Fanfiction: Moyuan and Bai Qian, Book 2 - Chapter 4, Part 3 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 4 - A Spiky Hairpin

Part 3

written by LalaLoop
consulting by Bunny
editing by kakashi


Bai Qian ran along the corridor, brimming with joy. She was so happy she did not care if the King of Xunzhua happened to see her now and would mock her about acting unqueenly later on.

As she had been going over documents and was talking to her brother, Bai Zhen, this morning in the pavilion at Qingqiu’s lakeside, Migu, the tree spirit, had interrupted their conversation with the greatest news in days - Zilan had finally come round. She had shoved the scrolls and papers out of her way and cloud-jumped to Kunlun so fast she’d nearly fallen flat on her face upon arrival.

Arriving at her Sixteenth Senior’s room’s doorstep, she heard his troubled voice explaining something and Moyuan, who seemed to be at his bedside, trying to calm him down. She caught her breath and slowly stepped in, nodding at everyone in the room. Zheyan and the Ghost Princess were also present. She grinned at Yanzhi - it looked like her poor friend could finally get some proper sleep now. Zilan was looking pale and as though he had lost nights of sleep, even though sleeping was all he had been doing for almost a fortnight.

“I’m very sorry, Shifu,” Zilan sighed. “I can’t remember… I really don’t know what I told them. Though I’m sure…”

“Zilan --”

“I’m sure it wasn’t anything important. I don’t think I know anything that can be considered classified or…”

“Zilan --”

“Your battle formations, I know a few. And I may have told them about those. But…”

“Zilan,” said Moyuan again, gently yet loudly enough to get Zilan’s attention, hand holding up to silence his anxious disciple who looked like he wanted to kill himself. “Listen to me, you will not have to take responsibility for anything. You were under a mind spell and we all know what that means. I do not believe the Demons have managed to acquire any information from you that could put us at a disadvantage. Now, I would like you to rest.”

“But Shifu…”

“Listen to your Shifu, Zilan,” said Zheyan sternly, pointing at the bowl of medicine Zilan was holding. The latter took the hint and quickly gulped down the content.

“Rest,” Moyuan said. “Recover. And we will discuss everything else afterward. Seventeenth,” he stood up, turning to her, “please join me in the grand hall after you have spoken with your Senior.”

Bai Qian nodded.

“But keep it short,” Zheyan reminded her.

“I know,” she said.

Moyuan and Zheyan then left the room, starting a discussion as they disappeared through the door. Bai Qian flew to Zilan’s bedside, unable to stop herself from giving him a punch in the arm.

“That was quite a scare you gave us all, Senior!”

Zilan grunted and slumped back. “Please be gentle, Seventeenth, I’m just back from the dead.”

“Sorry… So how are you feeling?”

“The way I look,” said Zilan, which made Bai Qian burst out laughing instantly. She had missed this - having this Senior she had shared most of her time with during her school years around, laughing and making the best out of the most miserable situations.

“What happened while I was out?” he asked.

“A lot. The Crown Prince sent an ambassador --,” Bai Qian stopped short when she remembered what Moyuan had said a minute ago. “No, not now, Senior. You’re supposed to sleep.”

“Heavens! Don’t treat me like a child, Shifu’s not here.”

“No,” Bai Qian shook her head indefinitely.

“Tell me something! What’s been going on?”

“Honestly, Zilan,” came Yanzhi’s voice from behind Bai Qian, cold and unamused. “There’s a difference between fearless and downright irresponsible. Or do you just find joy in making me anxious?”

Bai Qian turned around, the Ghost Princess’ eyes were glaring at her Senior like a pair of fiery orbs. It seemed all the worry of the last days had taken its toll on her and Zilan’s refusal to rest was not helping.

“Seventeenth,” he cleared his throat. “Would you give me and Yanzhi a minute?”

Standing up quietly, Bai Qian threw Zilan an ‘I-told-you-so’ look and hurried away, sniggering as soon as she was out of earshot. She would give anything to stay behind and watch the future Ghost Queen teach her Sixteenth Senior, who seldom cared about his own health, a lesson. Though there was no doubt that Yanzhi was in no mood to be tested. Linger and she might find herself the subject of scolding too.

Anyhow, Zilan coming back to them after days of unconsciousness was truly the best news recently. Even the weather seemed to be in synchronization with her good mood today. There was not a single cloud in the sky and a vast blue enveloped the whole mountain. Taking in gulps of fresh air, she leisurely made her way to the grand hall, hoping that they would soon find a way to get rid of that torc around Qilin’s neck too.





“I’m astonished that you of all people could be prompted to make this mistake,” was what Bai Qian heard the Old Phoenix say as she was about to step into the hall.

There was no response from Moyuan. Zheyan’s voice continued, “of course, it is not up to me to decide whether it is a mistake.”

Bai Qian entered as quietly as she could, unsure whether Zheyan was simply being the overbearing physician he occasionally was or that something had caused him and Moyuan to quarrel. She noticed that instead of sitting at one of the low tables, Zheyan was standing very close to Moyuan’s dais, looking more like a teacher than Moyuan at the moment.

“Ah, Xiaowu,” he acknowledged her, the usual carefree smirk on his face putting her mind at ease. “Has that stubborn Senior of yours gone to sleep yet?”

“Yanzhi’s making sure of it,” Bai Qian said.

“Good,” said the Old Phoenix forcefully, stepping away from the dais and fixing his sleeves. “Heavens know that boy needs all the time and rest he can get to heal.”

“Are you -- leaving, Old Phoenix?”

“Yes, I’m afraid so. Potions to brew, peach wine to taste, books to bury myself in,” Zheyan patted her on the shoulder as he walked by.

With his arms behind his back and a rather hasty gait, he vanished from view. Peach wine, Bai Qian giggled, that was certainly something the Old Phoenix could not live without. She turned around and approached Moyuan.

He set down the scroll he had been holding and motioned for her to sit down on the other side of his armrest, which had Bai Qian stand wordless for a while.

“There?” she pointed at the dais.

“Only if you want to, of course,” he said, half smiling at her.

Bai Qian chuckled to herself as she walked up the steps - once, she and Zilan had sneaked out of class and dared each other to take that seat, which had resulted in Diefeng giving them both detention for skipping lessons before either of them could come close to the dais.

“What mistake did you make, Shifu?” she settled down beside him.

“I can say I’ve made more than one,” he replied. “And being who I am, my mistakes tend to lead to disastrous consequences. Zheyan was kind enough to remind me of that.”

Bai Qian laughed, shaking her head. “That Old Phoenix, I really can’t imagine our lives without him.”

“That is true, we all need a bit of scolding from Zheyan once in a while, don’t we,” he responded, though with a smile a bit too forced for her to believe he was making a joke.

And she saw it again - the look of someone who carried the whole world on his shoulders. Having spent many years under his tutelage, Bai Qian had learnt of Moyuan’s unwavering devotion to his work. He himself had assured her he had no regret becoming who he was. She reckoned Moyuan had never viewed his burdens as such, either. But she was not so foolish as to assume that there were no hindrances that wore him out occasionally. And this was obviously one of those occasions.

“I’m sure Zheyan usually worries more than he should when it comes to you though,” she continued, voice softening. “I keep telling him that you always know what you’re doing.”

“Indeed?” he looked at her.

“To be honest, when I said that to Zheyan the first time, I didn’t mean it as a positive thing. But I figured it’s the reason why you’re called the God of War - being ten steps ahead and always prepared for mistakes to happen. Mistakes are only possibilities you’ve foreseen.”

“And what does Zheyan say to that?”

“He and my mom would accuse me of becoming your spokesperson everytime,” she shrugged. “Which I am happy to be because I know I’m right.”

For a moment, Moyuan looked as though he was going to correct her, refute what she had said. But he did not.

“I’m immensely flattered,” he said simply. “Though I am not sure I deserve such trust from you.”

“Well, you have it.”

They were silent for a brief while and Bai Qian was glad to notice the grim smile a minute ago was becoming less grim and was finally making its way to his eyes.

“What did you want to see me about, Shifu?” she asked.

“Hmm,” he cleared his throat and turned to face her completely. “I will leave for another trip to the mortal realm in a few days. I wonder if you might want to accompany me this time.”

“The mortal realm?”

“Disturbances have been spotted in certain places in the mortal realm and I would like to take a look myself and speak to these people who have witnessed them.”

“Disturbances that have to do with Luoji?” she took a guess.

“Precisely. I suspect his followers have heard whispers of their Master’s return and are preparing to fly back to his side. Some of them have caused havoc in many realms.”

“Why? Isn’t staying low a better thing to do if they’re plotting against the Nine Heavens?”

“For the purpose of inflicting fear in people, of course. And tribe leaders are not reporting these cases to the Nine Heavens because they believe them to be no more than tricks from the Demons.”

“What can I do to help you this time?” asked Bai Qian.

“I said last time that I need to tell you about Luoji, and I will. There are some places we must travel to in order for you to be fully informed of this immortal’s history. Fortunately, with the difference in time between here and the mortal realm, the trip will not take long.”

Bai Qian said nothing. As much as she wanted to accept this invitation right away, she could not help but think back to what had happened the last time Moyuan had asked her to go on a mission with him. The fear and and helplessness she’d felt were still as vivid as yesterday.

“Would you like to come along?” he asked again.

“Er… it’s… I don’t…” Bai Qian’s forehead scrunched up while Moyuan started to look confused in earnest.

“Well, I confess I expected more enthusiasm from you. Is something wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong exactly, but…”

There was a short silence.

“Yes?”

“You’re not going to ask me to try and kill you again, are you?” she pressed out with difficulty. “Because… as much as I’d like to spend time… well… work with you, Shifu, I’m not exactly looking forward to throwing killing spells at you or… knocking you unconscious while we’re in some foreign land...”

Having understood what her reluctance was about, Moyuan’s bemused expression was lifted. Though Bai Qian was not too pleased to notice that he was in fact smiling. Did he not understand the panic he had put both her and Yehua through that night?

“No, I will ask no such thing from you,” he said. And Bai Qian nodded in relief. “Not this time,” he added.

“Shifu...” she grimaced, not finding his joke entertaining in the least. Moyuan might be so used to getting himself into dangerous situations that he viewed it as no more than part of his work. But she could not. Not yet. Despite her wish to be of help to him, she found it extremely hard to follow his orders if there was a chance of him getting hurt.

“I told you before you had to carry out the task that nothing would happen, didn’t I,” he peered at her, his smile had yet to cease. “I said I would be able to recover in time, and I did.”

“But it was still a dangerous bet,” she almost cried. “What if the Ghost assassins came before you woke up? What would I have done then?”

“If you ever get into such a situation,” he said casually, “leave me behind and save yourself first.”

“That -- is the most --,” incomprehensible muttering started to come out of Bai Qian’s mouth in her attempt to express intense disagreement because she could not find words good enough to describe the ridiculousness of his suggestion.

“Whatever we discuss here is only in theory, of course,” he chuckled. “Your choices should be made according to the circumstance. And I trust that you would be able to figure out what’s best --”

Moyuan suddenly fell quiet, his face hardened into an expression of someone sitting in the middle of a discussion with people from enemy tribes.

“Shifu…”

“We’re not alone,” he said in a whisper.

“What…”

He held up a hand to silence her. “Something is very close.”

“In this hall?” she breathed.

Moyuan nodded. “There was a vibration.”

Several things occured to Bai Qian as a result of this statement, none of which she could explain very well. Intruder in Kunlun? How had they gotten past the protective shield? Had they been eavesdropping? If it was anyone who lived on this mountain, why did they feel the need to hide themselves?

Moyuan stood up without making a single sound; and she did the same. His eyes were fixed at the front. His wrist flicked quietly. Nothing happened but Bai Qian knew a spell had been cast. Although it seemed to leave Moyuan even more puzzled. His frown became deeper than before, as if doubting the result of his own magic.

His eyes abruptly zoomed in on Bai Qian. Her stomach tightened as he began to hold her under his intense gaze.

“There is an immortal essence attached to yours.”

“Me?” Bai Qian whispered in panic.

“Don’t move,” he said, eyes scanning her from head to foot. But Bai Qian did not need to be told this; she was simply too bewildered to move or speak.

With another spell, glowing rays of silver appeared, interlaced between his fingers. He brought his hand closer to Bai Qian’s face while she almost stopped breathing. One by one, the silver rays left Moyuan’s hand, moving in several directions but keeping close to her body.

Then, in a swift movement, his hand flew to the back of her head.

“Ah!” her hair was being pulled on. She heard some loud protesting noises as Moyuan withdrew his hand.

Instead of silver rays, there was now a magically conjured orb floating an inch above Moyuan’s palm, inside which was a tiny figure with twig-like limbs, bean-size shoes, and a spiky cap.

“You! Little sprite!” her mouth dropped.

The creature issued a series of frightened sounds and swirled in alarm, slamming itself against the orb’s wall.

“What on earth… Did you follow me!” Bai Qian shouted again. The sprite chirped loudly and kept banging its head into the orb from the inside, obviously furious about its imprisonment.

Now it was all clear. Wood sprites, born in woodlands with high concentration of Divine energy, could enter any realm, even Demons’ territory, and walk through almost any kind of shield without much trouble. Their movements were undetectable to immortals with little powers and their disguises, impossible to see through unless one knew what to look for. Being the harmless and peaceful creatures that they were, wood sprites kept to themselves and prefered to reside in the forests from which they were born, hidden from the eyes of other species.

This particular sprite though, Bai Qian smirked, it must be a rebellious one who wanted adventures. Why else would it have left that peaceful forest and followed her here?

“Has it… has it been on my hair this whole time?” she blinked. “Has no one seen it at all?”

“I’m not so sure,” said Moyuan. “Even if someone did,” he took a second to survey the creature, “it looks too much like an ordinary hair ornament to draw any attention. Sprites are quite masterful at keeping up their disguises.”

“A hair orna --”

Bai Qian looked down at the sprite on Moyuan’s hand again. Indeed, if those fluttering wings and arms were not moving, the sprite could pass for a hair ornament with two dangling pendants that were his shoes.

“You are familiar with this creature?” asked Moyuan.

“No, I wouldn’t say that,” she replied, frowning at the tiny face that was staring back at her defiantly. “I just happened to see him once.”

“Which forest did you travel to?”

“Well…” she stammered for a second, “Not a Demons’ forest.”

“Obviously. Sprites don’t reside in places with Demonic energy.”

Bai Qian cleared her throat - she honestly did not know how to begin telling Moyuan about her little journey even if she wanted to.

“Never mind that,” he said quietly. “I just hope you didn’t venture anywhere sinister. You know how dangerous it is these days to wander around unaccompanied.”

“Oh, I wasn’t alone,” she said. “The King of Xunzhua was with me the whole time. He helped me with directions.”

“I’m glad to hear it,” he responded.

“Didn’t the Princess mention that her brother went with me?” Bai Qian glanced up at him briefly then went back to the sprite.

“Our conversations never stray far from the subject of weaponry.”

“I know that,” she said right away even though she had not been very sure of this at all before.

“Was your trip successful?” Moyuan continued.

“No, it… er…” she broke into an uncomfortable chuckle. “It wasn’t.”

“Is it anything I can help you with?”

“No,” Bai Qian shook her head. “Thank you, but I think -- it’s better if I figure this one out on my own.”

“I see,” he smiled. “Well, then I hope you will.”

Bai Qian could not help but smile back at him gratefully.

“What should we do with it?” she pointed at the angry sprite.

“Nothing,” Moyuan retracted his hand. The orb that was holding the sprite captive vanished. “You can let it go. Wood sprites are harmless; they are among the most harmonious creatures in all the realms.”

“I’m not sure about this one,” she raised her brows, thinking back to the Crafters’ hall. This little thing had broken out of its group on purpose just to give her a scare and then laughed in victory. And to pretend to be a hairpin all this time!

Having been set loose, the creature twisted in Moyuan’s direction, breaking into angry twittering and lunging at him.

“Hey… hey!” Bai Qian quickly reached out and caught the sprite, pulling him back by his feet. “Don’t make a scene, you sneaked in here first!”

Not wanting to accidentally snap his fragile-looking figure and also afraid of being pricked by one of those spikes protruding from his cap, Bai Qian let go right away. With a loud huff, the sprite quit his squeaking and started to zoom back and forth, as if celebrating the regained freedom.

“Go home,” she waved. But the sprite simply circled around her head, his chirping now similar to the sound of little bells. “Go on,” she said again.”You’re free!”

The sprite ignored her and kept on swirling. Then, seemingly discovering something to his liking, he shrieked in delight. Bai Qian’s eyes followed his wings as he zoomed over to the fruit plate placed on the small table next to the dais - glistening wings that were flapping so fast and so quietly they were almost undetectable. The sprite threw himself into the grapes and tugged, severing two from the bunch then brought them to her.

Chirp. He held the grapes in front of her face.

“What?”

Chirp! His large, slanted eyes narrowed in impatience. He dropped down and tried to shove the fruits into her fingers.

“What?” Bai Qian said suspiciously. “For me?”

A high pitch noise came from the sprite and he made a yanking motion in midair. Bai Qian shrugged and held one of the grapes tightly in her hand. The sprite pulled with all his might; the stem split apart, making him flip in the air several times. Stabilizing himself again, his mouth stretched into a toothy grin and he dug his face into the grape he had successfully secured, taking a mouthful of the fruit that was about one third of his size.

“Is this supposed to be a peace offering so he can stay here?” asked Bai Qian, amazed at this thing’s ability to make itself at home and at the same time, finding it quite endearing.

Moyuan, who had been watching the hot-tempered sprite without much opinion, stepped closer to her.

“You might want to consult the Ghost Princess,” he said with apparent amusement in his voice, smoothing out the back of her hair. “As I remember, she takes a great interest in the study of magical creatures.”

Chapter 4, Part 4