Fanfiction: Moyuan and Bai Qian, Book 2 - Chapter 13, Part 7 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)


Chapter 13 - A Debt Repaid

Part 7


written by LalaLoop
edited by Kakashi
consulting by Bunny

It was time he returned to the Void, Moyuan thought as he strode towards the Hall of Kunlun.

The few hours of meditation had restored his lost strength during his attempt to penetrate that device. That had been the most exhausting trip of all, but not without good results.

At last, he had found a solution. At last, he was holding the next winning card in his hand. Each device was surrounded by a different set of protections, each of them a different shape, wrapped within layers of different enchantments and hidden in the most unexpected corner of its sky island. But at the core, they were of the same nature. All that was left was waiting for Donghua and the Fox Empress to get in touch and confirm his theory. He would then know how much longer this arduous work would take and they would come to an agreement on when to end those devices’ existence, and Luoji’s invincibility along with it.

Then, if possible, he would join the battle that Luoji would no doubt bring upon the eight realms out of fury.

Would it be possible?

Moyuan slowed his steps as he approached the platform in the front.

To get close to the device, he would first have to get through those protections - Ghost armies, beasts, creatures of the Dark, brutal enchantments designed to make one lose one’s mind and will.

Deep underneath Moyuan’s loathing for Luoji, there had always been a certain admiration, the kind that he - a God of War - could not help forming toward an enemy of such skills and willingness to improve those skills. An enemy that had made him take the most desperate steps. The stronger this enemy, the more he could see of his own abilities.

Tread carefully, he reminded himself. Tread carefully, and do not get carried away in this game.

In the end, would Luoji place the mission of bringing back his mother above his own craving for an interesting game, for an opponent who could satisfy his sadism? That was a question Moyuan was still pondering over.

Settling down on the dais, he reached into his chest pocket, wrapping his fingers around the cool surface of a Kunlun jade pendant and bringing it out to sight. Her pendant.

The promise that lay between them - as faint as a whisper but unbreakable.

You know where to stop, he doesn’t, she had said to him, as both an indication of trust and a reminder.

His eyes flickered to the hall’s entrance, as if she would soon appear at the threshold, vibrant and eager to remind him with that mischievous look on her face that this mountain, as well as its master, belonged to her.

That -- it was a future he was striving for, a future he stood to lose if this war ended in Luoji’s favor.

“Shifu!” Zilan’s voice cleaved through the silence. “Shifu! Where are -- Oh.”

His Sixteenth Disciple raced into the hall along with Bifang the second he spotted Moyuan, hand clutching a small scroll of paper.

“What is it, Zilan?” asked Moyuan with a smile.

“Are you feeling better, Shifu?”

“Absolutely,” he rose from his dais. “I am preparing to go back to the Void. Is something wrong?”

“Oh, I’m glad to hear that,” Zilan presented to him the scroll which had been unsealed. “I found this at the gate, it bears the Nine Heavens’ seal. I read it, of course, just in case you were still in meditation.”

“We found it on the ground, High God,” Bifang added. “We did make sure no one saw us when we were at the gate.”

Moyuan opened the scroll that was handed to him, knowing that there could be no good news inside. And true enough, the short message seemed to have been constructed by Luoji himself.

“Luoji would like to invite you to the Nine Heavens for a celebration in ten days?” Zilan addressed the content of the scroll as Moyuan read it a second time. “A celebration of what, Shifu?”

Someplace in the eight realms was about to face an invasion. Dread began to pool within him.

Suspicion.

Luoji suspected that he was as clear-sighted and cautious as ever, that he had more on his mind than just Shaowan. This was a test.

Turning to his disciple, Moyuan asked, “Have you heard from Diefeng today?”

“No, Shifu.”

“I see.”

He took a few seconds to think. Not that there was much to ponder over. Moyuan admitted in silence that there was no good solution in this case, only ones that would save the most lives.

“Bifang.”

“High God,” the Bai family’s phoenix responded.

“Get in touch with Siming, find out how much progress Lord Donghua and the Fox Empress have made and if they have discovered anything I haven’t about the devices. Meet me at the same location afterwards.”

“Yes, High God.”

“Let them know that Donghua’s prediction might happen in the next few days - Luoji plans to take over the Crystal Palace.”

Both Bifang and Zilan stilled, exchanging terrified looks between themselves.

“How… how do you know this, Shifu?”

Moyuan didn’t reply to the question right away. “Go, Bifang,” he urged. “There’s no time to lose.”

“Y-yes, High God.”

“Be careful on the way,” he said, knowing that none of them could be any more careful than they already were. But he couldn’t help saying those reminders over and over.

In a matter of seconds, Bifang was also out of sight.

“Zilan,” Moyuan turned to his disciple. “I need you to get in touch with your First Senior.”

“Shifu, how do you know Luoji’s going to attack the Western Sea?”

“He knows there is discontentment toward him across the eight realms,” said Moyuan. “He has been wanting to expand his rule since the fall of the Nine Heavens and having the Four Seas submit to him is the first step in achieving the rest of the immortal world’s reverence.”

To show the mother he was wanting to bring back from the dead how far her helpless half-mortal son had come.

“Hasn’t he gotten that already, Shifu, by taking the Nine Heavens?”

“Fear, but not yet reverence or loyalty.”

“But…” Zilan stammered. “What kind of conqueror tips off his enemy before launching an attack, Shifu?”

“The kind who knows there’s no one capable of stopping him.”

“You mean… Do you mean this ‘celebration’ in the letter is going to be a celebration of victory? Luoji’s going to take over the Four Seas like he did the Nine Heavens, that’s what he means?”

“Yes,” Moyuan said quietly, making Zilan grimace and shake his head in hopelessness. “He sent me this message to see if I can guess his plan, if I will comply with it to save innocent lives.”

“Then… then should we tell the Crystal Palace to surrender?”

Moyuan wished it was as easy as that. If it was revealed to Luoji that his every move was understood thoroughly, disastrous consequences might be brought upon the realms. Until now, Moyuan had been successful in keeping him interested, but also satisfied. Satisfaction induced complacency, and that was where Moyuan wanted to keep his enemy.

If the Crystal Palace fought back, they would get slaughtered. Surrender and bore Luoji and they, along with some other kingdom, would still get slaughtered. And what was worse - Luoji would deduce from the too easy victory that his enemy, the God of War, had been preparing for a bigger battle from the beginning, which was precisely the truth.

No, the Crystal Palace must fight. They would lose this fight, but they would have to face it as the Nine Heavens had.

As for himself - be the benevolent God of War who couldn’t stand watching the innocents suffer, a strategist who was always one step behind the Dark Immortal. Just one step.

“We can’t ask the Crystal Palace to surrender,” said Moyuan to his disciple.

“Why not, Shifu?” Zilan looked bewildered. “They can’t win this battle, not with the Southern and Eastern Sea refusing to come to their aid. The Four Seas have been divided even under Haode’s reign. Sangji’s forces won’t be enough to help your First Senior defend the Crystal Palace. Shouldn’t we be alerting the other kingdoms so they could help?””

“You forget, Zilan, this is technically only my speculation,” Moyuan explained. “The neighboring kingdoms to the Crystal Palace will not risk their troops just because I tell them I can guess Luoji’s moves. Even if they would help, this isn’t a battle they can win. Furthermore, the Nine Heavens’ defeat has turned the tide more than you know, I am no longer the God of War whose words can reinforce trust and confidence in people anymore.”

And it would remain that way until the end of this war, when, hopefully, most things would have worked as planned.

“Well…” his disciple stammered. “We --”

“It doesn’t matter, Zilan,” Moyuan said quickly. “What we can do now is to relay my suspicions to Diefeng so he can relocate the troops he has raised as soon as possible, before Luoji demolishes them. This is not the time to play the hero and take a stand against the most powerful immortal in the eight realms.”

“But what about the Western Sea’s citizens, Shifu?”

“Diefeng can secure their safety by cloud-jumping them away. Ask him to alert Sangjiu too so he can do the same. And it has to be cloud-jumping, because any other form of travel would be easily detected and thwarted by Luoji’s people.”

“Will the Western Sea King let them go though?” Zilan let out a sigh of frustration. “Prince Dieyong and First Senior oppose Luoji but they prioritize their people’s safety, but the king doesn’t. He’ll want to fight with all they have, he’ll want to risk everything to defend his position. He’s an old...”

Zilan stopped and grunted in annoyance. Moyuan didn't need to hear the rest of that comment to understand what his disciple’s generation thought about leaders with obsolete mindsets like the old king of the Western Sea.

“I know he won’t listen,” responded Moyuan. “Which is why I’m asking you to seek out Diefeng and speak to him directly. If his father insists on fighting, he and Dieyong will know to evacuate the kingdom before the battle takes place whether the king allows them to or not.”

“I understand, Shifu,” Zilan nodded. “But I… I still don’t see why Luoji would want you to be aware of this attack. Aren’t you the one person he should keep this plan from? Doesn’t he want his plan to succeed?”

“Luoji wants to see what I would do,” Moyuan said to his puzzled disciple. “That is how it has always been - he cannot stand boredom and he wants a challenge.”
“But… then, aren’t you doing exactly what he expects you to do?”

“He expects me to alert the Western Sea King and perhaps advise the king to surrender to save the innocents, he also expects the king to defy my advice and rally his troops to prepare for the battle instead. But Luoji isn’t aware of Diefeng’s secret forces and they are what we have to protect at all costs.”

“I see…” Zilan looked down at the cold stone floor.

“Inform Diefeng of this possible attack, Zilan, and urge him to take matters into his own hands. As you said, he and Dieyong are quite reasonable, they will know when and in what manner they should discuss the threat with their father, or whether they should at all.”

“Are we leaving too much for them to decide, Shifu, when we know they could very well make the wrong decision?”

“I trust Diefeng. And we can’t assume responsibility for everything with the eight realms the way it is now. People’s opinion is divided - many consider placing their faith in Luoji and some plan to take drastic measures. We can only keep our eyes on the ultimate goal and choose whom to trust in order to prepare for the war - the one that will happen once Luoji’s devices are destroyed.”

“Yes, Shifu,” Zilan dipped his head.

“Afterward, I need you to send a message to the King of Xunzhua.”

His hand tightened around Bai Qian’s jade pendant for no particular reason.

“Xunzhua?”

“Yes. Let them know that a number of citizens of the Northern and Western Sea will soon be seeking shelter from Xunzhua since they’ll have nowhere safe to go now that the other two Seas already belong to Luoji. There will be spies among those people, so tell the king that he had better tighten his security at the borders or his own people will pay the price.”

Zilan hesitated before replying. “You… er… you want me to say those exact words to him, Shifu? Xunzhua’s efficient security is their pride and I don't think the king will appreciate the reminder if I say it like that.”

Realizing that perhaps his words had come out more forceful than he'd intended, Moyuan said, “Of course not. Tell him in whichever way you see fit, as long as you convey the general idea.”

“Right,” Zilan nodded. “Oh, I will be able to see Seventeenth! She’s at Xunzhua.”

Yes, Moyuan looked to the entrance again, she was not that far from him at all. They were only two or three days of cloud-jumping apart, if he made the journey with no stops, perhaps three and a half at most. Risking everything to see her in person was a thought he was still struggling to dismiss.

But dismiss it he did and said instead, “Do not stray from the plan, Zilan. You know of the danger that lurks about these days. Come straight back here after you leave Xunzhua, make no additional stops.”

“Yes, Shifu,” was Zilan’s rather excited reply. The look on his face reminded Moyuan of every time he received punishment from Diefeng for missing class and running down the mortal realm without permission. It was the look of someone who believed the punishment was worth the excitement of breaking the rules.

Moyuan sighed, his expression stern. “Zilan.”

“... Yes?”

“You speak to Diefeng, make a stop at Xunzhua, and come back here once you leave there. Is that clear?”

Yes,” he nodded again. “I won’t go anywhere else, I promise!”

It was wrong to doubt that Zilan wouldn’t be able to look after himself, especially when he had proved to be a capable assistant all this time. But Lingyu had also been very capable…

“What about you, Shifu?” Zilan went on promptly. “Are you going to that -- that ‘celebration’?”

With a quiet nod, Moyuan decided, “I will.”
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Endnotes:

Western Sea (or the Crystal Palace): Diefeng and Dieyong’s home.

Northern Sea: Sangji (Yehua’s Second Uncle) and Shaoxing’s home.