Fanfic: Mo Yuan and Shao Wan 2.0 - Chapter 43 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 43

written by kakashi
edited by LigayaCroft & Panda

It is fine even if you look a little disheveled, Ye Hua thought and threw his still slightly red-cheeked wife a look from the side, it’s not like he doesn’t know you and me have intimate relations - and in case he has forgotten, I don’t mind reminding him at all.

Hearing her Shifu had come had plunged his Qian Qian into a flurry of activity that had her wash, change her clothes two times and do her hair three times while Ye Hua stood quietly in the middle of the room, watching her scurry about with mounting consternation.

“Do you think I should come?” she had asked him, looking so nervous that Ye Hua began to wonder what was going on with her.

No, he wanted to say, I don’t want you to see him if this is how you react to him being announced - but “Of course you should, he’s your Shifu,” was what he said instead.

Normally, it was Ye Hua who had to slow his steps if he walked next to Qian Qian, but today, her feet set a rapid pace while her hands fussed with her hair and her outfit.

His brother waited for them in Ye Hua’s study, his hands clasped behind his straight back as he studied some books on the shelves.

“Da-Ge!” Ye Hua exclaimed and bowed, suddenly only glad to see his brother alive and well - he had been more worried than he had realized by his absence. His anger from earlier today had dissipated during the extremely enjoyable activity with his wife and he even felt a little ashamed for harboring dark thoughts of capital punishment and war against the Demons. And… for being jealous. Still, after everything, he felt jealous when he saw his wife’s reaction to hearing his name. It was ridiculous, wasn’t it?

“Shifu!” Bai Qian followed suit and bowed deeply.

Mo Yuan turned around. For a moment, it was like looking at a stranger: The cut of his robe was unfamiliar and the headpiece was as plain as a commoner’s. His face was unsmiling, pale and quite haggard - and his eyes only glanced at them very briefly, almost as if they were mere acquaintances with no meaning to him.

“I hear you have been looking for me, Ye Hua,” he said in a low voice.

“Indeed. Take a seat,” Ye Hua said, feeling something like a jittery bug begin flitting around in his stomach, and pointed to one of the low tables, “please.”

“Shifu, how is your health?” Qian Qian asked anxiously as they lowered themselves and Ye Hua called for refreshments, her face portraying worry.

“I am fine,” came the curt answer, accompanied by the trace of a smile in her direction, but it was clearly a lie. Da-Ge looked worn and tired, like a man who had just returned from the battlefield.

“And what of the Demon Ancestor!” Bai Qian continued, bending forward a little. For a moment, it looked like she wanted to grasp her Shifu’s hand, but she balled hers into fists and moved them underneath the table instead.

“She is safe,” Mo Yuan said and looked away.

Ye Hua wondered briefly whether he had left her in the mortal realm. But that was not a good idea, as he knew all too well, since years raced by in the blink of an eye - and since the Demon Ancestor was pregnant, his brother would hardly leave her alone for a longer period.

“I have come to ask the Lord of Numinous Treasures whether he will grant me a stay in his Hot Springs,” Mo Yuan said. “I hope his family does not still bear me a grudge for breaking the marriage engagement with one of their daughters.”

“That was hardly your fault, Da-Ge,” Ye Hua said, surprised.

“It is a matter of perspective,” Mo Yuan replied, “people who want to bear a grudge will bear a grudge even if there is little reason to.”

Little reason? Was his brother implying what he thought he was? Ye Hua frowned.

“Should I call for Zhe Yan?” Bai Qian asked, “he said he was going to come visit me soon anyway.”

“No need,” Mo Yuan said with a shake of his head.

Cookies in the shape of flowers were served with fragrant green tea and a strange, heavy silence descended upon them as they sipped it from the elegant teacups. Why had Mo Yuan even come if he did not want to talk? Ye Hua wondered. He had heard some things about what had transpired in the Demon Realm of course, but since it was only information gathered from unwilling turtle clan members and a very cautious Bai Qian, he was anxious to hear the details from his own brother - who must know this.

Ye Hua felt his heart stir again as he looked as his brother. He was very dear to him. He had done so much for him, had given him cultivation for millennia until his soul had been able to take shape within his mother’s belly and he would forever be grateful for this. And yet, sometimes Ye Hua felt like they were worlds apart. This tendency of this High God in front of him to stubbornly shut out everybody at certain times, it had caused them a lot of grief in the past. Of course, Mo Yuan had to be wary of him right now - but did he really think his own brother so unreasonable, he did not even want to share what had happened to him?

“Da-Ge,” he began cautiously, “I was very worried about you when no word came.”

Mo Yuan acknowledged this sentiment with a brief nod. “Thank you,” he said coldly. “I am grateful you understood I did not want you to interfere in this matter.”

Slightly taken aback, Ye Hua pressed his lips together. Yes, Mo Yuan had made sure Donghua, Lian Song and Zhe Yan were here to keep him from going to the Demon Realm. He had understood he was not wanted there.

“Your Ascension Trial will happen soon,” Mo Yuan added gravely. “You must take extra care.”

It sounded ominous. Of course, Ye Hua knew better than to take his trial lightly. He had been graced by much fortune in his relatively short life, which could only mean a very hard sort of trial. He thought he was ready - or as ready as one could be.

“I will be back in no time,” Ye Hua said, making his tone sound light, watching his wife fidget on her knees out of the corner of his eye. She was worried too, of course.

They drank some more tea. Bai Qian looked increasingly unhappy, her eyes darted from him to Mo Yuan. Where they stayed. Ye Hua pressed his lips together. She was trying to catch his brother’s attention, but he refused to see it. There was something they both knew and he, her husband, did not. On top of knowing what had happened in the Demon Realm, Ye Hua also wanted to understand why his wife looked at her Shifu in ways Ye Hua had not seen before. He did not like it at all. And why did she think protecting a Demon woman was more important than telling her husband the truth?

“Will you inspect our troops while I’m gone?” it burst out of him.

Mo Yuan’s eyebrows moved a fraction closer to each other. “I am still the Demon Ambassador, Ye Hua.”

“You are no longer needed in that role,” Ye Hua said quite daringly. “I need you as Supreme Commander of the Heavenly Forces. We have to make sure our armies are in shape. We...”

“I refuse,” Mo Yuan interrupted him coldly. “I will remain Demon Ambassador instead. I am very much needed.”

Ye Hua felt stunned. He caught himself staring at his mirror image, whose face looked disapproving and stern, his tea cup hanging somewhere in mid-air until he carefully set it down, trying to control the slight shaking of his hands. Not even Tianjun dared to openly confront the God of War, as had been obvious when his emotionless brother had scandalized everybody after the last War with his short hair and blunt insults without further consequences.

Ye Hua was certainly smart enough to know there was no way he could ever win an argument against his twin brother. But that didn’t stop him from foolishly charging ahead, straight into one.

“She overstepped a line, Da-Ge,” he said flatly, “you know this. You also know I cannot pretend it did not happen. We have laws and I have to make sure they are followed.”

“If you think I have come to ask you to pretend it did not happen, you are much mistaken,” Mo Yuan answered, setting down his tea cup as well. It was done with a little more force than necessary and the unpleasant sound of the ceramic hitting the saucer just short of breaking it made Ye Hua flinch.

“What will happen in the Demon Realm now that the Demon Ancestor has returned?” Bai Qian’s voice broke the tension.

Mo Yuan turned his eyes on her. “She will take back her throne,” he said, his tone softening.

“But Yi Mei Niang was appointed as Overlord by you after the War!” Ye Hua bristled, “we must protect her!”

“These are Demon internal matters,” Mo Yuan gave back, “it has nothing to do with us.”

“She’ll be in danger,” Bai Qian said wide eyed, “you cannot just stay away!”

“Qian Qian,” Ye Hua chided her.

“With all due respect, Shifu,” she continued undeterred, “she cannot get into any of those power quarrels Demons are so fond of in her current condition!”

Mo Yuan’s eyes snapped to her face. Had he thought it would stay a secret? Only a fool wouldn’t use the Demon Ancestor’s condition as bargaining item to make sure she would not receive a death penalty. Of course, killing a woman who carried his brother’s children was itself against the law. He was Father Immortal’s son. His bloodline was the most prestigious in all the Realms.

Finding his throat constricted all of a sudden, Ye Hua remembered Bai Qian as Susu, mistreated despite her pregnancy, left alive only because she was carrying the Crown Prince’s heir.

“I must admit I heard the rumors too, Da-Ge,” Ye Hua said quickly, to shake these heavy memories, “is this true?” He thought about adding some friendly words to express his good wishes, but found himself unable to.

“Shao Wan gave her life for the Realms,” Mo Yuan said instead of an answer, “at a very high price for herself. I know we have laws and I know they need to be upheld. If you need to punish somebody for her actions, punish me. I am to blame for her predicament in the first place.”

It was almost like reliving a moment that had happened before. Of course, Ye Hua should have seen this coming - why was he even surprised. After all, Ye Hua had done the exact same thing for his Susu back then.

“No, Shifu!” Bai Qian exclaimed in shock. “I do not want to see you suffer again. You took a lightning torment not too long ago! You shouldn’t have to go through this again so soon.”

“I was punished for using forbidden magic,” Mo Yuan nodded, ”it seems fitting.”

“I will argue for a reduced sentence,” Ye Hua said, almost feeling like laughing at his own clumsiness in this conversation, “Da-Ge, Qian Qian is right. The body - and even worse, the soul - can only take so much punishment.”

Mo Yuan narrowed his eyes. “I do not know whether using the Crown Princess as a temporary home or using ancient magic of a dubious tribe weighs as the heavier crime in Celestial eyes: But I trust you and your Father, the first prince Yang Cuo, know what is proper. 5000 strikes it was the last time.”

He got up abruptly. “I am taking my leave now,” he said, “no need to see me out. I will be staying in Yinguang Palace, awaiting your decision.”

“What?” Bai Qian said, “no, Shifu! Stay with us, there is plenty of space, there are several guest wings and…”

“I have business there,” came the curt answer. “Goodbye.”

“Why did you push him so!” Bai Qian said quite vexed as soon as Mo Yuan’s straight figure had disappeared out the door. “Ye Hua, I cannot believe you would aggravate your elder brother like this!”

“But I didn’t!” Ye Hua bristled, “he came well-prepared and got exactly what he was betting on. He very clearly maneuvered me into having to agree to this!”

“Yes of course you have to agree to this,” Bai Qian yelled, “the Demon Ancestor is really unwell and is carrying twins. You cannot touch her!”

“You all keep pretending she did nothing bad!” Ye Hua yelled back, “but she did something abominable!”

“But I. Don’t. Mind!” Bai Qian slammed her fist on the table for emphasis. “It is MY body she used, not YOURS. Had she asked, I would have said yes... and they even did kind of ask, but I could not give a final answer because it all happened too fast. She was dying when it happened, do you understand? Her body was decaying right in front of my eyes, her soul would have scattered!”

It sounded so simple. But it never was.

“The risk, Qian Qian,” Ye Hua whispered, his heart aching, “do you even know how dangerous the housing of multiple souls is?”

And did she know… did she know that she might never be able to rid herself of this other woman’s lingering essence, those tiny particles that had attached themselves to the soul of their host?

“I did it for them,” Bai Qian said angrily, “for my Shifu and for the woman he loves. I regret nothing. Where does all that anger you carry come from? You made everything so much worse than it was!”

That stung. Ye Hua glared at his beautiful wife, the woman he loved so much his heart jumped whenever he saw her. Anger? Yes, he was full of anger. His sentiment was dark and violent.

“I hate the Demons,” he pressed out.

“You don’t even know them,” Bai Qian gave back, “and you should try harder to love all the tribes equally if you want to be a good Heavenly Emperor living in a peaceful era.”

Ye Hua didn’t want to hear her, maybe because he knew how unreasonable he was. And there was this other question, the question he had wanted to ask for a long time, but had not wanted to hear the answer to until now.

“What was it like when she was in your body,” he said sullenly.

Bai Qian became quite still, gazing at him with soft eyes.

“What you are really asking me is something else,” she then said with a sigh and moved a little closer so that she could reach his cheek with her hand. “Oh, Ye Hua.”

She caressed the side of his face, her beautiful eyes taking on a wet sheen. “I cannot prove my love for you more, my love. If you keep having doubts despite all of it, I can only be very sad.”

Would you have loved him like you love me? a bitter thought shot into Ye Hua’s head, I think you would have. If I had not met you, you would have.

“If you are thinking of woulds and ifs, Ye Hua, let me tell you this,” Bai Qian whispered, accurately guessing why he remained silent. “Woulds and ifs do not count. What counts is this. This,” she pointed at his heart and then at hers, “and this. I am your wife.”

But did you desire him? Did you forget whom you belong to? Were you ever confused?

Ye Hua remembered her telling him that to her, the twin brothers showed very clear differences in their eyes. She had claimed she had never been confused about their identities, but to see the eyes, there had to be light.

“Ye Hua, I was in her dreams.”

“Excuse me?”

“A part of me must be with her,” Bai Qian explained, frowning a little. “so I… it must have been her dreamscapes, I cannot explain it any other way. Very vivid dreams that did not seem like mine.”

“Why… why are you telling me this? What dreams? When?”

“Not too long ago. Your Da-Ge was there too. As were you, sometimes.”

She paused, as if she were a little unsure whether and how to continue.

“What… did we do?”

“You were my husband there, Ye Hua,” Bai Qian continued, “always. Very clearly, Shao Wan knows this and honors this.”

“And my brother?”

Bai Qian looked thoughtful. “Sometimes, he was there, sometimes, he wasn’t. When he was, he was never the same though. He was always in different forms.”

“I don’t know what this means,” Ye Hua said stubbornly, “we Celestials are not well-versed in dream magic.”

“I will ask Zhe Yan,” Bai Qian nodded, “he might know. But I think… I think Shifu dreamwalked. It wasn’t like he belonged in these dreams. They were sometimes a bit… violent against him.”

“What?” Unfathomable!

“I think your brother meant to help her this way,” Bai Qian quickly added, “it’s the only explanation. He must have known of the dangers.”

What a foolish move! Ye Hua exhaled angrily. “What else will he do,” he grumbled, “what else do you think he’s planning to do that goes against Celestial law and propriety?”

“Ye Hua, what it means is that your brother has chosen this Demon Woman as his true love. He will die for her. Is this not enough to soften your heart and dispel all doubts?”

It should. His head should be able to tell his foolish heart to stop doubting. Choice. It was indeed what mattered. Choice. It was easy to look to Fate and forget that did not affect the choices one could make. Bai Qian had chosen him. Mo Yuan had chosen the Demon Ancestor. It was very silly of him to think his brother would take advantage of his former disciple in any way. Mo Yuan was not that kind of man.

“Yes, Qian Qian,” he said quietly, lifting his own hand to caress her cheek in turn. “Of course it is. I do not know how I could let this flaw in my character fester so much.”

“Flaw?” she laughed. “There is no flaw. You are my perfect husband. Jealousy is natural, but please, do not let it come between us.”

“So…,” Ye Hua felt a smile tug at the corner of his mouth, “I am thinking that somebody who is used to… you know, those Demon ways finds women from other tribes very boring?”

“Ye Hua!” Bai Qian’s face turned deeply red. “Guard your tongue!”

Ye Hua sighed. “My tongue will have to go into council with Tianjun and my father now. I will inform them of the God of War’s intent to receive the Demon Ancestor’s punishment. Qian Qian, I promise, I will argue for a very light sentence.”

“Yes, you better do!” she replied, “he will need all his strength for what’s to come.”

What’s to come?

“The Demon Realm will go up in flames without him,” he nodded. “Demon Ambassador. Yes, indeed, we need him in this role very much.”

Chapter 44