Fanfiction: Moyuan and Bai Qian, Book 2 - Chapter 9, Part 2 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 9 - Butterflies On The Meadow

Part 2

written by LalaLoop
consulting by Bunny
edited by kakashi

Moyuan descended along with his Sixteenth Disciple from the clouds as they reached the destination. Their feet met with extraordinarily soft grass and Divine Energy rushed into his lungs.

“This is our last stop,” Moyuan said, taking note of how weary his disciple looked. Their journey had been, for the most part, unsuccessful. Zilan had long accepted the fact that there would be many more trips like this one in the future - dangerous and unpromising - and had never once uttered any complaints.

“Right,” his disciple nodded, taking in large gulps of breath. “Oh… the air here is really… erm...”

“Divine,” Moyuan finished the remark for him and gestured around. “We are at the Crafters’ forest. Not many are aware of this clan’s existence, but their home is one of the places with the most Divine Energy in the eight realms.”

“No wonder,” Zilan exclaimed. “I’m feeling much better than before you cloud-jumped, Shifu. Not that -- I’m complaining about your could-jumping!” he said quickly. “I just mean that --”

“I know,” Moyuan chuckled as they proceeded deeper into the forest.

It was not long before they were greeted by a pair of Crafters and invited to step inside the inner shield. Despite what was going on in the eight realms, this forest along with its dwellers were not in the least affected and seemed to be ever prospering.

“Why would this -- Eldest have the item you’re looking for, Shifu?” asked Zilan.

“He was not in possession of it,” Moyuan said. “But being particularly interested in the invention of unique artifacts, he has certain connections and means of acquiring useful information we do not. He agreed to help me look for this item and he has found it.”

“I see.”

For the rest of the way, Zilan continued to marvel at the architecture of the wooden dwellings, pointing out every unique structure that caught his eye and asking questions one after another. Somewhere during their conversation Moyuan admitted to himself that the span of his patience and attention was indeed greater when Zilan was the one asking questions; and it had always been that way, just as she had once said. Sadly she was not here to see for herself that she had been right and laugh at the fact that he was, after all, capable of being partial.

Their discussion soon came to an end when they reached the door to the Eldest’s hall, where the Crafters who had led them here left and passed on their task to another two who were standing guard at the front door.

“High God Moyuan.” one of them walked down the steps and addressed him. “Would you give me a moment to inform the Eldest of your arrival?”

Moyuan responded with a ceremonious nod while the man hurried back up and disappeared through the door.

Immediately afterward, Moyuan felt a faint wave of energy gently descend upon his head, sweeping by his face, then begin to swirl around him. He stood still and returned the look of hospitality on the remaining guard’s face with a similar expression - this man was responsible for the magic in the atmosphere.

“Shifu,” Zilan murmured, sounding rather alarmed. “Are they -- are they doing some kind of spell on me?”

“Entry security,” he replied in a low voice. “It’s all right. Let them finish.”

It was quite an unnecessary step, thought Moyuan, when the protection around this forest was already unrivalled. But given the current climate, he could not blame the Eldest for not wanting to take any chances.

The spell ended shortly. The other guard reappeared from behind the door with a brighter smile than before.

“High God Moyuan, this way.”

Moyuan ascended the steps. Zilan, however, was politely detained.

“Our Eldest would like to speak with the God of War alone. May I entreat you to join me on a tour around our abode, High Immortal?”

He turned around and nodded at his disciple. “I will be back shortly.”


***


The Eldest of the Crafters was a rather proud being - blunt at times yet painfully vague at others. Having dealt with him once or twice before, Moyuan had learned that the most effective way to maintain a connection with this man was to be equally blunt and forthright with one’s wishes. They were not friends, but allies, which made everything much easier under the circumstances.

“Moyuan,” the Eldest acknowledge his presence and leisurely gestured for Moyuan to join him at the table with wine jars and cups properly arranged.

“Yingchen (迎晨),” Moyuan greeted him back.

Buzzing around the area were a number of Wood Sprites of various colors who were communicating in their own language and alerting each other of the guest in the hall. One of them was maneuvering a properly sized string instrument in its hands as it pranced about in midair, producing the soft musical sounds he had been hearing. The small creatures’ unexpected presence caused a sudden tide of bitterness to rise in him.

He needed no reminder of how far she was from his reach at the moment.

Upon his arrival at the table, the Wood Sprites retreated at once, leaving the hall silent. The music also subsided.

“I am aware you do not have time to spare, thus I will excuse you from a game of chess,” Yingchen said and opened his palm in midair. A wooden scroll materialized on the top of his hand. “This is what you asked for.”

Moyuan accepted the scroll with a grateful nod.

“I must tell you that this ancient language is extremely difficult to decipher,” Yingchen uncorked one of his elegantly crafted wine jars and filled each of their cups. “I myself stumbled many times.”

Moyuan scanned over the first few slats and had to agree that this was not something any immortal could understand at first glance. He identified several characters at once but was naturally clueless about a large number of others.

“No matter,” he said, closing the scroll. “The person I am sending this to has spent a great deal of time studying several old languages. Even if she cannot decipher everything, she has access to plenty of help.”

“You sound very confident for someone who usually prefers to take important matters into your own hands,” Yingchen remarked.

“There are times when we must trust others to carry out their parts. Assuming that you alone can turn the course of something like this war would only lead to failure.”

“Spoken like a strategist Fuxi would be proud of,” Yingchen downed some of the content of his cup. “But then, that is what you are.”

And this was what Yingchen was - someone capable of making others see themselves as what they were. A strategist, yes. Moyuan had never regretted becoming who he was. If given another chance, he doubted he would choose differently.

“When the time comes,” he said, “will you fight for us?”

“My people are not warriors,” came a cold answer.

“I understand,” said Moyuan. “You have a duty to protect the descendants of this ancient clan.”

“Correct. I will not subject them to what I have always seen as the consequences of the Celestials’ oppression towards mortals.”

Moyuan took a sip of his wine while Yingchen continued.

“Luoji is a consequence, Moyuan. He carried within himself everything that is wrong and unjust about the Nine Heavens, entrapped in his own obsession for vengeance and power without knowing it.”

“Is that sympathy for Luoji or criticism towards the Nine Heavens?” asked Moyuan.

“Sympathy? No. I have no sympathy for a practitioner of dark magic. I am merely saying that Luoji and the fall of Haode could have been prevented if thousands of years ago, the Celestials had spared that half-mortal child some attention.”

“It is unjust to put the blame on the Celestials at the time entirely,” responded Moyuan. “You forget Luoji was accepted to Penglai at a young age - a family he was too absorbed in hatred to embrace. He had not one but many chances to make the right choice.”

“Fair,” Yingchen smiled. “But have the Celestials learned anything at all throughout the years? I think not. They dine in splendor, submerged in their own illusion of power and glory, looking down on those they are charged to protect.”

“One man’s reign does not define the whole clan.”

“You believe your younger brother can bring about changes?”

“Yes,” said Moyuan without much hesitation.

“Because he is your brother, a son of Fuxi?” Yingchen’s voice was rather jesting.

“Because I know him. And he is the best hope we have.”


***


Setting foot back into Kunlun’s territory, his Sixteenth Disciple could not hide his relief and gladness to see the school again, despite its emptiness, and was quick to run to the kitchen to prepare some tea.

“Please rest, Shifu,” Zilan, who was beginning to take after both Changshan and Diefeng with regard to his attentiveness towards Kunlun and his Master, had said.

Rest? Moyuan sighed, left the scroll on his dais in the Grand Hall, and began walking out the courtyard. He could never truly rest until all this was over.

The night sky was glittering with stars. Huo-xing [*] was particularly close to the moon. With slow, yet not particularly peaceful steps, he approached the mountain's cliff, where he would usually stand to attain a better view of the land of which he was the master.

Tonight, however, he had no heart for such leisure.

They were taking too many risks and making diminutive progress. Until now he had not heard from Donghua. It seemed that his friend, too, had not been anymore successful than he was in his search. Knowing Luoji’s weakness did not mean they had the upper hand. Several others things must come into place at the right time for them to even have a chance.

Moyuan slowly closed his eyes, letting his senses submerge in the mountain’s air - a few moments of peace to gather his thoughts before he had to plan their next step.

“Shifu!”

His eyes sprang open.

“Shifu!” Zilan had reappeared from behind Kunlun’s pillars and was running toward him. “Shifu, I’m sorry for bothering you, but -- Bifang said he has some urgent news.”

His heart sank. As much as he wanted to be optimistic, good news were almost nonexistent these days.

Bifang, Zheyan’s mount, was also bolting behind Zilan in his direction. His hope for good news was extinguished once Moyuan had seen the look on Bifang’s face.

“High God Moyuan,” said the phoenix without any preamble, all out of breath. “I’ve been waiting to speak with you for two days. I mean — I know you told me you’d be back but —” he stopped to take a breath.

“What has happened, Bifang?” asked Moyuan calmly.

“I was flying -- well -- in my true form, that is. And then -- I saw...”

“What?” Zilan said anxiously.

His Sixteenth Disciple had allowed himself to take on a larger role in various matters ever since he’d become the only one to both manage Kunlun and accompany his Master on missions. There were times, like now, when Zilan’s impatience manifested, prompting him to act not like a Kunlun disciple but someone in charge of the mountain, which was not something Moyuan was particularly against. He remained quiet, waiting for the rest of Bifang’s story.

“Two days ago, when I was flying past the Nine Heavens, I spotted the Ghost Princess riding out of the shield on her sword.” At this, Bifang directed a glance at Zilan. “She had a struggle with some soldiers from the Nine Heavens, but she got rid of them.”

Moyuan did not need to hear the rest of it. There was only one reason why Bai Qian, Yehua, or any of their friends would take the risk of going into the Nine Heavens.

“Did you see Prince A-li?” he asked.

“Yes! I saw the little prince, they brought him out of there, but -- that’s the thing,” Bifang gulped. “After the Ghost Princess left, I waited for a while and then -- an explosion happened on the Nine Heavens’ shield’s surface.”

“An explosion on the shield?” echoed Zilan in astonishment.

Bifang nodded. “I saw the Crown Prince and his son flying away with the Celestial General that usually accompanies them everywhere. And then they disappeared. Cloud-jumped.”

Yehua had broken through the shield with his Celestial Powers, Moyuan concluded, the worst scenarios starting to invade his mind. No matter how strong his brother was in his true form, the shield around the Nine Heavens, or around any land for that matter, was designed to be unbreakable. Yehua must absolutely have sustained some injuries.

“I tried to look for Xiaowu at Qingqiu, but couldn’t find her.” Bifang said. And they all submerged in silence.

“But did she -- come along to rescue Prince A-li at all?” asked Zilan, masking his voice with optimism.

“I’m sure she did,” Bifang replied. “She’s not at Qingqiu.” The quiet words thundered in Moyuan’s head like a command which decided he could no longer stand here.

He hesitated for a moment as apprehension pulsed within his veins. Then without establishing a destination in mind, he headed toward the stairs that led to the main gate.

“Shifu!” Zilan’s voice called after him. “Wait, Shifu! We don’t have a plan!”

He stopped in his tracks and turned around to meet with his disciple’s panicking stare. True, he had always considered the consequences of his actions. He had never left Kunlun’s hall not knowing exactly where to go and what to do.

The lives of Zilan, Bifang, and many others depended on his every move, his every decision, more so now that they had learned there was no end to Luoji’s cruelty to those who stood in his way. Whatever card they had won in this game, he would have to take care not to lose it. He was not at liberty to act on any personal sentiment. One wrong turn and he could destroy what they had accomplished so far.

Donghua’s effort would be in vain. What they had sacrificed to gain this miniscule advantage over Luoji would be in vain.

For a moment his mind was tearing itself apart. No coherent thought could form and his reason succumbed to a fierce call from outside Kunlun’s gate. She was one of the lives he was responsible for. What good would any plan be if she should come to harm?

Shifu,” Zilan pressed out.

“Bifang,” said Moyuan. “Please continue with your work, report to Zilan while I am not here. And Zilan --” he turned to his Sixteenth Disciple. “Yingchen’s scroll is in the hall, do not let it out of your sight.”

“Shifu, let me come with you,” Zilan insisted.

“No, Zilan.”

“Why? I’ve been with you on almost every mission since the Nine Heavens were taken. This can be dangerous, let me come along --”

“No, it is because it can be dangerous that you have to stay here --”

“But Shifu --” Zilan looked anguished. “if Seventeenth is in trouble then I have to come with you. She’s my Junior, I care about her as much as you do!”

A hint of regret emerged on Zilan’s face as the words left his mouth. Moyuan, however, did not intend to discourage the candour his disciple had displayed by any means.

“Listen to me,” he said calmly. “I cannot bring you along this time. I might encounter Luoji or one of his close servants on the way and, as we have discussed before, it is vital that they do not discover about your involvement in what I do.”

“I know, but --” Zilan sighed in frustration. “What if -- what if something happens and you can’t get to Seventeenth in time --”

“Nothing will happen,” Moyuan assured his disciple. And he trusted his own words. He must. Finding her and at the same time protecting the plan was his only option. He could not fail. Seemingly having understood that there was no better plan than accepting the one presented, Zilan made no more attempt to stall him.

Once more, Moyuan gave him a slight nod and turned toward the gate of Kunlun.

It was almost laughable how he had once been her mentor yet could never truly endure the thought of her being tested. He knew what she was capable of, how much time she had spent training herself in both magic and combat. He had seen her in Qingcang’s cave - frightened, yet unyielding, reliable. He had absolute faith in the choices she made.

Yet now, once again, he was knowingly disregarding the facts, just like he had at the time of her lightning trial. If he had let her meet those bolts from the heavens, would she have passed the trial? If he would not come to her aid now, would she be able to rescue herself and run to safety?

But this was not something he wanted to find out; it was what he must make sure of.

I did not matter what she thought of him, or if she had never seen him as anything more than a mentor as she had so forthrightly declared. Her existence was what anchored him to this world.

Some plans… Some plans would have to be made as one went along.

Chapter 9, Part 3
_____________________________________________________

[*] Huo-xing (火星): Mars or the Fire Star in Chinese Culture