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

Chapter 2 - The Woman

Part 3

written by LalaLoop
consulting by Bunny
edited by kakashi

It had been two days, two whole days since she had last seen Moyuan. Before leaving with Donghua for what they had called “urgent business” after their visit to the Nine Heavens last time, Moyuan had not told her the date of his return. Bai Qian was aware that there were a million things Moyuan could be doing being the God of War, though she’d expected him to at least give her and Yehua a general idea of when they would be seeing him again.

Bai Qian blankly put a chess piece on the board - she was playing a game against her brother Bai Zhen at Zheyan’s cottage and currently did not care if she was winning or losing.

Where could Moyuan possibly be? Had he and Donghua met with danger? As much trust as Bai Qian had in these two Gods, she could not deny that they had done some life-threatening deeds in their lives and often ended up hurting themselves. And Zheyan’s absence from the Peach Blossom Garden only intensified her anxiety - that Old Phoenix just had to pick this time to go out and collect herbs.

“I won!” Bai Zhen exclaimed in triumph. “Again!”

“Fine, you did,” Bai Qian gave the chessboard an unmotivated look and shuffled the pieces.

“What exactly has Lord Donghua been teaching you?” Bai Zhen asked, laughing. “You don’t seem like you’ve improved at all.”

Bai Qian responded to this remark with as much interest as she had given the chess game.

“Fourth Brother,” she said. “Do you know when Zheyan will be back?”

“He didn’t say,” Bai Zhen shrugged. “He would usually be gone for two days to a week whenever he goes hunting for plants and herbs. Why do you ask? Are you that bored of my company?” he jeered.

“Stop it,” she threw her head up. “I’m just asking because… well… just in case Shifu comes back here injured again, Zheyan can heal him right away if he’s here.”

Bai Zhen snorted. “You’re overthinking it, I don’t think there’s any problem.”

“He’s been gone for two days, Fourth Brother, two -- days!”

“Relax,” he waved. “You’re just too used to High God Moyuan being at Kunlun that you’ve forgotten he’s a God of War. Travelling for work is a normal thing for Gods like him and Zheyan. You know, Zheyan doesn’t always tell me where he goes and what he does.”

“That’s you and Zheyan,” she rolled her eyes. “It’s different in my case.”

“Different?” Bai Zhen raised an eyebrow and leaned closer to the table. “How?”

Bai Qian jumped up on her knee, grabbed her cushion and raised it above her head, ready to strike down on her brother and smack that smirk off of his face.

“Shush!” Bai Zhen suddenly put a finger to his lips, his eyes narrowing. Bai Qian stared back at his guarded expression. “Someone’s just entered the protective shield,” he said.

“Zheyan?” Bai Qian’s face lit up. “Zheyan!” She sprang up, dashed to the door and swung it open, followed closely by her brother.

“Zheyan!” they both called.

But it was not the Old Phoenix.

Bai Qian stopped in her tracks with her eyes wide open.

“Sh -- Shifu…”

Moyuan was standing at the bottom of the steps leading up to the cottage with one hand on the railings, or rather, he was making an effort to stand. His cloak looked quite disheveled, dripping wet in some places. He himself seemed completely worn out and, by the look of it, was seeking to lie down for some rest.

“Seventeenth?” he said with a voice of someone who was recovering from a cold. “Why are you here?”

“High God Moyuan,” Bai Zhen bowed. “Are you -- are you looking for Zheyan?”

“I am on my way back to Kunlun and was only hoping to have a brief rest here,” said Moyuan, straightening his back. “Is Zheyan not back yet?”

“He is not,” Bai Zhen replied. “But please,” he gestured inside. “I was leaving anyway.”

He then bowed again and looked at Bai Qian as if to tell her she should stay here.

As if she needed that reminder, Bai Qian huffed.

The moment her brother vanished from view, she rushed to Moyuan and grabbed his arm.

“Shifu, what happened? Where have you been?”

“The Arctic Prisons,” said Moyuan shortly, his eyes briefly closing.

“You’re burning,” Bai Qian said in alarm. She could feel the heat from his body through the layers of clothes. “Like a… a fever…”

“That is true.”

“Fever?” she was even more confused now. “What do you mean? How could you -- did you -- did you stay out in the cold for two full days? How --”

“It isn’t because of the cold,” Moyuan inhaled deeply, his eyes starting to droop. “I might have expensed too much of my powers.”

This explanation did nothing to clear Bai Qian’s bewilderment - High Gods like Moyuan did not fall ill easily just because they overused their powers.

“Are you sure it’s just a fever?” Bai Qian asked again, standing closer to support him. “Should I go get a physician?”

“No,” Moyuan shook his head defiantly. “It is merely a fever. Do not alarm anyone, especially your Seniors, I don’t want them to worry. I will be fine after some rest. But --” he looked at her, “I’m afraid I will have to bother you.”

“Er… are you absolutely… Shifu!”

She reached out to grab the railing and stabled herself as Moyuan collapsed against her.

...

Bai Qian soaked a white cloth in the basin of icy water she had brought in the room and used it to wipe off the lingering sweat from Moyuan’s forehead. The coldness of the cloth made him stir once or twice but he remained asleep nonetheless. She then reached for the pillow and carefully placed it behind his back since Moyuan had fallen asleep before he could lie down properly and she did not want to wake him up by moving him too much.

She found the strips on the side of his robe, undid the top one and moved on to pull open his collar.

A fever? Bai Qian shot that calm face a look, pulling the blanket up to his belt. How careless and reckless.

But her irritation passed very quickly.

Something stirred deep within her as she sat motionless by his bedside. Something brought on by the sight of Moyuan resting rather peacefully with his eyes closed, as if placing his complete trust in the person from whom he’d asked for assistance. The aura of power still lingered about him yet he was looking more like a man to Bai Qian than the wielder of Xuanyuan at the moment. A man who needed understanding like any other sometimes did.

How she wished she could share some of his burdens. How she wished she was less someone he had to protect and more a protector like him, like Zheyan and Donghua.

Her desire to attain that Crafters’ fan felt stronger than ever.

She moved forward, closing the distance between them, affection sprinkled with nervousness rising in waves inside her. His hand faintly twitched, his head turning sideway.

Gathering herself, Bai Qian nestled beside him and leaned against his shoulder, reaching out and placing her hand on his that was resting squarely on his midriff.

His temperature was high, but not so high as to render any danger as far as she could see. Perhaps Moyuan was right - some rest would put him back to normal.

“All of us also started out as young and clueless immortals,” Moyuan had once said. “Experience and strength come with time. Do not strain yourself.”

“But Yanzhi does,” she had protested. “The Ghost tribe train very arduously, that’s why their young warriors are so formidable.”

“Formidable does not make a fighter,” he’d smiled.

Bai Qian’s eyes started to feel a bit hazy, so many things she needed to think about. So many things…

But first… she sighed, her eyelids closing. First, she needed to make sure Moyuan was well again...

Bai Qian dreamed she was holding the fan in her hand, the fan of power. But Pojing suddenly appeared out of nowhere, scratched its beautiful surface with his claws and snatched the fan away. When she came home all dejected and asked Moyuan to make her a hairpin with a jade butterfly, Donghua laughed and shoved at her a basket of hairpins shaped like foxtails. “Outrageous,” she thought and cloud-jumped to look for Zheyan, only to remember she had lost Yanzhi’s pointer and could not find the Peach Blossom Garden…

---

She was woken up by a sweeping coldness across her face. Bai Qian groaned quietly and glanced out the open window. It was still dark. How long had she drifted off?

She must have fallen asleep because of the soothing silence at Zheyan’s place. This garden always had that effect on her, once she had slept for five days straight while hiding from the Celestial Prince she had been arranged to marry. Her body slightly ached from being in the same position for too long. Yet it felt too comfortable to get up at the moment.

It looked like neither of them had moved at all. Only it somehow seemed as though she was more attached to Moyuan than before she’d fallen asleep. Bai Qian’s eyes averted - his hand was on top of hers now. And...

She looked further - the blanket had been spread over her.

Bai Qian muffled a gasp and tried to get up. But she quickly ceased to move when she felt Moyuan’s head resting against hers. Completely abashed but at the same time, not wanting to wake Moyuan, she kept quiet while struggling internally to think of a way to get out of the room. No matter how comfortable, this was… Bai Qian’s thought suspended, somehow her vernacular was failing her - she could not quite make sense of how she felt at the moment. She could not even control the heart that was pounding out of her chest. Like a protest to her head’s decision to leave the warmth and comfort.

Not being able to think was never a good thing. Yes… she had to leave before…
But it was too late, the moment Bai Qian tried to retrieve her hand, Moyuan began to stir, his chest moving up as he breathed in. His fingers on her hand slightly constricted. Then, his breathing was stable again after a few seconds.

“Shifu,” said Bai Qian when she was sure he was no longer asleep, sitting up. “Are you always this irresponsible?”

“Irresponsible?” his raspy voice responded.

“To your own health. Even Yehua is better than this, I haven’t seen him exhausting himself like you do lately. Sometimes he actually listens to Lady Lexu when she tells him to rest.”

“And also --,” she glanced down at the blanket that was on them both and said with an unintentionally accusing tone, feeling as if her face was on fire. “Did you want to give me the fever too? If I get sick, who’s going to take care of you and help you lie to everyone about your condition?”

Before Moyuan could reply, she lifted the quilt and removed herself from bed. Hurrying out of the room without looking at him, she headed straight for the kitchen.

---

I don’t care if fevers aren’t transferable, thought Bai Qian grudgingly as she found a distraction in Zheyan’s kitchen - tea. Yes, if Changshan were here, he would make ginger tea.

Moyuan should have woken her up, Bai Qian shook her head, he should not have tried to make her sleep more soundly by putting the blanket over her. What if his fever had gotten worse while she was sleeping?

She opened the Old Phoenix’ tea supply and scooped some of the dried leaves into a small teapot she had placed on top of the stove.

Perhaps she would have to wait a few days before talking to Moyuan about the Crafters and her plan, thought Bai Qian as she poured some water into the pot. The matter seemed quite trivial compared to Moyuan’s state at the moment. But… she frowned, what if someone else got there first? She took a deep breath, perhaps now was one of those times to make use of the Star Lord’s theory of Fate - if the fan was hers, no one would be able to take it.

After having lit a fire, she searched through Zheyan’s shelves of herbs and other fresh supplies for some ginger. If there was one thing Zheyan’s cottage was never short of, it was fruits and odd looking vegetables. Sure enough, she found some in a woven tray.

What had Moyuan and Donghua done at the Arctic Prisons that could claim so much of his powers? She chopped the ginger into small pieces, which turned out quite uneven but she did not believe Moyuan would be able to tell this time. Would their trip have anything to do with the pending Demon rebellion everyone was expecting to happen, even if many of them did not want to believe it? And if it was only a fever, why couldn’t Moyuan utilize self healing power to make himself better? Bai Qian glanced into the pot, the water seemed to be bubbling. Perhaps he thought it wasn’t necessary to use magic?

She looked around for some additional herbs and did not have any trouble finding them. Zheyan was not as obsessed with labeling as Changshan, but he was no less orderly in the arrangement of his items around the small cottage.

Bai Qian added the herbs and two slices of ginger into the boiling water. Was that enough? She put in five more.

Moyuan did not like sweeteners, she hesitated as she reached for the honey pot. Well, Bai Qian shrugged, it was not up to him this time. Also, Changshan always said honey could only help.

When the liquid had turned brownish and the ginger had shrunk enough, Bai Qian lifted the pot and poured herself a small cup.

Not bad, she grinned proudly after having tasted it. She could definitely make some tea from scratch without burning anything like Changshan believed she would.

---

“Shifu,” Bai Qian placed the tea tray on the table, flushing red as she sat down at his bedside again. “Are you sure you don’t need medicine or healing?” she asked.

“I’m sure,” he said, still looking very tired though his voice was firm.

“Do you mind --” she raised her hand to his face. “I need to make sure --”

Taking Moyuan’s silence as an answer, Bai Qian carried on, the back of her fingers touched his forehead. Not as hot as before, she decided, bringing her hand back.

“I’ve made you some tea,” she picked up the cup and carefully handed it to him.

“Thank you,” Moyuan said. And she looked away instantly and stared at the open window.

Though only two seconds later, the sound of Moyuan’s coughing tore her eyes away from the darkness outside.

“No matter,” he said when Bai Qian was about to take the cup from his hand. “It is just a bit spicier than I expected.”

“I can add more water if you like,” she suggested.

“It’s fine. I’ll drink it the way it is,” Moyuan smiled and took another sip from the cup.

When the problem the ginger tea presented had passed, however, Bai Qian started to feel something strange in the silence that surrounded them. Looking at Moyuan, she was quite puzzled to see he looked somewhat burdened.

There was some profound sadness engraved on his face. A sort of sorrow that slowly spread from the black depths that were gazing into the distance to his every movement, his every blink.

This sudden sadness of his, though possibly unintentional, rendered her uncomfortable. Not because Moyuan had dampened her mood but because Bai Qian knew there were things, too many things, she had not yet understood about him.

Would she ever see him smile again the way he did in that painting? Carefree and filled with pure joy.

“Shifu,” she cleared her throat and said slowly. “When I came to Taichen Palace to look for you the other day, I saw a painting of you and your friends when you were younger.”

Moyuan put down his tea and set his gaze on her.

“Who painted that?” she asked. “It’s such a beautiful and lively painting.”

“My father,” said Moyuan.

“Father Immortal?”

“Yes,” he continued. “That was only one of his works. He created many paintings and other works of art.”

“I see,” Bai Qian nodded. This was not exactly what she was curious about. But would Moyuan think her invasive if she asked the question directly? Bai Qian remembered very clearly Zheyan’s expression the last time the Demon Overlord had been mentioned. She knew it wasn’t a comfortable subject for any of them.

“Shifu,” she hesitated, but then decided to take the risk and went on cautiously. “If it’s not too personal, would you tell me about the Demon High Goddess?”

Silence befell them. His brows slightly raised but his expression remained unchanged.

“What would you like to know?”

“Anything you can tell me,” Bai Qian said. “How did she become so important to you all? And why did you end up going to war against her?”

The silence this time was a lot longer than the last. Bai Qian waited, not taking her hopeful eyes off of Moyuan, who looked as if he was going to speak several times, but then simply went back to contemplating.

“We were friends,” he said at last. “All of us. Best of friends. Our time at Kunlun was the most wonderful period of our lives.”

Bai Qian stared at him, suppressing her astonishment. She had never heard Moyuan use such strong words to describe anything at all before in her life, never seen him express any sort of feelings beyond those one would expect from a High God of his vast age and cultivation, even in extreme situations. Even when she had infuriated him to death.

But now, despite Moyuan’s serenity, his eyes were overflowing with emotions she had never witnessed before.

“Zheyan, Donghua and I were an insepareble group when we were children,” he continued. “She came to us last. She was very different and did not exactly blend in with us at first. The first time we met, we were about A-li’s age, she complimented something I valued a great deal but was afraid to let other people know of it. I initially only showed her the necessary courtesy and friendliness the son of Father Immortal was required to show everyone. But as time passed, we spent more and more time together. Her domineering nature did not change,” Moyuan laughed lightly. “But that was the best thing about her, she was never afraid to be herself. She acknowledged her strengths and weaknesses and did not pretend to be anything more than what she was.”

Moyuan went on while Bai Qian listened in silence. Something about the way he was talking about this woman irked her, but this wave of irritation was quite overwhelmed by her eagerness to know more.

“It did not take long for Zheyan and Donghua to agree with my first impression of her - someone who could see beauty where others could not,” he said. “Who paid attention to what seemed trivial. And before we knew it, she was one of us.”

“She would stand up to anyone who made fun of Donghua’s origin, and never failed to remind me to read less and break the rules more.”

Bai Qian could not stop herself from letting out a giggle, recalling her last conversation with Zheyan about this Queen. Moyuan did not look offended, instead, he seemed thankful to see her smile.

“She wears slippers with flower patterns in the painting,” Bai Qian pointed out.

“They are not flowers,” said Moyuan. “They’re butterflies.”

“She liked butterflies?”

“I believe so. She told us the first pair of slippers her foster parents gave her had butterfly embroidery. As fierce as the Demon Queen was, she always had an innocent and endearing side that sometimes showed itself.”

“Was she -- anything like me?”

Moyuan chuckled. “No. At least I don’t think so.”

Bai Qian did not know what had prompted the question she’d just asked, but she felt quite relieved at Moyuan’s answer.

“The Demon Queen constantly defied logic and reason and trusted in her own perception of things, even when there was no, as you would like to call it, supporting proof. That is how she was. But I must say, it worked well for her on many occasions.”

“But of course,” he continued after a sigh. “Friends or not, she had her own principles, her own duties. Perhaps what was between us was not strong enough to make her abandon her tribe and the animosity they held against Celestials and their allies. In the end, she picked her people.”

“And how --” Bai Qian stumbled. Her curiosity was almost uncontrollable but she was a bit afraid to ask more.

“How did she die?” Moyuan finished the sentence for her.

Bai Qian nodded.

---

The battle cry had ceased. The war between Demons and Celestials had ended. But the battle against the unexpected enemy did not. Yet it might end very soon - the end for them all.

The Fox Emperor struggled hopelessly against the Dark One’s grip on his neck, unable to break the seal that had been placed upon his powers. His whole body had been pinned to the mountain wall by some unbreakable dark magic. His best effort to escape managed to crack as much as an inch of stone. A few yards across from him, Zheyan and Donghua were lying unconscious in two different corners, drained of all energy.

From where Bai Zhi was held captive, he could see the Demon Queen, whose fate was no better than any of theirs at the moment. She had been blasted off the cliff and was now dangling above a scorching sea of fire below them, held to life only by a magic force maintained by Moyuan, who was standing at the edge and using what looked to be all of his strength to keep her from falling into the abyss. Try as she might, she was unable to utilize whatever was left of her own magical powers to save herself - the body of fire with unfamiliar magic to both Demons and Celestials was pulling her down with a force equal to that of Moyuan’s magic.

They had been fooled - fooled by the most cunning chessmaster of all. The Demon war was a mistake, a diversion to trap them all in one place to carry out a bigger plan. Whose mistake it was, it no longer mattered, the Fox Emperor grunted. They had all had suspicions yet had gone on with the war without more thoughts as to what the consequences could be. They had underestimated the Dark One.

The alliance of Celestials and the Fox tribe had won the war, but that meant nothing, not if the strongest leaders in all the realms were dead by the Dark One’s hand and he, Bai Zhi, who had agreed to lend a hand in this war, could never see the woman he loved again.

In front of Bai Zhi, the villainous face stretched into a distorted smile.

“My apology,” he said, conjuring a dagger, wagging it before the Fox King’s face.

Bai Zhi knew what was going to happen. But he could not do anything to prevent it. The sharp dagger pierced into his heart. Heartblood started to drip out and onto his robe. With a quick spell from the Dark One, several blood drops rose in the air, coming in contact with the man’s hand and seeping into his skin.

From the edge of the cliff, Moyuan’s spells came continuously, but none of them did a thing to alter the man, who had now arrived at Zheyan’s side.

Slashing down, his hand stopped and hovered directly above Zheyan’s face. A spell was cast. Then powers, Phoenix’ powers began to rush out from Zheyan, flowing into the man’s open palm as the bloodrops had moments ago, only with greater speed.

Moyuan gasped. One of his hands that was keeping the Demon Queen from the fire surface swung sideway, jets of magic shooting from his palm, blasting the Dark One away from Zheyan’s body. Blood started to gush out from his mouth from the sudden expense of powers.

Below the cliff, the Demon Queen let out a bewildered scream. She did not know what was happening. She could not see.

But Moyuan could not stop the Dark One from taking powers from Zheyan, his spell had only slowed down the attempt. Immortal essence was still flowing out of the Phoenix’ body and into the other man, making him stronger by the second.
If he absorbed all of Zheyan’s powers… if that happened… there was no knowing what would follow besides the fact that Zheyan would die…

Wincing and panting in pain from the wound on his chest, Bai Zhi suddenly understood - if he or Donghua could not break their bonds and aid Moyuan… then there were only two choices to be made.

It was either Zheyan or Shaowan.

The Fox King struggled more than ever. He was not very clear how important the Demon Queen was to Moyuan, how much more important she was than Zheyan. He himself never knew this woman. The only thing he was certain of now was that Moyuan could not hold on for much longer by himself. He needed help. Or he would need both of his hands and his entire energy if he was to stop the Dark One from turning Zheyan into ash here and now.

Down below, Shaowan’s voice suddenly shouted - it was distorted and impossible to hear with the furious hissing of the fire ocean beneath them, but not too hard to guess. It seemed the Demon Queen was no longer oblivious. She knew Moyuan was having to exert his powers elsewhere. Perhaps she was screaming for him to make a choice. Any choice.

“No,” Bai Zhi heard the God of War’s pleading voice. “Please… no…”

Moyuan’s magic against the Dark One was weakening. Zheyan’s face was turning a lifeless white. Still staring down at the cliff, the God of War’s expression became excruciating, unbearable to look at.

Then, his eyes closed for a brief moment; blood continued to drip down his chin, sweat covering his face. Sweat. Tears.

Moyuan lifted his arm, the magic that was holding the Demon Queen vanished.

Her figure fell into the ocean of flame, the piercing sound of her voice travelled through the angry fire and the scorching heat, reaching Bai Zhi’s ears.

And it felt to him, someone very much unconcerned with this woman, as though a part of the universe had died.


---

Bai Qian stared at the man before her, tears rising in her throat, stinging her eyes. Words could no longer express the bewilderment and horror she felt.

“So you…” she found her voice at last. “You… let her go… let her fall… into...”

The image of the Demon Queen being sucked into the pit of fire was so vivid in her head it made Bai Qian sick in the stomach just thinking about it, as if she’d witnessed it with her own eyes.

Never, during all those years at Kunlun, had she bothered to find out… Never had her father mentioned anything either.

Compared to what she had read in books and records, this account of the Demon High Goddess made Bai Qian feel as if someone had just twisted her guts. It was more than she would have liked to know and much too painful to listen to. She wished she had never asked, never made him relive that memory.

“Yes,” Moyuan answered, his voice was never calmer yet the torment in his tone was unmistakable. “I held life in my hand and let it slip through my fingers, with intention, I might add. That is what happened. That is how she died - because I was being sensible.”

“Shifu!” Bai Qian cried, her voice breaking; she could not listen to this anymore. “I don’t need you to tell me how I should think of you!”

Moyuan fell silent and suddenly became interested in something outside the window while Bai Qian collected herself and wiped away some tears that had made their way out of the corners of her eyes.

“It wasn’t your fault, Shifu,” she said under her breath. “It could have easily gone the other way…” Bai Qian heard the words that had just come out of her mouth and wanted to laugh at herself for speaking of this matter like a problem of mere mathematics, for trying to rationalize it. But she simply did not know what else to say.

“You are very kind, Seventeenth,” Moyuan looked back at her. “But I’m afraid it will always be my fault. Yes, it could have been the other way and it still would have been my fault -- no -- ‘responsibility’ is a better choice of word. I made that decision with a clear mind. And I will remember it for as long as I live.”

“They both were equally important to me, that is true,” Moyuan continued, and for a fleeting moment sounding almost as if he was pleading for her trust, the bitterness of his smile casting a shadow upon the atmosphere. “But in the end, I did remind myself that one of them started a war and the other did not. I did tell myself that saving Zheyan would at least ensure our enemy would not get stronger. Perhaps those were crucial factors that helped me decide, but they were all the same despicable thoughts that I resented for having crossed my mind.”

“It’s… it’s not… Shifu...” Bai Qian swallowed. Not despicable, she thought, but in truth cold and unfeeling... Or were they? And if they were, were they not exactly what a strategist’s thoughts should be in such a situation? She could not decide, could not find the answers to all these questions anymore. She was only sure of one thing…

“Shifu, you’re the God of War,” she managed to say. “You were born to protect lives and shoulder heavy burdens. The realms depend on you, I understand. Whatever your decision was, I’m sure it was for the good of many. I understand.”

Moyuan studied the expression on her face for a brief while and said, “I imagine you must think I was forced into a certain life by my parents like Yehua was. That my life was planned out and that I was not given a choice. Is that right?”

Bai Qian said nothing - that was exactly what she had been assuming.

“No,” Moyuan smiled at her. “I grew up the same way you did, with affection and guidance from a great father. I was given plenty of choices, and becoming a protector was a choice I made being fully aware of what it meant. Whatever I do, whatever decision I make, right or wrong, I only have myself to blame.”

He said it as if it was a fact - a statement from a Taoist text one could not argue with.

“Shifu…” Bai Qian moved closer to him, no longer able to contain her tears. “I’m very sorry. I didn’t know…”

“What I told you was not meant to be a complaint,” said Moyuan. “Nor was I trying to blame myself again. It was only an honest answer to your question.”

He quietly sighed and leaned back against his pillow while Bai Qian struggled to find the right thing to say, her head jumbled with thoughts.

So not only had Moyuan had to watch one of his best friends die, he had directly played a part in her death. And it was not exactly because he’d had to win against her in the war. The details of the occurrence was too terrifying for Bai Qian to imagine - what Moyuan must have been forced to consider during those brief seconds before her death, how Zheyan must have felt knowing his life had been saved at the expense of his friend’s.

She would have lost her mind; she would have jumped down that fire ocean herself and be done with it all.

She had not the heart to ask about anything anymore. She didn’t care about the Dark One, whatever evil he had conjured, or how they had managed to defeat him. She didn’t care what Moyuan had been doing in the Arctic Prisons for the last two days. She simply wanted…

Bai Qian drew closer and lied down upon his chest, hoping the empathy she was trying to convey could reach his heart and perhaps by some miracle would reduce the buried suffering she had just made him feel again. For the first time she could tell with certainty that he needed her presence. And perhaps she too needed his.

“Have I upset you?” Moyuan’s hand gently stroked her hair.

“No,” she murmured, shaking her head.

Chapter 3, Part 1