Fanfiction: Moyuan and Bai Qian, Book 2 - Chapter 15, Part 4 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)





Chapter 15 - Reflection

Part 4

written by LalaLoop
editing by Kakashi
consulting by Bunny

From Qingqiu, Bai Qian cloud-jumped straight back to the gates of Kunlun, despite knowing that Moyuan’s meditation still had not completed.
More help -- it was the only thought in her mind at the moment — they needed more help. Every sword, bow and arrow counted.

She had a plan, a plan with a small chance of success, but she had to try. And maybe Yanzhi could tell her a thing or two beforehand. She must leave for the Ghost Realm as soon as possible and if she could not see Moyuan today, at the very least, she wanted to take a good look at the mountain again and speak to her Sixteenth Senior some more.

Without much effort, she found him in the back of the grand hall, feasting on biscuits and other treats he had probably made himself at the long table they’d all used to have dinner together.

“You’re back, Seventeenth,” he greeted her with a wave and made a motion with his hand to indicate she could sit anywhere she liked.

Bai Qian settled down on the other side of the table. “Did you make these yourself?”

“One must improvise when Second Senior isn’t here,” he pushed the biscuit plate towards her. “Try some, they’re not exceptional, but they can’t be worse than anything you make.”

She scoffed and picked one up, pouring herself some tea while she was at it. “It’s not bad.”

“Shifu says my cooking skills are recommendable,” Zilan puffed out his chest.

“Shifu would say that even if you fell off your sword and landed on a pile of mud,” Bai Qian stuck out her tongue. “You’re his favorite.”

“Well,” her Senior shrugged, unable to hide the proud grin. “I won’t argue about that.”

They went on to talk of the Void, of Beasts, strange magic, of how the eight realms would never be the same again even if peace was restored. With Haode gone, a new future was ahead of them -- one that could be bright if Yehua took up the reign, or as dark and unpredictable as the depths of hell if they lost this war.

“Yanzhi was here, you know,” Zilan said suddenly, his tone changing. “We talked.”

“She was here?” Bai Qian gasped. “So she knew about your helping Shifu.”

That day when they had left Penglai, Yanzhi said she had thought of something -- Bai Qian recalled.

“She gave me a good lecture, all right,” Zilan chuckled, rather darkly. “Said I would always choose Shifu over her, that I did it once when I banished myself to the Sea of Innocence so she wasn't surprised I’m doing it again.”

“Have you always known about Shifu’s plan?” asked Bai Qian quietly.

“No.”

“We…” Bai Qian sighed, recalling the days she had spent in the dark about Moyuan and Zheyan. “We had a difficult time figuring everything out. Some of us nearly lost our lives, Yanzhi wouldn’t understand unless you explain something to her.”

“She understands,” Zilan said, sipping some tea. “She said she isn’t sure about Shifu, but she trusts me. Not sure what I did to deserve her.”

His voice was casual, yet Bai Qian could taste every bit of bitterness in his words.

“To be honest with you,” he went on. “I wasn’t always sure about Shifu’s plan, either. We roam through the Demon Realm, fly all over the Void looking for things I don’t even remember the names of. One minute we must do this, the next we must be somewhere else, we could tell this person this, but not that... It was as mind-boggling for me as for anyone else. But I trust the man I bowed to as my Master. And -- he revealed the plan to me bit by bit, then I knew why it couldn’t be spilt out all at once.”

Bai Qian said nothing. She believed she could understand why Moyuan had allowed her Sixteenth Senior to accompany him -- because of this trust. It was that unconditional trust one gave a mentor, the kind of trust she had once placed in Moyuan.

“So,” Zilan interrupted her thoughts and leaned toward the table, his grin ear-to-ear. “I heard you’re about to become the Queen of Xunzhua.”

Bai Qian choked, nearly spitting out the biscuit. “Senior! Don’t just blurt out things like that!”

“Oh, as if all the eight realms haven’t known already. You know, I’m trying hard not to feel insulted,” Zilan bit into another treat and feigned an offended look. “You always say I’m your favorite Senior but I had to learn about this from Bifang’s report?”

Bai Qian listened with her eyes rolled to the back of her head, not knowing what to say in response.

“I met him when I stopped by Xunzhua recently,” Zilan winked. “That king. Generous, hospitable, fierce, looks like someone you can’t bully.”

“What are you…” Bai Qian’s nose scrunched. “I’ve never bullied anyone.”

“If you ever look for children's names, Zilan is good,” he continued proudly. “It means -- Shifu!”

Her senior choked, threw his biscuit back on his plate and shot up from his seat. Bai Qian also placed her food down and rose. Indeed, Moyuan was only twenty footsteps away from reaching them. Though, he did not seem to have heard anything.

“I.. er… I didn’t know you were there, Shifu,” Zilan scratched his head and grinned nervously. “I thought you wouldn’t be out of meditation for another few hours.”

“I am well enough now,” he replied.

“Shifu, did you… er… did you happen to…” Zilan swallowed. “Hear… any --”

The question died out. While Bai Qian tried her best not to laugh, Moyuan walked closer to them, turned to his Sixteenth Disciple, and used his most casual tone, as if giving a simple compliment.

“Zilan is a good name.”

Zilan’s eyes seemed to have forgotten how to blink, his ears reddened and he dipped his head.

“I was just… Well, I’ll be down at the Disciple Corridor, Shifu, to… er… to get ready.”

“Wait, Sixteenth Senior!” Bai Qian said. And even though she was still having to suppress her laugh, she wanted a few more words with him before saying farewell. Who knew when they would see each other again.

“What?” Zilan turned around, looking like he was ready to bury himself in a hole.

“Take care of yourself,” she said. “Be safe in the Void.”

He cleared his throat and grasped her shoulder, sounding serious again. “You too. If it’s possible, I will be at Xunzhua to help.”

Bai Qian nodded. She hoped so too.

When Zilan disappeared behind the corner, Moyuan’s voice sounded behind her.

“I am fortunate to have Zilan along all this time.”

Bai Qian silently agreed. “Don’t let anything happen to him, Shifu.”

“I won’t,” he responded. “As long as I am alive.”

“I need to speak with you,” Bai Qian said, trying to forget the fact that they would be on separate ways shortly. “Would you take me to Mount Cangwu?”

“You would like to speak with me,” Moyuan repeated with a curious smile. “On Mount Cangwu?”

She nodded, the mischief forming in her head pulling her lips upward.

“Very well,” he said and walked closer, taking her hand.

They tore through clouds for the next several minutes. When Bai Qian felt her feet touching the ground again, they were standing on top of the legendary mountain where countless duels between the gods had taken place.


***



No one was there. Perhaps no one had the heart to be there at this time anymore.

Summoning her silk fan, Bai Qian whipped around and struck. Moyuan swiftly dodged her attack, blocked the spell that came at him and slid back as she advanced.

He caught her arms just as his back hit solid rock, twisted her around and pulled her toward him by the waist, one arm restraining her across the shoulder.

“How have I offended you this time?” he said in a low voice.

“You haven’t,” she said, her back to him. “We only have a few hours left before you go back to the Void and I to my friends.”

“And this is how you would like to spend those few hours?” he asked, a sudden thrill lacing his voice.

“Yes,” with an enormous force, she tore free and pointed her fan at him, ready to attack again. “I’ve always wanted to duel you. If anything happens to you in the Void, I might never get the chance again.”

Smiling that challenging smile of his, Moyuan said. “As you wish.”

Bai Qian knew no matter how brutal her attacks, Moyuan would likely not get hurt, especially when he’d just come out of meditation on a mountain full of Divine Energy. But she was also aware of her own improvement. The last time she and Yehua had duelled, she had gotten close to breaking his practice sword in half and sending him into a rack of weapons nearby. Of course, that was after he had already disarmed her, but she’d been close, very close.

“I don’t want to maim you before your mission,” said Bai Qian. “So you should tell me if it’s becoming too much.”

With another smile, Moyuan nodded. “I will.”

Launching full speed ahead, Bai Qian aimed for his chest, her spell managed to burn the shield that snapped into place in front of him -- a shield he perhaps thought was enough to block her. With a look of astonishment and excitement, he moved forward, striking instead of only defending himself.

Thud, her back hit a standing rock this time as Moyuan had both her arms in a lock, one of his hands clasping the side of her neck, their faces an inch apart.

“When I was in the Nine Heavens,” Bai Qian said. “Luoji said he and you are a lot alike.”

“Did he?”

“Do you think so?”

“Our principles are not the same, obviously,” he replied. “But our interests, yes. More similar than I would like to admit.”

“He said that too.” Bai Qian twisted to the side, brought her elbow upward and broke free. “Do you think he would have let me be eaten by the blind Kirin in the maze if it came to it?”

She zoomed towards him again with a series of spells, one hit him on the torso, forcing him to conjure a stronger shield to stabilize himself before continuing.

“He would have interfered if you were one inch away from the Kirin’s jaw. But he would have had no problem letting you lose a limb or two.”

Bai Qian shuddered. “Madman.”

“I hope you realize that I would bother to save you if your life were in peril?” Moyuan chuckled.

“But possibly not before I was bitten and gashed a few times?”

Moyuan shook his head with a hopeless smile.

With another series of slashes and kicks, she got close enough. Bai Qian stretched her arm and grabbed his shoulder, but he was too quick to get out of the way and her fingers clutched onto his outer robe instead. As Moyuan flew to one side, the robe was flung to the other, the fabric torn at the shoulder line due to her force.

“Well --” Bai Qian paused, marvelling at her achievement. “I hope that wasn’t your fav…”

But the moment of distraction had cost her. Moyuan advanced, sweeping her feet off the ground.

THUD.

Bai Qian was flat on her back, Moyuan kneeling over her, his hands trapped hers in a tight grip on her chest. She struggled, her blood up at the sight of him smiling as if this was costing him no effort at all.

“No, it wasn’t,” he leaned down a little. “Are you going to stop and apologize to Luoji’s soldiers on the battlefield every time you accidentally tear any of their clothes?”

Bai Qian struggled again, but his grip was merciless.

“There is something different about your technique,” he commented. Bai Qian couldn’t decide whether that was a compliment or criticism.

“I learned a lot of things in Xunzhua.”

“That explains the aggressiveness.”

How could he look so effortless? Bai Qian thought in frustration, still trying to yank her arms free.

“A little more aggressiveness, if you can,” he said with a hint of tease.

Directing her power to the arms, she pulled and wrenched away, flipped over and kicked against the ground, hoping to slam him down in return. But Moyuan had already moved far back, looking eager for another round.

Good, so was she.


***


Bai Qian rubbed her aching wrists and sank down on a boulder. She hadn’t lost any strength over the sparring, she rather felt energized. Judging by Moyuan’s unaffected state, she was sure she hadn’t weakened him in any way, either.

“You really believe you can end Luoji’s devices once and for all this time, Shifu?” she asked.

“Yes,” Moyuan too settled down on a rock next to her. “Luoji will sense the disruption around his life forces, of course. But with the proper preparations, we will shut them down before he could reach any of the sky islands.”

Bai Qian debated voicing her worries, but she knew that more than anyone, Moyuan understood those worries.

“There is something I want to do,” she said instead. “And I need your opinion.”

He turned to face her. “What is it?”

Taking in a deep breath, Bai Qian began, “With the scarce number of allies we’ve gathered, we won’t stand a chance on the battlefield with Luoji’s army. Maybe you and the others will be able to deactivate the devices on time to prevent too many deaths on our side, but maybe you won’t. We need more help.”

Moyuan remained quiet, inviting her to go on.

“When I was in the Nine Heavens,” Bai Qian continued. “Someone in particular struck me as potential help.”

“Who?”

“Fuze of the Demon Realm.”

A brief moment of silence struck, and then Moyuan said with a change of tone.

“Why do you think so?”

“He was the only one who looked like he was there for entertainment. When you came -- I was exhausted and muddled but I could see that his reaction was not the same as the rest of the guests. There was no respect or fear on his face, in his words, but also no hatred, just plain curiosity. And when you said you tried to resurrect the Demon Queen, I swear he was really excited.”

Moyuan did not argue.

“He stood out in that crowd,” she went on. “He wasn’t there because of fear or submission. He’s contemplating his choice. It seems like he’s open to both Luoji and us if we ask for help.”

Moyuan considered her assessment in silence, Bai Qian wasn’t sure whether it was agreeing or disapproving silence.

“You are right. I have considered this myself,” he said. “But with Shaowan gone and the Demon Realm in disarray, Fuze and the other Demon Lords and Ladies live by their own rules. They do not provide help where they see no benefit.”

“Have you met Fuze in person before?”

“Yes, but long ago, before the Ghost War.”

“Is he a man of honor?”

“It depends on how you define ‘honor’. He will not break a bargain once he has made it, but it is getting him to make the bargain that is the problem. Fuze and his people don’t care about what happens to the rest of the realms, let alone aiding the side with so many disadvantages in this war. They make deals, trade, and thrive on their own, occasionally exchanging troops for a luxurious payment.”

Bai Qian’s forehead became a bit hot -- wasn’t that exactly how her own kingdom had been?

“I’ll go talk to him.”

Moyuan shook his head. “Seventeenth, the Demon Realm is not safe.”

“Nowhere is safe right now. Luoji’s sadism is not exactly a secret anymore, this war is also inevitable, it’s either Fuze will help us or he won’t. There’s no secret to exchange, no information he can extract from me that will harm us.”

“You’ve forgotten something,” he said. “To make Fuze see why all tribes, including his, are in danger, you would need to tell him about the hairpin and what Luoji intends to do with it, which you cannot. No one can know about the hairpin until it has been destroyed.”

“I don’t need to tell him about the hairpin, maybe he will accept some other offer.”

Moyuan rose and walked a few steps ahead, arms behind his back. “I don’t believe there is any offer we can make that will appeal to Fuze. Either you have to impress him with incredible power, as Luoji has, or make him see how an alliance can benefit his people.”

Neither of those things was possible at the moment -- Bai Qian’s heart sank. Although, her determination was resolute.

“It’s high time we explored all options,” she said. “Even if the chance is small.”

“The road to the Demon Realm is a dangerous one,” responded Moyuan. “It is a trip to the gates of Hell for some, the Demons possess an indefinite hatred for the rest of the realms.”

“Yehua and I came back from there recently,” she retorted.

“Shaowan’s direction took you on a route that avoids the presence of Demons. This -- you are speaking of an audience with a Demon Lord and being among people who have long disregarded civility.”

“That’s why I’m asking you to tell me what you know about Fuze, Shifu. Unless he is the kind of Demon Lord who would kill foreigners on sight, I think I will make this trip.”

“Is it worth risking your life when we already know Fuze will not be persuaded?”

“Is that a lack of faith in me?” she slowly stood up, cheeks becoming hot.

“No, Seventeenth,” he turned around, facing her. “It is fact. Most Celestials who have visited Fuze’s land came back humiliated. Not to mention that the Demon Realm is protected by their distinct magic, we cannot overpower them there. There’s a reason why no Skylord has ever been able to conquer this land or even convince them to open their door.”

“We are outnumbered in this war even with Zhongyin’s help,” she reminded him. “I just want to save as many from dying as possible. Fuze’s troops are not massive, but they can make a difference.”

“I know all of that,” Moyuan let loose a long breath. “But it is your safety I am concerned for.”

“You were gone for 70,000 years,” she snapped. “And we’ve never been in the same place for more than five days since Luoji appeared, my safety is out of your hands!”

Bai Qian was suddenly breathless, agonized longing tearing through her as the words came out of her mouth. She wanted to leave everything and go with him to the Void, help him, maybe bear some of the inevitable injuries for him if it came to it.

But even before that thought could be finished in her head, she said, “my friends… will need help. Yehua needs help. And I -- I’m not doing enough.”

The silence between them stretched. Moyuan stepped towards her until they were shoulder to shoulder. Unlike the intimidating God of War a few minutes ago, his presence now was like a soothing wind that gave her both strength and peace.

“Not a day goes by have I not wished you were with me instead of millions of miles away. But of course,” a distant sadness sliced through his voice. “I am quite aware that I can’t keep you safe all the time, and our paths can’t always be the same.”

Bai Qian looked up at those eyes whose warmth only manifested if one looked hard enough. “They don’t have to be.”

“No,” he smiled.v