Fanfiction 2: Moyuan and Bai Qian - Chapter 11 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 11 - The Lost Tune

written by LalaLoop
edited by kakashi

“Why are you looking so miserable, son?” his mother gently put her hand on his. “I cannot bear to see you like this.”

“I don't --” he closed his eyes, feeling more tired and empty than ever, “-- I don’t know… what to think.”

“What happened between you and Susu - the dreadful trial - you must learn to forget. She has moved on. And you have A-li…”

Yehua looked up at his mother. She fell silence instantly and her lower lip quivered.

“I am sorry to have worried you so.”

“I will always worry about you, even when you are fine. But please,” she pleaded. “Stop thinking about Bai Qian. Stop dwelling on hopes and dreams. And the trial… she’s forgiven you. Why are you dreading over something she no longer cares about?”

“Dwelling on hopes?” he repeated, frowning at her notion. Then, having understood what she was referring too, he tried, and failed, to force a smile.

His and Bai Qian’s meeting after he’d come back from his mortal trial had been unexpected. But he could not deny she’d been right. It might have felt like he’d been losing her slowly and piece by piece. But the truth was he had been forcing himself to believe in something that had never been there, forcing himself to see what he’d wanted to see. And so, what had been between them just silently fell apart.

For a long time he had hung on to the belief that Susu would still be there in the small hut down on Mount Junji, waving her fan at the old stove as soon as he opened the door.

But the once unbearable pain now felt foreign to him and difficult to understand. Like a dark hole he never wanted to examine again.

“No. I know better than to ‘dwell on hopes’,” he said. “But that is…”

She gazed at him, letting him know she was still listening and desperate to know what had been bothering him so.

“Mother, don't you understand?” Yehua said bitterly, shaking his head. “Her trial, the foolishness of what I have done…,” he sighed. “What I have done may cause me to lose more than just Bai Qian.”

Lady Lexu furrowed her brows. Then, when it finally had dawned on her, she reached forward and placed both hands on his face. It seemed she did not know what to say and the inability to comfort him was suffocating her.


“This is the library, Your Highness,” said the disciple who looked most mature out of all the ones Yehua had met at Kunlun. “There is more than one zither in there you might find to your liking. If none of them could prove efficient, let me know, I can take you to the Instrument room.”

Yehua nodded a ‘thank you’ as the disciple bowed and left.

He walked in and took a second to absorb the view of the library. It was not as grand as Taichen Palace’s library, but, like everything else at Kunlun, it gave him a sense of peace. In the middle of the room were low tables and cushions; one large table sitting on the dais overhead and small ones forming two lines against the two wooden dividers on either side of the dais.

And as the disciple had informed him, there was a number of zithers on the wooden shelves, a few others were hung on the walls. None of these should be too special, Yehua took note, they must be here for Kunlun disciples to practice at ease. So he blankly waved at one of them. The instrument removed itself from the shelf and arrived at the low table he’d decided to sit at.

Yehua fell to his knees on the cushion, his fingers lightly tracing the seven strings. How did it go? He gazed at the ceiling, recalling the melody that had been played to him a long time ago. The tune that had been in his head for as long as he remembered. Only back then, he thought it had been a dream.

Yehua closed his eyes for a moment. Carefully, he ran his fingers on the strings and started to play from what he could recall.

There were some voices outside the room. Someone called out ‘Shifu’ near the door.

Still playing, Yehua could hear footsteps approaching - hasty at first since whoever it was must have a reason to come here. Then, they became slower as the one approaching noticed the music and his presence in the room.

At last, Yehua looked up to see Moyuan standing near the wooden divider with a thick scroll in his hand, his aura of power making Yehua feel a bit distant. Knowing his brother did not like to stand on ceremony from the short time he'd been here, he refrained himself from saying a formal greeting.

Was that the right tune? He wanted to ask, but the calm and inscrutable face made him hold back.

“Gentler,” said Moyuan softly yet his voice was stern, much like a teacher.

Yehua touched the strings again, gliding his finger, plucking them as gently as he could, replaying the tune.

Then, he stopped and looked up once more.

Moyuan shook his head. “Try again.”

And Yehua did. Still, by the end of the tune, he did not warrant much of an approving look from the God of War. And Music, apparently, he reminded himself.

Swiftly, Moyuan walked to one of the low tables opposite of Yehua and took the seat, setting the scroll down near the edge of the table and waving his hand. One of the zithers on the walls left its post and floated onto his table. For a second, Yehua wondered why he had not settled for the large table on the dais since that was the seat obviously made for him.

“This melody is not meant to stir up emotions,” said Moyuan, plucking a string on the zither in a tiao (挑) motion without looking, producing the softest of sound. “It is supposed to offer calmness to the soul.” Another two notes were played. “So first and foremost,” his left hand slid up the string, “the heart and soul of the player --.”

“Must,” his fingers slowly ran up and down.

“Be,” the notes rolled in harmony.


Then, both of his hands started to pluck and slide and skim over the instrument, creating the exact series of sounds Yehua had heard ages ago.

There stood the lotus pond. The peaceful wind. The person in white, holding a piece of grass, stirring the water around him with it.

When the verse was done, Moyuan looked back at him. Yehua knit his brows in confusion for a moment. Then, recalling why Moyuan had to play the tune to him in the first place, he anxiously sat up straight, gave it a try and mirrored everything his brother had just done. Moyuan cleared his throat, seemingly satisfied with what he’d just heard. Then, he went on to a new verse, which he started with a soft pluck of the string and waited. Yehua took this as a hint that he was to play along.

Tiao (挑), Yehua found the note on his own zither.

Cuo (撮), and press down on the second, came the vibrating note from across the room.

Cuo (撮), and press down, Yehua reflected.

And they went on to the next verse. And the next. And over again. Until Yehua was no longer behind and the both of them were playing the tune in a faster pace.

It would be much easier to stay still and receive lightning bolts than to clear his mind at the moment. Yehua could only do his best with the instrument and hope Moyuan would not notice from the sound that thoughts were racing and twirling in his head, making his hands stiffen by the second.

During Yehua’s time at Kunlun, Moyuan and his disciples had come to visit him several times, usually accompanied by Zheyan, Donghua, his celestial family or a physician. They would never say anything to one another other than the required greetings. And like always with someone he’d just known for a brief period of time, Yehua had taken the trouble to observe the manners of the God of War, to learn as much as he could before any word was said - the man he had been compared to all his life, the person he had always wanted to meet. And yet, they had been put in a situation so horrid, that something as simple as looking at each other while speaking was difficult.

‘The God of War is always calm and detached’ was what he had always heard from Bai Qian and most other people. And they were not wrong: Moyuan was the calmest and most collected being Yehua had ever met in his life. Not the kind of composure he himself always put up to deal with the world, but calmness that required no effort, that which shone from the heart. The kind you could only see from someone who had lived through the worst of experience and survived the worst of sorrow. A serenity that very few things could disrupt. And whether Bai Qian’s absence was one of those things, Yehua could not be certain.

Though, Yehua had noticed, the twinkle in his eyes never failed to show, his stern and indifferent voice never forgot to soften every time he spoke to his disciples. Not so much a difference, but enough for keen eyes to realize those whom he looked after were not to be touched.

Would it not be better if he had remained dead? Yehua’s thoughts strayed. Or had died the minute his heart had been broken? Then he would not have to face the truth that such a person was his brother. The truth that made him exceedingly proud yet had trapped them all in - Yehua could find no better word for it - a tangled web of debts.

His fingers kept up with the notes. He did not want the music to end even though every note played caused sadness to seep into his veins, despite the melody being a peaceful one. Because when it ceased, they would have to talk. And they could never really talk, never really face one another if Moyuan did not know the whole truth.

But it would have to end sooner or later.

So end it now
, Yehua sighed, lifted his hands and flattened them on the strings at the final note of the melody. Across the room, his brother did the same. Strangely, one more note came from Mo Yuan’s zither after Yehua had finished. The sound of it made him look up and study the calm face. The little note sounded like he was not the only one who had not been able to clear his mind.

One of the disciples in white stepped through the door, in his hands a tray with two sets of teacups and pots on top. Receiving a nod from Moyuan, he proceeded to place the sets on their tables. Then, just as quietly, he left them.

There was an uncomfortable silence in which Yehua reached forward to pour himself a cup of tea. This was the first time they had been in the same room for any extent of time with perhaps more to talk about than just the battle or the healing process.

Something must be said, Yehua decided. If not, he would have to go back, sulking in guilt once again. And since death was not an option, this was the only alternative if he did not want to drag himself back to his room again today with his head full of ominous thoughts.

“How are your injuries?” Moyuan spoke first.

“They are almost healed,” he said emptily, wanting to ask that question back but no words came out.

“My Second disciple is very eager to know if you find the food here to your liking.”

“Yes, High God,” Yehua’s voice came out colder than he’d intended. “Please send him my best compliments.”

“You don’t have to address me so formally. And how is...”

Yehua turned away curtly, not wanting to hear anymore of those words that were like a sharp dagger cutting deep into his conscience. Moyuan’s voice trailed off as he realized the sudden lack of interest.

“How -- would you like me to address you?” said Yehua before he could stop himself. “‘Older Brother’?”

Yehua knew instantly he would be misunderstood due to the unbidden severity in his tone. Though, Moyuan only responded with a quiet chuckle.

“Forgive me,” he said in an almost humorous voice. “But I am the older one.”

“Before you decide whether you would like to hear me call you ‘brother’, High God,” said Yehua. As much as he wanted to laugh and embrace this brief moment of joy he'd had in ages, he could not, “let me tell you what I did to someone else you also love dearly.”

Moyuan’s eyes narrowed a little, the corner of his lips lifted in not so optimistic a manner. And for the first time since he’d come to Kunlun, Yehua believed his brother was taken by surprise. He slowly sat back and placed his hands on his lap to tell Yehua he was all ears.

Miserably, he dragged his feet back to where she was waiting - waiting for good news. How could he bear to tell her there were none.
They should run away, he thought in desperation. With his power, he could take her and hide her safely away.

One simple spell with their hands held together and both of them would be out of this wretched place. They would be chased after. But at least they would be free. But what then? What if they were caught again. With no one to rely on, she would die.

He kept going straight. And soon she was in sight…

“Why...” the smile from her face faltered, tears spilling onto her cheeks. Her eyes opened wide, trust was no longer residing in them.

He approached with his arm outstretched. She struggled, looking around like a trapped and cornered rabbit who knew it had nowhere to run to, no one to cry for help. Her eyes frantically staring at the hand that was getting close to her face, knowing it would be the last thing they would ever see.
One day… one day you would understand. An excruciating pain shot through his own body like the piercing of a thousand of knives. His hand moved closer, his head dropping. A string of tears escaped from his own eye.


Having braced himself for heavy criticism and the possibility of wrath from the God of War, Yehua was puzzled to see there was no such response. Instead, he was met with complete silence.

His grandfather’s doings, Sujin’s schemes, the eyes, Zhuxian Terrace, the torture, the lies, the failure to protect a defenseless mortal.


None of them had done a thing to stir Moyuan’s stern expression.

There was nothing to be seen on his face. Not even the faintest hint of shock or astonishment. His eyes had closed shortly and his shoulders uncomfortably moved up as he breathed in when told about how Susu’s sight was taken from her. But apart from that, there was no reaction from him. He simply listened with his fingers interlocked and his eyes glued to the zither.

A brief minute went by after Yehua had finished giving his account of Susu’s dreadful mortal experience.

Moyuan picked up the cup of tea in front of him, slowly brought it to his lips, giving Yehua a quick surveying look while Yehua looked straight back at him, trying his best to determine what was going on underneath the calm facade and the piercing eyes that Bai Qian had once warned him could read minds.

Was he really so indifferent to all the hardship of life that nothing could dent his armor anymore? Or was he simply better at feigning it? This terrifying silence was throwing Yehua into the unknown, he frantically wondered if this was to be the last moment of peace before they would have to cut all ties with each other, before a possible war between Kunlun and the Nine Heavens. Not even High Goddess Yao Guang had been able to escape punishment and humiliation for insulting Moyuan’s disciple after all.

No, the analytical skill Yehua had acquired from long years of experience in politics and - he proudly admitted to himself - having known Moyuan enough enabled him to decide the look on his brother’s face was not that of someone with war or any form of violence in mind. That much he was quite sure of.

What then? He could unravel nothing from the unmoved expression.

The painful silence prolonged for a while. Then...

“Thank you for telling me,” said Moyuan calmly.

It would have been better if Moyuan had shouted at him, called him a disappointment, or insisted on making him pay for what he had done. The voice that was void of emotion made Yehua suddenly wish he would have been engulfed by the Bell that night. He finally understood Bai Qian hadn’t been joking when she said it was a much easier task to win against Donghua at a chess game than to try and figure out what the God of War was thinking.

Qianqian, the memory of their conversation that day suddenly hit him. Then, looking back at Moyuan, he started to grasp what was going on in his mind. And, almost as if he’d foreseen it, Yehua prayed his brother would not say what he thought he’d say. Please, he pleaded, not…

“Yehua,” said the unfazed and gentle voice. “As immortals, we all take tr…”

“Don’t --” Yehua unexpectedly snapped, glaring at his brother with wild eyes. “Don’t say it was a trial!”

Moyuan did not make any attempt to stop him or give any indication that he would like to finish what he was saying.

“Do you know… Do you know what she said to me when she had retrieved her memory?” Yehua stood, looking away from Moyuan so he would not have to see those dark and unreadable eyes. “‘It was a trial’. Everything we’ve been through -- and that is what came from it - a refusal to… or rather... the inability to acknowledge that any of it was real.”

“So don’t --” he said breathlessly. “Whatever you do, don’t say it was a trial. Don’t -- be like her.”

Shaking with an unbidden fury inside, Yehua could not decide whether he was angry for Bai Qian because of Moyuan’s lack of visible compassion or for himself for not getting the reaction he’d hoped for. More likely the latter. Because here was one more person who was about to deem the experience that had nearly taken the life out of him no more than a tool for someone else’s Ascension, in addition to the many people who had indirectly hinted at the fact.

But why was he surprised? What else could he expect from someone who had been through it all short of truly scattering into the Nothingness? Did he really hope to see anger, to render the God of War bewildered and stunned by a supposedly tragic story of his disciple’s trial, even if it was the disciple he loved best? How foolish.

Yehua stood motionless for a brief while - it could have been a long time. There was a sudden sound of several things hitting the stony ground. Staring down, he realized he had accidentally crushed the tiny teacup in his hand. The debris was now lying at his feet, glaring back at him as if to inflict more guilt.

“I apologize,” he said, snapping out of his state of irrational anger, feeling rather shameful for his exhibition. Envy? He wondered - the pressure of standing in front of someone who effortlessly displayed the self-control he had gone through arduous practice to achieve? Or desperation to hang on to the past, even if it meant receiving condemnation?

“For what?” asked Moyuan simply, his expression was neither accusatory nor offended.

“How Bai Qian dealt with me… does not concern you,” said Yehua. “Forgive my temper.”

He waited for a while. And, seemingly until he was sure Yehua would not say anything else, Moyuan slowly began again. “We are immortals, Yehua. Our lives are long and tedious books in which each trial is but a small page. Susu - not only was it Bai Qian’s trial, it is also yours.” His voice became even softer. “One that you must try and pass.”

Try and pass? Yehua stared at him.

“So I must ask you to do what she has done,” the deep voice carried on. “Turn the page.”

They looked at each other for a while. Moyuan then stood from his seat, slowly walked over to Yehua’s side and placed a hand on his shoulder.

“It was a trial. Treat it as such,” his fingers slightly tightened. “She does. So will I.”

Yehua could not remember the last time he had been spoken to in such a tone, with something that felt almost like understanding and consolation. Growing up away from his parents, he had spent most of his time with his Masters and maids and guards. As gentle and caring as his mother was, every time they got to see each other, emotional outbursts would usually prevent them from having much conversation. And his father was such an distant man that he sometimes could not imagine what they would say to each other should they ever have to communicate.

Yet here and now he felt something not even his happiest days with Bai Qian could replace, something he’d been denied all his life.

The warmth from the hand on his shoulder made Yehua believe for a second he’d been transported back to where he had last seen the old man with the silver beard and kind eyes. He felt as though the burden he’d been carrying was being lifted. A sort of pain started to gush out from within him - every joy and sorrow he had ever felt in his life and those he had never known before all at once. He desperately fought back a scream of misery that was threatening to escape.

“And,” Moyuan continued after what felt like forever, retrieving his hand, turning away. “Do not hate yourself for having loved. That is neither a flaw nor a weakness. Pity those who guard their heart against the world.”

Amidst the turmoil of misery and guilt, Yehua felt there was a small quaver in his brother’s voice that peaked his interest, for it was the first and only hint of emotion he had detected throughout their whole talk today.