Fanfiction3: A-Li's Three Lives, Three Worlds - Chapter 83 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

 

Chapter 83

written by LigayaCroft
edited by Kakashi

Meditation while in Hùndùn brought with it a deeper power than when done in the Created World. There, Li could feel more connected to the nascent energy that permeated all living beings. Because of this, he healed at a faster rate there than he would have elsewhere. Thus, after being well enough to stand after the skirmish in Kunlun, Li requested to borrow his Uncle’s meditation cave and went to Hùndùn.

This time, he found Nüwa in a world within a dreamscape that looked much like what Kunlun could have looked like when it was new. Its wood, the stone, all gleamed. The pools in front of the worship hall were already there but they had water lilies in them. There were still trees where in present time there were several buildings as an extension to house the Sanctuary’s disciples and servants.

Nüwa sat on a woven mat underneath a tree, one arm perched against an arm rest as she read a scroll. Li went straight toward her, and with much difficulty, greeted her with a deep bow.

“Your student greets you, Shifu.”

Her eyes did not leave her text. Instead, she commanded him to sit down and meditate under the tree that grew in front of where her shade ended.

“Do not move until I come over and help heal you.”

There had always been something about Hùndùn that energized Li but at the same time made it a bit challenging for him to breathe during the first few hours in. Thus, he was glad for the respite to be able to regulate his breathing where normally, he would right away get a lecture from her.

After some time, with time being relative in Hùndùn, Li felt his Shifu’s power enter and envelop his body. He smiled and relished the soothing sensation. Its effect was immediate, like threads linking torn pieces of his body and spirit together.

Not soon after, the healing ended and Li opened his eyes, just in time to watch his Shifu’s hand movements as she ended the spell.

“Bai Gun Gun trained that warrior. Were you surprised?”

“Yes,” he replied, and it was the truth. Even now he could hardly believe seeing Gun Gun that day casually walk toward Kunlun’s gates with Fuxi’s Zither strapped behind him. With so many worshippers milling about, he could easily have been distracted and missed Gun Gun’s exit.

And he could hardly believe seeing the red-haired man from Nanking fight him with the same footwork as how he and Gun Gun had trained.

“Are you still in denial that Bai Gun Gun has turned on you?” Nüwa asked again.

“Gun Gun must have had his reasons,” he answered, despite feeling off-kilter knowing she already knew the answer yet wouldn’t tell him. “And until I hear him tell me so himself, I will not allow myself to jump to conclusions.”

She did not say anything, and returned to the scroll that she had been reading.

He had long since stopped asking for clues from Nüwa, and had also given up in trying to read her. But he never stopped having questions, even more so after that day.

The Celestial world was in uproar at Gun Gun’s betrayal, especially when the Lord of Fusang Island himself, Tu Di Gong, claimed that the same red-haired warrior had annihilated all his guards during the siege of Fusang. That Gun Gun, a beloved Prince of the Celestial Realms would steal a weapon while in the realm’s holiest land, and showed disrespect to his parents by publicly cutting off his hair— for Li, it simply made no sense.

“The beast you were referring to,” he asked after hesitating, and hoped Nüwa would answer. “He’s the same warrior I encountered in Fusang. His guandao was different that time.”

“Yes,” she replied, still not taking her eyes off the wooden slips she held in her hand. “The new blade was a masterpiece. All it takes is a nick and it can bleed anyone’s cultivation dry. You were fortunate Mei Lin melted the blade, thus cutting the curse on you.”

He nodded. Now that he remembered his Cousin, how devastated and tired she had looked while taking care of him as he meandered in and out of consciousness, he remembered he also needed to see her. She was already gone by the time he was well enough to sit and stand up.

But first, Gun Gun.

“He has chosen his side in this story, child. He has his own journey to take, and so do you.”

“He is my brother,” he asserted, and swallowed against the confusion and desperation that gnawed at his insides every time he thought of Gun Gun.

“Yes, and he stabbed you. Literally. Almost fatally.”

He shut his mouth. Nüwa would never understand his bond with Gun Gun.

She surprised him by laughing. Putting down the scroll on the low table in front of her, her freed hand swept the air before her. “Oh, you don’t know the half of it, A-Li. How do you think I got stuck here?”

He had asked many times before and had never gotten a straight answer. But this time her eyes looked the most alive since he had gotten here.

“A river will always chart its own course. At best, all one can do is to build a dam and stop it, or otherwise follow.”

Whether she was talking about somebody else or his Gun Gun situation, Li wanted to know more.

“What did you choose?”

Nüwa looked up at the fake blue sky.

“I tried to build a dam. And it was not enough.”

***

Nüwa was quiet for a long while after that.

Li busied himself by preparing and boiling his Shifu’s tea. When the kettle let off a lot of steam, he lifted it from the burner and afterwards, poured the tea for her. Her deep thought was broken by the sound of bubbling water as it poured on the cup but she didn’t seem annoyed by it.

After he finished, she picked up the tea cup and downed all its contents before setting it back down with a thud.

“I have to tell you something before I let you go. About the history of that zither.”

“What about it?” Li asked, carefully setting the teapot aside.

“In the right hands, it once destroyed the First Creation. And it also almost did, with this Creation.”

“A weapon that can destroy an entire Creation?” He repeated and thought of the cataclysmic weapons that he knew, even that of the Eastern Sea Bell that had claimed his Father’s life. It once had the power to destroy everything between the sky and earth. “Like the Bell?”

“The Bell was poorly-crafted on Mo Yuan’s part. And it was nothing compared to this.”

Li was stunned at this new information. “If it was that powerful, why didn’t anyone know enough to ensure it was kept in the safest place, and not just in Kunlun?”

“And therein lies the dilemma. I don’t think anyone in this Creation knew.” Nüwa waved her hand in front of her and moving pictures floated between them.

Li couldn’t stop his jaw from dropping as the moving pictures took him there, to when Pangu was still alive and just right before he died. There was no denying what he was watching now were Nüwa’s materialized memories, so real and so close to touch.

“When Pangu sacrificed himself to allow us gods to move from Hùndùn into the Created Worlds, his death naturally gave birth to his polar opposite, a god whose natural inclination was to destroy. The zither was this god’s main weapon.”

“Gong Gong,” Li recalled the name of the dragon god of destructive nature from the historical texts he had reviewed in the past. “But you defeated him.”

Nüwa’s lips curved into a tight smile. “History is written by the champions. Don’t you think I have been given too much glory? No, I cannot claim the victory as mine. All I did was to defeat his underling, Xiangliu.”

Moving pictures of animals and human forms without faces, colors swirling floating from one scene to the next, continued to provide the visuals to her story.

“There were thousands of gods who walked into Pangu’s Created worlds. Back then, mortals and gods were separate clans and were able to coexist in peace. However, some aspired for more power especially over the mortal clans, and Gong Gong led that pack. It was a bitter fight that took place for 3’000 years. Many primordial gods perished in the battles.”

“If it wasn’t you,” he said, rubbing his chin. “Who defeated Gong Gong?”

“Suiren,” The way her voice turned soft at the mention of his name made Li wonder. On the mirage, stood the back of a god, the red ribbon in his long hair swaying as he walked with a zither afloat in front of him. “When Gong Gong induced the Great Flood, thereby wiping out the mortal clans, justice had to be given for all the lives lost. But in doing so, the damage became so irreparable that the First Creation had to be destroyed.”

What Nüwa was telling Li didn’t make any sense and went against any of the historical texts that he had gone through his entire life. There was no hint at all of this version of the story yet, how to dispute the one who had lived it?

“I haven’t heard about him… this Suiren.”

“But you know her, A-Li.” She stated, her gaze fully fixated on him. “In a previous life, you called her your wife.”

***

A high-pitched sound filled Li’s ears at the revelation. For a moment he snapped and lost all coherent thought. In Nüwa’s mirage, his eyes feasted on the sight of her in war armor.

She was still a child, right about the age of a six year old mortal girl, except everything about her in her goddess form felt bigger, and more intense. She walked with a stern expression to the battlefield, a huge pillar of fire growing bigger behind her, her hand holding a black sword that shone with a red edge, and her zither strapped on her back.

“She was born from the shadow of Pangu’s heart right before it disintegrated, and had the sole power to obliterate what he had created. She was the only one who was able to match Gong Gong’s skills and eventually killed him.”

That a child could do that… Li’s stomach felt rock hard.

“You mentioned she almost destroyed this Creation too?”

Nüwa waved, changing the scene to that of Suiren at around Xue Jiaolong’s age. She was dressed in a white dress with a red belt— eyes hard, cheeks flushed, doing sweeping arm gestures until she overturned the tea cup in front of her which made her stop. After taking a moment to watch the liquid crawl its way to the edge of the low table, her body slanted away and she stood up.

“My last memory of her when she asked me to help her appeal to Fuxi. I was heavily-pregnant at that time and asked to at least wait until I had given birth. But I should have known better— because Suiren waits for no one.”

Everything Huo Zheng had told him about the snippets of her past life as a goddess that she had seen during Cǎibǔ finally clicked into place.

I have destroyed a world. I have murdered my nephew.

It sounded terrible when they had talked about it a long time ago, but knowing what he knew now…

“That’s right. Her actions cost us your Father’s first life.”

His vision turned wobbly.

”Are we related?”

Nüwa released the mirage and it dissipated into tiny fragments in the air until they disappeared, leaving only her in front of him.

“Not by blood nor lineage. But she was my younger sister in every other sense of the word.”

Li stood up on weak knees, stumbling several times before he was able to stand by holding on to the trunk of his tree. The air suddenly felt thinner than when he had first arrived.

Li’s life had been flashing right before his eyes.

Jia’er.

Xiaohu.

Suiren.

His hand clutched at his chest as he turned back to Nüwa.

“Why are you telling me this now?”

She was looking up again at the fake sky, and as this dreamscape’s Creator, only she had the power to see the infinite darkness beyond.

“The god you encountered in Fusang Island,” She began, closing her eyes for a moment, before opening them to look back at him again. “His name is Youchao. He has made his move to gain more power known, and so now I am making mine, through you, to regain the balance.”

The name was familiar, and caught him off-guard.

“The God who made the 36 Heavens... that Youchao? You mean to say we truly have a primordial god walking the worlds right now?”

“Yes.” Nuwa nodded, her gaze steady. “I can no longer see him from here, but the red-haired warrior you encountered was his champion. And in effect, A-Li, I am sorry to tell you, but it looks like Bai Gun Gun is his lieutenant now.”

More puzzle pieces slotted into their places. Youchao was Zhu Ge who had been Huo Zheng’s teacher in the life they had spent together. Could he also have been there at the temple that he had visited with Xue Jiaolong?

And now that Youchao had the zither...

“The zither— we can find a way to counteract the weapon. You can help me, right, Shifu?”

She shook her head.

“I don’t think you understand yet, A-Li.”

He blinked, and reminded himself to breathe. Dread clawed in his chest as he somehow knew what she was going to say next.

She is the weapon.”

Li took a step back.

His beloved wife. How could she be the personification of destruction when all he had seen from her in Huicūn were her life-giving abilities? In Laoyang, her selflessness?

Her light?

“I wish you didn’t have yourself involved with her in two past lives.”

The thought didn’t sit well with him. It was true that he was shocked by the revelation, but to even regret the lives he had shared with Huo Zheng?

Or was Nüwa talking about the chasm that now stood between them?

“You regret it because she and I are incompatible?”

“No, A-Li,” Nüwa said, and her voice broke when she mentioned his name. “I regret because you will keep on getting hurt.”

When she said it, she spoke like the parent that she was: one who has seen enough of the past to gain the wisdom to give out advice about the future.

“The life— lives— she has shared with you are barely a blink of an eye in the millions of mortal lives she has had.”

Li’s hand that pushed against the tree closed into a fist.

“Yes,” she nodded. “You will be lucky if she remembers you at all.”

It was common for gods on mortal trials to have no recollection of their mortal lives. He had actually thought about the chance of her forgetting about him a long time ago but it had also been in the context of thinking she was just a regular goddess. Hells, he even took on being a Crown Prince so he had more leverage to protect her.

But what if it was his world that needed protecting... from her?

“So my question to you, A-Li, is this. What are you going to do now?”

* * *