Fanfiction3: A-Li's Three Lives, Three Worlds - Chapter 43 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)


Chapter 43

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


As she stayed under the shade of the grove’s oldest Peach Tree while her steed gobbled on a nasty diet of creepy crawlies that it had retrieved from a rotting tree not far away from where they sat, she frowned at the picturesque scene in front of her. It was always a perplexing sight to see someone who had the power to level down worlds tend to a farm. But her Mother did love to cultivate plants, a passion she and her Brother had picked up on— her Brother, mostly, because he was such a sycophant. By stringing so close to Mother, her toady Brother also gained the favor of their herbalist First Uncle. Just looking at him now as he excitedly showed a sapling to their Mother was enough to make her want to gag.

What a stupid piece of…

A shadow fell over her which caused her to look up.

“Dǎodàn, aren’t you joining your Mother and Brother?”

It was her Third Uncle, and by far the most good-looking of all three that she had. He was also the easiest to find; for wherever her Mother was, Third Uncle was sure to follow. She tried to stand up to greet him but he held out his hand as an indication for her to stay put.

“Are you still asking her to marry you?” She asked instead, as she inched a little to the side to give him some tree shade to sit on.

Third Uncle offered a tight-lipped smile as he took his place beside her.

“I heard that the leader of the Nine-Tailed Fox clan has been courting her,” she sneered. “What a highfaluting dog! As if he could be worthy of Mother.”

“Bai Zhi Chang is a very honorable young man. And very focused. To become a High Immortal at 26’000 is a feat indeed.”

“Psssh,” she put her nose up in the air, still as incredulous at the Fox King’s actions as she had been the day she first found out. “Third Uncle, everyone knows you and Mother already belong to one another.”

“Dǎodàn,” he laughed, patting her head like he and First Uncle had always done ever since she was but a chick. She looked at her Uncle, and appreciated how soft his usual intense gaze had become. “I don't look concerned, do I?”

She smirked. Of course he wouldn't. Like Mother, Third Uncle was one of the Ancient Ones. No Fox of the Second Creation, no matter how good-looking nor powerful, could unseat Third Uncle’s place in Mother’s heart.

And yet much later, when she broached the question of marriage to Third Uncle to Mother during dinner as Mother served Brother a heaping bowlful of porridge while she and her steed tore through the meat, Mother just laughed.

Ravenous, she had eaten too fast and had started to choke on her last swallow. Her nefarious Brother took much pleasure in pounding her back, much harder than necessary until Mother stepped in and by the use of magick, dislodged the stuck food from her throat and caught the projectile of meat inside a rag.

Her first action after recovery was to try to hit her Brother back, harder than the hardest hit she had received. But before her hand could land on his back, she was sucked to float in the air and unceremoniously land on the other side of the table, on the seat opposite Brother’s.

Her plate of food followed soon after and noiselessly settled in front of her. Mother sat down next to her, the perfect example of unflappable calm.

I should be just as dignified, she told herself and under her Brother’s annoying gaze and taunting action, sat straighter.

“Put that peach branch away, Dàbǎo [1],” Mother commanded and Brother sheepishly followed. The stalk disappeared into thin air.

“I'm sorry, Māma.”

She took advantage of her Brother's penitent tone by kicking him under the table.

Extra hard.

“Ah, it makes me so happy to have the two of you under one roof again since the time we reclaimed the Demons,” Mother said, oblivious to the ongoing foot war under the table, or not. “By the next full moon, you will be away again, Dǎodàn. Whatever happens next, the two of you need to stick together. Even after I am gone.”

She blinked at Mother’s wistful tone and, with one last kick at her Brother, returned her full attention to Mother.

“Māma, what did you mean by that?” Brother asked, his voice raised in alarm. “Are you facing your great calamity soon?”

Was she? “You're too young to!” She grabbed at her Mother’s arm, suddenly fearful at the prospect of of being without Mother by her side. “Has First Uncle confirmed it? First Uncle has the sight. And if he has, what did Aunt say about it?”

“I love you both very much that I cannot let you be privy to what I am about to do. I cannot even imagine the punishment I will face if I get caught.” Mother removed her hand and raised it to place a kiss on top of her knuckles before putting it back down on top her lap. “But know that if things do not go as planned, I will return to set things right again. Then I will come back for the two of you, my yīn and yáng, my Daughter and my Son. You are both strong and as siblings, you can bind anything when together so whatever happens, do not let anyone split you apart. Do I have your word?”

She opened her mouth to say something more, to close her mind against the onslaught of fear of abandonment that followed, to force her Mother to take back the words she had just uttered.

But no words came out.

Tears.

Tears did.

She raised her hand to angrily wipe away the damning evidence of her soft heart.

“Swear it, Dǎodàn.”

She kept her mouth pursed. How dare her Mother force her to release words she didn’t have the courage to give?

“Dǎodàn?” Her name was said with little less patience now. She glanced at her Brother, face almost as pale as milk, but at least the idiot didn’t cry.

But she did.

”Dǎodàn?”

No, Mother.

“Dǎodàn?”

No!

“Dǎodàn?”


**


“Shao Wan?”

Mo Yuan’s voice in her ear broke through her haze of sleep. As if her Spirit just flew back inside her body and gave her the ability to breathe again, Shao Wan sat upright on the bed with a drawn out gasp. Feeling suffocated, she crawled on her hands and knees, stepping over Mo Yuan’s knee and calves before she inelegantly landed with a thud on the floor, still wheezing. She scrambled to her feet and headed for the nearest window, and threw almost half of her body outside in an effort to draw more air into her strained lungs.

Outside, the moon shone a full white orb over Kunlun, one of the few spiritual mountains singular to the immortal world and yet central and thus visible to all mortal worlds. The moon glowed so close to the window that she could almost touch it. Her hand reached up, but it touched wet, and Shao Wan realized they were from the tears flowing down her face.

Incomprehensible pain, almost equal to the pain that had ripped through her as her Skylink consumed her during the end of the Second Demon War, now coursed through her once again.

Shao Wan now knew exactly why it had hurt worse than physical pain the last time. It had hurt, because back then she knew that she only had moments to take everything in — the life she had lived, the love she had loved, the children she had yet to meet — before she embraced nothingness again. It had hurt because back then, she didn’t even know if she was coming back.

If she could come back.

This pain she felt now was familiar and yet strange. Back then, the pain was from being ripped apart from the life she had wanted to live, but this pain… this pain…

“Shao Wan.” Warm fur was placed over her shoulders and draped over her back. ”You’ll get cold standing near the window like this.” Hands whose touch was as familiar as her own breathing arranged the blanket all around her until she was cocooned inside it. “Come back to bed.”

“Mo Yuan,” she swallowed, hoping this time he would understand because, ever since that morning, Mo Yuan would go into a dark mood if anyone ever mentioned about Dong Hua’s findings. “What if Dong Hua was right? What if everything we knew, as we knew it, was all a lie?”

From behind her, Shao Wan heard Mo Yuan expel a heavy sigh, one that told her he hadn’t changed his mind since they had talked that afternoon.

“Shao Wan, you haven’t been yourself since this morning and since you had that dream after the meeting. But you should calm down and take it for all that it was: a dream.”

Shao Wan clenched the fur tighter to her body. “But it felt so real! Dragons bigger than you are—”

“Shao Wan… what that would imply… that the One who fathered Ye Hua and I deliberately changed history…”

Oh you silly man!
Shao Wan wanted to wail with frustration as she listened to him utter his choppy response. Did he still not get why she couldn’t get past the dream especially now that she just had another one?

“But what if I actually had a family? A mother, uncles … a brother?”

“Who?” Mo Yuan snorted, uncharacteristic of his usually calm demeanor. He even took a step back as he vigorously shook his head at her. “Zhe Yan? You have been at odds with each other ever since anyone could remember. Where would the logic in that be?” His eyes followed her but Shao Wan found no comfort in his fathomless gaze. “Besides, family should no longer be a sticking point to you. We, the children and I, are your family now.”

And just like that, the pain was back. It didn’t make sense. In truth, there should be nothing to feel pained about particularly after all these years of living without. But here it was. Pain. It was as if she had lost a limb and the body parts it used to be connected to were mourning its loss. To add salt to her internal wounds, the despondency she felt at Mo Yuan’s trivialization of the possibility that she used to belong to someone… that she could actually have come from somewhere…

Shao Wan shuddered.

“Do not try to derail me, Celestial. I may have come from an egg [2], or rather everyone would have me believe it to be so, but if there was any hope that my dreams were actually memories, that I actually had a family— ”

“Shao Wan,” Mo Yuan interrupted, and the way he said her name wasn’t lost to her.

At once, Shao Wan knew, the man before her was no longer the man she freely called husband. Bring him back, she wanted to scream but her words caught in her throat.

Right now, however, it was apparent she stood naked not in front of the father of her children, but the God of War.

“Let’s say you were right. Why would your past be erased? And if it was, why can’t we all remember? It doesn’t make sense.”

But it did. Her dreams had made it clear to her why. But to tell Mo Yuan… he was already looking at her as if she had lost her mind.

So, out. Out. She needed to get out.

Shao Wan stepped back. The simple action caused something to flicker in his eyes. She saw his right hand move, but just as quickly it was set down again by a force that sometimes warred with the truth that they exclusively share with one another.

Duty.

As God of War, Protector of the Immortal Realms, Son of Father Immortal and Mother Immortal, Mo Yuan had been tasked to keep the peace of the realms. Shao Wan understood all too well that if any doubt was casted on the Creators themselves, more troubles — and possibly a war — might follow.

She shrugged off the fur blanket and made a beeline for her clothes, summoning them on with magick.

“It was just a dream, Shao Wan. Come, let’s talk about it.”

Shao Wan looked back at Mo Yuan as she tied her hair back, wondering how a naked man could look so fortified by walls. After all they had been through together, she had hoped he would know better by now than not to support her again. But like a turtle, her proud Mo Yuan instead retreated back inside his impenetrable fortress — all because she had dared to question his family.

She could see his internal struggle through his eyes and normally she would try to wait until he came around — just not this time.

“Maybe. Maybe they were just dreams.” She choked against the pain that was rapidly consuming her chest. Years of being with him had served Shao Wan well because she knew by now not to expect anything from Mo Yuan when either of them had already made up their minds to disagree over something. “And maybe I thought I was now your family, too.”

She had deliberately served the low blow but only because she was desperate to break into his cold exterior once more. And it worked. His head flinched, as if she had just slapped him.

“Are you leaving?”

It broke her heart to smile but Shao Wan had to, just in case this was the last time she would see Mo Yuan in a long while.

“Yes. Yes, I am leaving. Goodbye, Celestial.”

And with that, she left without looking back.

* * *

Endnotes

1. (大宝) - Big Baby

2. Eggs abound in Chinese insults. This may have something to do with eggs representing the offspring of animals. Because family and lineage is so valued in Chinese culture, the suggestion of being hatched instead of born to loving, legitimate parents is a grave snub indeed.