Fanfiction: Moyuan and Bai Qian, Book 2 - Chapter 11, Part 5 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 11 - The Master of Penglai

Part 4

written by LalaLoop
edited by kakashi
consulting by Bunny

Located on an island far East, quiet, peaceful, and surrounded by the unmistakable scent of Divine Energy, Penglai reminded Bai Qian of her own school, so much that her whole being ached with a desperate yearning to see Kunlun again, see her Seniors again.

It was twilight when they arrived at the school, perhaps that was why Penglai felt less lively than she had expected. The child that was leading her and Yanzhi up the stairs towards their grand hall was about as tall as her Senior Diefeng’s disciples.

“I don’t know much of what Shi-gong [1] is doing,” the boy informed them solemnly as they walked. “We usually keep to the lower level of the mountain for classes and training. But my Shifu should be able to tell you if Shi-gong is available at the moment.”

“Thank you,” Bai Qian said.

“In here,” he bent down and motioned for them to keep walking through the open doors of the hall. “I will inform my Shifu and have your tea ready in a minute.”

Before they could thank him again, the boy ran quickly away and disappeared behind a corner.

“It’s really -- quiet here,” Yanzhi commented. “A lot more quiet than other schools.”

“I know,” Bai Qian nodded. She had noticed this too. Not that she wasn’t used to silence or the serenity of a reverent location that reflected eons of magical history, but the kind of silence she was experiencing now was rather unusual. From the faces of the disciples they had walked passed, the way they had been greeted at the front gate, and the lack of activities - it was as if all of them were preoccupied.

“Maybe today is the day before a big examination?” Bai Qian guessed, since she hated to come to a pessimistic conclusion right away. Yes, she would look like these people too before an exam.

“Maybe,” Yanzhi shrugged. “But they can’t all be taking exams on the same day.”

“Hmm,” Bai Qian turned up at the ceiling. Then, her eyes unknowingly found the empty dais at the front. She let out a small sigh, not caring whether Yanzhi heard her. In fact, if there was anyone who could understand how she felt now, it was Yanzhi. Bai Qian could not remember how many times the Ghost Princess had expressed her frustration about Zilan - who, until this day, they still had not heard a word from.

“Queen of Qingqiu, Ghost Princess!”

They turned their heads towards the door. In walked a man who looked to be the same age as Zheyan, a man with a trustworthy face who looked a bit tired, but quite eager to meet them. Behind him was a slightly younger man in a sky blue robe, the same as the rest of the Penglai disciples she had come across. They were both smiling, but as they approached, Bai Qian could not help but rethink her impression about them a moment earlier - their smiles were a bit forced, especially the younger one, who looked as though he had not slept well at all last night. Had she and Yanzhi come at an inconvenient time?

Quickly standing up, she and Yanzhi greeted them back. The boy that had shown them up here bounced through the front door shortly afterwards, laid out their tea then retreated without a word.

“I am Yifeng, the Master of Penglai’s Second Junior,” the older man said, then turned to the younger one next to him. “This is Qing'er, my eldest disciple.”

“My pleasure,” said Bai Qian. Yanzhi quietly returned the greeting with a slight nod.

“I -- er -- hope that you have not had any unpleasant encounters with Demons or the Dark Immortal’s people on your way here?” he said. “We know about the Nine Heavens.”

“No, we haven’t met any of those,” Bai Qian said courteously. “Thank you.”

“Please, sit,” he gestured at the tables and along with his disciple, took the seats opposite of her and Yanzhi.

There was something strange in his manners, Bai Qian thought as she lifted her teacup, something she could not quite place. Something in the way he accepted the tea his disciple offered him, in the way they both stared at their cups pensively for a brief moment before they began drinking, in the looks they exchanged.

“This is very good tea,” said Bai Qian.

“Thank you, Queen of Qingqiu,” Yifeng responded. “It’s all in the water and the -- er -- selection of leaves. Though I expect you have tasted better, coming from Kunlun.”

“Just different, Master Yifeng,” she put down her cup. “Not necessarily better.”

“Ahh,” he nodded and broke a smile. “But how rude of us, of course you and the Ghost Princess didn’t come here to compliment our tea. What can I do for you?”

He had not asked her about Kunlun or Qingqiu, Bai Qian quickly took note. Not that she had ever cared much, but wasn’t it customary to exchange these pleasantries before asking a guest what they wanted? Especially for a scholar from a school of Immortality.

Furthermore, when Bai Qian had stepped into Penglai’s territory, she’d expected to be taken to the Master of the mountain right away. She hadn’t thought there would be a need to explain anything to another person, not that this was something she could explain in a few words.

“I was hoping to speak with the Master of Penglai, sir,” she said. “We have urgent business and there are a few things only he can help us with. Is he here?”

“May I ask what this business regards?”

“Well,” Bai Qian hesitated, not wanting to be rude. “I -- er -- I’d really rather speak to the Master if you — if you don’t mind. It’s a bit too complicated for me to explain.”

“Hmm,” Yifeng frowned, both he and Qing'er placed their tea down. “I’m afraid you have come at a most unfortunate time. Our Senior has gone into meditation and will not likely come out of his meditation chamber for another month or so.”

“What…” Bai Qian whispered, her heart dropping to the pit of her stomach. Another month or so? If the Master was not present, she would have found it less frustrating than knowing that he was just somewhere in the mountain yet was unable to see her.

“But…” she swallowed, glancing at Yanzhi, who remained out of the conversation and seemed to be studying the room instead. “Do you know if this is just… regular meditation or healing meditation?”

“It is not healing meditation,” Yifeng answered. Bai Qian shifted in her seat happily, but before she could say anything, he continued. “It is meditation to cultivate and rebalance Vital Energy. I’m sure you are familiar with the concept?”

Utterly disappointed, Bai Qian shut her eyes for a moment. Of course she was familiar with this kind of meditation. During her school years, she had seen Moyuan walk into his meditation room countless times with the same reason - balancing his qi, compartmentalizing his knowledge, strengthening his mind capacity - whatever it was, it usually took more than a month for the seal of his room to open again.

“I understand,” said Yifeng with a sympathizing smile. “It can be bothersome for those of us who have to wait. I myself made sure to tell my Senior everything I needed to say and our plans for the mountain for the next two months just in case.”

Bai Qian forced a smile back and nodded.

“If you will excuse me, I have pressing matters to attend to,” said Yifeng with a small bend of his head; then he stood up with abruptness that almost made Bai Qian feel as though she was interrupting his dinner. “But please, feel free to rest here. My disciple will show you to your rooms.”

Slightly surprised that he had cut off the conversation so soon, it took Bai Qian a moment to rise from her seat.

“We are sorry for intruding, Master Yifeng,” she said.

“No matter, no matter,” he waved. “Qing'er, see to our guests.”

“Yes, Shifu,” said the younger man.

“I am sorry I cannot be of more help,” said Yifeng again before he stepped out of the hall.


***


“Did you see that?” Bai Qian asked her friend, who was staring at something from her window. She had been doing that a lot lately so that Bai Qian was used to it by now.

They had been shown to the guest corridor by Master Yifeng’s disciple, who looked rather uneasy to walk next to both of them. Bai Qian was not sure whether that was because he’d suspected that she - a nine-tailed fox - would cast a love spell at him from behind, or that Yanzhi was here to steal their battle formations to bring back to the Ghost Tribe. However, she had an inkling that this had the most to do with how Penglai’s disciples just didn’t want outsiders in their school on this particular day.

“Yes, I saw it,” Yanzhi answered in a distracted voice. “They’re all occupied by something. They weren’t expecting visitors. Probably don’t want any.”

“Do you think they suspect us of something?”

“Hmm,” the Ghost Princess still did not turn around.

“Oh, Yanzhi --” Bai Qian sighed. “My Sixteenth Senior is not going to appear out of thin air just because you keep staring out a window!”

Yanzhi breathed in, slammed the wooden door shut then slumped down on the bed next to Bai Qian, resting her head against the wall.

“What I don’t understand is,” she began irritably, “if he’s somewhere with one of his Seniors, why hasn’t he gotten in touch with us?”

“I don’t know,” Bai Qian said. “But listen to me, the one thing Senior Zilan does best is getting himself out of trouble. In all of our years at Kunlun, all those times we sneaked out of the mountain and wandered around -- poking at strange beasts, getting caught by Demon kidnappers, he was never once unable to figure out a way to get us both back home safely. And he knows a lot of useful spells.”

“Like what?” Yanzhi frowned.

“Like -- er,” Bai Qian thought for a while. “Oh! The spell that’s able to measure a keyhole and produce a key that can fit right into the lock.”

Yanzhi looked unconvinced.

“Or --” Bai Qian thought again. “If all else fails then you know he can negotiate his way out of anything.”

“Maybe you’re right,” The Ghost Princess shook her head, her eyes saddened. “The only time he got hurt is when he made the Immortal Pill for my niece using Kunlun’s cauldron, when he tried to do something… noble --”

“Yes,” Bai Qian agreed with a big nod. “And probably only for you.”

“Stop it,” Yanzhi scoffed; although this time she was not able to suppress a smile.

Laughing, Bai Qian went on, “so you’re not allowed to abandon him under any circumstances…”

“Oh, please!”

“I’m serious. He’s my favorite Senior, I won’t let you hurt him,” Bai Qian arranged her face into a solemn expression.

“He’s the one who left me that time, and he’s doing it again!”

“Well, we can’t chastise a person for that, can we. If he disappears without telling you then he must have a very -- very noble reason, possibly trying to keep you out of danger. Therefore, don’t question his noble quest, just be thankful and do what you can to comfort him when he -- Agh!”

A pillow attack came right at Bai Qian before she could finish her quip, knocking her flat on the bed.

“That’s for ‘thankful’,” Yanzhi declared triumphantly.

Bai Qian quickly lunged for the spare pillow in the corner and swung it at Yanzhi from the side. Laughing their hearts out, they struck and ducked and jumped, both nearly falling to the floor at one point. The little sprite detached itself from Bai Qian’s harpin, started to swirl around them and enjoy the fight from above with loud and cheerful series of chirping. It was hard to tell whom he was cheering for.

“All right, all right --” Bai Qian held up her arms and let go of the pillow after a while. “I yield! You can… do what you want with Senior Zilan when we meet him again...”

Breathing out and still unable to stop laughing, she bent over and clutched her stomach. “Heavens… I hope no one saw that.”

“Me, neither,” Yanzhi plopped down on the bed again, brushing her hair out of her face and ran her hands through it. “But seriously,” she flexed her arm. “Are we just going to leave tomorrow?”

“Hmm,” Bai Qian went back to her thoughts before the conversation about Zilan had begun, rearranging the pillows. “I don’t think so.”

“What are you going to do?”

“We have to talk to the Master of Penglai. I didn’t come all the way here just to go back empty-handed.”

“But you heard Master Yifeng,” Yanzhi reminded her in a whisper. “His Senior is in meditation.”

That was true, the disappointment Bai Qian had felt earlier came back to her, heavier than before. They could not keep imposing on Penglai’s hospitality, she also could not ask Master Yifeng her questions directly. Penglai was no doubt being held responsible by many of those who knew for housing the Dark Immortal and teaching him magic, helping him achieve the powers that he now used to commit all kinds of wrong. She could not predict Yifeng’s reaction if she told him she was here to talk about Luoji. Would he see reason and listen to her, even help her? Or would he throw both her and Yanzhi out of here?

“Maybe we should try talking to Master Yifeng again,” Bai Qian said.

“What are we going to tell him?” Yanshi asked. “Let’s not forget he already made it clear that he was busy.”

“We won’t tell him that we’re here to talk about Luoji, of course. But we have to try and make him see that we need to see his Senior, that this can’t wait.”

“How?”

“I don’t know,” Bai Qian admitted. “But Yanzhi -- you said you saw it too. Something strange is going on here. That’s why they don’t want visitors. I think it has to do with why their Master is in meditation. I want to see Master Yifeng again to see if this is true.”

“I don’t think he’s going to tell you anything,” Yanzhi said.

“Probably not. But at least I’ll see if I can confirm my doubt.”

***

Qing’er’s room was not lit and his door was left ajar when Bai Qian and Yanzhi found the place. The young man had specifically told them that they could come to him if they needed anything. And now they certainly needed some directions if they were to find Master Yifeng. Even though Penglai was also a structure built on top of a mountain like Kunlun, Bai Qian was sure she could not find Yifeng’s room the same way she would look for her Senior Diefeng’s room. And what was more, all the occupants at Penglai seemed to have gone to sleep. She and Yanzhi kept walking and ending up in unfamiliar corridors and for several long minutes, could not find anyone to ask for directions. Did she have to wait until tomorrow? Why did people go to sleep so early here?

“Some of the disciples’ rooms must be on the lower level,” Bai Qian said tiredly, glancing around for some sign of a Penglai-robed person.

“Oh!” Yanzhi suddenly pointed towards the end of the corridor they were treading. “There’s light coming out of that room.”

Quickly and quietly they strode forwards. Through the crack between the door and the ground, Bai Qian could see shadows moving back and forth. Whoever was in there must be awake then, she thought happily.

However, just as she raised her hand to knock, Yanzhi’s name was said from inside the room, making them both halt at the doorstep.

“You have to talk to Princess Yanzhi, Shifu. We are out of time!” it was Qing'er’s voice.

“She might not know anything about it and by speaking to her we risk revealing the truth,” answered Yifeng’s voice, which sounded calmer, yet the emotion hidden beneath was apparent. “This woman is from the Ghost Tribe, we cannot be sure of her character given what her father almost did to the realms --”

“But she seems kind enough. If she is friends with Qingqiu then she cannot be malevolent. We have to take this risk, otherwise… otherwise Shi-gong has no hope. Shifu, please reconsider!”

There was no response this time.

“His pulse is getting weaker everyday,” Qing'er’s voice cracked, he sounded close to tears. “And who knows when Third Shishu [2] will be back, Shifu. He might not even have found the Jade. This might be our only chance…”

The Jade? Bai Qian’s eyes darted to Yanzhi’s face. Jade… There was only one ‘Jade’ in the whole eight realms they could be talking about that had to do with Yanzhi and the Ghost Tribe. What had happened to the Master of Penglai? Why would they need this Jade?

“Shifu…” they heard the disciple plead.

“No outsider can know about your Shi-gong, Qing-er,” Yifeng said. “This is why…” he sighed deeply. “Just because Ghost Lord Lijing used to be in possession of the Jade doesn’t mean his sister has any clues where it is now. A lot of things have changed since the last Ghost War. I do not --”

“But, Shifu, we… we can’t wait anymore. Shi-gong is barely breathing. The Nothingness can take him any time and we would not be able to do anything about it!”

Not sure whether they should continue to listen to the conversation and also uneasy about standing in the dark, Bai Qian made a gesture to her friend to ask what they should do. Yanzhi, however, seemed keen on knowing what would be said next.

A long time had passed since Bai Qian had last seen the Jade they referred to, she recollected. That day at Ziming Palace, out of resentment she had refused to accept it from Lijing and Xuannu even though the thing had laid only two feet in front of her. Nothing had been heard about it since. She’d also never had any need to ask Yanzhi about it. Had Lijing had it with him the day he died? Had Xuannu?

“Is someone there?” Yifeng’s voice raised from inside the room.

Bai Qian and Yanzhi only had time to straighten themselves and pretend as though they had just arrived before the door flung open.

Chapter 11, Part 6
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Endnotes:

[1] Shi-gong (师公): grandmaster
[2] Shishu (师叔): one’s teacher’s junior fellow student in a martial school