Fanfiction: Ink in Water - Chapter 9 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 9. One drop of ink can stain the sea

written by Bunny
consulting by LigayaCroft & Le
editing by Le & kakashi

My eyes crack open a slit, then shut again.

The sun is beating down today like it’s hellbent on settling a grudge.

A slight breeze skims across my cheeks. When it stills, the coolness is replaced by hot air that wraps over me like a blanket. My body shifts and I feel every spot where my skin has stuck to my robe, the worst being my back and the underside of my legs.

Sweaty and uncomfortable, I’m suddenly wide awake.

How long have I dozed off for? It feels as though I’ve slept for ages.

Above me, the branches of the Parasol tree undulate back and forth. I recognize this tree because I’ve taken countless naps under it. The scent of lotuses drift in and out of my nose and when I turn my head, I see the soft yellow glow of the Golden Lotus beside me.

That’s right… On these hot summer afternoons on Kunlun Mountain, all I ever want to do is nap. And the best place to do so is by the Lotus Pond. With ample shade, and the rising moisture from the water, it makes the torturous heat a little more bearable than anywhere else.

Looking up at where that blinding blotch in the sky is situated, I figure it must be late afternoon already. Which means I must have managed to skip out on yet another one of Moyuan’s midday lectures. This isn’t good. I’ve been doing it too often these days. Right about now is when I should be hearing the sound of my First Senior’s raging voice hunting me down for my punishment.

I wipe the sweat from the sides of my neck and try to pull myself together as I sit up.

It takes me a moment to orient myself. With none of my seniors hollering for me, it’s strangely quiet out here. I wonder if they’re all busy with something. Die Feng is definitely not one to forget punishment, so I’m sure he will track me down eventually.

Since I have some time, I decide to go look for some food to fill my stomach. I usually have to forgo my dinner on these occasions, so it’s better to prepare myself.

Hopping onto my feet, I wind my way around the back of the school, keeping my eyes peeled as to not run into that First Senior of mine. But it doesn’t take me long to realize that even if I wanted to be found, there isn’t anyone around to find me; not a single shadow.

Where has everyone gone? Did something happen?

Instead of going to the kitchen, I decide to detour to the main hall instead.

Everything looks normal. There isn’t a thing out of place. In fact, my surroundings look so spick and span, I’m certain my Second Senior has just gone on one of his cleaning sprees again.

Since there’s no sign of any catastrophe, I feel somewhat relieved. Perhaps my Master has sent all of my seniors out on a task, or maybe they all took a trip to the mortal realm without me… That latter thought makes me a little crotchety and I start grumbling to myself, when out of the corner of my eye, I see Changshan’s figure darting through the stone pillars.

At least my Second Senior hasn’t left.

“Second Senior!” I call.

Changshan spins around and when he sees me, he rushes over.

I approach him, ready to ask where the rest have gone, but before I can get a word out, Changshan has already pushed the tea tray in his hands over to me.

“Seventeenth, there you are! Go take this to Shifu, he has been asking for you.”

I open my mouth again to ask why I’m being summoned, but Second Senior simply aims me down the side corridor and pushes me along my way instead.

“Go, go!” he commands. “The tea’s about to get cold!”

I stumble a little and almost drop the whole tray, but catch myself in time. When I turn back to glare at Changshan, he has already disappeared. What’s the big rush?

The matter surprises me altogether. Since when does that Master of mine personally call for me? This entire past year that I’ve been his disciple, I think he’s addressed me about twice altogether, and always in the presence of my seniors.

Is this related to all the naps I’ve been taking and the lectures I’ve been skipping? Is he planning to discipline me himself? As it appears, I may be in real trouble this time. But for some reason, instead of feeling nervous, I can’t help but feel a little excited. Since I’ve arrived on Kunlun Mountain, Moyuan has kept his distance from me. But no matter how intimidating he is, he’s still my master. I have been dying for some one-on-one interaction with this God of War, be it good or bad.

My body straightens up and I walk steadfast down the hall to Moyuan’s chamber.

“Shifu.” I give the door a few knocks. “Seventeenth is here.”

When I don’t hear a response, I slowly push on the door.

My head peeks in first. Moyuan is seated on a platform at the center of the room; his body in lotus position. He appears to be in meditation and must not have heard me.

I allow myself in.

My eyes wander a bit, realizing that I’ve never set foot in his chamber before.

There is a small table beside him, holding several stacked scrolls and an incense burner releasing the soothing scent of agarwood into the air. Multiple shelves containing neatly filed scrolls lie off to the side. His zither is positioned in one corner, and over to the far end of the room, I see his sleeping pallet hidden behind the crane embroidered gossamer. Everything is bathed in sunlight streaming in through the stone windows that line one side of the room.

It all looks just as immaculate as he does. I can’t spot a speck of dust on anything. Every object he owns is thoughtfully situated and aligned. He seems to favor only the bare minimum, but anything my eyes land on, I find to be pleasing.

This does not exclude him. Moyuan is wearing his dark green robe today, the one that makes him look particularly imposing, and I recognize it because the shade reminds me of stormy sea water and whenever he has it on, I cannot help but look at him in a daze. This occasion is no exception.

When he opens his eyes, they catch mine staring red-handed.

I clear my throat and bow my head to him. “Shifu.”

“Seventeenth.” His voice is the softest I’ve ever heard it; it’s not what I was expecting. “Come here.”

With the tea tray in my hands, I walk over and place it down on the table beside him. I can feel his gaze examining me every step of the way, and coincidentally, I start to feel a bit nervous.

I serve his tea immediately, trying to busy my hands with something.

“Shifu,” I address, “Second Senior said you wanted to see me?”

My head turns over to meet his eyes which are blatantly fixed on me, the sight of which puts me on edge. He is not responding to my question. He seems a touch different than his normal self today, but I have to remind myself that I really don’t know this person. I don’t know how to interact with him at all. Maybe this is just how he treats all of his disciples in private… he stares at them?

I look away and continue to pour tea.

My mind is working in overdrive trying to think of how best to conduct myself. All this time, there have been so many things I’ve wanted to ask this person, to discuss with him, to learn from him. But now that he’s beside me, for some reason, I’m having a hard time thinking of even one coherent thing.

“Seventeenth…” He finally speaks. “It seems, I may have been neglecting you.”

Caught off guard by his statement, I nearly pour tea on myself.

He’s aware? I can’t exactly agree to this, can I?

I finish filling his cup properly and offer it to him, still trying to think of something to say back. He reaches out for the teacup, but instead of taking it from me, his fingers are clasping on top of mine and holding them in place.

My eyes widen in disbelief.

If the cup wasn’t already in his clutch, it would have fallen out of my hand and landed on the ground.

“Today, I will personally teach you.” He says as he slowly disengages his fingers from mine and takes the cup.

“Sit.” He directs me to sit down beside him.

I am still looking at him blankly, confused to death. I was certain I was here to be reprimanded, so why am I being told such a thing? And what was that touch just now? Did I imagine it?

I don’t dare sit next to him, so I sit on my knees in front of him instead and take a few long breaths to still my nerves.

“Have my lessons not been to your liking?” he asks, bringing the teacup to his lips.

I don’t know how to answer this question without getting myself in trouble, so I grip the hem of my sleeves and meekly shake my head.

“How can I better teach you?”

Better teach me? Have I caused him to blame himself? My head snaps up to face him. “Shifu… it’s not that you’re not teaching me well enough, it’s just that I’m not a very good student…”

He doesn’t react to my words and instead, reaches over to the table and picks up a scroll. “This is the lecture you missed today, I will personally relay it you. When you have questions, ask.”

He begins reciting and I sit there, not quite listening, wondering if this is actually happening. In the end, I am being punished, aren’t I?

As his words slip through my ears, I find my eyes more drawn to the sight of him.

When he reads, his lips move only a fraction through every word, but his voice is resounding. And his index finger likes to occasionally tap on the back of the scroll out of habit.

These things, I’ve noticed before and have found them endearing, but today, more than endearing… somehow, I find them captivating.

Such a notion is foreign to me. I also know it’s not right to think this way about my Master, but before I am able to reconcile these thoughts, my hand is already doing some imprudent thing that I’m incapable of stopping—it’s reaching for him.

My hand, touching his, stops the movement of his index finger.

Moyuan pauses his speech, lifts his eyes from the scroll and looks at me.

“What is it?” he asks.

I swallow deeply. I have no idea what I’m doing. I feel like a thief who’s just been caught stealing. After a wavering moment, I quickly retrieve my hand, but he comes after it.

His fingertips catch onto mine. The touch sends a current through me. He is holding my hand in his, I would be lying if I said this wasn’t what I wanted, but I don’t know what to make of it. So I try to wriggle my way out.

His grip tightens and ceases all my movements. “Did you have a question?”

Startled, I shake my head.

“No?” He slowly releases my hand. “In that case, I trust that you can summarize what I’ve just read to you?”

My eyes pop out at him. This is bad. Really bad. I can’t even tell him the name of the doctrine he just read, let alone summarize it.

“S-Shifu…” I stammer, “I… I wasn’t listening p-properly…”

“Did not listen?” His brows furrow. He rolls up the scroll and sets back down on the table. “How is that possible? Clearly, it looked like you were paying attention.”

His body shifts and leans forward. Suddenly, the gap between us has become very small.

My heart starts racing, I’m not sure why.

“If you weren’t listening, then what were you doing just now?”

“I… I… was thinking…”

“About?” His hand comes up to take up a stray section of my hair that had been hanging loose. “You seem a bit distracted, Seventeenth.”


Right now, the backs of his fingers brushing against my cheek are indeed distracting.

“If you don’t wish for me to teach you, then what would you rather I do?” He tucks the strands behind my ear. He is barely touching me, but my skin tingles with awareness.

“Shifu… I… I do want you to teach me…”

“Oh?” His thumb and index finger take my chin in between them. “Why do I get the sense that there’s something else you want instead?”

Flustered beyond a doubt, my body reacts.

“S-Something else?” I snap my chin out of his grasp.

He lowers his hand and puts on a gentle smile. “What is it that you want?”

I’d rather die than tell him. I can’t even tell myself. The thoughts running through my mind right now are making me dizzy.

Seconds pass and his hand comes to take ahold of mine again.

“If you don’t tell me, then I will guess.”

Lifting my hand up, he brings it close to his face. His eyes close and his mouth presses against the inside of my wrist. I am rendered motionless, reduced to nothing more than my pulse that taps several times against his lips. When he releases and meets my eyes, my heart glitches.

His body is closing in on me. I don’t even realize I’m scooting away, until I feel my back press against the edge of the table. The scrolls fall off one by one, clanking to the ground. My breath draws sharply.

Who is this person? What are we doing?

“W-Wait a second,” I protest.

He ignores me. His arm comes to loop around my waist.

My resistance is useless against his strength. I am being lifted and brought into his lap. And just like that, my body folds like it has a mind of its own, right into his. A touch invades the side of my neck, reaching around to my nape. The kneading pressure angles my head back, and his lips come beside my ear.

“Isn’t this what you want?”

The realization is a like a stream of cold water pouring down from the top of my head.

His lips press themselves down beneath my ear. The air I’ve been trapping in my lungs expels in a sudden exhale, audible to us both. He’s kissing me. I don’t know why or how, but this person is kissing me. And I like it, my god, I like so much that for a second, I think it feels perfectly natural. Until my conscience screams at me.

“N-No… No, no, Shifu!” I start to squirm away.

He doesn’t stop. His arms are like a rigid wall around me. His lips continue to drag across my skin, until they come in dangerous proximity to my lips.

“Are you sure you want me to stop?” His words land at the corner of my mouth.

I take too long to reply and in one fell swoop, he levels me to the ground. Until I’m lying flat on my back, looking at the ceiling, at him, at the scene all around us from the floor up.

It seems to be spinning out of control, I can’t keep track of what’s happening. I feel my wrists being pinned tight onto the hard surface of that platform, as my eyes haze over. The sight of rising incense from the table above drifts into my view. I watch as the tendrils of smoke twist and spread, forming fleeting images before my eyes that seem neither real nor fake.

Real… nor fake…

My mind lapses for a moment; it feels like a wall is crumbling inside. Then, the clarity hits me like thunder.

When his lips come down for mine, the instinct to push him away surges from within me.

“NO!” I use sheer force to push him off.

Our bodies separate. I fall back disheveled, trying to gather the pieces of my soul that momentarily flew away just now.

All the fragments that were missing from memory come flooding back.

I stare at the body in front of me… it’s not real.

This room isn’t real.

None of this is real.

I’ve been tricked. “S-Shen Demon…”

The moment I utter those words, the face I’m looking at turns into sand, along with the ground beneath me. It all scatters away. And I start to fall.

Free-fall, in mid-air, paralyzed with fear, unable to scream.

I feel gravity pulling me down, but there is nothing but blank space all around me. The scene before my eyes is infinite nothingness—blackness—and this goes on for longer than I can wrap my mind around. Until a sky opens up above me, and what I feel next is a sharp chill that nips at my feet.

I’m being plunged into frigid water.

Ocean water.

There is a tight, airless pounding in my head as I go under the waves. The chill shocks me. My limbs take a moment to recover before struggling to get back to the surface. As soon as I make it up, my mouth opens for a breath of air, only to crash with a wave.

Salt water pours into my mouth, down my throat. I choke, trying to gag the water out, it hurts like hell.

I force my bloodshot eyes to open. I’m in the middle of the open sea, and it’s storming. There’s no horizon, just gray sky that melts seamlessly into the looming shadows of these monstrous waves that are coming for me. Soon, one of them strikes ruthlessly again and I can no longer keep afloat.

I slip down, taking more water into my lungs. The way it burns is the most excruciating pain, like swallowing lava; I feel it searing the inside of my trachea and shoot up into the lining of my nasal passages.

Is this another illusion?!

I know by now, I am fighting a battle in my mind with the Shen Demon. But it all feels too real.

My feet are still kicking fiercely, but I can’t feel my toes anymore. My body is slowing down, begging for rest. My brain screams at my limbs to keep working, but they don’t agree, they slow anyway. Allowing the waves to further shove me down.

A spark of hope lights up in my head—if I transform to my fox form, I can swim better and tolerate the cold. So I attempt. But it doesn’t work. My powers don’t work here at all.

Pain and panic become one horrific beast inside of me.

Unable to determine whether I am breathing in or out, I gasp, foolishly, letting more water stream in.

I’m drowning—really drowning. I can’t breathe.

My chest is going to explode. My ears are ringing.

My mind instinctively calls for him.


As though he could hear me, I keep calling for him. But it’s impossible. I know I’m trapped. Nobody is here. No one can hear me.

I think about forcing my legs to kick again, but I can’t. My body is numb. The darkness of the water starts to fully envelop me. I can only watch as bubbles spew from my mouth and rise upward, taking away my precious oxygen with it. The sunlight that is filtering down from the surface above is mocking me. Until I can’t see anything anymore.

Silence sets in.

They say that the moment before death is the most peaceful. While I continue to plummet now, I feel weightless. I think that dying might not be such a bad thing, and my eyes draw down like a curtain.

Only to be jerked open a second later.

There is a disturbance in the still water around me. I can’t see a thing, but I know something else is here.

A hand lands on the back of my head, another one wraps around my shoulder. Something soft is pressed firmly on my lips, and my mouth is drawn apart.

Air streams into me, going straight to my lungs. I’m breathing!

Someone else’s air…

Someone else’s mouth…

My senses come together in fragments.

Not able to see who I’m attached to, I panic and start struggling out of compulsion, but a pair of hands cups my cheeks and forces my head to still.

Who am I kidding, I remember that I desperately need the air tunneling between our mouths. And the lips sealing over mine provides the only slight bit of warmth in this icy abyss. My body falls limp and submits.

The hands by my face release and start to wrap around my waist, pulling me closer.

This shell of a body around mine, it feels very familiar.

We continue to float in the soundlessness of that pitch black water, tethered. Gravity is nonexistent. Time seems suspended. And I can’t tell whether if we’re rising or falling.

After a while, the water begins to adopt streaks of light from the surface, and my eyes adjust to the diffused glow. Webs of hair surround both our faces. Drifting about, obstructing my view. I can’t tell if they’re my own. When they clear away, I notice the stream of tiny air bubbles jetting out from the space between our mouths. Followed by the face hidden behind them.

It is far too close for me to see clearly, but I can make out the shape of two eyelids directly in front of mine.

They flutter open, revealing a pair of dark, glassy spheres staring back at me—more fathomless than this very ocean, gleaming in the muteness of the briny green water, reflecting my image clearly.

I know whom they belong to.

I also know, it’s not really him. We’re back to this game again. But my heart doesn’t stop pounding in my chest.

This Shen Demon’s methods seem a bit shameless. I’ve already seen through its illusion once and yet, it still sends the same image of my Master after me. But if it wants to kill me, why am I being saved? Unless sustaining me in this dreamscape is part of the objective.

Jumbled thoughts fill my mind and before I know it, our heads are nearing the surface. When we emerge, his mouth parts from mine and the onslaught of fresh air hits me like a wall.

I’m gasping, coughing, wheezing in pain.

Colorful blotches fill my vision. My eyes burn.

This illusion of my Master is still holding onto me.

I mop the strips of wet hair out of my face and try to get a good look at him, but he quickly places a hand over my mouth and throws his body over mine. A wave slams against us. He’s shielding me. We go under another time.

Coming back up, the process repeats. I choke and cough until my throat feels raw.

The storm has gotten worse. I can tell by the sound of thunder cracking and booming overhead. The salt water stings my eyes so badly, I can hardly open them. But when I do, a streak of lightning shoots across the cloud laden sky, lighting up the turbulent waters around us like a rippling mirror, lighting up his face above mine.

He is holding me tight against his chest, while his legs do most of the treading for both of us.

I am too exhausted to think about fighting this illusion right now. It’s too strange. I feel like it’s almost protective of me and I can’t figure out why. Is it because this is how I imagine the real thing would behave? Then what about earlier? Why did I imagine that?!

I can no longer bear to look up, so I bury my face in his chest as the rough current continues to lap against us. Time after time, he blocks the big waves from striking me directly and I start getting better at predicting when they come so I hold my breath when they hit.

My body is exhausted, I am chilled beyond reason.

After several more rounds of lightning, the clouds split open and the rain comes pouring down.

Freezing, cold rain.

I am so upset… So annoyed… So vexed… I poke my head up and glare at the sky.

“HEY! Granddaughter! If you’re so goddamn capable, why don’t you just come out and fight me?! Huh?! You’re just gonna send one stupid illusion after another to play around?! Your mothe—”

My mouth is being muffled.

I’m so mad that I clamp my front teeth recklessly down onto the obstructing finger by my lips. Hard.

I feel his body stiffen but he doesn’t make a sound. A metallic taste drips into my mouth.

Loosening my bite, I look down to see blood pooling from a row of teeth marks on the side of his finger. I feel guilty immediately. It looks too real. This illusion even knows how to bleed…

The raindrops quickly wash off the blood and he removes his hand from my face.

“What good will come from you yelling and cursing?”

“I just want to, alright?!” I yell back.

Looking up at that familiar face, I hesitate. Aren’t I just talking to myself right now? But seeing his resemblance to Moyuan, I simply don’t have the heart to yell at him or ignore him.

“You even sound just like that guy…” I roll my eyes.

He puts on a skeptical expression. I wipe the hair and water out of my face and eyes to examine him more closely. The rain continues to hiss down, but the current has smoothed out considerably.

“There are really no flaws…” My finger takes a prod at his cheek. “No wonder I couldn’t tell earlier…”

His eyes sharpen at me as he jerks his head away. Even down to the littlest reactions, he is just how I imagine my Master.

I grow bolder.

“This ice-face…” I claw up my fingers and give his cheek a good pinch. “Always like to make me walk on eggshells, ah? Now that you’re just an illusion, let’s see if you dare give me a hard time!”

Moyuan’s eyes flare wide as his face takes on a very complicated expression that I’ve actually never seen before. I find it strange that this copy of him can even do new things like this.

“What did you just call me?” he asks, “Illusion?”

I nod.

“Do you not remember what happened earlier? What am I saying... You’re not real, so how can you have memories? Not sure why I’m even talking to you…” My voice trails off. Looking at his shocked expression I suddenly realize this illusion probably isn’t too happy about this news. “I’m sorry you have to be a part of my imagination… Don’t blame me for putting you here, blame that Shen Demon!”

His eyes blacken over. If this really was Moyuan looking at me now, I’d be convinced that I’d just told him some shattering piece of information. But here, I don’t have to worry too much about his reactions.

Suddenly, it became very easy to talk to this otherwise intimidating face.

“You know, illusion, you’re not so bad… you’re much easier to deal with than—”

My words are cut off by a hand that suddenly grabs ahold of my shoulder, gripping so hard that it’s trembling. “What… happened earlier?”

The forcefulness startles me, reminding me of the way he touched me not too long ago and suddenly I’m feeling uneasy. “W-What are you doing now? Don’t start doing the same thing again!”

“What… What did I do?”

All the blood rushes to my face. I’m definitely not saying those things out loud; illusion or not, definitely not talking about that. The rain falls on both our faces frantically, matching my pulse. Why does he have to have this appearance, making me feel all kinds of strange things?!

His hand remains on my shoulder. I look over to see his fingers digging into the thin linen of my robe that has now been soaked to translucency. When my eyes shift back to his face, they land on his lips. I recall the moments underwater, when those lips were pressed to mine, and suddenly my frigid body is heating up all over.

An impulse ignites in my chest.

Followed by a tide of shame.

My brain argues with itself for a while, until a thought sneaks in. If I’m stuck here… If he’s an illusion… then what does it matter? Isn’t it alright that I do what I want? It’s not like this is really my Master. If he’s not the real thing, then whatever I do can’t be counted as real either. I could very well die here and never make it out… I just want to try… this one thing… this one time… I just want to kiss him.

“Seventeenth, what did you see before?”

My head springs back up. I hook my hand around his neck and pull myself closer. If he wants to know so bad, then I will show him. His body tenses up and his arms start to push me back. But my lips part and I propel myself up.

I just go for it.


A hand slams over the top of my mouth, right as I’m about to touch his. The lower half of my face is stinging.

He’s blocking me?!

“Seventeenth!” His voice rumbles like a roll of thunder. “What do you think you’re doing?!”

Why is he taking that tone with me?

Wasn’t he the one who was pushing me down earlier?!

I’m so angry that I’m already yelling before he even takes his hand off my mouth. “YOU—You’re the one who was doing this sort of indecent thing and now you want to start acting innocent?!”

I decide, since this make-believe person wants to be this shameless, then so can I.

My hands clammer up to his neck a second time. His eyes are burning me like livid pools of fire right now, but I don’t care. Another round of lightning cracks in the sky, but it doesn’t distract me.

My lips are a breath away from his, when I notice his hand come up in my periphery.

The thing that follows is a blow to the side of my head.

My brain scrambles and my vision whites out, I’m swimming in it.

I’m losing consciousness.

This isn’t supposed to be happening… you’re not supposed to…


Chapter 10