Fanfiction3: A-Li's Three Lives, Three Worlds - Chapter 12 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 12

written by LigayCroft
edited by Panda and kakashi

A-Li felt he had been in the mortal realm for so long that he had forgotten so many things. Like, coming home wet and bedraggled earlier that morning when he could have conveniently dried himself up before coming in. Or, attending to a sick Xue Jiaolong and forgetting for a couple of mortal hours that he had the ability to cure her at will.

A-Li had nursed her for four fragrance changes on the incense clock when he finally remembered the latter. He was alone as Ge Peng had gone back to her quarters. He had told the girl to go get some rest two fragrance changes ago, and the tired maidservant had been happy to oblige.

The compound was quiet. All the drunken guests in the main hall had gone.

He summoned an incantation he had learned from Zhe Yan when he was 900 years old, and directed the beam of silver light from his fingers to her body. It was minor magick— child’s play, really— which was why he learned it at a young age and it was meant to lower her temperature to make her feel better.

Since she was a mortal, the effects were instantaneous. Her flush lowered and her fever broke within the next few breaths.

You drove yourself hard today. He hoped to tell her but instead played the one-sided conversation in his head as he ran a knuckle along her delicate jawline. “I wish I knew what you were thinking. I thought after this afternoon, you and I already have an understanding. So why would you risk to dance before the Emperor? Why would you buy yourself out? Why are you planning to run away from Luoyang? Don’t you want to be with me anymore?”

It shouldn’t matter if she ran away from Luoyang or from him. But it did. He should be the one leaving her, and not the other way around. And as comprehension of that simple truth sank in, A-Li stood up feeling confused and dumbfounded.

There were many things that could be and couldn’t be.

Xue Jiaolong was definitely one of those details that couldn’t be.

One Royal of his line to fall for a mortal was one too many. He couldn’t repeat his Father’s mistake.

A-Li suddenly found it hard to breathe.

Without looking back, he disappeared in a cloud of white smoke and returned to Luoyang House.


A-Li needed sufficient distraction and nothing worked better than reading through reports that were forwarded by his Father every couple of mortal weeks to keep him abreast of Realms business. The next delivery of jiǎndú’s weren't due until two mortal weeks from now but A-Li still had a lot to read through and now had extra motivation to finish. A-Li was about to open his next jiǎndú when the House’s head steward approached him and bowed.

“Diànxià, Wang Xiaojie is in the courtyard, looking for you.”

A-Li’s heart raced at the mere mention of her name, followed by a crunch of worry. She had just gotten out of her sickbed and was already walking about? He was about to get up on his feet when he caught himself.


A little distance between them should do him some good. For the past twenty-nine mortal months, he had let Xue Jiaolong’s presence control his life, dictate his moods, and plan his days. His life had revolved around her so much that there were days he was no longer sure of who he was outside of her opinion of him. It had to be the reason why he had been tied up in knots over her lately.

“Tell her I’ve left the city.”

The servant looked surprised at his order.

“And tell the other servants I should not be disturbed for the rest of the day.” He unfurled another jiǎndú, this one a collection of reports of a deadly snake wreaking havoc near Nanyang, to further impress how important his current work was.

The steward bowed and left the room.

A-Li pushed the jiǎndú off the table as soon as the servant disappeared. He shouldn’t even be staying in the mortal realm anymore. There was nothing left to prove. There was no more bet to be won. Even his companions found it so easy to leave him alone when before they usually clung to him like barnacles.

Yet, he was still here, tied by an invisible string, and unable to leave.

But to what end?

A-Li snatched another jiǎndú from the floor and resumed reading.

Realm business was needlessly boring, especially since his Father’s reign had been marked by a prolonged time of peace. There was a certain notoriety attached to the Celestial Twins who both came back from the dead. With one who married a Fox Queen and the other the Demon Ancestor, on the surface, the clans’ differences had either been subdued or aired out diplomatically. There were voices of dissent A-Li’s father inherited from the former Tiānjūn’s reign but they were harmless and scattered, as far as anyone could tell.

Still, it bothered A-Li because these dissidents made it their business to worry about his business.

The report he held talked about rumors surrounding his absence from the Peach Festival. It accompanied a paper scroll which was part of a set that had been passed around the Realms about the Three Princes who spent too much time in the mortal realm playing with prostitutes instead of helping the Royal Family solidify alliances and quash dissents.

A-Li frowned at that information. There was no way other immortals could have followed them around in Luoyang. Millennia of practice made the ability to ensure they were not followed almost second-nature to A-Li, Lian Song and Gun Gun. This only meant one thing: somebody from the help staff had been talking.

A-Li pulled the bell cord, which summoned the head steward in front of him within the next few breaths. The immortal was part of the original senior staff at Lian Song’s Wuji Palace and thus could be trusted. The others, however…

“Diànxià—“ The immortal greeted with a wide smile. “It’s fortunate you’ve summoned me. I—“

A-Li raised his hand. “Lui Shimin, I want you to replace all the servants in the Luoyang House. Effective immediately.”

The steward’s eyes widened but he bowed to accept the decree.

“Diànxià, since it pleases you, I’ll send for a new batch of servants from Wuji Palace immediately. However, as this is a sudden order, Luoyang House will be empty in the meantime because I have to supervise the selection.”

“I don’t mind. Just return before Lian Song Shenjun does.”

It was a tall order but Lui Shimin knew better than to complain. The steward bowed again before heading out to do as told.

A-Li spent several more incense fragrance changes going through the last of the scrolls before he stretched in his seat and looked out the window. The moon was now only a faint outline in the sky but the darkness revealed a more beautiful source of light. Yínhé [1], shining over the river’s inky blackness, was a colorful landscape of yellow, purple and red cosmic clouds framed by a generous smattering of twinkling, silvery stars.

A-Li thought back to the time when Cheng Yu had first taken him out to the edges of Jiuchongtian’s 33rd Heaven to see the Yínhé. From their spot, it did look like a river made of slowly flowing silver, which invited for a swim. She had pointed out each of the major stars and told him their stories while they cracked and peeled walnuts.

It was a happy memory because it was the first and last time A-Li had called the scandalized Cheng Yu as Mother. To be fair to his 500-year-old self, he had been going through a lot at the time. His parents’ wedding took 223 years of planning and they hardly had time for him so aside from his cousin Bai Feng Jiu, he stayed out with Cheng Yu the most. Even in the years since then, Cheng Yu had acted as his mother in ways Heavenly Empress Bai Qian failed to do, making her a part of A-Li’s family even if she hadn’t ended up remarrying Lian Song.

Fireworks went off in the distance in starbursts of red, green, yellow and blue. A festival? A-Li looked at the skies, mentally-charting the stars until he inferred that the mortals must be celebrating the Qixi Festival.

The Qixi Festival was said to be the most romantic day of the lunar year, when mortals commemorated the annual meeting over a bridge of magpies of Niulang the cowherd and Zhinü the weaver girl— two star-crossed lovers who were banished to be on the opposite sides of the Yínhé for all eternity.

While there was no truth that the Jade Emperor and Jade Empress ever had a granddaughter named Zhinü who fell in love with a mortal named Niulang, the legend still served as a precautionary tale for Celestials on the dangers of forbidden love. In the story, not even the auspicious blessing of having a long feng bao spared the fictional lovers from the wrath of Heaven for subverting Celestial traditions.

A-Li should know. He was the product of such a union. If A-Li hadn’t been born into the Royal Family, there was no question that a decidedly grim fate might have befallen upon him instead. Although, the definition of grim remained to be seen as being pushed forward as future Crown Prince didn't exactly guarantee a peaceful future, A-Li thought broodingly. He had no desire to lead the most ungrateful, laziest and spoiled generation of Celestials that had ever existed. If he ever did it, he would do it for his family, and not for the groups who always questioned his legitimacy to accede to the position or worse, even questioned his right to belong.

Legends aside, A-Li remembered Qixi was also Xue Jiaolong’s most-hated festival because it was the same day her mother died.

How is she? Is she sad?

It was frustrating that it didn’t even take a day and his thoughts had re-diverted to her once again.

A-Li quickly got up to his feet and rushed outside. He almost ran into a potted plant that was placed in the middle of the floor right outside his door.

It was the Jūnzǐ Zhùfú, the orchid he had given Xue Jiaolong several months ago. The dried chénxiāng branch that the orchid’s roots were attached to had been propped to stand inside a clay pot by using broken pieces of charcoal. This gave the flowering stalk enough height to show off its nine fragrant blooms.

Tucked underneath the pot was a folded page of paper. A-Li pulled it out and read the same poem she had sent him several weeks ago, but this time, it bore additional lines.

But come to me in the summer
Bless me with your smile
Let me watch you unfurl
Over my faded glory
Framed against the clear blue sky
Let me breathe you in, A-Li
Can time go slowly by?
Before you leave me in the winter
So let’s make it worth our while

A-Li expelled the breath he was holding with a huff.

He may be bad at poetry but this was clearly an invitation from her.


He won.

A-Li couldn’t believe his eyes. He had won. But looking around the house, with only firelight to occupy its empty spaces, where was the bet to win? Where were his companions to cheer him on?

A-Li knelt down on one knee and cupped one of the fragile blooms.

Twenty-nine mortal months. It took him twenty-nine mortal months to court a mortal, a courtesan. It was laughable now that he thought about it. He could’ve been betrothed to a highborn immortal in a shorter time.

It was time to go.

And yet that invisible thread tugged, Not yet.

It was time to go.

Not yet.


It was time to go.

But instead of jumping heavenward, A-Li jumped across town.



1. (銀河) Milky Way