Fanfiction3: A-Li's Three Lives, Three Worlds - Chapter 23 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 23

written by Ligaycroft
edited by Panda and kakashi

Twenty-seven immortal days ago…

The Thirty-Six Heavens would never know how much they were missing when they underestimated Lian Song as inferior to his two older brothers. But, alas, such was the usual case of those who were born last. Often overlooked and left to their own devices, the attention they lost was exchanged with freedom— and Lian Song would not have traded it for anything in the world. In fact, he had made it a complete art to look incompetent so as to purposely avoid onerous responsibilities.

“Under-commit and then overdeliver,” was one of the sage advice he taught his children through words and by example over the years.

If somebody had told him a long time ago that he would one day be in charge of the cultivation of three youngsters who had varying degrees of parental issues, Lian Song would have laughed. For even during those days when he still had his harem, he had always taken extra care not to get any woman pregnant, so sure was he that he would be a subpar father.

Yet now, he had three wards.

First, A-Li, then Gun Gun, and after a few more thousand years, Mei Lin ran away from Kunlun and stood outside the sea borders of Wuji Island for several days while she demanded to be taken inside to face her Shifu and be given entrance into her new home.

All Children of Kings.

In many ways, Lian Song’s own children too.

But it was a good thing nobody ever took him seriously. Celestials only saw what they wanted to see: an Old Dragon who bit off more than he could chew and inevitably set his wards down the path of depravity and perdition.

Through the gossip grapevine, the Four Seas and Eight Deserts knew all about their group’s trips to the Mortal Realms, the Demon Realms, the Fairy Realms, and the Ghost Realms. They chased women, tied up men for Mei Lin, caught goblins for sport, and infamously got so drunk they’d terrorized the mortal realms one too many times.

But these stories served their purpose. What came out of their adventures was so outrageous that nobody thought to check on what they did at Wuji Island.

Not that anyone not privileged would ever know.

Wuji [1] Island was a nondescript, circular island located on the Red Sea, southeast of the Blue Sea, south west of Mount Penglai and west of the Yellow Sea. The island and palace got its name because the space it now occupied used to have nothing until Lian Song raised the island from the seafloor and built his palace on it tens of millennia ago. Wards and the thickest clouds the Water God of the Four Seas could summon were set-up around the place to shield it from Celestial eyes. Since then, it was known as a place of restoration for Lian Song, and nobody could enter without an explicit invitation.

The Six Realms was the most peaceful it had ever been since the last Demon War, but Lian Song had always believed the next war was just right around the corner. If that time came, his three children would have a lot of responsibility thrust upon their shoulders. He wanted them prepared because he had no plans to make them experience what he and his brothers had gone through during the war between the Celestials and the Ghost Realm — expensive decorations dressed in generals’ garb who made a mockery of all the able-bodied men and women who died for the Celestial tribe. No, if the time for the next war came, Lian Song had long since determined his children would be more than ready and confident in their own skills and power— as was expected of leaders of the troops they would one day be. Hence, except for the small tract of land where the palace stood and servants lived, Lian Song and his foster children got the rest of the island to themselves for battle practice.

A good example would be today.

Under a canopy of wards to restrict the damage the youngsters’ practice might cause, A-Li rained a mixed storm of Crimson Hellfire and Lightning on to Mei Lin and Gun Gun as they dashed like dragonflies along the sand and rocks. However, the two were too fast, and so A-Li released another skill that called out from the very depths of the earth — a maelstrom of energy that drew Mei Lin and Gun Gun backwards and slowed them to a crawl.

It was a recently-discovered skill that had come about only a few hundred years ago when Gun Gun pushed A-Li too far with his quick footing and excellent swordsmanship. Lian Song could already envision the possibilities on how handy the skill would be on an actual battlefield. The skill had a wide radius, affected even airborne beings, and for now, just like the rest of A-Li’s powers, it had yet to discriminate between friend or foe. Gun Gun and Mei Lin had tried to adapt with their own combination of spells to help release themselves from the skill but so far only Gun Gun had been lucky — and very rarely.

Cheng Yu shot Lian Song a wide-eyed look as they both floated outside the radius above the island to watch the youngsters play. Since Cheng Yu had been extremely occupied with his Father and that godsforsaken Terrace, today was his wife’s first time to see the skill in action.

She might have been long gone but Xue Jiaolong did some good in A-Li’s life. The love trial A-Li had undergone and the past 5’000 years had increased his grandnephew’s cultivation manifold, in ways unseen before from any immortal, save for Ye Hua. When Lian Song made the decision to let Gun Gun and Mei Lin in on A-Li’s secret; as a group, they had started testing A-Li’s limits, and the manifestation of A-Li’s other powers soon followed.

Was this how the ancient gods discovered their powers— not through spells but skills discovered through instinct?

“That’s six skills, including the troublesome skill he has at dispelling seals, wards and curses.” Cheng Yu murmured, taking notes on her ledger book. “I am more and more convinced that this is his fox blood at work.”

Lian Song’s lips pursed. It was too bad that Xue Jiaolong’s death had also caused all of them to stop making bets. Ah, all the fun they could have had as they bet on A-Li’s skills — lost forever.

“If that’s true, my love, then we are waiting for the grand reveal of three more.”

Lian Song returned his gaze to the beach, tipped his head to one side and sighed. It seemed Bai Qian had her uses after all. But this power, and the degree of cultivation A-Li now possessed and was able to keep hidden beneath his half-mortal core— where did it come from? Ye Hua? Fuxi? Nüwa?

Down below, Gun Gun eventually set himself free from A-Li’s magick and flew to safety. Lian Song’s silver-haired ward used the magick from his modified Haotian Tower to keep himself safe from the crimson fireballs and lightning that still rained from the sky. Mei Lin, on the other hand, had wrapped phoenix fire around herself to help deflect A-Li’s projectile attacks. She looked pissed off at her slowed pace, but the God of War’s daughter was never known to be a quitter. Instead, she turned and stalked after A-Li. Her whip, Qílínbiān [2], lashed out to extract maximum damage at maximum speed in ranged combat against her cousin’s magick and sword. It magickally expanded to eight-bu [3] but from the precise way Mei Lin had been handling the weapon, you would think she was only wielding a two-bu long whip. The cousins yelled taunts at each other while Gun Gun moved to hover over the water. Finally, with one harsh swing of Chun Jun [4], A-Li deflected the whip’s tail-dart that Mei Lin meant to strike on his face and it whooshed back to its owner so fast, Mei Lin barely had time to avoid it. The dart sliced through the side of her cheek and she yelped in fury.

Suddenly, one of his wards around the island sent a vision.

Visitors approached. Four of them, in fact.

Lian Song flew down to the beach to tell the children to stop, just as Gun Gun summoned a huge wave to crash onto A-Li while his grandnephew chased down Mei Lin. As if A-Li sensed the impending danger from the beach, he turned, just as Mei Lin turned back, burst into flames, and shot maximum strength phoenix fire toward her cousin.

Mei Lin had lost her temper yet again. This power of hers — rogue, still generally uncontrollable, and similar to her mother’s — had the ability to level down mountains.

Lian Song should know. He’d seen it in action. He had been there during the last Demon War.

And so in that space of a breath when Lian Song knew it was too late to do anything to save the vulnerable A-Li, he only had the option to either leave his eyes open or shut them closed.

Lian Song chose the former and watched in dawning fear when that hard wall of water that he could no longer stop slammed against A-Li just as unadulterated phoenix fire hit his grandnephew’s back.

Cheng Yu screamed.

But to his shock, A-Li disintegrated before their very eyes, like dust sucked in through a vacuum, and took both the wall of water and the phoenix fire with him. It was replaced by a radial wave of inexplicable energy that hit all of them so hard, Lian Song was thrown back several li as the ocean water below vibrated and surged outwards.

With impending doom to the nearby mortal islands in mind, Lian Song momentarily put his worry for his grandnephew behind. He flew to chase and stop the catastrophic wall of water that rose from the beach as it raced back toward the ocean to try to find another landform to crash into.

By the time Lian Song got back to Wuji Island, he was surprised, relieved and angry to see that A-Li had returned. He landed on the beach with such force that the sand near and around his feet displaced by at least a bu.

“What happened to you?” Lian Song demanded as he engulfed his grandnephew in his embrace. His hands skimmed A-Li’s back and was thankful to feel that his grandnephew was not bleeding anywhere. He pulled back to cup A-Li’s face and noticed for the first time the dazed look in his grandnephew’s still-golden eyes. “Where did you go?”

A-Li looked to the side where Gun Gun and Cheng Yu were busy soothing an understandably shaken Mei Lin. Gun Gun had even taken off his shan to cover Mei Lin’s nakedness.

“Shūshu, how long was I gone?”

Lian Song let go of A-Li. “Not that long ago, why? Where did you go?”

A-Li held up his hands and slowly moved his fingers as he gazed at them against the light.

“You would not believe it, Shūshu, but I think I went to Hùndùn.”


“That was a high sea wave that came from around here just now.” Dong Hua remarked evenly, staring out from where he stood on the white sand beach and into the distance. “What were you doing, Lian Song?”

Lian Song shrugged nonchalantly. “Marital spat, which is none of your business, Dong Hua.”

Cheng Yu smiled sheepishly as she bowed to their four illustrious visitors. “Zhe Yan, I believe this is your first time on Wuji Island. Welcome.”

“I’ve heard stories,” Zhe Yan gazed admiringly, taking in the coconut and mango trees, which made his eyes go round. “I’ve never had those fruits before. You have to let me try them!”

“Certainly,” Cheng Yu nodded. “If you’ll all follow me.”

“Cheng Yu,” Ye Hua remarked as everyone followed behind Lian Song’s wife. “My grandfather lord was frustrated that you left him all of a sudden several days ago. Did you know Zhu Xian Terrace calmed down again today?”

Cheng Yu’s face brightened but the cross look Lian Song shot her way immediately dimmed it it a bit.

“It did? It will be just for a few days, sometimes barely a month or two. I assured his Heavenly Lord that I will be back by then.”

“Where is my daughter?” Mo Yuan interrupted. The slight edge in his voice betrayed his impatience as opposed to his calm eyes. “Is she alright?”

“Oh, don’t worry too much about her, High God Mo Yuan,” Lian Song replied with a tight smile. “Nothing has changed. She still hates you.”

“She is too proud,” Mo Yuan murmured.

“I wonder from whom she got that from?” Cheng Yu sweetly asked before picking up her pace as the doors to Wuji Palace opened to usher them inside. “Ah, there they are,” she pointed toward the corner of the hall where the small group of youngsters were seated. “Drinking, as usual.”

As if on cue, the three stood up and hurriedly approached their elders to perform the cursory bows. Lian Song watched with appreciation how the children’s father’s eyes softened as they looked at each of their offspring — yes, even Dong Hua who stared at his mirror image with much pride.

Zhe Yan sniffed the air. “Was that my peach wine that you were imbibing?”

“You should not be leaving them in your wine cellar if you do not want these kids taking them,” Lian Song quipped as he fanned himself. Then he noticed all four High Gods giving A-Li a strange look. Could they have detected the change in A-Li’s aura? Lian Song internally panicked and checked; A-Li’s aura still shone silver. That trip to Húndún hadn’t changed his grandnephew a bit… or had he missed something?

“You’ve changed, A-Li.” Ye Hua calmly said, although his eyes had narrowed a bit. “Something’s changed.”

“You mean he’s drunk, Shūshu.” Mei Lin interjected, still refusing to meet her Father’s eyes. “These two have alternated getting drunk these past several days.”

“Are you drunk, A-Li?” Ye Hua asked.

“Not yet drunk enough,” A-Li replied, his head bowed. “Heavenly Lord, if it pleases you, can we step out to freshen ourselves first before returning to join you?”

Ye Hua looked like he was about to say something else but eventually nodded. The three wasted no time at all at disappearing from their fathers’ range of vision.

“Children, right?” Cheng Yu chuckled as she headed the way to the hastily created long, low table on a porch overlooking the forest below, the white sand in the distance, and ocean beyond.

All around the servants busied themselves with serving their esteemed guests. Lóngjǐng chá [5] was served for Dong Hua, who sniffed at it before he lifted the teacup to his lips and placed it back down with a satisfied smile.

“Mo Yuan, Ye Hua, you should try this. It's exquisite. Lian Song,” Dong Hua said as he glanced past Mo Yuan’s back. “I take it my son chose this tea?”

“Show off,” Lian Song slowly rolled his eyes at his best friend. “You know he did. So what brings the four of you here to my humble abode?”

Zhe Yan graciously received a plate filled with sliced mangoes and a pitcher of coconut juice from a passing servant.

Dong Hua tilted his head and raised his brows to Ye Hua, who was picking on freshly-sliced stonefish meat to put on top of his rice — a Wuji Island specialty.

“Shūshu, we have it on good authority that you and our children were staying in the Purple Demon Clan Realm around the time that—“

“Yes,” Lian Song interrupted. He lazily fanned himself as he put on a bored face. “The children wanted to take part in the Harvest Festival festivities. What about it?”

Ye Hua played with his food, and years with his nephew gave Lian Song enough insight to know that the young Heavenly Emperor was on the fence whether to believe him or not. Were his own shoulders too tense? Lian Song exaggeratedly sighed then leaned back to study his own nephew.

“The four of you were seen in the marketplace.”

Sometimes, the best lies stemmed from the truth. Over the past couple of days, the five of them had formulated the best excuse should any of them face an inquisition like this one.

“So we used magick. We were invisible. But so were many of other immortals in a place where magick was supposed to be banned. Yi Mei Niang should have put up stronger wards around the marketplace if she wanted to ban magick outright. She’s too naive if she thought everyone would meekly follow her ruling just like they do in the Nine-Tailed Fox Realms.”

“What were you doing in the market place?”

Ah, Lian Song had waited for this. This was the highlight of their web of half-truths, the bone that they could throw to steer the dogs off their trail, and so he sat straighter and moved closer to Mo Yuan who asked the question.

“We were following Zhang Jiao.”

“Zhang Jiao?”

“Yes, Mo Yuan. I am talking about Zhang Jiao, one of the known leaders of our family’s opposition forces. He was there in the marketplace disguised like a hermit and he had,” he leaned even closer across the table. “The old man had scrolls with him.”

Four blank looks were shot his way in unison.

“Shennong’s missing jiǎndú’s?” Lian Song clued in, his voice helplessly rising a pitch. These High Gods could be clueless at times, and when they were, it could be downright frustrating.

Finally, Zhe Yan blinked. “Wait. He has Shennong’s scrolls?”

“Well, we thought he did. So we followed him.”

Again, blank stares.

Lian Song’s lips pinched together as he thought with an impatient snort, Dear children, it was my honor and privilege to have raised you away from the influence of these gods who lack imagination…

“And then?” Ye Hua finally asked.

“Then everyone’s magick got cancelled. Mei Lin took advantage and snuck away with two of Zhang Jiao’s scrolls in the confusion.”

“Wait,” Mo Yuan held up his hand. “You mean to say my daughter stole from Zhang Jiao?”

Yes, your daughter was a criminal, many times over, actually, Lian Song wanted to say but instead he exhaled through his bared teeth and nodded. What was it about parents that they often preferred to think their children were as white as fresh snow? Mo Yuan, even more so.

“Was it Shennong’s?” Ye Hua asked, his gaze still unnaturally calm.

Lian Song shook his head. “They were floor plans although I have no idea for which buildings.”

“Make sure to hand it over to me before we go,” Mo Yuan instructed as he lifted his teacup to his lips. It did not pass Lian Song's notice that his fingers had a slight tremor to them. Probably that of a Father mulling over his daughter's sins. “I’ll have my disciples compare them to the building layout plans that we have in the archives. We need to be careful. These talks of sedition should not be tolerated any further. Shao Wan confirms it had already reached the Demon and Ghost clans.”

“Every monarchy had its dissenters.” Ye Hua replied calmly. “The discontent about A-Li’s lineage has been ongoing for years but nothing fruitful ever came out of it. Qian Qian and I feel that if we quash down immortals’ right to free speech, it will only lead to greater ruin.”

“Nothing fortifies clan ties better than marriage. Maybe it's time for A-Li to get married,” Zhe Yan suggested instead. “He and Peijing, the daughter of the Red Demon Clan leader, have been seeing each other for quite some time now. I'm sure Shao Wan will approve at further strengthening the ties between Demons and Celestials. You only have to say the word, Ye Hua, and A-Li will follow. The same goes for the two of you: Dong Hua and Mo Yuan. Maybe we can get a Ghost bride for Gun Gun, and a Celestial groom for Mei Lin?” Zhe Yan pounded his fist on the table and laughed. “Who needs war talks when we can be offering marriage talks instead?”

“Qian Qian and I feel A-Li should marry somebody he actually likes.”

“But, Ye Hua,” Dong Hua interrupted. “Si Ming has it on good authority that Peijing has already set her eyes on a Blue Demon Clan lord.”

Ye Hua’s eyes flew to Lian Song, who nodded, put his fingers together and made a silent explosion action out of it.

Zhe Yan thoughtfully stroked his chin. “Then, Mo Yuan? Mei Lin could — ”

“I am not a piece of chattel that you can use to trade peace and security with!”

Lian Song sighed dejectedly at Mei Lin’s voice and the sound of her footsteps stalking toward where they were seated.

Mo Yuan stood up to face his daughter. Although his demeanor looked calm, his eyes bore the storm of the darkest of nights. “Watch your tongue, child,” the God of War warned.

“Four words. Is that the best you can do?” Mei Lin scoffed as she looked to her left and right, where Gun Gun and A-Li stood respectively. “See? He does not even have the gumption to stand on my behalf against such an outrageous suggestion from that Old Phoenix over there!”

Mo Yuan moved forward toward his daughter but just as suddenly, he stopped. “You need to stop assuming the worst of me.”

“Can you blame me,” Mei Lin scoffed. “when you’re particularly good at disappointing me every time?”

Lian Song turned to his right to look Mo Yuan’s daughter in the eye. On the edge of the inexplicable anger she had always borne for her father, Mei Lin looked so much like Shao Wan.

“Zūzu, is it too much to ask that you exercise restraint when in the company of others?”

Mei Lin thrust her nose up in the air. “There is no need because I am leaving,” she defiantly announced. “Are you two idiots coming with me or not?”

Without even looking back, Mei Lin jumped to the next passing cloud. A-Li and Gun Gun both bowed to their fathers and elders before they, too, disappeared in a whiff of white smoke.

“Youngsters,” Cheng Yu chuckled uncomfortably. “They’ll come back. Just give them time.”

“Lian Song,” Mo Yuan sat down but his eyes remained fixed on his teacup. “How is my daughter’s phoenix fire?”

Lian Song shook his head.

“When do you think she will come back?”

“If they went to one of the mortal worlds, I don’t know,” Lian Song answered to Mo Yuan’s sad query. “They take their sweet time, and given Mei Lin’s current agitated state, it will not do any good if we summon them back right away. That said,” he could feel his eyes narrow into slits as he looked at Zhe Yan. He had always opined that the Old Phoenix was too meddlesome for his own good. “Instead of arranging marriages for my children, why not marry off your beloved Bai Zhen instead? Or yourself. Do the Kingdom some good and marry yourself off.”

Zhe Yan sucked his cheeks in and looked to the others for backup. “I was merely trying to suggest solutions. Maybe we should look at how you have been raising your students. They are untethered. Too willful.”

“Just because your meddling had some small successes does not mean it can work every single time.”

“Shūshu,” Ye Hua raised his hand. “That’s enough.”

“I agree, it is enough. And if I may speak as your uncle, Ye Hua,” Lian Song pushed his chair back and stood up. “If you even entertain using marriage as a tool to solidify alliances, then all of you should just look at taking other wives and concubines. It was so shameful that the three of you obtained love matches but did not even stop Zhe Yan here from spouting his nonsense inside my house.”

Chapter 24


1. (無極) Wuji means initial emptiness, a single point in space, an empty circle. In Taoism, this is the state before existence of opposites, before all yin-yang polarizations or the state between movement and dormancy.

2. (麒麟鞭) Mei Lin’s whip consists of several enchanted metal rods, which are joined end-to-end by rings to form a flexible chain. It has a handle at one end and a metal dart, used for slashing or piercing an opponent, at the other.

3. (步) approximately 5-6 chi (chi is the equivalent for the Western foot, around 12~13 inches)

4. (純鈞劍) A-Li’s sword that was made for him by his grandfather Bai Zhi Dijun and an enlightened mortal blacksmith to celebrate A-Li’s High Immortal ascension. It was often described as a unique joint creation of man and Heaven.

5. (龙井茶) Pan-roasted green tea from the area of Longjing Village near Hangzhou in Zhejiang Province, China. It is produced mostly by hand and renowned for its high quality.