Fanfiction3: A-Li's Three Lives, Three Worlds - Chapter 59 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 59

written by LigayaCroft
edited by kakashi & Panda

It had been many a millennia since Shao Wan walked around in a strange body and she had once sworn never to go through such a humiliating episode again. Yet here she was today, in possession of a body that mimicked her son’s, passing by Celestial servants who tended to the upkeep of the area where members of the Sky Clan were traditionally laid to rest.

Her quarry was toward the end of Wuwang Sea, where Fuxi had his mausoleum created. Like all the ancient gods, Fuxi had turned into flames dying and dust flying the day he had died, as witnessed by many Old Gods such as Mo Yuan, Zhe Yan and Dong Hua. But the Primordial God had prepared his grandiose remembrance in advance. He had a mausoleum made that was opened only when necessary, such as to take out artifacts for exhibits to be worshipped and venerated.

Shao Wan never had had any interest in Fuxi’s belongings but Dong Hua, in his former capacity as Celestial Emperor who knew things, intimated that Fuxi’s actual memories were laid to rest along with his belongings at his mausoleum. With the dawning suspicion that Fuxi had tampered with their memories, they had both agreed that to unlock what had really happened before Shuǐ Zhǎozé, procuring the Primordial God’s memories was the best place to start.

However, Dong Hua had also shared that similar to Yingzhou Island, ferocious beasts guarded the interior of the entire mausoleum, which could only be opened by Fuxi’s blood descendants who acted as de facto custodians.

Shao Wan turned left toward the mausoleum’s entrance gates guarded by eight live, magnificent golden-maned Fu Lions who didn't even twitch as she passed by. Good, because it would have been a shame to roast such beautiful creatures alive, and would have been hard to get to her target undetected if the alarms were raised in the process.

She climbed up the stairs and felt the main doors momentarily grow hot under her palms before they turned cold again and she was able to push it open.

“I guess that worked,” she concluded, thankful that Dong Hua’s magick hadn't failed her as she stepped inside the mausoleum’s foyer.

It was as grand as one would expect of the God who had created the Heavens and the Earth. Leave it to Fuxi to leave behind an unused grand Palace, gleaming so brightly with gold and jade that not only her eyes but also her teeth hurt.

What she didn't expect to see as soon as her vision cleared was for Mo Yuan to appear at the end of the hallway, his expression unreadable. He had on his dark green traveling robes, his hair back up in a Celestial topknot and covered by a traditional mesh philosopher’s hat made from woven horse hair.

Shao Wan’s heart slammed inside her chest as she stared back at Mo Yuan, weighing fast if it would be better to maintain her guise or to confess her deception.

Mo Yuan made the choice for her.

“Shao Wan, come,” he beckoned with the crook of his finger.

She did the pretense of looking around and when all she got from him was a raised brow, her shoulders slumped.

“How did you know it was me?”

“I have seen you in a different body twice before. I have resolved never to be temporarily distracted again.”

Shao Wan supposed the gesture was sweet but with a huff, she remained fixed in place.

“Did you have me followed by your spies?”

“Shao Wan—”

The impatience in his voice told her the answer. Many, many years ago, when she had decided to maintain her autonomy by insisting her seat at The Obsidian Palace, she had drawn from Mo Yuan the promise that he would never, ever spy on her after she gave him her Feather for safekeeping.

He had held his end of the deal.

She haughtily approached him, which in her studious son's form probably looked like Mei Shui had a crick in his neck. As soon as she was near, Mo Yuan grabbed her hand and pulled her tight against his body.

“Don't ever walk out on me like that again,” he demanded against her hair, his breath tickling the side of her ear. “We are far too old to misunderstand each other, Shao Wan. You… the children… all three of you are my family now. Is that clear?”

Shao Wan swallowed against the hard sensation in her throat. Damn Celestial, he knew just the right words to say when she needed to hear them.

She moved to kiss him but he covered her approaching lips with a hand and a steely gaze.

“Next time you try to assume another body, can you not use any of our children’s?”

Fair. Shao Wan unclasped her hands around Mo Yuan’s waist, letting her fingers graze a bit longer along the soft silk of his robe.

“Whose magick is this?” He asked, waving his hand in front of her. Shao Wan felt sharp, stinging sensations pierce her skin as Mo Yuan tried to remove the spell. “Blood magick. Dong Hua. I should have guessed.”

“You’re hurting me,” She countered Mo Yuan’s spell and moved across the foyer toward the center of the hall.

The central wall itself was a thing of beauty, with a relief of different creatures with dragons floating over them carved in gold. Shao Wan scoffed at the pure conceit of portraying some of the creatures crushed or dangling from the dragons’ talons.

Now in hindsight, she was glad that even during her years at Shuǐ Zhǎozé, she had never really been subservient to Fuxi. She had always thought that one accepting phoenix was one phoenix more than enough.

So much for the mythical love connection between these two animals, she thought followed by a hardly-repressed snort when she saw a dragon flying with its talons around the neck of a phoenix.

What had Fuxi told her all those years ago?

You cannot fully comprehend what I am saying, but I do know things you do not know… cannot know. I have looked at the stars. Should you dare to defy this, the consequences will be very dire. Let’s just say that it is a thing of lineage.

It was a strange thing that Fuxi’s had words never left her even after all these years. There were even times during her pregnancy and the course of time it had taken to raise their children that Fuxi’s words would come back every now and then to haunt her.

If what she now knew was real, this matter of lineage, then what did it mean especially for their children?

And if she had known who she was prior to meeting Mo Yuan, would she have given the feelings that had instantaneously blossomed between them more of a chance?

Yet it was too late now for would have beens. For ill or will, the Heavens had blessed her and Mo Yuan with two beautiful children— each as different from the other as autumn was from spring. Despite Fuxi’s meddling, they were now a family.

“Where are Fuxi’s memories stored?” she asked, flitting from one cabinet to another after they entered a room which contained Fuxi’s artifacts.

“I had a feeling that you came here for those,” Mo Yuan said from behind her, his voice calm and steady. Shao Wan glared at him. She was ransacking his Father’s tomb. Why couldn't he be angry now? Why did he have to be as composed as a carp on a chopping block?

Strange now that she recalled it but in most of her interactions with Fuxi, the Primordial God had never looked calm. Being a warrior, Shao Wan had trained herself to look out for tics from an opponent, and if her opponent didn't seem to have one, she would certainly make sure said opponent revealed one. The lack of a tic was the very thing that had frustrated her with Mo Yuan time and again when they were young but Fuxi—?

Fuxi never looked calm. It was there on the edge of his brow, that angle in his lips that hadn't gone along with his smile, the way one or more of his fingers would always jerkily crook on top of the table whenever she had talked to him.

Mo Yuan’s hand wrapped around hers just as she flung open another cupboard. “They are not here, Demon Kitten.”

“I told you never to call me that,” she admonished, shaking her hand off his grasp to no avail. The harder she shook, the tighter his grip became. With a sigh she gave up. “Don't call me that, especially not in public.”

“In public? But who’s here with us?”

Her eyes widened at Mo Yuan’s teasing tone. “Your Father for one!” she exclaimed, stabbing at the empty air.

Mo Yuan’s response was to only shake his head, a tiny smile drawn on his lips. He led her out of the room and into another one.

“If I had worried about my Father’s Spirit watching over me, I don't think we would have had Mei Shui and Mei Lin, do you agree?”

Just thinking of the Old Primordial God’s usually slitted gaze watching them as they made love made bumps rise on Shao Wan’s skin.

“Shao Wan, even if we get my Father’s memories, nobody knows how to unlock them. They were left here specifically for Primordial Gods to find in the event the Heavens found it fitting for one of them to return.”

Shao Wan already knew that but she also counted on the ingenuity of her friends and the Demon Tribes. There was always a solution to every problem, and she was fairly certain somebody somewhere knew how to unlock an Ancestor’s memory. She just had to persevere enough to find whoever that was.

“Fuxi’s memories,” she tugged back at Mo Yuan’s hand. “What do they look like?”

“Like string noodles and they have the quality of the finest spun silk, hence the name jìyì sī (記憶絲),” he answered matter-of-factly. “The story is that during the First Creation, the Primordial Gods had to devise a way to safely transfer their memories to their peers who had just come out of deep meditation but without transferring their powers. This was made a necessity after one God developed a lust for power and started killing to obtain other Gods’ powers. The Primordial God Shennong devised the technique of jìyì sī, and they have used it ever since.”

They entered a garden within the walls with what looked like an open gazebo. Inside was a pool filled with steadily-flowing spring water, where several lotus flowers were in full bloom. Shao Wan’s body buzzed with a low current when she stepped inside the structure, which was possibly from the seals and spells that surrounded the place that were confused by Dong Hua’s blood magick.

Which brought to mind the ludicrousness of Fuxi’s design. Secure his mausoleum’s perimeter by ensuring that only his blood descendants could enter? Pathetic. Or did he foolishly count on Mo Yuan never marrying?

On top of her thoughts, Shao Wan was so distracted by the blessed insects flying around the garden that she missed the majority of Mo Yuan’s summoning spell. She turned just in time to see a tiny chest materialize from the lotus flower pollen cloud which Mo Yuan took and tucked under his arm.

“That's it?” she asked, her eyes not leaving the ornately-carved chest.

“This is it,” nodded Mo Yuan and with his free hand, took hers as they walked back inside.

“Your Father really had a penchant for leaving valuable things inside lotus pools. Ye Hua, his memories…” she trailed off when she saw a small smile curve the lips of Mo Yuan’s face.

She liked that about him. She liked that in private, this usually stern man had shown her his softer sides so many times.

But she also knew him long enough to see that his eyes looked sad. This place… it was an unforgiving reminder of a Father who had forced him into monkhood instead of giving him the Celestial throne as was his by birthright. His Father who had done the damage of splitting the two of them apart, never mind that it also meant countless lives lost in meaningless wars. Fuxi was a Creator but he was also a Destroyer — a ruthless god. And if he did do something to their memories to wipe off everyone's recollection of her own Mother, then he was an evil god on top. For what else could you be when you would build yourself a mausoleum to ensure you wouldn't be forgotten knowing that you had taken away everybody’s memory of someone else?

“I dreamt of your Mother,” she said in a small voice as they stepped back inside the palatial structure.

He stopped, the smile gone. “You've never even met her—” he started to say but then he took a deep breath and closed his eyes. When they opened again, Shao Wan saw some of the sadness gone, replaced by a glimmer of hope. “What did she look like?”

“Beautiful. You look a bit like her although your eyes—” she shook her head and smiled. Mo Yuan was listening to her! He was giving her the same raptured look he always had on his face every time he read a compelling treatise. “But everything else was hers. She was tall and she had these bangles and long braids. I saw her dragon form too. She was huge, much bigger than your dragon form. And black. So black I couldn't tell if she had scales or not.”

“The texts have always described her as a Yellow Dragon like Father and I, but that was because none of us who could remember her could remember her dragon form. I was barely in my infant human form when she… died.” He gently pulled at her again and they resumed walking. “But my Father once told me that she was a black dragon although I never believed it was possible until I saw Ye Hua’s true form. Shao Wan, I have made up my mind to believe you because this dream you had — the heavens reveal wisdom at opportune times. There was no way you would have known these things if what you were dreaming of wasn’t real.”

Shao Wan felt as victorious as winning a physical fight upon hearing his words. She would have kissed him, if only it wasn’t the physical form of their son doing the kissing.

“And it also makes sense now that you were able to enter this place unhampered,” he somberly said as he stopped in front of a table and put the chest down. “I am able to enter because I am the custodian of this place. But you,” he looked at her with his usual fathomless expression, “just how old are you?”

“Are you calling me old?” the reaction as a woman was instantaneous and for a fleeting moment, Mo Yuan looked like he wanted to laugh but his expression recovered and he looked even more forlorn.

His gaze traveled from her to the wooden chest, his index finger tracing the golden filigree that formed part of the chest top’s dragon form’s tail.

“This place was designed to keep any of the Created out.”

And with a swoosh of his robes, Mo Yuan knelt and bowed at Shao Wan’s feet.

“Goddess, this Created One wasn’t worthy of your favor all these years.”

“Mo Yuan—”

“A great disservice has been done to your Person.”

“Mo Yuan, stand up.”

“On my life, I will seek to restore your Name.”

Shao Wan knelt on her knees and touched the back of Mo Yuan’s head, her eyes gathering tears as she finally realized that his Celestial topknotted hair was in braids. She had been too consumed with her own mission, she hadn't really seen him. Seen this.

“Look at me, Mo Yuan,” she commanded and felt a slight trill climb up her spine when he followed suit. “There are still pieces of the puzzle that I have to uncover but know that as much as I have never looked at you as somebody above me, so have I never looked at you as somebody beneath me. We are partners. Equals. I am better when I am with you.”

Together, supporting one another, they got back on their feet and embraced as soon as they were upright. With her palm rested on the braids of Mo Yuan’s hair, Shao Wan reprimanded herself for ever doubting him. It was a reaction forged out of habit, and something that she direly needed to change.

Her attention went back to the wooden chest. It was no use denying how her heart thundered with both fear and relief at the knowledge that the answer she was looking for was so near. Once she figured out how to convert jìyì sī to merge with her own memories, she would know her history. Finally.

With one hand holding hers, Mo Yuan summoned magick to remove the seals surrounding the chest. The lid snapped open, revealing miniature bottles that looked suspiciously—

“Shao Wan, don't!” Mo Yuan snatched her hand away before she could touch one of the bottles.

“I-I don't understand—” she mumbled, feeling tears of frustration gather in her eyes. Her gaze ran from the bottles to the ceiling before it landed on Mo Yuan’s stern face again.

All her efforts, wasted!

Mo Yuan snapped the lid shut with magick and tucked the chest back under the crook of his arm.

“I understand you might feel frustrated but, Shao Wan, we have a bigger problem at hand,” his voice was thick but it failed to hide the tremor in his softer tones. The hand he used to grab the chest now pressed gently but firmly on her shoulder. “Another Uncreated, possibly a Primordial God, is always a cause for alarm.” He held out his hand. “We need to bring this to Ye Hua, Zhe Yan and Dong Hua.”

Shao Wan choked against her own tears but placed her hand over his with a nod. As they walked out of the palace, she could hear the bottles faintly tinkle inside the chest every time Mo Yuan stepped his right foot forward. When they had done so earlier, they sounded like crystal bells ringing in their promise of clarity for her mind. But now?

Their emptiness rang like death bells, a harbinger of only ominous things to come.

Chapter 60