Fanfiction: Ink in Water - Chapter 2 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 2. Why fall in love with something you can’t have

author: Bunny
consultant: LigayaCroft and  ____Le
(editor: Kakashi)

Year 310,000
(20,000 years before the Ghost War)

On a day in late summer, barely over a year into her discipleship, Bai Qian learned for the first time that the God of War was a merciless god. Up until then, he had had her fooled with that pretty face and quiet demeanor.

A wolf in sheep’s clothing.

In a sea of bamboo at the base of Mount Qinyao bordering the South Sea, shades of green stretched as far as the eye could reach. Bai Qian stood with legs trembling, face to face with her opponent: a demoness whose sleek opal body emerged from a giant clam shell. The creature’s looks were

hypnotizing—skin that shimmered like a pearl, violet eyes, and long silver hair that billowed in the breeze. How could something so demonic, appear so enchanting?

That thought had barely solidified in Bai Qian’s mind when a blaring hiss penetrated her ears. The demoness extended her mouth open and revealed rows upon rows of pointy shards for teeth, her face drawn back completely to accommodate the gaping hole that just took over. A thin red tongue came slithering out and flung about in the air like a whip. Not so pretty anymore.

Beads of sweat lined up on the tops of her brows as Bai Qian struggled to maintain a grip on the Jade Purity Fan of Kunlun that shook in her hand like a baby’s rattle.

“Sh—Shifu… you are mistaken, this lowly disciple is not worthy,” She stammered, “M-M-Maybe we can come back another day?”

There was no response. She glanced out of the corner of her eye to see that Moyuan, about five yards to the left of her, had just conjured a small dais for himself and sat down leisurely to spectate. She had to do a double take. He even had a cup of tea in his hand!

Si Yin, the most junior disciple of Kunlun Mountain, in his second year, accompanies the God of War to Mount Qinyao to eradicate evil, and gets eaten.

Surely, this is what one of the Star Lords will be inscribing in his scroll.

The series of events leading up to this very moment began three days before on Kunlun Mountain, when a rather important and unexpected visitor had come to seek an audience with the God of War.

That day, Bai Qian had been sitting in the back of the main hall, balancing her wobbly chin on the edge of her palm as she pretended to listen to Moyuan reciting from a doctrine she couldn’t remember the name of. For some reason, the heavier her lids got, the louder his voice sounded until finally a pair of pacing footsteps stopped at the edge of her desk and a scroll came dropping down onto the surface in front of her.

It made a startling sound. Bai Qian’s head fell out of her propped hand and hit the table. Her eyes flared open but couldn’t focus on anything.

“Which one?!” She slurred, flinging her head side to side. “Which one of you did it?”

Coming up empty, she then threw her scowling face upward. The outline of Moyuan’s face flickered and began to sharpen. He stared down at her, expressionless.

“This one.”

Bai Qian gulped. Her eyebrows wilted as she raised the corners of her lips up to a sorry smile. “Shifu… heh heh…”

The cushion beneath her was being crushed so tightly as her body sank deeper into it, that it too, was hoping a hole would open up in the ground.

It seemed however that the Heavens were pitying her at that moment for a group of Celestials had now come strolling in. They were all wrapped in so much gleaming gold and silver that Bai Qian’s eyes had to sliver up to adjust.

“Moyuan, I’ve come to discuss some matters with you.” Said the most gaudily dressed Celestial of the bunch. He seemed to have no concern for the lecture he had just interrupted and eyed the room with a look that made her seniors instantly rise from their seats. Bai Qian, who was still recovering from sleepiness, didn’t feel like getting up yet and remained seated as she tried to cover up a yawn.

“Whatever you would like to discuss, it can be done in the company of my disciples.” Moyuan said, leaning down to retrieve his scroll from her desk. He threw her a stern glance before walking back to the front of the room.

The rest of her seniors sat back down. There was a brief flash of annoyance on the Celestial’s face, but nonetheless he submitted himself to a dais off to the side and began to unload information.

As he spoke, Bai Qian squinted her eyes and tipped her head side to side to examine him. She couldn’t look away from that gold-encrusted headdress that fanned out and framed his face. When Bai Qian squinted just right, his head resembled a golden pansy. The more she looked, the more that lofty demeanor left a bad taste in her mouth.

“Moyuan, I know it has only been a month since you’ve returned from the last expedition and your injuries still haven’t fully healed, but I have to ask you to make another trip personally,” he said, “I recently received a missive from Nanhai Shuijun (2). Apparently, the Shen demon (3) that was sealed over 100,000 years ago by Dong Hua Dijun has reemerged and has been terrorizing the lands bordering the South Sea. Nanhai Shuijun’s three sons have already tried their hand at extinguishing it, but barely escaped with their lives. I’m afraid I will have to ask you to handle it. If you need an army, I can provide.”

When the words ‘Shen demon’ left his mouth, it caused all her seniors to put on grim faces and break out in chatter. Bai Qian watched as Moyuan quietly received a fresh cup of tea from her Third senior with an unchanged expression.

Die Feng, who sat a few seats away from her shook his head and muttered, “Shifu hasn’t had any time to finish his meditation… it won’t be good for him to go like this.”

“The Heavenly Realm’s three princes are very capable, have any of them been considered for the task?” Moyuan finally responded.

“No… No, they won’t do,” the Celestial stammered for a moment, then sharpened his tone. “Moyuan, you should be more than well aware that the only other person besides you who could take on a Shen demon is Dong Hua Dijun. He’s currently in deep meditation and cannot be disturbed. Please don’t make me ask this of you twice.”

Moyuan kept his eyes down and focused on brushing the tea leaves to the edge of his cup with the lid.

Who did this Golden Pansy think he was?! The gall he must have to be talking to the God of War and only son of Father Immortal this way. Bai Qian darted her eyes back and forth between these two people and felt herself churn with frustration.

Having been a Kunlun disciple for the past year and some months, it had become clear to Bai Qian that the God of War was nothing like the persona she had previously conjured in her head. It was almost pitiful how meek he could be at times like these. To stay silent like that… how intimidated he must feel.

Bai Qian suddenly felt her heart blossom with kindness. As his disciple, she couldn’t sit around and do nothing. What would the realms say about her if she let her master get taken advantage of? Besides, this Golden Pansy really seemed like the type to bully other people. Bai Qian’s tongue had the bad habit of running loose on bullies and today it was itching for exercise.

“Hey Celestial! My Shifu is still recovering. Surely this matter can hold on a while longer, or why don’t you go and take care of it yourself?” She shouted.

Up at the front of the room, Moyuan’s eyes honed in on her. He looked a little awestruck, probably just overwhelmed with gratitude. Bai Qian felt pleased and flashed him a smile.

The Golden Pansy now had on a face that grew redder by the moment.

“Presumptuous! Wh-Who do you think you’re speaking to?!” He berated. “Moyuan, is this the sort of manners Kunlun Mountain disciples are taught to have?”

“Shifu has taught us that those who are respectable should be treated with respect,” She said, “You’re twisting my Shifu’s arm, how is that respectable?”

“You—!” The Golden Pansy gritted his teeth as he swiveled his head back and forth between her and Moyuan. “W-Who is this rascal?!”

“Someone who is helping to clear the cobwebs in your head. You have many Celestial generals in Heaven and only one God of War. If something happens to him, how are you going to answer to Father Immortal?” She formed a fist with both hands and raised them high up.

The Celestial now held up a finger that shook furiously at her as he struggled to form a sentence. She couldn’t help but giggle watching him.


“Please forgive him, this junior disciple of mine likes to speak his mind and still has much to learn about restraint. He will receive appropriate punishment.” Moyuan replied.

Bai Qian thought she saw a faint smile glimmering behind the God of War’s normally indifferent eyes just now.

“I will prepare to leave for the South Sea tomorrow, it shouldn’t be that much trouble. And no need for an army, I will simply be taking my Seventeenth disciple.”

Bai Qian’s lids were flipped so far up that her eyelashes nearly caught onto her eyebrows at the sound of those last words.

“Ehh…?” She said, staring blankly at the front of the room and pointing a finger at her own chest. “Shifu, you want to take me with you?”

Moyuan stayed silent for a moment, then took a sip of his tea before replying, “Seventeenth, since you had the courage to speak up against Tianjun of Jiuchongtian, then surely you have the courage to take on the Shen demon. In fact, since I’m still recovering, when we get there, you will fight in my place. What do you think?”

“Shifu! This situation is far too dangerous. Seventeenth is only—” Die Feng cut in, but was quickly shot down by a look from Moyuan.

Bai Qian was now wide-eyed and stupefied. She had actually managed to berate the ruler of the Heavens just now. The only thing left to do was nod her head at this point.

“Then it’s settled,” said Tianjun. “Since your disciple here has agreed to help out, I won’t hold any grievances against his earlier conduct. Although, I do hope you’ll reprimand his impudence in your own time.”

Moyuan didn’t even bother to look at him and simply reached over for the scroll he was reciting from earlier.

“Tianjun, take care on your way back, I won’t be seeing you out. We need to finish our lecture before the lunch hour.”

Sitting dazedly through the rest of the lecture, Bai Qian gave the situation some thought. There had been many instances of this; requests for the God of War to eradicate demons were not rare. On many occasions, Moyuan would just send a Kunlun disciple in his stead. But when cases were serious enough, he would make the trip himself and take one of her seniors with him. Bai Qian had asked to go before, but Moyuan had dismissed her saying it would require several more thousand years of training before it would be her turn. So, this current situation seemed like a stroke of luck.

When she walked out of the hall that day, Bai Qian was surrounded by a huddle of her seniors. Their reactions from earlier events were mixed. A few nudged her approvingly, while others shook their heads. Zi Lan, the thorn in her side that she had to call her Sixteenth Senior just because he arrived on Kunlun a few moments before she did, had a few thoughts of his own on the whole matter.

“Hmph, don’t be so pleased with yourself, the only reason Shifu picked you to go this time is because he knows you don’t have any experience with the opposite sex…”

“What does that have to do with anything?!”

“Oh? You don’t know? Seventeenth… do you even read the material that Shifu assigns us?” Zi Lan scoffed and flipped his nose in the air, “A Shen demon is a powerful enchantress who weaves illusions based on carnal desires. If a person has desire in their heart for another, it will be used against them. They will be a weaker opponent and will likely not be able to defeat such a demon.”

“Carnal desire…” Bai Qian repeated under her breath.

“And so, since you are so immature and have not had any luck in that department, unlike the rest of us, Shifu figures that you’ll be immune to the demon’s wiles,” he smirked, “Otherwise, why would someone like you get picked to go before someone like me?”

Bai Qian balled her hands into fists and tried to swallow a few choice words she had for him. It wasn’t worth it to get into a fight with this ruffian and risk her chances of going on this trip.

Turning to face Zi Lan again, she smiled warmly and replied, “I guess I am inexperienced after all, compared to you, Sixteenth senior… It’s really too bad… I suppose you’ll just have to sit back while I go and save the realms!”

After successfully inspiring the engorged vein on Zi Lan’s temple, Bai Qian gleefully skipped off. She tossed her head around to look at his infuriated expression and smirked. If there was ever a day when the two of them could be friendly with each other, that would be the day when hell would freeze over.

At the crack of dawn the next day, Bai Qian was loudly woken up by a group of her seniors who appeared around her like a mob of anxious hens. They rattled off a string of reminders about how she needed to be ‘filial’ and ‘not shame Kunlun Mountain’. All of which she returned with a string of yawns.

Her sleepy eyes landed on Die Feng, who was making a strange face, like a father sending his daughter off to be sold. Bai Qian looked at him with half an eyebrow raised, then crawled back under the covers. It took a few tugs and pulls before she finally got out of bed that morning.

When she finally got out to the front gate, the God of War was already standing with arms behind his back waiting for her. He looked almost like a mortal, dressed in that dark green linen robe with hair pulled up in a simple bun. As soon as he saw her, he briefly scanned her up and down, then turned around and started walking. Her second senior, who stood on the side, quickly pressed a bag full of warm hum baos into her arms before sending her off. He too, was wearing a strange face.

Bai Qian started walking and had to squint to see that Moyuan’s figure was already disappearing down the mountain. Wasn’t he still recuperating? She sprinted to catch up.

When she finally made it to him, she opened up the warm bag in her hands and reached for a hum bao to stick in her mouth. “Shifu, would you like to try one?”

Moyuan politely declined and carried on walking a few paces in front of her.

They were finally alone together and already, the silence settled in fast. Although Bai Qian had been around him every day since arriving on Kunlun Mountain, as master and disciple, they had not had any prolonged one-on-one interactions. She realized that aside from the quiet and mostly expressionless demeanor he typically displayed, she knew little about his overall temperament. The prospect of spending days alone together was now daunting.

As her feet caught up beside him, Bai Qian continued to take bites out of her hum bao while discreetly staring at his profile. Face, resembling an ice-block, that too was unchanged.

She thought of asking him about their route of travel since it was a little strange that they were walking on foot, but the more she looked at him, the more her tongue knotted and her words sank down to her belly.

“Is there something on my face?” He suddenly asked.

Caught off guard, Bai Qian managed to choke on the piece of hum bao she had been chewing on and erupted in a coughing fit.

A hand was placed on her back as it rubbed back and forth to sooth her. He must have used some magic because the problem instantly resolved. The gentleness of his touch was almost startling.

“You shouldn’t eat so fast,” Moyuan said, before moving ahead of her.

After walking from morning to afternoon, the sun was now in the middle of the sky and beating down heat. Bai Qian wasn’t quite sure how far they had gone or where they were. All around were hills upon hills of tall dried grass that sat like mounds of gold. Occasionally, a small tree or shrub would hover on the horizon, but other than that, there was nothing else to see but glaring shades of yellow that seemed to go on forever. She figured they had made it onto the grasslands of the West, a vast mass of barren land that laid south of Kunlun mountain and spread all the way to the northern tip of Fenyi Kingdom.

As she paused to wipe the sweat off of her forehead, the soreness of her legs kicked in. This was probably the most she had walked in human form since being born. She looked ahead at Moyuan, he had no indication of slowing down. He had kept the same steady pace all morning, much to her astonishment.

The two of them had barely said another word to each other, but she was not able to hold back any longer.

“Shifu!” Bai Qian called out, “Why don’t we sword fly or cloud jump? Walking will take us days to get there at this rate!”

“In that case, we’d better pick up our pace,” he replied coolly, without glancing back at her.

Bai Qian muttered under her breath, “Just because we have feet, doesn’t mean we have to use them…”

Her words did not escape his ears. Mo Yuan turned his head around a moment later and gave her an icy glance.

She immediately straightened up. “I mean, walking is great for the body! Shifu is so strong, you must walk a lot.”

As she chuckled nervously, his deadpan expression remained until he turned away again.

She stuck her tongue out at him. If ice-blocks could walk… It was almost as though he took pleasure in seeing her squirm. Couldn’t they just have a normal conversation? So stingy, he wouldn’t even spare a smile.

If they were going to keep going this way, then she needed to replenish her energy. Bai Qian reached for another hum bao from the bag that she had already nearly polished off and began chomping away.

“It is good for you to see the landscape on foot. This is part of your lesson.” Moyuan said a moment later, “Also, you shouldn’t eat too much and then complain about an upset stomach.”

He saw her? Does this god have eyes on the back of his head? She stared at him suspiciously as she spitefully took more enthusiastic bites.

As they trekked onward, Bai Qian tried to think of things to do to distract herself from the pair of quivering legs below her. She really didn’t feel like chatting up the ice-block, but who else was there to talk to? Glancing around for some inspiration, a looming peak to the East of them caught her eye. It was so far away, she could hardly see anything distinguishable about it, but given the geography, there could only be one mountain.

“Ah, that’s Mount Nanshan! Isn’t it Shifu?”

Moyuan looked over, nodded, then turned away.

Won’t talk to me, I’ll talk to you anyway.

“Shifu, do you want to hear a story?”

Bai Qian leaned down to pick off a piece of dried grass from the ground and began chewing on the end of it. Her feet caught up with his.

“Did you know, when I was a little fox, barely 10,000 years old, yet to attain my human form, the Old Phoenix took me on a trip to the West for some sightseeing. Somehow, we ended up getting separated along the way. I wandered into Mount Nanshan alone and was caught by a panther demon who dwelled in one of the caves there.”

Her sole audience member seemed to be paying little attention and just kept staring straight ahead, but Bai Qian happily went on talking.

“A strange demon, that one! His head didn’t seem quite right. After he caught me, he stuck me in a cage made of bones and everyday, he would cook a pheasant for me to eat. Sometimes he would cackle and tell me that he wanted to fatten me up so he could eat me, and then other times he would be polite and make conversation. Anyway, in that cave, there was a stone statue of a woman. Every night, when the demon came back to the cave, he would sit and talk to it for hours. And each time, he would weep with strings of tears running down his cheeks. Eventually, I grew curious and asked him why. Do you know what he told me?”

Moyuan didn’t respond but simply glanced over at her.

“He said it was once his lover. She was a Celestial maiden from heaven. The two of them had met and fallen in love, but because of their background, they couldn’t be together. They decided to make a pact, to meet at that cave on Mount Nanshan and elope. The maiden kept her promise, but for some reason, I can’t recall anymore… the demon could not. He ended up coming to the cave a few thousand years later. The maiden was not there. However, a stone figure resembling her sat at the entrance of the cave. He later recognized her soul essence in it. The maiden had waited for so long with a broken heart that she had turned to stone.”

Bai Qian spat out the piece of grass in her mouth and turned to Moyuan. “Shifu, don’t you think that’s a little silly?”

He kept his gaze on the horizon and simply replied, “Silly?”

“Yes, their whole story. Why choose to fall in love with something you know you can’t have? It’s not like they were ever going to be able to run away from their fate. Why put each other through all that?”

Moyuan was quiet for a while. Bai Qian was about to go on when he replied, “Seventeenth, do you think that all things in life can be determined by choice?”

“Why can’t they? Maybe with an ounce of logic, those two could have avoided their tragic ending. That woman, she should have moved on and saved herself the misery. Why would anyone spend their entire life waiting for another person? I would never do such a thing.”

Moyuan paused his steps, finally looking over at her. A small smile appeared on his lips. A moment later, he resumed his stride.

“Yes, you should never do such a thing,” he said, with his back to her.

Bai Qian stood still and gave her chin a scratch, she then tore off another nearby blade of grass and ran to catch up. The story wasn’t finished, so she continued merrily.

“So eventually, a month later, after I had plumped up enough to appear appetizing, the demon took me out of the cage. He cleaned me, then wrapped me on a stick and put me on top of a fire. The fire quickly removed a layer of fur on my back and was scorching my skin. I squealed and squealed for help, and sure enough, a god appeared! He seemed to be a very powerful god, although I can’t even recall what he looked like, I was in so much pain at that point. The god quickly put out the fire and the demon did not even try to fight him, only bowing down to him. I think I passed out soon after because the next thing I knew, I woke up being carried by a very irate Zhe Yan, who vowed never to take me on trips again.”

Bai Qian let out a sigh and looked back at the shadowy mountain that was now retreating behind them. “I wonder if that demon is still hiding out there with his…”

Her eyes were so fixed in the opposite direction that a moment later, she walked right into the back of Moyuan. They had reached the top of another hillside. Rubbing her bruised nose, Bai Qian moved her head out from behind him to look at what was ahead.

A valley? Sunken in and enclosed, with blue fog-covered mountains on one side and grasslands on the other. Like finely embroidered silk, weaved in vivid color, a complete contrast from the monotonous landscape they had just traversed. All around were verdant meadows with waves upon waves of lush foliage. The endless arrays of blooming flowers carried a soft floral scent that wafted up to where they stood. Bai Qian felt as though her nose had been pressed into a bouquet of blooms just looking at them.

Why couldn’t she recall learning about such a scenic location in any of the geography lessons Moyuan had given? This must be one of those ‘not the fault of the teacher, but he fault of the student’ scenarios. If she were to ask him now, he would surely be unhappy with her. It was not worth it.

As her eyes continued to scan over the scenery, they noticed a series of small cyan colored pools, each with an edge of rising steam. Immediately, she had a hankering for a bath.

“Shifu.” Without thinking, she had reached out her thumb and index finger to grab ahold of the edge of his sleeve, giving it a few light tugs. “How about stopping here for a rest?”

He turned to look at her. His eyebrows creased together as his gaze slowly descended down to where her fingers were gripping. It wasn’t a look of displeasure, but rather of befuddlement. Bai Qian realized that it was likely due to the fact that none of his other male disciples would have displayed such a girlish gesture. She quickly let go of him and tried to look manly.

Bai Qian wasn’t sure if he bought it, but his face suddenly softened. Her insides felt like it had melted into porridge. Who knew an ice-block could look so warm?

“Alright,” he spoke in a soft voice. “We’ll stop here for now.”

A wide smile quickly strung itself from one ear to the other. Without sparing another moment, Bai Qian let her feet plummet down the hill in haste while deliberating in her head the order in which a bath or a meal should go in.

Wide-eyed and carefree, that was the way most unsuspecting preys looked before being devoured by their enemy.

Chapter 3


(1) Tianjun: Heavenly Lord
(2) Nanhai Shuijun: Water God of the South Sea
(3) Shen Demon: A shapeshifting demon believed to create mirages