Fanfiction3: A-Li's Three Lives, Three Worlds - Chapter 78 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 78

written by LigayaCroft
edited by Kakashi

11’900 years ago.

There was no time for pleasantries by the time Li returned to Qing Qiu. He had just come down from the cave when Lian Song, who had been periodically checking if he had returned, arrived. His granduncle bore grave news. Li was to be immediately summoned to the frontlines of Fusang (扶桑) Island. Dissenters had been wreaking havoc there for years before its inhabitants' cries for help reached Tianjun’s ears.

He and Lian Song made haste for Fusang. As expected, his granduncle took advantage of the travel time to complain about what an unfilial grandnephew he had become.

Why didn’t you come back right away to tell us you were alive?
Didn’t you know how worried I was when your disappearance took on years?
I used up a hundred years’ worth of excuses to cover for you. Do you want to hear some of them?
You have been gone too long. I hope by now you know more than to break an egg

Had it really been a hundred years? He had just managed to clear Nüwa’s left forearm before she declared the training was over. While he should be proud that he was now able to go toe-to-toe with Nüwa at 25% of her level, Li was also worried about what he had in front of him.

She refused to discuss it, claiming that now that she had lost her sight into the future, her freedom to talk about what his Father’s reign faced at present was limited. She was tight-lipped when pressed about Huo Zheng as well. She claimed the Heavens still had its own will when it came to immortals; thus, any interference could affect Huo Zheng's return.

Nüwa pushed him hard with training instead.

For 100 years. But had it been enough?

“Look, A-Li,” Lian Song’s voice broke through his runaway thoughts, pointing at the vast tract of mountainous land rising from the Red Sea. “It’s Fusang Island.”

The Celestial Troops deployed to Fusang Island looked weary but stood straighter when he and Lian Song arrived. The Commander over the garrison, Zhang Wei, gave them the update: how the dissenters had taken over the Earth God Tu Di’s palace. Try as they might, nobody had gotten close. The fate of both Tu Di Gong and Tu Di Po also remained unknown.

Li and Lian Song were ushered to the central tent for a meeting. Upon arriving inside, Li’s first action was to remove a tiny plant from his sleeve and place it on top of a nearby table, obscuring it from view right after. He blew his breath, relieved to see that it was still alive.

“The dissenters follow the commands of a warrior of unbelievable size and strength, Tàizǐ Diànxià. He is very tall and hard to miss with his long, red hair.”

“Red hair?” Li repeated the detail, bringing back memories of Nanking, meeting a red-haired man, and foreseeing Huo Zheng’s death at the sight of him.

The soldier nodded. “Those who have faced him have never come back. There were rumors from locals who have escaped their clutches that he devours his victims while still alive.”

Something hard and heavy hit his chest.

Master has told me not to eat. Oh! But I am hungry. What do I do?

Could it be?

“There is another thing.”

“What?” Lian Song asked.

“Once you cross that border, everything will look different. The landscape changes every now and then, which causes our troops to get separated. That’s how they got ambushed and massacred.”

”This garrison only occupies a small tract of the island. If so,” Lian Song tapped his fan repeatedly on his forehead. “There are only a few gods who can break through an illusion spell of this range. You,” He pointed to a soldier close to the entrance of the tent. “Send word to Tianjun about—“

“Shūshu,” Li said, using his hands on Lian Song’s shoulders to stand face-to-face. “It is wise to send for reinforcements, but we should still try to do something.”

Lian Song’s eyes became so full they almost bulged out of their sockets. “Right, right,” and without missing a beat, he dragged Li outside the tent until they were facing the border. “Do your thing.”

He looked at Lian Song, who was swishing his fan at the border.

“Cancel that illusion. You were able to do it over an entire Demon City before, surely a small island should not pose a challenge?”

He glanced worriedly over Lian Song’s shoulders. Thankfully, nobody seemed to have heard. He sighed, raised his left hand, and waved it from right to left.

He hissed as the unpleasant effect of his dispel magick hit him. A sour then bitter taste flooded his mouth simultaneously while intense pressure hit him from the head down. He released as much of the burden as he could back into Hùndùn. While he felt uncomfortable, he was able to stand.

And think. The caster of the illusion was obviously a High God and must not be undermined. And strong. He pushed and pushed and yet try as hard as he could, he could not break the illusion.

“The border!” Cried a spectator from behind him. “It is moving!”

Li looked and true enough, it was… but toward them, not away from them! Lian Song’s hand grabbed Li’s right wrist to drag him back.

Still, it was too late. From bright skies overhead, they were encased in a dark atmosphere that smelled heavily of sulfur.

“Was it always like this?” He turned to Zhang Wei.

“The scenery changes every time. But this is the first time that I have been in one that looked… malevolent.” To his troops, Zhang Wei shouted. ”Be on your guard and protect the Crown Prince!”

“It’s like whoever cast this spell waited for you to come,” Lian Song added, tapping his fan into the palm of his hand. “The spell slithered toward us like a snake.”

“Do you hear that, Shūshu?”

“A xiao,” Lian Song nodded. “The caster is making himself known to—“

Without warning, Li found himself suddenly on his own.

The landscape also changed.

He was in the middle of what looked like Hūicun, and the village was in flames.

His hand reached up to catch embers as they flew past. Once he got one, he opened his hand and watched what used to be part of a shelter die out into ashes in his palm.

Li rushed down the empty main street, his feet completely overtaking his mind as muscle memory led him to their house's location.

The courtyard was burning yet empty. And so was the house.

It’s an illusion. It’s only an illusion. Li kept repeating the words as he trembled at seeing the roof that he had worked on repairing several times a year crumble to ash. It may be an illusion, but still, it felt all too real to Li that he found himself coughing due to the overwhelming black smoke.

He ran toward the back where the entrance to Huo Zheng’s cellar was. The wood handles felt real in his hand when he held them to lift and pull.

“Xiăohŭ!” He shouted to the darkness inside and was about to go down the cellar when the landscape changed again.

He was in a section of the town’s zhao jia grove. The moon was high overhead, making the trees look nefarious. From a distance, Li could see somebody on the ground.

He knew without a doubt that it was her, Huo Zheng.

Rather the illusion of her, but it didn’t matter. Just like how Li was whenever he dreamt of her, he jumped on the chance to see her one more time.

He rushed toward her supine figure, but a couple of steps through, his ears picked up a movement to his right before his eyes saw a blade slice through his periphery.

He jumped a couple of paces back.

The grove still looked empty, yet there was no mistaking the giant blade that he had just seen.

His eyes cast a glance toward the lying form of Huo Zheng.

It is not her. Get a grip on yourself.

Li flew into the air just in time to see the shadow of a giant blade pass through where he had stood before.

A guandao [1]. Li was sure of that much by now. And it looked like whoever was attacking him was immune to the illusion— as if operating on a different plane yet the damage to him if he got hit would be the same.

He purposely did not avoid the next attack entirely when it came. It sliced diagonally and caught a portion of his lower back.

So his opponent was quick, powerful, and could fly.

Having already obtained one hit to assess his opponent, he held out his hand after taking one last look around. Then he called for his sword to come to him from Hùndùn.

“Help me see, Chun Jun.”


11’880 years ago.

It wasn’t easy to train with an Ancient One.

Nüwa had been both creative and crazy. With the rest of the Uncreated worlds for them to train in, just by thinking it, she created beasts to hunt him down and fight him, each new one more terrifying than the last. She orchestrated hostile environments for his training. The creatures she summoned were intelligent and could traverse worlds, too. Because of that, Li was told it was his responsibility while fighting for his own life to ascertain they didn’t rip through the Veil and enter a Created world.

It was a lot of work to do all at the same time. Even though he succeeded each time, she still punished him for doing poorly in a round by debilitating him piecemeal.

How can you go against the likes of Me when you cannot even withstand my Creation?

By now, he had lost sight in one eye and altogether lost his sense of hearing, smell, and taste…and he had also lost his sense of pain. At first, he found it an advantage. But it took a beast from almost biting his shoulder off for him to realize how dangerous it actually was to not know that his body was already harmed.

For this round, he had been fighting vicious beasts who harnessed air power and moved ten times as fast as he could. Their forms looked closest to giant hornets, with pointed tails and tongues that could unroll and flick like a whip. Without his hearing and with only his sense of touch left to guide him, Li had found it very hard to defend against them. Without pain, he had to check his wounds regularly to see how badly he was bleeding. His stamina was drained, and he was close to passing out, but he was also determined not to lose the rest of his sight.

Nüwa had complained before that his training progressed slower than she expected it to, even though Li himself felt he had already run through enough walls to say that he had improved.

”I might as well return you to your world now, child. We are getting nowhere. You should have seen it by now.”

Seen what? With all her self-imposed rules on what she could and couldn’t say, what she could and couldn’t do, more often than not, he left her tent feeling more confused than when he had first come in.

Now down on his knees, the sight of his sword on the ground as he leaned against it swam before his eyes. How disappointing it must have been for his sword to see him take on defeat after defeat.

He hugged the hilt. I am sorry, Chun Jun. I have been relying more and more on you because I am not strong enough yet. But we also have not gone through training all these years to pass out with a whimper. One more fight, just hold on a little bit longer…

With determination and one arm leaning against the hilt, he pushed his right foot to level with the ground to propel his body to stay upright.

Just as he stood up, the scenery before him turned black.

Give the sword your sight.

Li greeted his teeth upon hearing Nüwa’s voice in his head again. It was one thing that she was able to read his mind and state his thoughts. It was a more significant issue that with her voice inside his head, he lost his personal space. This had been an annoying power of hers that he had struggled to overcome. To her initial astonishment, after fifty years, he was finally able to block her out. But it needed constant practice and awareness, which had been impossible to do when one was losing a fight.

Like today.

Get out of my head, Nǎinai.

I can’t help it. It must be because you’re so close to death.

Hot breath shot out from his nose at the thought of her laughing at his expense.

Even though you call me Nǎinai only as an insult, you know I still like hearing it, don’t you?

He cut her off, and he was back at his actual battleground, exposed in a barren valley against four beasts. His poor eyesight accounted for the creatures around him. His heart sank when he realized that the two with their poisonous tails still intact were not there. A sweep at the place showed that they were nowhere to be found.

He wouldn’t make it out alive.

Under normal circumstances, he wouldn’t even entertain Nüwa’s suggestion. But with only one poor eye, and probably a couple more breaths close to death, he indeed only had his sword to lean on.

How to give Chun Jun his sight, though? And what did she mean by saying that? It was not like Nüwa had ever taught him how.

The small hairs on his skin prickled. An attack was imminent. Left? Right? From above? He raised his left hand, waving it from left to right to feel the wind. He could only evade toward one direction and hope he made the right choice.

He dashed to the right, then farther right before turning left, just as a boom sucked the air, and the ground shook from the direction where he used to stand. The succeeding attacks were a flurry after that, as the four beasts took turns chasing him down and hitting him with their tails and tongues.

He got hit in many places, but his need to keep moving beat the need to stop and check for injuries. His opponents were immune against fire. Their wings' fast rhythm was able to counter any ice or wind attack. Further, because they attacked from the air, his earth spells were of no use either. At four against one, to stop would mean death.

Li’s grip on his sword tightened. Out of desperation, he shouted, “Help me see, Chun Jun!”

Something that felt like a cloth shrouded his eyes as the world faded into black. Panic initially set in until he could see

Black gave way to a world in shadows. Then in lines that were strong-tipped at the head and grew faded toward the tail, the colors came.

Four of them were raging red.

Nüwa would later explain what he had seen as ’killing intent.’

And the shadow world with lines was the world as Chun Jun ‘saw’ it.


Back in the present, Li finally saw his opponent past the trappings of the illusion of Huicūn. Like roots, lines of red slithered all over the air and the ground as he controlled everything using his flute.

But first, the lackey. He was a mass of reds and black. Even his guandao was brimming with his need for violence.

Having swapped his real sight for Chun Jun’s, Li knew today he might not know what his opponents looked like, but such was the price of this land’s deliverance.

A sword against a guandao would hardly stand a chance. Still, what his weapon lacked for in damage ability, Li was able to make up with agility.

The warrior was strength personified so that Li’s muscles strained to defend against the attacks. However, the warrior also lacked the finesse of a trained soldier. Instead, this one moved like strong waves crashing aimlessly to the shore.

Confident in his assessment, Li bound the lackey with magick before delivering a fatal blow across the warrior’s chest. The hulk screamed in agony as pain and helplessness ripped through him.

Li would have finished him off if he hadn’t seen his True Opponent move. Rushing across the distance between them, he crashed into the immortal and used his hands on his neck to pin him down.

“Who are you?” He demanded. “What do you want?”

The only answer he received was the man’s laughter, bone-chilling, and resounding as it rumbled from his belly.

“I see you have gotten so much stronger, boy. But, as you can see, unlike that time at the temple, I have gotten stronger too. The next time we meet, I won’t be as merciful.”

By the next breath, after Li returned to his own sight, he saw that all he was holding was the trunk of a small tree.

The sky above was once again blue. The air was crisp and clear.

The illusion was gone.

And so was his Opponent.

Chapter 79

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(偃月刀) Literally ”reclining moon blade”, a polearm with a massive blade.