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

Chapter 3 - Worthy Or Not

Part 2

written by LalaLoop
consulting by Bunny
editing by kakashi

“So --” Pojing leaned back against the pillar behind him and cast a long look at the hall’s ceiling, arm resting on his knee. “You want me to leave my sister here and take you to this place, wait for heaven-knows-how-long for you to negotiate with these Crafters, and then take you back here?”

Don’t exaggerate,” Bai Qian scowled. “How long can some negotiation be? And this is Kunlun, I can't think of a safer place for your sister to be.”

“Hmm,” he took a sip of wine.

“Well?”

“Why not ask the Crown Prince to take you?” he scoffed. “You seem to be on good terms with him.”

“The Crown Prince has his duties,” she raised her voice. “And -- and I don’t want to explain everything to him. I might have to start from convincing him that the Crafters don’t pose any danger and are real. You already know that they are and where they live, you can get us there faster.”

“What about High God Moyuan? He seems to know the way to everywhere.”

“Because that would defeat the purpose,” Bai Qian sighed, wondering if this king knew how ridiculous his suggestion was. “I need to do this by myself. I don’t think someone who receives protection from a powerful High God along the way can appeal to the Crafters, given that they are as critical as you described.”

“Good thinking. But are you saying I would not be able to protect you if needed?”

“No,” Bai Qian grimaced. She wanted to say ‘yes’ but decided it was best to save her insults for later. “And I won’t need protection, just di-rection.”

“If the Crown Prince knew the direction, would you still ask me to take you?”

What? Why — Why do you care about this?”

The king let out an irritating chuckle, a gleam flashing across his eyes. “Because I should hate to be someone’s last resort.”

Was he saying she was not being appreciative enough? The scramp... Bai Qian took a deep breath, closed her eyes to block out his infuriating expression for a while then opened them again. Be kind… she quietly chanted… there’s no shame in being kind. Plus, he’s the only one who knows the way well enough.

“King of Xunzhua,” she said, putting on what she believed to be a queenly smile. “I can find the Crafters’ forest myself but I expect it would take too long. So, I would appreciate it very much if you could accompany me there.”

“I am at your service,” his lips twisted into a satisfied smile that gave Bai Qian an urge to chop all the claws off those gloves of his.

“But I still wonder —” his brows pinched together. “Why do you trust me? Aren’t you afraid I might take you hostage to start a war with Qingqiu or, let’s say, leave you behind in that forest?”

“Because you’re not 300 years old,” Bai Qian rolled her eyes. The honest answer was that despite the crudeness in Pojing’s manners, she had not found anything villainous about him and even admired his strong sense of protection toward his own people. But she was not going to say anything that would give him the satisfaction. “If you had such intentions, you would have been more subtle about it.” But subtlety is not your strong suit, she added wordlessly.

“You are very sure of yourself,” the king said, tapping his fingers on the table. “Just an honest advice though, Queen, prepare yourself for rejection. Most people who go into that forest come out empty handed.”

“Advice taken,” she shrugged.

Pojing said no more and went back to his wine cup; his jesting expression suddenly disappeared and was replaced by a hint of solicitude.

“What?” but Bai Qian realized she didn’t need to hear an answer. She reckoned there was only one thing that could warrant this kind of look from him. “Are you still worried about your sister?”

“She is very weak still,” he said. “I fear she might exhaust herself in my absence and collapse again.”

“Is she usually like that?”

“Yes,” he nodded. “But she’s usually in excellent health. Now, however --”

“She’s a grown up,” Bai Qian said, somewhat moved by this concern he had for the princess that made him look a lot less like a scoundrel. “I’m sure she knows the limits.”

“She should,” Pojing sighed and downed his wine cup, looking displeased but somewhat proud. “But most of the time, she is too fascinated by the subject to care. She’s been in High God Moyuan’s study since the first crack of dawn today and it seems she’s still not done talking to him yet.”

“Since morning?”

Pojing uttered something that Bai Qian took as a ‘yes’. She glanced out at the courtyard - the sun was high and the bollards’ shadows were at their shortest.

“What for?” she asked.

“Consultancy,” Pojing said, taking up one of the square biscuits from the plate on his table and and examining it.

A whole morning just talking about weapons? Would that not bore Moyuan to death? But then, Bai Qian thought with a strange tweak of irritation, it certainly didn’t seem like the princess’ fault. No one could stay in Moyuan’s study for more than five seconds if he decided he did not enjoy their company.

“Once she starts a discussion with someone,” Pojing continued, “it lasts for hours. She would even skip meals if it’s necessary.”

“I see,” Bai Qian turned sideway. “Well -- about meals -- we kind of have to remind ourselves to eat because Kunlun --”

But her sentence was interrupted by a muffled gurgling sound. Bai Qian looked back to see Pojing spitting out the piece of biscuit she’d seen him pick up a few seconds ago directly into his cup.

“Hmm,” his forehead crunched. “This is terri --” but he quickly ceased the comment and looked at her, breathing in with his fist over his mouth. “What -- er -- what is this?”

“Sesame cookies,” Bai Qian said. “Why, does it not taste good?”

“It must be the climate,” he cleared his throat, poured himself another cup of wine and gulped down the liquid. “It seems to be -- well -- affecting my taste.”

Bai Qian squinted at the plate of treats - wondering which container he had gotten them from. She had been in the kitchen with Fengjiu this morning, taking orders from the little Fox while the latter had been making these cookies. Perhaps she had misinterpreted the instructions from Fengjiu somehow and put in the wrong ingredients for this particular batch?

But anyhow, she was not going to tell him that.

“Brother,” said a merry voice.

Bai Qian directed her eyes to the hall’s entrance as the figure of princess Zhuowei entered, looking as if she’d just come back from a festival.

“Queen of Qingqiu,” she said, striding toward them.

“Princess of Xunzhua,” Bai Qian nodded.

“Oh, just Zhuowei is fine if you don’t mind,” the princess said, sinking down next to her brother. She seemed a little worn out but unmistakably satisfied.

Bai Qian quietly observed them both - bold and brash they might be, even a little unceremonious, but they no doubt carried a certain air of power and ease only found in experienced tribe leaders who had been to places.

“What took you so long?” the king asked his sister. “I hope you didn’t bombard the Master of Kunlun with your mile-long list of questions.”

“Not at all,” Zhuowei shook her head. “We had a discussion and just forgot about the time.”

“Discussion?” asked Pojing. “What about?”

“What else? Weapons, resources, Yin and Yang,” she listed, pouring herself some wine. “I had some food earlier,” she said to Pojing, who was eyeing her cup with disapproval. “I did!”

Yin and Yang? Bai Qian knit her brows. “As in the philosophy?” she asked.

“Oh no. The Yin and Yang in weaponry,” the princess explained. “It’s a very abstract concept and not always accurate, it has to do with the resources you use. But anyway,” she looked back at her brother, smiling nervously. “High God Moyuan explained to me a lot of things. I feel guilty for having taken so much of his time.”

“It’s all right,” said Bai Qian. “If High God Moyuan didn’t have time to spare, I’m sure he would have told you.”

But Bai Qian had no idea why she was trying to make the anxious princess feel comfortable. She scoffed - as if being helpful to new learners at Kunlun on his behalf was her duty.

“Oh, I see,” Zhuowei’s eyes grew larger, a more assured smile breaking on her lips, her voice becoming more confident. “It’s good to know I haven’t bothered him. It’s just -- the High God is a brilliant teacher, his explanations to everything are very clear, but they all contain elements that would lead to another range of topics, and those would lead to more. But -- oh --” she paused and rolled her eyes. “Of course you know all about it, don’t you, Queen of Qingqiu?”

“Hmm,” Bai Qian blankly nodded.

“Were you handpicked by the God of War or chosen by a weapon?” asked the princess.

“I was…” Bai Qian sighed. “I was chosen by a weapon.”

“It must have felt incredible,” Zhuowei said under her breath.

“It did,” Bai Qian turned away from the princess’ curious eyes. More talking of her broken fan was the last thing Bai Qian wanted.

“Brother,” Zhuowei tapped on Pojing’s arm. “Do we have to go back to Xunzhua soon? I should hate to leave now.”

“I will have to go back sooner or later and catch up on Xunzhua’s affairs,” he said. “But you can stay if you like. I’ll send someone to pick you up when you are done.”

The princess’ grin became, if possible, a lot brighter.

“Or have been kicked out.”

“Brother!” she slapped him across the arm.

“I won’t leave before our trip,” he turned to Bai Qian, smirking. “Rest assured. You did, after all, ask me nicely.”

Bai Qian breathed in; words of outrage were multiplying themselves inside her head and threatening to spill from her mouth. Luckily, the princess spoke before they could.

“What trip? Where are you taking the queen of Qingqiu?”

“I’ll tell you about it later,” said her brother.

“All right,” the girl raised her brows, shaking her head at Bai Qian. “Don’t let him drag you anywhere dangerous.”

She chuckled. “I won’t.”

“Oh, that reminds me, what a coincidence,” Zhuowei gasped. “High God Moyuan said this morning he’ll also have to go on a trip so I will likely have to wait until he comes back for more --”

“Sorry?” Bai Qian murmured. “A trip? When?”

“I’m not sure,” said Zhuowei. “Possibly some time today because he said he will not be here tomorrow.”

Bai Qian bounded from her cushion - was something wrong? Had another Demon attack taken place somewhere?

“Is he in his study now?” she asked, ignoring the king’s questioning look.

“I heard from Immortal Changshan that he went to Mount Cangwu.”

“Mount Cangwu?” Bai Qian repeated, utterly astonished - dueling? But he had just been back for a short time. Who would...

But that was not the problem, Bai Qian thought, putting one foot before the other; she needed to see him and made sure nothing such as prisoners breaking out of the Arctic land or dark immortals causing havoc somewhere had happened.

Not wasting any more time, she dashed toward the exit while the princess launched into another speech about her experience with the Master of Kunlun’s lecture this morning and what she intended to do once they would have returned home.

---

The wind at the top of Mount Cangwu was stronger than usual, sweeping past Bai Qian’s face and blowing through her hair. She looked around at the mountainous rocks that vaguely formed a circular arena inside which immortals would challenge each other to duels, wondering if this formation was intentional. An energy, enthralling and suspenseful, hovered in the air, filling every breath she took even though there was nothing but rocks around. As if the essence of the many legendary duels that had taken place was still lingering about.

She spotted Moyuan immediately at the far end. There was in fact no duel going on but he was not alone. Standing next to him was an immortal with white hair and a small staff at his side. They seemed to be deeply engaged in conversation so she decided to stay where she was, next to one of the giant rocks, and waited.

Should she tell Moyuan about her trip? Bai Qian pondered. But she brushed off the idea - the fewer people knew about it, the better. The last thing she wanted to face if she failed the quest was questions from other people. Perhaps telling Moyuan she would not be at Kunlun for the next few days would be good enough.

Then, while Bai Qian was still going over her plan and entertaining the idea that one day she too would duel against the most powerful gods here, it happened faster than she could react. The two men wrapped up their conversation and Moyuan, with unusually fast pace, headed toward the edge of the cliff.

Was he going to cloud-jump? Bai Qian thought with a start.

“Wait…” she lunged forward. But Moyuan did not seem to notice her. He kept striding ahead without a glance back. “Shifu, wait!”

She rushed past the other man and started running - surely Moyuan must have heard her.

“Shifu! I need to…”

But he had vanished.

Bai Qian stood motionless on the empty field, completely flabbergasted, several things racing through her mind at once. Either Moyuan was being his usual mysterious self or something extremely menacing was happening somewhere in the realms. But how could he not have heard her? Was it because of the wind?

“High Goddess.”

Bai Qian turned on her heel with a jolt - a familiar calm old face was before her, the eyes under his white brows narrowing.

The… the… she gasped for air, realizing she had just run past more or less a legend without acknowledging him… Man of the Moon… What was he doing here? Wasn’t it a known fact that Yue-lao (月老) never came down from his abode to be among other immortals? She had seen him once at the Gathering of Immortals at the Eastern Forest, but that was the Eastern Forest - a place of peace and quiet. Here, however...

The old man smiled at her. He dressed exactly as he’d done the last time they’d met - in grey and as simple as a villager. Bai Qian struggled to find something to say with her eyes and mind still on the blank sheet of white sky where Moyuan used to be.

“You need to speak with High God Moyuan,” the man stated, his head slightly tilting.

“Yes...” she said desperately, unable to hide her confusion about how Moyuan had just taken off without a word. But the man’s voice, though neither loud nor assertive, had commanded her attention.

“My greetings, Yue-lao,” she curtsied. “Yes, I -- er -- needed to see High God Moyuan about something.”

“I’m afraid it will have to wait, the High God has urgent business elsewhere.”

“Urgent…?”

Bai Qian drew in a sharp breath. What? What business could it be? And why could Moyuan not give her the courtesy of a notice?

High God Moyuan is the Master of Kunlun and a protector of the realms,” he continued kindly. “It is not unusual for him to travel to where his assistance is required.”

“But I…” she stuttered.

“Do you plan to go somewhere, Goddess?”

“Yes… I…” she paused and looked at him suspiciously. “How do you know, Yue-lao?”

“It was only a guess. But I see that I have guessed correctly.”

“Well… yes,” Bai Qian said. “Do you know when my Shifu will be back then?”

“I would say a few days. If your trip is also urgent, I do not recommend postponing it to wait for him.”

A few days...

“Do you… do you know where he’s gone to?”

“This I’m afraid I cannot tell you. The High God’s business is his own.”

Bai Qian bit her lip to stop herself from voicing her unpleasant thoughts in front of the venerable Man of the Moon, blood starting to pump against her temples. These men… Did they find joy in torturing the clueless?

“But I can tell you that it will not, in any way, threaten his life.”

Bai Qian’s frown deepened; she moved her gaze to the ground. There was something about those eyes and that voice that made everything the man said sound like the absolute truth, made it impossible not to believe him. However, that bit of information she had been told was not enough to put her heart at ease. Not life-threatening was good, but she found no joy in seeing Moyuan with fevers and injuries, either.

“Did you drop this?” said the old man again. Bai Qian looked back at him and recognized the pointer Yanzhi had given her in his hand.

“Yes,” she said, holding out her hand to retrieve the item, forcing a smile. “Thank you.”

“Is it a navigating device?”

She nodded.

“Interesting. Made from tree twigs found within the Ghost clan’s territory, no doubt?”

“Yes,” Bai Qian nodded again. “It was a gift from the Ghost princess.”

“Ahh,” he smiled. “Such a generous gift.”

The wind was still silently caressing her cheeks, Bai Qian’s eyes strayed to the edge of the cliff again.

“You know,” the man held up a finger. Then, his hand twirled in the air.

A red piece of fabric that looked like a ribbon materialized, moving in circular motion and coiling itself around his fingers, surrounded with silver spots of magic. Yue-lao’s forefinger twichted, and the ribbon became still. Then, disentangling it from his hand, he presented it to her. “Perhaps you will find this useful.”

“For me, sir?” she asked, bemused.

“Yes. Its purpose is not too different from that of the admirable pointer you have. Only,” his eyes twinkled, “you will find it harder to drop as it is only a thread. In case you lose the other one, it might be able to show you the way.”

Bai Qian eyed the red thread for a moment, bending down to take a closer look and wondering how this simple looking thing could do the job of a skillfully crafted device. But she quickly regained her pose after a few seconds.

“No, I can’t possibly --”

“It’s quite all right, think of it as a greeting gift,” the man smiled kindly. “It is but an old thread with an enchantment anyway.”

“A direction finding enchantment, sir?”

“Yes.”

“I see,” she said, “how does it work?”

“Well,” Yue-lao chuckled. “I believe for a navigation item to work, first, one needs to be lost.”

“Oh,” Bai Qian could not help but let out a cackle of laughter - what an unexpected sense of humor. “Well… all right...”

“To be entirely honest with you, I have not attempted this enchantment for a long time,” he continued, smiling along. “Why don’t you try it and tell me if it needs improvement.”

“Of course,” she chuckled, putting the thread away.

When she looked up again, the old man was already a distance away. Not half a second later, his figure dissipated. Like a puff of cloud in the wind.

Bai Qian sighed, shaking her head at the space where Moyuan had been a few minutes ago - perhaps one day she would get used to these mysterious behaviors from these gods. But that day was clearly not today.

Chapter 3, Part 3

——————

Endnote:

For the Man of the Moon’s first appearance, visit Book 1, chapter 12-1.