Fanfiction: Moyuan and Bai Qian, Book 2 - Chapter 16, Part 6 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

 

Chapter 16 - Gold and Fire

Part 6
 
written by LalaLoop
edited by Kakashi
consulting by Bunny

“Donghua,” Fengjiu shook the man’s shoulders as they both sank to the ground. He had fallen unconscious after getting away from that cursed sky island with the device. “Donghua! Wake up! I swear if this is one of your jokes…”

“He isn’t joking, Princess Fengjiu,” said the Star Lord, who had promptly put up a shield on the island they were resting on. “Lord Donghua had not fully regained his power even before the Nine Heavens fell, this was bound to happen.”

“Well, then…” Fengjiu’s eyes darted back and forth between them. “Is he alive? I can’t –” she pressed her palm against his neck. It was hard to detect any flow of immortal energy with her own pulse drumming underneath her skin like mad. “I can’t tell!”

There was blood trickling down Donghua’s lips, down his nose, blood crusted on his forehead. He looked as though he had been starved and tortured for months even though he’d only spent a few minutes on Luoji’s sky island.

“He is,” Si-ming calmed her down after he himself had taken Donghua’s pulse. “But he will need healing. If you don’t mind, Princess –” he made a gesture, indicating she needed to let go.

For a second, Fengjiu almost said no. She grabbed on to Donghua’s robe like an instinct, not wanting hands other than hers to touch him. But she quickly yielded and, with the Star Lord’s help, got him into a sitting position.

“I can only provide the boost his power needs to endure the internal injuries,” Si-ming said. “He will need a proper physician afterwards.”

“Si-ming,” something else came to Fengjiu as she watched the Star Lord begin to pour his energy into Donghua from the back. “Do you suppose… my grandmother…”

“I believe so,” said Si-ming matter-of-factly. “The Fox Empress may have the Emperor’s help but their powers have their limitations. At full strength, they are not Lord Donghua’s equal, if you don’t mind me saying…”

“Well, not this time.”

“They too must be in need of healing. If someone could make it out of these islands alive and conscious, it would be High God Moyuan. Although, I wouldn’t say he still has the strength to meet Luoji in battle.”

Fengjiu contemplated. If her grandparents couldn’t cloud-jump back from the Void, Gu-gu and her friends would be at a disadvantage. There was no one else Fengjiu knew who was capable of holding a duel against this mad immortal.

Maybe… she glanced at the unconscious Donghua, maybe it was time she started cloud-jumping.


***


Putting one foot in front of the other, Bai Qian headed towards the highest and most secure room of the Glass Tower alongside Moyuan. She kept walking and walking, until the feeling of nausea strangled her throat.

Unable to take the silence any longer, she stopped in her tracks as soon as they turned a corner and were temporarily out of the tower’s guards’ sight.

“Seventeenth?” said Moyuan, backtracking to join her. “What is it?”

“It’s my fault,” she said emptily.

“What is your fault?”

“My brother…”

Moyuan’s frown deepened. Then understanding came to his eyes faster than she’d expected.

“High God Bai Zhen?” he lowered his voice.

Bai Qian nodded, consumed with shame. She wanted to explode, wanted to jump at Luoji so that he could kill her too. Moyuan placed his hand on her shoulder and guided her a bit nearer to him as she stammered.

“I was… I was talking to Luoji. Talking. And he tried to rescue me. I thought I was doing everyone a favor… I thought I had a plan.”

“It isn’t your fault.” Firm arms enfolded her. His robe smelled of dust and grass. And maybe it was because he had just cloud-jumped from a battle in the Void, but his arms were much less gentle than usual.

She sobbed, wanting to hide in this comfort forever. Perhaps if this weren’t a life-and-death day, he would have let her.

“It isn’t over yet,” he said softly and let her go after a while, his adamant look giving her the strength she needed. “Those who gave their lives, they won’t have died for nothing. I will make sure of it.”


***


“High God Moyuan!” Zhuowei exclaimed as soon as they stepped into the room, a hint of panic in her voice. Her scholars lifted their heads, most looking quite distressed.

Master Gejing was wide-eyed. “Senior!”

“Princess,” Moyuan nodded. “Gejing.”

“You have dealt with the devices in the Void, Senior?”

“I have. Show me what you have learnt about Luoji’s weapon?”

Zhuowei looked as if she was about to cry. After a few seconds, she burst into frustrated speech, half of which Bai Qian could not make head or tail of. But one thing was certain: things were not working in their favor. Bewilderment and cluelessness circled in the air. It seemed no book or scholar of Xunzhua had provided them with a solution about that sword with the golden core in Luoji’s hand.

A loud discussion that sounded more like a fight began between the three of them as the sound of the battle below was becoming clearer and clearer each second.

“Have you identified the energy’s origin?” Moyuan asked the princess.

“Celestial,” she said shortly, sounding utterly exhausted and cross. “Ancient, raw.”

“Celestial?” Moyuan repeated as he examined the magically conjured report floating above the princess’ workstation. “And its capacity?”

“I’ve done the calculation,” she pointed to specific places of the report, her voice breaking a little. “Master Gejing looked over it too. If it continues like this, our last shield will fall.”

“And you have tested it against the Phoenix Feather?”

“Yes.”

Clueless as she was, Bai Qian could tell from that look on Zhuowei’s face that the test’s result was not so optimistic. What was going on? Where had Luoji found such a weapon? Celestial… Did they mean ‘of the Dragons’?

“Give me a moment,” Moyuan said.

It was then that he became deep in thought, replying to no question and paying no heed at anything else except the facts laid before him.

Zhuowei turned back to the Phoenix Feather and the sword that was waiting to be completed. She began to cast a number of spells around her equipment.

From the glass window, Bai Qian glanced down. She was starting to see the faint flickering of the shield in the distance – the shield all the men had died and were still dying to defend.

“Master Gejing,” Bai Qian walked over and spoke to the man. “Is that sword really going to bring down the last barrier?”

“I’m afraid so,” he said in a hushed tone. “It has breached the other ones. You’ve seen it happen, haven’t you?”

“Well…” she bit her lips. “There must be something we can do, and we must do it fast. You can’t tell me every single scholar in here has given up.”

“We are about to merge the Feather’s power with the sword for the Celestial Crown Prince, but frankly, I do not believe it will stop Luoji. This…” his brows pulled deeply together as he glanced at the metal shield broken by Luoji’s weapon. “We are unprepared for this. We need more time, more help.”

“So… are we just going to run for our lives?”

“My King!” a voice outside announced. “Celestial Crown Prince!”

Even before Pojing and Yehua strode in, Bai Qian could guess the state they must be in. Both nearly fainting from injuries and fatigue, armors dented and torn. Next to them was one of Xunzhua’s generals – the man called Xingde who had stood on Pojing’s left at dawn.

Then Nalan must still be battling out there, Bai Qian thought.

“Zhuowei, have you been taking a nap?” Pojing said loudly. “We can’t keep this up much longer, please tell me you have come up with something.”

The princess didn’t answer, she instead flew over and wrapped her arms around her brother.

“You’re not dead!” she sobbed.

Patting her shoulder, he cleared his throat. “Of course I’m not dead, what are you talking about? Although, I do need to sit down…”

Bai Qian had to look away, the sight of them was like a knife to her guts.

Physicians and attendants of Xunzhua flocked to their king and Yehua instantly with concerning questions and offers of healing as soon as Zhuowei let go. Separating himself from them, Yehua spoke impatiently.

“High God Moyuan.”

But Moyuan did not answer. He turned the report back and forth in front of him, scanning it again and again, remained oblivious to everything around and didn’t even blink at the sight of his injured brother. As if he had shut them out completely.

“What’s going on?” Yehua asked.

“He’s looking at the sample of the energy from Luoji’s weapon,” Bai Qian explained.

“Well?” Yehua looked around, breathing heavily. “Have we – decided what to do about it? There isn’t time left. Your Seniors and the Ghost Princess are keeping Luoji occupied but we will have to return to the battle soon. Although I don’t know how long we can keep fighting like this.”

Still, Moyuan gave no answer.

“You need to heal, Celestial Crown Prince,” Master Gejing suggested. “There will be no going back to the battle in that state.”

Reluctantly Yehua settled on a chair nearby, then – as if unable to bear the thought of himself resting – rose again, glanced at his brother, and moved on to look down from the window.

“The Celestial Crown Prince is right,” Pojing strode over to them after his physicians had left him alone and Zhuowei had returned to her station with the Feather. “We will have to go back soon. What have you come up with so far, Zhuowei? What else can be done to strengthen the shield?”

The princess shook her head. “Nothing except what you’ve been doing all along.”

“The spellcasters are worn out, we can’t rely on them to keep the shield standing anymore. Is that sword done?”

“It will be in a moment, but… but I don’t think…,” the rest of her sentence was replaced with hopeless silence.

“You don’t think it can stop Luoji anymore?” Pojing said. And the princess nodded.

With a heavy sigh, Pojing glanced down for a second then decided.

“Evacuate the city.”

Xingde looked like he’d just been slapped. “My King…”

“We have to!”

“But the women and children – can we be certain there is less danger outside the city? Our city’s shield was built to withstand invasion, we have tested it many times. Why not let them stay under our protection until there is aid?”

“Luoji’s weapon has shattered every single border barrier save for the last one, and we are not even certain whether that sword has released its full potential. No, we cannot risk it, it is death for all if Luoji gets through the city’s shield. Get them out of here, the sooner the better. Lead them to the mountains. Afterwards, get every unhurt man to the front.”

“Brother…” Zhuowei uttered, her face was a reflection of terror.

“We will stall him so you can do what is needed with the Phoenix Feather,” Pojing said to her. “But if our weapon can’t contain Luoji then then we must prepare for the worst. The council will know what to do to protect Xunzhua’s secret should the city fall.”

Xingde quickly retreated to carry out his orders.

“It isn’t hopeless,” Bai Qian felt her heart pounding faster and louder than an army’s drums. “Zhongyin is on his way. And even if we can’t stop Luoji’s weapon, we can try and stop him from using it. He’s weakened, he won’t be invincible on the field for long.”

Bai Qian wasn’t even sure she could trust her own words. All that she could think about was that they were probably going to die. For all the work they had done to prepare for this war, they had failed to anticipate this secret weapon, they had underestimated Luoji.

She looked towards Moyuan once more. With his arms folded and his brows furrowed, he was gazing at the report as if in a trance.

Yehua had risen from his seat and was stepping closer to Zhuowei. “Princess,” he said as they all plunged into complete silence. “Xunzhua opened its door to me when I had nowhere to go. I can think of no greater honor than to protect this city as my own home, whatever the cost.”

Bai Qian watched as a silent tear rolled down Zhuowei’s face.

“Have my mount ready, Xingde,” said Pojing to his general.

“With all due respect, My King, I believe you should remain in the tower. We need you…”

“Yes, you do,” he said shortly. “But at the front, not here. Now is no longer the time for strategy.”

Just then, a gentle yet adamant voice interrupted them, slicing through the fear and the bewilderment.

“There is something we can do.”


***


They all turned. Moyuan had stepped away from the report. He was looking at her. Just her.

Bai Qian’s heart jolted at that look – he had an idea, there was no doubt about that. But why was he looking at her like that? Like he had seen her for the first time.

“God of War?” Zhuowei frowned.

“I trust you have grasped the magnitude of this foreign energy inside Luoji’s sword,” he said to them all.

“Yes,” Yehua replied. “What do you propose, High God?”

“The Phoenix Feather will be useless against that sword, and we have approached the problem the wrong way.”

Zhuowei’s face was filled with curiosity even though the rims of her eyes were still red.

“We cannot fight with a weapon of power, we need a weapon of Balance.” [*]

Zhuowei took a moment. “But to do that we’d need another source of power that is able to match the Feather. And currently there isn’t anything like that in Xunzhua.”

“What if I could provide such a thing -- an amount of energy equal to that of the feather – both in cultivation and power, but of the opposite nature. Would the combination be able to match and potentially overpower Luoji’s sword?”

“Theoretically,” she nodded. “But where would you find something like that, High God? This is Phoenix’ power, to match it, you would need a --”

The princess’ voice trailed off as her eyes widened, giving Moyuan a long surveying look from head to toe. And so was Pojing, it seemed they had understood something Bai Qian did not.

“What are you talking about, High God?” asked Yehua quietly.

“We can’t do that,” Pojing declared.

“Do what?” Yehua stressed.

It dawned on Bai Qian sooner than she’d expected. Their talk in Xunzhua’s library that day came back to her, not that she needed it too. She only needed to know Moyuan to have a guess at his plan, and she knew him very well.

“No,” she uttered, her hands starting to tremble.

Moyuan’s eyes met hers for a second then he spoke with finality in his voice.

“What would a weapon of such Balance be able to do, Princess?”

He knew these things – Bai Qian realized. He didn’t need the answer to that question. The answer was for them.

Glancing nervously at each of them, Zhuowei began with difficulty. “This Feather is the entire life force of a Fire Phoenix, combined with a Celestial Dragon’s cultivation, it would produce the most harmonious and strongest kind of Balance. A weapon with a Balanced core of said rarity and magnificence is – in theory – the master of all weapons. But…”

“Can you forge a weapon like that if you have all the components?” Moyuan asked.

Zhuowei blinked in disbelief, exchanging looks of panic with her brother.

“Yes… yes, I can, but…”

Yehua stepped forward. “Wait –"

Moyuan went on, “how long will it take?”

Master Gejing joined in with utmost caution in his voice. “Senior, you cannot seriously suggest…”

“Out of all my unbelievable suggestions so far, Gejing, I daresay I have the most confidence in this one.”

“Senior…”

“I only need one of you to perform your best summoning spell to gather the amount of cultivation and power required and direct them towards the Feather. When equilibrium is reached, you will know. I presume the princess is more than capable of handling the rest.”

Gejing fell into defeated silence. Bai Qian gaped like a fish out of water at Moyuan’s face which had as much emotion as an inkstone.

Again, Yehua insisted, “what -- are we talking about?”

“I… God of War,” Zhuowei shook her head. “You’re talking about giving up… your life! This power feather is from a Phoenix High Goddess, to match its power and create Balance, it will take everything you have – everything!”

“Then take everything.”

“Just a second!” Yehua interrupted. They all turned and looked at him. Even Moyuan’s expression had stirred a bit at his brother’s forceful tone.

“Are you saying we are supposed to take your Life Force and let you die?”

“It is either me or thousands of others, I would have thought the choice was obvious.”

Bai Qian tipped her head backward and almost cried out in helplessness -- of course it was obvious to him. If there was one man in this world who could speak of death like a well thought-out plan, it was Moyuan.

“That is out of the question,” said Pojing. “Dying on the battlefield is one thing, but it is another to knowingly sacrifice another’s life. Even if it is for the same cause.”

“Are you not making the choice to trade some men’s lives for others with your troops, King of Xunzhua?” Moyuan responded. "The ones you have sent to the front, did you not know they were going to die? Why is that any different from what I am proposing?”

Pojing looked stunned. Perhaps by the calmness and the inarguable reason uttered by someone who was suggesting his own death. Yehua shook his head and mumbled something along the line of ‘this is insane’.

“Furthermore,” Moyuan continued. “Can any of us say with honesty that you believe this battle can be turned around by continuing to fight like we have?”

It was absolute silence after that question except for the sounds of the battle. Was it… getting louder?

Desperate, Bai Qian blurted out the first idea that came to her. “If all we need is a combination of your power and the Demon Queen’s, then why don’t you wield the sword that’s about to be made? Your hand will be in touch with her essence, isn’t that the same thing?”

“She speaks sense,” Yehua nodded. “Why not do that?”

Moyuan said instantly, “It doesn’t work that way.”

Zhuowei shook her head slightly, looking down at her boots.

“Please,” Moyuan made a gesture with his hand to invite her to speak.

The princess grimaced, clearly not wanting to give him more reasons to proceed with this idea.

“A connection between weapon and master isn’t the same as a fusion of energies. The latter, in this case, yields…” she took a pause, looking torn. “Yields…”

“Supreme power,” Moyuan finished for her. “Because such a union is endorsed by the universe, that much we weapon inventors have always known. Furthermore,” he turned to Bai Qian. “I have been weakened by the devices in the Void. If I wield this sword, my capacity to exploit its full potential is limited by my lack of power at the moment.”

“We’re not taking your life to test a theory,” Bai Qian stated.

“It’s a rather certain theory.”

“Oh gods, I will not argue…” Bai Qian turned away for a second, unable to believe they had reached this point yet again -- his life or the lives of the innocent.

“My King!” Xingde’s voice boomed from the entrance and he strode in, weapon in hand. “The shield!”

Bai Qian ran to the window. She didn’t have to – the flickering of the last barrier was now as clear as day in the distance. The golden light from Luoji’s sword shone like a small sun on the other side. There were figures with torches running in the tower’s direction. Some of them, some… had gotten through.

“Protect the tower,” Pojing’s voice said. And Bai QIan turned around just in time to have a last look at him before he rushed out of the room.

“What are we still waiting for?” Asked Moyuan quietly.

Zhuowei continued the initiation of her equipment, tears running down her cheeks but the movements of her hands swift and determined as they always had been. They still needed that sword, with or without that ‘Balance’ they had been arguing about.

“No,” Yehua said again.

“Senior,” Gejing tried.

But Moyuan spoke, “I’m afraid this is my choice to make.”

Yehua strode toward him in forceful steps. “Abandon this mad plan… Brother,” his voice slightly shook. “You… please tend to your injuries and wait for us to come back.”

There was a long silence. Had Yehua ever called him brother before today? Not that Bai Qian had the mind to process anything that was being said. Her head was whirling faster than a cart rolling downhill and her hands had gone numb around her fan.

Among the many unreadable expressions on Moyuan’s face, there was something like a smile, a short-lived smile as perhaps even Yehua’s acknowledgment of their family bond could not alter the reality at hand.

Taking a step forward himself, Moyuan met his twin’s gaze. “If I wait, you may not come back.”

The whole building suddenly shook, the protective shield outside the glass flared in response to the assault. Several guards and scholars came rushing in.

“Princess! The Glass Tower is under attack!”

“What… how!” Zhuowei looked up.

“We need to leave before it’s too late…”

“No!” She told them. “Do what you have to, I need to finish this. I must! Escort Master Gejing…”

“There’s no need,” said the Kunlun scholar. “I will stay and help. I am perfectly capable of defending myself.”

“The Kirin Riders await you on the clouds, Princess,” the guards bowed out. The selected scholars assumed their positions, ready to receive orders.

Yehua summoned his weapon in a flash and, with another look at those who remained behind, quickly joined the men. Gripping her fan, Bai Qian retraced her steps, but a hand seized her wrist – firm yet gentle.

She turned around and saw uncompromising will in those eyes.

“Seventeenth, please, we do not have time.”

What did he mean? He could not be asking her to…

“No,” she echoed what all of them had said. “We’re not talking about this again.”

He took a deep breath, looking at her with more tenderness than ever before, as if he was looking for the last time.

No, no. Bai Qian chanted in her head.

THRASHHH

Something – a group of Demon Riders – plunged into the force field, sending rumbling echoes across the building.

Swiftly, Moyuan waved a hand, a shield came up and enveloped them, making them invisible to the rest of the room.

He grasped her sword hand, her fingers loosened at his touch, and his words to her were gentle. “We are outnumbered, you know this. Luoji’s victory is only a matter of time. Not just Xunzhua, but everywhere else will be burned. If we charge out there to meet him without a plan, we will be charging to our deaths.”

“Which is nothing short of my expectations,” Bai Qian retorted. “Shifu, how can you ask this of me? Of any of us?”

“Dying is your choice, but would your death help anyone?”

Bai Qian wanted to curse – she couldn’t argue with him. He was right. In the end, he was right – they didn’t have a plan, not one that would make any difference.

“Do you want all the people who have died in this war to die in vain?”

“We don’t know if this plan of yours will work.”

“According to the facts, it will. You have heard the princess. But that is not the point, don’t you see?” his hands suddenly came up to her face. All the emotions he had concealed in front of the others were here — in his eyes, bare for her to see. “The soldiers at the fronts have laid down their lives, they did it so those who charged after them would have a better chance at stopping Luoji. It is what I am choosing to do now. For all of you.”

Bai Qian didn’t know what to say anymore. Was she supposed to concur to this? Was she to kill him so that they would have a chance? If he flew out with them and met Luoji on the battlefield, he would die. They would all die – die in chaos and defeat. But if…

No, she said to herself in horror. If this was the right thing to do, then she didn’t want to be right.

“There must be another way,” Bai Qian said feebly. “There always is. I refuse to believe that… that sacrificing you is the only solution. There’s always something else… another way, something we’ve overlooked. I don’t believe that –”

Something exploded. The tower shook and from inside the invisible shield, Bai Qian saw Yehua’s true form circling the building, taking the attacks onto himself and providing them with the last effective form of protection he was capable of.

What about Yanzhi, Pojing, her Seniors, and the others…?

“It is the only way now,” Moyuan stated, as calmly as though he was only sitting down for meditation despite the turmoil in his eyes. “The only solution that is viable.”

With tears rising to her throat, Bai Qian stammered, “why…why are you making it sound hopeless?”

“Can you not understand?” his fingers on her face tightened. “There is hope. And I am giving it to you.”

The words echoed in her head, like something she had always known, always understood.

His hands. Warmth. Life.

In his eyes, she saw her own reflection.

“I meant to survive this war, I truly did. But please,” he whispered, a brief tremor in his voice. “Let me do what I can, so you can defend the eight realms.”

Another blow hit the Glass Tower, Zhuowei’s sudden scream reached Bai Qian’s ears. She knew that despite it all, the princess was still persisting, still doing what she could to help.

The right choice.

Bai Qian took a step backward, slowly raising her fan. Who was doing this, what was driving her, she didn’t know. She gazed upon him for what felt like an eternity.

It was a sunny day when Zheyan took her to Kunlun, asking for mentorship for her
.

It did not feel right at all.

She saw him on the steps at Kunlun Hall, as distant as the mountain itself.

Moyuan slightly opened his arms, as though welcoming her into his embrace. If only she could run to him and let him take them both away from all this darkness.

It was someone with the power to lead her to the future. Now… he was her future.

Her summoning spell flew forward, hitting him in the chest. As his power was disturbed, the invisible shield around them crumpled. Golden light erupted from him like flames and flowed to where his heart was. Bai Qian’s hand shook more violently and she could almost feel it – the power, cultivation, and life essence that he gave being directed toward her.

His eyes were still open, still on her.

The spell drained her own energy and she struggled to keep the flow consistent, her vision blurring, her lungs heaving for air. Was she too being ripped apart?

Every fiber of her screamed and screamed in protest, her chest felt as though it was being hollowed out.

Something shattered, the sound vibrating against the four walls. The light surrounding Moyuan perished in an instant. Bai Qian slumped forward and her knees crashed into the marble ground. Through her tears, she saw a golden dragon scale floating past her, toward the Phoenix Feather mounted on the station.

As if it had a mind of its own. As if it had finally found its destined other half.

She looked at the man whose warmth had enveloped her a few moments ago. His face had never looked more peaceful as he lay there, as though he was only sleeping.

He no longer saw her.

________________________________

[*] For more on Balance, visit chapter 13 part 6 or 10 part 3