Fanfiction: Moyuan and Bai Qian, Book 2 - Chapter 1, Part 4 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 1 - Kings and Queens

Part 4

written by LalaLoop
consulting by Bunny
edited by kakashi

“Yehua --” Bai Qian rubbed the copper mirror’s surface impatiently. “Yehua!”

But once again, she gave up and put it away in frustration- of course the mirror would not work when she needed it, that was what usually happened. Even if it did, there was no guarantee Yehua could hear her considering the last time she’d seen him, he’d been writhing in pain in bed.
Yanzhi too had tried to break the cellar’s stone walls with her Ghost powers, which, for some reason, seemed to work better than Bai Qian’s in this place. But she was as far from being successful as she had been with breaking the spell on Qilin’s neck bangle. Tired and without hope, Yanzhi and Qilin were now keeping their eyes on the unconscious woman, who occasionally turned and twisted uncomfortably, quite oblivious to their presence.

It seemed there was only one way out of this cellar, Bai Qian admitted to herself, and that was to be asked back into that potion room.

When it seemed like days had passed by, the sound of someone opening the lock and yanking the cellar door open made all of them leap up in panic. Qilin ran and hid behind Yanzhi as a Demon soldier marched inside, his face blank and voice discordant.

“You,” he pointed at Bai Qian. “He wants to talk to you.”

This was her chance, Bai Qian thought, stepping forward, not paying attention to the Demon’s threatening words as they made their way out of the cellar. She could take a good look at the potion room again once she was out there and see if there was anything on those shelves she could recognize, anything Zheyan might have mentioned that could be of help.

“Try anything funny and you’ll pay with your life,” the Demon warned when they had arrived at the tall door’s threshold again.

However, the sight of something hit Bai Qian’s eyes and swept all thoughts out of her mind - Zilan was lying motionless on the ground, tied up tightly from the shoulders.

Was he dead? Her hands froze. No… he couldn’t be.

“Sixteenth Senior!”

But before she could reach Zilan, ropes - thick, edgy ropes - appeared out of thin air and slithered around her body, fastening themselves; and only a few moments later, Bai Qian did not look any different from her Senior.

“No worries,” said the Spinner’s crispy voice. “He’s alive.”

Bai Qian stared around and saw him emerge from behind one of the wooden shelves.

“Let’s talk, shall we?” he shut the book in his hand and approached.

Glancing down at Zilan, she let out a breath of relief when she realized his shoulders were indeed moving up and down rhythmically.

Bai Qian looked back at the Spinner through narrowed eyes. Though she was not quite sure what this man believed she knew, she was certain if he was looking for information about forbidden magic or the Celestials, he had picked the wrong people to question. There was nothing she, Zilan, or Yanzhi knew that could be considered valuable or confidential.

“The item the Celestials are hiding, where is it?” the Spinner said, obviously thinking this was something she should know at the first mention. “Where do they keep it?”

“What item?”

“Queen of Qingqiu,” the Spinner said silkily. “The Fox tribe is an ally of the Nine Heavens. You yourself almost married into their family. Yes, I know you almost did. Don’t tell me the young Crown Prince has never whispered in your ears where they keep all the important artifacts, and the things they steal from other clans.”

“Let me give you something to mull over,” he rolled his eyes when Bai Qian kept staring without uttering a word. “We don’t care if your parents are High Gods, we don’t care if you, that boy, and the Ghost Princess are friends with that conceited phoenix at the Peach Blossom Garden, or if the phoenix himself is associated with the bastard who is now Master of Kunlun that you all worship. In our eyes, you are all the same. Abhorrent and worthless.”

Bai Qian blinked as she tried to process what she’d just heard - the mightiest gods in the realms were being spoken of with such disdain and little respect, even Zheyan. Who would hold a grudge against Zheyan? This man obviously knew what he was dealing with. He knew whom he had risked offending by taking them hostage. He was aware of her parents’ reputation. He knew of Moyuan and seemed unfrightened. It was not the first time Bai Qian had heard such intense language, animosity between tribes was nothing new. Though the truth was, even Qingcang used to speak of Moyuan’s power with some reverence despite his hatred toward him. Did most Demons feel that way about other clans?

“If I were you, I would tell the truth now,” he folded his arms and watched her struggle against the tight ropes. “Because I will get the truth out of you one way or another.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

The Spinner sighed and pulled a face, pretending to look as though he was being the most patient and altruistic person in the world.

“I will be more specific - where is the Soul-gathering Lamp that you used to bring back the God of War? Don’t bother asking how I know about what you did, just answer the question.”

They wanted a soul-gathering device? She frowned. Whose soul were they trying to collect? Was it for the ‘Master’ he’d mentioned back in the forest?

Her silence seemed to irk the Spinner. He shot his palm forward. Instantly, Bai Qian found herself hanging in midair.

“Did you see those spies who work for me? Let me tell you something, not all of them volunteered. Our Master has ways of conquering people’s heart and soul. Understand? Soul. If you don’t want to become one of them, I suggest you tell me what I want to know.”

“It’s been broken --”

“YOU LIE!”

Bai Qian saw his other hand move and that was the last thing her mind could process before a blinding agony engulfed her whole body. Every inch of her felt as though being pierced through with flaming needles. Her face screwed up in pain and she could hear the sound of her own screams echo across the hall, ringing inside her ears.

“Where is it! Where!”

The torture ended as quickly as it began. Bai Qian gasped, still unable to believe the savageness she had just been put through and wholly incapable of forming a single thought about anything anymore.

“It’s broken…” she breathed out. “Destroyed…”

“Then where are the broken pieces?”

Broken pieces? Was this man insane?

“I don’t know,” she said.

That was the truth - after she, Fengjiu and Migu had accidentally broken the Lamp, the other two had thrown all the pieces away while she’d been at the Nine Heavens. Bai Qian did not have the faintest idea where these devices or similar items were kept or if they even existed. The Soul-Gathering Lamp was a sacred artifact of Sujin’s tribe and its use had been advised against due to its unknown magic. As far as Bai Qian knew, even the Nine Heavens had yet to invent a completely safe device to collect souls without breaking hundreds of natural rules.

But she did not have long to ponder on her knowledge. The Spinner’s expression twisted as he snarled, “tell the truth!”

“I told you… it’s been broken a long time ago… I don’t know where any pieces are...”

Bai Qian could hear him scream in fury and once again, she felt the merciless pain tearing her inside out, wiping sanity from her head. She heard his voice shouting things, questions that she no longer had a sound enough mind to understand.

Then, it stopped.

“Let’s assume that it has indeed been broken, but it is not the only device of this kind, is it?” said the Spinner, slamming her down. “Where do they keep the other ones?”

For a short moment, Bai Qian had forgotten where she was, forgotten about Zilan, about the plan to escape. For a moment, almost all the fight in her disappeared and there was nothing but the desire to die, to end this pain.

“Those loathsome Celestials,” said the Spinner, his whispering voice indicating pure hatred. “Especially the ones who had a hand in taking our Overlord’s life.”

Bai Qian panted, barely registering this remark, trying to summon her healing powers as fast as she could, as much as she could in this building. But that too came to an abrupt end when the Spinner suddenly lunged forward and pinned her to the ground.

“You,” he seized her throat. “You, Qingqiu, and any clan who support them - you’re a batch of fools who always underestimate Demons’ power. You think you could hold back my Master.” His other hand held her down by the waist.

“Drop that high and mighty attitude, you are nothing but a useless source of information. Be happy I’ve let you live this long. Although --” the Spinner seized a handful of Bai Qian’s robe at her neck and pulled all the layers sideway, exposing part of her left shoulder. “If you have nothing to tell me, then give me what I want.”

Bai Qian’s eyes grew wide with horror and disgust. She felt his vulgar hand on her skin, lingering where no man’s hand had the right to be - her scar.

Despicable… not allowed... no one is allowed… no one…

“What are you looking at?” he scoffed. “What do you think I’m doing? Think of yourself a little too highly, don’t you? No, I’m more interested in your heart and what it contains - the ninetailed fox’s heartblood that does wonders,” his face lit up with wild joy. “A rare substance I’ve never dreamed to have in my reach. All the impossible things I want to achieve, we can achieve, with this blood.” He leaned down, his face inches from hers. “Of course, after you’ve given me some of your extraordinary blood, we can talk about you sharing my bed like you obviously want to, temptress.”

“You filthy Demon…” she murmured in intense repugnance.

“Am I?” he laughed. “At least we Demons do not pretend to be more than what we are. Unlike your tribe and the hypocrites in the Nine Heavens.”

“Get…” Bai Qian breathed out and tried to move but his hand pushed down harder on her abdomen.

“You are not half as alluring as the Ghost Princess and far inferior to our tribes’ women, but I admit,” his hand drew close to her cheeks. “I find you -- appealing enough.”

The moment his finger touched her cheekbone, all sources of light in the room vanished and it was vast darkness in front of Bai Qian. The Spinner’s hands released her from their grasp. Billowing silence filled the room. Bai Qian used whatever strength she had left to spring up into a sitting position. Darkness felt safe. Without the Spinner’s magic, the rope became loosened and she struggled to shake it off. She must think of something...

But she was given no time to think. There was a whooshing sound. And another one. And the room was bright again.

A man was standing across the room, his robes were in a color as dark as demons’ robes, though the sight of him gave her hope rather than fear. In his hand was a long sword that looked quite heavy and inconvenient.

“I would not touch her again if I were you,” the King of Xunzhua said, half jeering at the Spinner. The latter turned around in confusion.

Bai Qian gasped for air - if he could get in here without anyone knowing until now, passing through those demons and escaping quietly must be probable. But then her joy was quickly replaced by fear and concern for him. Was he by himself? Did his powers work here or was he relying on combat skills alone?

“Who are you?” said the Spinner, unamused.

But just as the King was about to answer, he swept his arm in the air, and instantly, the King’s sword was thrown out of his hand and onto the ground. Breaking into a terribly crispy laughter, the Spinner looked as though he’d just heard the best joke in his life.

“Not a High God, I see,” he took a few steps closer to the King, very slowly, just like he had moved in the forest while talking to them. “So what are you? A soldier? Sent here for a rescue mission?”

“The sword isn’t the only thing I brought.”

“Oh,” the Spinner faked an understanding smile. “Let me guess. Hidden daggers? Caltrops in your boots? Here’s a quick information: nothing works here.”

The Spinner went on with his taunting about his opponent’s mediocre skills and amateurish performance. He was now circling the King; and with every insulting remark he took a slow, frustrating step while the latter did not look in the least worried about his unarmed state. What was this King thinking? Bai Qian could not help gaping at him, looking for some hint of a plan.

A sudden gleam flashed across those amber eyes when the Spinner was pausing behind his back.

It happened in a heartbeat - Bai Qian saw the King’s upper body twist around. His arm sprang up. There was a sound of metal clanging half a second before his hand slashed.

The next thing she knew, the Spinner was lying flat on the ground, unconscious, blood gushing out from somewhere underneath his hair.

“Idiot,” said the King.

Bai Qian took a closer look as he walked over to her and saw something like claws protruding from his glove, which he quickly retracted with a squeezing motion of his hand.

“Are you all right?” he hoisted her up from the ground and cut the rope. “Any injuries?”

“No, nothing major,” she said and quickly fixed her dress, releasing the breath she had been holding for what felt like several minutes. “He only hit me with spells.”

“Are you sure?” he drew closer, as if afraid Bai Qian would pass out any moment.

She nodded. “Just some more minutes,” she shook her head. “I’ll be back to normal.” As normal as she could afford to be in this place.

“Good. Tell me --” he gripped her shoulders. “Have you seen my sister? Is she here?”

“Your…” Bai Qian’s mind clicked. She knew who he was referring to right away. She nodded. “Yes, she’s locked in the cellar with my friends.”

The King let out a big sigh of relief, the ruthlessness in his eyes a moment ago disappeared almost completely.

At this time, someone else swooped down in front of them - another man. And judging by his clothings, he was from the same tribe as this King.

“My King,” he dipped his head.

“Untie him,” said the King when Bai Qian was about to stand, jerking his head at Zilan. The other man did as told.

“Listen, queen of Qingqiu --” he cleared his throat. “I need your help --”

There was shouting in the distance and a rumble of footsteps outside the building. The three of them turned to see the entrance door was ajar.

“They’ve raised the alarm,” said the soldier. “Someone must have seen us.”

“All right, we don’t have time,” the King told her. “Lead my man to the cellar, get everyone and leave. I will keep them busy at the front to buy you enough time.”

“Your Majesty --” the soldier protested. “Our powers are limited here! It’s too dangerous.”

“I’m not a fool,” he said impatiently. “When you’ve gotten far enough, send up a signal. I’ll get out of here.”

There was no further argument. The Xunzhua soldier quickly took Zilan’s arm to support him and looked to Bai Qian for direction.

“This way,” she said, pointing to the tall door.

At the threshold, Bai Qian glanced back - the King was walking out of the room into the crowd of Demon soldiers with both palms open, as if entering a banquet. And somehow, she imagined a very satisfied smirk on his face.


...


It seemed all demons had been summoned to the front for they encountered very few on their way to the cellar - weak and panicky ones for that matter.

With one hit using his sword, the soldier was able to break open the cellar’s lock. The Xunzhua princess was still very much unconscious with no awareness of her surroundings.

“Who are you?” asked Yanzhi, pushing Qilin behind her.

“He’s with the King of Xunzhua,” Bai Qian said. “They’re helping us.”

“Xunzhua?”

“Princess!”

The soldier ran over to the woman and lifted her up from cellar floor while Yanzhi took over his job of supporting Zilan. Bai Qian took a few moments to explain to them what was going on, what she thought had possibly happened to Zilan and that they could not afford to lose any time. Her Sixteenth Senior was barely conscious and still staring around, possibly wondering if he was alive.

A look of suspicion swept across Yanzhi’s face when Bai Qian had finished speaking, but she too could see that they had very little choice but to trust these two strangers.

“His King just saved my life,” Bai Qian whispered, gesturing at the Xunzhua soldier. “And I met him at the Crown Prince’s meeting in the Nine Heavens. Yehua never said this clan was anything malevolent.”

Through a large door in a vacant small reading room at the end of the dark walkway - where there were bottles and vials of eerie substances as well - they got out of the building. Judging from the emptiness of the yard where they now stood, the King of Xunzhua must be causing havoc at the front. Not a single Demon soldier was seen. But worry grew in her heart when Bai Qian remembered the number of Demons she had seen when they’d been taken prisoner.

“Which way are we heading?” Bai Qian asked the Xunzhua soldier, who must have a better sense of direction than her. “Do you know?”

“Here,” he pointed to the dark woodland in front of them. “This tree forest surrounds the whole place. As soon as we reach the shield’s end, we’ll be able to cloud-jump somewhere else.”

“Good,” Bai Qian said, glancing back. “You all go ahead and leave.”

“What are you doing?” asked Yanzhi.

“I’ll have to go back and help their King.”

“No no,” the soldier shook his head nervously. “It’s dangerous. And Your Majesty has ordered us to leave --”

“I know it’s dangerous. That’s why I need to help him. There are too many of those Demons, he might be captured. You don’t want the Princess to wake up and realize her brother has taken her place in some Demon’s prison, do you?”

The soldier gave no answer and Bai Qian went on to tell him and Yanzhi, “take care of Senior Zilan and the Princess. You too, Qilin, keep an eye on them for me.”

The Kirin boy nodded. As quickly as she could and before anyone else could protest, Bai Qian sprinted away.

It wasn’t hard to locate the King because he was indeed keeping most of the Demons flocked to one place. When Bai Qian arrived on the field, he was in the middle of a massive crowd, moving about like lightning and bringing down any Demon who got near with his bare hands. The only person Bai Qian had ever seen to possess that special kind of combat speed was her father. Demons shrieked and shouted instructions to each other, some of them made awful high-pitched sounds and they were even communicating in a language she could not understand.

But as fast as the King of Xunzhua was, Bai Qian could tell his strength was wearing out. Demons were jumping at him like hungry hyenas on their prey, savagely ripping, snarling. And unlike the King and Bai Qian, these barbaric creatures did not seem to care whether they lived or died. It looked to her like each Demon would not hesitate to kill himself and let the others step on him for leverage if it meant they could capture the enemy faster.

Without another thought, Bai Qian picked up a sword from the ground and threw herself into the crowd, making her way toward the King, slashing Demons along the way. She was relieved to see that despite the large quantity, these Demons were not as highly trained as the ones they’d encountered in the forest. But even so, she believed the King could not keep this up for much longer.

“Where are they!” he bellowed at her. “What are you doing here!”

“They got away,” said Bai Qian, dashing forward and plunging her sword into a Demon that almost sank a dagger into the King’s back. “We need to get out of here now!”

“I told you to go, did I not!” he said in frustration and suddenly seized her hand, yanking her toward him. In a blur he struck twice to either side at the Demons who seemed to have nearly run her through with their swords. They dropped dead at his feet.

“You’re welcome,” he said. “Now we’re even.”

Bai Qian inhaled deeply and was ready to yell at him to leave again when a bright spark of light shot up in the air - and by the look of it, from somewhere far enough - causing them all to halt the uneven fight.

But only a moment later, one of the Demons issued a cry of order and they divided into two groups. One immediately raced to where the spark of light had been seen and the other kept on with their attacks on the King.

“Time to go,” he decided, snatching up her hand and, before Bai Qian could prepare herself, leaping over the Demons’ heads. His extreme speed gave her a feeling close to cloud-jumping during that short moment - as if being sucked through cold air.

“It’s the other way!” Bai Qian cried when he dragged her in the direction opposite to where Yanzhi and Zilan had gone.

“It doesn’t matter. As long as we’re out of the forest, it’s safe.”

Out of the Spinner’s territory, they darted into the dark region of the forest, throngs of Demons on their tail.


...


“Keep going,” he shouted when Bai Qian turned back to make sure he was still keeping up.

On they ran for several minutes. When they were further in, Bai Qian realized everything was becoming blurry. Trees were wrapped in blankets of fog, fog surrounding the path ahead. She unconsciously reached down and clutched the pointer hung on her waistband - finding one’s way out of a forest was already hard when you could see.

The thick white veil before her eyes made Bai Qian slow down and watch her steps. She had survived many ordeals tonight and had no intention of maiming herself by bumping into a tree or a giant boulder. Though she could feel they had not escaped the Demons’ shield yet, the footsteps behind them had scattered, it seemed the Demons were not chasing anymore. Perhaps it was now safe to stop and determine where exactly her friends had gone.

However, the moment Bai Qian stopped and turned around, she gasped in terror. The King was nowhere to be seen.

Where was he? Had the Demons captured him without her noticing? Had he fallen behind? No, it couldn’t be. He was quick, quicker than anyone she’d ever seen. Even if outnumbered, he could at least run away.

“Hey!” she squinted, twirling around like a wooden spinning top. “Where are --”

Bai Qian felt a surge of panic rising up in her throat - there was a figure zooming toward her. He was in midair - not the king of Xunzhua. That was all she needed to know to spin on her heel and bolt ahead.

As Bai Qian concentrated on the path in front of her and ran like she never had before, she tried to forget the fact that her limbs were exhausted from the fight and the torture inside the potion room had left a lasting effect on her overall powers.

But there was no hope. Whoever it was moved with great speed through the layers of fog while she was unable to levitate herself even an inch. Bai Qian did not dare look back at this point anymore. She kept running and blasting back spells as hard as she could, zigzagging through wood logs and other obstacles, hoping one of her spells would knock him off balance.

The second Bai Qian felt the man’s presence behind her, an arm grabbed her by the waist and lifted her up from the ground with ease as if she weighted no more than a feather.

“Let me go!” she screamed and lunged forward as he brought her soaring up in the sky. “No!”

There were no more trees. The night’s air was the only thing that surrounded them. Bai Qian realized at this time that the man had been riding a sword.

He had not yet attacked or attempted to contain her, instead, he kept his arms wrapped around her upper body, which made Bai Qian even more terrified. She shook her head and struggled, kicking at his legs, twisting left and right in fury. But it was no good - he was much stronger than her.

“No!” she shrieked when the man clasped her closer. “Get off me, you lecherous Demon! GET -- OFF!”

Bai Qian reached to her boot, yanked out the little dagger and swung her hand sideway to where his upper arm was.

“Seventeenth!”

The momentum caused her body to whirl around within the man’s loosened hold and put her face to face with him. Bai Qian’s heart did a somersault. She stared without blinking despite the cold wind stinging her eyes.

“Shifu…” she dropped the bloodstained dagger. “Shifu…”

“Yes,” he responded, not looking too pleased. “What lecherous Demon?”

Like a flash of lightning, she threw her arms around him, one hand clutching the other behind his back.

She saw no need to reply anymore. She would tell him all about the Demon’s potion room, she would apologize for slashing his arm. But later. She would do everything later. She could hardly speak now. All her strength had gone. Or rather, she had allowed it to dissolve completely.

Bai Qian felt a gush of powerful wind hitting her in the back and Moyuan suddenly stumbled.

He fell.

They had been thrown off the sword and were plunging down headfirst.

“I will cloud-jump now,” she heard his voice say. “Don’t let go.”

But Bai Qian had never needed this advice less.

Chapter 2, Part 1