Fanfiction: Ink in Water - Chapter 7 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 7. If I had known then, what I know now

written by Bunny
consulting by LigayaCroft and Le
editing by Le and Kakashi

The wind pulled on the candle’s flame, like a lover in pursuit, slicing through thick, pungent air. Steeped in silence, the only sound audible in that bedchamber were the faint crackles produced by the wicks that remained burning. A marked contrast from the mayhem ensuing in her head.

Have I gone mad? Have I contracted an illness? Has my body been taken over? What kind of beastly thing did I do just now?!



“What are you doing?”

Bai Qian blinked. She was still sitting on the floor, still sitting across from her master, but had crawled so far backwards away from him, that they were now staring at each other from opposite ends of the room.

The low candlelight barely reached where he sat, but still visible were the reflections cast by the flickering flame that drew patterns onto his cheekbones, shifting and changing at random.

By the way he was looking at her, it seemed he had resumed his normal composure. Seemingly unbothered by the events that had just transpired between them. His nimble hands were methodically pulling together the lapels of his robe and rearranging the layers of wrinkled fabric.

Remembering what she had done, Bai Qian’s face tingled with embarrassment.

The more she gazed upon that calm visage, the more the onslaught of emotions assailed her.

As soon as he finished tying the sash on his waist, Moyuan got up from where he sat and walked over to her, step by step, until he stopped before her.

Bai Qian felt her heart had somehow migrated all the way up to her throat, pounding incessantly.

He dropped down, and brought his arms around her…

Shifu, what are you doing?!

Reaching behind her, he pulled up the outer robe that she had thrown off earlier and draped it over her shoulders again.

You’re trying to kill me right now.

Her eyes narrowed on him and he returned her an all-knowing look, as though he had just sifted through her thoughts. Bai Qian inched away from him instinctively, backing so far up against the wall behind her that she was about to put a hole in it.

On top of her head, the peony flower was coming loose and falling over limply. As it was about to slip off, Moyuan’s hand came up to catch it.

“This appearance…” he began to remark.

“I-I-I wanted to disguise myself to get out of here, Shifu! Don’t misunderstand!”

“Oh?” The perpetually straight line of his lips curved upward a few degrees. “Misunderstand what?”

“N-Nothing!” She blurted out.

It was really unfair. They had only spent the last few days in each other’s company, and had very little interaction before all this, so how was it that this man could read her like a book? She could barely scratch the surface with him! Looking at his expression now, she felt like her head was going to split open trying to decipher it. For a man who was seeing his male disciple dressed in female attire for the first time, there was not a trace of disturbance in those eyes!

If he knew her secret, why wasn’t he addressing it?

After examining her for a while, Moyuan finally lifted his hand over her head and conjured a spell. Bai Qian’s hair and clothing changed over in an instant, and she was back to her male appearance.

Holding out his hand, he helped her up to her feet with him.

“Shall we go?” he asked.

She looked at him dazedly, then bobbed her head up and down. He smiled, gave her head a pat, then turned on his heels and headed for the door.

Wait… just a minute… where are you going?!

“Shifu, are we not leaving?” Did she forget to factor something in? Why weren’t they cloud jumping? Could it be that he wanted to loiter around in this brothel?!

“We’re going downstairs.”

“Why?” Bai Qian followed him out into the hallway.

“To settle things.”

Settle things? Settle what?

“The mess downstairs…” Moyuan asked, as if reading her mind, “I assume that is your doing?”

“Ah?” A look of guilt washed over her face. “Uh… I… It really wasn’t all my fault, Shifu…”

“In any case, we’ll need to compensate.”

“Compensate? But I have n-no money...”

“There are other means…”

Bai Qian’s head started to spin, her feet grew roots on the ground. What could that possibly mean? Don’t tell me he actually plans to… No! What happened to the promised bond between master and disciple?!

“Come along,” Moyuan turned around and beckoned.

“No...” Bai Qian shook her head.

“Seventeenth… come,” he ordered again.

“No! Shifu!” She shook her head desperately, refusing to move.

“Since you’ve caused all this damage, you have to...”

“Shifu!” She squeezed her eyes shut and tried to wring out a few tears. “I know I haven’t been a good enough disciple… and I haven’t been filial to you… but…”

“But what?”

“But… you can’t just leave me here! I don’t want to work at a brothel!!!” Isn’t that what happens to people who can’t pay?!

Those words flew out of her mouth so loudly, the entire second floor was plunged into silence. The few people walking around in that corridor all froze in their tracks. Their disapproving gazes quickly fell on Moyuan as they brought their hands to cover their mouths and whisper.

Bai Qian could hear from the nearest voice, “What kind of man would force a child into this kind of life? Just look at him… probably a worthless father who can’t even afford to raise his own daughter, so he has to sink this low… Tch, it’s so shameful...”

At this point, the so-called worthless father’s face had turned black.

“Seventeenth…” He drawled, “Come… here… now.”

Not when you say it like that! Definitely not coming!

Bai Qian’s head kept shaking vigorously as her feet took several steps back, but she didn’t get very far. Moyuan’s energy soon charged at her like a net and gathered her toward him.

Seeing him use force, the few bystanders started shaking their heads even more strongly and deepened their frowns. Sensing their stares, Moyuan’s dark eyes emanated killing intent and swept around the room. All other eyes furtively glanced away.

Turning back to her, he sighed and said, “I only wanted you to apologize.”

“Oh…” Why didn’t you say so sooner? We could have just talked like sensible people…

“Wait,” Bai Qian still didn’t agree after thinking it over. “You want me to apologize to those money grubbing swindlers?!”

“Seventeenth… For something that should have been sorted out with words, you chose to resort to violence instead. Acting recklessly, causing a mess….” Moyuan replied. “Would you prefer it if I apologized in your place instead?”

This person was quite adept at twisting her arm. What kind of good-for-nothing disciple would agree to let their master apologize for them? Bai Qian could only shake her head helplessly.

Deflated, she trailed behind him like a little tail as they descended the stairs together. After only a few steps, her face ran right into his back. Why had he stopped walking?

“Shifu…?” she asked, rubbing her sore face. It was like he had turned to stone…

“YUUUAN-YUUUAN! Yuan-Yuan! Come ouuut! I know you’re in here! How dare you go and play around without me!”

Why the hell was that person’s voice entering her ears?!

“Ai yo~ gōng zǐ [1]… You can’t just stand here and shout like that…” Fu Mama’s whines echoed from downstairs. Bai Qian could hear every word. “I don’t have anybody by the name of Yuan-Yuan… but I do have a Little Peony, Little Chrysanthemum, Little Lotus and Little Iris… What type of lady are you looking for?”

“I’m not looking for a lady, I’m looking for a man!”

“Ehh? So it’s like that ah~ I’m afraid you’ve come to the wrong place then… we offer a lot of pleasures at Hóng Fēn Lóu, but unfortunately we do not have any male…”

Stop! This conversation was getting scary… It was like a cat talking to a monkey, not communicating at all!

“Tch. I’m telling you he’s in here somewhere! Yuan-Yuan!!!”

“Aiya~ Who is this person? I don’t know anyone by that name ah...”

“He’s here! I can feel him! You want me to personally go open up every door and look?”

“Calm down, calm down! You should at least give me a description of the person you’re looking for…”

“Face like an ice demon… eyes as black as the bottom layer of hell… the distinct aura of a blizzard… Really adorable! How could you miss him?”

Adorable, your sister! That doesn’t sound adorable at all! At least give a description that makes sense! Bai Qian rubbed her temple with her fingers. She had to mentally light a candle in honor of her supposed enemy—Fu Mama.

After listening to this wretched exchange for a while, Moyuan eventually started walking again. But his feet were trudging one in front of the other like he had weights tied to them. Bai Qian could only follow.

As soon as they reached the foot of the stairs, the remnants of her earlier destruction presented itself. Half of the brothel was still turned over and throngs of busy bodies were rushing around putting things back into place. Yet, business still appeared to be booming, more so now than before. The row of women that were standing by the door with their handkerchiefs waving in the air, continued to welcome a rush of guests. Every smile—a budding blossom—seemingly untainted. Bai Qian couldn’t take her eyes off of them. In the midst of her trance, a certain person’s yammering invaded her ears once more.

“Hey! Why haven’t you gone to look yet?! We don’t have all day! You want this delicate throat of mine to go sore from yelling?!”

It didn’t take long to find the source of all the ruckus. The tyrant Xiao Yu was standing across the room, about to open his big mouth again.

Next to him, Fu Mama looked like she wanted to cry herself to death…

As soon as Xiao Yu caught a glimpse of Moyuan, his face lit up like a blooming flower. He took his hand and slapped Fu Mama’s shoulder, nearly toppling her over. “I told you, he’s here!”

“Xiao Yu…” Moyuan said listlessly.

“Yuan-Yuan~” He floated over.

“Speak! What are you doing in a place like this?!” Xiao Yu’s flute started rapping at Moyuan’s chest. “Ohh… hohoho… let me guess… could it be you were trying to teach Furball about **** stuff?”

He then leaned in closer and whispered, “But you’re dealing with a virgin here… Don’t you think this is pretty heavy taste for the first time?”

Choke… I want to choke him…
Bai Qian was about to reach for his neck when she was alerted to a pair of encroaching eyes, narrowing in on her from a few yards away.

Fu Mama advanced over from behind Xiao Yu, her index finger wagging, face like a debt collector. Bai Qian took three steps back and hid herself behind Moyuan. Her fingers clung to the back of his robe.

“Y-Y-You! You, you, you… scoundrel!!!” Fu Mama arrived on the other side of Moyuan and started spitting up words. She had gotten so angry that her face was switching back and forth from black to red. It was even changing shape! First it was a circle, then a square, then a trapezoid… Bai Qian felt dizzy watching her.

Thinking there was no escape, she had to mentally prepare herself to deal with this shrew woman, but a second later, a devastatingly loud noise had put a halt to all matters.

CRASH! The shattering of glass and furniture along with a few squeals, erupted from the other side of the room. All heads collectively turned.

“Let go! No!” cried out a lamblike voice.

“Come here little miss… Don’t be afraid… I will be very gentle…”

Over by the stage, where a woman had been sitting playing the qin amongst a group of dancers, there was a man with a shiny bald head who had climbed his way up in a drunken stupor and forcefully grabbed ahold of her, knocking over everything in his path.

Bai Qian arched an eyebrow and instantly realized the extent of the situation. Her eyes lit up like crimson fire.

This scum of the earth…

Her feet started walking toward the commotion, but she was quickly detained by Moyuan, who gave her a stern look that told her to stay put.

Forced to give up her pursuit of Bai Qian for the time being, Fu Mama darted over to that stage to put out yet another fire.

“Ai yo yo, Gōng zǐ, no need to be like this! Hóng Fēn Lóu has many beauties. This one only sells her talent… let me find you someone else better…” said Fu Mama.

“No! I want this woman, I want this woman tonight!” The baldy reached for the wooden bench nearby and threw it to the ground, splitting it in half. He started to reach for the lady’s qin to smash it as well, and that was when Bai Qian lost it.

“HEY!” She forcefully broke off from Moyuan and stomped over. “Baldy! What do you think you’re doing?”


“Not right now, Shifu!”

“Eh? What’s this?” Baldy’s attention was quickly diverted to Bai Qian. “Who’s this little brat?”

He scanned her up and down from across the room, then flung the little beauty in his arms away so fast, she fell backwards. Watching her clutch her handkerchief to her chest, trembling like a leaf on the floor, Bai Qian’s blood nearly boiled over.

Baldy was now marching over to Bai Qian, the closer he got, the more that scowl on his face morphed into a vulgar smile.

“Eheheh… Looks like it’s a little pretty boy… Just my type…” He licked his lips, looking like he wanted to swallow her alive. “It’s a good thing I don’t discriminate! Why don’t you take that girl’s place and come with me instead, eh?”

His arms reached forward to embrace her, but Bai Qian swiftly caught his wrist, twisted it with all her strength and contorted his arm. He wailed in pain and buckled to the ground.

“Who—Who the hell are you?!”

“Oh me?” She flashed hair-raisingly brilliant smile and grabbed ahold of his cheeks with her free hand. “Just a protector of women… Don’t worry, the things your mom forgot to teach you after you came out of her… today, this big sister [2] will make up for.”

“S-Sister?” Baldy blinked his confused bug eyes a few times.

Male… You’re a male right now! Bai Qian roughy cleared her throat.

“Tch. Who’s your sister?!” She gave that shiny bald head a loud smack. “This is what you get for speaking nonsense!”

Then another hard smack, “This is what you get for being a low life!”

Although he looked like a brute, Baldy was hardly a match for Bai Qian’s strength. All he could do was accept the rain of smacks that were bestowed on him until about a dozen buns appeared on that bald head.

“Stop! It hurts, it hurts, it hurts... I’m dying… Ouuuu…..” Baldy let out a miserable cry. Tears started to stream out of his eyes, mixing with clumps of snot that dripped from his nose. “Uwaaaa….”

The sight in front of her had gone from absurd to even more unbelievable… What turn of events is this?! You’re the one who was bullying people! What are you trying to pull?!

“Hey! Stop crying!”


“Enough! Are you even a man?!” She wrenched his arm further back.

“Waaaaa… It hurts, it hurts! Big Sister I mean, Big Brother you’re killing me! I was just playing around!”

“What did you just say?! Playing around? Who the hell wants to play around with you?” She was about to lift her foot up and send him flying when a voice shook the room.


Bai Qian shuddered, a terrifying pressure slammed in and rooted her feet to the ground. The wrist in her hand was torn away. Baldy’s body was enshrouded in a light and thrown out the door like piece of rubbish.

Scrambling to his feet, he quickly ran away as though he had been bitten by a dog.

“HEY! Get back here!” Bai Qian hollered. She wanted to chase after him but couldn’t move. Her feet were still rooted. “Shifu! What are you doing?! Let go of me! I wasn’t done teaching him a lesson!”

Moyuan came closer, his chilling air wrapping around her. “Who are you to teach him a lesson?”

She had to take a deep breath to clear the bullheaded look on her face. “Shifu…”

“What did we just talk about?”

“You… you said to not resort to violence… but—”

His aura edged on, making her nervous, but at the same time, Bai Qian was quite cross! Hadn’t she done the right thing? Why was he unhappy with her? She was so annoyed that her teeth were about to itch to death.

“Shifu! I don’t care what you say, he deserved it! That bad egg… I spit on him! You can’t expect me to turn a blind eye to this sort of thing, I’m unwilling!”

The line of Moyuan’s lips drew harder together.

“If you want to be a hero, then learn to assess the situation first. Don’t just act on your whims.”

“So you want me to sit on my hands and wait until the house burns down before putting out the fire?! That’s cowardly, Shifu! Is that your way of doing things?”

As soon as those words left her mouth, Bai Qian immediately regretted it.

By saying that, wasn’t she essentially calling her master a coward? That stupid scoundrel must have angered her senseless just now. How could she be this reckless? Bai Qian’s forehead broke out in cold sweat, her eyes glued to her feet. She didn’t dare look at Moyuan.

“What did you just say to me?”


She brought her eyes up to him. Her mouth opened, then closed.

For the first time, Bai Qian felt truly fearful of this God of War. He stood in front of her wordlessly. His current expression made every ounce of courage in her body wither away.

From the side, Xiao Yu had been observing the incident and now took a step forward. “Yuan-Yuan… Furball is just a child, he doesn’t think before talking, you shouldn’t take his words too seriously…”

“Just a child?” Moyuan glanced over at Xiao Yu. “Does that mean he can do whatever he wants?”

Even the audacious Xiao Yu had became docile at this point. He turned and gave her a ‘you’re-on-your-own’ look before quietly retreating back. Moyuan took a few steps forward until he towered over her. By the look in his eyes, she was almost certain, right then, that he was going to strike her.

“It seems I have neglected to teach you properly.”

Those words dropped like spears of ice, going right through her.

“I really have been too indulgent with you.”

Bai Qian stood with a face like chalk, wanting to reach out and tug on his sleeve, wanting to open her mouth and say something apologetic, but did none of those things. And Moyuan turned around and walked away.

That figure disappeared through those doors, like it didn’t care whether or not she was going to follow, and watching it, Bai Qian’s heart convulsed inexplicably. She would have rather he just hit her.

For a while, she simply remained standing. The onlookers soon dispersed and the lively sounds of music and laughter resumed, as though nothing had happened.

When her feet eventually stepped out of that brothel, there was nothing but a barren street extending in both directions under a moonless sky. The once-bustling crowds of people had gone in their homes, the vendors had closed for the night, and in the austere silence of it all, her insides were chaotic. After such a short time, why did she feel so oddly alone without him?

Not even realizing it, Bai Qian had started running down the length of that road, searching, until her breath was shallow and her hair stuck to her neck, but for nothing.

Bai Qian knew she could be pigheaded, but she wasn’t stupid. It wasn’t like she couldn’t understand Moyuan’s intentions—wanting her to be more cautious, to be less impulsive. If she had met a more formidable enemy, or if her master hadn’t been standing behind her the whole time, how would she have fared in that earlier scenario? But even if her head could rationalize one thing, her mouth would always decide on another.

This was where they differed.

That unshakable control he had over every aspect of himself… she did not possess.

But wasn’t this the reason why she had chosen to kowtow in front of him three times and call him master? To be his disciple, to learn from him?

What kind of idiot disciple ridicules their master?!

After dragging her feet along dejectedly for a stretch of time, brooding until her head throbbed, a faint and familiar outline appeared in the distance.

Bai Qian bolted to it, until she could see that it was Moyuan—standing still as a statue, looking in her direction, as though he had been waiting there for her all along.

Partially relieved and partially afraid, she inched closer like a timid deer. The moment she was near enough to meet his unfeeling eyes, he had turned around and continued walking away from her. Refusing to slow down.

As though they had reached a silent agreement just now, she followed meekly.

Under that pitch black curtain of a sky, they kept walking until their footsteps matched, one person’s eyes on the other’s back, their bodies separated by a measured gap—the exact distance between two people who wanted to be close, but stayed slightly beyond each other’s reach.

How could Bai Qian have figured, in that moment, that this gap would perpetuate between them.

That they would inevitably spend their whole lives trying to breach it.

She was perfectly content being his shadow then.

But had she known, perhaps, in that moment, she would have run to him.

Chapter 8


End Notes:

[1] Gōng zǐ (公子) - The way to address gentlemen of good background; technically sons of officials or of nobility, but essentially widely used like ‘mister’.

[2] Big sister - Addressing yourself as somebody’s ‘big sister’, ‘uncle’, ‘grandmother’, etc. in Chinese conversation is a way of expressing yourself arrogantly in an informal and somewhat offensive manner.