Fanfiction: Ink in Water - Chapter 8 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 8. To ask a wooden plank about love

written by Bunny

consulting by LigayaCroft & Le
editing by kakashi & Le

Petty… stingy… compassionless…

Bai Qian had been biting the same section of her tongue for so long to keep from voicing her complaints aloud, that she could start to feel an ulcer coming on. A day had passed, yet her eyes were still glued to that person’s back—walking exactly ten steps ahead of her and refusing to say a word.

This kind of cold war… she didn’t know how to fight it at all!

Foxes tended to be straightforward creatures. There wasn’t a whole lot of beating around the bush when it came to conversation, and the same was true when handling conflict. If she were to anger any one of her family members, Bai Qian would either hear about it until her ears bled, or be spanked until she couldn’t sit for a week.

Direct, uncomplicated, predictable.

Not a single one of those words could be used to describe Moyuan.

His anger was like an all-out winter crusade. Impossible to thaw.

As she stared at the back of that flawlessly groomed head with every strand of hair set perfectly in place, Bai Qian really wanted to scream and pull her own hair out. But instead, she continued to trudge along, kicking up piles of dead, rotting stems of bamboo beneath her feet.

A million years worth of dead, rotting stems, forming a tangled mass on the forest floor, rendering walking to be a deathtrap.

This was the carpeting for the trail they had been traversing for over a shíchén (2 hours) [1].

When they left the gates of Fenyi Kingdom before dawn this morning, she had assumed that they would be heading toward the South Sea to search for the Shen Demon. But they had headed East instead and wandered into the base of this mountain. In all directions, wherever her eyes travelled, it was one rod of bamboo after another. Some, growing upwards of sixty-feet while others were seedlings that had barely passed a person’s head, assembling like an infantry that numbered in the millions, clothing the entire slope.

It wasn’t clear to her if Moyuan had even picked a destination; they seemed to be wandering aimlessly. And the blisters on her feet were protesting. The ones from the last trek had barely scabbed over, and there were already new ones growing overtop!

Riled up, Bai Qian kicked the ground again. This time, she may have gone a little overboard.

A big chunk of bamboo left the tip of her foot and was catapulted into the air, traveling in an arc until it finally made a landing on none other than her master’s head.


He stopped walking.

Bai Qian shuddered.

That immaculate looking head that had not wavered an inch all morning, now had a string of hair sticking out of it, and was turning around.

A pair of icicles for eyes narrowed on her.

Moyuan started to walk back. His steps were rather fierce and it looked more like he was charging at her.

You’re not going to kill me for this, are you?!
Within a blink of an eye, his arm had hooked around her shoulder. She was being spun around and dragged off the side of the trail.

“S-Shifu?!” She screamed. “Wait!”

Can someone tell me what’s happening?!

Bai Qian dug her feet into the dirt and tried to drag her legs, hoping he’d stop and release her but it was useless. His grip tightened on her, pulling her behind a cluster of bamboo. Her back was pressed against the stalks while Moyuan’s enclosing frame hovered over her like a predator poised over its recently incapacitated prey.

She squirmed some more. “Shifu! It was an accide—”

“Stop talking.” He muffled her mouth with one hand and used the other to throw up an invisibility barrier.

Bai Qian’s heart sank to her toes.

Well, this is it… Mother and father, your daughter has been unfilial…

She squeezed her eyes shut and waited for a strike, but for some reason, the looming body in front of her wasn’t making any movements, he was just looking over her shoulder.

The sound of twig snaps and crunching leaves started to trickle in from afar. Followed by a few voices.

“Do you really think they came here to Mount Qinyao?”

“When has your Xiao Yu gēge ever failed to track down that guy?”

Xiao Yu and Princess Ying Yue? What are they doing here? Are we… hiding from them? After sizing up the situation, Bai Qian slumped over with relief. This master of hers wasn’t trying to kill her after all, he was just avoiding people! Can’t you use words?! Why did you have to make me think such horrible thoughts, ah?

“I don’t get it… Why would he take off so early this morning and not tell us?” Princess Ying Yue sounded upset.

“Why would he tell you? He didn’t even tell me.”

“Xiao Yu gēge!”

“Aish! How long have you been chasing after that guy? You still don’t know that he likes to be alone and likes to do things his own way?”

Bai Qian wanted to get a look at them, but she couldn’t move. Moyuan’s hand was still cupped over her mouth, holding her head in place.

“Then what about that little boy who follows him around like a little tail?”

“Silly girl… you’re even eating vinegar [1] because of his disciple?”

“Since when have master and disciple looked that close?”

Close? Bai Qian sighed in defeat. Right now they were close. Moyuan’s breath was fanning against her eyelashes, his scent was tickling her nose, and his fingers were still pressed against her lips. This position was rather… precarious.

Was he even aware?

She blinked up at Moyuan. Suddenly, the two people in the background vanished from her thoughts like smoke.

Have I… never looked at this person before?

Bai Qian felt a bit dumbstruck. Her stomach became a mass of knots.

The splinters of sunlight that speared through the jagged branches of bamboo above them landed perfectly against his features. Moyuan’s skin took on a soft glow, offsetting the sharp lines of his face and the brooding that hovered over his brow.

He was striking.

Her eyes traced along the angle of his cheeks, down to the stubble on his chin, and up the slope of his lips. She realized that she had never looked this closely at a man before, certainly not this one, and the more she looked, the more her mouth dried up.

She quickly closed her eyes. What is this? Her nails dug into the palm of her hands. By the Heavens… all she could think about was how much she wanted to reach out and touch the face in front of her.

“Heheh...” Xiao Yu snickered. “Really close aren’t they?”

“Xiao Yu gēge!” Princess Ying Yue whined loudly.

“Yue’er… I really don’t know why you haven’t given up… You should know, all these years, Yuan-Yuan has had eyes for only one person…”

“You mean… the Demon An—”

“No, ME!”

Even Xiao Yu’s shameless words could not pull her attention away this time. Bai Qian continued to gawk. Her hand gripped onto the bamboo stalk behind her for some stability from her unsteady thoughts. After a while, the pressure caused the hollow chute to collapse inward, sending out a loud snap.

“Did you hear that?!” Princess Ying Yue shouted.


“I heard something crack just now!”

Princess Ying Yue and Xiao Yu’s footsteps started to veer off the path. The sounds of the stems cracking beneath their feet intensified as they came closer. And when he realized they were approaching, Moyuan closed his body in on her even further like a shell.

The tip of Bai Qian’s nose was edged against the skin of his neck.

She sucked in a sharp breath of air.

Alerted by her, Moyuan looked down and a shimmer of turbulence momentarily flashed over that normally expressionless face. He immediately took a step back.

“Ah… it’s probably just a bamboo tree falling over somewhere…” Xiao Yu said, sounding strangely amused. “You know, sometimes these guys just can’t help but get tangled up in each other until they reach a breaking point…”

“What are you talking about, Xiao Yu gēge? Since when do bamboo trees get tangled?”

“Never mind Yue’er. Let’s go. Nothing for us to see here!” Xiao Yu announced loudly.

The two of them eventually resumed their course. As the sound of their voices drifted off into the distance, Moyuan removed his hand from Bai Qian’s mouth. Although she wished that he hadn’t, because she was certain her face was as red as molten lava.

He, on the other hand, remained about as unruffled as a millpond. Bai Qian was still trying to gather her thoughts when he swiftly lifted the invisibility shield and prepared to turn and walk off again, just like he had been doing all morning.

Having reached her final straw, she grabbed onto his sleeve to detain him.

“Shifu!” Her voice was much more willful than intended. “Seventeenth was wrong… I know I’ve misbehaved… You can hit me and yell at me all you want! I promise I won’t put up a fight! I just… I don’t want…”

“Don’t want what?”

“Don’t want… to be disregarded by you…” Her fingers twisted around the fabric of his sleeve.

The way her words sounded just now made Bai Qian cringe a little. And for a combination of reasons, she was finding it extremely difficult to keep her eyes on Moyuan, so she faced her feet instead. When his hand came up to stroke her head, like he had doing often these days, she flinched away, for no rhyme or reason.

Moyuan’s hand was still hovering in the empty space where her head had been, as his eyebrows lifted and lowered. A few seconds passed by without any words or movements before he finally cleared his throat and folded his arms behind his back.

“Come along,” his voice softening considerably. “We should get going.”

This time, his feet stalled, allowing her to catch up to him. Seeing this, Bai Qian’s spirits soared to the sky. Relief washed over her like a spring tide and a silly grin was plastered on her face as they resumed their walk.

But two steps in, a growling sound penetrated the air. It was so loud that Bai Qian thought a demon had come for them.

It was her stomach.

Realizing how hungry she was, Bai Qian swung her knapsack around in front of her and started to dig around. After rummaging for a while and not finding the rice ball that she had made sure to pack this morning, her hand poked through a rip in the sack instead.

Bai Qian wanted to cry. She was so hungry she could eat her own arm right now.

Her master seemed to have noticed the dire look on her face.

“What’s the matter?”

“Shi…fu…” She pouted, “I lost my… rice ball…”

Moyuan’s one eyebrow quickly migrated above the other as he looked at her like she was some sort of glutton. After letting out a sigh, he opened up his palm and before her very eyes, a ball of rice appeared! And it was ten times better looking than the one she had lost!

Bai Qian was floored. She was so moved, she wanted to kiss him right then; this master of hers who saves her from all sorrows and setbacks… how could she have doubted him earlier?

“Shifu…” She looked up at him with tear-rimmed eyes. “This disciple will definitely be more obedient, and listen to you, and take good care of you when you’re old!”

Moyuan’s lip twitched.

Bai Qian quickly gave her thanks and grabbed the ball of rice to start munching. As soon as she swallowed her first bite, she was renewed with energy and feeling much more talkative. There was suddenly a desire to talk about life with her master.

“Shifu,” she chirped happily as they resumed their walk. “Why were we hiding from Xiao Yu and the Princess just now?”

Moyuan threw her a side glance. “Did you want to join them instead?”

Bai Qian whipped her head back and forth adamantly. If I hang out with that Green-eyed goon too much, I’ll cough up blood and die!

“Ah, Shifu, about that Princess…”

“What about her?”

“I think she likes you.” Bai Qian said with a mouthful.


Maybe he already knows? Bai Qian wanted to probe. She was certain he and the Princess had something going on, but this master of hers seemed to be moving at a snail’s pace.

“Shifu, do you like her too?”

Moyuan gave her a strange look, before taking his knuckles up and rapping them against her forehead.

“Children do not need to worry about these things… and finish chewing before you speak.”

Bai Qian held her bruised forehead and glared at him.

“I’m not a child…” Bai Qian grumbled as she bit off another mouthful of rice.

“Oh?” A faint smile played on his lips.

She looked at him askance and quickly finished chewing. Fine, if that’s what you think, this child will speak her mind then.

“Shifu,” Bai Qian stood up straighter. “I don’t think you really know how to cherish flowers.”


Bai Qian got the feeling Moyuan was about to turn and give her forehead another rapping so she brought her hand up and covered it, just in case.

“I mean, I just don’t understand you, Shifu… If I were you and had the attention of such a great woman, I would be chasing after her!” She tried to explain, “If you like her, then you should just make your move already… If you wait around for too long, someone else will hop in and take your place.”

“Is that so…”

“Yes! Like that Horse Prince, whatever his name is…” Bai Qian’s skin crawled just thinking about that person. “What if they get together? What will you do then? Just quietly retreat?”

“A wise man knows when to admit defeat.” Moyuan replied matter-of-factly.

His aloof manner of answering her was irksome. “Shifu, you’re telling me… If the woman you love was taken by another man, you really wouldn’t fight for her?”

In the long stretch of silence that followed, Moyuan’s eyebrows pinched together as he stared off into space. When he finally turned to her, he said something that made Bai Qian’s brain hurt.

“What is yours cannot run away, and what is not yours cannot be stolen from you.”

Do you ever say anything in plain language?

“Forget it, Shifu.” Bai Qian shook her head; she simply did not want to continue this torturous conversation any longer. It’s like asking a wooden plank about love. “It’s no surprise you don’t understand these things... you’ve been a bachelor for this long after all.”

Don’t say I never tried to talk some sense into you…
Realizing she had probably said something hazardous again, she did not spare another moment before swiftly changing the subject. “Anyway… let’s talk about something more important! Shifu, are we here to look for the Shen Demon?”

Moyuan was still recovering from the slap he had been given. He heaved a long sigh before replying, “Hard to say if we are looking for it, or if it is looking for us right now.”

After having just shoved the remainder of the rice ball into her mouth, Bai Qian looked up at him with eyes as wide as her stuffed cheeks. “Looking for us?!”


“Shifu… Seventeenth is not prepared at all! What should I do when it comes time to fight?!”

Moyuan’s cold face became a touch more gentle as he brought his thumb up to the edge of her mouth and wiped away two grains of rice that had stuck onto her lower lip.

The gesture made Bai Qian’s cheeks burn.

“Don’t worry,” Moyuan cleaned his hand on a handkerchief before reaching out to dab her mouth as well. “The Shen Demon will likely only go after me. It shouldn’t be able to affect you. If I disappear for awhile, just stay where you are and wait. I will come back for you. And if you can, try to meditate and keep your mind clear.”

“What do you mean, Shifu?” Bai Qian spoke into the cloth that was blotting her lips, she was too distracted to even question why he was doing such a thing. “Why can’t the Shen Demon affect me?”

Moyuan’s mouth started to move, but a sudden rip of wind began to whine through the trees, sending the bamboo into a swinging frenzy. His voice was drowned out completely. As it continued to assail with force, the dirt and debris from the ground tunneled up in swirls of dust that soon got into her eyes. Bai Qian brought her hands up to cover them and ducked down.

A moment later when the breeze had settled, she opened her eyes and saw that her master was no longer beside her.

Bai Qian stood rigid, staring at the empty space.

Her eyes flicked back and forth, narrowing and widening. Her neck twisted in all directions.


Is this what he was just talking about?!

A cold shower of dread washed over her, giving rise to the pinprick sensation on her back.

The Shen Demon…

Her feet started moving haphazardly, head swinging around like a whip, scanning every section of space visible to her but there was nothing but the same strips of green that stood like an infinite number of mirrored fragments staring back.


Had the Shen Demon really come for him? Was she really supposed to just sit here and wait? That’s exactly what he had told her to do, but Bai Qian just wasn’t willing. She continued to call out to him as she stumbled past the trees.

Another violent gust of wind cannoned through like it did a moment ago, but more ferocious this time. The taller stalks of bamboo were now bending and snapping at their tops, while the rest swung and scraped against one another, giving up their leaves a second time as the air pummeled past. Bai Qian’s steps faltered and she was forced down to her knees. Her arms came up to cover her head from the onslaught of debris.

The wind raged for longer this time before dying down, and left behind a bone-chilling silence in its wake.

Bai Qian could hear every beat of her heart in her ears, drumming away like a rattlesnake. There was no other sound. The air movement dwindled to absolute stillness and she slowly lowered her arms. Her eyes blinked vigorously, trying to focus in spite of the dust that had yet to evacuate from the inside of her lids, but her vision remained blurry. It began to settle on a large object that now laid in her path.

The image flickered in and out but soon enough, it was visible.

A giant clam shell.

And within that shell, there was a figure.

The seconds that passed as Bai Qian sat on her knees motionless, staring at the sight ahead, were both the longest and shortest seconds of her life. Panic writhed through her like worms beneath the skin. All the hairs on her body stood on end. She could not clearly see the figure in the shell, but knew immediately, it had to be the Shen Demon.

Why is this thing here?

Why is it here with me… where is Shifu?!

Slowly, it emerged out of its shell and started to make its way toward her. Its outline dithered until Bai Qian could start to see the shape of its curves and the billowing of its silver hair. Two glimmering eyes that shined like brilliant amethysts were aimed right at her.

It stopped three yards short of where Bai Qian was kneeling on the ground and hooked its blood-red lips up to a hair-raising smile. And from that mouth, a slew of incomprehensible words were uttered. Bai Qian could feel the ominous aura spread into the air around her. As it spoke, the teeth that manifested between the cracks of its lips glinted like steel razors.

Fear wrapped around her throat like a claw and tightened, numbing her sensation and setting her motionless. She could only stare, unable to breathe, blink or swallow.

In all her 50,000 years, Bai Qian had never fought a demon. Certainly not a demon of this caliber. She knew nothing about it, nothing except that it was a master of illusions and a fearsome force that could only be subdued by the powers of high gods such as her master or Donghua Dijun. So how in the hell was she, a first-year disciple of the God of War, a low-level immortal who had yet to ascend, supposed to go up against it?

She could only think to summon the Jade Purity Fan, but the second it appeared in her hand, it fell out of her useless grip like a toy. Fumbling on all fours, Bai Qian groped the ground in search of it, unable to peel her eyes away from the advancing figure. The dried splinters of bamboo and leaves were shredding up her fingers, but she couldn’t even feel the sting.

As soon as she forced the fan back into her fingers, she scrambled up onto her feet and tried to take a stance, but could not still her convulsing limbs. Looking into her heart for some courage was like staring into a dried up well.

The branches of bamboo started to quiver once more in anticipation of another assault by the oncoming current. And as the air swept across her, Bai Qian was made fully aware of the sweat that had soaked through the back of her robe, making her shiver in the chill.

“Seventeenth… stay calm.”

Moyuan’s voice rippled in from behind her, mixing with the moans of wind that were ghosting through.

Bai Qian couldn’t believe her ears.


Pointed leaves were being spilled down from the canopy overhead like a horde of spinning daggers, falling chaotically to the ground, slicing across her face as she turned back. Amongst the peppered flashes of green, he stood in that dark blue robe, hair perfectly knotted, eyes as cold as a thousand year old ice.

Her heart skipped a beat.

A foolish smile took over her face. Bai Qian called out to him a few times and waited for him to come to her.

He did not.

He simply looked at her indifferently, then moved his eyes over to the Shen Demon.

“Seventeenth, since we are here, it’s a good opportunity for you to learn.”

Learn? What is that supposed to mean?!
Moyuan proceeded to walk over to the side without saying another word. Bai Qian was speechless; she didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Did he really expect for her to take on this creature alone?

Hearing the sound of sprigs snapping, Bai Qian flipped back around. The Shen Demon had advanced a few steps forward. Its hair was now rising like tendrils in the air.

“The God of War and his disciple… who should I entertain myself with first?” Its voice dripped like honey as it darted its eyes back and forth between her and Moyuan. That red stroke of a smile was growing progressively wider, edges extending beyond the normal proportions, pulling the skin back.

Bai Qian was so scared that she was about to wet herself, but regardless, she lifted up the Jade Purity Fan and tried to stand taller. “Don’t touch my Shifu!”

“You’ve found yourself a brave little disciple, War God…” It let out a menacing laugh. “Very well… let me take good care of you first, little brother, before I move onto my real prize over there…”

Bai Qian followed the creature’s salacious gaze over to the side of them and found that it was aimed at her master, who had now settled down to a sitting position on a wooden dais between several stalks of bamboo. What kind of joke is this?

“S-Shifu! What are you doing?!”

Sitting idly, he looked up at her from his cup of tea, which had just materialized seemingly out of nowhere, and replied, “Teaching you.”

Bai Qian promptly wanted to choke out tears of blood. She had defended him out of instinct, but was he really planning on just sitting and watching her fight this fight alone?!

“Seventeenth, this is your chance to do as you like. As I remember, you are not shy to jump into fires, isn’t that right?”

He’s throwing my words back at me? Right now?! Bai Qian’s heart was overturning seas and rivers.

“Don’t be scared… I won’t hurt you…” The Shen Demon had now arrived within an arm’s length of where she stood. Its gaze fixed on Bai Qian. Those slanted violet eyes were lambent in the sunlight and shining so bright that if one looked at them, everything else seemed to blur away.

“I will be sure to treat you very well…” Its coaxing voice was so alluring that Bai Qian almost wanted to believe those words.

She sucked in a breath of air and tried to gather her wits. It didn’t look like there was any other choice but to fight.

Truthfully, Bai Qian wasn’t completely powerless. And she refused to believe that Moyuan would just sit there and watch her die if it came to that point. So, with this in mind, she plucked her courage. However, the moment she saw that the demon’s devastatingly beautiful face become nothing more than a gaping hole full of gleaming, razor-sharp teeth, it crumbled away again.

“Clear your thoughts,” Moyuan said. “Fear is clouding your energy, you won’t be able to control the Jade Purity Fan if this keeps up.”

He was right. This whole time, she was having difficulty gripping the Jade Purity Fan and felt like it kept trying to fly out of her hand, as though repulsed by her. This stupid fan… How the hell am I supposed to not have fear?! Are you looking at this thing?!

“Your fear is only as great as your mind allows it.” He spoke again, “Close your eyes.”

“Close my eyes? Shifu… How am I supposed to fight with my eyes closed?!”

“You have other senses.”

Bai Qian hesitated. She was starting to think that her master wanted to kill her again.

“Do as I say.” He pressed, “Do you not trust me?”

Trust? This isn’t about trust! 

Seeing that she could either listen to Moyuan and risk the chance of dying, or fight this demon on her own terms and still die… Bai Qian closed her eyes.

“Good. Now clear your mind and find your spiritual center. You should be able to sense the connection to your fan. Summon it and calm it.”

Bai Qian did as she was told. She tried to remove all thoughts, but the darkness was even more frightening than ten Shen Demons combined. She could not locate any form of a spiritual center at all.

“Keep going,” he urged.

Her mind in this moment was as loud as an opera. A million questions had popped into her head. She couldn’t help but wonder why she wasn’t being attacked yet. Wasn’t this the perfect opportunity for the Shen Demon to put an end to her? Could it be that her master was holding it back somehow? She wanted to look.

“Keep them closed!” Moyuan shouted.

Too late.

The Shen Demoness was directly in front of her.

Bai Qian was peering right into that cavernous mouth, wide open, inches from her face. The innumerable shards of teeth that lined the walls of its mouth in a spiral-like pattern trapped her eyes. She could not look away. There was something slithering up from the depths of its throat, a ribbon-like tongue, wrapped around an object.

The moment that tongue disentangled, rays of rose-colored light spun out and spread in all directions.

Bai Qian had never seen such a light before. It was crisp and bright and hypnotic. As it swept across her eyes, it was as though a million invisible threads were lancing through her corneas and reaching into her skull.

But there was no pain. Just a numbness that fizzled away to a lightness.

In an instant, all the fear and anxiety that had built up within her, subsided.


Moyuan’s bellow shook her. He sounded so close by, but also infinitely far away.

She wanted to respond to him but couldn’t.

“Seventeenth! Listen to me…” His voice was laced with anxiety, fading away in fragments. “…not real… remember…”

What’s not real?

One by one, Bai Qian’s senses were being drowned by that rose-colored light that became the only thing in her vision.

She felt weightless, like her body had turned into a cloud and flew away, her mind devoid of any burden. Allowing in a warmth—a pleasurable and consuming sensation, overwhelming her with waves upon waves of perfect happiness that left no room for anything else.

Except for a voice, a whisper, slithering against the walls of her skull, asking,

Shall I show you what you want?

Chapter 9

End Notes:

[1] Shíchén (時辰) - Ancient Chinese hour equalling to 2 modern hours.
[2] Chīcù (吃醋) - Literally translates as ‘to eat vinegar’, and means to feel jealous of a rival in love.