Fanfiction: Mo Yuan and Shao Wan - Chapter 33a (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 33a

written by Chimera
edited by Miniorchid and Juls

Over the course of her 135,000 year old life, Li Ying had learned to savour small joys. Candy. Plays. A new skill. A good reef knot. A lover’s touch. Die Feng’s eyes were big and warm and his expression hovered between outrage and amusement every time she saw him. When he wondered aloud why she liked the peach blossom candy she couldn’t resist. His uncomprehending expression made her want to run her hands through his hair, wipe all confusion from his face, share the candy with him, show him.

But as their lips parted, Li Ying’s mind was reeling. When she arrived at Kunlun she hadn’t planned on kissing Die Feng. And when she kissed him she hadn’t planned on becoming breathless with desire. Now, for the first time she was unsure.

Sharing the candy with Die Feng had not turned out to be a small joy to be savoured. It had been - how had she put it? “A kiss would have me thoroughly devour your mouth and leave you inflamed and burning to follow me to bed.” Ah, yes. Except now she was the one inflamed with the desire to take him to bed. The irony was not lost on her as she watched him lick his lips. The thought that he could still taste her entered her mind and she suddenly felt light headed. As her chest rose and fell with each uneven breath, she decided that she rather liked this new intensity. And all this while, his eyes never left her face. His eyes bore into hers as if he’d figure her out if only he gazed hard enough.

The sound of a twig snapping underfoot made them spin around as Die Feng’s juniors entered the clearing. The one she had fallen on still looked red in the face and she shot him an apologetic look. He kept his focus on Die Feng, steadily refusing to meet her eyes.

The other one addressed Die Feng. “Senior! We received a message from 16th on the copper mirror. He’s in trouble.”

Die Feng’s brow furrowed, “Where is he?”

The disciple sounded worried, “Somewhere in the mortal realm.”

“What? How did he get there?”

“Before leaving he told us he had urgent business to attend to. His voice on the mirror was cut off; it sounded as if 16th’s mirror was smashed.”

“That is strange,” Die Feng mused. After a moment he called out orders, “Give me the mirror; I will go to him. Gather everyone and return to Kunlun but don’t trouble Shifu with this yet. Stay alert and keep me informed.” He turned to Li Ying and bowed, “Forgive me, I must leave. We can talk next time.”

“Wait-” Li Ying’s voice rang in the air as he cloud jumped. She called the nearest cloud and jumped after him. As she caught up with his cloud, she called his name.

He looked back, alarmed. “Princess! You must head back!”

“I will be fine!” she called out. “But there are thousands of mortal worlds. How do you know which one your junior is in?”

“It is this one,” he called back and swooped down. She dove after him and together they landed. Silently congratulating herself for her clean landing, Li Ying looked around.

They were in the side alley of a small market town she recognised from previous visits. The midday sun bore down her neck and the market square a few steps away was alive with the bustle of traders and purchasers.

Next to her, Die Feng held up his copper mirror. “The mirror calls to the shards of its broken mate,” he explained. “It will lead me to 16th.”

She clapped her hands, “Wonderful! Let’s go then.”

He put out a hand to stop her, “Princess I must insist that you return.”

“Don’t be such a stick in the mud,” she pouted. “I’ve been here before, I can help.”

“You’ve been here before?” he sounded surprised.

“I play in the mortal realm all the time,” she assured him.

Against his better judgement it seemed, Die Feng relented. “All right, we must hurry. This way.”

They set off down the alley, the noise from the market dimming with each step.

Excited that she could tag along, Li Ying’s mind buzzed with possibilities. “What if your junior doesn’t have the mirror shards anymore? What if he threw them away?” she asked.

Die Feng frowned, “16th knows not to do that.”

“But what if he was attacked and did not have time to collect the shards? Or what-” Li Ying caught sight of his expression. “I’m sorry, my chatter is scaring you.”

“I’m not scared,” he snorted. “But let’s refrain from imagining the worst.” Despite his casual words, his jaw was tense.

“You’re really worried about him, aren’t you?” she asked.

Die Feng sighed, “16th used to get into trouble all the time. But he hasn’t been himself lately. This must be something serious.”

“You two sound very close,” she remarked.

He smiled, “My juniors are like my brothers. They’re my responsibility.”

“Have you known them long?”

“Countless years,” said Die Feng. “We’ve fought battles side by side and grown together.”

Li Ying sighed, “It must be nice to have companions like that. I grow bored at my palace so I come here to play.”

Die Feng gave her a strange look. “Don’t you have friends in the Demon realm?”

Li Ying blushed. “I have a friend! The Blue Demon Lord and I have gotten drunk together during state visits,” she assured him, then paused. “But ordinary Yellow Demons are in awe of my brother. His anger can be terrifying but it’s only because he cares so much. One just has to be careful to not be troublesome.”

“I see,” he replied, looking thoughtful.

Li Ying wasn’t sure how to explain it to him. After taking the throne, her brother was left with endless responsibilities he had to handle alone. She knew she was exasperating on many counts so she tried to make herself scarce. In the early days, she often told her brother she wished she could help him more but he assured her there was no need. Eventually, she stopped dwelling on it, finding her books and plays more interesting than political intrigue.

Sometimes her palace felt empty. There were people around but they answered to her brother – bodyguards to protect her, maids to look after her needs, and lovers to please her. Cheng Yin left her to her own devices as long as she did not disturb him. And the best way to not disturb him when she grew antsy was to head to the mortal realm. He found her excursions amusing and did not interfere.

After all no one in the mortal realm could do her lasting damage or forge a close relationship with her. They would long be old and dead before her next visit. So, she satisfied herself with mortal food, sweets and stories and physical pleasure. When it was time to come home she brought back literature and paintings and little keepsakes and memories. She never brought mortals back.

To take Die Feng’s (and hers if she was honest) mind off troubling thoughts, Li Ying found herself relating bits of her mortal adventures as they walked through the town. Unlike the realm of the gods, change was a constant in the mortal realm, she explained. After having explored mortal worlds for millennia she still found something new on each visit, so there was no possibility of being bored. Sometimes Li Ying made herself invisible and lived inside mortal houses, bearing witness to their lives.

“I used to make bets with myself about how the children would turn out. When I returned many mortal years would have passed.”

“Did you win the bets?” he looked genuinely curious.

“Not once,” she grinned. “There are so many variables with mortals that things never turn out the way you expect them to.”

They were approaching a tea house. “It’s not far now,” said Die Feng.

“That place looks familiar,” said Li Ying.

“Let me guess. You once owned that tea house?” he teased.

She laughed. “I served in that tea house, actually. They kicked me out after I spilled tea on a customer for the 9th time.”

“They should have chased you out after the first two times,” he said.

“You would chase me out?” she raised a brow as they rounded the corner.

“I wouldn’t even let you inside my tea house,” he answered as they entered the dingy alley.

Before Li Ying could reply, she was hit by the stench of blood. She scanned their surroundings. Pots, pans and vats smelling of oil and soap lay next to a washing area behind the rear door of the tea house. Something glinted at the far end of the alley. Die Feng took off at a run towards it and she followed. There, on the ground, were shards of a broken copper mirror. Die Feng squatted to examine them. Patches of red littered the earth. Die Feng’s 16th junior was nowhere in sight.

Die Feng’s face drained of colour as he looked at the glass shard in his hand. “Zi Lan,” he said, voice low.

“I can-” Li Ying was interrupted by a sound remarkably like a sneeze. She spun around at the same moment that Die Feng drew his sword. “Who’s there?”

There was a shriek as someone tried to run from behind the vats. Die Feng was faster. A few seconds and he had the young girl by the arm. “Let me go!” she squealed. “Let go!”

“Don’t yell,” Li Ying walked over. “We will not hurt you.”

The girl looked into Li Ying’s eyes and stopped struggling. The moment Die Feng released her she sprang a few steps away, poised to run. “Don’t run, little girl,” said Li Ying, trying to sound soothing. She fished in her sleeve, “Would you like candy?”

“Seriously?” said the girl, eyeing her suspiciously. “I’m young, not stupid.”

Li Ying smiled, “Ah but what if the candy was made from sugar and oranges that impart a delightful flavour when dissolved in the bland rice porridge they feed tea serving girls here?”

The girl’s eyes grew wide as Li Ying pressed the package of sweets into her hand. “We just want to ask you some questions.”

The girl hesitated, then nodded.

“Did you see what happened here?” asked Die Feng.

“Men with swords attacked a woman with a little girl,” she began. “They…they appeared out of nowhere. I was out here stacking the plates,” she pointed at the soapy utensils. “Then this other man appeared. He was helping the woman.”

Die Feng held up the glass shard, “Did you see who had the mirror?”

“It was the man,” she replied, words spilling out in excitement now. “The mirror shattered sometime during the fight. It happened so fast; these people could fly, I swear!”

“What happened next?”

“When the mirror shattered it stunned the attackers. As if magic came from it. The three of them vanished in the same moment. After a while the men on the ground also disappeared. They were there one moment and the next they were gone. I’m not lying, I swear!”

“We believe you,” said Li Ying. “You can go now.” The girl eyed them for a few seconds then ran off.

“Zi Lan couldn’t have gone back to Kunlun; the juniors would inform me,” said Die Feng. “He must still be in this realm somewhere.”

Even Li Ying could tell this did not bode well. “If he’s still in this realm I might be able to track him even if he has cloud jumped,” she said.

“What do you mean?” said Die Feng.

“I told you, my nose is never wrong. It can track things better than a bloodhound.”

“Princess this is not candy-”

“Do you not know what Yellow Demons are?” she asked softly. He fell silent as realisation dawned on his face. “Do you have anything of his that I might catch his scent with?” she asked.

“Sadly I am not in the habit of carrying around keepsakes belonging to my juniors,” he replied. “Will the mirror shards do?”

The mirror shards were not ideal but the blood on them might just be enough. “I can try,” said Li Ying. “They do seem to carry his trace.”

Without ceremony, she transformed into her true form. Die Feng’s eyes widened as he involuntarily took a step back. She huffed and nudged his hand with her nose. He tentatively held out the mirror shard. She took a good whiff and nodded once. Then she turned around and set off at a trot, Die Feng’s footsteps ringing behind.

As they jogged through the streets, Li Ying’s heightened senses picked up another scent behind them. By now they had neared the edge of town. The trail led into the forested hills looming ahead. This would not do. She resumed her human form, “Wait here,” she told Die Feng. “I have to take care of something.”


She had transformed and bounded away before he could say more. The less time they wasted the faster they could find his junior. She knew this detour was costing them precious seconds but she could not lead more danger towards Die Feng.

The Demon barely had time to react before she leapt at his chest. She changed back into her human form as she pinned him down and snarled, “You are following me.”

He looked terrified as he mumbled in a shaking voice, “I was not supposed to be discovered.”

She pressed down on his throat, “Who are you? And speak fast.”

Words tripped from his mouth, “I beg pardon, Your Highness. I am only following His Majesty, your brother’s orders. He sent me to protect you.” He held up the ring on his hand, marked with the Yellow Demon Lord’s sigil.

Li Ying let him up, “How long have you been following me?”

“Since the White Rock Sea Festival ended,” he said apologetically.

“Here are your new orders: Stop following.” She turned to leave.

The man grabbed her sleeve, “Your Highness, His Majesty will skin me alive if anything were to happen to you.”

She glared at him. “I am on urgent business and if you delay me any further I will skin you right here.”

He pressed a scroll into her hands with a beseeching smile, “Your Highness, I found this copy of The Golden Dragon and His 24 Maidens while I traced your steps. I know Your Highness has been searching for this rare play zealously. Please accept this and don’t tell His Majesty that I was discovered.”

She put the scroll in her sleeve, “I will be fine. Don’t come after me.” Without waiting for an answer, she transformed and loped back to where she had left Die Feng. How much time had they lost because of her fool’s errand?

When she reached the spot, Die Feng was nowhere to be seen. She raised her head and sniffed. More Demons. Die Feng’s scent led towards the forest. With a growl, Li Ying bounded after him.

Chapter 33b