Fanfiction3: A-Li's Three Lives, Three Worlds - Chapter 11 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 11

written by LigayaCroft
edited by kakashi & panda

The deluge turned into a full-blown storm.

After dropping Xue Jiaolong off at the Jìyuàn and ensuring the Madam treated her well despite her no-show at yesterday’s performance for Wu Huīxià, A-Li returned to the Luoyang House and found Lian Song and Cheng Yu as they warmed themselves by a fire.

“Oh, why are you wet?” Cheng Yu asked innocently. “You should use magick to dry yourself off.”

Cheng Yu’s question took the wind out of his sails as A-Li realized that in his anger, he had completely forgotten that he could actually do something about his sopping wet clothes.

But first things first. “Where’s Gun Gun?”

Lian Song peered up and through the open window. “It looks like he’s busy, judging from the amount of rain we’ve been having.”

A-Li took a deep breath and tried to rein in his temper, as well as the sharp words he wanted to throw at his meddling relatives. They didn’t even have the grace to pretend to be sorry for their actions. In fact, Lian Song looked like he just ate something sweet and was about to die from the sugar rush.

When he was sure he could finally control his voice and tone, A-Li asked, “What were you doing at Biayun Mountain, Shūshu?”

Lian Song’s right brow raised as he crossed his arms. With a disgusted snort, he scoffed, “Aside from almost running into my grandnephew while he was mauling a mortal by the side of a mountain path, you mean?”

A-Li caught the sarcasm but still felt the need to clarify himself. “I wasn’t… We weren’t… I…I wasn’t mauling…”

Cheng Yu put her hands on the tops of her husband’s shoulders to soothe him. To A-Li, she explained, “We were there to investigate a divine pressure that had been traced somewhere on the side of that mountain. Tiānjūn sent me a messenger this morning because for some reason, he couldn’t cloud jump to the site. He asked me to go on foot instead.”

“Imagine our surprise when…” Lian Song trailed off, ending with a malicious snicker.

Cheng Yu’s hands flapped in front of her. “Don’t mind him. I think he’s just upset that he already struck off his bet. Then he ordered Gun Gun to make it rain. Even I think it was too much.”

Lian Song call off a bet? Even the suggestion to do so was atrocious!

A-Li smirked. “Don’t tell me you are getting old, Shūshu.”

“I only started the bet with you because I was so sure you wouldn’t get Wang… Xue Jiaolong.”

“But now you realize you’re wrong,” he stressed then gave in to the booming laughter that exploded from his chest.

Lian Song fanned himself and harrumphed.

“What were the two of you doing there anyway?” Cheng Yu asked, moving the topic forward.

A-Li magicked his wet clothes dry. “Jia’er went to pay a visit to her mother’s spirit tablet.”

“I didn’t know there was a temple in Biayun Mountain.”

“There is. I was just there. It looked like it had been there for quite some time.” Thinking about his great-grandfather’s problem, he added, “You should go visit. There was something odd about the place. I couldn’t eavesdrop.”

“Why would you need to eavesdrop, in the first place?” Lian Song inquired.

A-Li thought back to that morning and realized he didn’t know why either. He always afforded beings their privacy, and if the years were any indication, Xue Jiaolong most of all. Yet, today…

It had to be the priest she was talking to. A-Li remembered the man to be ordinary-looking and yet now he couldn’t even picture what the Taoist priest had looked like. Was it the priest’s eyes? He had been far from where they stood but the priest had looked at him with the sharp gaze of a predatory bird. He had felt the priest’s gaze point like tiny pinpricks on his skin.

“I don’t know,” he finally said, shrugging off the paranoia. Also, there was no need to further alarm the couple by informing them that he had tried to dispel the seals in the place. Lian Song always got worried whenever his abilities surfaced, and so far, his dispel ability was something he had been able to keep from his granduncle over the years because it was the easiest to conceal. As such, he had no plans telling his granduncle about it now. “Something felt off. I was thinking of asking the Celestial Research Authority to investigate but like Cheng Yu said, it looks like Zēngzǔ Fù⁠ is already on the case.”

“I get a couple of weeks off with my wife and the old fart thinks of new ways to disturb us,” Lian Song looked up from where he was seated to his wife and said with despair, “You married the wrong Celestial, my love.”

It was not the first time Lian Song expressed his jealousy over Cheng Yu’s devotion to the former Tiānjūn, and like the other times, she only responded with a shudder and a grimace.

Lian Song’s hand slammed on the table. “That’s it. I’m taking you away from Luoyang for a couple of hours. Let’s go to Sang Ji’s Palace. It’s been a long while since we paid a visit.” He stood up and motioned for his wife to come closer. “Hurry before my father catches on to us.”

“But I still have to go—“ Cheng Yu started but caught the dark look Lian Song flashed her way. “Alright, but just for a couple of hours.”

A-Li watched the two disappear hand-in-hand in a cloud of white smoke. Only then did he remember he was supposed to lecture them for interrupting him and Xue Jiaolong earlier.

A-Li sighed and sat down. So, that was it then. Chances were Gun Gun wouldn’t be back until much later too— a couple of immortal hours should be a mortal month or so at least.

Which meant A-Li was alone. Again.

This time thinking of ways on how to pick up where he and Xue Jiaolong had left off.


Three books, two pots of tea and one cold swim in the river under the torrential rain later, A-Li decided he had been away from Xue Jiaolong long enough. It had stopped raining but the clouds were still out, making it hard to identify from the moon whether it was the hour of the dog [1] or the hour of the pig [2]. He wondered if she was working. Who was she dancing or singing for? Was she turning Yì into a game of seduction with a government official or royal?

As a courtesan, her time went to the highest payer. A-Li summoned his money satchel. Whatever they paid for her time, he could pay it better.

But as he dug through the satchel, his fingers encountered the odd shape of her comb. A-Li had taken it from her last night and she apparently hadn’t looked for it at all today.

He took out the bejeweled accessory, letting the light play tricks against five different colors of jade wrapped in cloisonné enameling set as the decoration on the golden comb. A-Li knew women enough to know they didn’t just forget about combs of this quality, which meant she didn’t want it.

She didn’t want it because she didn’t want to feel like he was paying for her time.

If their almost-fight this morning was any indication, Xue Jiaolong wanted him to treat her like an equal, not as some woman who needed to be rescued.

Because he was different from the rest.

When did I get to be so wise? A-Li bit his lower lip to prevent a grin from forming as he tossed her comb between his hands. His chest puffed up and warmth radiated all over his body again, making him feel good all over.

In fact, he had been feeling good throughout lately.

It had taken a cataclysmic event for Xue Jiaolong to thaw but pragmatic A-Li always took a win whenever it became available without quibbling on details. His patience had never been so tested but he had also discovered a certain type of happiness whenever he got a response from her.

It was thrilling.


It was one of the reasons why the twenty-nine mortal months felt so short even though thinking about the day-by-day felt so long.

Also, her kisses were headier than any wine that had ever come out of Zhe Yan’s cellar.

How could one smile, one word, one kiss from her cause warmth to spread from his chest outwards?

He had to see her again.


A-Li cloud jumped close to the Jìyuàn servant entrance and was later escorted by a maid to the Madam who was directing several girls as they ran to and fro.

“Dong Nǚshì, good evening,” he greeted as he approached. “Is Wang Ling free and can I see her?”

The Madam hastily rushed to his side.

Over the past two years, A-Li had established a good relationship with Madam Dong who had warmed up to him early on when she was assured A-Li had no plans to keep her star Jìnǚ. She was also very fond of Lian Song and Cheng Yu, and tried her best to accommodate the couple’s orders to the front of the line even with their penchant for spontaneous requests.

“Li Géxià, I’m afraid Wang Ling is not available tonight.”

The smile on A-Li’s face froze as his mind ran through a-thousand-and-one scenarios.

“She was supposed to dance and dine with the Emperor but along the way, she fell ill. She’s indisposed, so to speak.”

The Emperor? The Emperor was known to be a lustful man, who had a thousand women in his harem because whom he liked, he kept.

Madam Dong ran on the almost conservative side for her Wang Ling. She personally encouraged Wang Ling to keep suitors at bay and leave them hanging around enough only to make a profit. It was thus strange to hear that the madam allowed her star dancer to perform in front of the Emperor because a performance could easily mean a foot in the harem door— for who in their right mind could resist Wang Ling?

A-Li had questions but he needed to prioritize which ones to ask. His most urgent one was, “Where is she?”

“In her quarters. She’s burning with fever.” The Madam pushed him to the direction of Wang Ling’s house in the courtyard. “Go. I have to go speak to the Emperor’s envoy.”

The servant girls gave A-Li space when he entered Xue Jiaolong’s house inside the Jìyuàn complex. It was a fairly-sized room. The low table on the elevated platform to his left was filled with jiǎndu, as well as piles of other scrolls on the floor around it. Spread on the low table on the elevated platform to his right was a sheet of Xuan paper about five-chi long and three-chi wide, while all around the table were rolled papers, various pots of ink, and brushes. Finally, at the corner middle, was Xue Jiaolong’s bed.

A-Li was struck with the simplicity of her quarters. The entire room was of brown wood and white sheets, devoid of any fripperies. If she took on lovers in the past, A-Li could tell she didn’t do so in this place.

As the medicine man attended to Xue Jiaolong with poultices and potions, A-Li moved to look at the contents of the table to the right. His eyes widened at the beautiful shuǐmò huà [3] spread right before his eyes.

“Ge Peng,” he signaled for Xue Jiaolong’s personal maidservant to come closer. While her loyalty to Xue Jiaolong was paramount, Ge Peng also looked up fondly to A-Li and often shared whatever information she could afford to, as long as it didn’t get her into trouble with her mistress “Where are the rest of the panels of this set?”

“Li Géxià, how did you know this was part of a set?” Ge Peng asked even as she alertly moved to collect paper rolls on the elevated platform’s floor left of the table.

“Because I’ve seen this before.”

“That’s strange.” Ge Peng mumbled. “Wang Ling said she saw this in a dream. She finished the last panel just a couple of days ago, too. She calls this set, Islands in the Sky. How amazing is it if this place were actually real, don't you think so?”

A-Li helped Ge Peng unfurl each roll on the floor, six in total including the recently finished one, pinning the corners together with makeshift paperweights. When the task was finished, A-Li stood on the elevated platform to see the painting in entirety.

It was Kunlun Mountain, but as one would see it from a cloud if approaching from north of the Sanctuary. The placement of the trees were not the same as they looked like now, but the mountain’s peaks and crevasses— the way parts of the mountain range disappeared behind fog at break of dawn during early summers— they eerily looked the same. The Sanctuary, which hadn’t changed since the Primordial Gods first built it, was captured in entirety— from the shape of the roof, the count of the posts supporting the visible front of the worshipper’s hall, even to the waterfalls that flowed into pools in front of the temple.

But most stunning of all was the detail on the sky above Kunlun. For amidst the fog, A-Li counted intricately-rendered bodies and heads of one, two, three… seven, eight, nine dragons frolicking without a care. When he moved to stand by the third panel to the left, it looked like one of the dragons was flying towards him, happiness painted on its draconian face.

Cultivation allowed Celestial Dragons to take on a human form at an early age, and in some cases, like A-Li, even be born in human form. To his knowledge, there hadn’t been any uncultivated dragon, or dragons, for that matter, in hundreds of millennia.

If any, the fact that she dreamt of dragons just confirmed that it was all indeed just a dream. Granted the view she painted of Kunlun was that of something only immortals could see, it did seem that the Duke of Zhou [4] had given Xue Jiaolong a rather vivid dream.

“Li Géxià?”

Ge Peng’s voice broke through A-Li’s trance.

“The Medicine Man is finished with Wang Ling. Would you like to look at her now?”

A-Li looked at the supine form on the bed and nodded. With a last instruction to return the panels to the way they were, he crossed over to where Xue Jiaolong lay sleeping. He sat by her side, picked up the towel from the water basin, squeezed it and used the cloth to wipe the beads of sweat that have formed on her forehead.

“Li Géxià?”

“Yes, Ge Peng?”

“Do you know if Wang Ling is planning to leave Luoyang anytime soon?”

He turned his head to the maidservant. “Why would you ask that?”

Ge Peng looked at her sleeping mistress with apprehension before stepping closer.

“I overheard her and the Madam arguing about dancing for the Emperor tonight.”

“I know. Dong Nǚshì made her go.”

Ge Peng furiously shook her head. “On the contrary, the Madam didn’t want her to go. Wang Ling insisted on going. She went for the money, Li Géxià.”

A-Li frowned, and his eyes flew back to Xue Jiaolong’s pale face.

She risked her freedom for money?

“Li Géxià, I heard she’s going to buy herself out.” 

Chapter 12



1. Between 7pm-9pm

2. Between 9pm-11pm

3. (水墨画) ink and wash painting, an Eastern type of brush painting that uses calligraphy ink in various concentrations.

4. The God of Dreams