Fanfiction3: A-Li's Three Lives, Three Worlds - Chapter 17 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 17

written by LigayaCroft
Edited by Panda and kakashi

A-Li strolled unseen and uninterrupted along the halls and pathways of the Imperial Compound, and tried to find directions to the Concubines’ Palaces by following the royal household servants and eunuchs.

As he walked inside the section of the Compound reserved for the Royal Concubines and past the gates and the path marked by late-blooming hydrangeas, the first thing that struck A-Li were the ages of the women he had seen so far.

Everyone looked so young that Xue Jiaolong would easily look the oldest in comparison. They also looked new. The women tittered like those who still saw the world with optimism and fawned over the new fabrics, jewels and hair adornments that had been sent to them.

They were also fewer than he expected. The Emperor was known to have kept a harem of more than a thousand women. So far, A-Li had only counted about fifty. Had there been a massive purge that had taken place in recent months? The thought increased his panic and he moved faster as he walked around.

A-Li’s question was unexpectedly answered when a massive procession passed by. Musicians, color bearers, page boys, soldiers and finally a long, silk-roofed longjianyu [1] hoisted by eight bearers in the front and eight more at the back carried the Huángdì [2] dressed in his heavy, golden court finery.

A-Li knew this Emperor because he had met him before. Lian Song had once invited the ambitious young man over to the Luoyang House for dinner.

He also happened to be the second son of the Yi Shang Huángdì — the Emperor whom A-Li knew from two mortal years ago.

Rage like he never felt before caused A-Li to wave his hand with the intention of stopping the procession.

Instead, time stopped over the whole Imperial City of Xī'ān in Shǎnxī.

A-Li felt it when his power released and crashed all over Xī'ān. The pressure of one and a half million mortal lives connected to him by invisible threads, like puppets controlled by his fingers, and it felt dreamlike and heady. Anything that moved stopped. Smoke floating from stove and kiln exhausts paused midstream. Even the birds that flew overhead suspended mid-flight and hung over the sky like windless silk kites.

A-Li would have marveled at this newly uncovered ability if not for the priority at hand. He flew over the sedan chair, ripped the silk roof apart, grabbed the inanimate young Huángdì by the collar, and lifted him tens of [3] up in the air. Only when he was satisfied with the height did he reanimate the young man.

“Where are Yi Shang’s concubines?” He demanded impatiently.

Er Shin’s eyes widened in recognition, then he looked down to where only thin air stood between the ground and his feet. High above the spell’s epicenter, the wind was free to move but its loss of surface area down below created a vortex that mercilessly whipped at them and made the young ruler’s heavy court robes act like a wind trap that threatened to drag him away from A-Li’s hold.

“Please spare me!” Er Shin pleaded and wrapped his arms around A-Li’s forearms. He might be a Huángdì in this life, but even Er Shin knew he was no match for an actual god.

“Where are Yi Shang’s concubines?”

The panicked look in Er Shin’s eyes hadn't dissipated but at last, the young man had the good sense to respond.

“It depends. If they had children, they were moved to dowager houses. If not, they—” Er Shin trailed off and A-Li loosened his hold, causing the young man to shout, “they're dead! All the childless concubines were buried with my father. It was the will of Xiāndì [4].”

Blood left A-Li’s fingers and Er Shin would have fallen without a care if the young man hadn't held on to A-Li’s arm with a death grip.

A-Li took no pleasure at knowing Xue Jiaolong had a child with the old lecher but he would rather see her again as a mother than somebody whose life was carelessly snuffed out as a rénxùn [5].

“Wang Ling.” He choked. Even the mention of her name burned his insides with the fires of guilt and remorse. “Was she… w-was she part of the harem? Where is she now?”

A-Li found his answer at the way Er Shin’s eyes turned as round as saucers. A-Li began to feel dizzy and nauseous, so he floated down as slowly as he could while his distracted mind picked up bits and pieces of Er Shin’s frantic explanation.

Abducted… forced to enter the Palace… her Father was gutted alive in front of her… still openly-defied Xiāndì… Xiāndì tried his best to break her… was in chains and under guard because she kept trying to kill herself…

And finally, all childless concubines were killed by poison before they were buried with Xiāndì except for her. She was buried alive beside Xiāndì.

Back on solid ground, A-Li let go of Er Shin’s collar but used magick to restrain the man.

It didn't feel real. Nothing felt real. Why her? Why did somebody who couldn’t even hurt an ant go through such a horrible life and had a gruesome death she most certainly didn’t deserve?

“Where?” A-Li demanded. He needed to know. “Where was she buried?”

Er Shin frowned. “It has been seven full moons since my Father died and if his plans worked to fruition, a hill now stands over his tomb. I couldn't tell you the location because I gave up the right to know. Everyone who knew has died or was killed. It was the only way to keep his tomb safe for all eternity.”

“Eternity?” A-Li barked, his laughter edged. The strong summer sun beat down on his face but A-Li didn’t feel hot. Instead, it was as if he carried over the frost from the mortal winter since he found out Xue Jiaolong was gone. “You mortals have no idea what eternity means. Your Father lies dead floating in the blood of men. Were the sacrifices necessary? Let me tell you now they were not.”

It was both frightening and exhilarating, this type of anger that flowed within A-Li’s body. It felt destructive and sought reprieve. It fed on his anguish which he yet couldn’t express. A-Li looked up and the sky immediately responded. The rumblings of thunder got louder and louder as black clouds quickly gathered over the city. A sweet, sharp and pungently fresh aroma floated in the air. The ether sizzled with raw power, and kicked A-Li’s senses into an excessive high.

With a flick of A-Li’s finger, the young Emperor crumpled to the ground, unconscious.

A-Li stood over Er Shin, gripped with the need to relieve some of the pressure that pushed against the corners of his skull. A sky-curse? Impossible. Only the old High Gods had the cultivation to deliver one.

But to this descendant of the monster who robbed him of his heart, it gave A-Li the self-satisfaction to try.

“I deny your family the dynasty it seeks.” Was that him who had just spoken? A-Li was startled as his ears picked up the riveting sound of his voice, this time layered with an echo like it would when speaking from the bottom of a well. It made A-Li anxious, and he paused to consider if he had made things worse.

Still, this power was greedy. It pushed rational behavior to the back of his mind, and so he pressed on if only to relieve the weight on his heart. Heat suffused his face and each word that came out of his mouth gave him a half-euphoric, half-painful tingling in his stomach.

“Your rule will be short-lived to three years full of strife and wars. This dynasty will die within days of its third generation. I suggest you enjoy this wretched kingdom while it lasts.”

The sky accepted A-Li’s will and erupted into a spectacular showdown of lightning that sealed the curse, which indiscriminately hit structures and inanimate living things alike.

A-Li erased Er Shin’s memory of their encounter and with a swivel of his foot, he turned.

Lian Song stood a couple of steps away from A-Li, unnaturally still, his gaze unflinching.

“Release the city, Zhízi.” Lian Song said in a voice devoid of emotion. “Or would you rather see it burn down from lightning?”

His granduncle’s presence snatched A-Li back to reality and snapped him out of his anger-fueled half-trance. For the first time, his eyes roamed around the mayhem that was his own doing. Living things that stood within his periphery were still frozen in time. They looked so eerily still, much like statues, that A-Li’s heart raced to the point of near-exploding.

“I-I don't know how.” A-Li panicked, shaking his hands to release the creeping numbness. Suddenly the power that ran through his body felt macabre. Too much. Way too much. “Shūshu, help.”

Lian Song quickly approached A-Li and held him by the shoulder. “Breathe. Redistribute your qi.”

A-Li tried but he was so overcome with the new power he felt like slowly drowning. He started trembling.

A few inches shorter than his grandnephew, Lian Song pulled A-Li’s head down so their foreheads touched, just like he had always done in many occasions in the past whenever A-Li felt overwhelmed. It was an old move, but somehow, it always worked on A-Li.

“Breathe, A-Li, but hurry.” His granduncle whispered. “Remember how you controlled the crimson hellfire. It’s as easy as that.”

A-Li had been but 20’000 years old when upon the urging of a Red demon boy he was playing archery with at Wuji Island, he tried a spell to summon crimson hellfire. It was not supposed to work anyway. Following the concept of yin and yang: Celestials had Celestial Fire, born of lightning, which burned controlled and clean, and The Ghost and Demon Clans had Crimson Hellfire, which could be indiscriminate and destructive.

There was no way fire associated to the Demon and Ghost clan could come from a Celestial.

Or so he had thought.

A-Li found himself at the giving end of a power so wild, Lian Song had had to give him instructions on how to control it while avoiding blasts of hellfire that randomly shot from his hands. At that time, the need to ensure he didn’t hit his granduncle was his anchor to get all that power under control again.

This time, however, what was his anchor? With Xue Jiaolong gone, the world could burn for all he cared.

Diyu [6].” Lian Song said softly, tapping A-Li’s nape with his palm. “We’ll find her in Diyu. Yánwáng [7] is a good friend of mine. He’ll let us in. That way you can properly say goodbye. Come, child, breathe!”

Diyu. Why hadn't he thought of that before? He could see her in Diyu. And what goodbye? He would keep her company in Diyu until her next reincarnation cycle. Then he would follow her back to the mortal realm when she reincarnated.

The thought of being able to speak to her, to hold her again, anchored A-Li a bit.

“That’s it, Zhízi.” Lian Song cooed as he finally released his grandnephew. “Well done.”

When A-Li looked up, the clouds were gone and the sun was out again. With his qi slowly back under control, he raised his left hand and willed his hold over the city to release. He felt the lightness overtake his senses when it did.

Mortal lives moved on.

As he and Lian Song retreated invisible to mortal eyes, mortals resumed going about their business.

The smile in Lian Song’s face was short-lived, however. “You must not tell anyone about this, Zhízi. I will stand in front of your father and claim accountability for what happened here.”

It was the same as when he had bailed A-Li out of the first crimson hellfire incident. At that time, Lian Song had used forbidden magic when he tampered with another immortal’s memory— a demon and more so, a child— to protect A-Li. Citing that the demon boy saw something in Wuji Palace that he was not supposed to see, Lian Song barely got out of a full-blown inquisition by the skin of his teeth.

“Shūshu, I'm no longer a child. I can take accountability for this incident.”

Lian Song’s arms crossed over his chest as he emphatically said, “No. Until we figure out why your powers are random this way, not a word is to be breathed to anyone outside our group. You just froze an entire city, child! What were you even thinking?” He motioned for A-Li to stand on the side as they let Er Shin and his dumbfounded entourage pass.

“I—” A-Li rubbed the back of his neck. “I wasn't thinking.”

“Good, they’re back to black now.” Lian Song snatched A-Li’s chin in his right hand, his eyes scanning his grandnephew’s. “Do you know your eyes burn so bright it turns golden every time this happens? Feel my hands. Feel it, I’m still shaking. Don't try something like that again. We never know who’s watching.”

Not that A-Li intentionally planned to. “I’m sorry, Shūshu.”

“Stop. Be sorry when you see us both sentenced to the Lightning Platform or Zhu Xian Terrace. Sometimes I wonder if these strange happenings are due to your fox blood.”

A-Li pretended to laugh and switched to another topic before Lian Song got carried away by his acrimony against Bai Qian once more. “Do you really think Yánwáng can help us find Jia’er in Diyu?”

The Old Dragon shot A-Li a look that said he caught on to what his grandnephew was trying to do. Still, Lian Song accommodated him with an explanation.

“All mortals who die either ascend to heaven or pass through Diyu. She existed in Si Ming’s ledgers; therefore she was real and was a person, Zhízi. However the fact that her destiny ledger ended up empty unsettled me so before coming to find you, I already checked the recordings of new immortals at Qing Yun Palace. Both her names weren’t there. If she is indeed dead as Er Shin claimed she was, we're only left with one other possibility: Diyu.”

Mortal souls in Diyu retained their memories while they went through their punishments so they could repent deliberately. This brought to the forefront A-Li’s dilemma: Would she forgive him if and when they saw one another again?

But in the end, it no longer mattered if she would or she wouldn’t. A-Li has already made up his mind to grovel in a way that would put his Shūshu, Dong Hua Gēge, and his Father’s infamous groveling to shame.

He’d laugh at the thought but there was little to laugh about. He had a woman to find.

And even though there was an awful degree of discomfort as he tried to imagine how she would react upon seeing him in Diyu, today was one of those days A-Li was grateful to his parents for birthing him as a Prince and as an Immortal.

Chapter 18


1. dragon chairs or imperial sedan chair

2. (皇帝) Emperor

3. (里) Chinese Mile. This now has a standardized length of a half-kilometer (500 meters or 1,640 feet). This is then divided into 1,500 chi or "Chinese feet"

4. (先帝) The Late Emperor

5. relatives of the Emperor that are sacrificed and respectfully buried

6. (地獄) The Realm of the Dead

7. (阎王) The god of death and the ruler of Diyu, overseeing the "Ten Kings of Hell".