Fanfiction3: A-Li's Three Lives, Three Worlds - Chapter 30 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 30

written by LigayaCroft
edited by Panda & Kakashi

Two mortal months later…

One of the small pleasures Mei Lin was proud to enjoy was the fact that she knew more about Huo Zheng than her two idiotic companions. Li-Gē and Gun Gun had been following Huo Zheng around with their bodies or their eyes, and it annoyed the world out of her. It was for this reason alone that she had deliberately withheld information about Huo Zheng so many times so as not to further enshrine her in their eyes.

Like they needed more reason to be smitten with her dearest enemy.

She had seen the respect grow in the two men’s eyes after Huo Zheng treated Bo’er, and Mei Lin had realized right then and there that she craved for them to acknowledge her in the same way too.

It was a strange and novel emotion to experience. All her life, Mei Lin had been “respected” because of the status of her birth. As the daughter of the God of War and the Demon Ancestor, most immortals bowed to her wherever she went. From an early age, she knew she could carelessly throw a hissy fit at any gathering because she knew her mother would just laugh about it while her father would simply task his disciples to go clean up after her.

Indeed, it was a life of privilege but it also limited her choices. She had not always set out to be the hellion that she was today. But like a boulder rolling downhill, once she had gained speed, she could only go forward and ram into anything or anyone who stood in her way.

Mostly her Father. And once she knew just which buttons to push, she kept on pushing away. Why was she the only one who kept getting punished when her stubborn streak came from him anyway? Was it her fault that reading philosophical treatises bored her to death just like her mother? Why did he have to Sky-bond her to Kunlun every time he would force her to study arts, philosophy, and literature? Why couldn’t she spar weapons with him instead? Did he even know that she could now magickally-lengthen and control Qílínbiān [1] up to eight-bu [2]?

Why was she being punished for being his daughter?

Mei Lin felt a long pang slice through her chest.

She missed that insufferable old stick in the mud.

How could he be so cold after not seeing her for over a thousand immortal years?

The tears began to fall before she could stop them. Against prior explicit instructions from Huo Zheng, she sat upright on the wooden table and turned to the only possible culprit, who sat by her feet, grinding dried herbs with a mortar and pestle.

“Huo Zheng, what did you just do to me? Why am I crying?”

Huo Zheng continued to grind for a couple more breaths, a space of time that drove Mei Lin mad — more so because her arms, hands, torso, and face were full of needles, which severely restricted her movement.

Before they started the incense clock to time her treatment, Huo Zheng had taken a look at Mei Lin’s tongue and had shaken her head upon seeing the shades of purple the woman claimed it had. Then Huo Zheng had proceeded to insert an egregious amount of needles under her skin that made Mei Lin panic at whether Huo Zheng secretly sought to make her an invalid.

But her enemy just did something worse.

Huo Zheng had made her cry.

Worse, she was uncontrollably sobbing by now.

“It’s perfectly fine to cry during acupuncture,” Huo Zheng explained, as the grinding motion she set on her mortar and pestle tested Mei Lin’s sanity. “Lie down, Mei Lin, and let the treatment run its due course.”

Faced with no other option, Mei Lin did as she was told, all the while hating herself because she couldn’t stop crying.

“When was the last time that you cried?”

“Demons don’t cry. What is the point of crying when you can always get even,” she snapped on purpose because she knew the references to her real life had never failed to knock Huo Zheng off-guard.

Or at least she wanted to believe that it still did. Lately, Huo Zheng had learned to shrug off her statements.

“Who did you think of when you started crying?”

Mei Lin’s lips pursed. If Huo Zheng thought they could be chummy just like that, the woman was deluding herself.

“Let me guess: your Father, right?”

“Dammit, stop getting inside my head!”

Huo Zheng giggled, and Mei Lin hated that she sounded so nice while doing so. Her Li-Gē and Gun Gun better not hear that woman giggle or they would surely fall further for Huo Zheng’s womanly charms.

Mei Lin stewed where she lay and helplessly stared at the ceiling above her.

“My Father was not an ideal father.”

Mei Lin wasn’t sure she heard it right: Miss-I-Live-A-Perfect-Life didn’t have a happy childhood? She bit her tongue and told herself she would not care even if Huo Zheng gutted herself in front of her.

The table kept shaking with the force of Huo Zheng’s pounding and then it stopped.

“He was promised a son, and so he forced me to be one. He gave me a man’s name, dressed me up in boy-clothes, even made me do men’s chores. Growing up, I believed I was a boy. So could you imagine how flustered I was when my first monthly courses came? I was ten and I hid it for two full moons before he found out.”

Mei Lin surreptitiously tucked her chin so she could check on Huo Zheng and found the woman wistfully staring into empty space.

“But being brought up a boy had its benefits. I was able to learn how to read and write. I learned traditional medicine without raising suspicion among my peers. Further, I learned how to defend myself.”

The woman had to be pulling her leg with false humility. How a woman as beautiful as Huo Zheng could pass for a man without getting noticed was beyond Mei Lin.

“I grew up hating that I was my Father’s daughter because he was such a hard man to please. But he has been gone for almost four years and now, I'm just thankful that he was able to prepare me to live this life I’m living. It was never easy and at times it has been more than what I initially bargained for, but there is not a day that went by that I haven’t thanked his foresight and wisdom.”

Mei Lin thought back to her own father. If she told Huo Zheng her own sad story: of a Father who couldn't hear the voice of her heart, of a Father who unnecessarily kept his physical and emotional distance from her, of a Father who had verbally compared her to others time and again, of a Father who sky-bonded her so many times to his house just so she would study until she had made herself worthy of being his daughter, of a Father who was more concerned about keeping up appearances rather than fixing their real issues, of a Father who would lose no sleep trading her happiness for the peace of the Realms—would she win the pity party?

“When I had Ling’er, I was so scared,” Huo Zheng continued, oblivious to the meanderings of Mei Lin’s thoughts. “I had no idea what to do so I wanted to control everything. How she ate, slept… I even timed the spaces between her breaths. And I thought, maybe, my Father felt the same when he had me, too.”

“No. Your Father was an ass.” Mei Lin put in bluntly to knock some truth back into Huo Zheng. “My Father never tried to turn me into a boy. What your Father did was just… cruel. You’re a fool if you still think the world of him.”

“Maybe I am one,” Huo Zheng said softly as her mesmerizing eyes turned to focus on Mei Lin. “But he’s my Father. He’s the only one I have.”

Mei Lin settled the back of her head flat on the table again.

“Did you know I have never had any female friends?”

This time, she gave an unladylike snort. “Well, why would you, when you looked like that?”

“Like what?”

Mei Lin shot up again, barely able to hold her impatience at bay. Well, this was irritating, she thought. Huo Zheng held a genuinely dumb expression.

“Have you looked at yourself lately?” She demanded to which Huo Zheng’s mouth opened but nothing came out. Mei Lin blew a breath under her nose and laid back down again. “Just know that I will scratch that face the first chance I get.”

“I-I don’t understand,” Huo Zheng said after a few more breaths had passed. “Mei Lin, you’re the most beautiful woman I have ever seen in my entire life.”

She thought I was? Mei Lin felt a tingle in her stomach but she suppressed the curve on her lips before it turned into a full-on smile. She convinced herself a mortal like Huo Zheng wouldn’t know any better anyway.

“I believe you mentioned before that your Father and Bai Li’s are twins?”

“Yes, what about it?”

“Nothing. You look different. You must have taken after your Mother.”

“Li-Gē’s Mother is a beauty too. But mine is more beautiful, of course.”

“Of course.” The incense stick changed fragrance from jasmine to sandalwood and Huo Zheng alertly stood up. “It’s time to take out the needles. How do you feel? Do you feel better now?”

Strange. She did feel better but of course, Mei Lin decided not to let it show. “The treatment was horrible. And you want me to do this every other day on top of meditating and studying those books you gave me every single day?” She let Huo Zheng see her scowl but the woman just looked at it and smiled. “Books, acupuncture, and meditation—you remind me of my Father. Do you know he spends most of his time meditating inside his cave?”

“Of course I do not know. You sound like you resent him for that.”

I do. The time he selfishly spent there, he could have spent with her instead of endorsing her to the care of his disciples. But she wouldn’t tell Huo Zheng that.

“At least you liked his pet golden gecko.”

“Gecko?” Mei Lin stilled as she momentarily tried to figure out what Huo Zheng meant. “You mean the dragon? You still remember that?”

“Did I tell you I once had a pet gecko too?”

“I can’t believe you remembered. I thought you weren’t listening.”

Huo Zheng tapped a finger on her temple. “I remember everything. Especially interesting tidbits like those. Your stories are so wild that they’re fascinating.”

“It was not a pet. It was a real dragon!”

“Mei Lin,” Huo Zheng said, offering her a bemused smile. “We all know dragons no longer exist. If your Father has a pet dragon, then I would believe the legends that the glacier that feeds our river was a dragon, too.”

“Again, not a pet. Also, that’s just stupid—how can a glacier be a dragon?”

Huo Zheng plucked the needle that she had stuck early on between Mei Lin’s eyebrows and grinned, “Exactly.”


“She’s insufferable,” Mei Lin complained to A-Li as they watched seven-month-old Qianling crawl over the fallen golden, red and brown leaves in the yard while Gun Gun chased right after the baby. They were all having late afternoon tea at one side of the open corridor that wrapped around the Huo house while Huo Mao was taking her afternoon nap. “And condescending. She probably thinks I am crazy.”

“What have you been telling her anyway?”

Mei Lin caught herself before she automatically answered her cousin’s question. What would Li-Gē think if he knew she kept telling Huo Zheng stories about their immortal lives? Did she break any Celestial rules by messing with the mind of a mortal, which was her intention at first? She wasn’t a Celestial — thank heavens — so why should the rules matter?

“Oh, this and that. And look at who has just arrived,” She puffed air in her cheeks as she observed her cousin and Gun Gun watch Huo Zheng walk inside the dirt courtyard with her horse. Like she did weekly, the woman had left for the city before the hour of the tiger but today, she came home early. The look Huo Zheng momentarily shared with her cousin didn’t miss her notice — it frustrated her because these two should just have done the deed by now instead of casting furtive gazes at one another when they thought the other wasn’t looking — but more annoyingly, so did the healthy flush that crept up Gun Gun’s cheeks upon the woman’s entrance.

It was pathetic to see Gun Gun pine for somebody who actually wanted to be with his own uncle and best friend, and Mei Lin felt it was her duty to snap him out of it. She snatched a pebble from the ground beneath her feet and threw it smack in the middle of Gun Gun’s forehead.

“What was that for?” Gun Gun hissed, his fingers pressed to his forehead to probably check if the skin had broken.

“Bring Ling’er here,” Mei Lin commanded with a sniff of the cool autumn air.

Gun Gun lifted the baby in his arms and did as told just as Huo Zheng approached.

“You came back early,” Mei Lin dismissively made the comment as she held out her hands for the baby. As usual, Huo Zheng’s covered leather saddlebags were filled to the brim, the flaps stretched against their ties. “How was your trip to the city?”

The woman tucked her hand inside one saddlebag and came back out with a small satchel and a medium-sized jar which she gave to Li-Gē and Gun Gun respectively.

“Thank you, Xiăohŭ.” Gun Gun said gratefully as he received his regular jar of Nanking Black Tea. “You shouldn’t have, but thank you.”

The two men’s faces shone like the Celestial pavements which caused Mei Lin to roll her eyes. She especially wanted to smack that smile off the white-haired idiot’s face. How naive could Gun Gun be not to notice that Huo Zheng deliberately handed her present to Li-Gē first?

Gun Gun all but dumped Qianling into Mei Lin’s lap so he could focus his sole attention on Huo Zheng who shared a story on the curiosities she had encountered during her day trip.

Mei Lin’s eyes narrowed on the trio in front of her. What would a Celestial woman give to have two of the immortal realms’ highest-ranked princes look at her with the full-on interest that both Li-Gē and Gun Gun were affording to Huo Zheng? Her story wasn’t even that interesting — who cared about the more merciful ways of butchering a cow?

“You would; if you got reincarnated as a cow,” Huo Zheng quipped and Mei Lin only then realized she had spoken out loud.

“You wouldn’t have to worry at all,” she answered back to cover her embarrassment. “If you were born an immortal.” Li-Gē and Gun Gun’s eyes flashed at Mei Lin, and she answered back with a careless shrug. Just like in the many instances when she had let her temper get the better of her words, Mei Lin fully-committed to rile Huo Zheng even more. “Since you so believe in the power of meditation, have you ever given a thought to immortal ascension?”

Huo Zheng still wore her smile although this one now quivered on one side. Mei Lin noted this with a self-satisfied grin that kept getting wider.

“I do not understand. Why would I want to be immortal?”

“Well—“ Mei Lin’s grin of triumph froze on her face but she refused to lose so she sat straighter and challenged back, “Why wouldn’t you?”

Huo Zheng looked at both A-Li and Gun Gun before returning her gaze to Mei Lin.

“I like that I’m living with a deadline. It reminds me to make each day count since today could be my last.”

Deadlines. Mei Lin’s breath hitched in her throat. With the luxury of having a long life to live, Mei Lin preferred to live in the moment. She even escaped her studies as often as she could, so convinced was she that the wisdom inscribed in texts would eventually come to her through life experiences after tens of thousands of years.

“Take the blooming of peach, cherry and peony flowers in spring for example. Their beauty lies in the fact that they don’t bloom forever. It is the same with our lives. We should look at our transience as our fortuitous circumstance. When you learn to accept it, you will understand why you will want to have less time to hate and more time to love. You will realize we all barely have enough time to love.”

Mei Lin could feel her eyes grow hot but the looks of pure admiration for Huo Zheng on both A-Li and Gun Gun’s faces were enough to snap back the tears before they had the chance to form in her eyes.

Why can’t I ever win with this woman? Why did she have to sound sage and me so shortsighted?

She stood up on her feet, cradling Qianling as the baby rode astride in the crook of her waist. Right now, the worst she could do was to split the admirers — Qianling included, who had started mumbling her usual baby talk and had begun reaching out for her mother as Huo Zheng did the mini-lecture on transience.

“Gun Gun,” Mei Lin reversed and called out to her ever unwitting victim. “Please teach me how to make that chicken congee you prepared for us last week.”

Like the fool that he was, Gun Gun alertly tilted his head toward Mei Lin. These past few months, Mei Lin had found that he did like it when she used the word, please. It was one small word to add to her vocabulary but his reliability at coming to her whenever she needed him to had always delighted her.

Mei Lin bit her lower lip to keep from smiling and dashed back inside the house, Qianling in tow.

Chapter 31


1. (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.

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