Fanfiction 2: Moyuan and Bai Qian - Chapter 7, Part 4 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 7 - The Bell of Donghuang

Part 4

written by LalaLoop
consulting by Juls
edited by kakashi

“Are you calling me a closed minded know-it-all who can't see past a book’s knowledge?” Bai Qian pulled a face with her hands on her hips.

Half way through their journey back to Kunlun, Zheyan had subtly interrupted Bai Qian and Donghua’s discussion on the injustice in the celestial system to express his concern over her general indifference towards the situation at Kunlun this morning. And as much as Bai Qian appreciated how thoughtful Zheyan always was to his friend, she was starting to lose patience at his pointless solicitude.

“No, Xiaowu, I'm calling you a logic driven know-it-all who is unwilling to look beyond a book’s knowledge.” He added after receiving a scowl from her, “I'm on your side, which is why I consider it my job to point out that this trait of yours causes you to purposely disregard the obvious.”

“The obvious?” she inhaled deeply and turned to look Zheyan in the eyes. They were now nearing Kunlun’s grounds and continuing on foot across the woods. “Does it ever occur to you that Shifu knows exactly what he is doing? Underneath the elegance and the gentility he is ruthless and unyielding in every battle he decides to fight. Which means he never takes a risk without first calculating the probability of success and failure.”

She paused to wait for the Old Phoenix to counter this theory. When it was apparent that he was not going to, she proudly continued, “so don't ask me why I didn’t explain before running off to the Nine Heavens. There was no explanation needed. He knew where I was going, he knew he had nothing to fear. And comforting words and assurance are the sort of thing he never needs because he can almost always tell what people are thinking. I'm not worried and neither should you be.”

For one split moment, Zheyan’s eyes flashed. Had she gone too far? As much as she wanted to stand her ground, it was not her intention to lose the Old Phoenix’ good graces.

“And honestly, Zheyan,” she added in a less severe tone, nervously pulling on the little handkerchief she had tightened around her wrist, “if Shifu really is ill, I think he'd rather be alone than have people around asking useless questions.”

Bai Qian pressed her lips together, waiting for a reprimand. But he simply let out a long sigh. His expression was hard to interpret.

“I forfeit,” he said at last, his lips curling into a smile. “As a matter of fact, you remind me of someone,” his brows slightly raised.

“Who?” Asked Bai Qian.

“The Demon Overlord.”

A short silence went by as Bai Qian recalled the conversation she’d had with Moyuan at the bridge near Kunlun’s potion room a while ago.

“Have you ever heard of the Demon Overlord?”

“Of course I have. Her people came to Kunlun once. I asked Shifu about it afterwards but he didn't say much so I went and read all I could about her. The Demon Queen who once ruled both demon clan and ghost clan. Renowned for her ability to efficiently wield the Deadly Whip. One of a few to have been able to deflect multiple spells and counter direct attacks from the God of War himself in a duel.”

“Yes,” he was rather surprised to hear she could recite this piece of random knowledge. “That was the Demon Overlord.”

“What about her?”

“Well,” Zheyan gazed at the front as they kept walking. “She was fearless, proud, unrestrained, but always cared for those who were neglected, did not hesitate to stand up for what she believed in even if it meant her life in exchange,” his voice saddened. Bai Qian recognized the same expression she had seen on Moyuan that day. They all must have been the best of friends. Her death in the war must not have been their choice.

But the moment was over quickly. Turning back to Bai Qian, his eyes twinkled, “but most of all, unlike many other High Goddesses, when we were in school together, she never held back in her criticism of Moyuan and his reserved way, never afraid to hurt him with her bluntness. She always said he was too refined for his own good and that it served him right to be eternally lonely.”

“I'm glad to hear I'm not alone in this,” Bai Qian shrugged, wishing she could have met this insightful Demon Overlord.

Zheyan laughed, “what I want to say is, I have to admit that you are absolutely right in essentials.”

“But,” he held up a finger, “I will have to ask of you this one thing - no matter how much you are tempted to, don't repeat any of that to Moyuan.”

“Any of what?”

“That little condescending analysis of yours,” he sneered.

Bai Qian gave him a massive eyeroll and said wearily, “I won’t resort to hurtful words. Indifference will do the job just fine. Shall I tell you whom I learned that from?”

Zheyan’s face tensed, “Xiaowu, he took the lightning trial for you.”

Bai Qian did not speak for a long while - the cunning Old Phoenix always knew how to heighten her sense of guilt. The memory of the lightning trial was still fresh in her head as though it had happened yesterday. She had been trapped behind a shield, forced to watch the lightning jets blast down on Moyuan. Grateful she had been, but until this day, she found it difficult to understand why Moyuan had decided to take such an unnecessary measure. Lightning trials that were designed to test immortals’ magical powers could injure but never kill them. She would be more wounded than her seniors after their trials, perhaps, but certainly not worse than that.

Bai Qian shook her head. She knew Zheyan was right, but deciding she wasn't going to lose the argument, she said curtly, “That was highly unacademic and I'm not proud of it.”

“High Goddess,” said Donghua suddenly, who was a few feet ahead of them, “may I trouble you to run ahead and let Moyuan know we're coming?”

Bai Qian nodded and vanished with a puff of cloud, reappearing in front of Kunlun hall, where she was greeted by Changshan who was holding a tray with a smoking cup on top.

Knowing Changshan would want to tend to guests properly, she quickly informed him of Donghua and Zheyan’s eventual arrival. Without wasting any time, he gave specific instructions, handed her the tray and ran in the direction of the kitchen, likely to start brewing tea and preparing refreshments.

Bai Qian sighed and continued walking across Kunlun to reach Moyuan’s study, where he was said to be. If he could still read and play music in his study, she thought, then there should not be anything to fret about.

The study’s door opened on its own when Bai Qian arrived. She stopped at the threshold to find Moyuan sitting on his dais with his eyes closed.

The obvious? She quietly scoffed. He needed no one in his life, that much was obvious. Even in the state that was said to be ‘unwell’, he didn't look like he needed any assistance. She frowned at the calm and proud face, the irritatingly broad shoulders and the hands that were resting on his lap.

“Shifu,” she announced her presence.

Moyuan opened his eyes and looked around at her.

“Seventeenth,” he said breathlessly, on his face an expression Bai Qian knew too well, the affectionate and concerned look no one could hope to secure but the Golden Lotus.

“Yehua is well tended to,” she said, stepping closer. “Zheyan and Lord Donghua are coming, they'll explain to you more. But he’s in no danger for now.”

Bai Qian quietly set the tray on his table and without knowing why, knelt down in front of the dais, staring up at him, her hands resting on his knee. Unfortunate, she thought bitterly, how unfortunate. And how she hated to admit that the Old Phoenix was right.

“Is he…” Moyuan began. Their eyes met again and Bai Qian knew instantly what he was trying to ask. She silently shook her head, feeling genuinely sorry.

“I understand,” he nodded. The disappointment and anguish in his eyes were so vivid that she had to look away, afraid she herself might burst into tears.

Seconds later, she felt Moyuan’s fingers wrap around her hand. She looked up at him again.

“Thank you,” he said, to which she did not know how to reply.

Suddenly, his grip tightened for one brief moment. Moyuan quickly let go and put both hands back on his lap.

“How far along is Zheyan?” he asked.

“He’ll be here shortly, he and Lord Donghua weren't that far away when I left them.”

The look on his face immediately reminded Bai Qian of that of Yehua when she had come to the Nine Heavens a while ago to make sure his injury was not too severe from the battle with the four Beasts. Both of them seemed to find it a fascinating business to hide their real condition from the people who cared.

“Is something wrong?” she asked suspiciously, bringing her hands back to her sides.

“It’s just my back,” he answered calmly with his eyes closed.

“Your back?” Bai Qian repeated uncomprehendingly with a raise in her voice. Then without thinking, she rose on her feet and reached up to the collar of his outer robe.

Moyuan opened his eyes and quickly seized her wrist where it was, looking fleetingly dazed with his brows furrowed.


Tremendously thankful that her silly attempt to do what seemed to be something only Zheyan was qualified to perform had been stopped, Bai Qian retrieved her hand and moved back, putting a distance between them, feeling her face was about to explode.
Someone cleared his throat behind them, she shuddered and quickly took another few steps away from Moyuan as Zheyan and Donghua entered.

“I assume you know we were coming,” said the Old Phoenix.

Without another word, Zheyan swiftly strode towards the dais, brushed aside his robe and sat down as he raised his arm behind Moyuan’s back to perform the usual magical procedure Bai Qian had seen many times before, after which he almost always could tell what the person had been through.

Donghua, looking as detached as usual, made himself comfortable on one of the cushions, summoned a random book from one of the wooden shelves and started to entertain himself with its content.

Putting his arm down, Zheyan did not look at all pleased.

“Moyuan, how many times…” he put his fist over his mouth, as though trying to stop himself from cursing. Then turning to Bai Qian, he said, “Xiaowu, please give us a moment.”

Bai Qian nodded and hurried out of the room. The moment her back was turned to the door, she heard the sound of a magic shield erupting, then came Zheyan’s indistinctly raging speech. The shield quickly encircled the room and the last thing she heard was something that sounded like ‘you blithering fool’ and Donghua’s utter of agreement.

When Zilan, Changshan, and Bai Qian walked back into the study, carrying tea and other refreshments on trays, Zheyan was looking less furious and had joined Donghua where he sat. Setting the plate of biscuits in her hands down on the front table, Bai Qian looked up and was slightly surprised to find Moyuan wearing a different robe from earlier.

“I was just telling Moyuan about your view on the celestial system, High Goddess,” said Donghua as he closed his book, receiving a cup of tea from Zilan.

“Yes, I very much want to speak with Yehua about it,” Bai Qian said enthusiastically, moving away from the dais, “he seems to be the only one who would spare attention to such matters. I know it might be futile but I’m going to try anyway. As someone who was brought up in Qingqiu, I find the treatment of mortals in the Nine Heavens hard to accept.”

“You will have to be considerate with your approach, Seventeenth,” spoke Moyuan. “We don’t want to be culturally insensitive.”

“Of course, that’s why I’m going to talk with Yehua first. He is - ” she paused and thought for a little, “ - he’s different. Compassionate and kind. And since we’ve already established a relationship of mutual respect, trust, and care, bringing up this matter to him….”

“Or socially insensitive,” interrupted Zheyan with a subtle smirk, to which Donghua replied with a chuckle.

Bai Qian frowned at him, bemused.

“I will be glad to be of help should you need me,” said Moyuan as though he hadn’t heard Zheyan’s last remark. “But of course,” he continued in a deep voice, “you shall have to wait for me - ”

The effect of this was instantaneous. Bai Qian felt a freezing cold running down her spine and couldn’t stop herself from letting out a gasp of horror, which turned out to be in unison with Zilan’s, who spun around, gaping at Moyuan with his eyes wide open. Changshan, who was standing closest to the front table and pouring tea into Moyuan’s cup, set the pot down with a clang and turned to face her and Zilan, grimacing and inhaling through his teeth.

“ - to complete my meditation,” Moyuan finished his sentence. Seemingly not understanding what he had said that could render this reaction from them, he asked cautiously, lowering his hand that was holding the cup, “what is the matter?”

“Shifu, we don't…” Changshan stuttered. “It's… please, don't say that.”

“I beg your pardon.”

Bai Qian almost screamed at how slow Moyuan was on the uptake, how he could utter something so outrageously insensitive without considering their feelings at all.

“Don’t say what?” asked Moyuan again with a puzzled smile, his eyes narrowing. “‘Wait for…’.”

“Yes, Shifu!” cried Zilan immediately, stopping Moyuan from saying the rest of the phrase. “That’s… it’s… it’s bad luck.”

“Bad luck?” Moyuan repeated. He still seemed unable to fully grasp the idea.

“Not exactly ‘bad luck’,” Bai Qian frowned, “it's just - it’s fine if someone else says it...”

“We apologize, High God Zheyan and Lord Donghua,” said Changshan politely. “The aftermath of the battle of Donghuang Bell was very difficult to overcome for all of us. The words brought back dreadful memories and we reacted without thinking.”

Donghua nodded and said nothing. Zheyan made a gesture with his hand to indicate he had understood.

“I am sorry,” Moyuan affirmed, his eyes softening, a smile of sort appearing on his face as he looked at their still hurt and bewildered faces, “you won't hear it from me again unless it's absolutely inevitable.”

The three of them exchanged embarrassed looks and muttered their thanks.

The discussion was carried out for the rest of the evening after Changshan and Zilan had left. Donghua went on to explain why he did not usually interfere with the dealing with mortals, being a faithful supporter of the idea that all beings had their own trials to pass, a fate-centered concept which Moyuan seemed to agree with. Once or twice during the conversation, when it was unavoidable, Bai Qian would look up at Moyuan to exchange notes. And when she did, he would smile, his eyes unreadable. Was it for the visible passion she had for the things she set out to do? Or was she reminding him of the Kunlun days before the war when she and her seniors would sit together in a classroom with their books open, discussing what they had been taught during the day?

Bai Qian laughed inwardly - what she would not give to go back to those days when their biggest challenges had been staying awake during lectures and getting as little detention as possible.

At last, an unintentional cough from Moyuan made Zheyan decide they were not to carry on with the discussion any further.

“I hate to put an end to this lovely evening but it is quite late and we all need rest, some more than others,” he said firmly.

Not wanting to be the last one to leave, Bai Qian dashed toward the exit. Though before she could reach it, Donghua had risen and his impossibly tall figure was now blocking her path. Zheyan too stood up shortly after. Not daring to go as far as disrespecting Moyuan’s guests by running past them or asking them to move when they would soon do so anyway, Bai Qian remained where she was.

“Changshan can show you to the guest quarters,” said Moyuan to Zheyan and Donghua.

“Don't worry about us,” said the Old Phoenix, turning to Donghua, “would you care for a game of chess?”

Donghua made a sound of agreement and the pair of them disappeared through the door.

“Seventeenth,” Moyuan’s voice came from across the room before she could move.

She turned around to face him. He had now stood from the dais with one hand on the wooden divider. “May I have a moment?”

Bai Qian’s stomach did a flip.

“No,” she said impulsively. “I mean - you heard Zheyan. He’ll have me thrown out of here if I keep you up any longer.” Noticing he was about to say something else, she continued, “if it’s not about Yehua’s health or security of the realms, it can wait.”

“I see,” he nodded with a faint smile.

Bai Qian turned and started to head for the door, contemplating her talk with Zheyan back in the woods.

“White really suits you,” Moyuan suddenly stated.

She wheeled around and looked down at her dress in confusion. Perhaps the candlelight, or rather, the lack of light in the room, had deceived his eyes? Or maybe he was more tired than she had thought?

“It’s lavender,” she corrected him.

Moyuan gave no reply but quietly went back to where he was sitting earlier.

Chapter 7, Part 5