Fanfiction3: A-Li's Three Lives, Three Worlds - Chapter 85 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 85

written by LigayaCroft
edited by Kakashi

Lijiang turned out to have a distinct charm to it compared to the other mortal cities that Li had been to. Mei Lin had mentioned earlier that its residents barely comprised half of the populace, as most of the people one would run into in Lijiang were tourists from the northern states or merchants stopping by as they set off to trade with countries to the south and west.

As an economic hotspot, its government officials did not lack money to build and refine its infrastructure. All of its roads were made of cobblestones, where mules and yaks in caravans loaded with burlap sacks of tea, salt and silks traveled through nonstop. Water passed through the entire city, and was made more scenic by a well thought of arrangement of bridges, winding roads and waterways. Lastly, the city thrived with the majestic Yulong Mountain as its backdrop, which added to the awe-factor that tourists came from afar to experience, especially during the summer months.

As promised by Mei Lin, Lijiang’s market was indeed huge, occupying several streets and alleyways. It had sections for different wares. Li spent quite a bit of time in Tea Street, inspecting and trying the products that were sold by its merchants. None were as good as the teas he used to grow in Huicūn but the merchants did appreciate his feedback on the quality of their teas. He ended up getting invited to sit down and chat more than he actually walked along the street, so the hours just flew by for him.

The light from the mid-afternoon sun made everything extra bright when he stepped out of Tea Street into the next. This street was shorter than the others he had been to, and were filled mostly with women, which was no wonder as he quickly found out that the sellers here sold silks, perfume bags, scented powders, fragrance oil, makeup and jewelry.

Li was about to go back the way he came when he thought of getting a perfume bag or a scented powder for Mei Lin as a souvenir. There was a crowded shop toward the end of the street that sold perfumed items, and Li thought he might as well join the fray to see what it was all about.

“Hello there, young lad.”

Li looked to the side to see a seated old man smile up at him, his eyes almost disappearing in his face because of the length of his grin.

“Would you like to check my store and try out the best selection of medicinal items in the land?”

Li was about to turn the old man down when the sound of creaking came from underneath him. It took a moment to realize that the man had his lower legs cut off at the knee, leaving stumps where legs used to be. The man sat on a wheeled chair which he was now maneuvering to go back into his shop.

Li wondered if the man needed help to push himself behind the counters so he followed close behind. The smell of dried herbs from this merchant’s shop was strong enough to cover the floral notes that suffused the street as they wafted from the other shops.

With much difficulty, the merchant settled his body and chair behind a low counter, and then he went back to grinning up at Li.

“So what can I get for you today, young man?”

Li was staring at the merchant’s moon-like, smiling face, and felt sorry he had to disappoint him by saying no.

“If you do not feel like buying her herbs and potions, I can offer you trinkets for your special lady.”

Without even waiting for Li’s answer, the old man took out four trays of rings, necklaces, combs and earrings. After picking out a cloth-covered item from the set and setting it to the side, the merchant’s grin returned on his face as he once again looked up at Li.

“I am really not looking for—“

Wind suddenly whipped from the street as a dust devil passed through, causing loose items, dirt and leaves to lift up. Yelps and squeals were heard from the street’s female pedestrians who tried to shield their hair and skirts from being blown up.

Returning his attention to the old man, who had his arms over his wares to protect them from the wind, Li cleared his throat.

“I—“ He started but his words got arrested midway as the red cloth covering the object that the merchant had set aside earlier fell off.

It was a comb, and one that he would know from anywhere.

His hand reached out toward it but the trance was broken when the merchant’s heavy hand hit the top of his.

“Sir, what do you think you are doing?”

The merchant protectively lifted the comb and returned its cover.

“How much for that comb?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“How m-much—“ Li paused to take a swallow after his voice croaked. “How much for that comb?”

“I’m sorry but this comb has already been sold.”

Without a second thought, Li took out his bag of silver sycees he carried with him for this outing and placed it in front of the merchant.

“Let me buy it back.”

The man still hid the comb between his palms.

“This antique comb is not even as beautiful to begin with compared to the other combs that I am selling. The one who made this was clearly not an artisan.” The man gasped when Li opened his bag to show the sycees inside. His hold on the comb shook, and yet, “Sir, even if I wanted to, I cannot. The young lady who bought this—”

Li reached inside his bigger bag and took out a set of bank notes. He opened it up for the man to see one, two, ten… fifty thousand taels. ”Take it all for yourself or split the difference with the lady. Either way, you can retire a well-off man. Just please, sell me that comb.”


Li walked out of the shop a while later feeling accomplished yet heavy-hearted. His right hand had gripped on the comb for quite some time now, the edges poking and hurting his palm. Still, he needed to feel the pain, because only with it could he fill the hollowness that throbbed in his chest.

The comb had lost its sheen but the design had remained intact even after all these years. He remembered getting nicked several times while he made it with inexperienced hands. Even Gun Gun at the time thought that his work was horrendous, yet when he presented it to Huo Zheng, her face had lit up brighter than the sun. She loved it, she had said so several times, and only took it off during baths or sleeping times.

The comb was probably one of the last few items that she had with her before she died.

As he turned to the right toward the Main Street, he bumped into the back of the person in front of him, who had stopped walking. Li looked over the man’s shoulder to see that a scuffle had started in the middle of the street up ahead which had caused pedestrians with nothing better to do to stop and linger.

Tucking the comb inside his sleeve pocket, Li made his way through the throng by squeezing between bodies. By the time he passed by the two men fighting in the middle of Main Street, people were already taking bets, which made him shake his head and smile as he passed through and continued walking.

The roof of Mei Lin’s inn was already in sight when he dug inside his sleeve pocket to take out the comb, wondering how his Cousin would react when she saw it.

To his shock, not only were his remaining money bags gone, but the comb as well!

With his heart in his stomach, Li turned back, wondering when and how he got pickpocketed. The money was of no importance, but the comb was. He opened his palm, and saw the puncture marks the comb had left there a while ago.

How fortunate.

Using a minimal amount of blood magick that he had learned from Gun Gun, he closed his eyes and released a tracer.

The comb was moving fast and was about to go out of the city’s perimeter. Li set out as fast as he could on foot to chase the thief, activating and releasing the tracer every now and then to pinpoint the comb’s location. The city had no walls because the locals believed that those were restrictive, so it was no wonder Lijiang was a ripe ground for brigands who came down from the forests and mountains to steal. It was thus no surprise that the comb looked like it was headed toward the mountains’ direction.

Once outside the city, Li turned toward the mountain to the East and started his uphill trek. He did notice that the higher the comb’s location climbed, the slower its thief became— either due to the thief getting exhausted or that the thief had gotten close to its home base.

Li’s power might have been cloaked to appear at the level of an ordinary cultivator’s but his stamina as an immortal remained. He climbed with a steady pace up the mountain, through streams formed by a beautiful waterfall, and past the towering trees that whistled with the wind.

Wild buffaloes and horses gave a start and fled when he broke through the forest cover to a grassland that stretched as far as the eyes could see. The sun was very low behind him and in front of him, there was no moon but stars had begun to appear, twinkling.

He activated his blood tracer again and turned his gaze to the southwest. A faint outline of gray smoke floated to the sky, which meant there were humans nearby.

Li set out toward the smoke’s direction until he saw a collection of tent houses with a community fire burning in the middle. By then, the sun had already dropped from the sky, but the fire gave the people light to move about.

Two horses were tied nearby and there were about ten people milling about. On one table, Li saw four men empty out money bags. Two of them were holding his bags, and the men cheered when the bank notes and pearls within slid out.

Grubby hands tried to catch the round treasures from rolling down the table. The men’s laughter grabbed the attention of others, who joined in and also hurrahed at their haul.

Li had enough. Stepping forward, he greeted everyone.

“It looks like you are having fun.”

Daggers and staffs swished out and pointed in his direction.

“Who are you? How did you find us?” shouted one of them.

He moved even closer and almost laughed when instead of attacking, the men— and women— took the same number of steps that he had taken, but backwards.

“I know you,” Li pointed to the man who had his hair tied at the nape. “And you,” pointing toward the shorter man who wore an animal fur belt. “You two caused the commotion in Main Street. Was that your ruse?”

“Locals know better than to walk around without securing their belongings.” The man with the animal fur belt spat on the ground and waved his knife toward Li. “Hey, get your hands off our loot!”

Li ruffled through the small pile of treasures on top of the table. The pearls rolled and scattered to the ground, but he paid it no heed.

“Where is my comb?” he asked, when his search turned up with nothing.

“Sir,” Another man spoke up, this one holding a staff, and he didn’t look as ill-kempt as the others around him. “As you can see, that’s all that we have. There is no comb that belongs to you in that pile.”

His tracer couldn’t have been wrong. “The comb is somewhere around here.” He looked at the two women in the group. “Maybe one of you took it?”


“Maybe you had no business with buying things that are no longer for sale.” An old man that had to at least be sixty in mortal years stepped forward. “Maybe somebody already owned that comb.”

Li knew right away that this was no ordinary old man. For a mortal, his aura glowed which was a trait of a high-ranked cultivator.

The wind whistled to his left. Li stepped back and pivoted just in time to avoid a blade striking for where his chest had been. Grabbing the closest object he could find, a thin bamboo pole about the length of an arm and a half, he used it to help defend himself from the next flurry of double dagger strikes.

There was no hesitation in each swipe of the blade by his masked opponent. For a mortal, his enemy was highly skilled, yet unlike the old man in the group, he had no degree of cultivation. It was only too bad that Li could already see each of his opponent’s strikes before they happened. Thus no matter if it was a double-kill strike, or a feint-and-kill strike, he was always one step ahead of his opponent— fake-stumbling, letting him catch and rip through his clothing— just to keep up appearances.

Strange though that nobody from the group joined in. Instead, everyone moved out of the way to avoid them. Since his pole was slowly getting beaten up, Li looked for another weapon he could use and moved closer to the campfire. His opponent followed with a low strike and Li saw the comb tucked by the bun on top of his opponent’s hair for the first time.

A girl?

He reached out for the comb but next thing he knew, his opponent swiped with her feet down low, tripping him, and he was down on his back. His opponent landed above him, one forearm pressed against his chest, and one blade against the side of his neck while the other poked at his side.

“Enough!” came the shout from the old man. “No blood should be spilled in this campsite!”

With the firelight behind him, it was the only then that Li was able to focus on his opponent.

His world stopped moving.

Those eyes.

The bloodlust made them narrower but as she regained her breath and her humanity, they began to look softer. She gracefully put her daggers inside their holders and used her palm against his chest to push her body weight so she could stand up.

“We should tie him up and drop him in the gorge,” she suggested as she removed the cloth that covered the lower half of her face. “The rapids and the wild beasts can take care of the rest.“

Her voice.

Her face.

Li rolled to his side, and pushed himself to sit up with his left palm. Yet he would have staggered, if not for his right arm against the ground.

His chest felt like it was close to bursting.

He was not in any physical pain, but his heart was. 12’000 years of not being able to breathe properly and here she was before him once again.

Chapter 86