Fanfiction3: A-Li's Three Lives, Three Worlds - Chapter 86 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 86

written by LigayaCroft
edited by Kakashi

“Xiaolian, your manners are becoming more uncouth each day.” The old man reprimanded, hitting the back of Suiren’s incarnation’s thighs with his walking stick. “It is only because you have no spirit energy in you that you didn’t notice that this man is a cultivator—“

“If he’s a cultivator, why did he fight so badly? I could have peeled him like an apple and killed him several times.”

Even though she had just talked about how to best kill him next by throwing him down the gorge or peeling him like an apple, her voice still sounded like the most beautiful melody to Li’s ears.

“Oh, why is he crying?”

“Xiaolian, maybe you’ve given him a fright,” answered another male voice. “You should really try to be more ladylike sometimes.”

The old man shuffled toward Li, assisted by his stick. Li knew that this was just for show. The old man’s cultivation level was already very high, probably the highest he had seen from any mortal he had met in all his past travels.

A wrinkled hand was offered almost in front of his face, yet when Li grabbed it, its grip felt like it possessed the strength of a youth.

“You found us past the barrier I have set up, so you are no ordinary young man.” The old man noted as Li drew himself up to his full height. “Tell me, which clan or sect are you from?”

Li was trying hard not to feast his eyes on her. She was still pouting and shooting daggers with her eyes toward his direction, arms crossed and forcefully exhaling through her nose.

“I…” He looked at the old man but couldn’t resist glancing toward her direction once again. This version of her was younger than the other two that he had met— maybe about sixteen to eighteen mortal years—and so different from how Xue Jiaolong or Huo Zheng had been.

Turning back to the old man, he put his fingers on top of the other and bowed.

“Shushu, I have no sect nor clan affiliation. I have cultivated independently using books and followed those who would be willing to teach me as I go from place to place.”

The man surveyed him with narrowed eyes. “Have you heard of the Tang sect?”

“Tang—“ She was smirking at him which momentarily distracted Li. “I am sorry, Tang, who?”

“Never mind.” The old man pounded his walking stick on the ground. “Since you have come such a long way, would you like to join me for a drink?”

“Wàigōng (外公)!”

“Wei Xiaolian!” The old man pinched the skin between his brows then turned again to Li. “Please let me apologize. My granddaughter can be a handful.”

A father. A grandmother. Now, the most precious relative in her life is a grandfather.

Li was led to a makeshift table made of a tree stump with two logs on opposite sides to act as chairs. Somebody brought out a bottle of liquor and set it on the table, along with two cups.

“I am Wei Qiang,” the old man introduced himself as soon as Li was seated. “And you are…?”

As much as Li would like to pretend that it was just him and Wei Qiang, the many pairs of eyes who hovered around them made it impossible to do so.

“Bai Li,” he finally replied and took the initiative to pour Wei Qiang his drink.

“What an interesting name. Is it Li (力) for power?”

“No, it came from the Li (离) in separation.”

Huo Zheng snorted. No, Li reprimanded himself— she was no longer Huo Zheng. Instead she was now one of the Primordial Goddess Suiren’s incarnations, Wei Xiaolian. She was a stranger to him, as he was to her.

“Are your parents still alive, Bai Li?”

Li poured his own drink as he answered, “Yes, Shushu.”

“And where are you from?”

This question never failed to amuse him. He pointed up, and replied, “Far north from here. It has been… years… since I have been back home.”

Wei Qiang raised his glass. Li did the same, presenting his cup to Wei Qiang and to the audience he had around him before turning to the side to drink the contents.

“Why did you buy off my granddaughter’s comb?”

The question made Li remember why he was here in the first place. He turned to Wei Xiaolian who protectively covered the comb on her head with her hands and continued frowning back at him.

Was this the Heavens showing him some humor to have the object he had fashioned for her before find its way to her other incarnation?

“It was for my name day, just so you know,” she grumbled, crossing her arms once more.

“I am sorry. It’s just—“ he stopped again, still trying to get used to seeing her again. Those eyes, once again open and reflecting his image in the firelight. “My wife used to own one that had the same style.”

“Oh, so you have a wife?” someone asked.

Had. She…” His stomach clenched and he couldn’t hold Wei Xiaolian’s gaze any longer. He turned back to Wei Qiang. “She died.”

Sighs came from the group.

“Is that why you have been spending your youth traveling?”

He nodded at Wei Qiang’s question, not trusting himself to speak yet at the moment.

“I am still not giving it back. It’s mine.”

“Wei Xiao—“ Wei Qiang cleared his throat and gave a wavering smile. “She’s very particular about things she likes. The comb caught her fancy at the marketplace a few days ago but we had… work… to do so we had to put off claiming it until today. My men saw and heard you negotiate with that shady pharmacist, so they sprung into action. I must say your tracking skills are impressive.”

Li’s hand touched the back of his neck and his gaze returned to their audience.

“You,” he said to Wei Xiaolian. “You fight well.”

“Hmph!” Her chin fell back to show a satisfied smile. “I know.”

“It was unfortunate that you fell victim to our skills. We can return your belongings to you,” Wei Qiang started but was interrupted by Wei Xiaolian loudly clearing her throat. “Except for the comb, of course.” Wei Qiang’s voice dropped. “She doesn’t even wear combs but that one she liked a lot. It suits her personality: rough on the edges yet functional.”

Given how directly connected his presence and subsequent absence was to the end of her two other lives—with her breathing, living, in front of him, Li wished he hadn’t met her in this lifetime. He had never seen her die, yes, but seeing her mortal form alive and just imagining what tragic end the Heavens had already plotted for her— and for what end?— his heart couldn’t take it.

“Shushu,” Li moved from his seat to his knees, and put his right fingers over the left. ”You can keep my belongings but can I stay here for a spell of time and learn from you?”

Wei Qiang leaned on his staff with a wispy smile. “Ah, Bai Li, it has been years.” His right shoulder lifted then came down. “Xiaolian is my last student. I don’t think my old bones can take any more students at this point.”

“I ask that you please reconsider. I am willing to do anything to be your student.”

Wei Qiang still looked unimpressed.

“Look at where we live, Bai Li,” Wei Qiang said, shaking his head. He waved his hand. “We have the sky for our roof and the earth for our floor. We have nothing special to show—“

“You have the fabled Dog Beating Stick, Shushu.”

Gasps came from the small crowd around them, with Wei Xiaolian’s shout of “Preposterous!”

Wei Qiang’s jaw remained slack for a few breaths before he burst out laughing.

“You really have the eye to see through illusions,” the old man remarked, his rheumy eyes bright as he wagged his finger at Li. “I like that. I really like that.”

“Shushu, fate must have brought me here so I could meet y—“ Li’s flattery stopped midway as Wei Xiaolian suddenly dropped shoulder to shoulder beside him, copying his pose, and even elbowing his left arm out of the way.

“Wàigōng, you promised you will teach me the technique first.“ She swiped a glance at him, her eyes now narrowed into slits. “He is a stranger to us. Please reconsider.”

Wei Qiang remained still, his eyes darting back and forth between Li and Wei Xiaolian. Li waited with bated breath, partly in anticipation of the outcome but also because she was so near. Even though his mind told him this was not the same woman he had loved in two lifetimes, just having somebody with the same face so close was enough to make him weak. It would take some time before he could get used to seeing her around.

“If he is not an enemy, I would want him as an ally.” He smiled at Li, then turned to the crowd gathered around them. “What do you think? Bai Li is rich, extremely good-looking, and his presence can finally provide us with an excuse to have a decent roof over our heads while we momentarily make our stop here in Lijiang.”

Although some looked apprehensive, everyone except for Wei Xiaolian, nodded their assent.

“That settles it.” Wei Qiang took out a pouch-like bag and under Wei Xiaolian’s burning glare, handed it to Li who reverently received it with cupped palms. “Welcome to the Beggar Sect, Bai Li.”

Chapter 87
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