his embrace was suddenly overwhelming.

And wrong.

A-Li had never been a hugger.

“He does this every year, you know. He gets so drunk, he bawls and cries, then he turns his attention to how my life has turned out, he blames himself, he blames me, he wants to die. Rinse. Repeat. He was so drunk today, we weren’t even able to go to the temple and pray to my mother.” She hit her palm against a tree trunk and took another gulp of wine, stumbling back a step as she backed up. “Nobody from that House even helped me control and cover my father. I bleed for these people and this is what I get every year. I live a thankless life.”

So she noticed it, too. There were many able-bodied people in that crowd but they all left one woman to control a full-grown man. It irked at him earlier and now that he knew that the same apathy happened every year maddened him even more.

Ungrateful parasites.

Still, A-Li kept his mouth shut because she was letting her rage flow. He had been taught well by Lian Song that nobody should get in the way of a woman who was on a ranting rampage.

“And you, you’re not any different from them. How could you drop me off just like that?”

The demand was unexpected but not unwelcome. Finally, their confrontation that took days in the making had arrived.

“I’m sorry.” He said, truly owning up to his actions. “I had a lot on my mind that night.”

She flashed a cold smile his way. “What do you have to be sorry about? Didn’t you pay for my time? Dong Nǚshì was even so happy that she gave me a bonus.” She said this as her right hand swept up to her head to remove the comb that pinned her hair in place. “It’s gold with precious jades. Very generous, don't you think so? Imagine what I’ll get for sleeping with you?”

A-Li couldn't bear to hear the vitriol and self-loathing in her voice any longer. He growled as he closed the remaining distance between them and snatched the comb from her hand.

“Jia’er, I wasn’t the one who sent the payment. Shūshu did, because he didn’t want you to get into trouble with the Madam because we kept you so late.”

Xue Jiaolong’s mouth closed but her eyes probed his face. Her hand dropped to her side. She took a cautious step back. And another. Then she turned on her heel and walked back towards the house.

A-Li followed close behind, ruminating about the new information her rant had revealed about her.

I live a thankless life.

She’s a wildflower, this one. A water lily— understated as compared to the lotus— but a fighter just the same, able to grow out of shallow, muddy waters to produce blooms and a fragrance that more than compensates for its unappealing surroundings.

It had been a recurring thought for A-Li that he had never met anyone like her — he had a feeling he never would again.

Xue Jiaolong walked until she got to the door where she stopped and whipped around to face him again.

She sighed and bowed. “Thank you for helping me with my father today. I hope to not bother you again.”

“What if I want you to bother me again?” A-Li grumbled in a rush. He was usually cautious of what came out of his mouth, but this kind of knee-jerk reaction kept happening whenever she was around. It was effective though because she didn't move, although her brows drew closer. A-Li pressed on. “What if I want to be the one you can call on for help if you feel overwhelmed?”

Xue Jiaolong cocked her head to one side. “Big words coming from somebody who left me a couple of nights back.”

“Like I said, I had a lot on my mind.”

“And do you… still?”

“I do. But that’s usually the case when I’m around you.”

She grimaced. “Is that supposed to make me feel better?”

A-Li blinked. “I don't suppose so. No.”

She stood by the doorway, her upturned almond-shaped eyes held his in her gaze, her lips pursed. A-Li felt exposed, which didn't make sense, and he wondered what she was thinking

“Is it too much to ask from this point onwards that you don't lie to me? When I ask, tell me ‘yes’, ‘no’, even ‘I can’t say’ or ‘I don't know’. Just don't lie.”

It was an easy ask to fulfill for A-Li was never good at lying.

“Is it that important to you?” he asked back.

Xue Jiaolong nodded.


The look of relief on her face was palpable.

“It seems the hardest thing for me to do is to stay mad at you.”

Those words robbed him of his breath. Warmth like he had never experienced before spread from his chest outwards.

Outside, rain began to fall.

“I guess I’m staying overnight so you get to sleep on the floor.”

A-Li frowned. “I’m not sleeping on the floor.”

“Well, I’m not sleeping on the floor either and there’s only one bed in my room.” Xue Jiaolong declared as she pushed her bedroom door open, the same one A-Li had also occupied a couple of weeks ago when he was helping out with the town’s relief and rebuilding efforts. “And it might hurt your male ego to sleep beside a Jìnǚ and… you know what I mean. Because I’m not letting you bed me tonight.”

“I’m not sleeping on the floor.” A-Li stressed again as he lightly-kicked the door closed behind him. “Put a pillow between us. That should keep me safe from your advances.”

She gasped and whirled around. “Excuse me?”

Chuckling, A-Li headed for the bed and took the inner corner, dragging the blanket with him.

She gave him a look of pure annoyance that could have set the blanket on fire.

“I haven’t had dinner yet. I’m hungry,” she announced and went out of the room in a huff.

A-Li cradled his head through linked hands on top of the pillow, still chuckling at the memory of how flustered Xue Jiaolong had looked just before she left.

He involuntarily yawned, and felt the exhaustion of the day’s events attempt to pull his eyelids down. He shook his head to shoo the drowsiness away.

When A-Li’s eyes opened again, the candle had been snuffed out and the room was now dark except for the faint slivers of moonlight that streamed through the room’s singular windowpane. It landed and danced on top of Xue Jiaolong’s luminous right cheek, which provided a stark contrast against the shadows made by her sooty eyelashes. Moonbeams also lit the way to parts of her neck and the delicate-V of her skin as revealed by her collar.

The room suddenly felt several degrees warmer especially once A-Li realized only a thin bolster pillow the length of an arm separated them in the intimate confines of this darkened room. Having her in such close proximity charged the air so that the hairs on his arms and nape rose. He felt lightheaded. This close, he could even smell her delightful light, clean, floral scent.

A-Li was overcome with the desperate need to to touch her just to ascertain that she was real.



But, no. He was not the type of pervert who would take advantage of a sleeping, defenseless woman, no matter if she were Beauty and Desire personified.

A-Li turned to lie flat on his back. Taking slow, deep breaths to lessen the raging desire that coursed through his body, he tried to count the bamboo beams that helped support the ceiling. One… Two… The third beam is a bit bent… Four… Five…

His head slid on its own accord to look at her again.

A-Li felt his chest contract as he watched her sleep. Watched her breathe. Found that he was stupefied at how overpoweringly light her ephemeral presence felt to someone like him— a being burdened with thousands of years to live. Marveled at how much more magnificent she looked unguarded. And, appreciated the fact that even though she placed a pillow between them, she still slept facing him.

Her words and actions earlier all signaled at the desire to push him away.

To maintain some distance.

But asleep right now, she curled up like a baby next to him, her gentle breathing even and true.


Then he had a scary thought.

He realized he could look at her like this for the rest of his immortal life.

Chapter 9


1. (麾下) Literally means "beneath your flag". Used when addressing generals and military officers

2. (老师) Teacher or a form of address for a highly-educated person3. Between 7pm-9pm