Fanfiction: Mo Yuan and Shao Wan - Chapter 71 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 71

written by kakashi and Chimera

Li Ying had been unable to rest ever since leaving Die Feng at the lake house. She paced the corridors of the Obsidian Palace, replaying their last encounter in her mind over and over. Their time together had been perfect – too perfect, like brittle sea glass that broke when put under strain. Well, what else had she expected? They had been two children playing house until one child got tired of playing.

Playing. Living mortal lives had been a game to her for so long that she had never expected it to be different with Die Feng. The feeling of being able to breathe freely – she had noticed it when she first ventured out into the mortal realm. It had been different, the changes in mood, subtle. She didn’t have to be on her toes all the time, tense, trying to not upset her brother. In the mortal realm, left to her own devices, Li Ying felt safe. She had the room to discover her own nature and found that she was adventurous, fond of novelty. Yet, she craved connection -- long lasting connection that mortals couldn’t provide.

She had felt possibilities of such connections as she ventured to Kunlun and began forming friendships. With Yan Zhi, with the disciples. With Die Feng. He...he wasn’t like her brother. Li Ying was surprised to discover that she liked this about him in particular. She thought she loved her brother but it was a distant love—he would not let her in. He was indulgent or he was irritated. There was no in between. The whiplash of emotions was too difficult to handle.

Die Feng was stable, cheerful, confident, caring. He felt wholesome. Until the moment he had doubted her. Questioned her intentions. Shut her out. The familiar feeling of smallness had settled over her like the times after Ge-Ge’s rages. It had been the first time Li Ying had felt that way around Die Feng, and it had been unbearable, the thought that the suffocation of the Demon Realm would follow her there. If it was not a problem with the Demon Realm like she had believed, it was a problem with people. If the suffocation could follow her, she would never be free from it. Anyone, anytime could become that person.

Die Feng... Li Ying had known that nothing would come of their connection but a memory – a memory to last forever, she had hoped. But it was ruined now. First, she had felt guilty, but really, what fault had it been of hers? Li Ying was so tired of being blamed, of being held responsible for everything that went wrong, of never getting anything right. By her father. By...her brother.

“Li Ying,” a voice cut into her thoughts. Li Ying looked up to see the Ancestor standing at one of the larger windows. Shao Wan had lost weight since her return to the Demon Realm, the Yellow Princess thought with a pang - or was it the light from the window that painted new shadows on her face?

“Ancestor,” she bowed and Shao Wan motioned her closer.

“What do you think,” Shao Wan asked the Princess, pointing outside, “would this space here be suited for a garden? I want to build one. A splendid one.”

A welcome distraction from her dark thoughts, Li Ying peered out the window. There was little naturally growing life outside the Obsidian Palace, since it was hewn into volcanic rock and was surrounded by steep mountains of the same material on the one side and volcanic earth on all the other sides. Further away, there were forests and meadows, but the Obsidian Palace was the perfect fortress, built high up on a natural terrace, with a view across the barren valley, where no enemy could hide.

“It would be perfectly suited,” Li Ying said, already seeing the garden in her mind’s eye, “but it would be a lot of work.”

“Hmmm,” Shao Wan said, tapping her finger against her lips, “I will need help.”

“Oh,” Li Ying said, growing excited, “I could help! I once was a gardener in the mo…” too late she realized she had just spilled one of her best guarded secrets.

Shao Wan laughed at her wide-eyed shock. “You do not need to hide from me that you have been sneaking out of the realms regularly. You used the time well. I saw how much cultivation you have, I know you don’t get that from sitting around in the palace. Li Ying, would you like to drink some tea with me? I feel like chatting to you for a bit.”

“I would like that very much, thank you, Ancestor!” Li Ying replied.

Shao Wan took her to the emerald room with its splendid silk tapestry and sent some maids for tea and snacks. Li Ying had not been mistaken; despite her laughter earlier, the Ancestor was moody today—like she was thinking about a particularly troublesome issue. The Princess receded a little, sinking back into the cushions as much as she could. She always noticed signs of displeasure on others and made sure not to inadvertently offer herself as target for their wrath.

“I haven’t seen you around much,” Shao Wan said, and absentmindedly rubbed her stomach, “are you still chasing after your Celestial?”

Li Ying pressed her lips together. Bitter disappointment brought a lump to her throat. “No,” she said. “No. I think I have finally learned my lesson.”

“Has he not treated you well?”

Yes and no, the answer was. He had been so kind at first, and then so mean. But it should not matter: Li Ying knew Die Feng would be married by now. He would have spent his wedding night trying to please his wife, two bumbling fools with no clue. He would beget an heir, he would become King before long, he would lead a boring life befitting a man like him. When had she ever believed she could have a place in it, however short? She had been delusional. Maybe living in her fantasy worlds for so long had made her inept at handling reality.

Li Ying had returned to the Obsidian Palace immediately after cloud jumping away from Die Feng on the sixth day of their candle. Tears in her eyes and heart racing she had reverted to childhood habit and sought her brother.

“How dare any Celestial treat you like this!” he had roared after she had recounted her hardship, “how dare he choose another over you!”

Her brother’s rages scared her senseless; they reminded her too much of their father’s and the violence that had always followed. It must be in these men’s nature, Li Yin used to muse, to be so violent, they could not help it. Sometimes, when she could collect enough courage, she would plead with her Ge-Ge to calm down when he had one of his fits. Most often though, she just cowered somewhere quietly, waiting for it to pass. A few days ago when she had told him about Die Feng, he had raged for a very long time and she had made herself small as a mouse. It all ended with him muttering curses and such things as “I will kill him. He’s the First Disciple of the God of War, he won’t be able to overlook that.”

“He failed to trust me,” Li Ying said solemnly to Shao Wan, “and that made me leave.” It was more complicated than that, but in the end, did it not come down to this?

Shao Wan’s face turned even more thoughtful and the hand that had been massaging her stomach stopped. Was she thinking about the God of War? Li Ying did not understand why Shao Wan had so suddenly cut all ties with her previous lover. Thinking back to their time at Kunlun together, Li Ying felt that even though her powers had been sealed, the Ancestor had been...happy. They might be from opposing tribes, but she and the God of War, they seemed right for each other. It had been in their glances, in the way they often touched when in each other’s company. So why had they been in a horrendous fight the other day? Her brother was still healing from the injuries he had obtained from getting into the crossfire.

“You are right to know your worth,” Shao Wan said slowly. “We should not pine for men who do not value who we truly are. And we should not give those who hurt us too much space in our lives. We must look forward. We must find people to trust, people who trust us. Without a net of people we can rely on, life is too much of a struggle.”

Li Ying was surprised to hear the Demon Ancestor say this. She had always thought that Shao Wan, of all people, was strong enough to walk her own path, alone, without needing the support of others.

“Whom do you trust, Ancestor?” she heard herself say, and immediately wanted to hit herself for being much too forthright. But again, the Ancestor did not seem prone to direct her anger at her. She just looked more weary—sad, even.

“Trusting is a very hard thing to do,” Shao Wan said. “Despite my noble words, I do not know how to do it either.”

“Maybe Ge-Ge is right,” Li Ying exclaimed. “We cannot rely on anyone in the outside world. They all want to hurt us. Maybe I shouldn’t have ventured out at all! He always said it’s the safest here in the realms.”

“Ah, but our biggest foes are often very close to us already,” Shao Wan sighed. “Venture out all you can, Li Ying, as long as you can, let nothing tie you down. The happiest time in my life was when I made friends with people from other tribes. Back then, being friends was still possible, even with the most unlikely people. I mourn those carefree days, when Father Immortal was still alive and me and his...”

Shao Wan stopped in mid-sentence and pressed her lips together.

“I wish I could have been there,” Li Ying said; she had read about Shuǐ Zhǎozé in the history books. She had often wished such a school would exist today. To be able to learn from the best, to be able to form ties to so many other people from other tribes! No wonder the Ancestor still thought fondly about that time.

“I cherish the memories,” Shao Wan said. Then, she shrugged and shook her head, like she wanted to snap out of reminiscing about the past, and helped herself to some salted nuts. She popped them into her mouth one by one. “How is your brother?”

“He seems quite well,” Li Ying said carefully. If she did not understand Shao Wan and her decision to leave Kunlun as an enemy of the God of War, she understood Shao Wan’s relationship with her brother even less. Logic said one thing, her senses another.

“You must be wondering about our relationship,” Shao Wan said and spooned some honey from wild bees into her tea.


“I would really like us to confide in each other,” Shao Wan said and looked at Li Yin intently. “I do not have many likeminded people around me.”

“Oh, Ancestor… I… it would be my honor.”

Shao Wan nodded. “Good. Me and your brother, we once were...intimate. But I only saw darkness in him—destructive, morbid, deadly darkness. I fear…”

Don’t tell me, a part of the Yellow Princess shuddered. But I know already, don’t I? another part said. It’s only a matter of time before someone says it.

“It’s because of our father,” Li Ying whispered into her teacup, “please, you must not judge Ge-Ge too harshly.”

“Your father was a horrible man. He hurt you too?”

“Yes. But mainly him. Always him.”

Her mother had died giving birth to Li Ying. She was raised by maids who just did what was asked of them, without real care or love for her. Li Ying’s earliest memory was of Cheng Yin smiling at her and of how he used to come and play with her before bedtime. Li Ying’s father always said his only two surviving children were a disappointment to him: One was a weakling and the other a fool who could not stop being flighty long enough to stand straight. Li Ying needed to stay out of his way or father would kick her away. Cheng Yin needed harshness and their father delivered plenty of it.

The first time their father had struck her, Cheng Yin had struck him back. Li Ying had never seen her brother that angry before. Their father had looked at him with a calculating, cold gaze. After that he had gone out of his way to bring on her brother’s extreme rage, to “drive the weakness out of him”, as he called it. The best method, her father had soon found out, was to hit her more. He had Cheng Yin whipped for interfering and degraded him at every opportunity and with all possible means. The angrier Cheng Yin got, the more exhilarated their father was: this game gave him immense pleasure. There was no one, no relative for them to turn to. It was just them.

“I will kill him, Li Ying,” her brother used to say in the days running up to her father’s death. “For you and for me. Nothing less will do. I need to become the strongest, the most feared.”

After their father’s death, Cheng Yin had every palace official beheaded and brought in new ones. But he never trusted them. He knew that they were loyal only to power and as long as he was in power he would command them but they would never hesitate to hurt him and Li Ying if somebody more powerful came along. This was the first thing he told her after ascending: “Father might be gone but never let your guard down Xiao Ying. We are wolves. They will turn on us the moment a stronger wolf tells them to.”

Because of this, Li Ying was convinced the reason why her brother had let Shao Wan take back her palace without a fight was because he was in love with her. Unless he could be sure that Shao Wan would remain at his side in the future, he should fear her. Or was she no real threat to him because at the moment, the Demons would certainly not accept her as a leader? After all, she did not have the necessary legitimacy and trust of the people, and no power base of her own.

“I am sorry, but your brother has become everything your father was and more,” Shao Wan said. “Be careful, Li Ying. You must be careful around him.”

“Please,” Li Ying pleaded, “please, don’t judge him too harshly.”

“Maybe you can help him,” Shao Wan said slowly. “Him and me. Would you like that?”

“Yes,” Li Ying nodded, “yes!”

“Good,” Shao Wan smiled, “I am glad to hear it. I am trying to prevent horrible bloodshed, but I cannot do it alone. I will let you know how you can help when the time is right. Ah, but do not worry, Li Ying. Everything will be fine. Would you like to have dinner with me?”

“Ancestor, forgive me, but I already have dinner plans,” Li Ying said with a bow. Yes, with her brother. Who seemed in a particularly good mood these days and had invited her to a ‘special treat’ as he had put it.

“What a shame,” Shao Wan said with a faint smile. “But please, Li Ying, join me for a drink in this very room afterwards. I have a particularly good wine from Yi Mei Niang that I want to share with you.”


Li Ying put on her favorite dress for the dinner with her brother and took extra care with her hair, putting in butterfly ornaments he had given her a few years back. She was grateful that the Ancestor had not touched any of her things after moving back into the palace—the keepsakes from her travels lent the only warmth to her chambers and Li Ying could not imagine living there without them. The palace was dark otherwise but, with the mementos from the mortal realm, she could appreciate the beauty of the black, shimmering stone, the power of the volcanic rock with almost a sense of belonging. Now that Cheng Yin was close too, she was really looking forward to spending more time with him again—the more years had passed since their father’s death, the less she had seen of him.
It had not only been inconvenient that they had grown more distant, because the rage and protectiveness honed under their father’s reign continued to simmer in Cheng Yin as they grew older. And before she knew it, she became afraid of him. His rage was directed at her when she came in his way. He never hurt her the way their father had but he yelled and he stormed, and his icy words cut like knives. And then, unlike their father, he apologised, soothed, mad her forgive him. “You should keep your head in the clouds, Xiao Ying. Keep playing. I did all this so that you could be carefree. Don’t bother about realm matters. But be careful, it’s just us two. You know that, right? Don’t trust other immortals. Take them to bed but don’t trust them.”

Luckily, her brother was still in a very good mood when she got to the guest wing in which he currently resided. “My sister!” he shouted, “Come, come!”

She went up to him, bowed and sat down at his knee, looking up.

“You will be very pleased by what I have to tell you,” Cheng Yin chuckled. He seemed to have had quite a bit to drink already, Li Ying realized, which put her on high alert instantly.

“How is your health, Ge-Ge,” she cautiously asked, “do you still need to take elixirs?”

“Ha,” Cheng Yin said, “one more makes little difference.”

He clapped his hands and food was served, many dishes to her liking. The Ancestor must have known Ge-Ge would have a guest, Li Ying mused, these are all from her kitchens. She relaxed a little with time because her brother was smiling a lot and his smiling face had always been a source of comfort for her. But he also kept drinking a lot of wine, until his cheeks showed a rosy glow, accentuating his fierce handsomeness, but slurring his speech a little.

“Xiao Ying,” he said when dessert was served, very sweet almond jelly, Jiuniang, cakes filled with sweet lotus seed paste, and many more delicious things, “my Xiao Ying. Will you be happy when I take Shao Wan as my main wife?“

Li Ying blinked, her mouth full of pastry. That… did not exactly add up with what Shao Wan had said.

“We have become very close again recently,” Cheng Yin said with a smirk, “I bedded her not long ago. She will soon give in, I am certain of it. She has no choice! Did you not see my wedding present?”

Li Ying shook her head. What was he talking about? A wedding? The Ancestor as her Sister in Law? Had she misunderstood Shao Wan earlier?

“It’s a real treasure,” Cheng Yin smiled, “the Armor of the Thousand Mirrors, you must have heard of it. It was lost, but I was able to recover it. Shao Wan looks splendid in it. And she will discover it has very interesting properties.”

Li Ying had had a bit to drink too and now she wondered whether the confusion she felt had something to do with the wine. “I don’t know what’s going on Ge-Ge: I am very confused. What is happening?”

“I will wed her and we will be Demon Overlords together. With her powers by my side … we will not have to fear anyone or anything ever again,” Cheng Yin said highly satisfied.

“But Ge-Ge, that talk of war with the Celestials?”

“Yes, we will go to war against them. We will pay them back for the humiliation, my sister. For crushing us in the First Demon War. Only this time, it will be us Demons who will crush them. Their arrogance knows no bounds, but it also is their biggest weakness. I am well prepared.”

So it was really true. Her brother would lead his armies to war. She had grown up in times of relative peace, but even she knew that every war was a turning point, a point of no return after which nothing remained the same. It scared her.

"I have a pre-wedding gift for you too,” Cheng Yin beamed, “do you want to see it?”

“What is it, brother?” she asked, unclear why she felt a pang of wariness.
Cheng Yin put his hand inside his tunic and pulled out a bloody dagger. She gasped.

“I killed her,” he said proudly, brandishing the dagger in front of her face. “With my own hand. With my own dagger. For you, my little sister! To take revenge on how they mistreated you.”

“Who?” Li Ying said with a very small voice, feeling sick to the stomach.

“That distasteful woman your Celestial was about to marry.”

“No…” Li Ying whispered. No. This couldn’t be happening. She pressed her lips together and took deep breaths.

“It was very satisfying,” Cheng Yin said, and now his smile turned feral. “I’m going to take everything away from him. First his woman, then his alliance, and finally his life.”

Who… what was he talking about?

Cheng Yin took her hand and squeezed it. “I have not yet thanked you for your immense help, Sister. When you went to Kunlun. Very convenient.”

Li Ying shook her head, not understanding, not wanting to understand.

“Shao Wan’s precious feather was inside a mouse simulacrum,” he continued, “I am very proud of it. His blood was on it and it was able to get right to the heart of Kunlun undetected, where it waited for Shao Wan to find it.”

Shao Wan’s feather? Li Ying suddenly understood everything. She was to blame. Shao Wan had left her love because of her. Because of her and her stupidity.

“It was in the scroll…” she said, her horror increasing by the second.

“Oh yes, my sister. The play you have been looking for so avidly. Your Ge-Ge found it for you. Consider it another pre-wedding present.”

Used. She had been thoroughly used. More realisation creeped up with sickening force.

“You deserve even more presents for your help. I meant to ask you, but since you ran away so fast, I just had to act. Without you, Shao Wan would still sit on that cursed mountain, feeling attached to our biggest enemy. Thanks to you, I am only a few steps away from reaching my goals.”

Unable to muster a word, Li Ying watched her brother take another swig. She wished she was drunk or delirious but the room remained in focus with stunning clarity, Cheng Yin’s chuckles ringing in the air. After their father’s death what had changed, really? Everything and nothing. Li Ying didn’t have to be afraid of her father anymore—but of her brother: very much so.


“You are right to know your worth,” Ancestor had said. Li Ying was done being afraid. Because she knew without a doubt that if she did not stop now she would be afraid forever.  

Chapter 72