Fanfic: Mo Yuan and Shao Wan 2.0 - Chapter 65 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 65

written by kakashi
edited by Panda & LigayaCroft

Home.

A single breath of air was enough. The fragrance of wood and peach trees, rocks, moss and little creeks awakened a feeling that blossomed outwards from Mo Yuan’s heart like a flower that explodes into bloom in spring, soon vibrating in every fiber of his body.

Home!

Kunlun was where he had lived the larger part of his life and where he meant to die. The Holy Mountain. The Pillar of the Earth, the Pillar of the Sky. Extending deeper into the core of the earth and reaching higher into the sky than any other formation in the realms. Standing at the top made you believe you could scratch the underbelly of the Heavens if you just went on your tiptoes and stretched out your arm a little further.

Home and more... the place that had made him who he was today. A forge of character and will for the God of War, elder son of the makers of this creation. Here, legend said his parents had gotten married. Here, his brother’s soul had cultivated in a lotus to be reborn. Here was where his father had placed him and bound him to duty. From here, he had watched over the Realms at his father’s command until… until he had left this place that defined him to find something he had lost.

He had found it, and more.

I left a God of War broken by grief and return a Father who carries the future in his arms, Mo Yuan thought, glancing down at the peaceful faces of his children, feeling his heart swell with a love so precious, it drove tears into his eyes.

Carefully so as not to wake them, Mo Yuan stepped towards the great hall. It was getting dark, the view of the countless mountain tops all around fading slowly into the rising darkness. A million stars twinkled above him in the black sky, friendly and welcoming. He was home, where everything looked unchanged - and yet he was not the same. When had he ever allowed himself to be this hopeful about the future? There were no calamities, no trials on the horizon… apart from one last, small step. Coming home today was like finally reaching the end of a long, long journey.

“Who’s there?” somebody asked and down the stairs came his fifteenth disciple Gong Che, ready to draw his sword if the late guest proved to be an intruder.

Mo Yuan stood still and waited for his disciple to recognize him.

“Sh… Shiiiiiifu?” Fifteenth squealed when he did, “how… what…?”

“It is me,” Mo Yuan nodded. “Sorry for not sending word in advance, I did not know when exactly I would be able to return.”

“Shifu!” Fifteenth bowed deeply, his face showing many feelings, “I can’t express in words how much I rejoice to see you. Are you back for good? Shifu, we missed you!”

Behind Fifteenth, several figures in white became visible, drawing closer fast. At the front, Mo Yuan recognized Chang Shan, in a yellow robe as was befitting the temporary master of this school.

“Chang Shan,” he smiled, “I have returned.”

Overwhelmed, Chang Shan fell into a deep prostration at his feet, followed by everyone bowing behind him. “Shifu! What joy to have you return safely!”

“Yes,” Mo Yuan agreed quietly. “I don’t mean to leave again.”

He was home. His disciples… they were his family too.

“How have you been, Chang Shan?” he added. “Everyone? Are you in good health? Please rise!”

But before anybody could answer, Mei Lin stirred and smacked her lips, followed by a little whimper. The disciples who had started to lift their heads froze.

“Sh… Shifu! Are those babies?!” Chang Shan exclaimed flabbergasted after searching for the source of the sound, his eyes round and getting rounder.

“Yes,” Mo Yuan smiled proudly and shifted his arms a little so they could see his beautiful children, “these are my children, Mei Lin and Mei Shui. They were born today!”

“Your… children!” the disciples yelled and jumped up to have a better look.

“They’re sleeping,” Mo Yuan informed them though that was quite obvious from how they had their eyes closed with their tiny fists balled, and from how their chests rose and fell regularly.

“So it is true what we heard!” they said.

And “The Demon Ancestor truly came back! What a miracle! We were hoping the rumors were true!”

“Ohhhhh, look at their lashes!” one of the disciples cooed.

“Look at those little fingers and nails!” another followed.

“How tiny they are!” another.

There was quite some jostling because some who were standing further back couldn’t see too well and Mo Yuan pressed the twins a little closer to his body for protection.

“Where is our Shimu?” one disciple asked. “Is she well, Shifu? Tell us everything!”

“She will be here soon,” Mo Yuan nodded. “With Seventeenth. She was there and helped Shao Wan give birth. I don’t know what would have happened without her!”

He had never in his life experienced a similar chaos. It was mind boggling that any battle situation he had been in had been less unpredictable and stressful.

“Shimu shouldn’t be up and about!” one disciple exclaimed. “She must stay in bed for a month at least!”

I will prepare a bed for Shao Wan to rest in for months and months, Mo Yuan thought, after this is over. She will never have to lift a finger again in her entire life.

“What about Eighteenth? Will she come back with Seventeenth?”

“No,” Mo Yuan said, “Eighteenth will not return. I don’t think she’ll ever come to Kunlun again.”

“They look just like you,” Fifth said, sounding in awe, moving the conversation on before anybody could ask him what he meant.

“Yes, I think so too,” Mo Yuan replied, his lips curling upwards.

“Shifu,” Chang Shan said knowingly, “we will have to prepare diapers for them. And milk. Or sugar water. They will be hungry soon.”

Mo Yuan frowned a little. Yes. Little immortals did not have enough cultivation to withstand hunger yet. And of course, bowel movements were a very natural thing too.

“Second Senior, how do you know everything?” Seventh exclaimed.

“I’ve been to the mortal world and have experienced many things!” Chang Shan explained a little pompously.

“Well, he’s right,” Eleventh nodded. “I have four younger sisters and was able to help my mother with taking care of them. It's been a while but…”

“What kind of milk should we get for them?” Chang Shan asked.

“Any beast milk will do,” Eleventh shrugged.

“I will go to the Ghost realm to get some!” Fourth volunteered. “I know one of the Beastmasters there. I will get a selection of different milks for them to try! I will be right back!”

And poof, gone he was.

“Shifu! Shifu come, sit down,” Chang Shan said, taking his arm. “You must be tired.”

“Thank you, Chang Shan,” Mo Yuan smiled. He was. In fact, he was outright exhausted.

“Would you like to eat something, Shifu?” Chang Shan asked. “I made a new batch of cookies this afternoon. They’re sesame-honey flavored, I think you’d like them. Oh, and tea! Tea! We must make tea.”

Like a flock of geese, the disciples followed Mo Yuan as he walked towards the hall, up the stairs, and towards the dais. Someone came running with a woven basket, in which they had put white linen in several layers.

“Do you want to place the babies in here?” they asked.

Mo Yuan did not want to part with their warm little bodies, but it was clear to him that he would eventually need his arms again, which were currently blocked by two sleeping children. Hence, he put them into the basket with utmost care, watching their movements and faces very closely. Were they comfortable? They seemed to be. Kunlun could get a little chilly at times, but somebody covered them with a small blanket, so they would be warm too.

Something was put in front of him and he soon smelled freshly brewed tea, but Mo Yuan simply could not look away yet.

It hadn’t quite sunk in yet. He felt a giddy kind of happiness inside and was debating whether to simply let his mouth do all the smiling it seemed to want to do. Surely, a man could smile like a fool when he had just become a father?

The twins looked very much alike, but he was already beginning to pick up subtle differences. Mei Lin’s nose was a tiny bit snubbier. Her lips were a bit fuller. Mei Shui’s left ear was a bit wrinkled. The one eyebrow lifted upwards quite daringly.

“They are very beautiful,” Chang Shan said dreamily. “Shifu, you can be very proud.”

“They are,” Mo Yuan agreed immediately. “I have never seen children as beautiful.”

No, the happiness could not be contained. He would smile like a fool and be proud as much as he wanted.

“Chang Shan, how will the babies drink the milk?” Tenth asked.

“Hmmm,” Chang Shan pursed his lips and tapped against them with his index finger.

“Doesn’t Seventeenth have quite a few empty bottles in her old room?” another disciple knew. “The earthenware ones with the pouring spout and a handle on the side.”

“Those were full of alcohol once,” someone whispered appalled. “That’s not good for babies!”

“But they’re sure empty now!” Eleventh laughed. “She never left a drop undrunk.”

There were quite a few things needed for the maintenance of babies, Mo Yuan mused as he pulled his eyes away from the beauty of his children and looked at his assembled disciples that were debating on several issues. He took the cup that was offered to him and began sipping its content - what bliss. Tea almost tasted good to him, but it was the best on Kunlun.

“Did you not accept any new disciples?” Mo Yuan asked Chang Shan, since he could not see any new faces around.

“No, Shifu,” Chang Shan shook his head. “Tian Gu was the last. There were a few who asked to be admitted, but they were all lacking. Again, it didn't feel right. I knew… hoped you'd be back soon!”

“Any word from Die Feng?” Mo Yuan asked.

Chang Shan nodded. “First senior is very busy with the affairs of his Kingdom. He said he wanted to visit soon though!”

“Nobody wanted to leave?” Mo Yuan continued the conversation. Loyalty always moved him.

“No, but we would have wanted to come with you,” Chang Shan said. “You must have so many tales to tell!”

“I had to do this alone,” Mo Yuan said quietly. “It was my mistakes that caused great suffering. I think…,” he took a deep breath. “I think I was able to fix everything.”

Are you not getting ahead of yourself? A small voice in his voice said, almost as if it could not stand his happiness and wanted to ruin it.

And somewhere in his mind, the Parasite raged on.

Failure. It was not an option.

“Is the…”

Neeeeehbuuaaaaaaaaaaah!
The sound pierced the air and made all of them freeze.

Neeeeehbuuaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

“They’re crying,” Third stated the obvious. Intensely so. It was like they gave each other strength to become louder and louder and more and more desperate.

“Hunger,” Eleventh said knowingly. “When their crying starts with a ‘neh’ sound, it means they’re hungry.”

“Where’s that lousy Fourth?” Chang Shan said agitated as he bent over the basket, bringing his face very close to Mo Yuan’s.

“Shhhhhhh,” Mo Yuan tried his luck, but the children were very serious about the crying. Their faces were becoming red and he was getting worried they would not get enough air. He put a finger each into the vicinity of their mouths, gently tipping against their lips… grab they went with both hands and then they suckled eagerly.

“They will feel cheated very soon,” Eleventh knew when Mo Yuan was still asking himself whether he should apologize to them for tricking them into silence like this. The eager suckling went on for a while longer but soon, just as Eleventh had predicted, the little faces scrunched up again and the crying started anew.

Fingers did not help.

Picking them up and carrying them around did nothing to stop their misery.

Cooing noises only made them up the volume.

“Hunger is a strong force,” one of the disciples knew. “One of the strongest, actually.”

“Should we give them one of my cookies to suck on?” Chang Shan asked and it was agreed that that was a good idea.

Soon, the little mouths were clamped around the sesame-honey cookies and suckled eagerly.

“They like them,” Chang Shan exclaimed very pleased.

But alas, suckling on cookies was not satisfying the little ones’ needs either.

“Where’s Fourth!” Chang Shan shouted from time to time in between the sharing of tips and tricks on how to make babies stop crying offered by all the disciples.

Fourth got back eventually, a little out of breath and sweaty, carrying ten jugs of milk. Bottles were hastily procured from Seventeenth old room, washed properly in the lotus pond and filled with warm milk.

Silence descended on Mount Kunlun as the babies were fed from the spout until their little tummies looked round and their faces relaxed into the next slumber, and everybody finally heaved a heavy sigh of relief.

“It takes a village, they say. But I’d say: it takes a mountain,” Chang Shan laughed. “Welcome home, Shifu! I will give you back full command now. I cannot wait to concentrate on cooking duties again!”

“Not yet,” Mo Yuan said and put a hand on Chang Shan’s shoulder. “Not quite yet. There is one last thing I need to do.”

His heart was at ease though. He could be certain that his children would be taken care of very well in his absence.

***

The transition was very gentle. A bit like sliding down a steep, dark slope slowly and never reaching the bottom. Shao Wan had always imagined it would hurt and be extremely violent, so she did not even notice the change at first.

When she did, it was too late. But it had always been too late, hadn’t it. Some things that were inevitable, why fight them?

Her skin felt like it wasn’t her own, there was a burning, itching sensation, spreading to her scalp. Scratching didn’t help, it only made her skin raw. There were gaps in her memory. She was still able to speak, but she wasn’t sure that what left her mouth made sense at all. It was like losing connection to the world around her, when suddenly, she didn’t remember a tree was called tree.

The raging would follow, she just couldn't know how soon. Would she still be aware of herself? She imagined that knowing who you once had been would be the worst part of losing yourself.

The Fox Woman was close by, hovering and looking worried, but she herself wasn’t particularly. She had always known this would happen, despite the Celestial’s confident assurances. Even when she had played along. His earnestness, his troubles… he had gone so very far for her.

But what could a Celestial truly know about Demons?

Customs, festivals, beliefs… just words written into a book in his regular handwriting. Being a Demon was living a different life. It was living by different rules. What else would stop a Demon from misusing her powers than a Madness that destroyed your mind? Demons had no laws like Celestials had, no carefully honed hierarchy that only promoted the most diligent, rule-abiding, controlled immortals to the top.

All the while the gradual sliding into madness happened, Shao Wan felt very weak, most likely due to the blood loss. When they had put her into the specially enforced wagon, the Fox Woman had had to assist her. The dizziness she felt made the world turn in front of her eyes, bringing nausea too.

It got gradually worse the closer they got to the Celestial realm. A kind of pressure that made her had throb with regular flashes of pain. She had most likely lost her High Goddess status, she realized. She was feeling power suppression.

That, too, didn’t matter. If only she could see her babies once more. No, she wanted to hold them. She wanted to have them feel her warmth for as long as possible. Was it too greedy? She wished that they would suckle milk from her, at least once. She wanted to feel what it was like, to feed your children from your own body.

“Hurry,” she begged the Horse Tribe people whose horses pulled the wagon she was in. It was only a small group out of the soldiers Tian Gu had led to the Demon Tower to vanquish the Soulswappers. Shao Wan wasn’t sure where the rest had gone… including Tian Gu, whose presence she missed.

“Fong Hung, Fong Hung!” she cried at one stage, but then she remembered she had said goodbye to him… or was that a dream? She thought he had told her he wanted to go with the Horse Tribe people, with the woman he loved… no, it had to be a dream.

“Fox Woman,” she said, “remember your promise?”

“Nonsense,” the Crown Princess said, “everything will be fine. We’re almost at Kunlun. Zhe Yan will be there, he’ll take care of things.”

As if. Her stupid little brother who had chosen to become a Celestial because of his love for Mo Yuan? He, too, knew nothing about Demons. The Fox Woman… she too, she knew nothing about Demons. Only Demons knew about Demons because you had to feel it. The power of the earth that was almost ready to overwhelm you.

Fong Hung’s absence caused her quite some distress in the hours that followed. She slipped in and out of different states of consciousness, sometimes thinking that everything had been a dream. Had she really been pregnant? What if it only were an illusion to keep her docile?

Had Fong Hung really told her they had to go fetch “the boy who grew up where the earth bleeds powers”? A boy who would close the door behind them, who would guard it so that nobody could ever go through it again?

No. As the Fox Woman had said, that was nonsense.

“Eighteenth is not here,” the Fox Woman told her patiently. It was possible she had asked before.

So it wasn’t a dream?

They were leaving this Creation. The Horse Tribe. The Soulswappers. To re-create balance.

“Mo Yuan gave them an option,” Shao Wan said, surprised about how surprised she was.

“It seems like it,” Bai Qian nodded. “You know how people always say the God of War is merciless? He never was, except when it was about himself.”

Well, he was a bit merciless. But in some surprising instances, he was ready to go against his Father, which was as defiant as he could possibly get. He had done it once - with her. And he was doing it again - by letting those people live.

Shao Wan thought she had dreamt about large, dangerous creatures lurking just beyond visibility. It scared her. And then she thought she might be one of them. With her skin itching and itching, when scratching did not longer bring relief but only pain, she closed her eyes, thinking that overall, this was a lousy way to end one’s immortal life.

***

Seeing Shao Wan pale, with her eyes closed, her breathing labored, seemingly diminished in size and substance with almost no powers left yet still dutifully clutching the mirror and the sword, gave Mo Yuan such pain after his delirious happiness it was like crashing into the ground from the height of the clouds at high speed.

“Shifu,” Seventeenth said, “the Demon Ancestor slipped in and out of consciousness almost as soon as you left. We came as fast as we could, I’m sure that Zhe Yan....”

“Zhe Yan is not yet here,” Mo Yuan said.

Bai Qian pressed her lips together and looked even more worried. All around them, Horse Tribe people got ready to leave Kunlun to either go back to to their Realm or rejoin Tian Gu, who was waiting for them in the Demon Realm.

“I am forever in your debt,” Mo Yuan said.

“No,” Seventeenth said. “We are family, there is no debt. How are the babies?”

“They are sleeping,” Chang Shan informed her, “but I am very glad you have come. I have a question concerning diapers?”

“Please, Seventeenth,” Mo Yuan said when she looked at him questioningly, “you can go with him.”

“God of War,” the leader of the Horse Tribe bowed. “We are leaving.”

“Yes,” Mo Yuan nodded. “My thanks. Please convey my greetings and respect to your King.”

Who would be furious when he found out his precious daughter was leading a large group of her tribe into another dimension. Or maybe just devastated. Mo Yuan had no experience being a father yet, but he could already imagine just how protective one could become of his young.

“I will take Wuwu’s place,” Tian Gu had informed him. Pale, shaken, but resolute.

“Are you sure, Tian Gu?” he had said, even though this was the solution to a very big problem. The thought of having to execute these women who had actually helped to save his children and his wife did not sit well with him at all. But he also understood that letting them live was creating a big problem too.

“Shifu, the Old One is fading. Nothing can stall her scattering. I understand that our Tribe… parts of our Tribe are a problem. All that have the Power… must leave.”

It was a sacrifice worthy of all the respect he could muster so Mo Yuan had bowed deeply to her before saying his final goodbye.

Mo Yuan stepped forward to open the cage that was made to hold Crazed Ones.

“Shao Wan,” he said, “Shao Wan, I will carry you to the elixir chamber now.”

She stirred feebly and opened her heavy lidded eyes… revealing unseeing eyes with no white anymore, as dark as the night sky above them. Mo Yuan felt how power began to stir within her, an unfathomable amount that seemed to come directly from the earth.

“No,” Mo Yuan begged her, “do not let it take you, Shao Wan. You can control this, I know you can.”

There was a struggle on her face, twisting it into grimaces of grotesque dimensions.

“Please,” Mo Yuan begged again and grabbed her body with both hands to lift her up, “we need you, Shao Wan. I need you. Your children need you.”

She closed her eyes again and her body relaxed a little in his arms. Why was she so light? It was almost like holding a cloud. But he could not succumb to his worries.

“Shifu!”

It was Seventeenth running in their direction.

“Shifu, what are you doing?”

“I am taking her to the elixir chamber, Seventeenth,” he explained. “It is the only place at Kunlun built to withstand extreme energies.”

“Where is the Old Phoenix!” she exclaimed, “don’t tell me he decided to go on a holiday again?”

“It will be fine,” Mo Yuan claimed, maybe to convince himself.

“Shifu, I will bring the babies for her. She must miss them terribly. And it’s necessary that they get to suckle on her breasts so that the milk production starts soon.”

“Oh,” Mo Yuan said somewhat sheepishly. The milk production. There was such a thing?

“Where are my children,” Shao Wan whispered and opened her eyes. They looked normal, but were so full of pain Mo Yuan wanted to scream in anguish.

“Bai Qian will get them,” Mo Yuan said gently, “come, my love.”

In the elixir chamber, he took off the fresh robe he had taken from his chambers earlier and put it on the floor for Shao Wan to rest on. Bai Qian followed closely behind, carrying the basket with the sleeping babies like the treasures they were.

“Here, Demon Ancestor,” she said. “Here are your babies.”

“Oh,” Shao Wan said and smiled, “ohhh, look at them. How did we make such a precious thing?”

“Do you want to hold them?” Bai Qian asked. “Shifu,” she added, dropping her voice, “does she still need to clutch those artefacts?”

“Yes, I’m afraid so,” Mo Yuan nodded.

Bai Qian ventured to put the babies on Shao Wan’s stomach, conversing with her in a low voice, from time to time throwing looks in his direction. At one stage, Bai Qian helped Shao Wan move the fabric of her robe so that the babies gained access to her breasts. Mo Yuan wasn’t sure whether propriety demanded he look away… but in the end, he didn’t. He even knelt down to hold the two and watch how their greedy mouths sought and found the nipples, and began to suckle eagerly.

“Look,” Shao Wan said and smiled again, “look, Mo Yuan!”

He took his hand to brush away some hair from her face and to wipe away the sweat that had gathered on her forehead.

“I see it, my love,” he said. “You did so well. I am so proud of you.”

He sat there with her for a bit, watching their children falling asleep again, knowing it was time.

“I need to be alone with her for a bit, Seventeenth,” Mo Yuan said to his former disciple. “Could you take the babies outside, please?”

“Yes, Shifu,” Bai Qian said. “I will show Chang Shan once more how to change diapers.”

As soon as Bai Qian had left, Mo Yuan barred the door from the inside with the strongest magic he had.

“Shao Wan,” he said to her. “Can you stand?”

“I think so?” she said.

He helped her up, putting her clothes in order, giving her a kiss.

“Remember what I told you?” he asked her.

She didn’t seem to understand.

“You have to stab me,” he told her.

She frowned at him. “Is this a dream after all? They’re becoming really silly.”

“No,” he urged her. “Trust me. You must stab me. I will get your soul, all of it. It’s inside Xuan Yuan. And I will get rid of him. All of him. Inside Xuan Yuan. He will be trapped forever.”

“I will not stab you!” Shao Wan bristled, “is this your plan that you talked about for so long?”

“Yes, Shao Wan,” Mo Yuan nodded. “It is the only way. I will be fine, just don’t aim for the heart.”

“After how many thousands of years are you planning to return?” she yelled. “Do you think I want to wait that long for you? You idiot!”

“No,” Mo Yuan smiled and pointed at the mirror in her hand. “It will be up to you to assemble my soul and get it back. With this. Do it fast.”

“You are crazy,” Shao Wan raged, “absolutely crazy. How do I deserve this?”

“I will not squabble with you,” Mo Yuan said firmly. “And if you do not do it voluntarily, I will force you.”

“Ha,” Shao Wan, now looking just like her old self with eyes blazing, “just you try.”

There was a commotion outside, hasty steps, someone attempting to open the door.

“What the heck is he doing in there? Mo Yuan! Mo Yuan, open up!”

Ah, Zhe Yan had arrived after all. A bit late. But better late than not at all.

“I told you you shouldn’t have come to fetch me!”

And Donghua too. Mo Yuan smiled a little. Nothing could go wrong with these two around.

“Then why did you not just leave the Demon Realm after they left, Donghua?” Zhe Yan grouched, “it would have been much closer to the Fox Den from the Peach Grove! Was it the wine that kept you? Something else?”

Hopefully, his sealing spell would withstand two High Gods’ attempts to break in, Mo Yuan thought and added an extra layer, right before he let Qing Quan gain control for the last time.

Shao Wan’s face changed from defiance to alarm and she lifted the mirror and the sword instinctively when Mo Yuan let Qing Quan lunge forward.

“How dare you trick me like this,” she yelled.

A lone, fat tear fell from her eye. Before it could reach the floor, Xuan Yuan had already pierced his body. The pain when the sword sucked out his soul was worse than anything Mo Yuan had ever experienced.