Fanfiction: Moyuan and Bai Qian, Book 2 - Chapter 1, Part 3 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)



Chapter 1 - Kings and Queens

Part 3

written by LalaLoop
consulting by Bunny
edited by kakashi

“Wunian (无念), come here,” Yanzhi waved. And Lijing’s daughter ran to her.

Bai Qian watched as Yanzhi started to talk to her niece about how Tianshu[1] was a trustworthy person and that he would take her back to Kunlun for safety.

Tianshu, on the other hand, was looking quite anxious at the moment.

Qilin had not been found and Yanzhi had decided to look for him for a while longer. This, of course, put Bai Qian in a difficult spot. She did not want to leave the Kirin boy wandering alone, yet she could not agree that lingering in this realm was a good idea, especially when Donghua had told her to bring Yanzhi and Zilan back as soon as she could. Would telling Yanzhi to abandon her search sound too heartless? Qilin did have something very few creatures possessed: Crimson Hellfire; and it was true that his identity was not a disadvantage since he was no royalty. But like Changshan had said, he was still a boy. On top of it all, her head was reeling with worry about Yehua.

After some debating, they had agreed to go search the forest where Qilin was last seen once again before going back to Kunlun. According to Yanzhi, the place was so vast that it was possible Qilin was still lost in there. Even she and Zilan were not sure they had looked everywhere. But Bai Qian’s decision did not seem to please Tianshu.

“High Goddess,” said the celestial soldier. “I’m not sure about this. Lord Donghua said I’m not to leave you alone under any circumstances.”

“I’m not alone,” she said, looking at Yanzhi and Zilan. “Listen,” she told him. “We’ll try and look for Qilin for a while. Just take Wunian and make sure she gets to Kunlun safely.”

Tianshu looked helpless. He glanced around at the mortal house Yanzhi had been staying in, then cast a long, ominous look at the absolute darkness outside the open window.

“As you wish,” he said, looking defeated. “But please -- please promise you’ll be back within an incense’s time.”

Bai Qian thought for a moment then turned to Zilan. “If we can’t find Qilin within an incense, we’ll go back and talk to Shifu about it. Lord Donghua mentioned kidnaps when I was in the Nine Heavens, I don’t want Yanzhi to walk straight into some trap set by demons.”

Zilan nodded in agreement. He too seemed to want nothing more than to bring the Ghost Princess and her niece back to Kunlun.

After having assured the little girl that they would not be parted for long, Yanzhi took her to Tianshu, looking no less anxious.

“I trust you, celestial soldier,” she said.

Tianshu nodded, lowered himself and picked up Wunian in his arms. The girl was significantly smaller than A-li. She looked scared to be held by a stranger but it seemed Tianshu’s softened voice when he spoke to her diffused the fear a little.

“Also,” Yanzhi continued bluntly. “I will be using a tracing spell continuously during the next few hours to find Qilin’s essence in the forest. I hope that won’t be a problem.”

“No problem at all, Ghost Princess,” said Tianshu. “I only hope you will not wear yourself out; as I am sure you already know - performing magic in the mortal realm might result in some damage to your powers afterwards in accordance to the strength and length of the spell cast.”

“I know,” Yanzhi dipped her head in gratitude.

“Little Princess,” Tianshu looked at Wunian. “Have you ever cloud-jumped before?”

The little girl uttered a frightened sound and nodded, her fingers gripping Tianshu’s robe. “Please don’t drop me.”

Zilan lowered his head to hide his wide grin while Bai Qian could not hold back a crack of laughter. Even Yanzhi looked a bit less agitated.

“Of course not,” Tianshu smiled.

Then, with a puff of smoke, he and the little princess vanished from the house.





Bai Qian could hear the sound of running water from somewhere far away. The forest they were throwing themselves into was indeed large. Thick patches of clouds kept scudding across the moon and Bai Qian really hoped that Yanzhi knew where she was going and which areas of the forest had been searched already. Because her own mind simply went blank at how similar things looked everywhere. Every mossy tree-stump, shrub, and boulder looked the same and it wouldn’t be a surprise if even someone as good with direction as Qilin had gotten lost in here.

Yanzhi, who was walking slightly ahead with her palm up in the air, focused deeply on the spell she was casting.

“I just remembered,” Zilan gasped. “How’s Senior Diefeng? When will he be back at Kunlun?”

“Not any time soon according to Second Senior,” responded Bai Qian. Her stomach did a flip and it must have shown on her face because Zilan went on to ask immediately.

“Are you that afraid of Senior Diefeng?”

Bai Qian nudged him and scoffed, “I’m not afraid.”

“You should be,” Zilan said. Beside him, Yanzhi burst out laughing. “Senior’s got very high standards, especially for someone he will have to bow to one day --”

This remark burned Bai Qian’s face; and before she could respond, Zilan continued, sounding extremely pleased with himself, “imagine having to serve a little fox tea when you’re a royal sea dragon like Senior Diefeng --”

Bai Qian threw Zilan a look of daggers to make him stop talking while Yanzhi, who had always been the most insightful yet straightforward of the three, said right away, “why do you always seem so reluctant? Almost like you’re regretting your choice.”

“What -- No!” Bai Qian cried - that was too far from the truth.

“Why then?” the Ghost Princess put her hand down.

“Yanzhi, Qilin is missing! The Crown Prince has just been poisoned. Let’s not focus on my life for a moment. And are you sure you’re concentrating on that spell?” she added jestingly. “How did you know I looked reluctant?”

“Fine,” Yanzhi shrugged, looking somewhat amused. Zilan let out an irritating chuckle.

Bai Qian sighed and slowed down, letting them get ahead of her. The truth was, she knew if they kept asking, she would soon be unable to respond.

Whenever Moyuan was not present, she had no problem admitting to herself that there was no one else she’d rather spend her time with. However, facing him was something entirely different. It was true that everything had changed, but the distance 20,000 years of being his disciple had put between them had not yet dissipated. Bai Qian glanced at Yanzhi and Zilan’s figures in front of her - to ask her to cross over that line immediately and speak of Moyuan the same way they talked about each other was asking her to pretend those 20,000 years never existed. Why could they not understand that? Surely Moyuan agreed with her.

To add to this complication, every bit of Moyuan’s presence now ignited an intimidation that reminded her she’d been sent to Kunlun to be like him, not be with him.

Also, Bai Qian did not plan on taking the time to explain everything to Zilan and Yanzhi, especially the Ghost Princess, who would not stand ambiguity. Explanation would only lead to more questions. And she never liked it very much when anyone discussed Moyuan as if he was some ordinary and impatient man who would misunderstand her easily.

Bai Qian suddenly stopped in her tracks and took a deep breath. The darkness and the silence seemed unusual and completely different from a few minutes ago. Silence that gave her the feeling they were being watched.

She raised her hand and felt the air. There were something like strings, micro strings of magic drifting about. Odd… she started to wonder if this was because fear and all these precautions had caused her to see danger and abnormality everywhere. Or perhaps her hands were too sensitive to the point of being delusional?

But her suspicion was confirmed when Zilan and Yanzhi also ceased to walk. Zilan wheeled around, his expression bewildered.

Bai Qian cast a simple spell in midair. She gasped - where there should have been a flame only crackling specks of fire appeared.

“Stay where you are,” said a deadly and somewhat excited voice.

Like an impulse, the three of them ran to catch each other’s hands.

“Ruoshui River,” said Yanzhi immediately.

But it was as something hit her on the face and pushed her head down the moment Bai Qian thought they were cloud-jumping away. Besides her, Zilan and Yanzhi had the same reaction. They exchanged looks in silence - a shield, a large one, had obviously been placed around the area without them noticing.

“Stay where you are,” the voice repeated. “We don’t care if you work in a mortal kitchen or rule a kingdom, one more movement and we will strike.”

Black figures started to emerge around them. Some descended from above. Some of them were wearing suits of armour yet almost none had their weapons out. It seemed they were more prepared for a magic fight than combat. There were dots and magically conjured balls of light among the crowd but Bai Qian could not make out the faces of these men. But the quantity was clear. Bai Qian felt sick in the stomach as she looked left and right - they were outnumbered. At least twenty to one.

From among the shadowy figures, one walked forward. Bai Qian could only guess it was the owner of that cold voice they’d just heard. He was wearing a smile like that of a predator who knew his prey had nowhere to go. Like the rest of the men, every piece of his clothes was in a dark color.

“There you are, beautiful,” he looked upon Yanzhi. “I've been looking for you.”

The man had a tall figure and a twisted face that could have once been decent looking, Bai Qian could not decide. Her mind was spinning and her eyes saw only the villainous smirk stretching his lips.

“When he gets close enough, strike,” she whispered to the other two. “Then run. Cloud-jump to Ruoshui River when you’ve gotten out of their shield. We’ll meet there.”

“When?” asked Yanzhi.

“Ten more steps,” Zilan whispered back.

One… Two… Bai Qian strained her eyes as the man stepped closer to them. She could feel Zilan’s arm pressing against hers. Three… Four…

“Lijing’s younger sister,” continued the man. “It’s been such a long time. The last time I saw you, you and the Ghost Prince -- well -- actually, you don’t look any different from thousands of years ago.”

Yanzhi’s family was familiar with this man? Bai Qian wondered, who was he? Five… Six…

“Come quietly, Ghost Princess. All I need is a brief talk. I will let you and your friends go once we have the information we need.”

Seven...

“What information?” said Yanzhi.

“You will know in a minute. Come, now. Out of all the people we have taken, only you have been given the privilege of an invitation.”

“Since when has ambushment become a kind of invitation?”

Eight...

“All right, here’s an incentive. Come with us and I will --”

Nine...

Bai Qian slashed her arm. A blinding flash of light erupted, followed by an explosive sound caused by their magic. Several men were knocked out and everything went dark.

Not wasting a moment, Bai Qian leapt forward. She did not know if Zilan and Yanzhi were running in the same direction. Her mind only concentrated on one thing: running as fast as she could to where her magic worked properly again.

“GET THEM!” the man’s voice bellowed from somewhere behind her.

Jets of light started to fly at her from all directions, hitting trees and boulders, smashing rocks into pieces. There were shouting and sounds of pain, which, to her relief, did not sound like her friend’s or Senior’s. At least not yet.

Without the fan, her already suppressed magic was much less efficient; stopping and fighting back was as good as surrendering. Bai Qian could only try her best to dodge the curses and conjure temporary shields.

Pitch back surrounded her almost entirely. Once every twenty steps of running, she tried to lift herself up or cloud-jump, but it seemed the shield was much larger than they’d expected.

Someone’s scream pierced through the dark and Bai Qian stopped dead. Yanzhi...

“Yanzhi!”

She waved her arm upward. One of the tree branches caught fire from her magic and illuminated the area. Though Bai Qian realized a moment too late that this gave the men in black the chance to capture her faster.

Someone jumped at her from the back, strong and merciless hands grabbing her arms. Bai Qian grunted and struggled to fight off the attacker.

“Stay!” hissed the murderous voice. Not only was this man trapping her within his iron armor, opposing magic radiating from him suppressed hers even more. Bai Qian looked up: Yanzhi and Zilan were also being held and they seemed to have fallen or been hit more than once.

The leader of the men in black once again isolated himself from the crowd and slowly stepped towards Bai Qian, shaking his head mockingly. His robes seemed to have been screwed up from being hit by their spells earlier.

“So naive,” he taunted. “Did you really believe that you could outrun our men once they have spotted you. Which school did you all study at? Has no one taught you that Demon spies are even faster than Ghost assassins?”

He flicked his hand and Bai Qian failed to contain a cry of pain - a rope appeared out of nowhere, pulled her hands together and wrapped itself around her wrists, so tight it made her wince.

Then man raised his hand to the back and waved twice more, still keeping his eyes on Bai Qian. Across from her, Yanzhi and Zilan made similar sounds as their hands were bound together.

Laughter broke among the spies.

“Who are you?” the man asked her, peering closer.

“Who are you?” Bai Qian said through her teeth. Her hands were hurting terribly.

“Naughty,” he tutted and reached to her waistband. In a flash, the jade pendant attached to it was ripped out. “Qingqiu,” he said after taking a look at the thing, paying no heed to the fact that it was no common pendant, but that of royalty, his eyes wide with excitement. “Good friends with the Celestials, are we?”

The man rubbed his hands together as his mouth stretched into a horrible smile. Turning around, he walked toward Yanzhi.

As the Ghost Princess struggled within the spy’s clasp, he advanced; and Bai Qian stomach turned when his fingers raised to trace Yanzhi’s face.

“Get your demon hand off of her!” Zilan hissed in fury.

“Or what?” said the man, his voice was now less jesting and more irritated. “You - whatever clan you are from - are powerless within this shield.”

Where was Tianshu? Bai Qian dearly prayed that he had gotten Wunian to safety and was not stuck somewhere with a batch of demon spies too.

“Like I said before you three decided it was smart to run,” he continued to Yanzhi. “You should come with me, Princess. I have what you’re looking for. Now now, don’t worry,” he said in response to the sound of anger from Yanzhi. “The little Kirin is fine. I only took him to make you show yourself. I have a soft spot for children.”

“Where is he?” Yanzhi glared at him. “Where’s Qilin?”

“Let’s make a deal, Princess - you tell me what I and my Master want to know and I will let you see the Kirin.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Our clan has nothing to do with you people.”

“Maybe,” he mocked. “We will see.” Then, turning to his subordinates, he barked, “what are you waiting for? Take them away!”

The air’s coldness hit Bai Qian’s face harshly and she felt herself being lifted from the ground.


...


The place they were taken to looked like a small version of a palace. Men in black were strolling around in groups, standing guard in every nook and corner. Where were they? Which realm was this? Bai Qian glanced around. Was this place visible to all immortals or hidden?

The room they entered very much resembled a library. Except where there should be books, there were bottles, vials, and ceramic jars of all sizes. There were dark shelves that stored hundreds, thousands of containers, and bizzare looking instruments lined the walls. Small tables were set close to those shelves and the center of the room was mostly empty. Much like a testing area. The whole room was brightly lit and on the other side, there was a tall door that was slightly opened and seemed to lead to another room.

Sitting down on the abnormally large dais, the man remained silent for a moment, looking like he was pretending to think. Then, he pointed at Zilan.

“Take them to see the Kirin. I’d like to have a little chat with our brave boy first.”

Bai Qian’s hands went icy and she could feel Yanzhi’s arm shaking beside her.

“Be patient, my lovely Princess,” he said softly to Yanzhi. “Your turn will come. I admit I like all three of your pretty faces. Each of you will get a chance to tell me what you know. In fact, you should thank me now. I’m letting you see that Kirin boy before you give me any information. Ah, I almost forgot --”

He made a quick circular motion with his arm; instantly, the ropes around Yanzhi and Bai Qian’s hands disappeared.

“So you would not accuse us of inhospitality.”

Before they could utter any protest, the men in black had gripped their arms and forced them through the tall door, which indeed led to a dark passageway with only the feeble light of a very few candles on the wall.

One look at the room they were dragged into told Bai Qian it was not meant to be a prison, but rather was some kind of old storage. They heard the metal clicking and the sound of footsteps fading away.

“Princess Yanzhi?” a child’s voice came from a dark corner.

“Qilin!” they both cried.

“Princess. Gu-gu,” Qilin ran over and Yanzhi caught him in her arms.

“Qilin,” the Ghost Princess’ voice broke. “Are you hurt? Did they do anything to you?”

To Bai Qian’s relief, there were no major injuries on Qilin. His face was quite dirty and his clothes were torn in several places. But he seemed unhurt, only frightened.

“No, I’m all right,” said the boy.

“How long have you been here?” Bai Qian asked.

“A few days… I don’t know, it’s always dark down here.”

“What is this?” Yanzhi seemed to have discovered something. Bai Qian moved closer and realized there was some kind of thick torque around Qilin’s neck. It was made of metal and was open at the throat. “What is it?” said Yanzhi again.

“They put it on me so I wouldn’t be able to make Crimson fire,” answered the boy; and even in the dark, Bai Qian could see Yanzhi’s face brimming with fury. She took a long look at the torque and breathed out in exhaustion.

“There’s some sealing spell at the open,” she said, gritting her teeth.

“I know,” said Qilin. “I’ve tried to break it many times but it won’t budge.”

“Yanzhi,” Bai Qian decided it was time to figure out a plan. Torque or no torque, they needed to get out of this place that suppressed magical powers as soon as possible. “Who is that man? What are we dealing with here?”

“He used to deal with my Father,” replied Yanzhi. “I don’t know what he’s doing now but he’s learnt in poisons and has a number of followers. Lijing and I only met him once back then but we were shooed out of the hall before anything important about him was said. I remember my Father referred to him as the Spinner.”

“What?” Bai Qian squinted.

“As in ‘spider’,” Yanzhi explained. And Bai Qian quickly got the idea - the man’s true form was some kind of spider. Maybe even a venomous one. Or perhaps he so called himself as a way of alluding to his shady occupation of concocting poisons. But she had no time or heart to dwell on this man’s stupid name. If they did not find a way out of here soon, their fate might not be much different from flies stuck on a spider’s webs.

Bai Qian’s thoughts wandered back to A-li’s palace for a second. Being the future ruler of the Nine Heavens, Yehua must have people wanting to kill him every other day from all clans in the realms, though there was a great chance that someone from this place had been asked to put poison in his wine.

“What is it that he thinks you might know?” Bai Qian asked, thinking back to the conversation in the forest. “What does he want?”

“Maybe the Ghost Tribe’s magic,” replied Yanzhi, not looking up from Qilin’s torque. “Or information about the Celestials. He must have found out I keep in touch with you all.”

“Who’s this ‘Master’ he talked about?”

“I don’t know,” Yanzhi said hopelessly.

“Heavens --” Bai Qian broke out in cold sweat thinking about what they could be doing to Zilan up in the potion room right now. He might be facing a fate worse than her Ninth Senior when they’d been captured by Qingcang. She desperately looked around the cellar for a possible escape route. But her heart sank at the reality - the four solid walls were without a single opening to the other side. There was no windows, no trapdoors. And they had no Lijing this time to count on.

Bai Qian looked down at her wrists - deep scratches and some bloody lines had been left by the rope.

Just then, a soft moan caused them all to gasp. They looked around for the source of the sound and found it immediately. Too focused on Qilin and their abysmal situation, Bai Qian had not noticed at all that there was someone else present in the cellar - a woman, lying unconscious on the ground against a wall.

“She’s been asleep for a while,” said Qilin. “I think they must have used some kind of torture on her.”

Bai Qian shuddered. “Do you know who she is?” she asked. But Qilin shook his head.

They stepped a little closer. The lack of light was making it hard to see the woman’s features clearly, but Bai Qian could tell that perhaps she was a bit older than her and Yanzhi. No, more mature was more like it.

Suddenly, the woman’s hand twitched, making them all retreat a little. Then, her lids slowly fluttered open. Bai Qian stared at the exhausted face.

Staring back at her was a familiar pair of amber eyes.

But before Bai Qian could say a word, the woman had drifted back into unconsciousness.

Chapter 1, Part 4
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[1] Tianshu: one of Yehua’s two confidants in the drama