Fanfiction 2: Moyuan and Bai Qian - Chapter 17, Part 1 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 17 - The Plan

Part 1

written by LalaLoop
edited by kakashi

“Here you go, Miss,” The friendly shopkeeper handed Bai Qian the change of two silver coins, which she took and left with the book she had bought for A-li: an anthropology on magical creatures written from a mortal’s point of view. Once she was out of the shop, Bai Qian headed straight for the teahouse where Moyuan was waiting, flipping through the pages on the way.

When she arrived, two thirds of the play about the butterflies seemed to have finished. She spotted Moyuan’s figure at a table on the second floor and started to walk up the stairs to him.

“Shifu,” said Bai Qian gleefully when she had reached the table and sat down opposite of him.

Moyuan, who was paying no attention to the play downstairs, greeted her with a smile, reached to the teapot and poured some tea into the cup he had put in front of her. The plain mortal robes he had on and the absense of the Kunlun Master’s headpiece - Bai Qian took a quick moment to observe him - did not influence the way he carried himself too much.

“Thank you,” she said, inhaling the sweet scent of the tea. Then, she took a small sip from the cup and looked down at the actors. It was a rather uncrowded day at the teahouse. Most of the visitors had settled on the first floor to watch the popular play.

“I thought you said you would like to get A-li a book about the history of mortals’ weapons,” asked Moyuan, gesturing at the book she was holding. “Didn’t you say you thought he was old enough to appreciate that?”

“ I did,” said Bai Qian slowly. “But after the talk with you the other day…”

“What do you mean?” asked Moyuan with a raised brow. “I said it was a good choice.”

“Well, yes…” said Bai Qian, staring at the teacup. “That’s why…”

The crowd below cheered for the actors on the stage, it seemed the last act was about to begin.

“Let me see if I can get this right,” Moyuan said. Bai Qian looked up and saw not an angry expression, but a rather curious one. “You think it is a good idea, but because I agree with you, you decide not to go with it?”

“Well…” Bai Qian frowned. “I don’t know how to tell you this, but you tend to make bold choices to shock people, to make sure you stand out. This time, I really just wanted something within A-li’s expectations. I’d like to stick with the safe choice. The subject of weapons might be too much for A-li after all.”

Moyuan simply shook his head with a laugh and went back to his tea without further questions. Downstairs, the play had gotten to the part where Bai Qian and Zilan would usually walk out on: the main characters’ demise.

“While we’re on the subject,” said Moyuan suddenly, putting down his teacup. “There is something I need to discuss with you.”

The subject? Bai Qian’s brows deeply narrowed. Weapons?

“I will have to leave Kunlun for an expedition very soon,” said Moyuan, sounding strangely like he was confessing a sin.

“What kind of expedition?” Bai Qian asked, bringing the tea cup close to her lips again. This was not much of a surprise to her since Moyuan had often been asked by the Celestial court to go conquer demons and beasts in various places in the eight realms back in the day before the Great war.

“Zheyan is back,” he said simply. And this wasn’t the answer Bai Qian was expecting to hear.

“Back? Back from where? Hasn’t he been in his meditation cave this whole time.”

“No, Zheyan and Lord Donghua went on a trip to look for something. And they have found it.”

Bai Qian’s eyes grew wider. The actors below were starting to throw confetti over their heads to begin the scenes with the butterflies. But she did not care.

“What are you talking about, Shifu? What did they find?”

Moyuan cleared his throat, looked to the side then back at her. Bai Qian could tell he found this subject quite uncomfortable to discuss.

“Do you know why Qingcang was able to escape the Bell?” he said at last.

Bai Qian’s mind went back to that horrifying night when she and Zilan had walked straight into Qingcang and his assassins. She could not help wondering why Moyuan would want to discuss this for she could not think of a less ominous topic; but she answered him nonetheless.

“His spirit was released from the bell with external help and his physical form was able to escape after the spirit had fully materialized. After --” she swallowed, “-- after he absorbed Lijing’s powers.”

Moyuan nodded. Bai Qian looked at him for a while then it suddenly dawned on her.

“The external help…,” she said under her breath. All the noises around faded into the background completely. The only thing that kept bouncing back and forth in her head now was that Moyuan seemed to be suggesting that what they had seen at Ruoshui River last time was not the end of all the troubles concerning Qingcang. Was the world not rid of Qingcang and his last servants yet? Bai Qian thoughts strayed back to the night when she had come face-to-face with the former Ghost Lord - indeed he had briefly mentioned his miraculous escape from the Bell, which she had not taken to heart since deciphering Qingcang’s cryptic speech had not been her priority at the time.

“Since then, we - that is, Zheyan, Lord Donghua, and I - have discovered how Qingcang’s supporters have aided him.”

“How?” Bai Qian asked right away. Questions exploded in her head and she wished Moyuan would stop pausing and finish his explanation faster. “How did they do it?”

“You know about the curse Qingcang put on his children, do you not?”

“The blood curse? Yes.”

“Qingcang’s supporters made use of a certain soul-gathering device, something with the same kind of powers the Soul-Gathering Lamp possessed, only stronger and much darker, placed in a well guarded location not even Ghost Lord Lijing was aware of.”

“But what does it have to do with the blood curse?” she asked, struggling to process the information bit by bit.

“These devices were made with the addition of Qingcang’s children’s blood. Their blood is capable of reaching to his spirit. Combining forces with a soul-gathering device, his spirit - or even fragments of it - could be summoned and assembled. That is what enabled Qingcang’s escape last time.”

“But… but Qingcang is dead. He exploded that night, his spirit must have scattered. There is no way...”

“Yes, both his physical body and spirit perished that night. But as long as one of these devices exists and the last of his supporters still live, and believe me, we haven’t captured them all, there is no telling they wouldn't be able to find it and use it to successfully gather his soul again. Perhaps it would take millenia, but it is entirely possible; and we cannot take the risk.”

Gather his soul again… Bai Qian’s mouth dropped. She could not believe that just a few minutes ago, her biggest problem was deciding which book to get for A-li. Shiver ran down her back immediately. She stared at Moyuan with wide eyes and waited in silence for him to carry on.

“You’ve seen with your own eyes the powers of the Soul-Gathering Lamp. Imagine something exactly like it that was made with the forbidden curse solely for the purpose of summoning the spirit in the fastest way possible.”

“But how could you be sure that it was this device that aided Qingcang?” asked Bai Qian.

“It is the only possibility. The Bell, as you know, was designed especially to imprison spirits. Only something as sinister as this forbidden magic Qingcang made use of could counter its power. None of Qingcang’s children had personally used their blood to gather his soul on their own. The absence of my guarding spirit did weaken the Bell’s defense structure, but it absolutely could not have facilitated Qingcang that much.”

“And how many of those devices are there?”

“There were three.”

“Why three…” But Bai Qian did not need to hear the answer. Of course, Lijing, Yanzhi, and their eldest brother - each of their blood had been used to craft these devices.

“One of them used to be kept underneath Ziming Palace, which, from what we gathered, was destroyed long ago by Crimson fire. One has been expensed to facilitate Qingcang’s escape from the bell recently. And the last one, Zheyan and Lord Donghua believe they have located the area in which it is kept.”

Worry filled Bai Qian as she recalled her last meeting with Zheyan in Yanhua cave.

“So… Zheyan and Lord Donghua,” she swallowed. “They weren’t in meditation at all?”

“No, they weren’t,” said Moyuan. “I went into meditation because I needed to restore my powers as soon as possible should they require my assistance. They have been working.”

“Is that why you left the Eastern Forest?” Bai Qian suddenly recalled, feeling greatly insulted that she had been left out from all of this. “Why didn’t you tell me about it? My Fourth brother didn’t say anything either. He must have known! The Old Phoenix tells him everything.”

“I’m sure Zheyan hasn't said a word to your Fourth brother,” Moyuan chuckled. “We agreed not to tell anyone. We didn’t think it right to alarm anyone until we were absolutely sure.”

“And the mission you were talking about -- you meant you will have to travel to this place and destroy the device?” Bai Qian’s eyes narrowed. But surely, she thought, one could not simply walk up to a device of dark magic and slash it with a sword.

“Not destroy, retrieve,” Moyuan, who seemed to detect uncertainty on her face, corrected her. “I cannot be sure if I alone can destroy the device until I see what it is. And we have to get to it, contain it before any of Qingcang’s followers could reach it. It has taken immense effort from Zheyan and Lord Donghua to locate the place; it wouldn’t be wise to waste time.”

Bai Qian nodded and thought for a while.

“Do you know how the first one was destroyed? And by whom for that matter?”

“That I’m afraid I don’t know,” answered Moyuan. “It could have just been an accident.”

“Well… can I come with you on the mission then?” asked Bai Qian as she mentally prepared a detailed speech for persuasion should he refuse.

But Moyuan did not answer right away. Instead, he took a extensive moment to look at her.

“Forgive me,” he said, slightly chuckling. “Sometimes I still look at you and see a Seventeenth who constantly causes trouble and needs my protection. I easily forget that it is you who has been protecting me for the last 70,000 years.”

Bai Qian’s face went pink at his words. A brief silence passed by. And just when she was about to tell Moyuan that having nine-tailed fox’ blood was not something that required much courage and that she would have dropped dead as a result of recklessness had it not been for Zheyan’s help and the magical herb, he gave a long sigh.

“I won’t lie by pretending that this is an easy task.” he said. “But yes, you can come. I daresay it might be you who will save us both again this time.”

Knowing that there might be danger ahead could not stop Bai Qian from feeling quite excited. She bit her lips to stop herself from smiling. It was, after all, one of Qingcang’s dangerous schemes and now was not the appropriate time to look too happy.

“Does the celestial court know about this?” she asked. “Do they have any protest?”

“Protest?” Moyuan looked at her as if she’d just told a joke. “You should know by now that Kunlun doesn’t consult the Nine Heavens in these matters. Lord Donghua alone was enough help; and we don’t answer to Haode’s court.”

“I just thought they might be able to offer some cooperation,” she shrugged. “It's not like they have anything better to do at the moment.”

“I doubt the number of soldiers matter in this case.” Moyuan shook his head and added sarcastically, “about cooperation with the Celestial court, let us wait until someone more capable takes over, Haode’s grandson for instance, then we can talk about cooperation.”

Bai Qian scowled at the look of distinct pride on Moyuan’s face.

“Aren’t you a little overconfident about Yehua’s ability, Shifu? Why are you so sure he’d make a good ruler?”

“Do you not think so?”

“I do think he will be a good ruler,” she affirmed. “But that’s because I know him. You don’t know him.”

A small laugh escaped from Moyuan, his head tilting.

“What do you reckon you know about Yehua that I don’t?”

“You’ve only spent a few months with Yehua. I’ve known him for longer. I used to listen in when he discussed political matters with his subordinates. I’ve seen how he treats his superiors, inferiors, how he deals with problems and responses to crisis in the celestial court. Yehua has his strengths and weaknesses, of course. He tends to take desperate measures under pressure; and if you ask me, he is more reckless than he looks.” She stopped to catch her breath and realized Moyuan was looking at her more intently than a moment ago. “But you see, the point is I think your opinion is based more on faith than facts. You just happen to be right. And I do know Yehua better.”

“Yes,” he said with a raise of his brow. “Seems like you do.”

Several more seconds passed before Bai Qian recalled they had been talking about something more important than Yehua’s qualities.

“The device --” she reminded him, emptying her teacup. “When are you leaving?”

“I shall need to make proper preparations,” Moyuan thought for a second or two. “If you are sure you'd like to come along, meet me at Kunlun tomorrow evening.”

“Migu,” Bai Qian waved the tree spirit to come over to her and handed him the book she had bought for A-li. “I need you to keep this. I’ll be busy at Kunlun for the next few days so if Prince A-li visits while I’m gone, give it to him. Tell him it's a gift from me.”

“Yes, Gugu,” Migu took the book into his hand. “Anything else you’d like me to do?”

“No, that’s it,” said Bai Qian as she puts her hair up into a bun. “And keep an eye on Fengjiu, of course. Make sure she doesn’t plan anything too mischievous and burn down the cave.”

“Yes,” Migu bowed.

After the tree spirit had left the cave to rejoin the Willow Maiden outside, Bai Qian went back to her room, changed out of her flowery dress and put one a plain robe more appropriate for walking into the Ghost realm. Then she too headed toward the entrance and set out for Kunlun.

At the grand hall, she ran into Changshan, who was heading out in wide strides with a huge bag on his back.

“Seventeenth!” He called out to her instantly. “Glad to see you here.”

“Where are you going, Second Senior?” asked Bai Qian, jerking her head at the bag he was holding.

“Just checking on the cranes,” he replied. “Did you drop that?”

Bai Qian looked down to where Changshan was pointing and realized she had indeed dropped the little pointer she had attached to her sash too quickly in an attempt to get to Kunlun as soon as possible.

“Is that one of those direction finding devices?” Changshan asked curiously.

“Yes,” said Bai Qian, picking up the pointer and tying it back onto her sash. “It’s a gift from Yanzhi. It works better than most of the ones I’ve had.”

“Ahh, I can see now,” Changshan’s eyes glinted, his voice jeering. “So this is the truth behind the grand legend.”


“Yes,” he nodded. “The legend that says the powerful and mysterious Gugu of Qingqiu never leaves her home and keeps her life a secret from the world. So this is it then. Gugu never leaves Qingqiu because she knows she has no sense of direction and would get lost the moment she steps out of her door.”

Bai Qian sharply inhaled and glared at him, “can you ever survive for one minute without teasing…”

“All right, Gugu of Qingqiu, easy,” Changshan reduced his wide grin to a smirk and held up his hands. “We can finish that duel we wanted to have later. Shifu is just back from Taichen Palace. Zilan told me to tell you he’s looking for you.”

“Oh…” Bai Qian slapped her forehead as she remembered why she had rushed to Kunlun in the first place. “Do you know where he is?”

“He and Princess Yanzhi left for the mortal realm with her niece. The poor thing was too bored so they took her…”

“Not Sixteenth Senior -- Shifu!”

“Oh… sorry. I think he is up at the lotus pond,” said Changshan, pointing.

“Thank you,” Bai Qian wheeled around. “I will see you later!”

As Bai Qian hurried in the pond’s direction, she could hear Changshan shouting his goodbye. She turned back, waved at him and continued to where Moyuan was.

It only took a minute or two for Bai Qian to get to the top of Kunlun. Moyuan was standing near the pond, his hands behind his back as always. The last bit of sunlight of the evening was disappearing. Bai Qian’s steps slowed down as she approached him.

“Seventeenth,” Moyuan turned around and addressed her with a nod.

He took several steps towards her, conjuring fabric strands by magic and started doing what Bai Qian realized she should have done herself earlier: wrapping them around her loose sleeves.

“There are a few things I need to make clear before we leave,” he said in a serious tone that immediately commanded Bai Qian’s attention. “This location we are traveling to lies deep inside the Ghost realm, there is a possibility that some of our powers won't work as well as they do here. And as you know, cloud-jumping might be improbable if you are not strong enough to resist the dark forces.”

Bai Qian took in the information in silence.

“Now, I have told you that this journey will be dangerous, have I not?”

“Yes, you have.”

“So you should know that it is essential that you do as instructed along the way.”

“I know.”

“That includes following my commands as one would on a mission.”

“Yes,” Bai Qian nodded.

“Without personal sentiments.”

Bai Qian’s throat made a strange noise as if her lungs were suddenly void of air. Moyuan must have noticed her unnerving state for he quickly added, “I am familiar with how the defenses around the location work. So please trust me when I say: I know what I’m doing. And you are not to take any rash actions under any circumstances. Do you understand?”

Bai Qian nodded again.

“But how could you know it so well?” she asked. “You’ve never been there before, have you?”

“I’m sorry. I should have said that I am familiar with the former Ghost Lord’s ways. That gives me an idea of what we might be facing. And --” he reached into his sleeve pocket and drew out something white with a pointy tip. “I need you to hang on to this as well.”

It only took Bai Qian another second to realized what it was. The fang! She gasped.

“It is a weapon of Qingcang’s own invention. We are aiming to infiltrate a supposedly unbreachable place of the dark side after all; it might prove useful where Xuanyuan and the Kunlun fan cannot.”

Taking a closer look, she noticed it wasn’t a real fang at all, but a weapon carved from ivory, engraved with incomprehensible patterns that Bai Qian suspected Qingcang had come up with himself. She did not accept the item right the way, however, but instead eyed it anxiously.

“It's safe,” Moyuan chuckled. “The last of the poison inside has been expensed. Zheyan and your father himself spent a great deal of time examining it in his potion room.”

“Pois...” Bai Qian gasped, looking at him in terror. “Shifu… you… you were stabbed by this thing.”

“So I was,” said Moyuan simply. “Good thing we had Zheyan around, isn’t it?”

Bai Qian nodded, though feeling uncertain still. If anything, Moyuan’s calm demeanor when talking about being splintered by a deadly weapon Qingcang had probably handcrafted somewhere in one of his moldy and dim-lit dungeons only made her more nervous.

“Shall I do it for you?”

“Do what for me?” asked Bai Qian, staring at him uncomprehendingly.

“Don’t you always keep the spare weapon on one side of your boot?” said Moyuan as he bent down.

“Er...” she swallowed, “well, you don't have to…”

But Moyuan did not wait for her stammering to finish. He got down on one knee and quickly attached the fang to the side of her boot, next to her dagger.

Bai Qian, who was a little terrified of the possibility of Diefeng or Changshan still lurking somewhere around, felt extremely glad when Moyuan was on his feet again.

Wordlessly, Moyuan moved to stand beside her and gently took her by the wrist. Bai Qian took a breath to prepare herself for cloud-jumping. Then with a sudden grip of his fingers Bai Qian felt cold wind - like tiny fragments of ice - hitting her face, sweeping by her sides.

Seconds later, her feet hit the ground. It had been so long since she last cloud-jumped alongside Moyuan that she had forgotten how intense his speed could be - they must be hundreds of miles away from Kunlun right now. Catching her breath, Bai Qian looked around to see figures of tall trees, wood logs and boulders around them.

“Are we there?” she stumbled. “Is this the place?”

“Not yet,” said Moyuan’s soft voice, tightening his grip around her wrist. “Ahh,” he turned to her and loosened his hold, “I’m sorry. Are you ready?”

“I’m fine,” she nodded, clearing her throat. “It’s just… you’re really fast.”

Moyuan chuckled.

“An old habit I need to adjust, indeed. You are not the first one to complain.”

“No, it just took me by surprise is all,” she said quickly. “You don’t have to slow down.”

Bai Qian looked ahead. Moyuan’s hand tightened once more. Then came the feeling of being pulled through icy air, no gentler than the first time. When Bai Qian felt the ground again, the air felt different and much colder. Something enormous and dark came into view. She noticed they were standing in front of an entrance to something that looked like an giant cave. The smell of wet grass and dampth rushed into her nose. A sort of coldness that had nothing to do with the temperature swept through Bai Qian, making her shiver. While she tried to remain silent and calm, Bai Qian could not pretend that the eerie atmosphere was not making her nervous. She found herself closing the distance between her and Moyuan as he looked around the area.

“Spectacular,” commented Moyuan with a smile. Bai Qian, on the other hand, did not see anything to smile about. She dearly wanted to ask Moyuan what he was calling ‘spectacular’. The Eastern Forest and Zheyan’s garden would certainly fit that description more, thought Bai Qian as she looked at the unpleasant scenery around.

“Why aren’t there guards out here?” she asked quietly. “I thought we would have met with some intense protections the moment we set foot here.”

“I reckon approaching the soul-gathering device is not the problem,” replied Moyuan, letting go of her hand and holding up his own to examine something in the air in front of him. “It’s getting back out we should worry about.”

Cautiously he approached the cave entrance. Bai Qian retraced his vigilant footsteps in silence until they were only inches away from the threshold.

“Let’s go in, shall we?” he turned to face her briefly, though his calm voice did not do much to ease Bai Qian’s thumping heart. She inwardly admitted she would rather have assassins jump out and attack them right now than walk into this cave.

“After me,” Moyuan said again and conjured a ball of light with his palm.

Bai Qian did the same and followed him into the darkness.

Chapter 17, Part 2