Fanfiction3: A-Li's Three Lives, Three Worlds - Chapter 40 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 40

Written by Ligayacroft and TVAddict
Edited by Lara, Kakashi and Panda
Consultant Bunny


Everything about winter seemed drab and gloomy. Most of the trees were bare, their trunks and branches offering no contrast to the dull brown ground underfoot. Even the sticks and stones scattered over the ground looked sad and forlorn.

The temperature was the worst. It was just… cold. Cold as it hit your face and extremities especially after you stepped out of the relatively warm confines of a room — like an invisible, thin layer of flexible ice had just decided to welcome you into its damning embrace. A breeze would sometimes make the discomfort worse, and woe be to you if it became any stronger than that, because the wind could hit your skin like tiny needles of the despicable sort.

Winter tasted like ice — bland, tasteless and clean. The blandness set the stage for one’s sense of smell to be heightened, too. Oils, perfumes and tinctures could assault one’s nose stronger than it would have had in any other season.

Truly, the one good thing about winter was that it was soon to be over.

Mei Lin closed the cellar door of the chilly treatment room and hugged her borrowed cape closer to her body. She hated this outer wear even though it was Huo Zheng’s personal favorite because it was of its owner’s favorite color — red. It was too conspicuous, which was out of character for the usually invisible Huo Zheng. Mei Lin would have skipped wearing it hadn’t an elderly thrown up all over her own black cape earlier that morning.

She put the hood up, even pulled it further forward so it could hide more of her cheeks from the sides. Then she bent down to pick up her wicker basket and walked toward the direction of the tea farms.

The afternoon sun shone brightly overhead in one of those rare occasions rarely offered during winter. Today’s sun actually offered some degree of warmth as Mei Lin trudged the dirt path along the Huo Courtyard.

Who am I kidding? I’m warm because I’m a teeny-bit tipsy, just like a spiked frog.
Mei Lin hummed as she walked. She knew now that she should not have taken that one extra glass of rice wine. But it had been too long since she had last imbibed because Huo Zheng had banned liquor if she was coming near any patient, which lately had been every day. How Zhe Yan, maker of the infamous peach blossom wines, still did well with his profession when he drank wine instead of water — Mei Lin could only justify it because he was in High God form and she was not. The Old Phoenix should really meet Huo Zheng one day, and be given a good dressing down.

She broke into a giggle, thinking of a dressed-down bird and how Zhe Yan would look like if he were featherless in his beast form.

“Zūzu! Are you deaf now or just plain ignoring me, you wench?”

Huo Mao’s voice broke through Mei Lin’s thoughts and she turned to see the old woman, who upon catching her attention motioned for her to approach and once again sat down in front of her loom.

“Nǎinai, what seems to be the matter?” She asked as she approached, and hoisted herself a little on the windowsill, her eyes scanning the interior for their little one. “Where is Ling’er? Did we have problems with her sitter?”

The sixteen shafts that Nǎinai controlled by her foot on the treadles stopped moving. Before Mei Lin could react, the shuttle that the old woman was holding landed on her head with a soft tap.

“Ow, what was that for?” She complained although she was used to the old woman’s gentle physicality by now, and no longer thought of getting back at Huo Mao after she returned to her immortal form.

“It has been a day since A-Li and Xiăohŭ have left. What have you been doing all this time, child?”

Mei Lin frowned at the question. “I have been very busy all day, Nǎinai. There are three mothers about to give birth, a sick toddler, a man who broke his rib climbing up a tree, and also an ill-tempered elderly who caught the wind.”

Nǎinai didn’t look pleased. In fact, the old woman looked bored as Mei Lin rattled off her accomplishments of the day.

“I do not understand you children. Why are you such prudes? Is it a thing in your Kingdom to be skittish around virile people of the opposite sex?”

“What are you talking about?” Mei Lin said slowly, wary of the gleam in Huo Mao’s scrutinizing gaze.

“I am talking about your cousin who might never summon the courage to go past casting moony eyes toward Xiăohŭ and— ”

“Now, Nǎinai, wait a moment,” she warned, instantly on the defensive in her cousin’s corner. While she had already expressed her own frustrations at the pace A-Li had set for his mortal courtship, family was family. It was her obligation to cover for her cousin, no matter how infuriating he could be. “My cousin is a widower and future ruler of our Kingdom. He is not the type to be sowing wild oats. There are things at stake—”

“It is just sex so why romanticize it? Xiăohŭ loves this village too much to part from it. She would never marry A-Li even if your cousin and your entire Kingdom came begging on their knees. Just look at what the great Wan Shao did — ”

“Please do not talk about those books again,” she begged, already feeling weak at the mere mention of her Mother’s pen name.

“Oh, I think we should, Zūzu, particularly because I very much think that you need it.”

“Me?” She laughed uncomfortably, holding one hand over her heart. “Whatever would make you think that, Nǎinai?”

Huo Mao searched Mei Lin with her half-blind gaze. Mei Lin knew the old woman was perceptive. Too perceptive. Huo Zheng had warned her several times not be fooled by Huo Mao’s inherent adorability.

Huo Mao was a woman unashamed of her past as a courtesan, having joined her brothel because any other alternative at that time had been less than ideal. She had left the brothel when she fell in love with Huo Zheng’s grandfather and moved to Huicūn without regret. It was said the old woman willingly lost the vision of her other eye so she could be a channel for wisdom and divination from the gods — something the small village needed and which had also come in handy in recent years.

“Gun Gun.”

“What about him?”

“You are not related by blood, are you?”

She shook her head, trying to decipher the old woman’s line of thinking.

“Then why aren’t you taking advantage of the finest physical specimen of a man that I have ever laid my eyes on?”

Mei Lin’s heart slammed against her chest, its beat trashing her ears.

By Pangu’s balls, she knows!
She swallowed that tingling sensation that had swept up the back of her neck but, too late, she could already feel her face getting hot.

“He is like a brother!”

Nǎinai took another look at her and cackled. “Your cheeks are burning, child. Let’s not play that game anymore, shall we? How long have you been together? Years?”

“Exactly. Years,” she blurted even as she felt her ears were inflamed. Then she realized she might be misconstrued and corrected herself immediately. “Years as siblings! That man was… is… a scoundrel. I have been busy cleaning up after his messes, even helped him dump women left and right—”

“Don’t you want him for yourself?”

Mei Lin had to laugh at that absurd thought. There was no woman in the world who was more disillusioned with and at the same time immune to Gun Gun’s fine looks and charm than her. Even his own mother thought the silver-haired dragon-fox was pure and blameless, but not Mei Lin. Underneath all that beauty, all she saw was his pettiness. His vanity. His spoiled, flower boy self.

But last night —


Last Night...

I promise I won’t kiss you.

The whispered declaration in the dark, his tone harsh and oddly soothing like the first storm of spring, was said as his hand held her at the nape of her neck while the other tightened its hold on her arm.

How relieved she felt yet… how disappointed.

Mei Lin, and at that time her name came out hoarse — choked. It made the hairs on her arms stand up.

I promised I wouldn’t kiss you…but you can kiss me.

His invitation.

His brazen challenge.

Even her righteous annoyance couldn’t deny that her nerve endings stirred and tingled at his words.

Maybe it was the darkened treatment room. Maybe it was because she was in the place she could feel the safest in all of Huicūn.

But then again, maybe it was because this was Gun Gun — her oldest nemesis and her oldest friend. Maybe it was those dark eyes that burned as they waited on what she would do, those rosy lips that beckoned for her to taste.

Whatever it was, she leaned forward and touched her lips to his. Has he been drinking?, she thought when she smelled the clean hint of alcohol in his breath before she slowly touched her lips to his again. This time, the tip of her tongue swiped over his bottom lip for a quick taste before she deepened the kiss, and slanted her lips against his.

As if that was all the encouragement that he needed, Gun Gun let out a harsh breath and returned her kiss with greater fervor. What started out as a gentle touch of lips suddenly turned into something deep.



Suddenly, the treatment room didn’t feel like a safe space anymore.

Mei Lin heard the wooden pin, which held her damp hair together drop unceremoniously to the floor but the sound barely registered. Pleasure that made her feel light-headed took over when he threaded his fingers through her hair, gathered the mass in his hand, twisted it and held it together like a tail.

He moved his lips to her ear, gave it a light bite and then some more, which caused her to shiver. His hot and ragged breath against her ear told her that he was just as affected as she was. It was a strange sensation but she couldn’t have made him stop even if she wanted to.

Worse, she didn’t want him to.

His lips traveled down to her neck to the spot where her pulse beat erratically. He kissed it and made his way down to the base of her throat. His tongue left behind little trails of fire, marking her skin, alternating with light grazing of his teeth. He continued to lightly pull on her hair to make her head drop back further, giving him better access.

Mei Lin sighed and tried to control her breathing. But even so, she knew that she was failing. She began to feel dizzy, her head so muddled that she couldn’t even think coherently.

With one hand still keeping a firm grip on her hair, the other moved to the small of her back to pull her closer. She was so lost in the feel of his mouth on her skin that she didn’t even feel his hand move from her back to her side where the sash that tied her tunic together was. He lightly pulled and the tie came undone.

Mei Lin blinked several times as she tried to clear her head from the haze of lust that sought to envelop it. As she stood there looking at him, not fully comprehending what he was asking, he moved his hand up to where the cloth was loosely closed and slowly parted her tunic, his fingers lightly grazing the tips her breasts which emitted a gasp from her.

She had been taking a bath when Bo’er’s panicked shouting much earlier from outside, causing her to dress haphazardly. Since it was already night, she had decided to forego binding her breasts and had thrown her dripping hair into a messy bun on top of her head as she ran for the courtyard.

Gun Gun sat outside, looking a bit ruffled and worse for wear. When she had pointedly demanded an explanation for the ruckus, he looked up with a sigh and removed the cloth that he had held up to cover half of his face. Mei Lin then saw the cut that had sliced across his left eyebrow, accompanied by a wicked scrape with caked blood and dirt across his left cheek bone.

Without further ado, she had dismissed Bo’er and had Gun Gun follow her down the cellar to the treatment room where a long, low table was set up for villagers that came over for healing. The table also doubled as a makeshift bed during the rare times Huo Zheng allowed herself to sleep.

Mei Lin had motioned for him to sit on the edge, then gone straight to her medicine chest and took some cloth, including a bottle of Baijiu, a needle, and thread. Even as she treated him, Mei Lin had been acutely aware how his eyes had roamed all over… her. She hurriedly cleaned and sewed the wound closed. She tugged at the end of each stitch just a bit harder each time, especially since Gun Gun hadn’t even whimpered as a reaction to her veiled violence. Instead, he remained quiet.

Too quiet.

And that was how she had eventually ended up half-naked in front of him, standing right between his legs, her full and ample breasts on display.

His blatant study of her body made her want to squirm, causing her to breathe in shallow clips. But with as much boldness as she could muster, she lifted her chin and moved closer.

I want to touch and feel you, he murmured, which both surprised her and caused a sliver of pleasure to snake upwards from her spine to the base of her skull.

Then touch and feel me, she whispered back as she seized his hands and placed them on top of her breasts before she let them go. His hands moved to brush and lightly cup her mounds. Mei Lin closed her eyes at the sensation, the contrast of his rough hands against her skin emitting goosebumps all over.

When she next opened her eyes, she watched Gun Gun exhale a ragged breath and swallow hard, his calloused thumbs rubbing her nipples as he looked into her eyes.

I want to touch and feel you... with my mouth.

The shameless statement inflamed her and that hot ball of fire in her belly slithered even lower, turning into an ache in-between her legs. Her breasts felt heavy and her skin tingled.

Before she could change her mind, Mei Lin cupped his head between her hands and guided him in until his forehead rested on the space between her breasts. She felt Gun Gun inhale deeply against her skin before he turned his head and cupped her left breast, grazing his thumb over her hardened nipple.

Then his lips trailed wet fire over her skin. Although she had known that it was coming, she was still unprepared for when his tongue flicked at her nipple, which caused her to yield and gasp. With a growl, he then took her breast fully into his mouth, his ragged breathing hot against her skin as he suckled and gently squeezed.

Mei Lin had to hold on to his hair, biting her lower lip hard to prevent a moan from escaping her mouth when he caught her nipple between his teeth and his tongue made flicking motions to tease the swollen peak. He tugged and sucked, again and again, pushing Mei Lin to the edge. Pain and pleasure trailed from her breast to her core, before he finally gave her a moment’s reprieve by letting her nipple slip out of his hot mouth.

Gun Gun licked a path back up to her throat, nipped at her chin, and claimed her mouth once again in a hot and passionate kiss. Their tongues tangled and their lips meshed as they breathed and drank each other in, if only to save the other from sinking deeper into the abyss.

His hands moved from her breasts and made their way to the small of her back and down even lower to squeeze at her buttocks through her pants. He caressed and kneaded the plump flesh. But when a hand sneaked past the belt and grazed at the sensitive skin on top of its cleft, Mei Lin broke the kiss and shakily whispered, “No”.

How she found the will to stop their kiss, she had no idea. But it had turned out that she did have the will to resist, after all.

And so did he.


Mei Lin tried to shake herself out of her lust-filled haze and struggled to gather her fragmented thoughts. Gun Gun’s forehead rested heavily on her shoulder, his breathing hard and ragged as he, too, struggled for composure.

The reprobate still had some scruples left in him after all.

It took a few more moments but his head eventually raised and he drew her tunic closed. Once the knot was tied, he looked at her and drew her back into his arms. He softly caressed her cheek and gave her one last kiss — this one tender, unlike the ones he had just enraptured her with.

Then he stood up and slowly walked out.


The look in his eyes before he had left — Mei Lin would be lying to herself if she said it hadn’t sporadically bothered her all day today as well as last night. Because for the first time, in the thousands of years that she had known him, Gun Gun had looked dangerous.



Desirous... of her.

Gun Gun had yet to choose his clan affiliation. But last night, he was more like a demon.

And it had left her hot… and bothered.

“I’m just saying —“ Nǎinai shrugged as she resumed weaving, unaware of just where Mei Lin’s thoughts had taken her. “That’s a man you take to your bed, if you are ever lucky enough, and not worry whether he will be clingy the morning after. That’s a man you take to your bed if all you wanted was a good time, and child —” Nǎinai said with a kind smile. “I don’t have to feel your pulse and check your tongue to know that your qi is in disarray. Nothing makes one feel more relaxed than a good roll in the hay. I know I am way more advanced in years but if the opportunity presented itself,” the old woman snickered with a shake of her gray head. “Even I wouldn’t say no.”


Mei Lin left Huo Mao, her face flaming so hot she wasn’t sure whether it was due to alcohol or due to the old woman’s encouragement. The village believed the old woman knew things and had a way to see into one’s fate, could it be possible that Huo Mao saw hers?

Did Huo Mao know what happened to her and Gun Gun last night?

She had planned to give Gun Gun his medicines while he was out in the fields and had tried to drown out her mortification in advance by imbibing on liquid courage. However, after her talk with Huo Mao, Mei Lin moved to retreat toward the direction of the treatment room when from the corner of her eye she saw a flash of movement from the direction of Gun Gun and Li-Gē’s hut. Suddenly, the basket in her arm felt extra heavy.

She had meant to meet Gun Gun at the farm to give him the healing and antiseptics salves that he had forgotten to bring with him last night, feeling it was safer to meet him in public, but now it looked like he was home…

Mei Lin surreptitiously walked toward the direction of the hut, her footfalls light as she hurried alongside the shadows of the copse leading toward the two-bedroom straw and bamboo hut. As she came closer, she saw Gun Gun effortlessly lift two big containers of water in each hand to be brought up the stairs and inside the house. But then he stopped.

Mei Lin alertly hid behind a tree just as he turned, her heart beating fast inside her chest as she counted under her breath to calm herself down.

When she next peeked, he was gone but within moments later, he climbed down the steps again. Mei Lin had to stifle her own gasp. The wound she had sewn yesterday was exposed. It looked like he had broken the stitches, the stupid flower boy. It also looked fresh instead of healing so he might have bumped it somewhere.

The healer in her screamed to fix it. But the woman who had allowed him liberties with her breasts last night told her to run away.

One thing was for sure: she was tipsy but she was not drunk enough to face him here, like this.

The sun hit the copse in an angle that seemed to put a spotlight on Gun Gun as he moved about. His silver hair was held on too tight on top of his head by a simple wooden pin. His soiled hemp clothes were no doubt rough on his skin, yet he still carried it with flair as if it were royal silk. His big hands, rough and callused against her skin last night, looked strong as it gripped the end of an ax and swung it downwards to split blocks of wood apart.

Shuck! Shuck! Shuck!
Mei Lin suddenly began feeling parched.

“Hēng! Hēng!”

She cursed and turned to see Weixiao bounding toward her. From behind, she heard the ax’s swinging motion stop.

Why Xiăohŭ bothers to keep you around instead of eating you is beyond me, you fat piece of…

The pig had revealed her position. Mei Lin closed her eyes and cursed again. Her lips pursed as she tried to gently kick the pig’s snout away from her legs.

“Zūzu, what are you doing out there in the cold?”

With one deep intake of breath, Mei Lin opened her eyes and stepped away from the tree, dangling her small basket in front of her.

“I was looking for you to give you the salves that you forgot to take with you… last night.”

Even with the safe amount of distance between them, Mei Lin could see something dark descend over Gun Gun’s eyes. Her chest suddenly felt warm, and so did her cheeks.

“Bring it over here then,” Gun Gun said. Or did he command? His eyes remained fixed on hers, and he let go of his ax.

She had been just a bit tipsy earlier but each step she took closer toward him gave her a headier feeling more potent than any wine ever could. She was probably swaying by the time she stood in front of him — she wasn’t sure — but he grabbed the wrist of her outstretched hand, the pads of his fingers and the skin of his rough palms deliciously warm against her skin.

“We shouldn't stay outside like this. You can treat me inside.”


He let go of her hand and headed back toward the hut. Mei Lin let her hand fall down. Her heart thudded an incessant beat inside her chest. It was so loud that she was so sure even the crows, which observed her while perched on the tree branches above the hut’s straw-thatched roof, could hear her.


Inside used to feel safe.

She had been in their hut several times before, had even woken up from drunken stupor last summer beside Gun Gun and had summarily kicked him when she realized who it was.

She had gone inside the hut many times before, had even walked in on Gun Gun as he bathed at the back of the house with only a straw screen to shield his nakedness below his chest, and had sat down as he hurriedly tried to finish washing the soap away from his body while she listed all the things she needed for him to buy at the market for the Huo household.

But now?

She woke up this morning fully-aware of the fact that things had changed.

Zūzu, never go alone inside a man’s house if you know what’s right for you, Gun Gun himself had once warned her thousands of years ago. Then he had thrown a bean at her, laughing as he added, No, I take that back. No man should ever allow himself to be alone with you. Pity the men foolish enough to think they could have you. The God of War commands the Celestial forces and is a merciless god. He will never forgive any man who even tries to lay a hand on his only daughter.

Oh, she had pouted, picked up the large red bean and threw it back smack in the middle of Gun Gun’s forehead. And I take it he has sent the two of you to ensure I don’t fall for your species’ shenanigans, hasn’t he?

Us? He had pointed to his chest and laughed. Li-Gē, Zūzu is accusing us of being spies for High God Mo Yuan! Li-Gē, at that time, sat a few meters away from them, sucking face while his hands were busy under the skirts of a demon woman. Suddenly, Gun Gun grabbed her across the table by the collar and with that devilish grin she had always associated with his annoying face, whispered, We don’t need to make our lives unnecessarily hard on your account. Your Father sees everything, has spies everywhere, looking at you. If he had his way, you would die unsullied but a spinster, Zūzu, and for that, all the women in the realms should pity you.

It might have been true then but what about now?

The God of War was not a god in Huicūn, else somebody should have extracted them a long time ago.

Bái Chī, are you a dragon or a fox?

She had posed the question to Gun Gun so many times from as young as she could remember. And he would always, always laugh.

Come kiss me and find out.

She did, last night, and she still had no idea.

Unless he had meant a different kiss?

So… inside?

Mei Lin took a deep breath, clutched her wicker basket tighter in her left hand, and parted the front half of her cape aside with the other as she approached the stairs. Her right hand touched the cold wood of the railing for added balance, its texture rough against her chilled palm, as her booted right foot landed on the first rickety level.

Dragon or a Fox?

It seemed there was only one way to find out.

* * *

Chapter 41