Fanfiction: Moyuan and Bai Qian, Book 2 - Chapter 16, Part 5 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)


Chapter 16 - Gold and Fire

Part 5
 
written by LalaLoop
edited by Kakashi
consulting by Bunny

In silence, Zilan observed the flickering web of magic his Shifu had crafted within the last two hours, the web that was now enveloping the sky island which housed the Dark Device, slowly disengaging the defenses put up by Luoji.

Undetectable and efficient, Shifu had said. And Zilan had realized that there was a price that came with the efficiency of this magic.

As the God of War put down his hand for a rest, he took in several short breaths, ultimately closing his eyes for a while – perhaps to stabilize himself again.

Magic that was done in the mysterious Void was beyond ZIlan’s scope, but he could more or less estimate the amount of energy required to cast an enchantment that compromised a whole sky island.

Shifu opened his eyes again.

“No movements,” he declared, indicating they were safe and Luoji was probably still in the dark.

“How long will it take you to er… destroy this thing, Shifu?”

“I have exactly the amount of time it takes each disciple to perform a full ceremonial bow on their first day at Kunlun hall to get past the beasts and deactivate the device before the atmosphere of this island overwhelms me. This web strips down the magical defenses, but not the toxic air.”

“I didn’t know we were timed when we bowed,” Zilan confessed absentmindedly.

His Shifu smiled. “I did not care much, but your Senior Diefeng was very keen on it.”

Zilan couldn’t help laughing, he then cleared his throat and went on. “So that is about…” the reality hit him. “Less than one minute! Shifu, how is that possible?”

“It is. You need only know your obstacles well, and I do.”

Zilan understood more than what had been said. “That means the energy you’ll spend will have to make up for the lack of time.”

“Yes,” said his Master with a step forward. It seemed it was time to dive into that island. “Remember, in the case of my death or…”

“Shifu –” Zilan grimaced and looked away briefly. “Do you have to jinx yourself every time?”

“Very well,” was the calm answer. “But you know what to do all the same.”

Zilan was suddenly abashed. Perhaps he had gotten a lot bolder during their trips together – or because of their trips together. He had been interrupting Shifu, stating his opinions rather aggressively, and even demanding answers. But he had never once been scolded.

To think that he had become a companion of the God of War rather than an obedient disciple. Or maybe his Shifu was simply making exceptions during this time because they could die any day?

“Zilan.”

“Hmm…” he cleared his throat. “Yes?”

“This is important. If I cannot make it back to the main realms, it is your responsibility to head for Xunzhua right away and provide your aid. They need every bit of help they can get.”

“Yes,” he said reluctantly.

After another few seconds, Shifu turned and leapt into the air before Zilan could say anything else.

We’ve gotten this far, Zilan told himself as he watched the web continue to flicker and his Master’s figure plunging into the island’s dome. We won’t fail.

Just then, there was a whooshing sound behind him. Zilan wheeled around. A man – in Xunzhua’s uniform and clad in armor – had just landed on their observing spot.

“High Immortal Zilan,” the man strode forward.

“Yes?”

“Is High God Moyuan here?”

“You’ve just missed him. Why? What’s the matter?”

“I suppose I’ll relay the news to you then. I will need to return to my sentry immediately.”

“What is it?” Zilan began to feel anxious.

A scroll materialized on the man's palm and he handed it to Zilan, who ripped it open in a second.

“What in the thirty-six heavens…” Zilan muttered, his eyes widening as he scanned over the content.

“Our princess is doing her best to examine this foreign power,” said the man. “We just thought High God Moyuan ought to be informed. I will take my leave now.”


***


Bai Qian was flat on her face on the ground. She tasted blood on her lips. Springing up and casting a defensive spell before one of those flying light jets hit her, she wheeled around to find Luoji again.

“FALL BACK!” Someone bellowed.

Another protective barrier had been breached. Luoji’s army had pushed them further into Xunzhua’s territory yet there was no sign of progression on the hairpin in the Glass Tower.

Night had fallen, the soldiers kept on fighting, bodies being stepped over. The five beasts of the Demon Cave ravaged through the enemy lines, but even they could not match the recklessness of Luoji’s followers.

There were too many. And a large number of them didn’t care about dying or being stepped on, they fought like this was going to be their last day.

Bai Qian blinked, and blinked again, her sweat mixed with lingering tears, her lungs heaving for breath and her magic rolling through her body like a mad lava river. She catapulted herself back into the battle.

Their heated duel that the rest of the battle steered clear from.

Alone and surrounded, yet Luoji had overpowered them all. Not one of them hadn’t been struck or disarmed by him. It was as if those arms and legs could move with a speed the naked eye couldn’t keep up with.

And now…

Just like herself a few seconds ago, Pojing and Yanzhi were flung to the ground. With a swift kick and a turn, Luoji slammed Yehua against a boulder, the latter – bruised and bleeding all over -- couldn’t react more than springing his arms up to defend himself as Luoji snatched up a broken shield and pushed it towards his chest.

She would only get hurt more if she threw herself in, Bai Qian knew. But she had no choice but to distract him. That was all they’d been able to do all along – distracting and stalling.

She bolted forward and rammed him from the side, then tackled him with continuous attacks, putting everything she had into every kick and punch. And when she finally stopped, there were traces of blood on his cheekbone.

In return, he reached out a long arm, grabbed her neck and slammed her to the ground.

“Have you not learned anything on that sky island?” he said and pushed down harder. “I am indestructible.”

Bai Qian struggled like a mouse under a lion’s paw. Was she going to end up like her brother?

Just then, there was a sound – a small sound like the breaking of a ceramic cup. Luoji’s fingers slackened all of a sudden. Bai Qian blinked and stared at his face. Some black lines – cracks – had just appeared on his forehead and either sides of his face. Around his arms and neck too. And maybe her vision was impaired by the exhaustion, but it looked as if dark magic was leaking out of him from those cracks.

And for the first time since the battle had begun, Luoji was startled.

Someone had destroyed a device in the Void, she knew without having to think.

Moyuan, Lord Donghua, or her mother? Were they still well? Had they been harmed?

But there was no time to ponder on any of this. Bai Qian swung her legs over and got up at that very moment Luoji’s attention was diverted.

There was a strike, another strike from the opposite direction, a roar, and Luoji stumbled, awareness spreading on his face as he glared at them all with rumbling fury.

At once, Pojing leapt, the tips of his gauntlet went aflame as he pounced on Luoji, claws sinking into his upper arm. Perhaps if he had been in his true form, he would have gotten his fangs into Luoji’s bare neck too.

Yehua wasted no time in launching over, managing to headlock their enraged enemy.

“His arm, Yanzhi!” Bai Qian shouted to the Ghost Princess. “Immobilize his arm!”

She herself – she went for that sword.

Bai Qian catapulted herself over, kicked as hard as she could at the back of his knees, and yanked at Luoji’s arm as he sank.

He was weakened and startled, she told herself, but he would not remain like that for long. She needed to be fast. Bai Qian twisted his arm, prying his fingers open.

The muscles beneath his skin might as well be harder than steel and he fought against her with raw strength, her friends panting and grunting as they struggled to keep him trapped.

Then came a whisper like death next to her ear.

“Did you think it would be that easy?”

She turned, he smiled like a wolf despite the shock and anger that flickered across his face, his sword flaring golden.

But before Bai Qian could see the violence those eyes threatened to conjure, before the sword’s glow reached its peak…

“Stand your ground!”

“Shields! Shields!”

“Regroup!”

Heads turned, screams intensified. From what Bai Qian could see, an explosion had just happened in the distance, a mass of fiery smoke now illuminated a corner of the sky.

The floating island… she almost smiled.

Around them, shields snapped into place as none of the men knew what to expect.

They’ve done it.

This was far from over but they had gotten rid of the hair pin. They had…

A roar more ferocious than thunder exploded and Bai Qian was hurled away with a force so merciless that had she not been in time to respond with a spell, her face would have been smashed by the landing.

Spitting out grass and dust, she staggered to her knees, arms sore. Sufeng and the suicidal troops and beasts under his command were pushing on, leaving piles of bodies in their wake. Bai Qian saw her friends scramble amidst the commotion to aid their soldiers, to shield them from Luoji’s wrath. They had fought for too long, too many of them had died.

Too many.

“Retreat!” she heard Pojing’s voice from across the field, soldiers of all tribes falling back behind the last shield that, if breached, would lead the stomping force of destruction straight into Xunzhua’s city.

And then she saw that face – in the middle of chaos, twisting with grief and anger. From underneath the ruthless man a glimpse of that child surfaced, the abandoned child who had lost his way. It was there, then it was gone. And there was only anger.

Bai Qian’s heart started drumming – they were in much more danger now. She didn’t know what to do, what he was about to do.

But maybe… an insane idea crept into her head.

Maybe a Dark Immoral overwhelmed with emotions was a Dark Immortal she could sway – not with force, but words. It was now or never, he would not remain shaken for long.

Bai Qian lunged over and grabbed Luoji’s robe with both hands.

“Look at me!” she shouted, pulling and yanking to get his attention. The muscles around his scar twitched and she could feel his power rumbling.

Finally, he moved his glare down from the explosion to her. A predator’s gaze on a prey he hadn’t expected to be this close.

I’m crazy. He’s going to kill me.

But Luoji didn’t. Not yet.

“It’s over. It’s gone!” She raised her voice over the ruckus. In the distance, someone yelled out her name but she persisted. “You can’t bring your mother back even if you tear this place apart so stop this!”

The grief in his eyes flared and for a moment, Bai Qian thought she was done for. But it was then that she realized there were more dark lines on his skin.

“What would your mother have wanted?” She went on, her voice hoarse from yelling. “Would she have wanted this for you? This endless slaughtering in her name!”

“No,” came the reply, as sudden and unexpected like it was not the Dark Immortal who spoke at all. But a man. Like the rest of them.

But Bai Qian wasn’t given the chance to respond, that bit of his soul that barely surfaced was drowned again.

“No,” he repeated coldly. “Do not mention her.”

Then there was a smile.

And Bai Qian knew this was hopeless. That she was too late to reason with him. Just like how Penglai, apprenticeship, guidance, friendship, had all come to him too late.

It was a smile of a man who could no longer be hurt.

“I started the game,” he enunciated every word. “And I will play it until the last stone dies.”

It was also too late when Bai Qian realized that she should have let go and run the second that smile had appeared. The fury that had been coursing through him since the explosion of the hairpin burst past his constraint.

Bai Qian could barely register the change in his expression when a strike knocked the daylight out of her, short of breaking her arms, and sent her zooming across the field.

“ARHHH!”

Someone caught her in midair, she had no idea who – stars were swirling around her head and it felt as if all her joints had been dislocated.

“Were you trying to talk to him?” the person spoke as soon as they landed and Bai Qian twisted around so fast that her neck cracked.

“Shifu.”

He was wearing no armor. Sweat and blood were sliding down one side of his face. With his arms still around her, she felt the exhaustion he seemingly tried his best to conceal.

Moyuan was in no shape to fight – at least not at the moment – that much was clear. The destruction of the device had cost him.

“The phoenix feather?” he asked her right away.

“Not -- done,” was all she could manage to say as pain rumbled through her.

He nodded without much change in his expression.

Bending over and choking for breath, Bai Qian managed a few glimpses around. There were fires everywhere. Luoji stood a distance away, looking quite ready to give the order for the end of the eight realms.

His eyes suddenly flashed in their direction. With a sudden shove, Moyuan knocked her out of the way just as Luoji’s sword raised, and he responded with his own attack.

Two waves of force collided in midair – gold and silver. Around them the shouting intensified, Bai Qian could no longer tell if they were shouts of cheer or terror. Perhaps both.

“Shifu,” her body went numb for a second. Luoji was vengeful and uncontained, and…

“There you are!” her Sixteenth Senior darted over. “I’ve been trying to get closer to help!”

“Senior Zilan…” Bai Qian coughed. “You’re… you’re all right.”

“Of course I am! Has Shifu just arrived? We left the Void at the same time, how could he get here so much later than I did?”

The question was answered almost immediately. With a furious advance, Luoji struck.

The wave of magic from Moyuan’s sword was snuffed out like a candle and the next second, what had happened on the sky island that day repeated itself.

Strike after strike, spell after spell, Luoji fought with unmatchable skill. But this time, rage and desperation fueled his formidability. He was fighting with everything he had left, the golden light from his sword destroying every man, everything on its way, Moyuan barely escaping its deadly force. Even Sufeng and the Spinner were keeping a distance from their Lord.

And then, in less than a minute of struggle, the God of War was on the ground.

“I am impressed, Moyuan,” Luoji pressed a foot on his chest. “You have used your last stone well. Now prepare to face the consequences because I have yet to use mine.”

He slammed his foot down harder and cast a devilish look around. People temporarily froze and stared, horror on the faces of those who knew the God of War.

“Is this the protector you all put your faith in?” Luoji gritted his teeth, bent down to grab Moyuan’s collar and slammed him face down against the ground.

“The God of War,” he punctuated his words with a kick. “Pride of the Celestials. Is this all you have got?”

Bai Qian bit down a scream. How could he still be this strong and sober with the sources of his power gone?

But it came to her almost immediately – Zheyan’s feather. The life essence of a phoenix. And that was not all, Luoji was just… a fighter. The loss of the devices had altered his strength, but not his skills and accuracy.

On top of it all, this fight was personal – Luoji did not seem to want to kill his opponent just yet. He was instead aiming for humiliation and torture first.

Bai Qian flicked her fan open and lunged forward, but Zilan held her back by the shoulders.

“Wait!”

“What do you mean ‘wait’?” she asked, appalled.

“Shifu said it should happen soon.”

What?” Bai Qian twisted within his grasp.

“The last one!”

“Victor of the Demon War,” Luoji sneered and struck twice. There was now blood on both sides of Moyuan’s face and he was once again heaving for breath on the ground. “Is this all you’ve got?” With a swift kick, he knocked Xuanyuan away. “Is this all?”

Advancing, Luoji drove his fist at Moyuan’s temple. “Is this all!”

And from where she stood, Bai Qian thought he heard a faint reply. “No, this is not all.”

Luoji suddenly stumbled, tendrils of black smoke coming out of the dark lines on his skin, a lot more than before. The last of his devices in the Void had been vanquished.

Moyuan leapt to his knees and summoned back his sword just in time to shield himself from the golden wave erupting from Luoji’s.

Bai Qian sprinted toward them, dodging that wave at every turn because wherever it shot, bodies fell.

Several other people had also arrived at the scene. Yehua slammed into Luoji at full speed, engaging him in a duel right afterward with Yanzhi and Master Yifeng’s help. Without the devices’ aid, Luoji could not defeat them as easily as before, but that sword in his hand…

It was leaving hell in its wake.

“Shifu!” Bai Qian grabbed his arm and heaved him to his feet. “What is that golden thing? It destroyed many of Xunzhua’s shields. Did you know about this?”

“No,” he admitted, then went on as if this was a scholarly discussion in Kunlun hall. “I don’t know what it is. But take me to where they are examining that energy, and I will.”

What happened around them was pure chaos.

From all directions, ‘fall back’ was the order that was raised the loudest. It was as if the end of the world was descending upon them.

“Behind the shield, now!” Pojing was atop his mount above them, no longer able to spare a hand to contain Luoji. “Nalan, get them out of here! Get behind the shield!”

As they raced in the Glass Tower’s direction, Moyuan did what he could to aid the soldiers who were rushing to the other side of the last barrier. But with each of his strikes – even with Xuanyuan Sword – only five or six men fell, not dozens and dozens as usual.

Something must be done, Bai Qian’s fear rose as she felt exhaustion ripping at him and registered the number of casualties before her eyes. Luoji was determined to shred this place apart; with the golden light unstoppable, so were his followers. This was the last barrier.

The last one.