Fanfiction: Moyuan and Bai Qian, Book 2 - Chapter 16, Part 3 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)


Chapter 16 - Gold and Fire

Part 3

written by LalaLoop
edited by Kakashi
consulting by Bunny

Had they done everything they could? Had they overlooked something? A small but willing kingdom somewhere in the eight realms, a weapon or artefact with secret power waiting to be discovered?

Lost in her thoughts, Bai Qian was only aware that she had made it to the library of Xunzhua and walked past the guards at the door when the sight of someone's strong back caught her eyes. Pojing also seemed to be deeply preoccupied. He stood at the large glass window that gave the best view of the night sky and the glittering city below, some wine laid out on the small desk nearby.

Bai Qian lingered at the inner set of doors that led into the wide center of the library.

Yes, Gu-gu, everyday.

You always think things through. That's how we're different, isn't it.


Perhaps it was not for no reason that all those who had seen them in the Nine Heavens had believed the lie before their eyes. It might have been an act, but his concern that day had been real. Her willingness to do what it would have taken to keep him from further harm had also been real.

A moment of impulse that had caused this lingering confusion and uneasiness between them -- but a single moment could not define her. Or define them.

She had questions, and maybe he had them too. But no answers to any of those questions could change the fact that they were friends. So perhaps some questions were better left unanswered.

His kindness, she accepted. What debt was left, she would pay. Or perhaps not. Her time here had taught her that some things were not necessary, and the counting of debts and favors between friends were one of those things. She had learned that from him.

All of a sudden, Pojing turned around, making her jump.

"Do I want to know why you're staring at me again, Queen of Qingqiu?"

Bai Qian scoffed and walked in, mumbling. "What, do you have eyes on your back?"

"Those boots make sounds," he jerked his chin at her feet.

Bai Qian looked down, bemused — these soles were soft and she had been quiet on purpose. “No… they don’t.”

“To my ears they do. Did you forget I’m a hunter?” He smirked, or made an attempt to, then directed his gaze to the city once more.

"What are you doing here?" asked Bai Qian when she arrived at the window.

“Why can’t I be here?”

“It’s a library, and you’re not reading.”

“I’m reminding myself of what's at stake," he said with a sigh.

Bai Qian couldn’t help sighing too as she confessed, "I went to the Demon Realm.”

Crossing his arms and throwing her a look of disbelief, Pojing shook his head. “You know, when I said you were insane -- it wasn’t a challenge to prove me right. What did you go there for?”

“To see Fuze. I thought he could spare some help.”

“I assume it wasn’t a successful trip?”

“He thinks we're crazy for bothering to make a stand."

"From his perspective, it certainly looks like we are.”

"I'd rather be called crazy than cower somewhere warm and safe while the rest of the world is in chaos." Even though Bai Qian had told herself many times that Fuze's reason to stay put was not unacceptable given the stakes, she still couldn't control her disdain towards the man. "What kind of tribe leader is that selfish and irresponsible? What a disgrace to his title."

Pojing let out a chuckle and shook his head.

"What?" she frowned.

"I'm glad you haven't changed a lot. Still that rational but impatient young queen I met in the Nine Heavens who scowls at those who don't share your logics or are too slow to catch up, aren't you."

Her frown deepened.

"Don't worry, it's a compliment," he faced the window again. "When you were ill and as quiet as a ghost, I was worried that whatever you'd encountered in the Nine Heavens had changed you. But it turns out -- you're still you."

"Of course I am. And you shouldn't be calling me 'young' when you're my age."

"I am three hundred years older than you, Queen of Qingqiu. I was already riding my first Kirin when you were probably still playing with a rattle."

"So you were as tall as A-li when I was learning to crawl, that's not much of a difference. And I know I'm right about Fuze, you should have seen him and his harem."

"Says someone who was about to marry a man with a harem."

Bai Qian shrugged. "I was going to make a case with the late Skylord and stand my ground until they make some changes."

He laughed. "Well, heavens help the man who pledges his life to you. Whatever happens in the future, Queen of Qingqiu, I hope you will never lose your spirit."

A sudden and loud commotion outside interrupted them before Bai Qian could respond.

They heard Nalan, the spymaster. "Lower your voice, general, or you'll have the whole palace in hysteria --"

"We are about to die, Lieutenant,” came a loud response. “If the magnitude of my voice is your main concern then I suggest you go back to the border and start counting the number of men that we saw. Is the King in there?"

"Y-yes, general," came the answer of a guard. "Let me inform..."

But it seemed the general had allowed himself in. His angry face appeared at the threshold two seconds later, Nalan striding alongside him.

"My King," the general quickly bowed, seemingly making a huge effort not to shout in front of Pojing. "we have urgent news from the border.”

“What is it?” Pojing asked.

“Celestial troops are sighted three hundred miles from the Northern border, our patrols report tens of thousands at least and more are joining. Many of them are not in Celestial uniforms, but they stand among Celestial ranks."

Bai Qian felt her blood run cold as Pojing responded.

"Are they on the move?"

"Not yet, my King. It seems...," fear briefly swept over Nalan's face. "It seems that the prisoner from the Arctic Prison is among their leaders."

What could prompt such a sudden and reckless act from Luoji? Hadn't he just been calm and jesting not too long ago in the Nine heavens?

“Luoji knows about the hairpin,” she said in a low voice and traded a long look with Pojing before asking his subordinate. "Does the Celestial Crown Prince know yet?"

"No, Queen of Qingqiu," said Nalan. "The Celestial Crown Prince isn't here."

"He isn’t..." Bai Qian gaped, looking back and forth between Nalan and his king. "What do you mean? Where is he?"

"He left for a trip right after you did," said Pojing. "According to his plan, he should be back in a day or two."

A trip? At this time? But where to?

The fire in Pojing's eyes flared but the rest of his features remained a fearless calm, as if he had always been ready for an attack that could happen any time of day.

"We..." Bai Qian swallowed, her voice breathless. "We have to alert High God Moyuan and the others in the Void."

"Nalan," Pojing said. "Instruct your fastest cloud-jumper to deliver the news to the location we discussed." Taking a few steps forward, he gave the rest of the orders. “Lock the shields around the city. Have Kirin riders stationed on air to detect dark weapons and immortal energies. Send our messengers to Penglai, the Ghost Realm, and Prince Diefeng. Inform the princess and summon my council.”


***


From where he stood -- a dry and lifeless piece of land that floated amid thousands of similar ones in the Void -- Moyuan observed the once invisible sky islands in the distance, once again going over the steps he would take to break the shields, contain the magical beasts, and deactivate that device. When it would be done, perhaps he would have expended most of his energy and might even fall unconscious, but it would not be for long, not according to his calculations.

A puff of smoke swirled in front of Moyuan and his sixteenth disciple appeared.

"Shifu, I have news from Xunzhua."

The slight tremble in Zilan’s voice indicated it was not good news. Moyuan nodded slightly for his disciple to go on.

"The messenger said that Luoji had dispatched his troops and was waiting three hundred miles away from Xunzhua's border. The King is arranging for a procedural peace talk but there's very little chance that Luoji will change his mind."

Not beyond his expectations, Moyuan reflected with a great sense of satisfaction. It was time they ended this war once and for all, time for him and Luoji to close this game they had played for too long.

How much would Luoji risk to lose to acquire that device for his mother? They would soon know.

What he himself could do, and how fast he could achieve these things -- they were about to find out too.

Yes, the truth about him spoken by Luoji was perhaps difficult to accept, but of course, he knew himself more than anyone. Underneath his wish to protect the realms was a desire for this challenge, for the chance to defeat the hands that had forced him to let go of Shaowan and then Zheyan.

But amid his heightened anticipation, a sudden regret swept over Moyuan. The last time they had been together -- perhaps he should have told her once more to be safe. Perhaps he should have tried to tell her to stay on the side, hide and fight another day.

He chuckled at himself -- he could well imagine the look on her face should those suggestions be heard from him.

"What do we do now, Shifu?" asked Zilan.

Directing a long look at the sky island that held the device he was about to face and all the obstacles that stood in his way, Moyuan said.

"We wait for Luoji to be kept occupied."

Chapter 16, Part 4