Fanfiction3: A-Li's Three Lives, Three Worlds - Chapter 63 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 63

written by LigayaCroft
edited by kakashi & Panda

“Is this news verified?” A-Li crushed the tiny slip of paper he had just read and let it catch flame from the wick of the small candle placed in the middle of his table to ward off flies.

The man who sat in front of him, an immortal guised as a trader of nondescript facial features and short stature, visibly trembled but nodded.

“Bai Gun Gun has been in Nanking several times and has been spotted meeting with several questionable characters. It is better not to trust him, Wángyé.”

A-Li couldn't stop his fist from pounding on the table. Gun Gun. What have you done?, he wanted to shout, if only his nephew— his brother!— was there to be shouted at.

“I will also caution you to be careful. Celestial immortals roaming the mortal realms have been disappearing without a trace again. The news would have reached Bixià by now since several High Immortals have been reported missing as well.”

A-Li heard the news but he was still preoccupied with mulling over Gun Gun’s life choices as of late. Sleeping with Mei Lin and then this… did the man have a death wish?

“In other news, Wángyé, Bixià is looking for you.”

“Aren't they all?” he muttered under his breath, still wondering what to do with his nephew. His dark thoughts were momentarily distracted when he saw movement at the entrance. “Leave,” he commanded the man as soon as he saw Huo Zheng enter the small tea shop, her lovely neck craned to look for him.

Without looking back at his companion, A-Li stood up and waved at her, and was rewarded with a wave back.

He weaved through tables until they were face to face. Huo Zheng was dressed like a gentleman scholar but she still looked more beautiful than the most elegantly dressed woman inside the tea shop. He liked that despite her costume, she immediately held on to his hand and interlinked her fingers with his.

“I’m done with meeting Nǎinai’s friend. Are you done with yours? Where did that man go?”

“He’s gone ahead. He's a busy man.”

They stepped back out to the afternoon sunshine, once again meeting the foot traffic of one of Nanking’s busiest streets.

They had arrived early that morning to meet with traders and to run errands related to their upcoming wedding, such as buying cloths and incense. On the way there, Huo Zheng had told him the story about the Huicūn’s benefactor, her own Lǎoshī, Zhū Ge. Until they had left for Chàngyìng several months back, she would visit him in Nanking at least once a month, either to learn or to receive further instructions on how to run the town. From her stories, A-Li didn't see him as a threat until Huo Zheng, in her usual way of dropping truth surprises, nonchalantly mentioned that she had seen her Lǎoshī around her past lives several times in her visions during the Cǎibǔ.

“I am fairly certain he’s an immortal. You have to see him so we can be sure, A-Li. We need to know who he is, and maybe he knows who I am too.”

“If I see him, he will see me too,” he cautioned. “And if he’s merely somebody who possessed the same face, what will you tell him then?”

“That you're my future husband and I would like him to wish us well.”

A-Li still felt uneasy because either scenario was not ideal. But he kept his doubts to himself, his support for Huo Zheng’s desire to uncover her past paramount despite the risks it posed.

He and Huo Zheng walked hand-in-hand until they reached a quiet street parallel to the river and stopped in front of an ordinary gate.

“Zhū Lǎoshī only has one attendant so we can come in without announcing ourselves,” she informed him as she pushed the gate open and entered a bare courtyard. “His servant may look imposing and even though I feel angered every time I see him, I feel it is undeserved because he’s nothing but a simple person.”

“Simple?” he repeated, his eyes roaming around the courtyard, trying to make sense how an entire town’s benefactor could live in such shabby accommodations.

Simple. He has the mental capacity of a seven year old,” she whispered as she knelt before the stairs leading to the main house and pulled at his robes for him to follow suit.

He had barely knelt when a hulk of a man stepped out, his footsteps heavy on the wood. He was a head taller than A-Li, wore a sleeveless tunic that showed off his ripped arms, and his red hair was tied into a thick bun on top of his head. For a moment, A-Li saw the man look at him with wariness in his eyes before the man shook his head, and in a move that surely hurt, hit the flat of his palm to the side of his temple before turning to face Huo Zheng again.

“My lady, Shifu is not here.”

“Oh?” Huo Zheng scrambled to her feet and A-Li did the same. “Mister, do you know when Zhū Lǎoshī will be back?”

“No. No. Pet does not know.”

“Did he leave anything behind for me?”

“No, Pet did not receive anything.”

Huo Zheng looked around the area then at A-Li, her brows rising then falling. A-Li understood the relayed silent message and scanned the place. No anomalies, no remnants of magick, nothing out of place— so he shook his head.

Although there was something strange with the man who stood in front of them, the man who called himself a Pet. He felt familiar. Similar. Like A-Li had seen him before, but where? With that shocking amount of red hair, this man was impossible to miss and hard to forget.

“Master has told me not to eat. Oh! But I am hungry. What do I do?” The man started muttering to himself while biting at his fingers. “What do I do?”

“What’s happening to him?” He asked Huo Zheng, finding the man’s violence toward his own body disconcerting.

Huo Zheng shook her head but her face had turned ashen.

Blazing eyes turned toward them followed by a command.

“You have to go. You have to go or Master will be mad at me.”

It was then that A-Li saw another vision, and it had been a while since he had had one. What did it even mean?, but he had no time to mull over the details. He grabbed Huo Zheng’s hand and headed for the gates, and just because he didn't feel safe enough, he grabbed her along with their satchels and cloudjumped to well outside the outskirts of Nanking.

She pushed against him as soon as their feet hit the ground. “What was that all about?”

A-Li looked down on the ground, wishing he could mince his words. That, or erase the maddening visions of blood and gore that had flooded his brain.

Her gutted body in the dark.

Eyes forever closed

Her hand tipped his chin up. “A-Li? What did you see?”

His sight roamed her face, taking in the sheen of her eyes, the rosy flush of her cheeks, the red tinge of her lips.

No, that vision was not her.

It was Xue Jiaolong.

It had to be.

He gathered Huo Zheng into his arms. He found comfort in the rise and fall of her breasts against his chest, and the tickling warmth of her breath against the side of his neck.

“For as long as I am alive, I swear nothing will happen to you, Xiăohŭ.”

“I believe you,” she murmured, her hand rubbing along his back, comforting him.

“Come to the immortal realms with me.”

“I thought we would settle that later?”

Later meant after Nǎinai was gone and Huicūn’s affairs were in order. A couple more mortal years, give or take.

“We could,” he whispered to her ear, hugging her tighter, hoping he wouldn't have to wait too long.

“There’s no need to hurry, right?” she asked, looking up to his face. “We have forever.”

He nodded, more for his benefit and comfort than hers.

“Do you feel better now?” She raised her hand to her brows to squint at the sky. “It’s going to get dark in a few hours.”

“Yes, we should go.” He handed over the satchels with lighter load and held her close by the waist. “Ready?”

In order to spare her the long journey, they had tied their horses and concealed the animals from mortal sight outside the borders of the Bailòng Glacier, right where A-Li felt his powers return. Then they had sword flown all the way to Nanking, saving themselves time. They would be traveling back the same way.

As they whizzed past clouds and land underfoot, A-Li’s thoughts ran along plans on how to keep Huo Zheng and the family they were about to have safe. There would be no way that with a mortal wife, he would be accepted back in the Celestial Realms. He wouldn't dare trouble his family by putting more political pressure on them by his mere presence either.

He could go into exile. And willingly. Qing Qiu was always an option. Or Zhe Yan’s Peach Grove that had captured Huo Zheng’s imagination so. His grandparents has always doted on him and would surely welcome him and Huo Zheng with open arms. While there, they could work on raising Huo Zheng’s cultivation so she could attain immortality while at the same time work on uncovering her immortal past. After all, there weren't that many gods who had been punished for destroying mortal worlds, right?

Qing Qiu was a solid plan. Feeling better, he held her closer as they flew by the last leg of their journey. He could spot Huicūn in the distance, and once again remembered his concerns about Gun Gun.

Through the years that they have been together, there was nobody he trusted with his life more than Gun Gun. The web they had weaved together over the years was convoluted, first out of a childish wish until it grew into something only the two of them understood. But for things to come to a head like this— could he still trust his nephew, his best friend, his brother?

With everything that was on the line, should he?

Chapter 64