Fanfiction 2: Moyuan and Bai Qian - Chapter 12, Part I (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 12 - The Gathering of Immortals

Part 1

written by LalaLoop
edited by kakashi

Bai Qian was sitting at the desk in her room, her fingers tapping on its surface, where a flat piece of paper covered in Zheyan’s writing lay.

The first few weeks at the Eastern Forest had been so exciting and wonderfully refreshing that Bai Qian had forgotten about almost everything. During the day, she would go with her mother to places in the forest, meet old deities and immortals. Then there would be small gatherings and banquets in the evening that would keep her occupied for hours, so many that sometimes she had the feeling her parents did not want to allow her free time to think about anything else.

Once in awhile, Moyuan would appear in her thoughts, usually after a long and busy day. She would wonder how he was and if he was doing anything other than meditating at the moment. Not being at Kunlun made her feel strangely guilty. But before she could figure out why, she would feel too sleepy to retain consciousness. And tomorrow there would be another gathering to go to, another waterfall she’d like to see, a tree spirit she’d like to meet, another corner of her parents’ grand abode she’d like to explore. So it happened that she forgot about him very quickly as soon as other activities demanded her attention.

Though lately, Bai Qian had tried and, so far, failed to deny the fact that the Master of Kunlun had started to occupy her mind more often. His irritatingly calm face kept intruding her mind whenever she opened a book or stood alone in a hall. And the truth that she refrained from saying in front of her mother was, she had also begun to miss the Old Phoenix, Yanzhi, and her Seniors.

Bai Zhen seemed to be sharing her sentiments - although she knew he would never admit that he too had been thinking of the old Peach Garden near Qingqiu - for when Bai Qian received the letter from the Old Phoenix informing them about the date of his arrival, he had nearly pulled her out of bed immediately to make her read it aloud to him and Fengjiu.

Bai Qian herself had reopened the letter and read it many times after having shoved it under her pillow the first time, as if doing so would speed up time.

Xiaowu,

I expect Lord Donghua and I will be arriving on the third day of the seven, the date I believe most of your parents’ guest have also chosen for their arrival.

I know you are worried about the Crown Prince; there is no need. He is well and having the best of times at Kunlun with the two things he, as I have been told, has never been granted: true rest and time to collect his thoughts. I must say there is something about the mountain that makes all people believe it is their home. -
- Bai Qian threw a look at Bai Zhen as he muffled a laugh.

If there are no changes in his plan, High God Moyuan and his disciples will also be arriving on the same day.

The invitation to the gathering does not seem to interest Princess Yanzhi at the moment however much she would like to see you. Nevertheless, I believe your Senior Zilan has made it a point to convince her to change her mind.

Until then.



Just like Bai Zhen and Fengjiu, Bai Qian felt most pleased that Zheyan would be among the guests. Indeed, the Old Phoenix was just the person she needed to talk to for she now had a pool of questions to ask him and several comments about the God of War she’d rather not make in front of the man himself.

Though, looking back at Zheyan’s letter, the fact that Yehua had been staying at Kunlun had injected a small fear into her. She hadn’t had the chance to speak with Yehua before she’d left Kunlun. And since during the last conversation they’d had, he had been half unconscious, covered in blood, and she’d only had enough time to throw some empty threats at him before they’d been interrupted by Moyuan, nothing beyond that had been settled. For the first time in her life, Bai Qian sincerely hoped that Moyuan indeed cared about Yehua more than about her and that Yehua being alive would provide them with enough things to talk about during his stay so that her name would come up in their conversation as little as possible.



...



During the past few days, early guests had been arriving. Since most of them seemed to be her parents’ old friends, they took the opportunity to explore the Forest as well as the Fox Emperor’s impressive abode. It seemed some of them also chose the Eastern Forest as a place to find peace and quiet.

Having dressed properly, Bai Qian and Fengjiu both raced down the stairs that led to the front hall two at a time, each with different people in mind. Bai Zhen was running after them, yelling for them to slow down. But judging by the exhilarating in his voice, Bai Qian could have sworn he didn’t believe in slowing down much either.

However, they did have to slow down and ultimately come to an abrupt stop when they had reached the bottom of the stairs for their parents were standing there with rather stern faces. Outside in the grand yard, the people who had been assigned the task of tending to the guests were already standing in their posts.

“The guests will be arriving any moment,” said the Fox Emperor in his usual coarse voice. “I do not ask that you greet them like proper celestial royalties but please don’t do anything to embarrass me and your mother.”

Emperor Bai Zhi was a tall and venerable looking man with gleaming eyes whose face seemed to be etched with the memories of all that he had been through in his life. While his wife shone with elegance and cleverness that immediately drew people to her, he was much more reserved and distant. And most importantly, experience had taught Bai Qian as well as her brothers that their father did not like to repeat things - they had learned to tell when his words were to be taken seriously. And now was definitely one of those occasions.

“Of course not,” Bai Qian lifted her chin. “We’re not children, Dad.”

“Yes,” Bai Zhi raised his brows teasingly. “Twenty thousand years of education at Kunlun and the amount of time your brothers have spent guiding you, that is the least we can expect from you: to not be like children.”

He then turned on his heels and started walking toward the outside of the hall. The Fox Empress, however, lingered.

“Now, listen to me,” she said with the same tone that had been in her husband’s voice, only with a more stiffened face. “In the past, I may have given you all the impression that as members of the Nine Tailed Fox Family, you are gifted individuals and free to do as you please. That is true to some extent, but it does not mean you can go out of your way to offend any of my guests - especially these guests. And I do expect you to behave as young leaders of Qingqiu and not a group of overanxious children who have never been taught the basic manners.”

A hint in the Fox Empress’ voice suggested she thought they fit more into the second category.

“You have been introduced to some of the guests and spoken to them yourselves; you know how they are in general - they do not like to be ambushed with questions. Thus, I will remind you again that unless you know a particular guest personally, approach them with caution and civility.”

“Yes,” all three of them muttered.

“Fengjiu,” Bai Shi’s eyes suddenly turned to the little fox who was, at the moment, staring at her knees and tapping her foot on the floor blankly. “Are you sure you want to keep wearing that?” She pointed at Fengjiu’s anklet.

“This?” Fengjiu’s face went scarlet and it looked like she was starting to panic. “You know I’ve always had this. I… I understand what you and my dad has explained to me, I promise I’ll remember your advice. This is just my way of...”

“Fengjiu,” the Fox Empress held up a hand. “I know you’ve always had the golden bells. I merely mean that whatever it is that’s attached to it looks a little out of place, that is all. But you are free to do as you wish.”

Fengjiu took a deep breath, brushing the hair from her forehead and looking down while Bai Zhen silently sniggered. The Fox Empress shook her head helplessly and left them.

“I wonder how most of the guests will be arriving?” asked Fengjiu excitedly.

“I depends on the guest, obviously,” answered Bai Qian. “Most of them will likely sword-ride, that’s the most convenient way. Some other guests have -- well - ”

“Their unique way of travelling, since they are very -- er -- peculiar immortals,” Bai Zhen finished. “You saw how Lord Puhua arrived, I thought for a moment he was going to attack the place with his lightning rod.”

Bai Qian and Fengjiu burst out in laughter as they remembered when Lord Puhua had shot down from the sky and landed right in front of them with a rod in his hand, silver smoke swirling around him, making the three of them jolt and take a defensive stance.


...



Soon, a few guests who had chosen less shocking manners of arriving were starting to appear at the walkway that led to the grand hall. They greeted each other and their hosts and commented on the views they had seen on their way to the Fox Emperor’s abode. Conversation began to fill the space.

And just as Fengjiu was about to utter her twentieth complaint about how Zheyan always liked to keep them waiting, a sudden musical sound made them shoot their heads up up at the blue sky. From among the white clouds, the familiar azure phoenix with a fiery tail was spreading its wings towards them. When it got near, with a small flash of light, Zheyan took the bird’s place and slowly approached them.

“Zheyan!” Bai Qian cried excitedly, running toward him along with Fengjiu.

“We’ve missed you!” said Fengjiu. Zheyan grinned back at them both as his feet touched the ground.

“I know you have,” he said with a smirk, patting Fengjiu on the shoulder. “Conversation with me is irreplaceable.” Then he tilted his head. “I trust you both have learnt interesting things during your time here. That was the Fox Empress’ intention after all.”

“I’ve learnt a thing or two,” Fengjiu remarked. “And I've been enjoying the preparation for the Gathering immensely.”

“I’ve learnt more than I wanted to,” Bai Qian rolled her eyes.

Zheyan laughed and nodded understandingly, “we’ll talk.”

Another flash of light appeared in the sky. They all looked up to see an old man dressed in plain gray. He was slowly stepping down on what looked like invisible stairs with a small stick in his arm, though it didn’t seem like he needed it for support for he was walking with his back straight and a certain serenity. Quickly, the three of them came to join Bai Qian’s parents and Bai Zhen.

When he was in closer sight, Bai Qian could see that the man’s forehead was scrunched. His lips were a thin line and his white hair was tightly put up in a bun, held secure by a simple wooden pin. In fact, everything about the old man was so brilliantly simple that it made him stand out in the crowd.

“Yue Lao,” said Bai Qian’s father while she, Bai Zhen, and Fengjiu politely bowed to the man.

The Man of the Moon nodded at them, briefly yet openly glancing down at their feet before looking back up at the Fox Emperor and Zheyan. They exchanged a few remarks and went on to greet the other guests.

Bai Qian looked at her brother and Fengjiu, both of whom simply glanced back at her with clueless shrugs.

Not too long afterward, two silver puffs of smoke appeared over their heads. Donghua and his assistant, the Star Lord, materialized and descended as the smoke vanished. Landing, the former ruler of all the realms was warmly greeted by the rest of the guests as he and Si Ming made their way to Bai Qian’s parents.

Taking a deep breath, Fengjiu turned and walked in their direction, the little bells on her anklets making small silvery sounds.

From where she stood, Bai Qian could see the Lord of Numerous Treasures arriving on his mount, which seemed to be a phoenix of sort. The memory of her and Lijing battling his former mount down at Kunlun mountain suddenly flashed before her. She couldn’t help but smile bitterly.

Just when Bai Qian decided to follow Fengjiu, a sudden dazzling flash of light swept across the sky. She looked up to see a familiar figure in a billowing cloak descending, behind him several more figures.

Not wasting any time, Bai Qian immediately started walking toward them as they too were approaching. For some reason, she was feeling quite panicky. Changshan, Diefeng, Zilan, and Yanzhi slowly came into view behind Moyuan. The temptation to run to him first was strong. Despite all, the simple fact remained that they had been apart for a long time. But Bai Qian knew very well now was not a good time to test her parents’ temper, especially when they had given her, Bai Zhen, and Fengjiu a clear speech on ‘behavior expected from young leaders’ earlier.

“Seventeenth!” exclaimed her Seniors as they came face-to-face. Yanzhi was looking rather mournful but she smiled nonetheless. Zilan stood next to her, his eyes gleaming as he was giving Bai Qian his widest grin.

“Shifu,” said Bai Qian, slightly dropping her head. She could see from the corner of her eyes how Diefeng’s brows briefly furrowed, possibly because her bow to Moyuan had been too casual. Though he simply shrugged, seemingly chalking it up to the effect of all the excitement from the gathering.

“Seventeenth,” replied Moyuan with a nod.

“I thought you’d be here at the same time as Zheyan,” said Bai Qian, turning back to her Seniors.

“We would have,” Changshan exhaled. “But when we got near the gate, Shifu gave us a long… well…” he cleared his throat, sneaking a nervous glance at Moyuan, “a few reminders about the immortals we’ll be seeing here.”

At that time, Yanzhi quietly bowed to Moyuan and left them. It took Bai Qian a while to remember that as the sole heir to the throne, it was Yanzhi’s duty to represent the Ghost Tribe at gatherings such as this. She looks different, Bai Qian quietly sighed, like someone who woke up one day and found the weight of the whole world on her shoulders. Watching her graceful figure walking past them and into the crowd, Bai Qian felt quite grateful for her family. She could not imagine what she would do should she be left alone in the world without a single person to rely on. Would she ever find the strength to stand up straight, to maintain composure with such elegance?

“Seventeenth?” Moyuan gently touched her arm. Bai Qian looked back at him. A current of warmth that seemed to be coming from his hand made her blush. Behind him, her three Seniors were discussing something among themselves. Bai Qian heard Changshan say something that sounded like ‘but it was long’ and Diefeng utter his disapproval.

Bai Qian blinked as Moyuan was giving her a curious look. Frankly, she found the fact that he was standing in front of her a little too good to be true. For the past few days, Bai Qian had been coming up with many reasons why she should not expect his arrival - his injuries from the battle, Yehua’s presence at Kunlun - and many scenarios that could have prevented his coming so that she would not be too disappointed if he would decide not to turn up. After all, it was a widely known fact in all the realms that the God of War did not care for social gatherings.

“What is with that look?” Moyuan suddenly asked, his eyes locked on hers, making Bai Qian wonder. The stare he was giving her was more intense than it should be. “Did you doubt that I would come?”

“I wasn’t too sure,” she replied truthfully.

“Good,” Moyuan smiled. “I admit I never like it very much when other people are too sure of my intentions.”

Only when he started chuckling did Bai Qian realize it had been a joke.

To hide the fact that she was uncertain about how to react to this, Bai Qian looked away. She could feel Moyuan’s eyes follow her as she looked blankly to the side. However, as Bai Qian saw Lord Puhua walking around and greeting the other guests, she turned back at him instantly. Was it the right or the left shoulder? Her lips pressed together. That was the only aspect she could not remember clearly.

“Moyuan,” It was her father’s voice. Bai Qian turned around to see he and Zheyan striding towards them, his arms wide open. “How are you?”

“Quite well, thank you,” replied Moyuan.

“Zheyan,” he said, still keeping his eyes on the God of War. “How are Moyuan’s injuries? Anything too serious?”

“No,” Zheyan said after a few moments. “Not anymore.”

“Are you sure? If any of his injuries still need attention, I’d like to be informed now.”

“I’m sure.” The Old Phoenix nodded.

“Good, very good,” nodded Bai Zhi, whose conspicuous smile was growing wider. “Can you wield a sword?”

“Yes,” replied Moyuan with a small smile, his eyes narrowing.

“Then do.”

One moment after Bai Qian had seen her father’s eyes flash dangerously, the Fox Emperor lifted himself up in the air and zoomed backward a considerable distance. Before anyone could react, he summoned his weapon - the long staff - and like a flash of lightning, hurled towards Moyuan, swinging the staff across the air a few times and pointing it straight at him.

Within one split second, Moyuan waved his hands to the side to remove his disciples, including Bai Qian, who were all diving in front of him like a reflex, from the site, then summoned his own sword just in time to block the forceful strike from Bai Zhi.

Then, in front of multiple pairs of gaping eyes, the two soared upward.

Looking over her shoulders, Bai Qian could see Zheyan was not too surprised. His hand was on his forehead, probably regretting he had not been more specific with his answer earlier, while Donghua smirked at the scene as if he was enjoying a good joke. A great many other guests also only watched with a look of pleasure on their faces. This did not surprise Bai Qian since these immortals must have witnessed far stranger things in their lives.

But before they knew it, the two men had descended from the air with the long staff and the sword still pushed against each other, tips pointing at their opponents’ faces. The Fox Emperor was the first to retreat his weapon, quite forcefully, making a screeching sound against Xuanyuan.

He swung the staff sideways and slammed it on the ground, brushing his long robe aside, jerking his head with a smirk and a raise of his brow.

“Welcome to the Eastern Forest,” he said as though the fight had been a welcome feast.

Still in great shock, Bai Qian and her seniors watched as Moyuan said his ‘thank you’. And before Bai Qian could ask what in heaven’s name that was all about, the Fox Empress had arrived at her husband’s side with a smile as mysterious as his. Considering what her father had just done, Bai Qian believed whatever her mother had in mind would not do Moyuan any good. Though thankfully, she only politely gave a small bow of her head.

“Lovely to have you here, High God Moyuan.”

“The pleasure is mine,” nodded Moyuan. Waving his hand back at Zilan, Diefeng and Changshan, he said, “my disciples.”

Still bewildered by what had happened, the three of them slowly stepped forward and bowed.

“Welcome,” said the Fox Emperor, his expression changed from challenging to kind as he set eyes on the Kunlun disciples. Then, having noticed the stunned look on their faces, he laughed brightly, winking at them. “Worry not, children; that is how we usually greet.”

Bai Qian, who didn’t want to comment that that was an awful way to greet someone, felt it was quite unfair that her mother had lectured her and Fengjiu about proper behavior this morning while the Fox Emperor had just outright attacked a guest.

When it came to their attention that there had been a few new arrivals, Bai Qian’s parents excused themselves, assuring them they would be back. Changshan deeply inhaled as they pleasantly walked away, still at loss for words. Next to him, Zilan had a similar reaction.

“Shifu!” said Diefeng, his voice quite alarmed.

Moyuan simply shook his head to calm them down as they exchanged puzzled looks. And Bai Qian was particularly proud to admit to her Seniors that just like them, she had no idea why anyone would think that launching an attack at each other was a good way for two people to greet.

“It seems guests from the Nine Heavens are here,” said Zheyan suddenly when several puffs of silver smoke took place on the ground far on the other side. “One of the princes, it seems,” he squinted, taking a guess.

“The royal family?” Moyuan turned. “I didn’t know they were invited.”

Bai Qian lifted her head. There was no visible change of expression on his face, nor did he seem angry. But standing next to him, she felt a certain chill spreading in the air, etched in his voice as he kept his eyes in the direction Zheyan had just pointed to.

“They are friends of Princess Fengjiu - Prince Liansong and Chengyu,” said Zheyan. “She insisted that they be invited.”

“Ah,” Moyuan nodded, taking a breath. “That makes a difference.”

Bai Qian frowned, her eyes seeking Zheyan’s. However, around them, a few guests had started to walk over to meet the God of War. Bai Qian took this as a cue that it was time she continued her role as one of the hosts and went on to address the other guests.