Fanfiction3: A-Li's Three Lives, Three Worlds - Chapter 16 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 16

written by Ligayacroft
edited by Panda and kakashi

With an awful groan, the last of the exits and inner passageways were sealed from above, throwing the tomb into semi-darkness leaving the people inside at the mercy of only the meager flickering candlelight. Panicked cries from the workers and artisans who were sealed inside the tomb reverberated across the eight floors of packed mud walls. The wailing sound traveled across rows and rows of terracotta soldiers, chariots, horses, officials, acrobats, strongmen and musicians that these men had spent years and years crafting without knowing these statues will be the silent witnesses to their deaths. The burning candles and rivers of mercury did not bode well for them either as the fumes terribly diminished the air quality inside the mammoth necropolis located underneath Mount Li.

The Observer walked unseen and unimpeded across the distress and mayhem, recording with his eyes and ears.

He moved toward the private chambers which had been sealed not too long ago. As compared to the location of the terracotta kingdom, these chambers were eerily quiet. As he passed through its walls, however, The Observer recorded rooms filled with scenes of gruesome and pointless death.

The outer ones were of rénshēng, prisoners-of-war or slaves mutilated last night and thrown indiscriminately in pits as human offerings to the gods. In the inner chambers were rooms filled with rénxùn, favorite servants and relatives of the Emperor who were sacrificed but respectfully buried with jewels and other luxuries to accompany him in the next life.

Deeper still were painted chambers filled with about 600 childless concubines who were killed earlier that morning when they were forced to drink poison, so as to preserve their beauty for all time. They lay in individual beds in their full regalia — dressed in the finest silks, coronets and jewels — with faces painted with powders and rouge which they put on right before they died. At first glance, the dead women looked deep in slumber. Incense wafted up from the tables in between their beds and covered the encroaching and cloying stench of death with smells of agarwood and jasmine.

The Observer shook his head as he pondered on this just concluded part of human history. His long years had allowed him to see the peaks and lows of human hubris, and human sacrifice was its worst example of all.

Lives snuffed just like that, and all in vain.

Didn’t they know it did nothing for the gods?

Because this Emperor, this Son of Heaven, was never coming back. He would get his full accounting in Diyu [1] because he hurt those who didn’t have the means to fight back, and because he took lives that weren't his to claim in the first place.

With a shake of his head, The Observer went further deeper inside more dead concubines’ chambers, and walked through walls until he came to the last one.

The Emperor’s sealed tomb. It was an immense structure covered in paintings, murals, statues and gold filigree. In the middle of a sea made of mercury was a luxuriously-decorated island with a sealed hole, much like a well, where the Emperor’s coffin had been lowered a little while ago.

Then they had thrown in his favorite concubine.

Buried alive.

It was not enough that the old degenerate had tried to break her, beat her, and forcefully took her to his bed as often as he could during the past several mortal months. No. At his deathbed, the Emperor left specific instructions so that he could continue to break her spirit, even in death.

The Observer jumped through the seal cover — the smooth and heavy rock an ineffective barrier against his invisible form. Complete darkness met him on the other side. The Observer summoned magick that enabled him to see with his eternal eyes.

It wasn't hard to find her inside the cavern. He followed her gasping breaths, a death staccato that increased in pace, as his guide. He floated parallel over her, and noted she fell several chi away from where the coffin was lowered.

It was a long trip down and there was no doubt that she had broken her back during the fall. The Observer’s heart fractured as he detailed the unnatural angle of her right leg and her lower torso. His hand moved to reach for her but he caught himself, and instead settled to watch quietly.

Had he known it would be like this, he wouldn’t have picked up the mantle a long time ago. It made him vulnerable to so much pain. There was no joy to be had at the agony of watching her die, but as The Observer, he had to. He wished he could make her passage easier and spare her the pain that flowed through her like waves, but he had to hold himself back. It was a grim task and no matter how strong he was, tears still wet his eyes as he waited for her last breath to come.

Suddenly, her eyes shifted in the dark. It bored into his, meeting his gaze eye-to-eye.

The Observer hated this ability of hers. So attuned was she to eyes that stared at her that those who knew always assumed it was a magickal skill — but it was not. Instead, it was purely woman’s instinct honed by her many years as a courtesan. She never liked to be watched, but even at her worst, she was still the most beautiful woman alive. If he, as an immortal, could not avert his gaze from her — how much worse fared ordinary mortals? It had made observing her life trickier, which was why there were days that he left her alone.

Oh, how he regretted those days.

The Observer jerked upwards when her right hand shot up in front of her, almost touching his left cheek. Her mortal eyes searched the inky-black veil but he did notice her heavy breathing had turned softer— although he could tell the action was a choice and not without great effort from her. She moved her fingers in front of her as her expression flitted between fondness and pain.

A tear ran down the right side of her face to join the blood that pooled underneath her head.

Then, she took a deep breath before her blood-stained teeth showed through a soft smile. “A-Li…” she whispered in the dark, her voice filled of longing and sadness. “Live well.”

The Observer’s jaw clenched but it was already in bad taste to react.

Because with those last words, and the name of another man on her lips, his Beloved — the love of his eternal life — died. 



1. (地獄) Realm of the dead or Hell