Fanfiction3: A-Li's Three Lives, Three Worlds - Chapter 27 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 27

written by LigayaCroft
edited by kakashi and Panda

Huicūn Day One (continued)

After a day of talking to some townsfolk about hiring help to cut hardwood and bamboo trees for the new house he and Gun Gun had to build on their village-allotted space located behind the Huo land, A-Li and Gun Gun headed back to the guest hut.

They walked into Huo Mao in the front yard as the old woman swept dried leaves into a pile using a makeshift broom made of long twigs. It was a messy pile, too, as every time she swung left, she scattered more leaves than she put into the pile by sweeping right.

“Oh, pretty boys, you’re back.” She waved at them, further scattering the leaves on her tiny pile. “Does Mei Lin know how to cook?”

A-Li and Gun Gun looked at each other in alarm.

“She should not be left alone in the kitchen!” Gun Gun exclaimed, and rushed off.

“Oh?” Huo Mao blind eye blinked. “All I did was I told Mei Lin that Huo Zheng did all the cooking in our house but since my granddaughter was away, it was either her or me, and I have not handled fire since I lost my left eye. Mei Lin jumped on the task, especially since Ling’er was asleep.”

“We’ll take care of it, Nǎinai [1].”

“Do you know how to cook?”

“I do. Gun Gun as well.”

“But Mei Lin doesn’t?”

A-Li nodded.

Huo Mao leaned against her broomstick. “Men who cook, women who don’t. I’ll say I like your country’s customs, Li Xiānshēng.”

“Please, we are living on your kindness. Feel free to call me Li.”


A-Li smiled. “Better.”

Huo Mao grinned, her teeth slightly yellowed but still complete. It seemed proper hygiene was practiced in the Huo household.

“I like your face better than your nephew’s.” Huo Mao said, waving her hand over her face. “I pity the woman who wakes up beside him every morning. It is not good for a woman’s ego to have a husband who is more beautiful than her.”

“Unless the woman didn't care about her husband’s looks.”

Huo Mao grinned wider. “Xiăo Hŭ [2] never had that problem.”

A smile formed on A-Li’s face. Of course, Huo Zheng would not need to worry. And he was fascinated with the old woman’s nickname for Huo Zheng. It was fitting for the woman she was.

“She is very beautiful indeed.”

“I was not referring to her beauty.” Huo Mao cackled loudly and A-Li felt embarrassed at the unintentional slip. “Her parents were of the comely sort but she clearly took after me. I was a beauty during my time. But no, I am referring to the fact Xiao Hu is the manliest man in this village. Anything the men here could do, she could do better.”

“Qianling’s father must be special then,” A-Li said evenly.

The grin froze on Huo Mao’s face. Her fingers that held the broomstick clenched. “Oh, he’s a piece of work alright. He ran away and left right after Ling’er was born. Xiao Hu didn’t deserve any of this. But alas, she was too kind for her own good.”

Surely, he misheard. “He left?”

“He left.” Huo Mao’s upper lip curled and she resumed sweeping. “It has never been a pleasant topic for me to discuss. Why don’t you join Mei Lin and Gun Gun while I finish up here?”

A-Li absently nodded and walked back to the house. Huo Zheng’s husband left her and their baby. How unlucky with love can two women with the same face be?


“Nǎinai, I’m home.”

Huo Zheng arrived just as they were finishing dinner toward the end of the dog hour [3]. A-Li watched her come in, her top-knotted hair full of loose tendrils that betrayed the hard ride she had taken to chase daylight. Still, the loose hair that framed her face only served to soften her tired features. She looked a few breaths away from collapsing on the floor.

“I didn’t know we had guests,” she quipped, her posture suddenly rigid. Then her eyes flew wide as she looked at the dinner spread on the table. “We are having meat?” Duck, sheep, and fish, to be exact. “Nǎinai, I thought we were sealing off the house before the next storm [4]?”

Huo Mao’s full mouth stopped chewing on her duck meat to aggressively point her finger at A-Li.

“This whole thing only cost us a pearl.” Mei Lin scoffed, nose up in the air. “More importantly, I want to bring your attention to the fact that I cooked the rice and it didn’t burn — like I told you I would be able to successfully do last night.”

Huo Zheng’s shoulder dropped. “Which reminds me, I still have to calculate how much the three of you owe us for three years of lost harvest.” A-Li opened his mouth to speak but as if she guessed what he was about to say, she held up a finger to stop him. “We will only take what is owed and we will not discuss this further. I'm dusty so I cannot touch Ling’er yet. I need a bath.”

“Huo Zheng!” Mei Lin yelled, and an empty wooden bowl flew and hit the wall a chi away from where Huo Zheng stood with her back towards them. “I also took care of your daughter the whole day. She is still alive.”

“What do you want me to do? Acknowledge you?” Huo Zheng turned. “But Mei Lin,” she said slowly through narrowed eyes. “Have you ever thanked any of your maids for doing their job?”

Mei Lin’s jaw dropped.

“I thought so,” her point driven home, Huo Zheng flicked a hand in front of her nose as if to get rid of a bad smell. “I’ll be back to get Ling’er after my bath. Don't forget to wash the dishes and feed the leftovers to my pig, Mei Lin.”

Huo Zheng cast a side glance at A-Li before she turned on her heel and left.

Mei Lin slammed down her chopsticks so hard and fast that they cleanly-sliced through the wooden table. The plates jumped and some of the food and sauces contained within spilled out.

Huo Mao took one look at the disaster Mei Lin brought with her and shook her head.

“You have serious attitude issues, child.”

“I will kill your granddaughter, Nǎinai.”

“Ha!” The old woman cackled. “I’d like to see you try. She takes after me, of course. She's too much of a man for anyone. You'll break even before you can get her to bend.”

A-Li had to agree. It was a sight to behold how Mei Lin kept losing to Huo Zheng. But Mei Lin’s physical response to the rejection and the set on Mei Lin’s face were different; something he had only seen her wear in front of Lian Song.

Mei Lin wanted Huo Zheng’s approval. And Huo Zheng might just be whom Mei Lin needed to soften her jagged edges. The God of War’s wish was finally getting granted — by a mortal.

She might not have had her chance to play Yì with Mo Yuan but with how Huo Zheng was getting the God of War’s daughter in line, A-Li was certain Xue Jiaolong would have been proud of her lookalike.


The village kept an unholy schedule, rousing from bed at the start of the hour of the tiger, and so A-Li had to adjust his personal timetable accordingly. Being mortal with no servants to cater to his needs meant he had to actually wash his body and face, clean his teeth, and ready his sleeping quarters all by himself. Thankfully, Gun Gun was well-versed with housework, as he and his mother lived on their own in the mortal realms for a couple of years, and so A-Li didn’t have to worry about tidying up their sparse hut anymore. He could focus on his task at hand.

A-Li walked to the bamboo forest a little bit to the north of their hut, selected a good spot that showed the moon in the sky up above and sat down. Next, he took out the contents of his straw bag and lit the tinder over the joss stick wicks. Fragrant smoke wafted heavenward. With a satisfied sigh, A-Li made sure the sticks were securely upright in the bronze holder before settling back.

Like an old couple, 5’000 years of prayers had already reduced the usual ceremony involved in his regular conversations with Xue Jiaolong into spaces of more intimate silences.

It was after many breaths of just staring up at the moon that A-Li finally spoke.

“Jia-er, you wouldn't believe what just happened to me,” he began and started his story of how he arrived in Huicūn and what caused him to stay there.

He was getting to the part where he was telling Xue Jiaolong about the hilarity of watching Gun Gun and Mei Lin cope with their new situation when her voice came out from behind him.

“Bai Li?”

A-Li’s heart stopped in his chest as he slowly turned his head to see her standing several chi away from him.

It was a temptation to imagine that it was Xue Jiaolong standing there, bathed in moonlight, but it also didn't take A-Li long to snap out of his wishful thinking.

For this was not Xue Jiaolong. Xe Jiaolong liked to have a little bit of color in her common folk clothes but this version of her wore simple grey house clothes. And the hair. The hair gave it all away. Xue Jiaolong had chopped off most of her hair, but this one currently had it tied half up half down behind her back.

And she had a large, black, potbellied pig with her which was currently using its snout to dig through the soft ground around her.

A-Li stood up. “Huo Zheng, I didn’t expect to see you around here.”

“I didn't expect to see you either.” She leaned to the side, and her eyes rested on the incense burner. “What are you doing?”

“Praying,” he answered, his eyes still drinking its fill of her.

“But I could swear you were talking to—” her voice cut off as realization dawned. “Ah, you were praying to your wife?”

A-Li nodded.

“That's sweet.” Huo Zheng crouched low and slightly pushed her pig to turn right. “The truffles are over there. Go. Go.” Turning back to him, she said, “Wēixiǎo likes to hunt for truffles at night.”

Tiny? There was nothing tiny about the pig, and judging from its size it looked like the area behind the house was indeed rich with truffles.

But instead of doing as her mistress told, the pig backtracked and started digging her snout through her mistress’ clothes. Huo Zheng pushed her pet away and shot upright.

“No, Weixiao! That's bad!”

The pig snorted and as if it understood, it rushed away to dig at the roots of a nearby tree instead.

Huo Zhe clapped her hands together to get rid of the dirt that came from her pet then wiped them against her skirt. Afterwards, she dug through her left pocket and fished out a satchel.

With an awkward laugh, she told him, “Honey and xiāngchéng [5] candies. I bought these in the city and forgot to look for Bo’er to give them to him. But Weixiao has a sweet tooth and a sharp nose. She must have smelled it ever since I went out to get her for our walk. Do you..." Her voice trailed off and she took a step closer. "Would you like some?"

He did. It was only too bad there had been no candies offered at the market earlier that morning. Sweets always made him feel better; and between the work in the fields, mediating between Gun Gun and Mei Lin, and guiding workers over the construction requirements for their house, the candies felt like a just reward.

"You can take the whole satchel. I have four more back at home."

"You like sweets?" A-Li blinked, his hand stretched out to receive the gift.

"Goodness, no," She dropped the satchel in the palm of his hand. "I can't stand them."

"Then why do you buy them?"

She shrugged. "I don't know. I think I just like looking at them and then giving them away."

Huo Zheng folded her arms behind her back and A-Li felt conscious by how she just openly stared at him.

"I don't know what to do with you either."

A-Li looked around before he inevitably pointed to his own chest. Huo Zheng didn't acknowledge nor deny but instead, she continued to hold him captive in her gaze.

That simple statement and the implication behind it, made A-Li swallow hard and his heart palpitate.

"Have we met before?" She asked, and the unexpected question slightly alarmed A-Li. But before he could step back and form a response, she shook her head and frowned. "But impossible. I would never forget a face like yours."

"In another lifetime, maybe," He answered as he resisted the urge to touch her.

Instead, he was surprised when she touched him with her right hand and cupped the side of his face just like Xue Jiaolong had always done. A-Li felt his knees go so weak they almost buckled. If she noticed, her eyes didn’t reveal the fact.

"Your eyes. I've definitely seen them before. Many times, in fact."

"You have?" He asked, and wondered whether she was aware of how warm her hand felt against his cheek, his jaw. His heart hammered furiously as his body reacted to the nearness of her body. The ache in his chest was another matter. The sense of longing he felt and the wave of deja vu was triggered by her soft touch and unwavering gaze.

"I wasn't sure yesterday but now I am. It's the same eyes, but on a different man."

“Are you sure?"

She nodded, and finally let go of her hold on his face. A-Li mourned the loss of her warm touch.

"I've dreamed of it often, for as long as I could remember. If I knew how to draw, I'd have drawn his face by now."

"I've been told by many that I have my Father's eyes."

She shook her head. "No, I've seen your father."

"You have?"

"You didn't think I'd go over your satchel and not find the miniature watercolor paint box where you stored the accordion book with paintings of your family, did you?" Her eyes twinkled in the moonlight. "Your parents and siblings are all very good-looking. But no, your Father is nowhere near similar to the man in my dreams."

Ah, the accordion book where young but talented Chenwei had spent days painting their miniatures so A-Li would always have a part of the family wherever he went.

"Was he old?"

"No. He was probably around your Father's age." She wrapped her hands around her arms and tried to self-soothe by rubbing her palms through her clothing. "I never liked the dream. And it's the same dream every time. Bai Li, your eyes unnerve me so."

Huo Zheng trembled where she stood and A-Li wished he could gouge his own eyes out if only to stop the torment that shrouded her. He reached out and gently held her by the shoulders to steady her.

"Huo Zheng,” he whispered above the breeze, in hopes that his voice could help soothe her. “It was only a dream. Don't let it bother you so."

Her head fell forward until her forehead rested on top of his left shoulder.

"I know," A-Li heard her murmur, her breath warm against the cloth over his skin. "Maybe I am thinking too much. Give me a little while. I'll recover."

"I know it seems counterintuitive but maybe if you tell me about your dream, it will help ease the fear a bit?"

She shook her head, digging her forehead against his shoulder a bit deeper.

"I don't know if I want to. I've never told anyone else before.”

Her still damp hair had fallen forward and dampened the clothing right above his chest. Behind him, the bamboo trunks creaked and groaned as they rubbed against each other, and their leaves up above rustled under the breeze’s ministrations.

A-Li frowned as the same wind that moved the bamboo forest picked up her scent, which wafted right under his nose.





"I'm tired. But this is comfortable. Can I stay like this for just a little while?"

A-Li nodded although he currently felt like he had just entered his own level of hell. It was impossible to not be greedy because having her this close felt like home.

He found his resolve failing. Her nearness and her scent were irresistible but it was all wrong. Not a moment ago, he had been praying to Xue Jiaolong, and here he was, unable to control his bodily cravings for this woman who looked like Xue Jiaolong but was not Xue Jiaolong.

He wanted her. He wanted to pull her close, to feel her soft warmth against his entire length, to feel her breath against his lips.

And as it was when they first met last night, Xue Jiaolong’s memory drifted farther and farther away into the recesses of A-Li’s mind until what was left was only her.

Huo Zheng.

She had Xue Jialong’s face, Xue Jialong’s voice, and moved like Xue Jiaolong but there was no denying that Huo Zheng was not Xue Jiaolong.

Yes, they shared the same beauty, but Huo Zheng drew him in with the magnetism by which she had held everyone in thrall that morning. There was no denying, this woman was the epitome of a tiger. Self-possessed, autonomous and courageous. Everything about her spoke of authority and power.

A-Li could feel the dragon inside him stir as he remembered the innate grace, warmth and lightness by which she handled her power over others. The mental fortitude that subliminally emanated from her was enough to make A-Li feel a bit lightheaded… but it was also a sensation that he welcomed.

In fact, it was a sensation that he hadn’t known he craved.

What kind of torture had the Heavens prepared for him to give him two different women who shared the same face?

He let his hands drop from her shoulders and waited for her breathing— and his— to calm down.

She stepped back as soon as she could to but instead of looking embarrassed at her momentary lapse of weakness, her chin thrust up and she met his eyes once again.

"Thank you."

A-Li shook his head. "I'm sorry if my eyes bothered you. I'll try not to look your way unless necessary."

"No," She wagged her finger at him. "Don't. It is not your fault you were born with those eyes. Besides, it was just a dream. It can't hurt me, right? Also, the chances of my dream happening are impossible."


"Because I called out that man’s name right before he threw me to hell."


She nodded. “Or one of the hells? Black flames licked the skin off my bones. I was in such torment.”

"And his name--- what was it?"

“This is where it gets strange every time. You see, I have no siblings. But in my dream, I pleaded with him.”


“I called him Jiě Fu [6].”

Chapter 28


1. (奶奶) - informal address for an elderly woman
2. Little Tiger
3. Between 7pm-9pm
4. (未雨绸缪) Wèi yǔ chóu móu - Chengyu equivalent to English idiom ‘to save for a rainy day’.
5. (香橙) Citrus Junos - a round, yellowish citrus fruit with fragrant, acidic juice, used chiefly as a flavoring.This is the same fruit that in Japanese is called Yuzu
6. (姐夫) Older sister’s husband.