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

Chapter 12 - The Gathering of Immortals

Part 2

written by LalaLoop
edited by kakashi

“Word has it that the Man of the Moon never lies,” said Yanzhi as she pushed her sword against Bai Qian’s. “He is extremely knowledgeable, doesn’t speak very often, but when he does, every remark will be the absolute truth.”

“So I’ve heard,” breaking free from the position and retracting her sword, Bai Qian took a stance to get ready for a magic duel. “Maybe that’s why he’s never seen in the Nine Heavens.”

They both broke into laughter.

With Zilan, Changshan, and Diefeng gone to take a stroll around the forest. Bai Qian had taken the opportunity to convince Yanzhi to practice magic and sword fighting with her. Despite the fact that the incident with the Bell had taken them all by surprise, she felt quite ashamed about how she had been powerless against Qingcang and his assassins. Simple practice would not yield any immediate result, but it was certainly making her feel better. Bai Qian had also discovered that the Ghost Princess was in fact a formidably skilled fighter who would have defeated her much sooner if she hadn’t been blessed with an early ascension, which meant slightly higher powers.

“Have you ever talked to him?” asked Yanzhi, sending a spell in Bai Qian’s direction. The latter quickly deflected it and sent back a spell, aiming to disarm the opponent.

“My parents have forbidden us to disturb any of the guests unless they are willing to return the conversation.”

Sending spells back and forth at each other, Bai Qian and Yanzhi carried on their conversation of Yue Lao as well as the rest of the guests and how each of them was wise and mysterious in their own way.

“I admit,” Yanzhi shielded herself from a spell. “It’s tempting - the idea of getting to hear the ‘absolute truth’. My brother could use some advice. He’s always been such a...”

The smile on the Ghost Princess’ face faded. And so did Bai Qian’s laughter. Yanzhi raised her arm to block the spell that had been thrown in her direction, her expression blank.

“I keep forgetting that he's no longer here,” Yanzhi threw her sword on the ground and started to remove the bands she had tied around her wrist to keep her sleeves in place. “Sometimes when I walk to the mortal world recently, I still think he would be there by the pond near Ziming Palace, waiting to hear my stories about the people I’ve met, the mortal food and wine I’ve tried. And then I remember…” she forced a laugh. “And then I would forget again…”

Bai Qian stood and listened in silence. Her world suddenly felt small. Her problems of the present suddenly felt incredibly minor compared to others’.

“But you know,” Yanzhi continued, her eyes looking blankly into the distance. “No matter how angry my second brother and I were, we’d never said a word of spite to each other in all our lives. That’s something I’m proud of.”

Bai Qian frowned at Yanzhi’s last words, feeling mildly amused. Although she knew for certain it was a coincidence, she could not help wondering if Yanzhi and Zilan had conspired to get her to say something pleasant to the God of War, whom she had not seen in a few days since his arrival.

“Shifu,” she knocked. There was no answer. Bai Qian cautiously pushed the door open and peered into the room to see it was in fact empty. She took a look around at the room and at the view outside. Fine, she could wait a little. If Moyuan did not turned up, it wouldn’t be her fault. And Zilan and Yanzhi wouldn’t be able to say she had been thoughtless.

Just then, she heard the sound of several people approaching.

“And you, what were you thinking?” said the Old Phoenix’ voice. “His wounds could have easily opened up again because of that sudden attack.”

Then, the Fox Emperor’s familiar coarse voice made her jump. “I was thinking he was telling the truth. He said he was ‘quite well’. How silly of me.”

“Shall I send for your disciples, High God Moyuan?” It was Bai Zhen.

Another time then, thought Bai Qian as she walked towards the balcony, ready to cloud jump out of the guest wing. It was one thing to enter Moyuan’s room and inquire after his health and entirely another to explain to this many people why she was in here uninvited. As Bai Qian reached the threshold, a grunting sound from Moyuan made her stop and quickly step behind the curtain, hoping to hear Zheyan say it was no matter. However, Bai Qian discovered a moment too late that it was a mistake for a shield was raised around the room, blocking her way out immediately after Zheyan had said ‘sit down’, which she assumed was directed at Moyuan.

Jerking her head in frustration, Bai Qian could only hope they were too busy to notice her presence. As Zheyan had once assured her, powerful immortals like them did not require much effort to sense intruders.

“Where are all of your disciples?” asked the Fox Emperor.

“I let them go and explore the place.”

“All of them? Shouldn’t at least one of them be here in case you die?”

Bai Qian grimaced. She was no stranger to her father’s bold speech, yet sometimes he still managed to astonish her with his bluntness.

“Considering the long trip they had to take to see the Eastern Forest,” replied Moyuan. “It would be wrong to keep them in one place just because I have not the strength to go about.”

“Let me see if any of the wounds need tending to,” suggested Zheyan.

“Why did you think inviting Shaoxing here would be a good idea, Moyuan?” asked the Fox Emperor abruptly. “She is not even welcome in the Nine Heavens.”

“I never said you should invite the Northern Sea King and his wife here,” answered the God of War. Bai Qian leaned closer to the curtain at the mention of her former friend. “I said Bai Qian would not object to the idea if you were to do so. She might even be glad. And the Fox Empress clearly agreed with my view.”

“Why would my daughter be glad to have someone who has betrayed her trust here?” continued the Fox Emperor’s astonished voice.

“I suggest you ask her if she truly hates Shaoxing as claimed. From what I have been told, I believe she would appreciate it if some equality and respect were granted to the less fortunate. Just because they are not welcome at the Celestial Court does not mean they would face the same difficulty here. After all, our definition of ‘worthiness’ is very different from that of the royal family. Well -- most of them.”

Bai Qian let out an inaudible gasp - she had never wanted to rush to Moyuan and embrace him more in her life. And despite the fact that she was stuck inside a shield without knowing when she would get to leave, she could not help smiling - she hadn't expected him to remember given all that had happened since their talk in the study regarding the matter.

“Seems like your injuries are fine,” said Zheyan’s voice. “Do you need anything else?”

“Something for the headache, please. My head is about to split open.”

There was a long pause.

Suddenly, Bai Qian felt her waist being encircled tightly. Looking down, she realized it was a light ray that was, to her horror as she turned around, coming from the Fox Emperor’s palm. He shot his hand forward, forcefully lifting Bai Qian up in the air and out above the water body surrounding the place. The Old Phoenix, Moyuan, who was wearing a cloak over his white garments, and her forth brother quickly came into view. Dangling about in midair, Bai Qian noticed the God of War did not look to be in too terrible a state of health. But of course, she reminded herself, appearance could be deceptive, especially when concealing his real condition had always been Moyuan’s forte.

“May I ask what you are doing in High God Moyuan’s room?” The Fox Emperor raised his voice.

“I was…” Bai Qian stuttered, struggling to break free from the bond around her waist. “I was looking for Shifu…”

“Behind the curtains?”

“Put her down, Bai Zhi,” said Moyuan with a look of mild disbelief while Zheyan, who was too familiar with the way things worked in the Fox family, quietly laughed. Bai Zhen simply shook his head with a smirk like he did every time Bai Qian was scolded by their parents.

“Eavesdropping is unacceptable,” her father loudly teased.

“I wasn’t eavesdropping! You were loud!” Bai Qian protested. “And I didn't ask to be locked inside the shield.”

“Why are you here?” The Fox Emperor pushed her further away from the railings. “Tell the truth or I’ll seal your powers and drop you. And you will have to swim all the way back.”

“No, you won’t,” Bai Qian raised her voice to challenge him back, glancing at the water below her feet. “You’ve used that threat too many times, it’s starting to lose its effect!”

The Fox Emperor feigned an offended look. Then, when it seemed he had realized it would be pointless to keep her out there all day, he pulled on the light ray and brought Bai Qian back to the balcony.

She quickly straightened herself and pushed her hair back as soon as she landed. “It’s not fair. I would’ve been able to break the of spell if I hadn’t been weakened by sword practice today.”

“Excuses,” sneered the Fox Emperor as he started to walk toward the exit. “Whatever it is, make it brief.” Then, he said to the rest of them before disappearing through the door, “I will rejoin my party now.”

Moyuan nodded and slowly walked to where the dais was and sat down in meditation pose without another word.

“We have to go to the potion room now to make the Balance elixir for High God Moyuan,” said Bai Zhen as soon as their father was out of sight. “It’s rather serious.”

“Serious?” Bai Qian repeated uncomprehendingly.

“Yes. And only you can help, I’m afraid.”

“What am I to do?”

“We need heartblood of a nine-tailed fox,” Bai Zhen peered closer. His eyes became slits while hers were wide open. “A lot of it. Another fox’ blood wouldn't work. It has to be yours, remember?”

For a moment, Bai Qian’s heart gave a jolt. She shot a look back at Moyuan, who didn’t bother to say anything. But a sigh and a slight shake of his head made it all clear.

“Is that so?” she turned back to her brother with her hands on her hips. “Then you should know that whether an elixir to rebalance one’s energy requires blood depends on individual cases. But even when it does, only the blood of a magical creature with natural healing energy or of someone who shares the same source of inner power with the person who’s experiencing disruption would work. Since I am neither, my heartblood is no use here.The two most viable choices are Zheyan and Yehua.”

Bai Qian paused to savor the defeated look on her brother’s face. “You can take a few drops of blood from the Lord of Numerous Treasures’ mount too if you’re that desperate. It’s a phoenix,” she added.

Rolling his eyes, Bai Zhen mumbled, “since when are you interested in Potions?”

“I’m not,” Bai Qian scoffed. “I just pick up things the Old Phoenix says even though I spend much less time with him than you do.”

“Do your research next time,” Zheyan snickered at Bai Zhen as the latter retraced the Fox Emperor’s steps after having bowed to a closed-eyed Moyuan. Then, to Bai Qian, he said in a low voice, “I’ll be back shortly with the potion.”

Bai Qian simply shrugged. In fact, she wasn’t so sure if she wanted to stay anymore. But since she had announced that she’d come to look for Moyuan, leaving without saying anything wasn’t an option. Turning back to Moyuan, she let out a small gasp when she realized he’d been keeping his eyes on her.

“Well,” he chuckled. “I confess I’ve always been worried about the hardship you’ve had to deal with in growing up with four older brothers. But I see you are doing just fine.”

“Of course I am,” Bai Qian grinned, feeling quite relieved that he had initiated the conversation.

“Well, what is it?” he asked after a while.

“Sorry?” Bai Qian tilted her head.

“You were looking for me.”

“Oh,” Bai Qian nervously tucked the strand of hair behind her ears, starting to regret she hadn’t fled from the room when she’d had the chance. “Well… I’ve never gotten around to ask you about all your injuries from the battle since I haven’t spoken to you in...” she paused, wishing she hadn’t mentioned this. “How’s your headache?”

“I’m fine,” he answered right away. “It’s mostly because of my connection to Yehua’s inner powers. He still experiences disruptions once in awhile, considering he was nearly sent to Nothingness last time.”

Before Bai Qian could say anything else, the strips on the side of his robe suddenly caught her eyes. She stood silent for a brief second then stepped closer.

“You -- er --,” she pointed at them, “-- missed one.”

Moyuan looked down at where she was pointing. Stepping forward and getting down on her knees, she started to fasten the undone strips.

“As a matter of fact” he said. Bai Qian looked up and once again was met with a strong gaze. “I am glad you are here. I have something to ask you.”

Bai Qian nodded and retrieved her hands from his robe after having made sure all the strips were tied up. Though she thought Moyuan was looking as though he was still debating whether he should ask her the question, whatever it was.

Letting out a soft breath, he said cautiously, “About your eyes...”

“My eyes?” Bai Qian repeated without waiting for him to finish.

“Yes, I know about it,” said Moyuan.

“What do you mean you ‘know’?” Bai Qian’s eyes narrowed. Horror-struck, questions started to flood her mind. And at once, she understood the intense gaze he had given her when they’d met in the grand yard. Her heart started to beat at a rapid pace. How could he know? Was it Si Ming or Lord Donghua? But the Star Lord had solemnly promised he wouldn’t tell anyone and Lord Donghua was far too uninterested to mention the subject. It could not have been the Old Phoenix, Bai Qian furiously thought, he too had promised...

“I know the severity of the damage that has been done. And…”

“Who told you, Shifu?” she cut off his sentence, springing up, feeling smoke coming off of her head.

“It doesn’t matter,” he said.

“It matters,” Bai Qian snapped. “I want to know which of the people I have confided in betrayed me. Was it Zheyan? Because I’ve specifically told him that my ascension trial was my own concern. How many times do I have to explain that whatever happened is a matter between me and Yehua and part of a trial: an ordinary thing that all immortals go though. Even my parents know to leave it alone. Can’t people understand that? I don’t want anyone to ask questions or try to resolve it for me, you least of all.”

A slight look of offense flickered through his eyes and a stunned silence passed before he spoke again.

“Zheyan did not say anything about your trial, Seventeenth,” Moyuan said quietly.

His calm response to her outburst made Bai Qian slightly embarrassed. But she was in no mood to worry about manners at the moment.

“Then how do you know?”

“I merely want to know how you are coping with the injuries,” he said again, barely veiling the fact that he was refusing to answer the question. “That’s all that matters: your eyes and the burn on your wrist from the Crimson Fire, which we all know leaves permanent scars. Those are not light injuries. I’m simply --” he cleared his throat, “-- concerned.”

“I don’t care how concerned you are. Anything that has to do with the hardship I had to suffer to gain cultivation or to ascend, I’d like other people to stay away from. I don’t need you and I certainly don’t need to hear you speak as if I were a weakling who couldn’t even handle the consequences of a trial.”

Another silence followed her assertion, which Moyuan greeted with an infuriatingly patient expression. Bai Qian felt her ears starting to ring from the anger, an anger that she herself could not fully understand. She only knew that she wanted very much to yell at him to stop caring about others for once in his life. After all, it was the tendency to care too much for her, for his brother and disciples that had brought him troubles countless of times.

“I am well aware that you don’t need me,” he took a deep breath and spoke in his calmest voice. “But listen…”

“Shifu,” she glared at him, her own voice becoming cold and clear. “You let me deal with my own trials from now on.”

Wheeling around to leave, Bai Qian felt hot in the head as she saw the Old Phoenix standing right behind her. There was no teasing smirk, no tilting of the head, only pure astonishment on his face. Agitated, she ran past him and out the doorway, desperately praying that Moyuan was not following. Because if he was, she would have no choice but to give in and let herself fall into his arms.

Bai Qian kept running away from the guest wing, through the corridors and down the stairs until she was sure she had put a significant distance between them. Not that Moyuan would not be able to catch up if he wanted to. But that was the point, he would not, Bai Qian assured herself. If there was one thing she could always count on Moyuan to have, it was pride. He would never run after someone who had told him to stay away in the plainest words possible.

After having caught her breath, Bai Qian opened her hand. The Kunlun fan materialized. Now would be a good time to practice some more, she thought as she realized she was standing where she and Yanzhi had practiced sword fighting this morning. But before she could extend the fan, some calm footsteps from behind made her spin around.

“Oh, it’s you,” said Bai Qian to the Old Phoenix, turning back to face the pond.

“Xiaowu,” said Zheyan’s small yet stern voice when he had reached her. “Why must you always say things you don’t mean? What harm was done that you had to punish him for it? Surely you don’t find joy in doing this, do you?”

“No, I don’t,” she replied with complete honesty. “I just couldn’t help it. Just like how he can’t help putting his pride above everything else, above his own well being.”

Zheyan gave no answer but only a long, perplexed look.

“But I mean it when I say he should never try to deal with my trials again,” she continued. “Considering what my last trial has done to him.”

“Ah,” the Old Phoenix stepped closer to her side. “Puhua has explained to you a thing or two about how lightning trials work, I see. What exactly did he tell you?”

“That no one in the right mind would ever think about taking a lightning trial for someone else,” she replied. “And he said enough for me to understand why Shifu keeps sending me away every time he’s hurt. He doesn't want me to be reminded of the incident, is that right? Now that he needs to be sure debt isn't a contributing factor in my decision. How refined.”

Turning to Zheyan, she lamented, “I used to think that the pain when the bolts struck down and its echo a few days afterwards were all there was to the consequences.”

“You are not to blame. I used to assume so too for a long time.” Zheyan chuckled, “but I’m nervous to think what conclusion you have drawn from the knowledge.”

“Perhaps someone who’s willing to be without me should be without me?” said Bai Qian after a while.

A bemused smile appeared on Zheyan’s face. “Well, that is a little severe,” he folded his arms.

“No, Zheyan! Don’t you understand!” Bai Qian turned to face him. “Can’t you see what this means? He doesn’t trust me. Despite everything he has said, he’s never trusted me!”

Bai Qian slammed her Kunlun fan onto the ground with such force that it would have shattered the object into pieces had it been a regular fan. Strings of tears began to spill down her cheeks. Zheyan slowly stepped closer to her side.

“He doesn’t trust that I stay with him because I want to. He suspects it is being done out of sympathy and obligation.” She closed her eyes. “Sometimes I hang on to the childish belief that just by being there I can make his pain go away. But it seems that my being there is now questionable. Caution and rationality have persuaded him to put up a shield against anything that seems unconvincing.”

“Yes,” Zheyan looked down, gently smiling. “And no. What is the matter today, High God Moyuan’s best disciple? You’re falling below standard, I'm afraid. Less than half of your ‘analysis’ is correct. Unless you’re being wrong on purpose. Things aren’t as black and white as that.”

“Aren’t they?” she said acidly. “I’ll tell you what’s black and white: he is the God of War; everything is a battle. And he hates losing.”

“I see,” said Zheyan in a tone that yielded no indication of agreement or opposition.

“He doesn’t want sympathy, is that it? I’ll make sure he’ll see nothing but sympathy from me.”

“My dear,” he gently reached up to her face. The genuinity and the rarely seen seriousness in his eyes made her wonder. “I do not believe you are capable of such brutality.”

Bai Qian let out a sob as the truth of those words jabbed her. “Maybe not,” she wiped off the tears that were dripping down her chin. “But I am marvelous at keeping up the impression.”

Zheyan quietly watched her as she drew in a sharp breath before continuing, as though he knew she had not meant a single word of what she had said, that she would correct herself any moment.

“There are times,” she said between sobs, “when I want to rush at him and shatter him, shake that calmness out of him, and beg him to show himself some mercy...”

“So why don’t you?” he asked in a small whisper.

Bai Qian remained silent.

“You see,” his laugh was dry. He stroked her hair a few times and said, “I feel rather guilty being the one listening to all of this. It feels almost as though I’m depriving someone else of his basic right.”

“Zheyan,” she breathed, looking at him through the veils of tears, shaking her head. “Never--”

“Never tell Moyuan anything that might make him happy,” sighed the Old Phoenix. “Yes, I promise.”

Chapter 12, Part 3