Fanfiction: Mo Yuan and Shao Wan - Chapter 79 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 79

written by kakashi
edited by Panda

Ruoshui River. The place where he had sacrificed his soul for the realms, uttering those words - a promise, a sacred bond - that had compelled him to defy the Nothingness and to return despite the odds, despite the consequences. Also, it was the place where he had consoled a heartbroken Bai Qian over Ye Hua’s demise, even though his own despair had been so great, living on had felt like a punishment. His brother, his unfortunate, precious twin, who had suffered so much already even before being born - he had failed to keep him safe, despite his promise to their dying father.

Below him, the dark water flowed unceasingly, caring nothing about the pain this place had brought him and so many others, having long since washed away all the blood that had been spilled at its shores in previous battles. If only he could be like the river, moving forever forward, unaffected…but since he could not easily forget the past, he should at least attempt to do better this time.

Indeed, he would not make the same mistakes again. He would make sure to protect those who were important to him at all cost.

“You look tired, Da-Ge,” said Ye Hua beside him, his eyes resting on him with concern.

“It’s no matter,” Mo Yuan replied, “I just mulled over what Shao Wan expects from me and what concessions to make.”

Both brothers gazed down onto what was going to be a battlefield soon. There was tension in the air, the excitement and fear of thousands of waiting soldiers, making their steeds want to stamp their feet, throw their heads, and bite the bit, their excited breaths making little white puffs in the cold air.

They had marched all of yesterday to be at Ruoshui River in time. The Demons? Nowhere in sight.

Of course she would make him wait.

His brother looked very fine in his dark armor, his signature color that was too somber for his age, yet carried so much meaning. As the future ruler of the realms, he had to appear stern, collected and capable at all times, but Mo Yuan knew how kind the heart was that beat underneath the black, deceiving clothes. His brother’s open concern moved Mo Yuan, but it also worried him. It was him who had been tasked to protect his younger sibling, not the other way round. It was him who was tasked to fight the battles against their enemies, nobody else.

“Forgive me, brother,” Ye Hua said resolutely, “but could you not have asked her?”

Mo Yuan took a deep breath. Could he have? There had been an angry demon army rushing towards him and the overly-anxious young disciple he had brought along. In addition, Shao Wan had called him her “most reliable enemy” and the fool that he was had felt proud to be called that. Truth be told, it had made him tongue-tied to see her. Once he had felt able to talk again, it had already been too late.

“All I know is she isn’t expecting me to lose to her.”

“Would she let you beat her?”

Mo Yuan laughed, that thought was truly amusing. “Never. She wants me to fight her, but beyond that? I am quite certain it has something to do with Cheng Yin… but you see, Ye Hua. She has always been much better at adapting her strategies to new situations. She is a natural born fighter, letting the battle itself guide her, whereas I...I am the opposite. I analyze, I think, then I act.”

Ye Hua nodded.

“She knows me well, she knows my strengths and she knows my weaknesses like nobody else. If she wants me to go in blind, she does not want me to think too much. Which… had me think endlessly about why she would not want me to think too much.”

Ye Hua chuckled. He lifted a gauntleted hand from the reins and put it on his brother’s arm. “I imagine she is laughing somewhere right now because she knows.”

Mo Yuan sighed but smiled. “This is the only certainty, yes.”

“You have done all you could,” said Ye Hua, more soberly, as always so reasonable and supportive. “You have instructed us all what to expect of the demons. How they fight impulsively and how we will have to be adaptive in our own fighting style. I am very eager for this battle.”

Mo Yuan looked at Ye Hua. If he could, he would lock him away too. Him and Si Yin, together with Shao Wan, in the deepest cave of Kunlun. Even if they destroyed his mountain, he would give everything to know them safe.

“Will you promise me,” Mo Yuan said to him, putting his own hand on top of his brother’s, “to think of your wife first and of your unborn child first? And of the son that needs you? Do not jeopardize yourself. You hear me?”

Ye Hua looked away, his mouth a thin line. “And what will you think of, Da-Ge?” he then said quietly. “Will you make the same promise? You have died once for the realms. It is enough.”

Mo Yuan did not answer. As the God of War, he was duty bound. He had little choice, if worse came to worse. And yet, it was the same conversation his thoughts returned to, over and over again:

“You will do what is your duty to do, I understand and honor that. But I want you to promise me this, Celestial: that you will not throw away your life wantonly.”

“A life is never sacrificed lightly,” he had answered. “It is not a thing I need to promise.”

“Good. Then I want you to promise me that, if we meet on the battlefield, you will fight me to the fullest of your abilities.”

He had hesitated slightly. “I… yes. I owe you that.”

“Good. Then promise me that you will try to kill me if killing me is necessary to win the war.”

So you want me to try to kill you, but not to really kill you, is that it, Shao Wan?

They sat in their saddles for quite a while, in utter silence. Later, as if to mock their somber mood, the sun broke through the thick clouds for the first time in weeks and bathed the mountain tops opposite them in a warm, glowing light. It was almost beautiful, the scenery, despite the harrowing memories of battles past.

Somewhere, far in the distance, something glittered.

“Here they come,” Mo Yuan said, straightening his back. Finally.

The Demon army was massive. Like a dark wave it rolled towards them, eventually spilling out from the valley and flooding the field across the river. Mo Yuan lifted his hand and the signal drummers below them started to beat the rhythm calling for battle formation. Soon, everybody was moving into position.

“I will go join Qian Qian now,” Ye Hua said, setting his horse in motion. “Be safe, brother.” Si Yin was with one of the divisions. She had insisted on being next to Ye Hua at all times and so Mo Yuan had placed Ye Hua in command of their right flank. A very important defensive position, but also the least likely to see heavy action on the first day, if at all.

As soon as Ye Hua disappeared from view, his 3rd Disciple approached and bowed. From afar, people would think he was Mo Yuan: quite deliberately, their armor and helmet looked similar enough. Mo Yuan dismounted and handed his disciple the reins of his warhorse. “Thank you, Lin Liang,” he said, “I pass command to you until I return.”

Lin Liang bowed again and then quickly mounted the horse. “I hope I will get the gestures right, Shifu,” he said, half joking and half serious, since Mo Yuan had not been happy last night about how 3rd had held his sword up into the air.

“At least try to draw some Celestial lightning towards you when you give the signal,” Mo Yuan reminded him. “Make it look real.”

3rd disciple nodded. No more words needed to be spoken between the two after this. As quickly as the gravelly path allowed, Mo Yuan hurried down towards a small division of waiting soldiers.

“Why are you not on your horse?” he asked Yi Mei Niang as soon as he had reached her.

“He doesn’t like me!” the Purple Queen complained. “He keeps trying to shake me off.”

“You need to show him you’re his master,” Mo Yuan said and quickly mounted the horse that had been saddled for him. Tian Gu had chosen it for him, a fast runner with enough fighting experience. “If you yield too easily to his antics, he will never change his behavior.”

Yi Mei Niang pulled an unhappy face and grumbled something, reluctantly putting her foot in the stirrup. Mo Yuan grabbed the horse’s reins and forcefully held him in place until the Purple Queen had mounted and sat securely in the saddle.

“I want you to stay close to me,” he told her sternly. “There is no time to wait for laggards.”

“I know. And I will, even though I think you are crazy and I fear my life will end soon.”

Mo Yuan lifted his eyebrows at her. He didn’t feel offended though. He had more pressing things on his mind than chastise demon women for their lack of respect.

“It may be the last opportunity I have to be honest with you, God of War,” the Purple Queen said demurely, “so I have decided to be entirely frank. I have also decided to invite you to my palace to discuss winemaking if we both survive this.”

Mo Yuan couldn’t help but smile a little. “I hardly travel but … I will come and visit you at your palace.”

“Good,” Yi Mei Niang whispered, “it may sound strange, but this makes me resolved not to die.”

He looked her over: she seemed uncomfortable in her battle armor and clearly was much better suited for pulling strings behind the scene. “I did ask for one of you. If this is so bothersome, you should have let the Blue King come with me.”

Yi Mei Niang scoffed. “I hate this war! I want it to be over as quickly as possible, of course I am much better suited to ensure that.”

Well, she had a point. Mo Yuan let his eyes travel over the small bunch of demon soldiers at his disposal. They were looking in his direction attentively. He had earned their trust by fighting them one on one and later in groups. Demons valued fights to increase their cultivation and apparently, fighting him had a great effect on their powers, so they had been very eager to have as many interactions as possible. He himself had used it as an opportunity to learn about demon fighting styles.

“I want to thank you for your bravery,” he addressed them. “Stay close. Blend in. Try not to get killed.”

They nodded. He had handpicked them from Purple’s and Blue’s forces, the best riders, the most imposing looking men. Now it was time for a bit of magic. He cast an illusion spell over them, changing their armors to look like the ones the Demon army in front of them were wearing. He did the same to his and Yi Mei Niang’s. He was rather satisfied with the results.

“Let’s head out,” he told them. “It will take us approximately three days.”


It took them three and a half days of hard riding to go around the Demon army and join it from the back. As Mo Yuan had expected, the sentries along the way led them through, fooled by the illusion, thinking they were scouts or parts of the rearguard. They found the camp and took note of the overall layout, the supplies, and the way the guard was organized. They went further without difficulties and soon came up against the main force.

The battle was still ongoing, as he had planned. He had instructed 3rd to engage the Demons for some time and then retreat, putting up impenetrable defenses around the Celestial positions. He had also told him to repeat the procedure in variations, using Tian Gu’s cavalry for surprise attacks from the side, to make it less obvious that the Celestials were stalling.

Yi Mei Niang was a very brave woman for somebody not used to riding. The pace had been brutal, the breaks kept to a minimum, yet she had not complained even once. She had an inner strength and resolve that Mo Yuan valued and her quick wits and scathing tongue were additional assets. Now that they were surrounded by Demons, she was riding side by side with him, telling him important details about their customs, superstitions, and codes of conduct.

Not for the first time, Mo Yuan had to admit to himself that he knew near to nothing about the Demon Tribe. Even though it was true that they had lived in seclusion for millennia, it was a clear failing on his part and he was glad he was steadily gaining knowledge that he could use to his advantage.

The next morning, they reached Shao Wan’s position. She shone brightly like a tall flame, even from afar, almost blinding him. She was standing atop a small ledge, not much different from the one he had used a few days ago on the other side, observing the battle, giving commands to the messengers that came to ask for her advice.

“You will retreat back to their camp, as discussed,” he instructed Yi Mei Niang, getting down from his horse, “prevent discovery at all cost.”

Yi Mei Niang nodded tensely. “You know what you’re doing, right? You’re not just pretending to be a strategic genius.”

“I’d rather have you concentrate on your own task,“ he lectured her, “I don’t need your concern. I will be back soon.”

Yi Mei Niang inclined her head and rode away with her men, still unsuspected by the demons around them.

Trusting her to know what to do, Mo Yuan began to walk up the narrow footpath that led to the ledge. To anybody watching, he had to look just like any messenger trying to reach their Commander. He was hopeful he would be able to talk to Shao Wan - he had questions. And if not, engaging her on that ledge seemed advantageous instead of fighting her amidst such a large army.

For all the intel he had gathered during this mission, he still had to find Cheng Yin. It was a confirmation of sorts with regards to Shao Wan’s plans, though not exactly comforting.

Before he could reach Shao Wan, he came up against four guards blocking his way.

“Who are you?” one of them barked and levelled a lance at him.

Mo Yuan sighed. He would rather do without these kind of petty obstacles.

“Let him through,” came Shao Wan’s command from above. Reluctantly, the guards stepped aside, glaring at him. Mo Yuan walked on, glaring back at the young Demon men with displeasure. They did look formidable and handsome, all of them, but from what he could fathom, their powers were barely High Immortal level.

Shao Wan was expecting him, hands on her hips. “You look good in demon armor,” she said, obviously not seeing a need for proper greetings. “So you got impatient again?”

“I guess I did,” he nodded. It was true, when it came to her, he was unusually impatient. He noticed that the brightness she emitted came from her armor. It reflected the sun like a thousand mirrors, forcing him to squint.

“I am impressed by how sneaky you can be,” she said and scowled a little. “I was not expecting you to crawl here in disguise like this.”

“I do not particularly like to do what my enemies expect me to do,” Mo Yuan answered, trying to find a good spot for a fight in the shade nearby. “You thought you can define the timing? I do not allow that. We fight when I am ready - and I am.”

He dissolved the illusion spell and undimmed his powers, summoning his sword. As soon as he faced her in his real armor, the light from her armor increased a thousandfold. It was like looking into the heart of a furnace, a brightness that threatened to blind him. Gritting his teeth, he turned his head away halfway and stepped into the shade, trying to draw her there as well.

She attacked. Surprisingly, she was using a sword herself, not a whip. So she still hasn’t got her weapon back, Mo Yuan thought as he dodged a whirled, attacked and blocked. Maybe I should be glad. The dazzling brightness forced him to close his eyes every time the light of the sun hit her. There was a sound, a low, grating humming that seemed to come from the armor, going straight into his head and making him feel dizzy.

He gritted his teeth again, redoubling his efforts. They continued to spar, and as always when they fought, it was vicious and forceful, their swords sending sparks into the air. He saw no need to hold back, since the point of this fight as far as he understood was to give the Demons a spectacle and Shao Wan deserved what he had promised to deliver: A fight, to the fullest of his abilities.

The ledge was not big enough, he had to restrict his movements. He tried to take the fight further up the mountain, but Shao Wan forced him down, right into the thick of staring Demon soldiers. He attempted to erect a protective bubble around them, but Shao Wan dissolved it. He noticed that the Demons did not try to attack him, and he understood: He was hers and they would not interfere. They even cleared an area for them, large enough so that their movements would not be hindered, and it got larger as the fight continued.

Mo Yuan had never fought Shao Wan with her full powers before. She clearly was carrying her feather with her and it made her lightning quick and her blows even more forceful than usual. Ever since he had known her, until this day, she had been missing a part of her soul. Now that she was whole, she was more deadly and more beautiful than ever before. He had always known that he could beat her, simply because she was impatient and rash and prone to make mistakes - but not anymore.

I might lose this battle, Mo Yuan thought, and in that moment of realization, he changed his style, in an attempt to buy himself some time to think. He even almost got a hit in because he surprised her, but she jumped out of range and took a more defensive stance.

Very clearly, there was magic in her armor that affected him and he had no defenses against it. The humming increased and it sounded like a song now, a song that was baiting him to lower his guard, to...

Dragon power, he realized.

It must be the dragon scales in her armor that had power over him, his next thought was, but then, the need to transform hit him so suddenly, he almost stumbled. “No!” he told the dragon, “no! It’s a trap!”

“I need to see her!” Golden Dragon grumbled, “she is calling me!”

“If I transform now, we are dead, you fool,” Mo Yuan told himself, “you know exactly how unstable we are during transformation. Stay put!”

He tried to force his animal instinct into submission, but that didn’t work, it only increased his befuddlement. Hastily defending against a new, forceful attack of hers, ceasing to suppress what could not be suppressed any longer, he removed all his carefully crafted inner wards at once. His Dragon instincts flooded his senses, overwhelming and powerful, but it was a good thing: There were times when his brain was not the key to success.

However, his eyes became even more sensitive to the bedazzling brightness and the pain in his head increased. Before he could succumb to his lower form’s strong desire to go towards the light, he summoned a thick black cloth to wrap tightly around his eyes. In absolute darkness, the pressure in his head decreased a little and the sound diminished to a soft murmuring, yet loud enough for him to hear and defend against.

Shao Wan stopped moving.

He strained his ears, ready for the next attack, but she stood still.

“What are you doing,” she yelled at him then.

“I thought it was much too easy,” he taunted her, his heavy breathing belying his cockiness, “I wanted to make our fight fairer.”

“Don’t mock me,” she hissed and attacked again.

Some of these scales are mine, Mo Yuan realized, listening more carefully to the armor’s song, where did the maker of this armor get them from?

He had to destroy them if he wanted to get out of here alive.

He jumped forward, very fast and daring, letting his dragon instincts override his natural caution. He dodged a defensive move from her and came up right in front of her. This one and this one and this one, he thought and ripped out the scales he could reach from his position, hitting some others with destructive force.

He stayed too close for too long, because being there was intoxicating, and as a consequence, Shao Wan got him across his left arm and shoulder. It was very painful even though his armor was not so easily damaged and he jumped to a safe distance to collect his wits and his breath.

He had only gotten a few of the scales out, but the magic was already less powerful and the eerie song rather soft. Rolling his damaged shoulder, he gripped his sword more tightly. The only problem was that he could hear her less well now . He still managed to dodge her next attack by focusing on the sounds her sword made in the air. He also realized something all of a sudden…somebody else was here. It was a very faint presence, an expertly hidden presence, that he would most likely not have picked up had he not been forced to use his other senses instead of his eyes. Was it…

“Fong Hung is back?” he whispered, suddenly feeling a sort of relief. She had someone to keep her safe again.

He concentrated on his fighting form in the exchange that followed, giving everybody who was watching a lesson in perfect swordsmanship. He discovered with surprise he had a certain taste for spectacles.

“Will they make me Overlord if I win?” he asked her the next time they were close enough to speak.

“It’s the armor, isn’t it?” she asked back, pushing hard against his sword. He could smell her. He could feel her body heat. He growled.

She whirled away, suddenly leaving him feeling empty and deprived. He laughed. “I cannot escape you,” he said, but too quietly for her to hear. “Even without my sight, you captivate my entire being.”

He was now certain he could not beat her. Dragon instincts or not, he was disadvantaged by the effects of her armor, by her, and she was too powerful with her feather. He also knew that he did not want to fold or retreat. There was a sort of peace in fighting her like this, something that had been missing from his life for too long. Even dying at her hand did not seem like a bad thing all of a sudden. At least, he didn’t have to lie anymore, neither to himself, nor to her. Fighting was completely honest.

They did not grow tired fighting each other until the sun had set and the night fell. He carefully removed the black cloth from his eyes when the temperature dropped and he was certain it was dark - to look at her again. Even the moonlight made the armor sing, but he did not care anymore. He was a lost man anyway.

It was much later, their movements were starting to get slower and slower, when Cheng Yin finally made his appearance.

“Tired yet?” he snarled and hurled a spell towards Mo Yuan that he managed to block, by pure luck and instinct.

“Get lost,” Shao Wan hissed at him, “he is mine, you have no business here.”

“You are mistaken,” the Yellow King laughed, “you have proven your worth adequately, they are yours, but now it’s time I proved mine. I will kill him, in front of our people.”

He launched another attack at Mo Yuan, throwing glass bulbs at him after trying to hit him with a spell again. There was a type of gas in them, but Mo Yuan did not care. As soon as Cheng Yin had appeared, he had given his dragon full control, drawing on an ancient rage that knew no reason. The gas made him sleepy, but that didn’t matter. He shook his head forcefully and jumped forward, going after the Yellow Bastard with all he had.

“You will die tonight,” he told the Demon coldly and launched a series of attacks against him that the inferior vermin had no defenses against. Soon, Cheng Yin was on the ground, bleeding heavily, Mo Yuan’s boot pressing down on his throat.

There was fear in Cheng Yin’s eyes, but also something else, something Mo Yuan did not like to see at all, a cold, calculating brutality. “If you kill me, everybody dies,” he spat, squirming, gasping for breath. “The entire realm will be lifeless and dead. Your father’s creation: all of it, gone.”

Mo Yuan knew, he couldn’t hesitate. He had a mere moment to decide whether to believe Cheng Yin or not. And he chose not to believe him. Lifting his sword by the hilt, he stabbed it downward...

… but before it could pierce Cheng Yin’s heart, Shao Wan rammed him at full speed from the side, toppling him over, making his sword fly out of his hands and onto the ground.

He got to his feet immediately, so mad he screamed: “How dare you!”

She, too, was back on her feet, glaring, looking determined to continue what they had not finished before. Furious and disappointed, Mo Yuan summoned his sword to his hand and flew towards her at high speed. She defended herself expertly from his attack, but he pressed on so hard she had to retreat, step by step. “Mo Yuan…”, she was trying to say something, but he did not want to listen. Not anymore.

Hovering just outside his field of vision, Cheng Yin managed to throw another attack at him, only this time, he couldn’t block because he was too preoccupied with Shao Wan. Whatever spell it was, it was immensely painful and it drove all the air from his lungs.

“I said he is mine!” Shao Wan screamed and turned her attention towards Cheng Yin. Mo Yuan fell to his knees, gasping for oxygen, not getting enough of it. Dark spots started dancing in front of his eyes. Yet, he managed to get back to his feet with great effort, willpower, and the help of his sword.

He looked for his enemies, now engaged in a battle of their own, one that Shao Wan was clearly winning and Cheng Yin seemed to be greatly enjoying, considering the broad grin on his face. Mo Yuan made several steps towards them, trying to find his balance and the strength to lift his sword. This had to end. It had to end tonight, with at least one death.

Suddenly, he felt a hand in his swordless one and jerked in surprise. “You come, Mo Yuan,” said the clear, high voice of a child - an invisible child, because there was nobody there at all, “you need rest now.”

And without him being able to resist the child’s strange powers in his current state, he felt himself being drawn upwards, onto a cloud, and then, only moments later, pushed down rather gracelessly in front of his command tent. There he lay on his back on the cold ground, still gasping for air, hearing the footsteps of many approach him, thinking: That didn’t go so well.

Chapter 80