Fanfic: Mo Yuan and Shao Wan 2.0 - Chapter 44 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 44

written by kakashi
edited by LigayaCroft & Panda

The temperature was always exactly right up in the Thirty Six Heavens - nobody ever sweated or felt chills. The light was never too bright, the colors always gentle and soothing to the eye, and the air, vibrating with a silent song of harmony, held the fragrance of flowers and sunbeams.

Mo Yuan slowed his steps to watch a chattering flock of rainbow birds fly towards the Winter Lotus Pond. And then, because he was already standing still, he watched some billowing pink clouds grow larger and larger until the gentle breeze carried them away towards the horizon for others to take their place.

The view made Mo Yuan miss Kunlun with sudden intensity. His Mountain, his home! He knew every crack and crevice in every stone, remembered every piece of moss, lichen and sturdy little flower. He remembered the faint shiver of the rock before the first snow. He knew the different songs of the wind who liked to tease and caress its old friend until it grumbled a warning. And most of all, he remembered the scent of peach blossoms in warm spring nights, when the dreamy soft light of the moon called for mournful zither songs.

He wanted to go back.

Only when he heard voices was Mo Yuan shaken out of his reminiscence. Two people were sauntering in his general direction, their heads together, embroiled in a heated argument.

“.... of course you are not be able to withstand her charms,” the female said, “methinks I will have to accompany you on your next trip to the Demon Realm to make sure we get a better deal.”

“My dear,” bristled the man, agitatedly shaking his fan in the air, “her charms work even better on women, you’ll be doomed! I will lose my deal and my lover and will have to return empty-handed to…. ah!” Lian Song had noticed Mo Yuan and quickly directed his steps in his direction. “High God Mo Yuan! I had heard from a palace guard that you are gracing the Heavens with your presence. I am glad we meet before you get reduced to a pile of ash, I would politely ask for your time to discuss a few things while you’re here.”

He sounded determined. All the while, his female companion had stepped closer too and stared at Mo Yuan with huge, round eyes, her cheeks taking on more color by the second. She was dressed like a male student in white with a top knot, but her curvy figure and feminine features made her true sex obvious at first glance.

“Greetings, Third Prince,” Mo Yuan nodded, feeling a tad amused by the woman’s audacious attention. “And this is?”

“Oh,” Lian Song threw her a glance. “This is Cheng Yu. She is my… friend. She ascended to immortal status a mere one thousand years ago.”

Like it was a habit, the woman’s tongue shot out of her mouth ever so briefly at Lian Song’s back before she bowed low. “Cheng Yu greets High God Mo Yuan,” she said, “I am greatly honored to meet you.”

“Thank you,” Mo Yuan said, remembering that she had heard her name before. “I commend you on ascending to immortal statues from the mortal realm. Am I correct in assuming you are the Lady who sometimes takes care of my nephew A-Li?”

“Indeed so, High God!” Cheng Yu squealed in delight at being known, “that is me! Oh, that you remember such a trifling thing, remarkable!”

“Will you join us for some tea in my palace?” Lian Song interrupted them.

Mo Yuan shook his head. “I’m afraid I have urgent business elsewhere,” he answered, “but I was headed in the same direction as you. Why don’t we walk together for a bit.” He indicated the path with his hand.

“It is an honor!” Cheng Yu said and moved between Mo Yuan and Lian Song as they set off. “I have heard so much about you,” she continued excitedly, “it is flabbergasting how much you resemble the Crown Prince! And to think that you are almost 360,000 years old!”

“I’m not that much younger,” the Third Prince murmured, trying to pull the woman away from walking so close to Mo Yuan.

“Yes, and you look like an old man in comparison,” Cheng Yu snapped at him and shook his hand off. “High God Mo Yuan,” she then said, “it is very noble of you to volunteer to take on the severe punishment for the Demon Ancestor. I heard all about her difficulties.”

“Thank you,” Mo Yuan said, wondering what she had heard and where from. But how could he forget: the Heavens were always abuzz with gossip. He had learned early in his life to turn a blind eye to all the immortals throwing him looks of admiration or fear whenever he came back to the place he had spent his childhood at. But that did not change the fact that wherever he went, people would put their heads together to discuss his business behind his back.

“Did you know I took her in as maid,” Cheng Yu said proudly, “when she was suffering up here all unrecognized. We had a blast!”

“You?” Lian Song gasped, “it was I who saved her from having to go into the Evil Pagoda!“

“And then you forgot that you had promised to take her into your household.”

Mo Yuan held up a hand to stop them from bickering more. “My sincere thanks to both of you. I am in your debt.” He realized with a pang of guilt and considerable regret that he had not even asked Shao Wan about what had happened to her up here. For someone as proud as her, it must have been very difficult to belong to the lowest rank, having to follow all these rules that she hated so much.

“That is true,” Lian Song said, sounding a fraction happier. “And may I remind you that you owe me another debt for sending gullible me on a fool’s errand.”

“Ack, he liked the adventure,” Cheng Yu laughed, “don’t listen to his grumbling, High God Mo Yuan. He was more alive than ever!”

Mo Yuan threw Lian Song a look. No, the Third Prince seemed truly angered. Of course, Mo Yuan had always known he would have to pay for using him and his friends for his plans without their consent. However, given his very limited options at the time, the risk of retaliation had weighed little in comparison to everything else. And it still did. He did not regret any of the decisions he had taken of late.

“High God Mo Yuan, may I ask you something?” the woman said.

“Speak,” he said, turning his attention away from the Third Prince.

“The Turtles!” she said, “I have been trying to befriend them but they do not like to associate with outsiders. Would it be possible… if it is not too much to ask…. that you introduce to me one of their jewelry makers? I have been searching high and low for one of their fabled necklaces!”

“I know of no such thing,” Mo Yuan said. But then, he remembered something. “By jewelry, do you mean the beads they make?” he put his hand into his sleeve pocket and pulled out a string on which dangled many colorful pellets crafted from turtle shells. The Turtle leader’s wife had given it to him this morning after their lengthy consultation, to “give to a lady of his choice.”

Cheng Yu’s hand shot forward, but remembered just in time what propriety demanded. “Yes,” she said, her voice quivering as much as her retreating hand, “they are magnificent!”

Mo Yuan nodded. “Please have it,” he said and held it in her direction, “you will value it more than me.”

For a moment, it looked like Lian Song’s friend wanted to throw her arms around his neck and kiss him, but she controlled herself in time. “Thank you, High God, thank you! Thank you!” she exclaimed, bowing repeatedly, clutching the beads to her chest like they were the biggest treasure. “I am sure they will make so much money in the Demon Realm!”

“So much charm without direction or purpose!” Lian Song hissed under his breath, “no wonder a graveyard of hearts was left behind.”

“Oh, shush,” Cheng Yu said to him, “some men just effortlessly know how to be polite towards women, while others always fail.” And then, to Mo Yuan: “High God, do you take women disciples as a rule now? Because I would like to apply to be one of your students.”

“You?” Lian Song snickered, “you’ll scare away all the other disciples and in the end, the most famous taoist school in all the realms will have to be shut down because its reputation will be tarnished.”

“I do not currently teach,” Mo Yuan said, feeling the homesickness from earlier seep into his heart again. What was Eighteenth doing right now, he wondered? She was still with the Purple Queen at her Court, but he would have to make sure she returned to Kunlun soon. To continue her studies under Changshan for the time being. Promises had to be kept and there were quite a few questions he meant to ask the Horse Tribe Leaders once he got a chance.

They had come to one of the larger pools by now, one which contained a particularly beautiful type of lotus flowers. Their leaves shone in a translucent pink and their leaves were of a brilliant green. The Jade Pond, Mo Yuan recalled, that was its name. It was where newly ascended immortals washed the dust of mortality off before the ceremony in Qing Yun Hall.

At the edges of the Pond, a few of the invaluable Lotus Flowers looked shriveled and ill. As soon as his eyes noticed, Mo Yuan stood very still. Despite the perfect temperature up in the Heavens, he felt a chill creep up his spine.

“Yes,” Lian Song said, noticing where he had directed his attention to, “the Heavens still bear the scars of war, even though now forgotten to most of the inhabitants.”

“Was it the poison?” Mo Yuan asked.

“Yes,” Lian Song nodded, “it is no longer spreading, but what it touched remains dead. We decided to leave the dead plants as a reminder that war is a horrible thing.”

Mo Yuan bent lower to look at one of the flowers up close. What kind of poison would do this? And who would have it? After Cheng Yin’s death, the Celestial forces had made sure to destroy not only the Yellow Clan, but also all of Cheng Yin’s laboratories, stocks, and plans.

“This was done after the War,” Lian Song explained, “by this traitorous Star Lord I was tasked to catch. Do you by any chance know where he is? He seems to have disappeared from the face of the earth. My spies have lost his trace.”

“I do,” Mo Yuan nodded.

“Ha!” Lian Song exclaimed, “I had an inkling. Would you be so kind as to share your knowledge with me? My reputation is greatly tarnished for not apprehending this scoundrel.”

“Or rather, you performed exactly like expected,” Cheng Yu quipped. “Not much of a reputation to tarnish to begin with.”

Mo Yuan straightened himself. “If I can ask you to be patient, Third Prince,” he said, “I can assure you that this traitor will no longer bring damage to the Heavens. I… cannot reveal his whereabouts right now, however.”

“I see,” Lian Song said, throwing him a curious look. “I guess that is well enough.”

“Have you been able to find out about how he got back in after being punished to life cycles in the mortal world?” Mo Yuan asked.

“We expect he had help. From somebody inside. Ye Hua has since strengthened the defenses. The shield around the Heavens is quite strong. Nothing unauthorized passes through… It’s also how your brother found out rather quickly that his beloved wife carries some additional soul essence with her.”

Mo Yuan knew how close an advisor and friend the Third Prince was to his brother Ye Hua. A role he, as the elder brother, would have liked to take on had things been different - sometimes, a thing of regret to him. But overall, he was just grateful to know that Ye Hua had someone he could confide in. His little brother’s responsibilities were many and the expectations people had of him were high.

But since he knew how close Lian Song and Ye Hua were, he chose to remain silent at this cue. For what could he say? That he was sorry Bai Qian had been drawn into this? It would have been a half-lie, because he was - and he was not. Of course he had hoped she would realize that her help was needed - capable female warrior that she was. But of course, he had not known that Shao Wan’s desperation would lead to Bai Qian being possessed. Now that Shao Wan had her body back, their children were safe and Bai Qian was unscathed, it seemed like there was no point in mulling over “what could have beens”.

But, “all I want is peace,” Lian Song sighed rather than reminding him of the Demon Ancestor’s crimes and for once, his friend did not feel an urge to cut at him with her sharp tongue but simply nodded in agreement.

“So do I,” Mo Yuan agreed instantly, because it was the truth. By so many, the God of War was perceived to be the impersonation of bloodthirst. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

“Do you know what I fear?” Lian Song said, woefully eying the shrivelled flowers. He made a small pause, but Mo Yuan was not sure what he was getting at, so he waited for him to finish. Lian Song sighed. “It’s for Ye Hua to find out the whole truth. I was - or rather, we were - able to keep from him what certain Demons did to you.”

Not something Mo Yuan wanted to be reminded of. To be kept at the brink of transformation, being drained of blood, the feeling of helplessness, hopelessness… Not forgiven, not forgotten. But timing was important. Patience… it was one of his big assets.

“Add to that what certain Demons did to Ye Hua’s spy troop and his favorite aide in the mortal world. You better think of something quick, because I don’t think this will stay hidden for much longer. I value my nephew a lot, but once a certain threshold is reached, there is no stopping him doing … very bad things.”

“Please stop him,” Cheng Yu said gravely, “I very much like what I have seen of the Demon Realm so far. And I would hate to see our ties cut by yet another war. For A-Li, for his brother - for your own unborn children. God of War, please do what you can to resolve this issue peacefully.”

Letting his eyes return to a study of clouds, Mo Yuan took a deep breath. “It is why I am here,” he said quietly. “I will do everything in my power to preserve the peace. Now that I know that other people share the same goal, I feel a fraction more confident that my plan will work.”


He was still greatly weakened, Mo Yuan had to admit to himself after he dragged his body out of the hot springs and started to get dressed. He even thought about lying down for a while on the canvas chair that the Medicine King used to examine his patients. As much as always felt uncomfortable up in the Heavens, it really was a place of exceptional peace and quiet, something he hadn’t had enough of for what seemed much too long. However, as much as the spiritual energy of the Hot Springs helped, it was no cure-all. There really was no way to cheat with cultivation in the long run: If he wanted to reach his previous levels, he would have to go into seclusion. For a long time.

He heard steps approach and turned around: The Lord of Numinous Treasures came down the stairs gracefully and greeted him friendlily.

“High God Mo Yuan,” he said, “once again I have the honor to provide you with a place of healing. And once again, I see your wounds are not light while your anxiety is high. I do hope that I have been able to help but a fraction with your heavy responsibilities.”

“I am very grateful,” Mo Yuan nodded.

“When will your punishment start?” the Lord of Numinous Treasures asked. “I will make sure to replenish the water every day so that you can heal optimally in between.”

“In two days,” Mo Yuan answered. 7,000 strikes this time. 40 a day. That, so he had been informed, was the maximum he was allowed to take. Of course, he would continue to protest this. He wanted the punishment done and over with as quickly as possible. He was needed elsewhere more urgently, without having to return to Lord Puhua’s Lightning Isle every day.

“Will the High God Zhe Yan be here to assist you?” the Lord of Numinous Treasures inquired.

“I do not need him,” Mo Yuan claimed.

The Lord of Numinous Treasures looked very unconvinced. Truth was, Mo Yuan wouldn’t mind Zhe Yan around, but nobody had seen him in a while.

“High God,” the Lord of Numinous Treasures said, “am I right to assume you have come for something else as well?”

“You are,” Mo Yuan admitted. He wasn’t surprised the very perceptive Lord of Numinous Treasures had sensed he wanted more from him than just take a bath. “I’m afraid it’s potentially a touchy subject.”

“Do not hesitate to speak,” the Lord of Numinous Treasures invited him.

Mo Yuan nodded. “I do know that I have greatly offended your family by behaving in ways that led to the breaking of the marriage agreement with your niece, the Lady Jie Jing.”

The Lord of Numinous Treasures lifted his eyebrows in surprise. “High God, I believe it wasn’t exactly your behavior only that led to these unfortunate events. The Lady Jie Jing chose to live in the mortal realm and has not returned since.”

“I am glad to hear you are not holding a grudge,” Mo Yuan said. “Maybe you could help arrange a meeting between me and your brother Lord Xinhu?”

“I see,” the Lord of Numinous Treasures slowly said. “I can try. May I ask…?”

“Yes,” Mo Yuan nodded, “your brother is in possession of a very special device that I need.”

The Lord of Numinous Treasures fell quiet for a while. “Is it the Sea Cloud Bracelet?” he then asked.

“You assume correctly,” Mo Yuan said.

The Lord of Numinous Treasures heaved a sigh. “You must know that in contrast to me, my brother…”

“I did not expect him to have forgiven me,” Mo Yuan said, “even though I am not a father yet, I can well understand that seeing one’s daughter disgraced and losing her to a mortal world is not something any father would take lightly. I must try, however.”

“May I ask… if you allow. Who is the person you want to imprison with the bracelet?”

Carefully, Mo Yuan put his hand into his sleeve pocket to feel for the little wooden box in there.

“This,” he said after pulling it out and balancing it on his hand, “is the Realms most valuable prisoner. He holds the key to peace, even if he has done everything to break it.”

The Lord of Numinous Treasures stepped closer curiously. Mo Yuan opened the box and let him peer inside.

“The renegade Star Lord,” the Lord of Numinous Treasures whispered in surprise. “I understand.”

Chapter 45