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

Chapter 4 - A Spiky Hairpin

Part 2

written by LalaLoop
consulting by Bunny
editing by kakashi


“That’s -- the meditation room,” said Bai Qian, narrowing her eyes at the entrance they were standing in front of.

“Yes,” Moyuan replied, unsealing the door with a quick spell.

“Why can’t we talk in your study?” she asked, still feeling quite spiteful.

Moyuan turned and looked at her, his voice firm yet with a trace of helplessness. “I do not wish to be interrupted.”

They stepped through the door. With a flick of his wrist, every candle was lit, filling the room with their warmth.

It had been ages since she’d last visited this room. During the years of her apprenticeship, only disciples with Moyuan’s permission were allowed to enter the meditation room. The last time Bai Qian had been in here, she and her Sixteenth Senior had caused some chaos in the mortal world and broken a few dozen rules; both had been scared out of their wits as they had stood on this very floor, waiting for Moyuan to tell them to pack up and go back to where they came from. No such thing had happened, but their Master’s expression on that occasion, which lived in her memory as fresh as yesterday, had given them reasons to believe it would. During the 70,000 years of his absence, she had never cared to step in here. Her Senior Changshan was the only one to have walked in occasionally.

It was a large, tall circular room, lined with high wooden shelves with scrolls, pens, and many other items on top. A candle holder stood between every two shelves. In the middle was a round platform that no doubt served as a dais.

“I’m sorry about this,” Moyuan said. He raised a hand and gave a gentle wave at her drenched clothes. At once, her robes felt warm and dry, even more so than before she’d fallen into water. Her hair too was no longer soaked.

Bai Qian looked around uncomfortably. Where was she supposed to sit? Surely not… she glanced at the round platform. But that seemed to be the only option here - there was no low table or cushion anywhere on the ground. In her last attempt to find an alternative to the meditation dais, the sight of something familiar caught her eyes - on a high shelf was a wooden box, the poorly crafted wooden box she had seen once in Moyuan’s study.

Brushing his robe aside, Moyuan sat down at the edge of the platform. Directing one last look at the box, Bai Qian turned away, settled down and gathered herself onto the platform’s surface next to him, legs folded on one side. Their eyes met briefly and Bai Qian felt color rising to her cheeks. Being in this room, where Moyuan was usually - possibly always - alone set her heart aflutter. So much that she almost forgot she was angry, or why they had come back to Kunlun in the first place. Then, realizing that perhaps she was sitting too close to him for a conversation that was, judging by his expression, probably about something truly significant, she moved back a little.

“I don’t believe we should conceal the truth from you anymore,” his began with a heavy sigh, his voice reflecting the obvious wish that this conversation could be delayed. “It is only a matter of time until Luoji fully regains his soul, only a matter of time until we all have to face him.”

The piece of news took her by surprise, but not by much because it was just the very thing she had been wanting to talk about. Though she honestly had not expected to hear that what they all feared was already happening. Bai Qian quickly put aside her mutinous thoughts that had been brought about by Moyuan’s infuriating utterances in the study, and went over all the questions she had concerning this Dark immortal in her head.

“If nothing useful,” he continued, “my last trip to several realms has confirmed that he is out there, calling his followers and preparing for war against the Nine Heavens.”

“Is he the one who stabbed my father during the last Demon war?” she asked.

Moyuan nodded. “Yes, he is.”

Then he was also the one that almost defeated some of the most powerful gods of the realms, she thought with a shiver.

“We have tried all means to track his whereabouts and prevent his followers from providing him aid, but all the effort has been fruitless.”

“Does the Nine Heavens know now? Is that old.. I mean.. the Skylord, is he still denying that we need to start taking security seriously?”

“Lord Donghua will take care to let the Skylord and Yehua know what they must do. As for the rest of the clans, it will be hard to convince them to put up guard against someone they have not even seen in person, but the Nine Heavens will certainly try and alert as many tribes as they can.”

“The last time we talked about this --” she moved closer -- “you told me this immortal was able to overpower most of you. Even Lord Donghua was heavily injured.”

“That is true.”

“Who is this man?” Bai Qian grimaced, still unable to believe that such a powerful being could exist. “What clan is he from? What makes him so powerful? Is he -- is he older than you and high gods of your rank?”

“I know you have more questions than that,” said Moyuan placidly. “And I will tell you everything, of course. Knowing Luoji is essential if we are to defeat him. But I’m afraid the complete story will have to wait as it will claim a lot of time. To your last question, yes, Luoji ascended to high god rank long before any of us did. He was an exceptionally skilled fighter and the truth is, I am not sure if any of us can take him on personally.”

“You’re not sure?” Bai Qian repeated breathlessly, the idea of someone more skillful than the God of War in combat was more unnerving to her than being trapped inside a Demon lair. “Is this the truth or are you just being modest, Shifu?”

Moyuan chuckled at her remark. “Like the rest of us, Luoji has his weaknesses in both character and skill. But no, I am not just being modest, this immortal is not to be underestimated and neither are his followers.”

Bai Qian thought back to what Pojing had told her about the Demon Queen. Contemplating her words, she said.

“What about the Demon clan? Are they with him?”

“Given most of their leaders oppose the Nine Heavens by nature, I would not be surprised if they are being persuaded into endorsing his doctrine, even if the Demon Steward appeared to take a neutral stand.”

“Zhongyin? I…” Bai Qian stopped herself from saying the rest of the sentence. As eager as she was to let Moyuan know that she had duelled the leader of the Demon tribe and won, she was not so keen on telling him the whole story. For a moment, she considered asking him about the Demon Queen’s history with Luoji instead.

“What about Zhongyin?” Moyuan said.

“He was the brother of the late Demon Overlord.”

He nodded, waiting for her to go on. But when Bai Qian found she simply could not bring herself to ask more questions as the memory of their last talk flooded her mind, she changed the subject again.

“You said last time that this -- Luoji wanted the Celestial throne. And if he is back, that’s the first thing he’ll try to take.”

“Yes.”

“Then Yehua --”

“Yehua and the people who are close to him are in the most danger, yes. I surmise that Luoji has already been made aware of Yehua’s capabilities and marked him as one of his targets,” his head shook hopelessly. “A Crown Prince who ascended to High Immortal at the age of 20,000 and slayed the four Beasts of Yingzhou on his own, that would have demanded Luoji’s attention even if Yehua had nothing to do with the throne.”

Bai Qian swallowed - how long did they have to prepare themselves for a clash with this immortal?

“No, nothing will happen tomorrow,” said Moyuan in response to the look on her face, “and if our speculation is correct, Luoji is far too weak to make a public appearance anywhere or cause any incident. But we can’t deny that all of us have been unsuccessful in thwarting him or his followers so far in their cause.”

There was a short silence.

“We must deal with him when the time comes.”

Moyuan fell quiet and gazed into the distance. The distress on his face was kept minimal but she could see it clearly hovering over his brows. That alone convinced her that their enemy this time was far more dangerous than Ghost Lord Qingcang.

Bai Qian took a deep breath - perhaps this was also what Fengjiu had learnt from Lord Donghua. No wonder the little Fox had looked like someone had made her read a trunk full of military reports overnight.

Luoji… Bai Qian silently admitted she was not as frightened as she should be for this was someone she’d never seen in her life. His name, his abilities, they all sounded distant to her. This was the man who had made the God of War sacrifice one friend for another, her stomach clenched; that was, indeed, something worth being terrified of. But even with Moyuan, she was still somewhat unable to fathom how powerful he really was, let alone someone who could be better than him. It was beyond her ability to imagine.

“What happened here?” asked Moyuan suddenly, his thumb brushing across her cheekbone where the deepest cut was. His softened voice and eyes pulled her out of the pool of thoughts, reminding her of the fact that they were alone in the meditation room with no desk in between.

“I was… er… sparring.”

“What weapon left this mark, a sword?”

“Possibly,” she mumbled. “It was… an accident.”

“Looks like it only missed your eye by half an inch.”

Bai Qian smiled nervously. Before she could say anything else Moyuan had caught sight of her injured hand and took it in his own.

“Those too,” she said quickly.

“From sparring?”

She nodded. Moyuan took her sleeve by the hem and rolled it up.

“Did your opponent also use a whip?” he chuckled.

“Well… yes.”

“Do these marks still need tending to?”

“No, I -- they’re fine. Pojing used a healing spell to make them hurt less when he saw them. They don’t bother me anymore.”

“I see,” he unrolled her sleeve. “That’s very kind of him.”

At the mention of Pojing and ‘sparring’, however, Bai Qian was forced to recall her time in the Crafters’ forest. Knowing that no one was around to ambush her with questions now and that Moyuan was the last person in the world who would be invasive, she freely let out a long sigh. Even now Bai Qian still could not believe she had come that close to Ironfeather only to lose it over a test of principle. She sniffled, a part in her still felt bitter at the the indignation even though she knew the only person to be blamed was herself.

“Don’t take to heart what I said,” spoke Moyuan suddenly.

“What…” Bai Qian looked back at him, rather bemused. “What do you mean…” but she paused, finally realizing his meaning.

“In the study,” he said.

“Which of the things you said, exactly?”

“I trust you know me well enough to decide which of those things I did not mean.”

“You’ve overestimated me then. I think it takes a Lord Donghua to figure out what you mean most of the time.”

“Is that mockery?”

“No,” she shook her head casually. “Yehua thinks so too.”

“Does he?” his forehead wrinkled. “What else does Yehua think?”

“Oh... I don’t know,” Bai Qian said absently. “But I know that we happen to agree a lot.” She rested the sides of her hands on his knee. The familiar scent on his collar still lingered about even after all that diving in the lake of Qingqiu.

“Am I to understand that you enjoy Yehua’s company a great deal?” he asked.

“More than I thought possible.”

“What do you mean?”

“It was a sense of duty that urged me to spend time with him at first when my family made the arrangement. But I’m glad to admit we actually became friends before anything else. He values my opinion and I value his.”

“A sense of duty,” Moyuan drew a bit closer to her. His whispering voice seemed to warm up the air around them. “Does it frequently affect what you do?”

“Only as frequently as it should.”

“When you said ‘the Mistress of Kunlun’ and implied that only she who carries that title has the right to care about what I do, did it also come from a sense of duty? A need to say what’s proper and remind me how things should be done?”

Bai Qian blinked, feeling the color on her face deepen. She certainly was not going to confess to anything tonight. Not that she hadn’t already done it with her little outburst in his study. Though she was finding it hard to focus for their faces were merely a few inches apart now. Things other than questions about his twin were claiming her thoughts. The flecks of candlelight reflected in his eyes, for instance.

“Of course,” she said. “It was nothing personal.”

“Nothing personal,” he repeated with a raise of his brows.

“Are you trying to accuse me of nominating myself for the position? Is that what you think I did?”

“No, I can’t say there’s enough evidence for such accusation.”

“Right, there isn’t.”

The corner of his mouth slightly lifted into a rather helpless smile. A look that contained something between an apology and anticipation appeared on his face. However, Bai Qian could not decide why it seemed like the former was taking dominance. In his eyes were reluctance, and... guilt. His hand slowly reached to her face again, his thumb caressing her cheek. Why did it look like he was fighting a battle within? What was he struggling against?

She reached up to his shoulder but he quickly caught her hand. His expression changed significantly and his grip was so tight that for a second, Bai Qian thought it was a rejection of some sort. Blushing under his gaze yet she stared back defiantly. There was no reason for her to move an inch from his side unless Luoji was standing outside of Kunlun right now; and she knew even he could not be that fast.

Moyuan’s fingers on her hand eventually slackened. Like a habit, her head jerked back a fraction just as he leaned closer. A breeze of a touch brushed against her upper lip. It was very much like everything about him - unhasty and decidedly gentle, yet it sent ripples of warmth spiraling down her spine, stirring in her a fierce longing she never knew she had - something she was almost afraid to feel.

Perhaps the Eldest of the Crafters had never needed magic to know she had lied. Because she had never been able to hide how much the mere mention of Moyuan’s name affected her.

“What are you thinking?” he whispered when their eyes met again. Never before had the sound of his voice sounded so spellbinding to her.

“I’m not.”

Whether he believed her lie, she was not sure. But that did not matter; his lips were once against firmly against hers and the little lie soon fulfilled itself. Her thoughts were obliterated, her confusion, if ever existed, vanquished. Her hand took the liberty of hanging on to his wrist. There was no confusion or hesitation in her now, only an eagerness to go on, a desire to be, if possible, closer.

Still, his reluctance was in the way, she could sense it from the cautiousness of his fingers on the side of her neck, the unsaid insistence to remain as they were now. Why? Was he hesitating or simply in control as he usually was with all things?

But Bai Qian suddenly realized that this question required no answer. Within the stillness of the meditation room, the stillness their attachment had created, almost every movement was detectable, and the most conspicuous movement was right beneath her fingers on his wrist - the quickening of his pulse was apparent against her fingertips, belying whatever composure he displayed.

Taking a swift breath, she pressed forward while her hand flew to his chest, fingers digging into his lapel. And soon he forfeited. She felt his body loosen and his other arm encircle her waist. As he clasped her closer her head was bent back. Momentarily afterward, the wall he seemed to have put up all along crumbled. Whatever resistance on her part fled her body within a second. The pressure on her lips deepened. His equanimity became ardency; and the remaining distance between them vanished, so completely she could feel the rhythm of his heart elevating. His heart…she thought as a wave of rapture rose to her chest, his and her own the same. An uncontrollable giddiness started to uproot her, making her head spin and shattering the last of her thoughts, a sensation too strong she feared she might lose herself in it. Yet she wanted nothing more than to keep walking straight ahead.

His hand slid down from her neck, slightly pushing on her shoulder. She felt herself being lowered down but then the movement came to a gradual stop as one of his arms wrapped around her shoulders, slowly guiding her back up.

And gentle everything became once again. Fluttering her eyes open, she loosened the grip on his lapel as they broke apart, dropping her head and nestling closer to his chest.

When her pounding heart had silenced and the tingling sensation in her hands had ceased, Bai Qian glanced up at him. She had no wish for it to end, but a small part of her did not entirely oppose to the idea of stopping - she was starting to forget about the time, place, and their important conversation about a Dark immortal who was probably camping out there somewhere, plotting to kill them all. One second longer and she might just never want to leave this room.

She sat very still in Moyuan’s arms for a while, savoring the calmness only his presence could bring, the calmness that instilled peace to her soul like nothing else did, and waited for rational thoughts to return to her, recollecting their talk a few minute ago.

“Shifu,” she said finally, moving away. “You once said your decision to become a protector of the realms was a choice.”

“Yes, I did.”

She nodded and continued in an earnest tone because she needed him to take seriously what she was about to say.

“If there is to be a war, I don’t want to be a nuisance. I want to do my part like everyone else and not be tucked away somewhere safe. And I believe I’m more than capable of standing alongside my friends. Let me be free to make that choice like you were allowed to do.”

“If you are asking me to stop being a protector to you,” he said slowly, “my answer is no.”

She frowned.

“But I will not, of course, attempt to stop you from exercising your distinguished ingenuity and play your part should there be a war, because then what kind of strategist would I be?”

“I was being serious, Shifu,” Bai Qian said stiffly, eyes narrowing at him.

“So was I,” he assured. “Whether to engage yourself when the time comes is your choice to make.”

Though still sensing an amount of reluctance in his answer, Bai Qian was all satisfactory with his sort of promise. She beamed with gladness and said nothing else. With a chuckle, Moyuan took her face in his hands and rested his forehead upon hers.

“I admire this ability of yours to always keep your eyes on what matters. Never lose it. One day, a lot may depend on it.”