Fanfiction3: A-Li's Three Lives, Three Worlds - Chapter 14 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 14

written by LigayaCroft
edited by Panda and kakashi

A-Li left the Ninth Sky a local and returned a stranger.

To think he was only gone for three days.

After paying his respects to his parents and staying overnight with the twins, A-Li walked the golden pavement that lead to his Ziqing Palace and noticed something that had previously escaped his attention in his long, immortal life.

There was a huge perennially-blooming wisteria tree right after you walked inside the gate, and A-Li was surprised to notice that the blooms were actually white.

Strange, but in all his 40’000 years he had always thought the blooms were the color of pale lavender. He stopped to look up at the flowers for a moment, and admired how the green stalks and leaves stood out against the sea of white pea-like petal pods that swayed gently in the breeze. The wind carried its smoky and sweet scent; a mixture strangely like hyacinths, burnt cork and honey.

“I thought I saw you walk in.”

A-Li turned his head as Gun Gun strolled in, his silvery white hair tied and pinned in a tidy top-knot. His nephew always kept his hair up whenever in the Thirty-Six Heavens so as to distinguish from his Father, Dong Hua Dijun, who either kept his hair loose or in a half-knot.

“How’s Jia’er?”

A-Li expected to feel something at the first mention of her name but somehow, entering the Ninth Sky last night made him remember the woman but not the feelings she had evoked from him during the past two or so immortal days. It was the about the same degree of indifference he felt whenever he parted from his previous lovers.

This is good, he thought. I’m handling this better than I expected I’d be able to.

To Gun Gun, he answered, “We’ve said our goodbyes. Have Shūshu and Cheng Yu returned?”

Gun Gun’s lips pressed flat and he did a low Hmmm.

“Look at you.” A-Li put an arm around his nephew’s shoulder, and lightly punched Gun Gun’s ribcage. “I thought you were trying to avoid frowning as much as possible? You don’t want to get lines on your forehead, do you?”

“Gegē and Jiějie will be back this evening.” Gun Gun pushed against A-Li’s side. “Li-Gē, are you sure you’re alright?”

“What are you worrying about?” If anything, his nephew should recognize that the laughter that just escaped his chest was real. “She was just one of many. Come, I think by now the demons are ready to welcome us back to Jiǔjiébiān. We’re overdue for a visit.”


In a strange twist of fate, the group they got into an altercation with a couple of days ago at Jiǔjiébiān eventually ended up in the same row of tables as A-Li and Gun Gun. Everyone was in a better mood. It helped that A-Li was feeling generous, too, and bought the table several barrels of drinks for goodwill.

They were on their eighth barrel of huǒqìxī [1] when Lian Song arrived. After introductions and apologies for their last altercation were made, drawing grunts of approval from the small crowd, the Old Dragon committed to buy the next barrel as he settled between A-Li and Gun Gun.

Gun Gun introduced their new female companions: three young Blue Clan demonesses who were on vacation to visit their Purple Clan relatives. A-Li left his granduncle and nephew to their conversation while he returned his attention to one of the demonesses, Mao Qing, who recalled her last visit to the South Sea. A-Li absentmindedly nodded at whatever she was saying. He thought that this woman talked too much but that warm hand that rested on his leg…

“You replaced my servants.” Lian Song stated with light annoyance.

“You have somebody talking to court reporters. I did what was necessary, Shūshu.”

Lian Song’s arms folded across his chest as he eyed his drink through narrowed eyes. Turning to A-Li again, he snapped, “You should have called to inform me. We had our copper mirror with us. Cheng Yu wasn’t happy to find an empty house.”

“Ah, then your steward didn’t act fast enough. Now, if you’ll excuse me—“ A-Li’s eyes followed Mao Qing as she saucily climbed up to the private rooms upstairs. His luck was about to take a rosier turn. “I’ll be right back.”

Lian Song suddenly grabbed his arm just as A-Li was about to walk away. “She returned the Jūnzǐ Zhùfú. What happened?”

He had meddlesome companions but A-Li knew they always meant well. Still, he didn't owe them any explanation nor should he explain how his dream-like sojourn in the mortal realm had finally ended. A-Li wordlessly smiled and left the table, leaving Lian Song with a confused expression on his face.


A-Li saw Mao Qing enter the room to the far right and so he followed as he whistled an inspired tune that put him in a better mood. He was by the door when he realized whom he had learned it from— an original composition about spring in Luoyang by Xue Jiaolong— and that made him stop.

“Li Diànxia,” Mao Qing’s coy voice called out from inside the room, snapping him out of his thoughts. A-Li shook his head and pushed open the door, revealing the young woman already naked and waiting for him on top of the silk bed covers.

As blood flowed south at the enticing sight, A-Li crossed the bed within six strides. Mao Qing reached out for him and their lips crashed without prelude, hot and wanting. With Mao Qing’s help, A-Li easily divested his clothes and pushed the woman down on the bed in no time at all.

His lips and hands freely explored creamy skin but even in the heat of lust, several thoughts suddenly bothered him.

Why is this woman so thin?

Where are her curves?

Why are her breasts so small?

How come there’s hardly an arch on the small of her back?

“Li Diànxia, what seems to be the matter?” Two small eyes blinked back at him and not even the hand boldly stroking him down below triumphed over the nitpickings his head had been making.

He looked at her small face. Each feature fit the standards of beauty expected of demonesses, the kind female Celestials envied. Mao Qing was more than appealing to spend the night with.

And yet…

Big, upturned eyes look more seductive.

This one smells like roses. I don’t like the smell of roses.

Why is her hair so dry?

The last one undid him as the memory of four-chi of lustrous hair falling on the floor flooded his thoughts.

“Oh,” Mao Qing gasped, letting him go. “Oh, it…died.”

A-Li fell on his back on the bed, caught between the need to rage at his mind’s ill-timing and cry at the unspent desire that coursed through his body and had no way of coming out now.

Mao Qing sat up. “Don’t worry, just relax. I can fix this.”

“No.” A-Li stopped Mao Qing by the arm. He threw a blanket over her nakedness while he stood up to fetch his discarded clothing from the floor. “I’m sorry about this.”

“No offense taken. I do like a good challenge but today might just not be my day. She must be special.”

A-Li’s hands stilled on the ties of his ku [2] as he turned his head to look at Mao Qing. She had her head perched on her hand, elbow resting on a pillow, blanket draped over her chest and torso but still showed more than half of her spindly legs.

“I don't know what you're talking about.”

“I’m talking about the woman who rules that.” Mao Qing pointed to his groin area. “What is it— did she leave you behind?”

A-Li resumed putting on his clothes, with fiercer intensity this time as he tied his light gray pao [3] together.

“Next time, don't be too transparent about nursing a broken heart. When you bought ten barrels of huǒqìxī, it reeked of your desperation. I just had to come see how I could help.”

A-Li opened his mouth but no words formed. It seemed picking up sad men for casual sex was Mao Qing’s sport, and he couldn't judge her because there were a couple of thousand years in his past when he did the same as a pastime.

“Tell me, at least. What did she smell like?”

Her eyes held a predatory shine as she waited for her prize.

Lilies, his mind replied. Not that this woman deserved to know.

“I’m not brokenhearted, Mao Qing.” he corrected. “Again, sorry for taking your time.”

With those words, and after he threw on his deep blue shan [4] over his pao, A-Li opened the door and left.


Instead of heading back to the gathering downstairs, A-Li cloud jumped and traveled to Zhe Yan’s Peach Grove. It was empty, as usual, but just like his many visits, the air was filled with the scent of peach petals and overripe peach fruits that had fallen on the ground.

A-Li looked up to the night sky, and allowed himself to think of Xue Jiaolong for the first time since he got back. She loved the sky. She loved the moon. Was it possible that she was looking at it too?

It must have been more than a year in mortal months since he left Luoyang. A-Li hoped she looked back at their parting to her advantage, and that by now she might’ve met a kind, mortal man who could love and marry her.

“Look up to the sky, Jia’er.” He whispered to the moon, remembering how peaceful she looked while sleeping as moonbeams played on her skin. “It’s a full moon tonight.”

A-Li was not left alone for long though. Lian Song and Gun Gun suddenly walked into the grove in a cloud of white smoke.

A-Li heaved a heavy sigh— so much for getting some time alone since coming back to the immortal realm. “Wine?” he asked and stalked off toward the cellar without waiting for a response.

The two were already seated at the stone table by the Jade Pool when A-Li returned. Gun Gun took the bottles from A-Li and opened one for each of them, a fitting service as the youngest in their group. A-Li sat in front of Lian Song and while they drank for several hours, none of them talked.

The sun was already up when A-Li next came to. He squinted against the glare as he looked up to the sky canopied by peach blossoms. He found Gun Gun asleep on the branch of a nearby tree, his unbound hair a silver cascade that floated a few feet above the ground.

“Are you awake now, Zhízi?”

A-Li turned toward the sound of Lian Song’s voice and found the Old Dragon picking peaches from the low-lying branches of the orchard’s oldest tree, which stood sturdy and gnarled behind where A-Li sat.

“Have you been waiting for me to rise from my slumber all this time?”

Lian Song approached A-Li with his harvest and placed the fruits on the stone table. A-Li diligently ensured they wouldn't roll off the sides by using his arms as barricades.

“I needed you sober.” Lian Song sat down on the same seat he had occupied last night. Stretching out his hand, he conjured a potted plant and placed it on the table right beside the small pile of peaches A-Li had just assembled.

“Why did you bring that with you?” A-Li asked as he stared at the orchid he had given Xue Jiaolong.

“I also brought this.” Lian Song made a piece of Xian paper materialize from thin air and waved it at A-Li. “I never took you for somebody who just leaves love confessions lying around.”

A-Li grabbed the paper from Lian Song and tucked it inside his sleeve. “It’s not a love confession. It’s a call to start an affair.”

“I forget how your youth can sometimes be detrimental.” Lian Song unfurled his fan, and his eyes rested on the poem inscribed by Cheng Yu years ago. “Also, how terrible you are with poems and wordplay. It was true Xue Jiaolong’s poem used the orchid as an allegory for inviting you into her life, however short the time.”

When he found what he wanted, Lian Song placed the fan down and tapped his finger on a character written in seal script.

“But I am old enough to be sure she also referred to this character in the middle of the poem.”


“See?” Lian Song’s finger landed right above the pictograph of an encased heart. “This means to breathe in. And this,” his finger slid over the seal character for human feet right below it. “This means to go slowly.”

A-Li’s heart thudded dully in his chest, and the sleeve where he tucked the poem in instantly felt heavy. He tried to shake the feeling off. What the poem meant was still inconsequential. Xue Jiaolong confessed to love but she was also quick to pull it back. Whether the retraction was made to clarify the misunderstanding or it was out of pride didn’t matter to A-Li. What mattered was that they made a clean cut.

Her hair.

She cut off her hair to cut him out of her life.

He put his hand up to stop his granduncle from saying more. “Shūshu, it doesn’t matter. We both decided this was for the best.”

“We, I wonder?” Lian Song leaned back. “Don’t be stupid like I was. Judge the woman based on her many, impressive merits. You have loved her for quite a while; you just chose to be ignorant about it.”

The unsolicited assessment didn't sit well with A-Li. “If I did love her, why was it easy for me to leave her? And I was fine yesterday—”

Lian Song’s fan landed with a gentle tap on A-Li’s forehead. “It is never on the day you leave that you are overcome with regrets. And don’t fool yourself that you are fine because you will not realize you are not until way, way after. I’m telling you now before it becomes too late.”

Lian Song was reading too much into nothing. Yes. That had to be the reason why A-Li felt a solid lump form in his throat, and heat pool behind his eyelids.

“I like her, it is true. But I—“

“That is your Lie. You’ve chosen early on to never believe in love. This is the thing you don’t realize though, Zhízi: You actually believe in love. It is the only reason why you reject it outright.”

Lian Song tilted his head to one side, and gave A-Li an old look that almost always meant, Let that sink in, child.

A-Li’s gaze slid from his granduncle’s serious face onto the Jade Pool to his left. Could it be there was some truth to his granduncle’s words?

Did I fall in love with her? How come I didn’t know?

Hummingbirds flew overhead and the rapid flutter of their tiny wings brought back the first time A-Li’s heart had stopped at the sight of her. It was that moment after the earth shook, when she had pulled her head from the hole they made on that collapsed roof, when she had been all muddied and caked in blood, when her hair was in disarray that would have put birds’ nests to shame. It was Xue Jiaolong at her most unglamorous, her bravest, and at her best.

“What you didn't realize was that it snuck up on you when you weren't looking, disguised by our game and your pride. It has surely been entertaining to watch you fall in love.”

It was at that moment that the blinders fell off from A-Li’s eyes. He abruptly stood up and looked around.

A courtesan.

He was in love with a courtesan.

Suddenly, what she did or who she was didn't matter to A-Li.

He was in love with Xue Jiaolong.

He needed to see her again.

“You realize you will need to grovel before she takes you back.” Lian Song had a distant look in his eyes. “Ah, those were the days I had never felt more alive. Desperation does that every time.”

A-Li nodded. He had never committed to anything halfway and if groveling was what was needed to get himself back into her life, then he would make sure to employ the best groveling strategy ever seen by the Four Seas and Eight Deserts.

But first he had to find Xue Jiaolong, wherever she might be right now.

Chapter 15


1. (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.

2. (褲): Trousers or pants

3. (袍): Any closed full-body garment, worn only by men

4. (衫): Open cross-collar shirt or jacket that is worn over the yi