Fanfiction3: A-Li's Three Lives, Three Worlds - Chapter 36 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 36

written by Ligayacroft
edited by Panda and kakashi

“Hēng! Hēng!”

The sight of the huge pig gleefully bouncing in the snow toward him as he entered the courtyard was all that A-Li needed to see to remind him of his struggles. His eyes immediately searched the perimeter for the its mistress, and was both relieved and disappointed not to find her there.

“You finished all of my sweets yesterday,” he admonished the pig who kept climbing up and pushing its snout through his leg, his waist, and his groin. With moderate strength and a groan, he pushed Weixiao off which sent the pig on its back in the snow, its stubby legs flailing helplessly in the air as it continued to unhappily grunt at him. A-Li leaned forward to pull the pig back on its feet by its two forelegs and no sooner had he done so that it flew on to him again, toppling him backwards into the snow, its snout now digging all over his torso.

Instead of struggling back up, A-Li laid on the soft snow and allowed his thoughts to fly as he stared at the overcast skies. It looked like it was going to snow again tonight; he and Gun Gun would need to make sure they had enough firewood for their fire pit before sundown. A warm broth for dinner would be nice, too. And a warm bath — but when was the last time that any of them had had a warm bath in a proper bath tub?

A-Li’s hands fisted in the snow, scrunching the powder into semi-hard blocks inside his palm. He was tired. So tired. And not the kind that was caused by a hard day’s work out in the farm because that could easily be remedied by a good night’s rest. No, it was his mind and heart that had been in a clear state of unrest these past several days, and there was no outrunning one’s heart and mind.

A body dropped right beside him in the snow. A-Li adjusted his focus to see Mei Lin hovering over him, her warm hands directly on his pulse.

“Li-Gē,” she grunted as she leaned hard against Weixiao to shove the pig out of the way. “Are you unharmed?”

“Weixiao,” came Huo Zheng’s voice from behind Mei Lin. “Come.”

The pig gave an attentive snort and stepped all over A-Li’s stomach as it crossed over to its mistress. A-Li accepted Mei-Lin’s help and gingerly drew up to his full height.

“Are you alright?” Huo Zheng asked, her expression blank as it had always been since that day in the shepherd’s hut. “Did Weixiao hurt you?”

A-Li liked the way that the apples of her cheeks were naturally flushed due to the crisp, cold air even as she met his gaze with disaffection. How aggressive she had been that day, and how miffed afterwards. Was it really that natural for her to take a lover even if she was married? Was she not used to men turning down her attentions?

Was it wrong then to have attempted to stop her that day? Had he really thought that he would not miss her all the more now that he knew what she tasted like?

Her brows raised to which A-Li hastily nodded, “I’m alright.”

“Good. Stop feeding sweets to the pig so she doesn’t attack you.” She signaled to Mei Lin with a crook of her finger. “Mei Lin, let’s go. A baby waits for no one.”

Huo Zheng strode out of the courtyard, once again without glancing back.

Mei Lin stooped down to pick up her satchels before turning toward him with a huff.

“Li-Gē, as much as I look up to you, you can sometimes just be a big idiot. Get your head together. If a woman wants you and you want her back, what’s stopping you? A husband that might never come back?”

A-Li stiffened. “She told you?”

“Told me? Like she needed to! The air between the two of you is practically swimming with—” Her entire body vibrated with a shudder. “Never mind, it brings to mind my— “ Another shudder. “It’s gross to talk about any of this! Just do it, okay? Have sex. Have mindless sex. You are certainly experienced in that arena. You might like it. You might not. Just do it so we can finally get all this tension between the two of you out of the way.”

“But Huo Zheng is—”

“A village leader? A saint?” A gusty laugh burst out from Mei Lin’s chest. “Oh, let me assure you, she’s no saint. In fact, she had been collecting—” Mei Lin unexpectedly cut off, stared into blank space, and visibly turned green.

“Mei Lin!” A-Li took her shoulders and gave her a shake. “Mei Lin!”

She shoved at him, fell to her knees in the snow and retched several times although nothing came out. A-Li knelt on the snow beside her and gently rubbed her back.

“Li-Gē,” She spoke again as soon as she could catch her breath, wiping the sides of her mouth with the back of her hand. “Do you know, I just realized what the best thing about my choice to become a demon is.”


The merciless grin on her face would have made her Mother proud.

“I can kill my parents and still be Queen.”


The past several days had seen Mei Lin hover between feelings of murder to feelings of embarrassment over what her mother had done to the mortal realms. It drove her crazy how much Huo Zheng fawned over her Mother’s writing as if they were holy scriptures, and would even quote verbatim from her Mother’s books every now and then. But could she blame Huo Zheng when the mortal worlds suffered from a lack of female role models in leadership positions?

Still, for her Mother to talk about her experiences as she reclaimed her leadership of the Demon Clans was one thing; but to write about her nocturnal and not-so-nocturnal activities with her partner was another! Mei Lin thought of her stick in the mud Father and wondered if he knew. Ha! Of course he knew. Whether he would admit to it or not, Mo Yuan was in the same leagues as Dong Hua Dijun and Si Ming Xingjun. Very little went past his notice which was why growing up, Mei Lin had to result to creative measures to be able to live a life of her own separate from her identity as her parents’ daughter.

And so, it felt right to blame her Father, too, for the corruption Mr. Mo’s Magickal Moments had inflicted on the mortal realms. There could have been ways for him to collect all of his partner’s amorous scrolls — even have his Golden Dragon destroy a corrupted mortal world or two — and yet what had he done?


As if he had underestimated her capability to find her way to these scrolls.

Her copper mirror no longer worked in Huicūn but her encounter with her cousin earlier reminded Mei Lin of another way she could get her words across. Same as she had done since finding out about the erotica, she lit three incense sticks and watched with satisfaction as the sticks caught fire.

“Mo Yuan High God,” She whispered and felt her breath catch in her throat. What should she say to her Father? “I—”

I miss you — because she did. For some reason, Huicūn had made her softer, which didn’t exactly feel terrible. She missed her Mother but she missed her Father even more. He had spent all those years fussing over her even though her Mother allowed her to be independent — always checking on her whereabouts, talking to the parents of every immortal boy she had ever dated, and even his regular reminders through her servants and Lian Song to eat more vegetables! Her! A demon, eating vegetables? Preposterous! But come to think of it, she did love vegetables, she just didn’t show it, which was also why living on a predominantly vegetable diet in Huicūn failed to make her sick.

In hindsight, she now knew that she felt more strongly about her Father’s indifference, a trait of his which showed up whenever she was at Kunlun, rather than seeing proof of his otherwise misplaced protectiveness. And it drove her crazy; how could he be so concerned when she was not around and yet scrimp on words and actions when she was?

I will never let you live this down when I see you again — because she knew she wouldn’t. Right now, even looking at Li-Gē’s eyes for long periods of time unsettled her so. Just thinking of her Father doing those things her Mother had written about — and curious brat that she was, she had read them all, of course — Mei Lin fought back another shudder and forced herself to breathe.

What about, Father. Mother has brought shame to the family. What if the other immortals found out about this — but when had her Mother ever backtracked on a decision? If there was one thing Mei Lin had learned from her mother after she had read Wan Shao’s works, it was that once her Mother had chosen a path, she would stick to it for ill or will. The Demon Ancestor Shao Wan would probably be very satisfied to learn that her series was now one of the greatest literary works of this mortal world.

Then it finally occurred to Mei Lin that if her Father knew of her Mother’s misdeeds, then he was a victim, too, right? There was no way a self-respecting man, a proud man like Mo Yuan, would have allowed these books to proliferate in the mortal realm with his permission, which could only mean her Mother had done it without.

How the knowledge of the books after Shao Wan had released them to the mortal worlds must have pissed Mo Yuan so. This drew a laugh from Mei Lin.

“Mo Yuan High God,” She whispered to the incense smoke again. “I think maybe I should indeed slow down at expecting the worst from you.”

“What are you doing?”

Mei Lin gasped and turned to see Huo Zheng now up and awake behind her.

“I thought you were sleeping!” She huffed. The backroom to the birthing hut provided Huo Zheng a small place to rest as they waited for the mother in the other room to be fully dilated. Her friend had barely slept when she came in. “You have to take better care of yourself and sleep while you can, Xiăohŭ.”

“I want to,” Huo Zheng sank down on the straw bed again and put the back of her hand over her eyes. “But I can’t. I keep having strange dreams when I do, Mei Lin. Recently, your stories have made it even stranger, too.”

“It’s not that Jiě Fu man again, right? The one who threw you to hell? Your favorite nightmare?”

“No, this one’s strange. I dreamt of baby dragons.” Her hands fell from her eyes, which now danced in the dim candlelight. “In my dream, I was burning in flames while I slept and they hatched all around me at the same time that I woke up because my sister and my aunt had arrived. Come to think of it, Mei Lin, my sister reminded me of you.”

“That’s because we’re best friends, Xiăohŭ.”

Huo Zheng cupped her hands in front of her, “The dragons were so tiny and they came in various colors, too. They felt so real.”

“Still, it’s just a dream, Xiăohŭ,” She said, determined to snap her friend back to the present. Now that Huo Zheng had begun opening up to her, Mei Lin realized that dreams, or mostly nightmares, were the main reason Huo Zheng avoided sleep as often as she could. “What do you plan to do with my cousin, anyway?“

This effectively brought Huo Zheng back to the present as she giggled. “Did you see the way he looked at me earlier?”

“Like Weixiao who saw sweets she couldn’t have? ”

“I wonder how I should spur him to action,” Huo Zheng thought wistfully as she sat up. “When they were younger, the great Wan Shao tried to engage Mo Huīxià in inelegant sparring sessions that turned bloody and brutal, but they were necessary because those were when he showed more emotions.”

“Funny that,” Mei Lin mulled. Her Father had stopped training her very early and had never hurt her to the point where she had bled or cried. Woe be her training if she suddenly felt weak or tired as her Father would immediately halt the session and flee toward his cave.

“Maybe I should ask Bai Li to go on a sparring session with me. I'm pretty good with a sword.”

Mei Lin laughed. “You won't survive my cousin.”

Huo Zheng raised one brow at her.

“You won't survive. I've been training with him for years and I have yet to defeat him,” She waved her hand in front of her face. “But why do you have to follow Wan Shao to the letter? She was a warrior while you're a healer. Why don’t you use the weapons you have in your arsenal instead?”

She merely meant to deflect her friend from following her Mother’s teachings to the letter but the glint that caused Huo Zheng’s eyes to sparkle suddenly made Mei Lin uncomfortable.

“You're right!” Huo Zheng stood up and held Mei Lin by the hands as she jumped around. “It is just what Wan Shao said, If subtlety is a trait you possess, be subtle. If you are not, be not. The point is to move at an opportune moment, using your strengths. Just like a strategist, move when the chance for victory seems high.”

“You're scaring me.”

Huo Zheng didn’t seem to hear Mei Lin. “My attempt to act cold won't work on him because that's not my own style! But I could… drug him. I have just the herbs and oils to ease his mind and I have aphrodisiacs to ensure his prime performance. Mei Lin, you're brilliant!”

It was strange thing, this, seeing one’s cool and unaffected friend show a myriad of emotions that seemed to be out of character. Mei Lin almost felt sorry for her cousin.


“I don’t think you’ll need aphrodisiacs,” She said weakly.

“It won't hurt to come prepared.”

Mei Lin shook her head and was about to open her mouth to speak again when they were interrupted by their patient’s scream of, I think the baby is coming!

And just like that, Huo Zheng was back to her unflappable self once again.


Two weeks later…

The weight of the snow dumped by the blizzard two weeks past damaged most of the tea farm’s aqueducts hence all the men had been busy trying to return the farm’s irrigation system to its original state. Further, the snow, water and wind had also caused rocks and trees to topple and block their mountain water source.

All in all, it hadn’t been a good couple of days and everyone had worked as long as they could out in the cold. A-Li and Gun Gun even took the perilous trek up the mountain toward the river’s source — a waterfall formed from the glacier — to help out, which had involved several days of camping in tents under the freezing weather as they moved rocks and boulders to unblock the bone-chilling water from flowing freely.

A-Li never knew being a farmer could be this hard for mortals. But just the same, these mortals fascinated him and Gun Gun so. Mortals were so prone to natural calamities and yet they were resilient. Further, probably because of their poverty, the men they were with were always able to find something to smile and laugh about, even as they risked losing limbs by wading through freezing waters.

Today, on their way back down, Gun Gun momentarily stopped walking, looked up to the sky and asked, “Li-Gē, do you still remember what the Heavens were like?”

A-Li smiled through Gun Gun’s obvious confusion. No matter how long they had been gone many times before, the Heavens had always felt like home.

The dilemma now was that their definition of home had evolved and multiplied. During their first couple of weeks in Huicūn, the three of them, strangers in a strange land but together as a unit, were home. Then their little hut, which he and Gun Gun built together, became home. Then their friends, the community with whom they spent the majority of their time out in the fields with, the men they had tea with in the morning and went drinking with at night, became home.

Until, one day, ultimately, Huicūn became home.

“It all seems like a fancy dream now,“ With a shake of his head, Gun Gun continued walking and A-Li moved along with him.

“Yes, it does.”

“Our life in Huicūn feels like a waking nightmare and yet, why don’t I want it to ever end? ”

Shìwaì Taóyuán [1],” It was the best way to describe Huicūn, a secluded paradise with people who had made it all the more beautiful. A-Li put an arm around his nephew, his best friend, his main partner-in-crime over the years. “This is our best adventure to date. You’ve changed a lot, too. I was so proud of you when you went in first into the water to prop that huge boulder with a lever.”

“You mean it was an irony; given with magick, Earth, Metal and Water are my strongest elements but instead, I had to do everything with the strength of my own mind and hands.”

“Your Father Lord would have been proud to see you,” he said, rubbing the palm of his hand on Gun Gun’s arm. “I have always thought it was strange that your Father Lord kept emphasizing that one only needed good looks and a great lineage to get ahead — but maybe that was because Dong Hua Dijun had to rely on his own strength during the early stages of his life until he became Heavenly Emperor. I think he wanted the illusion that life could be easier for you. Do you still think he does not know about your other life? He would have been proud to learn that over the years, you followed his footsteps instead of the words of his mouth.”

“I would not have been very good at my job had he known, am I right? Li-Gē, Mei Lin still must not know. I don’t know what she will do to her Father Lord if she did.”

A-Li nodded wordlessly at they continued walking. The village looked so near now, and seeing the smoke that rose from the houses’ hearths made A-Li’s mouth water as it brought his basic needs back to the forefront.

A warm bath, even if the hot water came from an earthenware container and he had to dig it out using a deep ladle.

A bowl of steaming hot soup.

His straw bed to lie on.

And Huo Zheng.

Damn if wading through a freezing, raging waterfall to push at boulders didn't make him feel like a hero.

And the hero always got to kiss the girl.

He would be damned if a kiss was all that he got, too. Out camping in the cold for several days, A-Li had had more than enough time to rationalize with himself: Huo Zheng wanted him. He wanted her. They were two consenting adults, the specter of an absent husband be damned.

He had had too many ice-cold baths as of late.

He would have her.


The thought cheered A-Li on as he let go of his nephew and picked up his pace toward the Huo house.

Only that, the sight of a large contingent of soldiers on warhorses standing outside the Huo gate sobered him up. After exchanging a hasty, concerned look with Gun Gun, the two of them broke into a run.

They had just cleared past the crowd of onlookers inside the courtyard when Huo Mao shouted above the din, “There, he is. There’s my grandson-in-law! If you are determined to borrow Huo Zheng from us, you must take him with you.”

Townsfolk, strangers and horses all turned toward A-Li and Gun Gun’s direction.

The lavishly armored stern-looking man on top of the most stately-looking horse inside the courtyard pointed toward Gun Gun.

“The white-haired one?”

“Stupid, that one’s too pretty for any woman to have. I was talking about the one beside him.”

Me? A-Li would have asked Huo Mao to clarify but there were more important concerns to be raised. A-Li was still at a loss as to what the strangers wanted from Huo Zheng.

“Did you just call the Duke stupid, old woman?” shouted the man who rode to the Duke’s right.

Huo Mao pointed her walking stick toward the entire contingent. “I’ll call you lot however I want to call you. You come in here demanding our healer as if we owed you anything. I could kill my granddaughter or she could kill herself — and what good will that do to you then?”

“You do that and we will kill everyone in this courtyard and then some,” the Duke threatened back.

This enraged A-Li.

Nobody ever dare threaten their home.


He spread his legs and crossed his arms over his chest as he challenged, “I’d like to see you try.”

The Duke’s right-hand man guffawed. “How? You don't even have a sword.”

A sword?

With a nod toward Gun Gun, A-Li moved and grabbed the nearest soldier on horseback by the leg, immediately overthrowing him from his horse. He had his knee on the man’s back, his left hand on the man’s nape, and his right hand drawing the man’s sword from its sheath in no time at all.

He glanced back to see Gun Gun crouched in the same position right behind him, a captured sword in his nephew’s own right hand.

Twenty… no, thirty swords were now pointed toward them but it didn’t matter. A-Li looked up at the Duke and his right-hand man.

“We just took care of our swords problem,” He pointed out as he rendered the soldier underneath him temporarily immobile before he stood up. “Do you want us to test our luck against you and your other soldiers, too?”

Overeager soldiers answered his question by attacking. A-Li swerved and deflected the first attacker with his left hand as his right hand took a moment to assess his captured sword. It felt strange and unusually heavy in his hand but he hadn't spent several days bodily lifting rocks, fallen tree trunks and boulders to be inconvenienced by a mere sword.

It was not Chun Jun [2] but it would have to do.

A-Li did just enough to render their opponents stunned or unconscious, and he no longer had to look back at Gun Gun to know his nephew also did the same. In truth, the fight, if you could call it that, bored him. These men were poorly-trained and it took him and Gun Gun just a couple of moments before there were about thirty riderless horses that circled the courtyard.

“What is happening here?” Huo Zheng’s voice raised above the commotion from the courtyard entrance, just as A-Li sent two men crumpling to the ground after he knocked them together by their heads.

“Hello there, wife.” It was a borrowed word, riding on the label Huo Mao stuck on him when he and Gun Gun first came in but it felt so good on his tongue and so right to his ears. A-Li picked up his captured sword and pointed it towards the Duke’s right-hand man. “I was just proving a point. Clearly, Gun Gun and I have shown that we can defend the village. I believe the Duke owes you more courtesy than he showed when he first barged inside our courtyard.”

Behind him, an awful groan snapped out of Gun Gun’s last victim’s throat as he, too, crumpled on the ground. Meanwhile, A-Li’s eyes flashed toward the mortal Duke, and with it, the inborn stature that only his 45’000 years as a first-degree prince of the Immortal Realms could show.

Never underestimate the power of a stare-down. A royal bearing can never be faked nor can it be taught, Lian Song had often lectured the three of them while growing up. This ultimately sets the three of you, and your siblings, apart from any other young immortal out there. Others could be busy going through great lengths to learn the ways of being, while the three of you can just be.

It took quite a while for A-Li to stare down at the Duke — granted his shabby getup and dirty hemp clothing probably added to the disconnect in the Duke’s mind — but eventually, the Duke climbed down his horse, crossed toward where Huo Zheng stood, and to the amazement of his troops, knelt down at Huo Zheng’s feet.

“Huo Zheng Yīshēng [3], I am Xìn Wújì, Duke of Chángyíng, located about a hard day’s ride north of here. Please accept my apologies for the commotion that my troops and I have caused. And please afford my house your mercy by assisting my wife as she gives birth to my child.”

“I do not understand. You can afford an army of doctors at your disposal. Why travel all the way here?”

“My wife and I have already lost four of our children to miscarriages and a stillbirth. We have searched far and wide to find the best doctors to assist her as she was about to give birth to our fifth child. My men and I were in Nanking when we heard about your prowess —”

“Then where is she? We have available birthing huts here. Surely, you know by now that I rarely travel outside of Huicūn.”

The Duke bowed again but his voice remained clear for the crowd to hear. “As this is my wife’s fifth pregnancy, we have taken extra precautions to prevent her from moving unnecessarily. I fear traveling such a great distance could endanger both her and our babe.“

Huo Zheng looked momentarily torn and A-Li could imagine this was due to her two identities as healer and leader clashing head-to-head with one another.

“Child,” Huo Mao voiced out as she walked toward her granddaughter and the kneeling Duke. “Where is Mei Lin?”

“At the birthing hut, attending to one of the mothers about to give birth,” Huo Zheng answered shakily. “Why?”

“We have her and Gun Gun. You can go with the Duke, but take your husband with you.”

“Husb—” Huo Zheng’s voice trailed off as her glassy gaze slid from her grandmother to A-Li.

“Yes, your husband,” Huo Mao finished. “You will be able to return as long as Mei Lin and Gun Gun are here, and as long as you have A-Li with you. This child of the Duke is destined for greatness. I already saw this in the stars the other night, just like I told you this morning. Now, go save that mother and child as you were born to do.”

“Nǎinai, are you sure?” Huo Zheng asked then bit at her lower lip.

“Mei Lin has proven herself as a fast learner and has been competent as your junior, hasn’t she? We will be fine, child.” Huo Mao assured after which, she pounded her walking stick very close to where the Duke’s face was. “Get up, my lord. Today is a happy day but please tell your men to get off and to clean up their steed’s excrement from my courtyard as they leave. A-Li,” She added, turning toward him, her blind eye blinking. “Had I known all along what fearsome warriors the two of you were, I would have given you your swords back a long time ago. Go and prepare for your journey. I will hand over your sword before you leave. Gun Gun and Mei Lin’s weapons, too.“

A-Li had more questions for Huo Mao but the fact that Huo Zheng had already rushed off to the back of the house where her cellar was raised the urgency that he could have his questions answered at a later time.

And so he, too, left to hastily pack.

Chapter 37

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1. (世外桃源) "the Peach Spring beyond this world" is a popular chengyu meaning an unexpectedly fantastic place off the beaten path, usually an unspoiled wilderness of great beauty.

2. (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.

3. (医生) Refers to medical doctor.