Fanfiction: Moyuan and Bai Qian, Book 2 - Chapter 12, Part 2 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 12 - Detour

Part 2

written by LalaLoop
edited by Kakashi
consulting by Bunny
After a day’s time of sword-riding from Penglai and a few cloud-jumps here and there, they arrived at a location from where Xunzhua and the Ghost Realm stood no more than two thousand miles away.

A high cliff that looked out to the ocean was where they landed after their last cloud-jump. While Bai Qian was not that eager to part with Yanzhi, she was half glad that they’d finally made it to here. From the start of the journey, she had been wanting to visit somewhere along the way. And to this particular place she very much wanted to go alone.

“Let’s take a break here,” Bai Qian suggested. “Then we can each go on our way.”

“You won’t get lost, will you?” Yanzhi said suspiciously as they both walked towards the cliff. A fresh salty scent rushed into Bai Qian’s nose and the wind was so strong that she felt as though her hair was being blown out of its bun.

“Of course not,” Bai Qian held up her pointer and dangled it in front of the Ghost Princess, smiling. “Come back to us as soon as you can and let us know how it goes with your council.”

“I’ll have a lot of convincing to do,” Yanzhi sighed. “But at least now we know that if there’s to be a war, some of the people from Penglai are willing to lend their help.”

“Yes, I think we’ve managed that much,” Bai Qian said as she raised a hand to block the glaring sunlight from blinding her view.

“I just realized something, you know --” the tone in Yanzhi’s voice suddenly became as unfathomable as the body of water that surrounded them.

“What?” Bai Qian shrugged.

“But -- nevermind, I might be wrong. I’ll tell you about it later.” Before Bai Qian could say something else, she swiftly switched the subject. “Anyway, you never told me if Master Yifeng has said anything about High God Moyuan at all. Do we know what he’s doing yet?”

Bai Qian hesitated. There would be a time when she had to tell all of her friends what she’d just learned, but not now, not out here. Moyuan and many others had gone to great lengths to protect this secret, she could not simply share it with another person as she pleased, and not when this knowledge might directly put them in danger.

“Not much,” she said with a sigh. “But I think I’m getting close to understanding something. Nothing changes the fact that we all need to combine forces with Xunzhua, Yanzhi, so make sure your Elders understand why the Ghost Realm’s help will be appreciated.”

“I will,” Yanzhi nodded. Then, with a soft laugh she continued. “You know, I really think you have bad luck with Celestials.”

“What?” Bai Qian’s mouth fell ajar.

“You’ve had to end your engagement to three men, all of whom are Celestials, that’s what,” Yanzhi raised her brows. “But honestly, it’s your tendency to fall for the quiet and strategizing men that’s the real problem.”

“Yanzhi!” Bai Qian nudged her friend from the side, unable to fight back laughter anymore.

“Am I right?”

“Well --”

“Am I?” Yanzhi pressed on.

“Yes, you are!” said Bai Qian with a hopeless shake of her head.

“Yes, so maybe it’s about time you tried someone who’s less -- those things.”

“Like who?”

“Like the King of Xunzhua.”

“Oh -- Yanzhi,” Bai Qian scoffed. “That is the worst idea you’ve ever come up with.”

“Why not? He’s your age, his palace’s library is not bad in terms of size, he has a sister and a kingdom under his care so you can be sure that he’s never planning to get himself hurt or killed. You wouldn’t get a headache once every three days worrying about him. You both could focus on other things.”

“What -- what things?”

“Life,” Yanzhi shrugged.

“Are you saying that — the God of War doesn’t live life?” Bai Qian asked, though she wasn’t sure how she could contradict Yanzhi since they whole world seemed to be in agreement that Moyuan’s life consisted solely of Xuanyuan Sword and a zither.

“I’m sure he does,” Yanzhi averted her eyes and pressed her lips together. “But - putting what we saw at Zhuxian Terrace aside and assuming that we’re not having to worry about a Dark Immortal, of course - let’s just say that I don’t think you’re made for a life of appreciating Taoist philosophies and chess and zithers and battle formations, even though you aren’t bad at them. I just think -- that you need someone who can share your aspirations, which have more to do with the world outside.”

“High God Moyuan is very involved with the world outside,” Bai Qian pointed out. “He chose to be a defender of the realms, and as a defender, he’s one of the most informed Gods among us.”

“Yes, but don’t you see,” Yanzhi said. “Philosophically or not, what he does is reacting to the world, he observes and he reflects and he waits for the changes to come. You, like most of us — you want to be a part of these changes, don’t you.”

That wasn’t entirely wrong, Bai Qian had to agree. It fact, it was so right that her brain stumbled and she couldn’t respond right away.

“I know that you’ve learned a lot from the God of War,” Yanzhi’s words sounded less like a joke now. “He’s been everywhere and seen more than you have. He is your world now. But once you’re done learning, are you sure you won’t want more? Would his wanting to be at Kunlun and just embracing the peace bother you then?”

Bai Qian expected no less from someone as astute as Yanzhi, but still, she could not help but feel rather stricken that this was how some perceived her attachment to Moyuan. “You’re asking if I really care for him or just what his mind can offer?”

“Yes, I guess I am.”

“I --” she bit down on her lip, trying to find the best way to explain her thoughts without launching into a full speech about what she knew of Moyuan. Not that she had never wondered the same thing, not that she didn’t know her parents doubted her choice too, but to have this question thrown at her directly, to be forced to think this far ahead was something she hadn’t prepared for.

“You’re hesitating,” Yanzhi’s lips curled up; she now wore the proud face of the victor of a game.

“No, I’m looking for the right words --”

“You are hesitating,” Yanzhi threw her chin forward. “See? You have to think about it. As a matter of fact, you hesitated too the last time we talked about this in the mortal realm. Back to what I was saying about how it just doesn’t work between you and Celestials - with someone like the King of Xunzhua, you won't have to deal with this problem at all.”

“Well --” Bai Qian laughed. “Let’s assume for a second that you’re right about my bad luck with Celestials, why the King of Xunzhua?”

“He makes you lose control,” said Yanzhi simply with a shrug.

“And -- that’s a good thing?”

“For you, it is.”

“Everyone loses control if they talk to him long enough,” Bai Qian said.

“The point is - I’ve known you for ages and I know that sometimes you need to be contradicted, not encouraged. And according to what I’ve seen so far --” Yanzhi’s shoulders slightly shook as she began laughing. “High God Moyuan tends to like everything you do.”

“What…” Bai Qian stuttered. “Oh, he does not! Not like that.”

“So does the Celestial Crown Prince. If there’s anyone who dares tell you to put down your book for a while, it’s the King of Xunzhua.”

“So I should be with him for the -- arguments?”

“Zilan and I argue too, you know,” said Yanzhi, starting to move closer towards the cliff, indicating it was time she made her way home. “But the thing about having arguments is, we don’t have to spend too much time guessing each other’s thoughts afterwards.”

“We’re friends, Yanzhi, the King of Xunzhua and I,” Bai Qian stated.

“I’ll give you that,” the Ghost Princess said. “But I’d say that’s because no one’s pointed out the idea to him yet. And there is also that — ‘what a noble person should and should not do’ in these cases.”

“Well — I hope you won’t point anything out,” Bai Qian warned her.

“Of course not, I don’t meddle into these things.”

“Good,” she shook her head in laughter. “Because he already has enough reasons to make fun of me every time as it is.”

A glint of mischief flashed in Yanzhi’s eyes as she summoned her sword. “But think about it, Xunzhua’s not a bad place at all - it’s the center of magical advancements. I bet you can do much more there than if you were a Mistress of a serene and really grey mountain.” She mounted the levitated sword.

Speak for yourself, Bai Qian shook her head as she sent a chuckle and a word of good luck after her friend who was zooming out of sight. I’ll think about it when you stop thinking about Senior Zilan.

But all in all, Bai Qian knew better than to believe that their conversation was simply about her and Moyuan. Before war had broken out, Yanzhi and Zilan had stayed in a mortal city with her niece for some time. But they’d both known that everyday they had spent together was only temporary, that sooner or later Yanzhi would have to resume her duty as queen of the Ghost Tribe - a life Zilan could never find joy in. No matter how many more days they stayed together, one of them would have to make the decision between the life they were meant to live and each other. That was what always hid behind Yanzhi’s smiles and jokes - the prospect of facing those choices one day.

Herself, Bai Qian thought, she’d never had to choose. But this was because she knew she would not have to give up what she hoped to achieve even if Kunlun became her permanent home.

Perhaps, though, Bai Qian reflected, she should have an answer ready so that she wouldn’t look like someone who forgot to speak their own language the next time a question of this kind came at her.

But not now, she summoned her silk fan. Now, she hadn’t the heart or the luxury of time to think about those things. The sound of the ocean waves pushing against the bottom of the cliff was louder now that she was alone, reminding her what she was wanting to do before she was distracted by the unexpected conversation.

As soon as her fan turned into its sword form, Bai Qian hopped on, holding her balance against the sweeping wind and soared upward.


***


Sky islands - indefinite in number. Their sizes ranged from a small house’s perimeter to that of a whole kingdom. Many lay in accessible sites within the Nine Heavens’ territories, surrounded by similar atmospheres to those of the main realms and inhabited by immortals who guarded the Nine Heavens’ safehouses. Countless other islands, however, remained unreachable and without the essential elements required for beings from the eight main realms to survive. Some were said to be the home of different clans and kingdoms, whose civilizations were founded long before the eight realms had been established and were rumored to be protected by advanced magic that prevented outsiders from entering. None of these rumors had been substantiated since no immortals had ever reached any of those islands and come back with a report before; all Bai Qian knew to be true was that even the Gods of the highest rank had not travelled the whole universe yet and there were many secrets hidden within these trails that stood in between worlds, waiting to be discovered. Some rocks, she had read, were so old that they were suspected to be gathering raw energies around and might some day spring to life. Bai Qian had always wondered if Lord Donghua had used to be one of those.

The sky island that she, her Fourth Brother and Zheyan had frequently visited when they had been children were among the small ones - less noticeable, peaceful, close to the main realms, and in the least danger of being hit by random celestial objects.

Constantly checking the pointer to see if she was on the right route, Bai Qian directed her flying sword towards the location she remembered by heart, but might still have difficulty finding due to the fact that long years had passed since the last time she’d paid it a visit. For High Gods as powerful as Zheyan, a few minutes of cloud-jumping would take him there; for others like her, the journey could easily claim more than an hour.

There was no protective shield established yet, she noticed upon entering the island. It seemed to still be a largely inhabited place. The sun was not to be seen at this time. Landing, Bai Qian quickly cast a tracing spell to see if there was any suspicious magical movements in the atmosphere - something Zheyan would always do for her and Bai Zhen when they were children while they would simply begin racing each other the second their feet touched the ground. When it was clear that she was the only immortal in the vicinity, Bai Qian lowered her hand and allowed herself to drink in the familiar air. Hues of purple illuminated the horizon here and there, occasional gusts of wind carried by the unique fragrance of certain flowers native only to this island.

Every time they had come to this place in the past, Zheyan would also, without her noticing, cast a large shield around them so that they would not be able to run beyond the flower field and the lake Bai Zhen loved to swim in. They’d never ventured further than that.

Bai Qian did not recognize the area she was standing in, it seemed to be a completely different part of the island. Or perhaps nothing here was like it used to be anymore. The eight realms had been turned upside down in less than a month, let alone what more than 90,000 years could do to a piece of land in this vast space. If that old flower field still stood then this must be somewhere near the edge. There was less grass, less trees, and the path she walked on led to an open field with only scarce groups of blooms on the ground once every few feet. In the distance, she could make out a long and vast body of water, much bigger than the small lake in her memory.

The moon was visible from here, larger and brighter than it appeared to Qingqiu or Kunlun, and definitely much larger than the moon mortals saw from their realm.

She kept on walking, keeping an eye out for the mushroom-head birds she had seen that one time. But they must be asleep, Bai Qian recalled as she lifted her head at the night sky.

It had never occurred to her that Zheyan would leave them one day. Even with all the whispering about how High Gods who had existed for too long would have to face their destined calamity and return to dust afterwards, she had never considered Zheyan to be one of them, had always believed he would just outlive them all. If there’d been no Luoji to deal with, would he have told them, told her, this truth about Phoenixes? And if that night at the Nine Heavens had never happened, how much more time would he have had?

A flock of butterflies fluttered passed her, some of their wings seemed to reflect the moonlight, making them look like little stars dancing about in midair.

This place she had been so desperately yearning to see since the beginning of her journey back to Xunzhua was doing very little to alter what Master Yifeng’s account on Phoenixes had done to her. If anything, it only reminded her once again of how she had taken the time they were given with Zheyan for granted, how unprepared she was for everything, how eclipsed her beliefs had been by what she thought she’d understood. But strangely, the more she learned, the more unprepared she felt.

Bai Qian slipped her fingers into her sleeve and drew out the pouch that Zhuowei had given her before the trip. Opening it, she cast a revealing spell. A hairpin with a jade butterfly appeared.

A device with endless capabilities, no wonder the enchantment on it was unbreakable. But was it Luoji or the Demon Queen who had placed this enchantment? If it was the Demon woman then had she done it before or after she and Luoji turned their backs on each other? Bai Qian very much hoped that it was the second scenario since then it would mean that Luoji might not be familiar with the energy the enchantment emitted.

According to Zhuowei, the device was not currently active. The protective enchantment served as a layer of ice that restrained all its functions. But what exactly did it do and how many like this were out there?

Bai Qian gazed into the far distance, transfixed on the scattered stars that sparkled against the dark sky. It was difficult not to think about how, at 300 years old, she had looked at those flickering dots and wished she could sit on one of the five ends of a star and ride it across the universe; and knowing that this was impossible now didn’t really change that wish. But Bai Qian managed to direct her thoughts back to the matter at hand at last.

Amidst her not so transparent reflections on what she had learned so far from many sources, the one thing Bai Qian had always felt to be utterly bewildering remained so until now - Zheyan could not have traded in his Power Feather and sacrificed himself just to distract Luoji. It was not Luoji who’d sought out Zheyan, it was Zheyan and Moyuan who had facilitated Luoji’s plan to take the blue Power Feather by showing up at Zhuxian Terrace. They needed the Demon Queen here for some reason, that was why they’d had to obtain her Feather at all costs. But why? She was more or less a mortal now. She had no powers and therefore no influence on the Demon armies.

She had not been brought back by Moyuan, only helped, and Master Gejing was sure that he had not used Dark Magic to aid her, Bai Qian recalled. Still, it seemed foolish to believe that she would be able to help with anything considering none of them knew when her trial would end. Could it be that there were secrets about Luoji only the Demon Queen could uncover?

It was time to leave, Bai Qian decided and carefully closed up the pouch. The hairpin vanished and she pushed the fabric back into her sleeve pocket. She needed to return first to Xunzhua, then to Qingqiu to speak with her Fourth Brother if he could not afford to leave someone else in charge and travel to Xunzhua himself.

Luoji’s intentions were unclear and that made him more dangerous than any enemies they had faced before. Ultimate power lay in his hands and he could do whatever he wished to the realms; so before he did, and while Moyuan was still able to keep his attention elsewhere, they had to arm their people against him in any way they could. They had to figure out among themselves what they would do if the eight realms were divided and plunged into battle with each other because of this Dark Immortal.

But Bai Qian had not taken two steps when a cold, but not wholly unfamiliar voice raised behind her.

“I had expected it would be you.”

Chapter 12, Part 3