Fanfiction: Moyuan and Bai Qian, Book 2 - Chapter 16, Part 1 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)


Chapter 16 - Gold and Fire

Part 1

written by LalaLoop
edited by Kakashi
consulting by Bunny

What is a mirror doing here?

The boy stared at his reflection inside a tall mirror on one side of the tunnel, wiping the blood that was dripping from his lips with what was left of his sleeve. His reflection did the same. Who had bothered to build a mirror in a cave?

He wanted to get closer … but afraid that the beasts out there would change their minds and drag him out again, he shook his head and ran, ignoring the terrible pain in his legs. Bruised lips and eyes, blood on all his uncovered skin -- he wouldn’t want to look at himself for long anyway.

The closer he got to the next archway, the brighter it got. Was it the item? He ran faster.

Soon the tunnel opened into a gigantic room and he saw that there was no item in here at all, but a sea of golden fire that rose from a cliff.

Was this… a dead-end? Had the old man with the silver beard lied to him?

No, it could not be. That old man had given him food and water when he’d passed out in the middle of a desert. He had been kind, just like that family in the Demon Realm. He couldn’t have lied.

The boy picked up a rock and threw it at the fire.

“ARGHHH!”

Flames shot out from the golden sea and chased after him, hissing like snakes. He ran for his life and hid behind a tall boulder, tripping twice on his exhausted legs, clutching his chest and struggling to catch his breath.

When the fire stopped being alive, he picked up another handful of pebbles and threw them again.

Once more, fire snakes attacked, screaming like real snakes who were angry. This time, he stayed put in the hiding place and covered his head until the raging noises stopped.

What do I do... What do I do? This fire was there to keep out people, then it must be protecting something. What else could it be but the item he wanted? Why else would the fire be so angry? But how could he get past it?

Step by step, he inched towards the cliff. There was one particular rock that was taller and bigger than the rest. On its rough surface were some carvings that looked like words, they shone like the golden fire. He squinted and moved closer to get a better look.

The characters looked familiar, or he thought so at first. When he tried to make sense out of them, though, he realized that he couldn’t understand what it said at all. Some strokes here and there he recognized, but together they made up strange structures he hadn’t seen before. Language of the Celestials from a long time ago?

Well, that isn’t much help.

The boy slumped down and began to think. He didn’t know how long he had sat there, but when an idea finally came to him, he felt so much weaker and hungrier than before. His legs felt as though they would not obey him anymore.

Dragging himself up, he walked to the edge of the cliff.

Maybe…

The fire was angry because he had thrown things at it. But maybe… if he just moved forward.

Trembling from fear, he held out one hand and touched the fire.

It burned. Not at first, but only two seconds later it almost burned through his skin and he couldn’t pull his hand back fast enough. His skin felt like melting and he quickly wrapped it inside the flap of his shirt.

Sobbing and shaking his head, the boy collapsed to the ground, tears running down his face. I don’t want to die.
It’s too painful… Too painful. Maybe I’m not that brave.

But would he die? That was the question. Maybe the fire was like the beasts out there -- it wasn’t asking him to die, only to be burned.

But… how could someone not die if they jumped down here?

How far down was this cliff? Was this the last door or was there more waiting for him at the bottom?

He knew without thinking that he had to try, just like he had tried all along. The boy stood up again. Maybe the world was fair -- he stared deeply into the fire -- just not in the Nine Heavens. The beasts had left him alone, hadn’t they? They had taken pity on him, they had realized he wasn’t here to steal or hurt anyone. Maybe the fire would realize that too.

I want my mother to be well again. He took a step. That is all.

If he went back to the Nine Heavens now, he would have to sit and wait for her to die while those physicians did nothing. And then… they would kill him too. His father was never there, even when he was... he was not.

When she is well again, he took another step, we will run away from that place. They don’t want us there anyway.

His heart was pounding in his ribs, so frantically and loudly that he could not hear, could not feel anything but the fear that would not stop rising in him as he lifted a foot and leapt.

Get to the bottom. The item must be at the bottom.

But for some reason he didn’t feel like he was falling down but instead was being held in the middle of the fire.

He heard himself screaming and screaming. The fire screamed too. Twisting and trying to reach down, he knew he would die soon. The terrible heat was squeezing his heart, his organs, strangling his throat, burning his eyes. His bones felt like they would soon become dust and he wouldn’t be able to even struggle anymore.
Not now. Down. just a little more down. He had to get to the bottom.

Then, instead of fire, he only saw black. Still screaming and kicking, he hung on to his last thought before giving in.

Let me live. Let me make her well again. That is all.


***

A crack. On the flawless surface of the butterfly’s left wing.

The Dark Immortal sat on the Dragon Throne, once again gazing at the wooden hairpin, something he was expecting to achieve the impossible with. The ultimate quest he had failed to do years ago, he would accomplish it this time.

Yet something was stalling him.

For days and nights he had handled this item with the most carefully chosen spells to break the enchantments that sealed its power, yet the item had not faltered. Until now.

Following a certain lethal spell, the jade had been damaged. The fracture was diminutive yet noticeable. Perhaps he had miscalculated and used a fraction more than allowed.

Impossible, he knew what Shaowan had done to create this item, the kind of ancient protections that had seeped through every particle of the wood and the jade. Even if it was impaired by external forces, the materials would not respond this way. Cracking, melting, or any other forms of ordinary damage could not happen with this item. That much he was certain.

“My Lord,” said Sufeng from the entrance to the Dragon Court. The echo of his voice reminded Luoji how empty this place was. “The High Scholar is here.”

He made a lazy gesture with his hand. In walked a man in Celestial clothing whose name he had not bothered to remember.

“My Lord,” the man bowed, fear dripping from his voice.

Of course, the Dark Immortal was used to fear, too used to it now that he was unresponsive in the face of it. Perhaps the only person left whose fear he would like to see manifest was the God of War.

Incompetents and hypocrites, Luoji commented silently as he watched the old man’s fear begin to overwhelm his facade. His head slightly trembled as he looked up in confusion.

“You… sent for me, My Lord? Can it be that a scholar under my tutelage has failed in his duty?”

Should he place such an important artefact in the hands of these useless people? They had not been able to protect their own home, it wasn’t beyond expectation for them to destroy this item.

But of course, there wasn’t a better choice at the moment. And the study of ancient artefacts was one of his limitations. He needed answers. If only those cursed guards at the Arctic Prison had been able to contain the little fox from Qingqiu, Gejing would have been here still.

“Analyze this item,” he told the trembling scholar.

Sufeng strode over, some concern spreading on his face. “My Lord? Are you certain?”

“Give it to him.”

As the scholar accepted the hairpin, he stammered something unintelligible.

“Run the necessary tests and report to me what you find,” Luoji continued.

“What information are you requiring in specific, My Lord?”

“The essentials. The item’s origin, its capacity, Yin or Yang, what damage has caused that small crack on the jade.”

“Y-yes.”

“Steady,” Sufeng warned. “You’ll pay with your life if it breaks.”

“Yes, believe what you just heard,” said Luoji coldly as he strode past the two men and into the open space of the courtyard.

Certain things could not be risked in this game he and Moyuan had plunged deep into, and this item was one of them.

***

Am I dead?

The boy’s eyes fluttered open. How was this possible? How could he still be thinking and feeling things around? Had the fire not burned him?

It was hot, so very hot around him, as if he was still surrounded by fire. But he was not dead. Or maybe he was in the otherworld already?

He coughed. It didn’t feel like the otherworld. The pain in his legs was still there, the wounds where the beasts had gashed at him with their beaks and talons still stung. He took in a difficult breath and tried to move his arms.

Clothes… he still had his clothes.

The fire hadn't killed him. The boy grunted, almost yelling as he sat up. Everything hurt. The blood from his scratches and cuts had dried. It was like the fire hadn’t burned him at all. Although… there seemed to be no air in his lungs and his voice came out like a gasp.

He was on what looked like a small isle, the same golden fire burning all around, trapping him in the middle. The boy grabbed onto the nearest rock and heaved himself up. That was when he saw it.

On top of that tall rock, there was a wooden box decorated with gold. There was no lock on it.

The boy dived forward and grabbed the box with both hands -- trembling and bloody hands -- and yanked it open.

A piece of glittering gold that was shaped like a little fan lay inside. 

Chapter 16, Part 2