Fanfiction: Ink in Water - Chapter 13 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 13. A desire so acute, it becomes despair

***Graphic content warning (gore, disturbing acts of violence)

written by Bunny
consulting/editing: Le, LalaLoop, LigayaCroft, kakashi

One minute—

He’s on top of me.

Bearing down, his presence is so overwhelming, it engulfs every ounce of space between us. And I am crippled by it.

Vision blurring from panic.

Throat clamped.

I cannot make sense of what’s happening. I cannot react.

Everything seems to be falling away.

The first layer of fur covering my shoulders slides off as a result of his tugging arms.

Why he’s pushing me down—why he’s undressing me—I don’t understand the meaning of any of this. But I know it isn’t right. This isn’t something he should be doing. This isn’t something Moyuan would do.

The next minute—

Everything is at a standstill.

His hands stop moving and I see a switch in his eyes—going from a sinister shade of black to stark white with horror.

My heart is still hurling itself against the walls of my chest as he furiously recoils from me—hands scrambling on the ground beside us for something. I can’t see what. I can’t look fast enough.

His movements flash like lightning in my periphery and the sound of ripping flesh is the very next thing I hear.

He’s snatched up one of those makeshift spears we use as tools—its stone head chiseled to a point, but not exactly sharp; I know this because I’ve watched him struggle to skin animal carcasses with it. And now, that blunt, ice covered spearhead is embedded in his left arm. With the fur covering his upper-half thrown off, there’s nothing to shield my eyes from the sight of his mangled bicep doused in blood.

A sour taste fills my mouth. I think I can taste the bile rising in my throat.


Why did he do that?!

Just what exactly is going on?

I can’t speak.

I’m motionless watching him grit his teeth, heaving jagged breaths, knuckles going white from gripping the hilt as he disengages completely from me and hunkers down to the side. In one forceful movement, he pulls the spike out and it drops it to the ground. It clunks and splatters blood. More blood is gushing from his wound, painting the ice beneath us, draining his face of color.

But despite all this, he looks relieved. I know he’s in pain, yet the tension in his face is being replaced with relief. I cannot process it.

I force myself out of my stupor and sit up. Though wary, my arms instinctively extend in his direction. But my hand is stalled by him—a gentle touch—not the brute force I’ve just been dealt.

His hand clasps around mine in mid-air, as he mouths the words, “I’m sorry.”


“Seventeenth… you cannot come close to me right now…” I can barely hear him and I’m straining to lean in, but he tightens his grip on my hand. “Do you understand?”


“Listen to what I say.”

He’s quickly losing blood. I need to help him. I am wracking my brain trying to figure out what to do. Why isn’t he letting me come close? Letting go of my hand, he struggles to distance himself farther away from me and sits into lotus position.

“Shifu... does this have to do with the Shen Demon? Is it here—”

Before I can finish my sentence, a bone-chilling cackle percolates through the air. My body stiffens as I try to push down the fear rising in me.

It’s finally here. Finally showing itself.

“What a spectacle!” The Shen Demon’s voice rings like a harp. “This master and disciple pair…”

The air ripples like water and in an instant, that pearlescent body with silver hair draping like silk materializes—looking just as equally alluring and terrifying as I remember it.

“Aren’t you two scandalous... Have you been enjoying yourselves here?”

That smile is as elegant as a magnolia, but the stench of death fills the space immediately upon its arrival. Panic grips me as my eyes dart around trying to find something to latch onto, anything to defend myself, as soon as I see it taking a step forward. But it’s not heading towards me. Every bit of its attention is directed at Moyuan as it slinks its way over to where he’s sitting.

“No wonder my imitations did not work on either of you… Not when the very object of your desire is already present here.”

My mind draws a blank at these words. I stay rooted on my knees, trembling all over.

“God of War… You thought you could outsmart me by suppressing your powers?” Reaching Moyuan, the Shen Demon drops down beside him and those delicate arms start to slither onto his body. “I suppose it worked for a little while there… I couldn’t find you even in my own illusion.”

A hand caresses his cheek while the other sensuously wraps around his neck as it leans into him. “I also couldn’t infiltrate that dirty mind of yours... Until now.”

Moyuan’s eyes remain closed, though his face tenses up. I know he’s aware of its presence, but he’s not moving way.

“Tell me... what do you think the Celestials will say when they find out that their God of War, a pillar of virtue, was defeated by the Shen Demon because he couldn’t control his lust for a child?” Head tipping back, the Demon lets out a grating laugh. “Just one drop of desire is all it takes, you know… And yet, you didn’t think it was possible, right? That you would look at this little disciple of yours and… well… I don’t think we need to go into the details…”

I let those words seep into me, twisting inside my chest.

I can’t quite fathom their meaning.

Nor do I dare to believe them.

“I bet you also didn’t think that the same would actually happen to her... How amusing! Really, you should be thanking me. How long has it been since you let yourself have a little fun? All I did was give you a push—took away your inhibitions—heightened your appetite—but it was mostly your own impulses that took over. Although, I don’t really understand why you would want to do anything with that boyish looking thing…” The Shen Demon tosses me a loathing glance, and in one fluid motion, transfers itself onto Moyuan’s lap, brazenly wrapping its legs around him. “Why don’t you let me give you some real pleasure instead…War God?”

A flash of pain betrays his expression as that body presses up against his. I can spot the blood seeping out from the open wound on his arm. He still doesn’t move an inch. I know he’s likely trying to mediate and heal himself, but he’s only going to get more hurt at this rate.

“Aiya, look at what you’ve done to yourself… This sort of willpower… really arouses me…”

Fingers entwined in his hair, it brings its lips to his neck and starts kissing him hungrily. Moyuan shows no reaction, but my eyes are transfixed and a rage fills me like I’ve never felt before.

“GET AWAY FROM HIM!” My voice is so loud it sounds foreign to me.

The Shen Demon lifts its head and slowly turns its eyes in my direction, brimming with mirth. “Jealous? Does it bother you to watch? To see me embracing the man you desire? An awful feeling… isn’t it?”

Moyuan opens his eyes.

With a swift motion of his hand, he reaches around and grips the Demon’s throat with so much force, I almost expected that slender neck to snap in half.

I am stunned. The Shen Demon starts to choke and thrash under his hold, but its struggle is futile. And I can see the glow of his energy rising all around him, hunkering down on it. Has he recovered already?!

I was too optimistic.

As quickly as his energy had ignited, it dwindles even faster. And right when I think he’s about to put an end to this Demon, his grip slackens. His body buckles. By the way he looks, I can’t imagine the amount of pain he’s in. I stare horrified at the sight of him—eyes flared, body shuddering, dropping his head in his hands, crumpling over.

“Hmm… I didn’t realize you were into this sort of thing… ” The Shen Demon smiles provocatively, massaging its neck as though he had merely caressed it. “You should have told me sooner… There’s nothing I like more than a little pain with my pleasure.”

Crawling back over to him, it erupts into a mocking laugh. “Did you really think you could kill me in my own illusion? Perhaps it would have been no great feat for you had you kept your heart in check… but once you enter this world of mine with desire… I OWN you.”

Its fingers are now coiling around his throat. “Now, let me return the pleasure…”

I need to act.

My feet get ready to launch over to him, but I stop myself. If I go over there like this, we’ll both be dead. I need a plan—a weapon—something.

I dive for the pile of our clothes a yard away from where I’m sitting. My robe is folded up in there. It’s where I’ve hidden the Jade Purity fan. My frightened mind is dizzy with terror as I reach for it, fumbling, digging like a frantic animal through the mound of fur and fabric.

A thud sounds from behind me. I can’t look. I can’t think anymore. At this point, I give up on finding the fan and keep groping for something, anything that can act as a weapon. And the moment my hands touch on something sharp, I grip it.

A pain penetrates the back of my skull.

I’m being yanked back by the hair so hard, tears are dropping out of my eyes.

“What… do… we… have… here?” I can feel hot breath against the side of my face.

With a fist full of my hair, the Shen Demon violently spins me around until I’m facing it.

“Aren’t you a brave little thing… haven’t we already been through this? ” Eyes bearing into me, its mouth extends to a lipless slit, giving me another glimpse into that endless well of teeth. My brain is desperately trying to talk my hand into lifting up and stabbing it with the object I picked up just now, but I’m scared stiff.

A second later, that jaw clamps shut.

Eyes bulging, it grabs my wrist.

I’m shaking all over. What is it doing now? I think I’m done for. My eyes squeeze shut as I brace for the retaliation I know is coming for me. Is it going to break my wrist first? Then devour me? Will I end up in that jaw, flossing all of those teeth?

Why is nothing happening?

“How… How did you get this?” the Shen Demon asks.


Just when I thought nothing else could possibly shock me, I open my eyes and prove myself wrong.

Those two ghoulish orbs that have contained so much demonic aura, that made my blood run cold just a minute ago, are now gushing uncontrollably with tears. They look remarkably human and I am undeniably even more scared.

Tracing its line of sight, I see that it’s looking straight at the thing in my hand—the thing I was about to stab it with.

A pearl hairpin.

I’m gaping at this object—completely baffled as to why I even have such a thing in my possession. It takes me half a day to shuffle through my memories; I had forgotten about it entirely. Isn’t this the pin I stuck in my hair when I was disguising myself back at that brothel?! [1]

The one I found in that room… it belonged to the woman I overheard Little Chrysanthemum and Little Peony talking about… The one who disappeared a long time ago…

I can feel the goosebumps swarming my skin.

My gaze transfers back up to the Shen Demon, who continues to wear a vacant, distant look, as though it’s lost its soul entirely. Little by little, the ominous energy around it diminishes. I’m stumped. My face is visibly twisting in confusion. How could a little hairpin have this much effect? Unless…

“Does… does this… belong to you?” I ask.

It doesn’t answer me.

What was that woman’s name? I can’t seem to think of it.

“… Lady Chen… Chen… Chen…?”


As soon as that word leaves the Shen Demon’s lips, its image starts to morph in and out. Hair going from silver to black. Skin losing its sheen. The lines of its features blurring to outline another’s. Until what is left is a young woman’s face.

I don’t see any trace of a Demon. This is no demon.

Slowly, she releases my wrist and gently reaches for the hairpin. I give it to her, watching as she brings it up to her face and presses it to her cheek.

“Li Heng…” she whispers.

I’ve never heard a name spoken like this. What do you call this particular emotion? The tears haven’t stopped pouring from those eyes and they only flow harder as she repeats it over and over through her sobs. I cannot pull my eyes away from this sight that makes my chest ache, until finally, the ground beneath us slips out from underneath me.

No. Not again. Not this feeling again.

Everything is shifting. Falling away. Disappearing. Being replaced. Rapidly. The walls of ice transform into silk panels. Red curtains. The smell of incense, powder, and rouge.

I’m back in that brothel, standing in a bedchamber. Alone.

I feel myself frantically spinning in circles.

Is this another godforsaken illusion?!

Unlike the last environment I found myself transported to, there is a distinct and inexplicable haze that seems to enshroud over this one. It doesn’t feel real at all. I hear sounds of laughter, melodies of the pipa, and a chorus of voices echoing through the walls, but they sound as though they are all in my mind.

I shouldn’t have let my guard down just now…


The doors burst open and in stumble two people. A man and woman. They are kissing. Passionately. They don’t see me. They pass right by where I’m standing. Falling directly into the bed. Pulling each other’s clothes off.

My hands slap over my eyes, instinctively.

What the hell? This Shen Demon wants me to stand here and watch this kind of thing?!

“No… Stop… Stop… Li Heng!”

That name—

I uncover my eyes immediately. The pair no longer have their faces smashed together so I can now see that the woman pinned under the man’s body looks identical to the one I just saw moments ago.

This must be Lady Chen Rong. And this man must be Li Heng, her lover.

Is this the past? My presence feels so far removed from this space that it’s as though I’m simply watching a memory unfold.

“Rong’er… What’s the matter?”

She’s crying.

“You… were gone for so long this time… Why? Why is it always like this? Why do you always keep me waiting?”

Li Heng wipes her tears with one hand while the other starts to untie her robe. “Shh… I’m here now… I won’t keep you waiting anymore…”

“Stop!” She pushes his hands away. “I’m being serious...”

“Rong’er…” Hesitating for a bit, he pulls back and sits himself up on the edge of the bed. “Do we have to go through this every time? My answer is going to sound the same no matter how many times I say it… I know it’s not fair to you… that I can’t always be with you because of our circumstances, but it doesn’t mean that I love you any less.”

“Circumstances… Our circumstances…” Chen Rong laughs bitterly. “You mean your wife and five other concubines?!”

I recall now, the story that I had overheard. This man was supposedly a high-ranking general in Fenyi Kingdom’s army back in the day. He then became romantically involved with Lady Chen Rong. Unfortunately, their love ultimately ended tragically with one person missing and the other found dead, never going beyond this adulterous affair.

“What do you expect me to do about the things that have already been set in stone prior to us meeting? Do you want me to be a man who shirks responsibility?!”

“Li Heng…” Her hands reach to caress his face. “I want you to be mine.”

“I am already yours.” He tries to kiss her, but she pulls away.

“Rong’er… I’ve said this before and I still mean it now, I want you to come back to the household with me. I can’t make you the official wife, but you’ll be one of my concubines, and no one can say anything about that. We will still be husband and wife. People will still acknowledge you. This doesn’t have to go on in the dark—”

“No.” Her fingers are pressed to his lips. “You don’t get it, do you? I don’t care about being in the dark... I don’t care that no one acknowledges me!”

“Then what is this about?” He tries to hold her hand, but she continues to evade. “Stop this! Do you know how hard it was to make time to see you today? You know full well who I am, what my responsibilities are, and you knew that from the moment we met, yet you still wanted this!”

“You’re right…” Chen Rong’s expression turns dark as she gathers up the front of her robe and tries to get out of bed.

“Please, can we just enjoy each other’s company?” Li Heng grabs her wrist to detain her. “You can’t imagine how much I’ve missed you.”

He reaches into his robe with his other hand and draws out a small wooden box. “I almost forgot, I had something made for you.”

The box is opened up to reveal a pearl hairpin—the same one I have taken.

Taking it out of its case, Li Heng brings it up to Chen Rong. The pearl gleams radiantly against the dim candlelight as he tries to insert it into her hair. But she doesn’t let him. She wrenches his hand away the moment it reaches her and snatches the hairpin out of his fingers, throwing it ruthlessly onto the ground.

“I DON’T WANT THIS! I don’t want any more gifts from you! I don’t want these sporadic visits! What I want is your love, undivided!”

The hairpin rolls on the ground and makes a clink as it hits the door frame.

“You already have it… ALL of my love… Don’t you see? I don’t think I could possibly love another person more than I love you.”

“Then why is it that the woman you love has to constantly wait for you?” Tears swamp her cheeks. “When you’re not with me, it feels like I’m dying. It feels like there’s a knife in my chest… and when I think about you, in your world, with those other women by your side, I realize, the one twisting the knife in me is YOU.”

The resentment is so thick in her voice; it startles me.

“Chen Rong, this is our fate. Although I cannot belong to you in this life, I love you regardless. Is that not enough?”


Darkness abruptly engulfs the scene before me, filling up every crack of space. Everything disappears. And for a moment, I stop feeling my own existence. I start to fall again. This time, I collapse onto cold, hard ground.

Another cave.

The cavernous stone walls stretch high up, enclosing a still and deadening silence within them.

I stare at the ceiling for a moment before turning my head to the side. The silhouette of a woman sitting on her knees oscillates as it focuses in my view; her back is to me. Another body lies on the ground in front of her. They are too far away for me to identify.

Pulling myself up to my feet, I slowly walk over. And when I finally recognize who they are, I’m trembling from fright. There is so much blood, it swirls in my vision. Lady Chen Rong is sitting motionless, covered in it. And on the ground, Li Heng’s body is the source.

“I killed him,” she murmurs, as I stand behind her.

I start to gag and heave. The sight and smell before me makes me sick to my stomach. His corpse has been mutilated by numerous stab wounds. The blade itself is still stuck in him. And her hands are crusted red.

What am I looking at?!

Did I not just witness the two of them together? They were clearly very much in love with each other…

“Because I loved him.”

“What?” The words fall out of me. “Why… How could you...”

“I loved him so much, I wanted to keep him all to myself.” She answers with a voice so flat, it is devoid of any emotion. “But I knew as long as he lived, he would still belong to other women. I knew that if I killed him, then no other woman could ever touch him again—he would finally belong to me, and only me. So, I killed him.”

“That… Th-That’s not love!” I yell, my head shaking furiously. I cannot hold back. It all feels so wrong.

“What do you know?”

A sinking pressure invades the space surrounding us. I back up and stumble onto the ground. From Lady Chen Rong’s body, a pulverizing demonic aura surges, and before my very eyes, her head of black hair is fading to silver. Its strands elongating, crawling onto the floor. Whipping back to reveal the Shen Demon’s face—incandescent with rage.

Before I can even detect its movements, its hand is already clenched around my neck, claws pinching into my skin, pushing me flat back against the stone wall.


I can’t breathe.

“I… kn…ow…” I struggle to speak with the air throttled in my throat. “If… you… really… love… someone… you… wouldn’t… want… to… hurt… them…”

“SHUT UP!” Its fingers constrict even tighter, making me gurgle for air, but I still try to retch out my words.

“You… would… want them… to… be… happy… even if… they… can… not… be… with… you…”

“YOU DON’T KNOW ANYTHING! BE QUIET!” I expect to have my windpipe crushed at that very moment, but instead, its hold on me starts to weaken. “Why… Why do you have to say the same thing as that man?!”

“Because… he loved you… But you… didn’t… love him…"

“NO! It’s not true… No, no, no…” Its hand falls limp, withdrawing from me completely. Covering its ears, its head whips back and forth hysterically. “I loved him… I loved him… I did LOVE him!”

I hold my free neck and try to catch my breath. “You… wanted to own him.”

A look of despair takes over the Shen Demon’s face and the image of Lady Chen Rong resurfaces. She crumples onto the ground. “No… that’s not true… I loved him… You have to believe me… You have to…” She begins to wail in anguish, bringing up both hands to cover her eyes.

My chest tightens, but I choke down my misguided sympathy. The realization hits me now that this is my one chance—to kill this Demon. I cannot waste anymore time while I have her in this state. My eyes cast around the room. The only viable weapon is that dagger sticking out of Li Heng’s corpse.

Like a catapult, my feet surge and I dash toward it with all my might.


The Shen Demon’s roar shakes the cave. It’s heading straight for me. The instant my hand grazes the blade’s handle, a splitting pain enters the middle of my back—so severe, my consciousness wants to float away right then and there, but I use every scrap of my will to detain it.

The claws that have wrapped around my throat earlier have now been implanted deep into my flesh, being used as leverage to reel me backwards. And I can feel the cuts tearing deeper as I try to resist. Having already felt my fingers on the dagger, I bite down on the pain and propel my arm forward to latch onto it. Once I grip it, the blade comes out in one draw and I use the same momentum to throw myself around.

I don’t know how I get the strength to force my arm up. The sudden movement tears up more of my flesh. My senses lapse. But I do it. I force the dagger up—swing it down—drive it straight into the Shen Demon’s skull.

Its shriek is the most torturous, petrifying sound I have ever heard. Rendering every cell in my body immobile. Pausing time. Long enough for me to look into those violet eyes. To see the tears that continue to flow out of them take on hints of red, until finally, they become blood, streaming out in thick ribbons to scale those cheeks that gleam as bright as pearls.

“A fool… such a fool…,” the Shen Demon mutters, “believing that a love as fierce as mine would be rewarded in time…”

The ground starts to tremble. The whole cavern begins to shake, sending enormous slabs of rock falling down from the ceiling. Debris dropping like rain. I know I have to flee. This cave is collapsing. But I can’t move, I’m paralyzed.

“You think you know… what love is?” Drawing its claws out of my back, it brings its hand up to cup my face. “You don’t.”

I’m writhing inside, trying to get my body to function—to run. But it’s no use. I’m stuck. The billowing storm of rubble is now swallowing everything around me. This world is crumbling—dying—just like its maker. And I’m forced to watch as that devastatingly beautiful face begins to fragment, flaking off into bits of ash, scattering into the air.

“I curse you…” Until all that is left is remnants of its voice that ripple into me, in utter darkness, melting into the back of my mind like my very own thought. “Someday... you will come to desire, with all your heart, the one person you cannot have… A desire so acute, it becomes despair… I curse you the fate of having to know the full extent of this pain, inside out.”

I let those words sink into me like needles. Their implication taking root in my mind, muddled as it is. And within moments, they are quieted by the touch of a hand. An arm. A body that comes to wrap around me.

He’s here.

“I’ve got you.”

I can’t see him, but I can feel him.

In the way one might feel air or water. Just as real as it is intangible. Perfectly capable of slipping through the cracks of our fingers.


End Notes:

[1] Refer to Chapter 6 for previous mention of this