Fanfic: Mo Yuan and Shao Wan 2.0 - Chapter 20b (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 20b

written by kakashi & Panda
edited by LigayaCroft

279’800 years ago

She made a mistake, a small one, but it was all he needed. He sprang forward, about to strike, but then he hesitated - I cannot hurt her! - and paid dearly for it: her sword pierced him deeply, almost cutting off his arm.

He fell to his knees with a groan, his own sword dropping from his hand, leaving him wide open to another attack, the pain too debilitating to do anything about it.

Why does this seem so unreal? he thought in wonderment. Something is wrong. All he could think about was how beautiful she looked with the sun giving her hair a blue hue, how her skin shone with a godly light, how graceful her movements were.

And so it happened that he smiled at her when she lifted her sword high over her head and brought it down with full force, shouting a fierce battle cry.

“Are you insane!” Someone screamed and blasted her off her feet.

Somehow, he was still kneeling even though he decisively felt like lying flat on his face. There was much shouting and a deafening ringing in his ears. Zhe Yan and Donghua appeared in his field of vision. One bent down and spoke to him, looking very white and shaken. The other had put his foot on Shao Wan’s chest and held his own sword at her throat. He felt hot blood soak his tunic. There was blood in his mouth too. He hung on to his consciousness with the last bit of strength he had. It was too strange...

“Were you going to kill him?” Zhe Yan shouted at Shao Wan, “Mei Mei, they will kick you out of school for that!”

There was a word that wanted his attention, a word rising up and getting bigger and bigger in his head, a word that summed everything up. Enemies.

She lifted her head, not caring about the sword hovering right in front of her, her eyes searching for him. He saw mirrored in them what he himself was feeling. Puzzlement.

“What happened between you,” Zhe Yan murmured, frantically trying to still the blood that kept pouring out of him, “you better stay away from women entirely, Mo Yuan, if this is the result of you opening up to them for once.”

He tried to remember what had happened, but he failed. Breathing was hard, kneeling was hard, thinking was hard.

“Let me up,” Shao Wan demanded from Donghua and swatted at the blade, “let me up!”

Cautiously, Donghua stepped back from her but did not let lower his sword. Slowly, on her hands and knees, Shao Wan crawled over to him.

“Start healing him already,” she barked at Zhe Yan and lifted her hand towards Mo Yuan’s face, but let it hang there in the air before slowly putting it back on the ground.

“I… I didn’t…,” she seemed to choke on her own words. Her eyes had softened. Puzzlement had turned into fear. He watched as heavy tears formed.

He understood, and at the same time didn’t at all.

“Enemies,” he pressed out.

“Enemies,” she sobbed, “enemies.”


Present Day

With some fascination, Lian Song watched a fire ant struggling to drag a twig ten times it size from some small scrub to the right across the sandy ground to one of the trees, where the fire ant nest was located. He had never met an immortal who had been a fire ant before, he mused. And yet, there must be numerous such individuals, considering how many ants lived in one nest.

He really should start travelling some more again. Sitting in the Thirty Six Heavens in the everbright light, using his mind only to artfully evade all responsibilities seemed rather wasteful all of a sudden.

The ant disappeared from his view and he heaved a sigh. He was very bored. And the man he was waiting for took his darn time getting here.

He knew exactly where he was though: every evening, the God of War watched over the disguised immortal until she fell asleep. He hid his presence from her and everybody else, but Lian Song was of the Dragon family too, he would always sense another dragon, invisible or not.

The brothers are much more alike than I realized before, he thought. And because they were so similar, he had discovered High God Mo Yuan’s big secret quite by accident. He had experienced his nephew Ye Hua’s pining over his mortal love and his courtship of the Goddess from Qing Qiu. What the God of War was going through looked very similar.

It was quite mind boggling what that meant, especially since it didn’t look like the God of War had gone completely mad. At first, Lian Song had been quite shocked at his realization. Then, intrigued.

That he was still awake at this ungodly hour was unusual for him but everything was different on this journey he was partaking in. He took a silk cloth from his sleeve and moved it over his face to remove the sweat and the coat of dust that had gathered there. The heat in the Demon Realm was quite challenging. Bringing out his fan as he continued to wait, he lazily swished it from side to side. Actually, he quite liked the heat. Like everything in this unknown realm, it was unusual, but it made him feel… alive. He put another one of those leaves he had seen the Demon Lord and Yi Mei Niang’s spy chew into his mouth. It had such a marvelous effect. Smiling happily, Lian Song let his mind wander to his sweet Cheng Yu. He often wished she could have followed him on the trip but not only was his mission highly dangerous, their reconnection was still too new and fragile for him to have suggested such. All he could do was to fondly remember her ministrations. He sighed some more and wiggled contentedly. It had been a good start after so many years. He could hope she would be waiting for him when he returned.

All these thoughts and the God of War was still not coming.

The sun had set, the stars were out and cicadas were singing their raspy songs when finally, Lian Song heard soft footsteps in the sand. He pushed his back off the tree and attentively looked in the God of War’s direction.

If he was surprised to see him here, he did not show it. Instead, the God of War gestured for him to join him in his tent. He left the flap open for air, poured his guest a cup of cold, sweetened tea, settled down in lotus position and started studying some scrolls. Where he had gotten scrolls from was a mystery, but of course, a High God like Mo Yuan knew many tricks from his field experience as Commander of the Celestial Forces.

Mo Yuan scowled, yet did not look up when Lian Song’s fidgeting increased with time. He tried to sit still, but he had taken quite a few of those leaves and their energizing effect made that a challenge. He studied the High God’s face for signs of the exhaustion he should be feeling - the man had not slept more than a few incense sticks a night since they had set out on this journey. He was watching everyone all the time, especially the Green Demon Lord.

When it seemed like quite enough time had passed, Lian Song snapped his fan shut noisily.

Mo Yuan looked up. “Yes?”

“Ah, pardon,” Lian Song replied. “I did not mean to disturb you.”

“And I did not mean to let you wait.”

Lian Song narrowed his eyes, quite ready for this battle. “I have come to discuss the Horse Princess with you, God of War.” Ha, now he had elicited a reaction from Mo Yuan after all. “I do feel responsible for… well, you taking her on as a disciple.”

“As indeed you should,” Mo Yuan answered smoothly. So somebody was holding a grudge, it seemed.

“I am not sure you have noticed that her virtue is in danger.”

Mo Yuan almost choked on his water and as a coughing fit racked him, Lian Song revelled in the feeling of having unnerved the God of War. “Oh no, can I help?” he asked solicitously and moved over as if to pat the High God on the back. That stilled the cough very quickly.

“And her virtue is your business how, Third Prince?”

“Ah,” Lian Song said, “maybe these are fatherly feelings that I have? Quite clearly, one is a scoundrel with an agenda while the other reports back to the Purple Queen regularly. I feel I should talk to her about staying away from both men, or maybe all men, and wanted to ask your permission to do so.”

Mo Yuan studied him with slitted eyes. “That is very kind of you,” he then said. “But let me assure you that I have the situation under control.”

Of course, as expected: the God of War was observing, even orchestrating the situation. Did that mean he had not yet gained full information about the Green Lord’s intentions? Most likely.

But Lian Song had seen his jealousy once he started to look for it. The disguised Immortal did not speak to the God of War, but focused almost all her attention on the Green Demon Lord. In fact, they were often seen in cheerful conversation. And so it was Yu Dian of all people who often approached Mo Yuan with requests such as: “Our Immortal friend’s stomach is upset, I think we should rest here for a while longer.” Or: “May I ask of you, High God Mo Yuan, to ride at a slightly slower pace? My friend the Celestial Immortal has trouble keeping up.”

Lian Song had looked closely and as a result, he had felt the Dragon Power rise in the Master of Kunlun in such moments. It was probably wishful thinking, but he would have given a lot to see him explode - he lived for such drama. But he was not without sympathy either and he had helped one of the brother’s through difficult times already. Why should he not make himself useful and bring about another happy ending for the second? The Universe might bless him (and Cheng Yu) for it.

“What do you know of the Horse Tribe?” Mo Yuan asked him unexpectedly.

“Oh… well… I did read up on them,” Lian Song replied, taken by surprise. “But I thought it was you who decided to reach out to them during the last Demon War.”

Mo Yuan nodded. “Yes. They were brought to my attention when I studied old maps of the Realms. But seeing how you came here to discuss Princess Tian Gu, I am guessing you have noticed it too.”

Lian Song nodded excitedly. Of course he had noticed. “By all means, she should feel power suppression, just like me. And yet, it seems she grows more powerful every day. The other night… that was quite spectacular.”

Mo Yuan said nothing.

“This is what I do know,” Lian Song continued. “A quiet, pleasant lot, these Horse People, never gave us any issues. However…” his voice trailed off. He looked at Mo Yuan.

“... nobody knows where they came from,” Mo Yuan finished the sentence.

“Indeed so,” the Third Prince exclaimed. “I went through all of the Celestial records. It came to my attention that they might be one of the… you will think me a romantic fool.”

Mo Yuan just looked at him again in that unnerving way of his. It wasn't exactly encouragement, but not the opposite either.

“... one of the lost tribes.” Suddenly, Lian Song’s heart was beating very fast. This was extraordinary, and he was very excited to be able to share his suspicions with the God of War. An old, old legend, and as most scholars of history thought pure fiction. A tribe who had endured the end of the First Creation. A tribe therefore not bound by the rules of this Creation. It was a thrilling thought.

“Where we are going,” Lian Song continued, “may be the Green Kingdom of the Demon Realm today, but that is not far from where the world was believed to end in the early days. We now know it does not end there. But from the records I have seen, it is a place where immortal powers become volatile and unpredictable.”

It was where legend said the lost tribe had come forth from the land and where the lost tribe would disappear again once the end of the Second Creation was upon them.

“I see that Ye Hua’s high regard for you is not misplaced,” Mo Yuan said with a curt nod. “I do thank you for sharing your suspicions with me.”

Am I right? Lian Song wanted to shout, but held back just in time.

Mo Yuan folded his hands in his lap and cleared his throat. “I am sorry, but I must ask this of you: Please keep your other knowledge to yourself. She is in great danger if others find out.”

Lian Song might live for drama, but nobody who had ever truly placed his trust in him was disappointed. In particular, he loved to matchmake. And he was quite sure, there never had been a more exciting match to make than this one.


279’800 years ago

“Seriously, what did you do?” Zhe Yan grumbled, fetching some water and putting the cup to Mo Yuan’s lips. “I still cannot believe…”

“Well,” Mo Yuan croaked, “I do not know what you keep insinuating…”

“Insinuating? The air around you was on fire. Remember your birthday? You slept with her, didn’t you? And then? Was it that horrible?”

Mo Yuan put his head back on his pillow and closed his eyes. Slept with her?? Zhe Yan was crazy. But what was new, he always messed with him, every chance he got.

“Will your father…”

Mo Yuan shook his head. His father cared nothing about who tried to kill his son. He would consider it a weakness that a woman had gotten the upper hand like this. But right now, he didn’t care. He was very sleepy and everything hurt. Zhe Yan’s potions were good, but healing this kind of wound took a lot of time.

There was a commotion at the door. He became aware of her presence even before she appeared in front of him. Her face was ablaze with anger.

“Are you getting back at me by stealing what is most valuable to me?” she spat.

Mo Yuan laboriously lifted his head to get a better look at her. So beautiful. He said nothing because he did not understand the meaning of her words or the source of her anger.

“Mei Mei,” Zhe Yan said, lifted his hands in a soothing gesture, “what is this about? Nobody wants to get back at you. We…”

“We?” her voice had taken on a note of steel. “You are a Phoenix, Zhe Yan, just like me - but you say we and mean the Celestials? You have become their pet!”

She spat on the ground. “Very well. “Whoever thought it was a good idea to bring a Demon to this school was an old fool. This Demon will leave this school. I was never welcome anyway.”

“Mei Mei…”

“Get ready, Celestials: We will fight for our right to live the way we want. Get ready. And I will get my Feather back, this I swear by Pangu’s egg.”

His mouth formed the word stay, but no sound came out.

She looked at him fiercely. “I see you will live,” she said. “Good. I am looking forward to seeing you on the Battlefield, Celestial Bastard. Because it will be the last time you will ever see me.”


Present Day

That night, after finally settling down, Mo Yuan dreamt of his mother.

She was a beautiful woman with artful braids and a kind smile who showed him, a small golden dragon sitting on her lap, how to use magic.

When he woke up, he was puzzled.

His mother had died giving birth to him, had she not? Then why did it feel like a memory, not a dream construct?

Ever since he had found and touched that dagger in the Obsidian Palace, he wondered whether he might have used that memory-sealing spell more than once. His strange dreams of late made him wonder even more.

Mo Yuan didn’t know much about memory tokens because he had stolen the spell from one of his father’s secret books and had never been able to ask him about the details of this type of magic in person. Since the Heavens were generally not in favor of immortals - immortal life was unnatural, so it had to be made as difficult as possible - powerful spells always came with a high price.

Just how high this one was, he did not know. But given his long life and the extensive magical knowledge he had accumulated throughout, he was able to guess that he and Shao Wan had gotten in way over their heads in their youth.

His fault. His greed.

Even though he had not remembered that he had ever used the spell - such was its nature - he had researched this type of magic quite diligently in his younger years, out of his natural curiosity. However, in all the known realm, there was hardly anything to be found on them. One thing he had uncovered in a manuscript otherwise damaged by fire was that memory tokens could only be accessed by the person whose memories they contained - and that the destruction of a memory token was possible, though done at a high price, and would lead to the complete obliteration of these memories. The constructed truth would become the only reality and there was no way to ever get the erased memories back.

He did not want to believe that Starlord Ying Ming, or whoever truly hid behind that changing face, was powerful enough to make good on the threat to destroy Shao Wan’s memory token. But since there was a remote possibility that it could be done after all, he felt he needed to be extra careful - or he risked forever losing his past with her.

It wasn’t a good position to be in for anybody, but for Mo Yuan in particular, seeing his options diminished by the thieving actions of an enemy was simply unacceptable.

He was still trying to decide how to change that situation in his favor. But he did not yet have the full information he needed. The Green Kingdom, the Demon Realm, the way he reacted to the powers here, Tian Gu’s transformation, Shao Wan’s curse… he felt there had to be a connection, but did not yet know how the pieces fit together.

He was glad that Ye Hua’s Uncle had revealed himself as a friend. He had suspected for a few days already that Lian Song had put the pieces together. He had seen his measured looks. He had tried not to let his worry for Shao Wan show too much, but how could he? It was hard to think of anything else.

She had tried to talk to him a few time, but the punishment had been instantaneous and very painful for her. It made him an equal part sad and furious. Especially because she had no problem talking to the Green Demon Lord. Every laugh, even if it was feeble, that the other man drew from her mouth was like a knife in his gut.

Can I throw him off this world? Golden Dragon clamored. I wish we could, but I need him, Mo Yuan sighed.

The rational part of him knew he was behaving immaturely, but there was a nagging uncertainty that plagued him: Would she not believe he was her enemy, because of what had happened to her at his hands, not once but twice? Because enemies was what she had wanted them to be and enemies they had become? What if the longer she was stuck in that body, the more time she had to reflect and decide she did not even want him near?

The pills that Zhe Yan had given her sustained her life, but not more. Whatever ate away at her demanded energy, more and more with each day. It was a matter of time before Zhe Yan’s cultivation pills did not suffice anymore.

It seemed he only had one option, but it wasn’t an option he liked.

Quite certain he could not find sleep again, Mo Yuan sat up and drank a cup of water. It had an iron taste, almost but not quite unpleasant.

Judging from the dimmest of lights outside his tent, it must be in the wee hours of the morning. That time right before the birds started to greet the coming day, when everything was still grey and undecided. On Mount Kunlun, this had been one of his favorite times. Very often, he had stood on the terrace, to gaze into the black distance that first hid and then slowly unveiled thousands of mountain tops.

Mo Yuan got up, stretched, stepped outside and took a deep breath. The smell of the Demon Realm was still very alien to him and not for the first time since leaving his Mountain, he felt a pinch of homesickness.

He extended his powers carefully, feeling how much easier it was to command them now that Tian Gu had drawn out most of the remaining poison from his system, and looked for Shao Wan. She was not in her tent.

She was standing near the river, skipping stones.

She sensed him approach and turned, her eyes glistening. She just stood still, trembling slightly, waiting. There was so much he wanted to say, but he feared his words would hurt her just as much as his touch.

He had never felt so helpless.

As if responding to the enormity of his need, the earth suddenly started to shimmer in a dark green in front of his eyes. He briefly thought it must be his lack of sleep paying a trick on him but no! There was power seeping from the earth and it felt…. familiar. It responded with great eagerness to his probing, flowing in his direction, engulfing him and her.

“Mo Yuan…”, she whispered.

Was it possible?

“Mo Yuan, it’s me!” with more urgency, “Mo Yuan, how much I longed to see you again, how much…” tears started streaming down her face as she ran into his arms as fast as she could. He wrapped them tightly around her thin, shaking body, not believing this was happening, suddenly fearing it would be over soon… and indeed, the green light was already becoming dimmer.

“I need to find you another body,” he said with urgency, “this one cannot contain your spirit, it is breaking apart.”

“Mo Yuan, Fong Hung knows more, find F…” her voice suddenly failed her.

“Don’t speak,” he said, stroking her hair, “don’t say another word.”

Just a little longer, a few moments of holding her like this, of feeling her soul essence, hers and… he probed and there were voices, other souls?

“You have eaten souls?” he asked, feeling fear gripping his stomach. Her punishment was related to other souls? Of all the forbidden magic, this was by far the worst. “Shao Wan, what…”

“Mo Yuan,” she interrupted him, her voice shaking, “do you know you are using Demon Powers?”

His surprise was so great he lost control over it that very instant. She cried out in pain and he jumped back from her as the seal went back up and engulfed Shao Wan’s soul essence with its vicious barrier once again. His Father’s voice echoed in his head as he looked at his hands with utter wonderment. “Never again!” he had said in that calm, dreadful voice, "will you use this power.”

It had been this power his mother had taught him to use in his dream.

Chapter 21