Fanfiction3: A-Li's Three Lives, Three Worlds - Chapter 77 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 77

written by LigayaCroft
edited by Kakashi

I am Nüwa.

Li opened his eyes and took a quick assessment of his surroundings, noting the strange yet spacious tent that he was in. He sat up with a frown. It felt awkward to see almost his entire body covered in bandages.

Two places in his torso throbbed with pain so sharp it made him gasp and see bright spots. His hands lurched to cup the areas where it burned.


How could he have known it was her? She looked younger than his Mother did. And what had happened to the tales that she was a Yellow Dragon? Hadn’t she been black when she wrapped herself around him to protect him from that Immortal Prince’s explosion?

She also didn’t look like any Celestial woman he had known. Where was the orderly hairstyle, to carry the pride of one’s parents, that were instilled as Celestial women decorum from a very young age? In contrast, the first time he had met Nüwa, her hair was unbound. Many times after, he had met her with her hair in braids, like the Demons oft to do. And now, her hair had been shorn to ear level.

But then… thinking about Demons’ hairstyles finally made Li realize why she had been immediately familiar the first time that he had met her. Past her azure eyes, she and Mei Lin looked a lot alike! The stubborn chin, the pointed nose, the way their brows rose and fell…could it really be?

And how? What was she doing here, a goddess stuck in Hùndùn?

So many questions. Li couldn’t wait any longer. With great difficulty, he stood up and breathed through the pain of feeling his wounds tearing up on the sides. He pushed aside the red flap that acted as the tent’s door then felt his jaw drop.

He was greeted with a sky so blue and so bright. Horses grazing on lush green grass, snowcapped mountains, and a gleaming lake toward the northeast.

Li was dumbfounded. Hùndùn had never looked this beautiful before. Were they in a Created world? In all his time with Nüwa, she had never brought him to such a place.

“You’re awake.” Her voice greeted him first before his eyes found her, sitting in front of a fire under a tree. “Come, A-Li.”

His arms wrapped around his torso, which made her shoulders shake with amusement.

“You forget you stabbed me too.”

“How come you don’t look none the worse for wear, Shi—“ He stopped, wondering how to call her. Shifu? Zǔmǔ?[1] Nǎinai?[2] Mother Immortal?

“None of those titles matter now, A-Li,” she beckoned at him with her right hand. “You may call me however you like.”

He approached her, his boots making squishing sounds on the wet grass-covered ground. He chose to take his seat on an uneven rock beside her, wrinkling his nose at the unpleasant aroma that came from the pot she was cooking in.

“We are still in an Uncreated world, A-Li. This view before you is a product of my consciousness borne from my memories when I still lived in the Immortal Lands. It is an illusion similar to what powerful, nine-tailed Foxes can pull off. You’re thinking about that time, aren’t you? When Bai Zhi made you believe that the moon was about to swallow Qing Qiu?”

And he was. It was in the weeks after his Father had died when one day, Lian Song brought him to Qing Qiu to spend some time with his grandparents. He woke up one night crying for his Father, his screams ear-piercing as it echoed inside the Fox cave. His Grandfather picked him up and brought him outside to calm him down. Then he was told that if he continued crying, the moon was going to come down and swallow Qing Qiu. Indeed, the more he cried, the more it got bigger, and the bigger it got, the more scared he became, which made him cry all the more. With his plan obviously a failure, Bai Zhi removed the illusion and showed Li that the moon had been in its usual place all along.

Li’s gaze remained on Nüwa. It was stunning to see how her short hair framed her face in a way that made her beauty look sharper, bringing out the features which made her look like she was Mei Lin’s older sister.

“You cut your hair.”

Her hand touched the ends of her hair. “I had to,” she smiled and continued. “We are in a world where time moves slower relative to how it does in the Created worlds. Since my existence is unaffected by the time in Hùndùn, I had to cut my hair to keep track.”

“Of the time?”

“A hundred years was your Father’s deadline, am I right?” She stirred the pot, assaulting his nose once more with its unappealing aroma. “In this world, a month is equivalent to your world’s one immortal day. Imagine just how much I can teach you by the time hair grows back to waist-level,” she raised her left arm, the one where she had erased several restraining bands earlier. “If you are willing. My only hope is that I see the day that you can come at me when I am at full strength. Only then can you see the worlds that only us, the Ancient Ones, can see, and only then will you feel my burden and my pain.”

As much as Li felt excited and honored to be taken in by an Ancient One, he also felt something uncomfortable gnaw at his insides. That he had somebody like her teach him could only mean one thing, just as Lian Song had said before: an enemy of equal stature stood unseen before them.

“And you are right to think that way,” Nüwa said, once again reading his mind. “I never intended to shape you up like this, yet since I can no longer see the future, I need to hedge your chances. So, here we are. Like you…,” She put down her ladle inside the pot and took some dried herbs from a bowl, sprinkling it over the boiling mixture. “…I have a family to protect.”

Her words should have made Li feel warm on the inside. But since what he knew about her, he had only gathered from ancient books— what did family mean when she said it so?

“I still don’t understand. Why me? I am not that—” The weight of years and years of being compared to his Father caused his shoulders to drop. “I am not that special, Shifu.”

“Well, that’s true. It could have been your Father. I had hoped for it to be him but it didn’t turn out that way. It could have been any of your siblings. Or, your two cousins. But Hùndùn chose to lift its Veil to you. Maybe because what flows in you is the best of all of us. Just like your sword.” From her side, she brought out Chun Jun, raising it up to the fake sun and yet the blade still reflected its light against his eyes. “This sword, it is well-loved but not appreciated enough.”

His head tipped back to look at his sword. It had held his dreams and evolving aspirations since it was gifted to him by his Grandfather Bai Zhi thousands of years ago. He possessed nothing more precious.

“This one honors its name of Pure Harmony, and is fitting a Prince of your heritage and stature. Did you know the mortal blacksmith who made this with Bai Zhi gave up his breath right after this sword was formed?” She turned her wrist from side to side. “Made from the metals of Qing Qiu, Thunder from Heaven, Coals from the Demon Lands, and the blood of the mortal whose hands had been cut several times while casting this sword. Now look at how majestic it is, like a shining star. And when you set it still like this,” she stretched out her arm, holding the sword perpendicular to the ground. “It gleams like moonlight reflected on a still lake at night.”

Li blinked… hard.

What did she just do? Chun Jun looks... different now.

“Everything that forms in the Created world first forms its spirit here in Hùndùn. The sword you took out when we fought earlier is no longer the sword you have known all this time. Finally merged with its primordial form, this is Chun Jun. And you have a lot to learn in order to wield it properly.”

Li’s hand reached for his sword, which Nüwa relinquished with a smile.

“Shall we begin?”

Chapter 78

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1 (祖母) Formal term for paternal grandmother
2 (奶奶) Informal term for paternal grandmother