Fanfiction: Mo Yuan and Shao Wan - Chapter 74b (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 74 - Part II

written by kakashi

“Mo Yuan, a decision has finally been reached,” the Heavenly Emperor said from the height of his throne in the Dragon Hall, looking mildly sympathetic, “it took so long because opinions were greatly divided.”

Mo Yuan nodded grimly.

“Luckily, it wasn’t entirely your fault,” Donghua continued. “In fact, there is no consensus on what exactly is your fault. What is crystal clear though is that ‘Uncle’ Ying Ming meddled with your trial - he kept changing the script, adding things, crossing out others…what a mess! The ledger has been incinerated after studying it for evidence, it’s too much of an embarrassment.”

It explained some things, but by far not everything.

“He has been punished to one hundred reincarnation cycles in the mortal realm,” the new Star Lord next to Donghua said, unsuccessfully trying to hide his grin. Which wasn’t directed at his predecessor‘s misfortune, Mo Yuan realized, but seemed a result of the man‘s general bubbling enthusiasm.

“It’s clear he did not give you enough water from the River of Oblivion, the effect started to wear off not even twenty years into your mortal life.”

Mo Yuan nodded again. That explained why it had all felt like some kind of play to him, a badly written play at that.

“What is unclear though is why Ying Ming acted like this. The Lord of Numinous Treasures suggested he might have tried to sabotage your ascension trial, that he was trying to make you fail it. We have no evidence for this though and he did not confess to it, despite our attempts to make him talk.”

“I have seen Star Lord Ying Ming around, of course,” Mo Yuan quietly said, “but I don’t recall ever interacting with him before this trial.”

“Maybe he wanted to punish you for your indifference,” Donghua snickered, “he might have been in love with you like all those many pitiful immortals you don’t even notice?”

Mo Yuan was in no mood for jokes and shook his head at Donghua, who might have been Heavenly Lord for around 100’000 years by now, but still teased people relentlessly. Especially Mo Yuan.

“I know you anger a great many people by just breathing, but still, this seems too daring for a Celestial,” Donghua continued more soberly. “I am guessing it was someone from another tribe. It’s possible they managed to enchant the Star Lord.”

“The system will have to be changed,” said the new Star Lord, “to prevent tampering. There will be much stricter controls in the future!”

Donghua nodded. Then, he cleared his throat. “Despite all this, you will have to take another trial, my friend.”

“I will write it!” the new Star Lord interjected eagerly, “I will do my very best, High Immortal Mo Yuan, to channel the Will of the Heavens.“

“I understand,” Mo Yuan said. It was expected. The truth was, he felt he had gotten off lightly. As soon as he had remembered who he was, he had expected to lose his powers for failing his trial. But he hadn’t lost them, so he had not failed it - even though he had not passed it either. The conclusion some of those in charge of investigating the affair had reached was that Fate, who ultimately could not be tampered with, had wanted it to happen exactly how it had happened.

And yet, doubt remained and Mo Yuan did not like that at all. If there was one thing he was fearful of, it was Fate. However humiliated he felt that someone had meddled with his trial, not knowing where he currently stood with Fate was what was truly terrifying.

“In addition, for destroying a mortal world, you will be handed over to Lord Puhua for lightning torment,” Donghua Dijun said.

“Yes, I understand,” Mo Yuan said again. Expected as well.

Severe lightning torment. One hundred years. 88 strikes per day.”

That warranted the taking of a deep breath, but Mo Yuan knew he could handle pain. “I accept my punishment.”

“I suggested you should transform for it, because it’s really your true form that needs to learn how to behave, but Lord Puhua said he cannot hold a large dragon down with his chains and he has no time to build a bigger platform.” Donghua sighed dramatically. “I suggest we first get you to ascend before the lightning strikes. I am hoping that this way, you will be less weakened when the war starts.”

“You can count on me,” Mo Yuan said, though he knew he would be greatly weakened if the war started too soon. One hundred years of lightning torment? That was the harshest punishment anyone had ever gotten.

“I need you on the battlefield, your tactical formation plans alone are not enough. I will try to stall,” Donghua said, “but those Demon hotheads are foaming around the mouth, it will be difficult.”

Donghua sighed and flicked something off his robe. “I still believe you could have prevented this war if you had only spoken to her about the feather again. Just the two of you. Some wine, some nice music...”

Mo Yuan shook his head. “That woman doesn’t listen. She believes what she wants to believe.”

“Have you considered,” Donghua said and lifted an eyebrow, “that her not listening might have something to do with you not speaking?”

Mo Yuan pressed his lips together. Or with her speaking in strategically opportune moments to make him tongue-tied and silent.

“You still don’t remember what happened that day towards the end of the trial?”

Mo Yuan was surprised at Donghua’s sudden change of topic. It was true, he remembered many details up until one day in early autumn when he had been fifty years old, after which there was gap in his memories and things had taken a strange turn.

“Somebody tampered with your memories,” Donghua observed, “somebody powerful enough to hide his magic well. It is possible that whoever wanted you to fail your trial came to see you at that point and made sure to weaken the seal on your powers, banking on your true form realizing what a grand opportunity it was to come out and play. If this is the case, this person knows you well.”

“Do you have someone in mind?” Mo Yuan asked.

“Yes, I do,” Donghua said.

Here was the connection to their previous conversation. But she would never do something like that, Mo Yuan thought. She might hate him, but she had always told him straight to his face, she had never done anything underhanded behind his back. For all her hotheadedness, she was an honorable person, a true warrior.

“The Ghost Tribe is on our side, thanks to your Bell,” Donghua said, “it’s the security guarantee they sought. I do not see them profiting from your failure at this point. So it was certainly a Demon.”

“She would never do something like this,” Mo Yuan said with emphasis.

Donghua regarded him thoughtfully. “I am relieved to hear you say this. Still, Shao Wan is the prime suspect for most of the investigators. We even have evidence that she might have been in that world at one point.”

“I don’t believe it.”

“She acquired a very immoral piece of writing. There is a witness who swears he saw her that time.”

“Can I speak to that witness?”

“That will be difficult,” Donghua snickered, “because that witness has disappeared.”

Mo Yuan felt angry that the Celestials were ready to believe such an obvious lie simply because they had so much animosity towards the Demon Tribe and their female Demon Overlord. Of course, it did not help that Shao Wan was provoking them as much as she possibly could - and yet, it was impossible: He was ready to vouch for Shao Wan’s innocence, despite everything that was wrong between them.

“You did say you almost died of heartbreak towards the end though, right?”

Mo Yuan snorted. Yes - another indication it could never have been the Demon Overlord.

“Unspecific, huge yearning towards a woman you cannot remember? See, it is very strange,” Donghua mused, “because that was not written into your ledger at all, even though it sounds like the classic love trial. Ying Ming stopped writing after your poor wife died and then actually fled to another realm around day 50 when he came to realize that meddling with Fate was probably a very bad idea.”

“So what you are suggesting is that the person that deleted my memories of him or her was unscripted? Sent by Fate?” Mo Yuan shook his head in confusion. “I fail to understand this. Either someone meddled to make me powerless and failed in the end or that someone was sent by Fate to do… what?”

“Ah, I don’t understand either,” Donghua sighed. “It makes me tired, this mess. We spent discussing every little detail for days and there was no conclusion. One of the better ideas was that the person that gave you so much heartbreak afterwards saved you from failing the trial. That heartbreak-part at least sounds like adequate suffering whereas everything that came before was no trial for the halfway-aware you at all.”

It was true, Mo Yuan thought, he had learnt what true suffering was in those few years towards the end. Maybe he should be thankful to this mystery person, even if the echo of that heartache still distracted him.

“There could have been two people,” Donghua continued his train of thought, “one messing with your memories, one that broke your heart. Maybe the one that deleted your memory was jealous of the one that broke your heart? Ha, Si Ming, do you think I can write a part of Mo Yuan’s next trial? I think I’m good at these kind of stories!”

The new Star Lord looked so horrified that Mo Yuan had to smile a little. “Do not worry, Star Lord Si Ming,” Mo Yuan said to him, “Donghua Dijun is far too busy to get involved in your work. Or at least, that’s what he keeps telling me.”

“I’m busy, yes I’m busy,” Donghua murmured, “much too busy for my liking.” Then, louder, he added: “Very well, High Immortal Mo Yuan, you will take another trial as soon as Star Lord Si Ming has made the necessary preparations, including a double dose of the Water of Oblivion, and as soon as you’re done - err, make sure to pass the damn trial this time - the lighting torment will start, so that you’re back in old form when we need to go kill Demons. My best wishes to Lord Puhua. Oh, and Mo Yuan: About those mortals you saved… it was decided to stop observing them, they pose no threat to the order of things. But you better stay away from them.”

“I understand.”

“I mean it. At least for a few millennia,” Donghua added, looking stern. “I shudder at the thought of everything that could have gone wrong. After all, it seems you were damn lucky.”

And that, Mo Yuan thought, was exactly why he was so wary. To be “damn lucky” before a major war with a very strong tribe and formidable enemy just meant a calamity was certain. All he could do was hope it would not hit someone dear to him.


10 to 5 immortal days ago

By the time autumn turned to winter, his loneliness had become a crushing weight that made such simple things like breathing difficult. There was a dull, throbbing agony in He Jing’s heart, a miserable feeling of having lost someone that was life-defining and meaning-giving. Since that loss filled his whole existence, he felt like spending his days buried in bed, waiting for everything to end.

When he got up, and he had to, because money was not conjured from thin air, he often walked through the town restlessly, hoping he would remember whom he missed so much, hoping he might find her again. But he also knew this was futile. What haunted him was not of this world, maybe a spirit, an enchantment, a curse? Nothing else could have this quality of there-ness and equally not-there-ness. It was like she was there, right there, but when he turned around, she wasn’t, had never been.

Driven by his need to find something, anything to overcome his strange yearning, He Jing started travelling. Before, he had never gotten further than two, three towns over in his search for books, but now, he went as far as his feet would take him. And what he saw when he started looking was horrifying. He, who had never lived a life of affluence, had to realize that he lived like a king in comparison to so many other poor souls. The suffering and hardship he saw, the poverty, the illness, the brutality, the pointlessness of human struggle, it struck a fear in him that temporarily made him forget his own pain.

But fear was not an emotion he wanted to be stuck with. If this was the reality of human existence, he wanted to do something, anything to help people escape their horrible realities.

When he finally returned home after five years, he tried to forget the terror by surrounding himself with his small family. He had found Hé Qiáng a plain, sturdy wife from a merchant family before his travels and now, he started to devote much of his time interacting with their two children. He read them stories and told them about the great philosophers. Their rosy cheeks, their soft, warm hands, their huge, wondering eyes, the way they hung on his lips when he taught them were like balsam for his bruised soul.

However, when the pain of others did not overwhelm his senses, his own pain came back to haunt him. And with the pain came the voice. After years and years of living with it, He Jing was no longer afraid. No, he had accepted his insanity and had even started to listen to what the voice said. Strangely, it often made much more sense than the world he lived in. Since his return to his family, the voice told him to “do what you are good at” and apparently, the voice thought that was teaching.

It was true, He Jing thought, that he had spent a large part of his life reading. He had an excellent memory for his age and could easily cite from the philosophical texts that were his passion. And when he looked at the avid faces of his grandchildren when they listened to him, He Jing knew that the voice was right: He would teach. This way, he would bring hope to those who listened, because all the great philosophers, they talked about how to rise above the material world of eternal suffering. The hope that such an escape was possible made human life itself more bearable.

Once again, his life settled into a state of quiet content as he started teaching children of poor families in the evening hours. It was like a light had been switched on in the cold night, a warm, welcoming light that shone in the darkness to gather lost, desperate souls, telling them “come here, here you will find what you are looking for.”

Maybe it was that light, the newfound hope that made He Jing forget his caution. This time, he believed it would last.

But it did not.

What finally broke him was seeing his grandson pinned underneath Suan Long’s naked, sweaty body. The terror in the eyes of the child snuffed out all the new light in his life instantly. Hope? There was no hope here.

“Enough,” He Jing said. “This must end.”

There was enough fury inside of him to rip the world apart. It had accumulated, day for day, hour for hour and now, he saw no reason to keep it in check any longer. He would meet the darkness with darkness, terror with terror. “Let me take over,” the voice said, “you know how.”

“Yes,” He Jing said. “Yes.”

He Jing ceased to exist the moment his body transformed into a Golden Dragon of magnificent size. The last thing he thought was: “It was me, it was always me.”

Golden Dragon stretched his body and felt uncontrolled power ripple through him. He knew he did not have much time: His killjoy higher form was waking up too, becoming aware of who he was and why he was here, and the Dragon family knew of his transformation.

He crushed the evil man that had harmed the mortal child. Then, he collected the tiny humans that came to listen to him in the evenings, other good people and animals and brought them to the highest mountain, where they sat, huddled together, with big, fearful eyes. “You must not be afraid,” he said to them, “I will protect you as my own.” Then, he returned to drown the rest of this evil world. He briefly thought about ripping its fabric apart by dipping his tail into Hùndùn, but he did not like the feeling of that place at all and so he decided against it.

By the time his higher form began to reestablish control, it was all done. Golden Dragon had picked up his mortals and the most beautiful animals from the mountain and had gently set them down on another world, an uninhabited one, with lush green forests and blue, clean streams. Now, he was sitting on the highest peak again, looking at the deluge beneath him and felt much satisfaction.

“What have you done,” Mo Yuan the God said, but he was still befuddled and weakened by the water that made immortals forget who they truly were.

“They deserved it,” the Dragon shrugged, “and you know it.”

“But we are not allowed to meddle,” said his other form, “you know that!”

“We will take the punishment gladly,” Golden Dragon said, “won’t we?”

“We must save them!”

“Yes, of course,” Golden Dragon sighed, “I just wanted them to repent as they are facing the end of their miserable lives.“

The sadness he felt after his statement confused Golden Dragon, but not for long.

“We immortals have everything and they have nothing except their short, painful lives. They are punished enough.”

Seeing the truth in this, the Dragon took flight and collected as many living humans as he could find until the world was empty. He wasn’t gentle with them because they deserved no such thing. He threw them in heaps onto other worlds and roared at them to show them his displeasure. Then, he said: “I vow that for every life lost here by my fault, I will spend 100 years teaching as a mortal in the mortal world. The Sky be my witness.”

And the Sky heard him and accepted the vow. Golden Dragon loved thunderstorms and he took flight again, streaking across the skies in playful exuberance.

“Now destroy it,” his high form whispered.

Golden Dragon dipped his tail into Hùndùn after all, even though the magick there was too powerful for him to harness and it frightened him, but he could not resist his higher form’s wishes when he spoke so gently. His pain was his pain, they were one.

He only flew up to the Nine Heavens after he grew tired of ducking away from lightning and blowing clouds around and landed on the big terrace in front of Dragon Hall. “Thank you,” his higher form said after transforming back. They were not always at peace, the dragon form and the human form, but on this day, they were.

Previous chapter (74, Part 1)
Chapter 75