Fanfiction3: A-Li's Three Lives, Three Worlds - Chapter 21 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 21

written by LigacaCroft
edited by kakashi and Panda

One hundred immortal days ago…

A-Li had thought nothing much of it while growing up but the past 5’000 immortal years had given him more than enough time to introspect and examine how he ended up treating Xue Jiaolong horribly.

Not surprisingly, it all started with his parents.

It was unfortunate that the Four Seas and Eight Deserts’ greatest love story had one fatal casualty: their eldest child.

It had been tens of millennia since but A-Li could still remember waking up from his afternoon nap to the sound of his grandmother’s heart-wrenching wail and that of a deep bell that tolled ceaselessly.

A-Li had been immediately ushered into his childhood residence at Qìng Yún [1] Palace where he was then confined for the next several days. He watched as the rest of the Ninth Sky frantically moved without him, all the time wondering what bell could cause such a lamentable sound.

It was on the fourth day that his granduncle angrily barged in, Cheng Yu and his grandmother Consort Le Xun following right behind.

Lian Song’s angry demeanor softened upon sighting A-Li and for the first time in four days, A-Li was enfolded in a warm embrace. Lian Song lifted A-Li up in his arms and brought him outside to the Ninth Sky’s Jade Pool. Then in the gentlest possible way, Lian Song apologized for not coming any sooner and broke the news of A-Li’s Father Lord Ye Hua’s demise.

A-Li remembered crying his heart out in his granduncle’s arms. Lian Song had stayed with him for the weeks that followed as they waited for Ye Hua’s remains to return to the Ninth Sky. Lian Song had also stayed long after Ye Hua’s ice chest was lowered into the Thirty-Sixth Heaven’s Wuwang Sea.

But his Mother never came for him.

She never came for him…at all.

A-Li had heard the whispers, too.

Some were said out of pity. Poor child, he lost not only his Father but his Mother as well.
And then there were more that were said out of spite. High Goddess Bai Qian abandoned her half-mortal son. Of course, she would consider him more precious had he been a full immortal.

It had not mattered to him what was said of him then. Out of concern or out of hate, all the words hurt like a thousand swords that stabbed through his young heart. A-Li remembered endless nights and days crying over the varying feelings of grief, betrayal, and abandonment. A-Li had loved his Father so much, and no other parent in the Thirty-Six Heavens had doted on his child the way Ye Hua doted on A-Li. Hence, the reality of losing his Father was so traumatic that being a mere child proved futile in shielding him from the harrowing memories of those three long years.

His sources of strength and comfort during those times were Lian Song and Cheng Yu. Lian Song took care of him in the mornings, from breakfast all the way to supervising his bath at night. Cheng Yu took over after, co-slept with him so he had somebody to embrace him after his many nightmares, when he woke up disoriented, looking for his Father at night, then gave him a bath the following morning before he was left in Lian Song’s care once more. This routine went on for three years, and some parts of it for another 250 years after as his parents prepared for and adjusted to married life.

It had been one day in the few hundred years that had elapsed since Lian Song and The Underworld called off the search for Xue Jiaolong’s Yuánshén [2] that A-Li sat down with his Granduncle and finally talked about his grief. In return, for the first time, Lian Song also opened up about his resentment towards A-Li’s Mother.

They did better with you and your siblings the longer they were married, Zhízi— A-Yi and Xiao Gui being the luckiest of all. But those three years you suffered… I cannot erase them just like that. It was bad enough that she robbed you once of a mother when she jumped off from Zhu Xian Terrace but to do it twice— you were too young to remember everything you went through and unfortunately, I was too old to forget.

Maybe if he had applied his Granduncle’s logic before he lost Xue Jiaolong, A-Li could have easily felt resentful of his Mother. But if his love trial taught him one important lesson it was this: grief was a highly personal experience. The subsequent years after Xue Jiaolong’s death that A-Li spent in the mortal realms had taught him that everyone who had ever encountered grief fell through different experiences and employed different coping mechanisms.

Leaving him to his paternal relatives had been his mother’s coping mechanism. His Mother had had her reasons. She would have come back for him. Or she would not have. A-Li would never know what would have happened because the Heavens chose to return his Father back to them.

One day, A-Li hoped he could talk to his Mother about it.

But he now knew that it took a certain degree of courage to walk around with a hole in your soul. It had been 5’000 years since and there were still days, and even over the most inconsequential things, that his grief got triggered.

The other day he saw a mortal farmer pulling a water buffalo along and he felt raw again.

It was stupid.

But, as Cheng Yu pointed out before, it was real.

It took some time but A-Li finally accepted that his grief was interminable.

But it did not mean that he would not be able to move on.

His long immortal life moved on.

And so he moved on.


Thirty immortal days ago…

“Ugh, why do I live with idiots?”

A-Li would have laughed at the colorful expletives his cousin Mei Lin fired after that, but his head would attempt to split open once again if he did. He bit at his forearm instead to prevent his laughter from breaking out.

Lian Song steadied the arm he had wrapped around an inebriated Gun Gun and cast a very sharp glance at A-Li.

“I expected more from you, Zhízi. What happened?”

A-Li looked up above to the fire lanterns that decorated the alleyway they were walking in. It was Harvest Festival in the Purple Demon Clan realm — the annual weeks-long holiday that celebrated this year’s abundant harvest of barley, which was the main ingredient in the clan’s worlds-renowned huǒqìxī [3].

The three of them rented a house past this alleyway and not far away from the main palace compound but per Mei Lin, he and Gun Gun had been in Jiǔjiébiān for five days and four nights straight. She had cajoled, coaxed and threatened them to move their asses out of the tavern every day but she kept failing so she eventually had to call in Lian Song to come and intervene.

“They are both heartbroken, that is why,” Mei Lin answered and awarded a vicious pinch to A-Li’s side, which made him yowl. She had particularly sharp nails, and she kept them that way every time she joined A-Li and Gun Gun in their adventures. “Cheated on, even. That idiot with a river fairy and this idiot beside me with a red demoness.”

A-Li slapped the back of Mei Lin’s offending hand. “I am not heartbroken, Zūzu.”

“Ha! I heard all about it. You caught her in bed with a Blue Demon Lord. And she was not even sorry. Apparently, she found you boring.”

“Shūshu,” A-Li turned to his granduncle. They had a reputation to uphold. “She was just making an excuse to sleep around with somebody else.”

Lian Song narrowed his eyes at his grandnephew and shook his head. “I cannot blame Peijing for looking elsewhere. You easily forget about your women, and they are very needy creatures— at least the ones you went into a relationship with were.”

“That reminds me of Ning,” Mei Lin added after casting another disgusted glance at Gun Gun. “You were in a relationship with her around 2’000 years ago?”

A-Li tried to remember but his headache refused to release all the details at first attempt. Ning. Ning. Ah, that Ning. She was a Celestial. Small forehead, thin lips, tiny waist. A bit too conservative, she only wanted sex lying on her back on the bed.

“She is now married to Honghui Yuanjun of Mount Wudong,” Mei Lin added helpfully.

Gun Gun’s head shot up although his eyes remained glassy. “Wu Dong. Wu Dong produces the best Dan Cong [4].”

Lian Song put Gun Gun’s head back down to lean against his own shoulder and shot the murderous look in Mei Lin’s face a warning look.

A-Li shook his cousin’s shoulder. “What about her?”

It was enough to distract Mei Lin from lashing out at Gun Gun. “Everyone knew that woman was a lot of work. Hells, even I would not go out with her. But you did. Ever since Xue Jiaolong, you liked women who talked a lot and plainly told you what they wanted. Simple women.”

Gun Gun swung sideways, and his arms landed on top of Mei Lin’s shoulders. “Zūzu, piglet, if I were to choose between Jia’er and you, I will choose Jia’er.”

“Thank you although I was not asking,” Mei Lin said through gritted teeth before — with a veiled but mighty shove — she flung Gun Gun away. Gun Gun landed on a stack of empty crates and Lian Song rushed to help him. Turning to A-Li, she admonished, “The two of you need to get over this mortal. She is gone. Stop taking out your frustrations and regrets over her short life on immortal women.”

It was a sermon that came up from their youngest every couple hundred years. As usual, A-Li could only take a deep breath and shake his head. Mei Lin was unfortunate to have missed meeting Xue Jiaolong. His cousin would have respected her enough to be friends with her despite the fact that A-Li’s cousin was not one for intellectual pursuits.

“I am not heartbroken over Peijing.” A-Li said decisively as they continued walking. “Pride-broken, maybe. Any man who caught their woman cheating on them would.”

“May I remind you that you probably left her emotionally bereft as you did the other women which was why she turned to another? Because that is how women are.”

A-Li was not able to think of a response because Lian Song’s harried voice cut through their conversation.

“Zūzu, Zhízi, Zhang Jiao Shenjun is coming. Quick, hide!”

Mei Lin and A-Li did not need to be told twice nor did they question Lian Song’s command. They cast a special invisibility spell over themselves that made them invisible to everyone except to one another, and dove to the side.

It was nary a breath later that Zhang Jiao Shenjun, the Emperor of Gǔěrbāntōnggǔtè Shāmò [5], turned the corner toward the alleyway where they were.

The High God was one of the more vocal critics of the Royal Family, and particularly despised A-Li’s future stature as Crown Prince. He always traveled with his white mule, and usually sat on it facing backward while holding a fish drum [6].

“Why is he here?” Gun Gun asked suspiciously, suddenly sober.

“The bigger question is, why is he traveling alone?” Mei Lin corrected.

The fact the Desert Emperor traveled alone was concerning indeed for Zhang Jiao very rarely did. His lordly stature was also cleverly disguised to look like that of a traveling hermit, down to his unkempt appearance. Only Lian Song’s very sharp ears and nose could have picked up the arrival of the High God. It was a trait of his that their group had particularly found useful for creating mischief all over the realms.

“Look at the size of those jiǎndú[7],” Lian Song noted, as he pointed toward the large bamboo slips sticking out from the two straw bags on each side of the mule. “I bet those are Shennong’s missing scrolls from the Celestial Library.”

It was an issue kept tightly under wraps but during the past few days, the Celestial Librarians had reported strange occurrences of the Shennong’s medical texts having gone missing for several hours before turning up in the Library again. There were no signs of a break-in — almost as if it were either an inside job or the thief knew the cavernous Celestial Library like the back of his/her hand.

The Primordial God Shennong had devoted his life to his love for medicinal plants and even ended up dying of poisoning due to one of his experimentations. His medical texts were well-guarded artifacts of the Celestial Tribe— the wisdom in them were so stunning that Zhe Yan in his old age admitted he had not finished going through everything yet. The Medicine King was also known to consult back to the texts every now and then and had remained awed at how it had the answer to almost everything.

“What could he be doing with them?” A-Li asked and wished he was not cloaked by an invisibility spell, which made everything look fuzzy. It was wrong to assume, and he wanted to see for himself. “Let us follow him.”

Lian Song’s hand shot out to stop A-Li. “The marketplace has rules. We cannot use magick the moment we step out of this alley and rejoin the main road.”

“Zhang Jiao is using magick and he’s about to join the market road!” Mei Lin insisted, already one step ahead. “Come on, if he has Shennong’s jiǎndú’s we need to find out where he is taking them.”

“I do not think those are Shennong’s though.” Gun Gun pointed out from beside A-Li. Was it nary a moment ago that his nephew had been extremely drunk? “The bamboo slips look new to me.”

Did they? They followed from a safe distance behind since Zhang Jiao was riding his mule facing them. Granted Gun Gun had the best eyesight in the dark among the four of them — as expected from one who also spent a couple of years living in Diyu [8] — but one could never be sure.

Soon, they walked through the main road of the marketplace, trying their best to avoid demons and other immortals passing their way.

“Let us hope he is here for drinks and not to trade those scrolls,” Lian Song quipped, his brows furrowing. “But he did see himself as a successor of Shennong, and dabbled in herbology to make liquor and medicinals. He has the motive to steal Shennong’s texts.”

Soon, Zhang Jiao’s mule stopped walking and the old man looked up to the shop signage to his right. It was a store for antique goods, and the delight on the High God’s face was unmistakable. He clambered down his mule and, with a heavy groan, dropped his feet on the ground as somebody, presumably the shop owner, rushed out to meet him. They talked but it was apparent from the tradesman’s face that he could not wait to get his hands on the scrolls, all by the way he kept glancing back and forth at them.

A-Li had had enough. If those were indeed Shennong’s life’s work, there was no way he could allow the sacred texts to fall into rogue hands.

Lian Song grabbed his arm. “What do you think you are doing, Zhízi?”

“Putting a stop to this madness, Shūshu. We need to get those scrolls back.”

“With what?” hissed Lian Song. “You are using magick. If you add theft on top of that, you will be jailed for sure!”

“Then I will go visible,” A-Li said decisively, and impatiently waved his left hand to toggle off the spell he had cast over himself.

Suddenly, the noise that typically enveloped anyone in any marketplace fizzled into a deathly silence. At first, A-Li thought his ears were playing tricks on him until he realized not only was he visible, but so were his relatives.

And so was everyone else.

All the magick in the marketplace had fallen off like dust. Invisible thieves were seen red-handed by their victims, peddlers who used the two lives incantation suddenly showed their real faces to their difficult customers, the fake sheen on produce and wares were revealed, and even signages and posts held up by magick crumbled to their original, dismal state.

But not only that. Menacing assassins who held weapons frowned upon in the marketplace were also exposed. From the bowels of houses, roars from magically-restrained Yāoguài [9] that now ran after their screaming caretakers and owners could be heard. And from the palace compound, whistles and bells suddenly sounded in alarm, in a universal language that meant prisoners had escaped.

After the initial shock, pandemonium ensued.

From a quarter of a [10] away, A-Li saw that Zhang Jiao’s magickally-summoned mule had disappeared. This caused the straw bags and the scrolls within to fall onto the brick pavement, although the High God was too aghast at how his real face was revealed to the shop owner, who now quaked in fear, to pay extra notice.

“Come on, before he sees us!” Lian Song barely grabbed A-Li’s hand before he was swept up to the nearest cloud.

Then came the pain. No. Not just the usual bitter taste in his mouth but real, physical pain — one that he had only felt twice before. A-Li stumbled as he landed on the next cloud and would have fallen had not Gun Gun encased him in his arms.

“Li-Gē, hold on,” Gun Gun said soothingly as he assisted A-Li on the next jumps.

“I don’t care that Zhu Xian Terrace is going through its worst storm in centuries. I don’t care what my Father needs from you at the moment,” A-Li could hear Lian Song shout through the roar in his own ears. “I need you to come to Wuji Palace, Cheng Yu. Now!”

A-Li crashed on his knees again on the next jump. He choked on the tangy liquid that had built up in his throat before he had the good sense to throw up. Blood. A lot of it, too. Part of him wanted to find humor at sullying the hem of Gun Gun’s purple robe but he was in too much excruciating pain to do so.

He looked around and asked Gun Gun, “W-Where’s Mei Lin?”

As if on cue, she appeared beside them, two large scrolls tucked under each of her arms. Her face looked fierce from a mixture of anger, fear, and concern.

“Who are you? Are you even my Li-Gē?” Mei Lin asked breathlessly as she knelt down and helped Gun Gun help A-Li up.

Who am I? A-Li looked at his bloodstained hands in horror as he recounted the other time he had removed his invisibility spell. An earthquake had happened almost immediately, and he had also started to cough up blood a little while after.

What have I unleashed during that time?

He remembered giving an account in front of his Heavenly Emperor Father, his Zēngzǔ Fù[11], Mo Yuan Dàyé[12], Zhe Yan and Dong Hua Gēge about the temple he and Xue Jiaolong had gone to at Biayun Mountain. He had skipped on sharing how he had tried to consciously remove the wards in the place because he felt it was irrelevant for them to know. However, on his way out, he did hear snippets of their conversation: something about gods who were no longer supposed to exist, and how they now had to be on the lookout.

Who did I attempt to dispel during that time?

And then today’s events.

“Exactly. The reports you are now receiving are true. Yes — incantations, charms, wards. All the magick in the Purple Demon Realm was momentarily gone!” A-Li could hear Lian Song shout from the distance. “If you come to Wuji Palace, I will tell you why. Do I need to say more over an unsecured line?”

All the magick — What have I done? All I did was to remove my invisibility spell. I wasn’t even consciously dispelling others. How did I cancel out all the magick in an entire realm?

They continued cloud jumping for some time. Fortunately, Wuji Island was closer to the Purple Demon Realm than the nearest entrance to the Thirty-Six Heavens were.

It was there — as they floated above where the island was — that Lian Song finally stopped and turned to face them.

“Cast an invisibility spell over yourself again and then remove it.”

A-Li looked from his red-faced granduncle to the island down below. Wuji Island was covered by pinkish clouds, the goings-on below unseen by any immortal eyes. Lian Song was the best wards maker in all the Four Seas and Eight Deserts, and the wards his granduncle had set up all around the island meant no one, not even Dong Hua Gegē, could come in without explicit permission.

“Even if he could, Gegē, don’t you see Li-Gē is in so much pain right now?” Gun Gun took a protective step between A-Li and Lian Song. “We need to treat him, not injure him —”

“I do not care!” Lian Song cut off Gun Gun. A vein that sliced through the middle of his forehead — which only showed whenever he was angry or agitated — had become engorged and visibly pulsed.”A-Li, do as I told!”

A-Li nodded through the haze of pain as he stretched out his hand to Gun Gun’s back. “Gun Gun, I’m feeling better already,” he lied to his nephew while he shakily stepped forward. Protective magick had started healing him internally as soon as they left the Purple Demon Realm, but it was not working fast enough. He wanted to lie down, and if it took casting an invisibility spell over himself and then releasing it to allow Lian Song to let him rest, then he would do it. “I can do it.”

Lian Song glowed golden as he summoned his High God aura to coat himself like an armor. A-Li knew this as a protection ward, one Lian Song used over himself whenever they trained to help minimize the damage should Mei Lin’s undisciplined phoenix fire hit him. Historically, it could last two hits before it dissolved, and Lian Song would be throwing up blood afterward, too.

“Do not even think about it,” Lian Song instructed. “Just do it like you normally would.”

A-Li took a deep breath and mustered his invisibility spell. The slight flinch in his companion’s eyes, along with the slight fuzziness in his own eyesight, told him the spell had taken effect.

“Release it,” Lian Song ordered.

Like he had always done, A-Li willed the spell to release with a wave of his left hand.

Mei Lin gasped as Lian Song’s armor disintegrated right before their very eyes. All the wards that surrounded the island down below were also eliminated. As a result, the shield-clouds evaporated. If immortals up in the Thirty-Six Skies were looking, they would have seen the near-perfect circular island bared to immortal eyes for the first time.

A-Li swayed. He coughed against his sleeve as he got hit by several dàn [13] of pressure yet again — albeit this one was many times lighter than the one from the Purple Demon Clan Realm, and the one at the temple in Mount Biayun.

Lian Song’s hand rested on A-Li’s shoulder. A-Li’s eyes followed the fingers to the arm, the arm to the shoulder, and the shoulder to Lian Song’s strained smile.

“Zhízi, since when have you had this ability?”

“For as long as I could remember.”

Lian Song leaned back. “You mean — ?”

“I use it to play tricks on others’ magick. I did not know it had a non-discriminating, wide area effect.”

“Until now?”

“Until now,” he nodded as black spots danced before his eyes.

Lian Song looked at Mei Lin and Gun Gun before he shook his head. Returning his gaze on A-Li, he then shouted, “Are you stupid? Why did you not tell me this a long time ago? Do you know how dangerous you are? You just trumped my powers and I am a High God! Heaven only knows how many other High Gods’ powers you had eclipsed at the Purple Demon Clan realm— Zhang Jiao and Yi Mei Niang’s included!”

A-Li never really thought about it that way but now that he did, he could feel the slight trembling of his knees.

“But I am merely a High Immortal—”

The fan appeared in Lian Song’s hand and landed on top of A-Li’s forehead.

“You also happen to be the son of Ye Hua and Bai Qian, direct descendants of Old and Primordial Gods!”

A-Li’s palms ran over his face. “I was simply lifting my own spell. I have no idea why everyone else got affected.”

“This what happens when you fail to train early enough on how to properly cancel a spell. To any child who has a hammer, everything looks either like a chisel or a nail. Then what started as an ill-informed practice turned into a bad habit — I am shocked something of this magnitude hasn’t happened sooner!”

Lian Song paced back and forth on top of the cloud, pausing every now and then to take a breath before expelling it in a prolonged exhale.

“Gēge, Li-Gē looks like he is about to pass out.”

“Be quiet, Zūzu, I am thinking.” Lian Song rebuked, while he repeatedly tapped his fan on his forehead. “Should I tell Ye Hua or not? Yes? No? There is bound to be an investigation about the magick shutdown, and we might go on trial for endangering a whole realm.” He stopped to look at his three foster children, as he ran a jerky hand through his half-knotted hair. “A-Li might be put under review and then what will happen to him if they found out he actually has other powers as well as crimson hellfire?”

“This is why we do not tell anyone,” Mei Lin concluded.

“I agree,” Gun Gun seconded. “Let us keep it a secret like everything else that we have been doing.”

A-Li wanted to thank Mei Lin and Gun Gun for their loyalty but his vision was slowly dimming. The pain inside his body continued to build in intensity, almost as if something was trying to rip him apart to bite-sized pieces. It hurt to even breathe.

“Alright,” Lian Song decided, his voice steady. “We will keep it a secret.”

“Why do you still look worried, Gēge?” asked Gun Gun as he steadied his grip on A-Li who thankfully leaned against his nephew’s shoulder.

From his half-lidded eyes, A-Li saw Lian Song stand to his full height, eyebrows wrinkled, while his free hand pinched the skin at his throat. “We will know later the full extent of damage A-Li’s power has wrought. But before you get excited at how powerful he is, remember that the world demands balance. Zhízi, If you have the ability to dispel magick at such a grand scale, who knows what evil is about to be unleashed into this generation?”



1. (慶雲) meaning Auspicious Clouds

2. (元神) Primordial Spirit

3. (火气息) This is the Purple Demon Clan’s biggest export product to all the immortal realms. This alcohol’s base was made of malted barley, dried in kilns fired with a little peat, and distilled twenty times using a single-heated chamber & a vessel to collect the purified alcohol. The liquid was then stored and aged in barrels made of holy oak only found in the forests of Mount Penglai.

4. Fenghuang Dang Cong - This tea brew has a strong fruity scent and sweet taste.

5. (古尔班通古特沙漠) Gurbantünggüt Desert -China’s second largest desert

6. A tube-shaped bamboo drum with two iron rods or mallets

7. (简牍) Wooden slip book, usually made of bamboo

8. (地獄) The Realm of the Dead

9. (妖怪) Creatures originated from objects or lower life forms (such as spiders, trees or skeletons) spiritually possessed with strong intention or imbued through blood. (Adapted and crafted by Author for this FF. Mistakes on script translation or original definition are mine.)

10. (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"

11. (曾祖父) Paternal Great Grandfather

12. (大爺) Uncle, Father’s Older Brother

13. (担) One unit = 100 catties or 50 kilograms