Fanfiction 2: Moyuan and Bai Qian - Chapter 13, Part 1 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 13 - The Man of the Moon

Part 1 / Outtake(*)

(*)These events take place after the battle with Qingcang and before Bai Qian’s meeting with the Man of the Moon in chapter 13. This chapter is the one before this one)

Written by LalaLoop
Edited by kakashi

“May I ask you a personal question, Lord Donghua?” said Bai Qian as she put her black chess piece on the board.

This was the third game in a row. Even though Bai Qian knew she could never win against Donghua, she felt incredibly smarter after every game.

“Of course you can,” he answered almost immediately, placing a white piece onto a square. But from his tone, Bai Qian could tell whether she’d get an answer depended on how personal the question would be.

“Do you really believe that what is written on the Stone of Reincarnation is definite?”

Something between bitterness and humor formed on Donghua’s face.

“So far, all evidence has proved that it is,” he said shortly.

“Do you…” she paused, trying to think of a way to convey the idea without sounding too invasive, not that her curiosity itself was not already forward. “Do you ever consider taking a risk with it?”

“Are you suggesting that I should?”

“No!” Bai Qian shook her head. “Only you would know whether it’s safe to do so. I’m only saying that theoretically, it was already a risk to meddle with the Stone the first time, so even if you were to give it another try…”

The corner of Donghua’s lips lifted.

“No, I do not intend to take a risk because it is more than my life I should take into consideration now.”

“And… you feel satisfactory just doing nothing?” she asked. But even with caution, this question still earned her a raise of his brows. Bai Qian quickly added, “that wasn’t criticism, just… an observation.”

“Ahh,” Donghua’s fingers interlocked. “So this is the real question. It isn’t about assuming effort, but rather my lack of interest in the matter, am I right?”

“I can’t help but wonder at your calmness about it all. You look -- quite -- unaffected.”

Donghua smiled and looked straight at her.

“I am quite determined to maintain both my and her morale and at the same time refrain myself from violating any more rules of the universe. However, if I ever find even the slightest hint that a display of grief can heighten the possibility of our union, I will gladly put on an honest exhibition of emotion for the whole world to see. Does that answer your question?”

“Yes, sir,” Bai Qian nodded - that was more than she’d asked for.

“And —” Donghua placed down a white stone with a clunk — “your attempt to distract me from the game has failed,” he pointed at the board. “You lost.”

“I did not try to distract you,” Bai Qian looked down at her miserably surrounded chess pieces. “I gave up on trying to win a long time ago. This is something you are effortlessly good at.”

“No such thing as ‘effortless’ here, High Goddess,” said Donghua with a twinkle. “It is restless thinking underneath a calm surface, and that takes time and practice.”

Bai Qian chuckled. “Is that the case? I’m never able to tell when mind readers like you are thinking, Lord Donghua.”

“Hmm… not able to tell?” he began to shuffle the chess pieces. “Such a disappointment to hear from someone who has spent so much time with High God Moyuan.”

Bai Qian’s heart skipped a beat. She stared at Donghua, wondering where he was going with this.

“Well,” he tilted his head. “Not lately, to be precise.”

Bai Qian closed her eyes in surrender. She knew it was too good to be true - of course this man would never open himself up to anyone without planning to make that person do the same. Though just when she was about to speak, Donghua gave her a cryptic smile.

“Not criticism,” he said. “Observation.”

Someone made a nervous sound and they both looked up to see a guard waiting to address Donghua with a scroll in his hands.

“Lord Donghua,” he bowed. “The meeting will be held one hour before the banquet if you would like to attend.”

Donghua took the scroll in his hand with a nod and dismissed the guard.

“What are all these meetings about, Lord Donghua?” Bai Qian could not help asking. She, Fengjiu, and her Fourth Brother were the ones who had helped her parents setting up this big gathering, yet none of them had been invited to any of these intellectual discussions - as the Fox Empress called them - even once.

“What we all came to discuss,” Donghua answered as he scanned through the scroll. “Affairs of the realms.”

“Why is it kept secret from us?”

“It is no secret. But many of the subjects are tedious and complicated beyond mere politics - each of the high gods and deities’ area of expertise, for instance. You and immortals of your generation would have to be, forgive me, older and more experienced to understand. Even then, it is not certain that you’d be interested.”

Older? She frowned.

“Don’t take it personally, High Goddess,” Donghua looked up. “If the Crown Prince were here, he would not be invited either.”

Bai Qian’s spirit suddenly lifted. Breaking into a grin, she rose from her seat and curtsied. “I’ll leave to that report, Lord Donghua.”

“Until this evening,” nodded Donghua and he went back to reading.


The grand hall was already packed with people by the time Bai Qian arrived. Like usual, the tables along the walls were full of tea trays and all kinds of fruits and treats. The Fox Empress and Zheyan were in the middle of a group of gods and goddesses, talking enthusiastically about something. Further down, Yanzhi, deeply engaged in a conversation with Lord Puhua, took a second to wave at Bai Qian, smiling. Zilan and Changshan were not too far away and seemed to have just finished speaking to Moyuan, who had not noticed her yet and was now walking over to Donghua.

When Bai Qian was about to go and greet them, however, the Fox Emperor, who was standing near one of the tea tables, gestured her to come over.

“Dad,” she dipped her head.

“Why are you late?” he asked, peering at her. “Weren’t trying to sneak into High God Moyuan’s room again, were you?”

“No!” she grimaced.

“Tea or wine?” he pointed at the collection of drinks on the table.

“Tea,” she said and picked up one of the teapots.

“You really have been around the God of War too much,” the Fox Emperor laughed as he watched Bai Qian pouring the tea into her cup, his tone full of implications.

She, on the other hand, decided to take a little time with the tea to mentally debate with herself whether this was a good time to let her father know she had ruined yet another arrangement he and Zheyan had made with the Celestials.

“Dad,” she said at last. “I need to tell you something important.”

“More important than you wanting to cancel your marriage engagement to the Celestial Crown Prince?”

Bai Qian gulped. For a second, she considered asking him who exactly had made the decision to let him know without telling her first. Though, she thought, whoever that was had certainly made her task a little easier.

“Don’t fret,” the Fox Emperor continued. “You haven’t committed a crime. After all, your engagement was my and Zheyan’s doing. And we did agree that it should depend on whether you thought it would be suitable.”

Bai Qian felt quite relieved - this was going far easier than she had thought. Though when she was about to thank him, the Fox Emperor held up a hand and his expression became stern.

“Nevertheless, beyond that, I do not wish to hear any hasty declarations from you.”


“Yes,” he said shortly.

“But Dad…”

“Your mother and I have never tried to dictate any of our children’s decisions, you know that. However, I do require one thing this time - you must understand what you want.”

Bai Qian stared into those deep, black eyes, soaking in his words. This time?

“Now,” the Fox Emperor continued before she could finish thinking. “In the meantime, let us both agree on the simple fact that like the rest of your Seniors, you are tremendously, inescapably happy that the Master of Kunlun has returned. Yes?”

Half of her wanted to protest how he had refused to let her talk. But a second later, Bai Qian found she could not lie to herself that she was still stammering about the subject; and while she was, this was probably the best solution. Furthermore, Bai Qian had a feeling her mother had had something to do with this, and she wouldn’t cross the Fox Empress for a bag of gold.

“Yes,” she said.

“Good,” the Fox Emperor pointed at her cup while taking a sip of wine from his own. “Your tea is going cold.”

“Your Majesty, Gu-gu, I am glad to find you both here!”

They both turned and saw an extremely worried looking guard standing in front of them.

“What do you mean you’re glad?” asked the Fox Emperor. “Ah, and be brief if you can, I really need to resume my job as host of this banquet.”

The guard took a deep breath.

“Intruder. Insubstantial powers. She claimed to be a Celestial. No identification, not even a jade pendant.”

“Hmm,” the Fox Emperor sighed, obviously bothered by the fact that he would probably have to see to the case himself.

“Her purpose here?”

“She said that she needed to see... the Crown Prince,” said the guard.

“High God Moyuan’s First Disciple?”

“I beg your pardon, no. The Celestial Crown Prince.”


“I told her he isn’t here and tried to remove her,” the guard went on, “but she persisted. She begged to see Gu-gu,” he anxiously glanced at Bai Qian. “She said only Gu-gu could help her.”

“What nonsense is that?” her father snapped. “Is this some lowly tea house where anyone can come in and ask for the owner as they please?”

“I tried to explain, Your Majesty,” the guard said desperately. “But she looked too pitiful and too… exhausted. I think she hasn’t eaten for days. I didn’t think it right to cast her back out in the dark. And you… you told us that whatever we do, we can’t mistreat those with less powers.”

“I see,” said Bai Zhi with a purposely long sigh. “Young man, mellow hearts like yours are the defect of my near perfect protective system here at the Eastern Forest.”

Bai Qian giggled while the guard’s face went scarlet.

“But I am glad that you at least have come to report albeit in the middle of a banquet where I am entertaining more than a dozen high gods. Keep up the good work.” he said and gave the guard a pat on the back that nearly made the latter topple over. “Lead the way.”


As Bai Qian walked beside her father, she ran through the possibilities of who this intruder could be. But there weren’t that many: as far as she could tell, there was only one person in the whole world who could be that obsessed with Yehua.

And her suspicion was confirmed the moment they reached the hall the guard had led them to - a woman dressed in rags was kneeling inside under another guard’s watch. Her once elegant face was now hidden behind loose hair strands and her shoes were covered in dry mud. Bai Qian involuntarily grimaced - even if she had not regained the memory of her trial, she would still have found Sujin an especially intolerable being.

The Fox Emperor strode towards the dais overhead, speaking in a most impatient tone.

“I will make this simple - as lenient as we are, immortal, we cannot afford to shelter convicts from other clans. So I suggest that you present an identification or explain why you do not possess one.”

At the dais, he took a seat and stared down at Sujin . Bai Qian’s forehead scrunched as she tried to figure out how in the name of Fuxi Sujin had gotten here. That must have been a tremendous amount of traveling on foot considering how her powers had been taken away even before the battle.

“Please,” Sujin whimpered, looking at Bai Qian. “I want to see Yehua...”

“And you are on first name terms with the Celestial Crown Prince,” the Fox Emperor raised an eyebrow. “How interesting. I would like an explanation on that too.”

Sujin looked as if she wanted to swallow her own tongue.

Keep your mouth shut if you know what’s good for you, Bai Qian glared as Sujin’s eyes met hers again. But it seemed Sujin didn’t need this reminder. The woman almost always knew what to do to get what she wanted.


“I… High Goddess Bai Qian…” Sujin moved an inch forward.

I am asking the questions,” the Fox Emperor did not look too pleased now despite his calm voice.

There were some footsteps outside and Bai Qian’s heart gave a jolt as two people appeared at the doorstep. One was looking quite annoyed while the other quietly studied the scene before his eyes.

“Bai Zhi, you do know you are the host of this banquet, don’t you?” said Zheyan. “I’m running out of stories to entertain them.”

Though he fell silent at once at the sight of Sujin on the floor.

“Bai Zhi, is everything all right?” asked Moyuan.

“Yehua…” Sujin’s head shot up, her eyes glazed with tears. “Yehua!”

She whipped around and crawled in the direction where she had heard the voice.


At once, the guard nearby grabbed Sujin by the shoulders and forced her away from the two gods while she kept calling out Yehua’s name as if her life depended on it. The struggle carried on for some minutes and Moyuan, either from sympathy for a miserable looking subject or confusion, spoke up. His clear words echoed across the hall.

“I am not the Crown Prince.”

Sujin wrenched herself from the guard’s grip and wheeled around. The mad joy on her face a few moments ago was replaced by utter shock.

“Who are you? Why… why do you have his voice?”

“It’s none of your business who he is,” Bai Qian couldn’t keep quiet anymore. The thought of this malicious woman getting close to Moyuan or Zheyan made her extremely uncomfortable. “Please keep a distance from the Palace’s guests!”

“Dad,” she turned to the Fox Emperor. “Let me talk to her.”

“You recognize this immortal?”

Bai Qian bit her lips. The last thing she wanted was ruining Yehua’s already questionable image in her parents’ eyes.

“I might have seen her on one of my trips to the Nine Heavens.”

“Is that so?”

“Yes,” Bai Qian lowered her voice. “I’ll see what this is all about. I’m closely associated with the Crown Prince, I can deal with this on his behalf. It’s not worth wasting your time over, Dad.”

The Fox Emperor gave Bai Qian a long look that went straight to the back of her head. She could tell he was not too convinced that the story was as simple as she’d made it sound. But it seemed he no longer considered Sujin a worthy reason to miss the festivities at the banquet.

“Very well,” he rose. “Do as you please. But remember, security is not a joke. I do not want this immortal’s powers unsealed for any reason, is that clear?”


“And if you can’t figure out a solution, have her sent to the Celestial court. I want no trouble with Haode.”

“I know.”

“Let’s get back to the banquet, shall we?” said Bai Zhi to the two other men when he had reached them. Bai Qian thought as she looked at them exchanging words and then decided.

“Zheyan,” she called.

Their eyes met briefly. The Old Phoenix turned to whisper something to her father and then subtly waved him and Moyuan out of the door.

“Zheyan,” Bai Qian jerked her head at the ragged woman when Zheyan had arrived by her side. “This is Sujin.”

The Old Phoenix stared at her for a second; contempt then formed in his eyes as he glared at the woman kneeling below.

“Don’t worry, I’m fine,” Bai Qian assured him. “I’m not sure the same can be said about her though. What do you want, Sujin?”

“High Goddess Bai Qian, Where’s Yehua?” said Sujin, sounding as if she was having to swallow something bitter. “They’re lying, aren’t they? He should be here. Where else would he be if you’re here?”

Bai Qian scoffed.

“I know this is hard for you to grasp but as the Celestial Crown Prince, Yehua has more to worry about than making sure he is present everywhere I am.”

“Tell me! Is he here!”

“No,” said Bai Qian coldly.

It was as though someone had just clubbed her in the head, Sujin dropped down, clutching her chest.

“He’s not… he’s not here? That’s impossible. I heard that A-li was traveling here. How could Yehua not accompany A-li?”

Prince A-li is here with someone else,” said Bai Qian. “It seems you were misinformed.”

Sujin collapsed to the ground and started weeping, tears gushing out from her puffy eyes.

“Why do you need to see the Crown Prince?” asked Zheyan, looking rather repulsed.

“I…” Sujin choked. “I need to explain…”

“Explain what?” he asked. Bai Qian shook her head - she didn’t need to hear the rest of this anymore.

“Sujin, what do you…”

“Please!” Sujin sprang up. “I need to get to the Nine Heavens!”

“No one’s stopping you,” said Bai Qian. “In fact, I’m not too keen on having you here in my father’s palace, so feel free to head out anytime.”

“They wouldn’t let me in,” Sujin gasped. “They’d throw me in prison before I could see him. That’s why I came all the way here. I was hoping that at least… at least you could help.”

“If I said that Yehua could not care less about your explanation, would you believe me?”

“I don’t care! I need to see Yehua, I need to see for myself if he is well. He was injured so much during the battle. I need to talk to him. And then… then I will deal with the consequences.”

“He is well,” said Bai Qian.

“You may think it’s satisfactory to have someone else tell you about the condition of someone you love, but I don’t!”

“Mind your words, Immortal,” said Zheyan. His voice was not too loud but Sujin stopped cold.

“Yehua has made it clear that he wants nothing to do with you,” said Bai Qian. “The Skylord exiled you to Ruoshui River, your own family turned their backs on you, but you still want to go back there? Consider yourself lucky Celestial soldiers didn’t capture you back after the battle. Are you sure you want to show yourself in the Nine Heavens now? To let the Skylord know that you’re available for more punishment?”

Sujin laughed - a very wild laugh. It seemed that being alive was no longer her priority. Sobs and hiccoughs were preventing her from speaking clearly but she managed to do so at last.

“It’s… the thought of him that keeps me… sane, keeps reminding me I have… to live on. I have to make him understand. He’ll understand… that whatever I did, it was for him. Because I love him. More than anyone. And certainly…,” she breathed, “certainly more than you ever have.”

“The kind of love that reduces you to madness is not love.”

“Don’t pretend you’re concerned for me!” Sujin snarled. “Just tell me if you’re going to help or not. Leave the hypocrisy for someone else!”

Bai Qian’s heart started to beat faster.

“What is the matter, High Goddess?” the woman’s face suddenly became reckless, tears continued to spill from her eyes. “Are you wondering why? Why I want something so desperately, why I cling on to it even when it’s hopeless, why I'm willing to give up everything I have just for a glimpse of someone who wishes I didn’t exist? Of course you don’t understand,” she began to laugh again. “Look at the queen - so elegant, so dignified. The queen who has everything served to her on a golden plate. How difficult it is for her to understand so simple a notion.”

“Sujin,” Bai Qian hissed. But her words came out as frail as whispers. “Shut…”

“But how could you? How could you understand when you’ve never had to fight for something, never had to live in constant fear of losing it! And you will never --” Sujin lifted her face higher --“ever understand.”

How dare… Bai Qian’s hands started to tremble. Her blood was up and once again, Qingcang’s words in the forest - of how she had not been able to withstand just a few lightning bolts - started to flood her mind. For a moment, she could not feel anything except a fiery desire to attack this obnoxious woman, to seize that dusty collar and throw her across the hall. By the heavens! If she were not so defenseless and weakened, Bai Qian would have seriously considered doing all of those things.

“Do you want to know what you’re truly capable of, High Goddess? Give up your powers and throw yourself down the mortal realm. Let us see what you can do. But, oh --” Sujin feigned a gasp -- “we already know how that story ended.”

“Guard,” Zheyan said loudly and someone came bursting in right away.

“High God,” the guard bowed.

“Get this immortal out of my sight while I still allow it.”

”Wait,” said Bai Qian when the guard had grabbed Sujin’s arm. Zheyan turned and gave her a bemused look.

Swiftly Bai Qian brushed aside her dress, settled on the dais and looked down at Sujin. Despicable… shameless… insolent… She could feel anger still rising in her head, throbbing against her temples. But was she, someone born into a respected tribe, who had passed a goddess trial and had gone to a renowned school, going to throw a rage at an undeserving subject? Was she going to punish a cornered being whose powers had been taken away just to prove that she could? Yes, she wanted to, she wanted to very much, but that would do nothing to refute what Sujin had said. And Moyuan… Moyuan would never have done it.

“Gu-gu?” said the guard nervously.

“Escort this woman to the Nine Heavens and make sure she arrives safely at Xiwu Palace,” Bai Qian said.

The confused guard stuttered something inaudible. Bai Qian could feel his eyes and two other pairs were set on her.

“Do as the High Goddess says,” said Zheyan.

“Yes,” answered the guard, who now looked quite relieved.

“Check her again for any hidden weapons, poisons, or dark objects,” said Bai Qian. “We don’t want to be held responsible for any incident in the Nine Heavens.”

“Yes, Gu-gu.”

“Just a moment,” Zheyan held up his hand and looked at Sujin. “This is the Fox Emperor’s domain; as long as you are here I suggest you mind your speech. For once, stop referring to the Crown Prince by name, you no longer have this privilege. One word out of place, and you will find yourself in Celestial prison before you can reach Xiwu Palace.”

Zheyan’s words obviously did not register in Sujin’s head yet for she was still staring at Bai Qian with huge eyes. It seemed she was still too astonished at her good luck to give any kind of answer.

As soon as Sujin and the guard were out of sight, Bai Qian took a deep breath and leaned down on the dais’ marble handle.

“You are surprisingly generous sometimes,” Zheyan snapped. “Putting aside your trial, an attitude such as the one just exhibited is unacceptable in front of any high gods or goddesses.”

Bai Qian sighed. “I want nothing to do with that woman and her presence in even the prison here is an insult to my parents. Don’t think my decision was a generous one too soon though; knowing Yehua, he would likely send her straight to the court anyway. She’ll see no mercy there, that I’m sure. But if she’s willing to pay the price to see Yehua, I have no objection to letting luck decide her fate this time.”

‘I see,” he nodded and took a second to study her poorly disguised gloomy expression. “You don’t look like you want to go back to the banquet.”

“You’re right,” she glanced at him gratefully. “I don’t.”

“Should I stay? I daresay you can use some company.”

“I can’t monopolize you, Zheyan,” she grinned at him and shook her head. “My parents would want you back there.”

“Anything I can bring you then? Peach Blossom wine, food, a certain high god…”

Bai Qian broke out laughing. And Zheyan looked quite pleased with himself.

“No,” she said. “I’m not a child anymore. I don’t need to bother him with every little problem.”

“Right,” Zheyan smiled, and patted her shoulder very gently, just as how her Fourth Brother would if he was here. “I didn’t think you would.”

But as Bai Qian watched his figure disappear through the door, she almost hated herself for wishing that she hadn’t lied.

She took a long look at the grand hall she was sitting in, examining ever corner of the place, and finally stopping at the mirror hanging on the wall. She stood up slowly and stared at her reflection - the same height, the same looks, the same hair bun. As if nothing had changed since the day she’d come to Kunlun. Perhaps the only differences were the pearl hairpins and the elegant dress.

Bai Qian reached up and removed one of the pearl pins that was holding her hair in place.

High Goddess?
She sighed.

“Why are you still in here?” asked a soft voice. Bai Qian jolted and turned. Moyuan was standing by the opened door, his concerned eyes slightly narrowed. “What has happened?”

“I was just…”

“Zilan, I found her! She’s in here!” It was Yanzhi. The Ghost Princess dashed through the door, looking extremely worried. But it did not take her more than three seconds to realize she had just run past Moyuan.

“Good! Tell her I don’t have time to play hide-and-seek,” came Zilan’s not so pleased voice from outside. “And at least leave us a note the next time she decides to disappear!”

Yanzhi quickly retreated back out and by the confused utterance from Zilan, Bai Qian could tell she was making him leave.

Moyuan gestured at the door after their voices had faded.

“May I?”

She quietly turned away. There was a small click and the hall became absolutely quiet.

And it seemed that the few past moments had been enough to give Moyuan an idea of her emotional state for his tone significantly changed.

“You don’t have to hide your tears in front of me.”

“And you should take your own advice,” she said quietly.

“True. And I will,” he said calmly and stepped closer. “Now, however, I wish you to speak your mind.”

“If it’s not too much to ask, Shifu. I would like some silence.”

“I know very well the importance of seclusion; but I would not be here and disturb your silence if i didn’t think it was necessary. It is never wise to suffer in silence while communication is an option.”

Said the man who had spent his whole life doing nothing but hiding his pain from others, Bai Qian slightly shook her head.

As if able to read her mind. Moyuan continued, “if you feel my past record doesn’t qualify, then learn from my mistake.”

Bai Qian had no counter this time. But what could she tell Moyuan? That out of all people in the realms, she had let Sujin and Qingcang get to her head?

“I tried my best to act like a High Goddess today,” she began. “I wanted to fight malice with grace. I wanted… to teach that insolent woman a lesson, to let her know what a fool she was being for choosing wrong. But funnily enough… I was taught a lesson.”

Naturally, Moyuan didn’t look like he had understood this account very much. And Bai Qian could not blame him - she was finding it hard to understand herself at the moment. Though he seemed quite relieved that she had at least said something.

“She ends up getting what she wants,” she continued. “I end up… feeling like an imposter.”

“An imposter?”

“A poor girl who puts on an embroidered cloak and pretends she is queen.”

“I see,” his gaze moved to the little hairpin she was holding. “And who was that woman?”

Bai Qian thought for a while, keeping her eyes on him.


“Sujin,” repeated Moyuan, his chin slightly raised. “As in — the former Second Lady of Xiwu Palace?”

“You know about her then?”

“I know enough,” he said. And it no longer mattered to her how much he knew, Bai Qian was only grateful that no more questions about Sujin’s misconducts were asked. “What was it that she wanted?” Moyuan asked.

“The — only thing she’s ever wanted since the day I met her - to see Yehua.”

“And you let her go?”


Moyuan nodded. There was a gleam of admiration in his eyes as he stepped even closer. Bai Qian said nothing when he took the pin from her hand and carefully tucked it back into her hair bun.

She did not know if it was Moyuan’s intention to help her regain some of that lost confidence by this gesture, but she felt a great deal better and found a sudden interest in watching the movements of his arms as he brushed the loose hair strands off of the sides of her cheeks.

“Why did you feel the need to keep this from me?” he asked.

“Keep what from you, Shifu?”

“This,” his deep voice carried on calmly. “The matter you chose to confide in Zheyan but excluded me from.”

“Because Zheyan is my friend. He’s the best of…”

“You misunderstand,” he chuckled, the cautious touch of his fingers still lingering on her collar. “My question is not about Zheyan. I know he’s a friend. I am talking about your determination to keep me in the dark as much as possible.”

“I --” she avoided his eyes -- “didn’t think it was right to waste your time with something you had no idea about.”

“You did not want to waste my time,” he said, drawing back a little. And it was true that the reason she had come up with sounded quite ridiculous.

Bai Qian breathed out and shook her head, deciding it was best to be honest.

“Because I know you would trouble yourself with it and find a way to make it your burden. That’s all you do - worry. That’s why I never tell you these things, Shifu. Can’t you understand that? Don’t you remember what happened the last time I let you worry about one of my trials? You were weakened, all hell broke loose, and we lost you.”

Suddenly Moyuan took a large step forward. Bai Qian jerked back but before she could regain the distance, she had found herself enveloped tightly within the iron strength of his arms.

What is… Shocked and confused, she instantly slid a hand in between them and gripped the robe near his lapel, her eyes widening as she tried to make sense of this abrupt and rather uncharacteristic act of his. Cloud-jumping? But where to? Did he not know that cloud-jumping was limited inside her parents’ palace?

But it soon dawned on Bai Qian by the way his hand was pressing her shoulders into him that perhaps Moyuan was not trying to take her anywhere at all.

“Listen carefully,” he whispered. “That was not your fault.”

There was a sharp inhale, his hand went up her back and she could feel the coldness of the metal piece at the front of his sash pressing against her body.

Not another word was spoken but she could almost hear his voice telling her Sujin had been wrong, that she should never have listened to such absurdity in the first place. But that was just the point - if Sujin had been wrong, she would not have wanted to kill her, she would have laughed her way back to the banquet by now.

And this… this was pleasant... her thoughts wandered. Too pleasant. And so easy it felt almost like a wrongness. Suddenly, it was as if she was back in the water dungeon of Kunlun, weak and defenseless with only his embrace as a solid anchor.

An inexplicable fear crept into her, bringing with it some rationality. Her spine stiffened. If Moyuan had not come into the hall, would she have been able to compose herself, walk out of here, and reenter the banquet as a queen should? This, she was dying to know. But he had come. And once again, the comfort his presence offered was irresistible, taking away her ability to stand up on her own.

Too deep in thought, it took Bai Qian a while to notice that his hold had slackened. A few moments later, Moyuan let go of her completely.

“What is it?” he asked gently yet with such bluntness which reminded her that most people would not react like she just had in a similar situation.

“Nothing,” she said. “I was just… thinking…”

Bai Qian was not sure how to explain what was wrong. The only thing she was sure of was that she had no wish to discuss the subject of Sujin any further, least of all with Moyuan.

“You don’t have to worry, Shifu. Whatever happened regarding that woman is a matter between me and Yehua. We’ll deal with it.”

But it seemed, however, that this was the wrong thing to say.

A quick look of sort flashed through Moyuan’s face. His tender expression suddenly became forbidding and his voice now bore a most courteous tone.

“Good evening.”

And he walked away from her, so quickly that Bai Qian found herself utterly bewildered - that was obviously not a good-evening wish. Why? What had she said that made him act like the room was on fire?

“Shifu!” she called out in astonishment as his hand reached for the door.

Bai Qian seized Moyuan’s wrist as soon as she was in front of him; his tight grip on the door handle felt like it could crush the poor thing any moment. And something about his eyes made words freeze before they could leave her lips.

“You are right --” he said -- “I don’t seem to remember that either my opinion or assistance was prominent in any of your decisions of late. So, I apologize for assuming that you need them and you can be sure that my foolish attempt to interfere with your personal business will not be repeated. And please --”

He glanced down at her hand on his own.

“If you find my presence that difficult to bear, there is no need for a display of tolerance.”

It took a long moment for Bai Qian to realize what he was asking her to do, after which her astonishment was greatly multiplied. She simply could not understand what had happened. She and Yehua were the only people who knew enough about Sujin to resolve the problem - that was a fact. Why would Moyuan be offended by a fact?

But when her questioning stare at him was only answered with silence, Bai Qian removed her hand and brought it back to her side as calmly as she could, mirroring his serene posture.

She needed to say something. She had to make him understand. She could not let him walk out of here thinking he was unimportant to her somehow. Because that seemed to be the reason for his sudden upset state.

But… Bai Qian swallowed… she mustn’t beg, mustn’t make herself look more miserable and lost than she already felt.

“Shifu,” she cleared her throat. Knowing Moyuan, it was never beneficial to approach him with anything less than the truth in these circumstances.

He waited patiently and finally she strung the words together.

“If one day — you find that something that used to give you courage and comfort in the past has become — a disadvantage. Would you consider refusing it when given?”

“A disadvantage?” he tilted his his head, looking slightly offended. Though his equanimity had not at all shifted.

Bai Qian nodded. “Do you — understand?”

“I understand you perfectly,” he said. “The line is thin but there is a definite difference between embracing a good thing and losing yourself in it. However, if your confidence is better maintained without it completely, you are not wrong to ask for what you have labeled ‘a disadvantage’ to be withdrawn - a request I am sure will not be denied.”

Stung and powerless against the complete absence of warmth in his voice, Bai Qian almost broke into tears.

The bright side was that now she was certain he had understood. Though how to go on from here, she wasn’t too sure. Crossing that line he had drawn between them was obviously not a good idea.

“Thank you,” she said after some intense contemplation.

“For what, particularly?”

“For your advice.”

His face darkened.

“Was that an attempt to satisfy your need to remind me how much time I’ve lost, that the world went on while I slept for thousands of years?”

Bai Qian felt tears rising up her throat immediately. She took in some air and blinked.

“No, Shifu. I need that reminder more than you do. Did that ever come across your mind?”

Deep confusion showed in Moyuan’s eyes as he studied hers for an extensive while. Then, the stern expression a moment ago softened, as if he had discovered something about her that she wasn’t even aware of.

“I will return to the banquet now,” he quietly pulled the door open. “Are you joining me?”

“The banquet? How would that… help with anything?”

“What would you have us do instead?” Moyuan sighed. “Standing here and pretending like I am able to comfort you like I used to would not help with anything either.”

His comment made her heart sink, more so when Bai Qian realized that she actually agreed with him.

“It is remarkable how easily I let myself forget that certain things cannot be achieved simply by trying harder - something that’s written in the first chapter of the first book every student of Kunlun owns.”

Bai Qian could not pretend that she understood him this time. Moyuan took one look at her furrowed brows and said again in plain words.

“Neither time nor conversation can bring us any closer at the moment. Or so it seems.”


Another minute of walking beside Moyuan had passed; Bai Qian began to hear voices from the banquet.

The closer they were to other people, the fiercer her desire to pick up the conversation they had left became. But the cold silence of Moyuan’s footsteps on the marble ground distinguished any idea she had about reconciliation. In his eyes was very little interest and the manner of his walking made her believe that any display of affection would be untimely.

Soon, she was once again standing at the entrance of the grand hall, losing sight of Moyuan, who had proceeded inside.

Her fault? Yes, it seemed so. Of course he was bitter at her indifference and neglect. Anyone would be. When he had exhausted his ability to empathize, she had been acting like someone who was watching the end of a dull play.

No, she did not believe Moyuan’s irritating calmness and secrecy were to blame this time like usual.


“Second Senior, What are you still doing up?”

Bai Qian looked around at the small kitchen Changshan had been given permission to use during their stay here. He had somewhat personalized it and the place now resembled Kunlun’s kitchen a lot. In front of Changshan right now was a teapot and some boiled water on top of a small charcoal stove. And he seemed to be in the process of adding herbs to the brew.

“You’re up too,” he jerked his head at her. “I’m making some tea for myself and Senior Diefeng. What are you doing here? In the… kitchen?”

“I… want to get Shifu some tea.”

“Oh, did he ask you to?”

“No, I just thought he might want some.”

Changshan squinted. “You… came all the way from your wing of the palace to make Shifu tea?”

“Yes,” Bai Qian sighed, her face felt hot at his honest astonishment. “I did.”

“Is he awake?”

“I don’t know. I’m just taking a chance with it. If he’s asleep, I’ll drink the tea myself.”

“I see,” Changshan folded his arms, peering at her jestingly. “Out with it, what did you do? Did you make him angry? Break something valuable? Spill ink on his robes again?”

“No, none of those!” Bai Qian cried. “I just realized that it’s been a long time since I brought him tea! Or anything...”

“Well,” Changshan shrugged and he suddenly seemed satisfied. “You got that right. All right, here’s a pot. The boiled water is ready. You can share these herbs,” he pointed at the numerous containers on the table and waved a tiny wooden spoon at her. “But don’t touch them with your hands.”

“Second Senior?” said Bai Qian, rolling up her sleeves and starting to pick up the selected tea leaves.


“Er — well — I don’t think I’ve ever thanked you for what you’ve done for Kunlun while Shifu was gone.”

Changshan looked up from his teapot, his mouth half opened. “What exactly is wrong with you all? Yesterday it was Zilan, and now you. I’ve told you, Kunlun is my home. I wanted to stay and do what I could. None of you have to thank me for anything.”

Bai Qian went on to look at the herb collection, shaking her head and laughing at her Senior’s reluctance to give himself credit.

“If you really want to thank me though,” he smirked, “learn to cook. I can’t stand it when one of my Juniors can’t even make the simplest rice soup without burning something.”

“I don’t want to thank you that much,” Bai Qian scowled.

“Speaking of your cooking skills,” he continued. “I take it that your wedding has been postponed because of the Crown Prince’s current condition?”

Bai Qian took a deep breath, deciding it would be no use to lie about it now.

“Not postponed,” she said. “Cancelled.”

“Cancelled?” Changshan stared at her. But to her surprised, he did not look as shocked she’d expected. “Why?” he asked.

“It’s complicated. To make it short, it was both my and the Crown Prince’s decision. But Second Senior, I would appreciate it if you keep this between us only.”

“Don’t be daft, who would I be talking about this to? But…”

“You can tell anyone who asks, Senior -- if they ask -- that it's been cancelled. But if they have more questions, refer them to me.”

“Of course. But why?” Still a little stunned by the news, Changshan stopped stirring his tea. “Is it because of Shifu?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that now Shifu is back, of course you must feel obligated to stay at Kunlun like the rest of us. But — no, don’t put that in, he won’t drink the tea if it’s sweet — I mean, I agree, it’s a lot better when you’re around. But have you thought it through?”


“Yes, Senior Diefeng has his duties as a Crown Prince, but he’s been insisting on returning to Kunlun. And it’s the same for a lot of your Seniors.”

“No,” Bai Qian said with a deep frown. “It’s not because I feel obligated. It’s because...”

Because I want to.

Her eyes were now glued to the teapot. The faint rustling sound of the herbs being scooped up told her Changshan had abandoned the subject. She too went back to her brew and, with Changshan’s occasional reminders, hoped to finish it before Moyuan went to bed.


‘A display of tolerance’? A sharp ray of anger shot up Bai Qian’s head and she nearly kicked over the decorative vase standing in the hallway that led up to Moyuan’s room.

It was such a long corridor that she couldn’t help reviving some of his ridiculous accusations while they had been in the hall as she walked.

Though the closer she got to the room, the more quickly her anger evaporated. And as she knocked on the door, the only sentiment left was the sincere hope that he would like the tea she’d made.

“Come in,” said his voice.

She pushed the door open and entered. Moyuan looked wide awake at the low table with a number of scrolls illuminated by the pool of candlelight around.

“Seventeenth,” he closed his scroll and cast a glance at the dark sky outside. “To what do I owe this — late — pleasure?”

With some hesitance, she advanced towards his desk, dropped on her knees and placed the tea tray down on an empty spot.

“This tea is for you. I put in some of the herbs Second Senior said you like.”

“You made this?”

She nodded. Moyuan looked mildly surprised, though whether it was because she had brought him tea this late, or because she had been to the kitchen, Bai Qian could not tell.

“Thank you,” he said.

“Are you — working?” she asked suspiciously, eyeing the thick scrolls.

“No. These are for light reading. They are from your father’s library. Impressive collection, I must say.”

“It is impressive,” she smiled. “I think my dad has accumulated a huge number during the past years. He’s even trying to expand the building.”

“Is that so? Yes, you can never have too many books.”

“I think he must have taken up a challenge from Lord Donghua or something.”

“Ahh,” Moyuan nodded and smiled back at her. And it was quite clear that he was now leaving the conversation for her to lead.

“Shifu,” she reached forward and pushed the tea tray a bit further in. “How are your injuries from the battle? Are you still having power disruptions because of Yehua?”

“Occasionally,” he replied. “But it is no matter. It’s possible that I have gotten used to it.”

“So...” Bai Qian stared emptily at the candle on his desk. “It’s not… range-limited?”

A soft chuckle made her look back at his face. “Was that a joke?” his lips curved up.

“No,” she frowned, rolling her eyes at herself. “But — well — if you think it’s funny…”

“No, it isn’t limited by distance.”

It was then that Bai Qian decided to stop making a fool of herself and go on to say what she had come here to say.

“There’s something I need to tell you, Shifu” she said. Her voice came out much calmer than she’d expected.

The moment her tone changed, so did his expression. And she realized it was always an undeniable pleasure when his eyes were set upon her like this, with undivided attention. As if he was offering her the whole universe.

“What I did during those 70,000 years was a choice,” she began after a moderately long and uneasy silence. “Maybe then I wasn’t aware why I made that choice, but it was in every way a conscious choice. No matter the consequences of that choice, I have never once regretted it. And I’ve never, Shifu, never meant to imply that you are to blame for those consequences. The only thing I wish to imply is gratitude.”

“Gratitude,” he said in a low whisper.

“A lot of guests came to Kunlun,” she continued. “They kept talking about how glorious your sacrifice was. But I wonder how many of them really knew what you have sacrificed, how many of them have truly thanked you for what you’ve done. It was as if they thought that gifts and visits and warm welcomes could compensate you for your loss. The only ones who know are the ones who waited. I waited. So yes, I am grateful. I’m grateful that you kept your promise.”

“I don’t know if you like this tea,” she let out a soft laugh. “I don’t know if it really matters to you now that I’m grateful. I don’t even know if you ever need reassurance about anything at all. But I will tell you that I’m grateful nonetheless.”

“No matter where we stand, my respect for you is the same. So please, accept this from me, from Yehua, from my Seniors, from — everyone in the realms who owes you their life.”

Very slightly and in complete silence, Bai Qian bended down. And she stayed still for an immeasurable amount of time. Until she felt enough sincerity had been expressed.

When she looked back up, Moyuan’s gaze was still vast and incomprehensible.

During that void of sound she freely studied the black depths of his eyes. There were, indeed, subtle signs of a lifted mood. And this was quite enough, she thought, even though some ancient sadness she could not quite understand was also present.

Her heart then leapt in delight when Moyuan lifted the teapot and poured some of its content into the cup. Despite the distance from the kitchen to this room, the liquid was still smoking.

“This is very bitter,” he said after taking a sip. Bai Qian wasn’t too sure whether it was a compliment or a complaint. But Changshan’s instructions could not have been wrong, that she was quite sure.

“That is -- exactly how you like it,” she said, “isn’t it? It’s not any more bitter than you would have wanted, I hope.”

Moyuan emptied the cup and set it down, though his hand was still holding it tightly. Uncertainty started to form in her mind and Bai Qian’s head suddenly ached from an awareness that flashed through, too quick to grasp yet it made her look at him again, to find some responding emotion. She hated it, she hated it most when his eyelids dropped like that and his face became an inscrutable blank. If only he would make this easier for her.

“Because if it were too bitter --” she said abruptly. “If it were ever too bitter, you would tell me.”

Without answering her, Moyuan took up the teapot once again and filled his cup. Bai Qian drew closer to the table and as her hand reached for the little cup, to stop it from being lifted, her fingers found themselves on his thumb.

After some silence, a smile appeared on his lips but did not quite reach his eyes. And he nodded. “Yes, I would tell you.”

Chapter 13, Part 2