Fanfiction: Ink in Water - Chapter 4 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 4 - Some things are inevitable

written by Bunny
consulting by LigayaCroft
editing by Le and kakashi

An eye for an eye, makes the whole world blind—Whoever had thought of this proverb was no doubt lying in his grave somewhere, wondering why he had been so naive and foolish.

Bai Qian was raised in a household with four brothers, would she have lasted this long had she applied this kind of virtue? Her father had taught her to be a reasonable person, and her mother had taught her to stand up for herself. So, if someone was good to her, she’d be good to them. If someone wronged her, she’d get them back.

Xiao Yu had been given a gash of retribution on his right butt cheek an hour ago, which Bai Qian thought was fair repayment for his treatment of her. So why was she the one tending to him now as he moaned and groaned?

After Moyuan had lifted Xiao Yu’s spell and transformed her back to her human form, he had given her a stern lecture and the task of bandaging up the wound she had caused. It was really too unjust. Sitting beside Xiao Yu now on the pallet, cutting the last strip of gauze, all she wanted to do was kick that bum of his which was sticking up from the pillow that it was now propped upon.

Despite now being back in her usual male disguise, and although Mo Yuan wasn't acting any differently, Bai Qian kept wondering if it was true—what Xiao Yu had said about him knowing of her identity. In either case, it was best to avoid the topic altogether. Even Xiao Yu had been playing along and referring to her as male. At least he knew his place.

“Hey, servant #2, I’m thirsty…”

She ignored him. Hope you dry up like a raisin!

“Servant #2!”

“What did you just call me?!”

Xiao Yu propped himself up on his elbows and looked over his shoulder at her. “What? You wanna be my servant #1? But Yuan-Yuan is so old, he could be your grandfather, that doesn’t seem fair. Plus, I gave him that position a long time ago…”

Who in the ham-fat does he think he is?!

Her scissor-holding hand trembled with the itch to do some more damage, but Moyuan, who was sitting over at the table, shot her a look.

Her lower lip started to protrude.

“Seventeenth, bring some tea to Xiao Yu. Since he can’t get up right now, it’s only right that you attend to his needs.”

“But Shifu! This man abducted me!”

“And you peeped on me changing.” Xiao Yu glanced at her with a smug look before looking to Moyuan, “You really need to instill more virtue into this disciple of yours. We can’t have Kunlun Mountain being known for this sort of perversion…”

“YOU! You’re the one who—”

“Who what? Saw you naked? Now that I think about it, we’re both men, so what’s wrong with that?” He started snickering up a storm.

Bai Qian was about to spit up blood. She stood up and kicked his pallet.

“Stupid pervert! I’ll kill you! One day I’ll kill you!”

Bai Qian continued to curse under her breath as she walked to the kitchen to prepare his tea.

Must endure. Must endure this man… maybe I’ll gain some cultivation from it…

By the time she came back to serve Xiao Yu his tea, he was lying asleep on the pallet. She stood there with the hot pot of tea in her hand and had to call upon all her self-restraint to not pour it over the drooling face that lay in front of her.

She looked out the window; it was already nightfall. Moyuan was no longer in the room. Bai Qian let out a sigh and set down the teapot. She walked outside and saw Moyuan standing on the porch, looking up at the sky.

“Shifu!” she called out to him.

He turned to her with a faint smile. Bai Qian went and stood beside him.

The stars in the sky were scattered like ice chips in an onyx dome, more intense than anything she had ever seen. The moon, even stranger, hung farther away than it usually did in the Lower Realm. This was the way it looked to the mortals. Around the perimeter of the hut, stood a line of white jade orchid trees. Their clusters of fragrant blooms filled the air with a creamy, sweet scent. The divine energy in the environment was palpable.

“Shifu, what is this place? Xiao Yu said it was a dreamscape…”

“That’s right.” He replied, “Everything you see here is created by him. Modeled after a place that no longer exists.”

“No longer exists?”

He didn’t answer for a while, seemingly deep in thought, then replied, “A past life. Something Xiao Yu is still holding on to.”

Bai Qian felt confused by that statement. Immortals don’t have past lives, does he mean a mortal trial?

“Um… Is there someone else who lives here with him? I noticed that in the house, there are two of every—”

“No. There is no one else. Just Xiao Yu.”

Moyuan had a steely look on his face. Bai Qian wanted to ask about it more, but felt it was better not to. Looking at him, she suddenly recalled the images that Xiao Yu had shown her earlier. The child version was like a ray of sunshine, while the adult version was like a walking blizzard. Thinking about the long life he had lived prior to her arrival—his joys, his sorrows—Bai Qian really did not know any of it. Suddenly, there was a tinge of sadness in her heart, and an overwhelming desire to hug this master of hers, but she pushed it down.

“Shifu, earlier, I saw… You and Xiao Yu, as children, did you two…” Bai Qian couldn’t stop her mouth from questioning, but paused when she noticed that the usually emotionless God of War was actually looking slightly flustered all of a sudden. Her eyes rounded.

He cleared his throat and looked away from her, avoiding the topic. “Seventeenth, it’s getting late. You should get some sleep, we’ll leave here early in the morning.”

Bai Qian couldn’t help but smile with amusement. Could the ice-block be feeling embarrassed? She stared at his back for a bit, then decided to heed his words. As she turned to walk inside, she realized an important detail, “Shifu, where am I supposed to sleep?”

Inside the hut, there was only one bed. Out here, there was only dirt. Not even any grass to lay down on. Moyuan had a look on his face like he had not considered such a thing and had to look around for a minute, then threw his hand and conjured two pallets side by side beneath the nearby jade orchid trees. Bai Qian was impressed. She made a mental note to herself to try and learn these convenient tricks of his.

She settled down on one, and he on the other.

Her head leaned back, staring up at the sky. She tried to count the stars to tire her eyes. These constellations, were they real, or just part of the dreamscape? The same ones that had been around to witness the countless past centuries and millennia, or just here to watch over this tiny moment?

Somehow, the presence of the body that was an arm’s span away from her, was making it impossible to quiet her mind.

“Shifu, are you awake?”

She glanced over. Lying on his back next to her, Moyuan’s head was slightly tipped over to her side. He appeared to be fast asleep.

Bai Qian adjusted her body to face his and quietly gazed at him.

His sleeping face was like the surface of still water. Those eyebrows that always seemed to be slightly pinched together in thought, were now relaxed and separated.

The wind picked up. The air was still warm. The trees swayed. A few jade orchids released their petals into the breeze, spreading a fragrance so intoxicating it made her a little heady. A lone petal drifted above his face. She watched as it slowly descended and fell onto the space between his eyes. It stayed there and trembled in the moving air, but refused to fall.

Bai Qian’s hand moved on its own accord.

Her fingers made their way toward his face. In a moment of hesitation, they retreated back, then went forth again, until they finally made contact. The petal was seized between her fingertips. The side of her thumb brushed against his skin.

He opened his eyes.

Her heart rippled like a lake.

She made no movement and neither did he. They just stared at each other. The warmth of his skin, hummed against her own.

He soon brought his hand up and took in her wrist, slightly lifting it, but keeping it still in mid-air, in front of his face. She could feel his breath softly skim the surface of her palm.

He didn’t say a word.

Like standing in the midst of falling snow, naked, and feeling the flakes hit one by one. His cold eyes held her. Half reflecting the moon, half reflecting the shadow of her face. She felt a little startled, a little nervous, but mostly, there was something else.

It had snuck in without a warning.

Unfolding in her chest, faint as a whisper, but could not be ignored.

Her fingers curled under, holding the petal, until her hand slowly pulled back from his grasp and rested down at her side. She closed her eyes. Her body turned away from him.

Sleep came without further delay.

That night, Bai Qian dreamt of being a white jade orchid petal, taken from its blossom by the wind, blowing freely in infinite air and space, until it couldn’t help but land on a bed of snow.

In the snow, it became invisible.

And where it landed, the snow slowly melted.


The next morning, the birds in the trees were chirping with mirth at the crack of dawn, but an even bigger bird stood on the ground beside her, wailing.

“Leave?! You’re leaving already?!” Xiao Yu’s hands were tight around Moyuan’s arm, “But you just got here! We haven’t spent any time together… I fell asleep last night and didn’t even get the chance to cuddle you!”

“Xiao Yu…” Moyuan said in a tired voice.

“Well, where are you going in such a hurry anyway?”

“Hey Green Eyes, let go of my Shifu! We have urgent business to take care of!”

He ignored her and looked pleadingly up at Moyuan. “Ok, Yuan-Yuan. That’s fine. If you have urgent business then… I’ll just come with you!”

How? How did it end up like this? Bai Qian stared in disbelief at the back of Xiao Yu’s head while the three of them walked out of the valley together. In the end, despite her protests and Moyuan’s hesitance, Xiao Yu still got his way.

Shifu… She really felt like crying and had to wonder, are you normally this useless against predators?
Once they got up on the hillside, Xiao Yu stopped and looked down. He dug around in his sleeve and took out a jade flute. It was lifted to his lips and out came a tune. The sound was unlike anything she had ever heard. It completely entranced her. She watched as the entire valley gathered like a cloth, lifted and twisted, then scattered like dust into the air. All that was left behind were the same barren grassy hills that spanned in all directions. The entire landscape they had been living in, disappeared as though it had never existed. After it had dispersed, Xiao Yu stopped playing the flute and carelessly stuck it back into his sleeve.

“Green Eyes, what kind of god or demon are you?”

“Not god… Not demon… just a person.”

“What is that supposed to mean? You’re certainly not a mortal.”

“I don’t know… I just came to be one day. A long time ago. Really, too long ago… The memories are foggy…” He didn’t seem to want to address the question and avoided her eyes.

So this uncle was actually quite old…

“You don’t belong to any clan?”

“Nope. No clan.”

Bai Qian thought about it and felt confused… How can anyone just come to be? With no origin? But the more she thought about it, the more she realized that there were a lot of unexplained things in this universe.

Not all immortals had the blessing of being born from a mother’s womb. The ancient ones in particular had rather strange beginnings. If it were possible for Donghua Dijun to come out of a rock, then maybe it wasn’t all that inconceivable for Xiao Yu to come from thin air.

She knew from her lessons on the origin of all sentient beings, it was said that Yuánshǐ Tiānzūn himself, Heavenly Master of the Divine Origin, the limitless and eternal creator of Heaven and Earth, First of the Three Pure Ones, came into existence at the time of pre-creation when the universe was in a state of Wuji—boundless, ultimate chaos. Manifesting from primordial Celestial energy, he too, could be said to have come from thin air.

The Three Pure Ones, Sānqīng (三清), were recorded as formless beings. They ruled over the primordial universe for an unknown amount of time, long before any other beings took shape. Yuánshǐ Tiānzūn eventually selected the Jade Emperor, Yù Dì (玉帝), as his successor, who ushered in a new generation of immortals.

To this day, it was still unclear as to whether or not the Three Pure Ones were still in existence, or if they had met their calamity. They had not made their presence known since the time of Yù Dì, and even he, himself, has disappeared without a trace since prior to the existence of Father Immortal.

Indeed, there had been stranger things. Regardless of how Green Eyes came to be, he was still a total loony in every sense of the word. Bai Qian watched as he picked up his stride and caught up with Moyuan, who was about ten steps ahead of them. With an arm propped on the other’s shoulder, he went on chirping about everything under the sun like a bird in heat. Moyuan’s patience must have been wearing thin because after a short distance, he announced that they needed to cloud jump.

When they arrived at the edge of Fényi Kingdom, it was still early in the day, but the Southern sun was already blistering. There was not a cloud in the sky to cushion its wrath. Bai Qian immediately felt her body drench with sweat. She lifted her sleeve and gave her neck a few dabs as she looked around.

They had landed on the outskirts of a small village. Shacks and huts lined the sides of the road, positioned in between sections of wild weeds and yellowed grass that grew without deliberation. Occasionally, there was a cactus or dried shrub that poked its head out of the ground, but otherwise the expanse was shadeless. Heat simmered up from the ground, blurring the edges of the air.

Hovering in the distance, Bai Qian could see the gleaming pearl gates of Fényi palace—a vision of opulence, starkly contrasting their current surroundings. She briefly recalled her history lessons. The large kingdom was positioned in the South, west of Demon territory, and ruled by the Serpent family. It was similar to Qing Qiu in that its inhabitants also consisted of a diverse array of spirits native to the land. However, unlike Qing Qiu, where the ruling Fox family lived modestly alongside the rest of the kingdom, the Serpent family was known for their extravagance, often at the expense of their subjects.

“Ice-cold tea! Come get your ice-cold tea!” called out an old man who stood in front of a nearby tea shack. He soon spotted the three of them. “Ah! My lords! It’s a hot day, come have some tea before going on your way?”

Bai Qian was sold, but looked to Moyuan for approval.

Xiao Yu, on the other hand, had already moved under the awning and hung his bag on one of the small chairs. “Three cups of tea!” he said, setting down a few coins on the table.

“Right away, right away.” The old shopkeeper bowed his head a few times and scurried off.

Joining Xiao Yu, Moyuan took a seat. Bai Qian followed. She dug out the Jade Purity Fan and began fanning herself vigorously.

At the next table over, two women were seated, quietly sipping on their tea. They were dressed in all black, with veiled hats that shielded their faces. Bai Qian gawked. It was this hot and they were sitting there tenting themselves! But neither one looked fazed by the heat.

The old shopkeeper came back with three cups of tea and also set down a bowl of peanuts. Bai Qian took a handful and started shelling them.

Soon, a group of three men could be seen approaching the tea shack. Their appearance was a little rugged, wild even. Each one was of tall stature, with long mane-like hair that was left unbound and flowing down their backs.

“Aish, this heat is really something!” one of the newcomers said, his forehead dripping sweat. He threw down his bag at a vacant table and started flapping the front of his collar. “Hurry up and bring us some tea, old man!”

“Forget the tea, bring us a jug of cold wine! And some snacks!” shouted another man in the group.

“Yes, yes, right away my lords!”

Bai Qian watched the men settle in their seats. The two that had just spoken had gruff voices, which matched their brutish faces. One had frightfully bushy eyebrows, while the other’s mouth was chock full of chipped and crooked teeth as though he had lost one too many fights. The third member of the group, however, she couldn’t help but observe more closely. His face was distinctively handsome with deep-set eyes.

Her eyes were too busy observing them that as she reached to grab for more peanuts, her hand missed the bowl and grabbed onto Moyuan’s hand instead. He had been resting it around his teacup on the table.

She let out a gasp and retrieved it. “S-Sorry Shifu.”

He turned to look at her and suddenly the images from last night flashed up in her mind. Bai Qian felt her ears go warm. Is something wrong with me?

“What are a bunch of horses doing this far South?” Xiao Yu said as he popped a peanut in his mouth. His attention too had been fixed on the group of newcomers this whole time.

Horses? Bai Qian’s mind was pulled back to reality. She looked at the men again.

Growing up in Qing Qiu, in the far East, Bai Qian had never laid eyes on members of the nomadic Horse clan before. They roamed the Great Northern and Central Plains of the greater Western continent and never crossed over the Eastern Sea.

Her father liked to tell her stories about them. Their ruler, Ma Delan, was a capable and ambitious leader. Over the centuries, he had peacefully united almost all of the other nomadic tribes of the Great Plains under his rule, including the Buffalo clan, the Condor Clan, and the Elephant clan amongst others. Now in his old age, with three sons, Ma Delan would soon pick a successor. The fight for the throne was just beginning.

“My lords, I have your wine and food.” The old shopkeeper came back out to the newcomer table with a jug of wine and set down a bowl of peanuts, a dish of salted eggs and a platter of fried bean curd.

Bushy Eyebrows looked puzzled at the offerings and slammed his hand down. “What kind of food is this?! You expect our master to fill up on this crap?” He tossed his chin to indicate he was talking about the handsome one, who was sitting quietly.

“Forgive me, my lord! Forgive me!” The old man shook his hands pleadingly. “Our village doesn’t have much. Recently, with the raids of the Shen Demon, our cattle has been robbed, even most of our farmers have been killed…”

“Tsk, do you know who we are old man?!”

Crooked Teeth was about to get up but the handsome one stopped him. “This is fine, leave it.”

They immediately shrank in their seats. The old shopkeeper resumed his services and poured their wine. Smiling nervously, he attempted to make small talk. “My lords, you don’t look to be from around here… where are you all from?”

Bushy Eyebrows took a swig of his wine and answered, “We are from the Great Plains, subjects of the Great Ma Delan. And this here is our master, Ma Zhiwen, Third son of the Great Ma Delan.”

Bai Qian flared her eyes wider. What business did this Horse clan prince have in Fényi Kingdom?

After the old shopkeeper retreated, the three began to talk amongst themselves as they devoured their food and drink.

“Such a poor village, and it belongs to Fényi Kingdom… I thought the Serpents were amongst the richest clans… Master, are you it’s a good idea to pursue this Princess Ying-what’s-her-name?”

“Moron! The Serpent clan is one of the most powerful in the West, and their wealth is kept within the family. If our master can take the Serpent Princess as his consort, wouldn’t that alliance guarantee his—”

Before Crooked Teeth could finish his words, someone’s foot kicked him under the table.

“Idiot! Watch that mouth of yours before you cause problems for our master. I’ll cut that tongue off!” Bushy Eyebrows threatened.

“Furball, pay close attention, we’re about to watch a good play unfold…” Xiao Yu whispered to her, looking titillated as he moved his eyes back and forth between Moyuan and the three men.

They quickly finished their first jug of wine and ordered another as they continued to talk.

“Master, it seems this Shen Demon is indeed destructive… Since you’ve come to Fényi Kingdom to lend aid this time, the Serpent family will certainly be grateful to you.”

The old shopkeeper, who was now returning with a new wine jug, overheard this.

“My lords! You have come here to fight the Shen Demon?” he asked. “Thank the heavens! Not only do we have you, I hear that even the God of War himself is on his way here to help! We are saved!”

“God of War? The God of War, Moyuan of Kunlun Mountain?”

“Yes! The news is that Tianjun personally went to Kunlun Mountain to request his aid a few days ago!”

Crooked Teeth thought about this, then lowered his voice to speak. “Master, about this… I’ve heard that the Serpent Princess and the God of War have a bit of history. This might be inconvenient for us…”

Bai Qian’s ears perked up.

“What is it, what do you know?” Bushy Eyebrows asked.

“Well, there’s gossip that this Serpent Princess has known the God of War since they were children… They even attended Father Immortal’s school together,” Crooked Teeth said. “I guess she’s been pining over him for centuries, but he hasn’t bothered with her.”

“No, no, that’s not right, you’ve got it wrong!” The old shopkeeper, who had been wiping down the table next to them, interrupted, “It wasn’t always one-sided for our Princess Ying Yue. They say that the God of War once proposed to her when they were young, but by some twist of fate…”

“What are you blabbering about old man? What twist of fate?”

“Ah, I think I’ve heard this before!” Bushy Eyebrows threw down his bowl of wine and exclaimed, “That’s right, the God of War was seduced by the Demon Ancestor! After she came to Father Immortal’s school, he laid eyes on her and immediately abandoned his childhood sweetheart, isn’t that right?”

Demon Ancestor? Childhood sweetheart? Bai Qian was lost. She glanced over at Moyuan. He was obviously listening, but continued to drink his tea in silence.

“No, my lord… that’s not right either…”

“Aish! No matter, who would have thought that a Taoist like him would be such a womanizer… What a shark!”

At this point, beside her, Xiao Yu was face down on the table, laughing himself silly. Bai Qian glared at him, then glared at those men. The nerve of them… The shelled peanut in her hand was being pinched so hard, it had turned into mush. She was seconds away from causing a ruckus, but someone else beat her to it.

BANG! It was the sound of metal hitting wood.

Bai Qian turned around. One of the veiled women in black had just slammed her sword hard on the table, tipping over her teacup.

“An owner who does not know when to shut up his yapping dogs… is worse than the dogs themselves.” She said.

“Ehhhh? What did you just say lady?!” Bushy Eyebrows shot his eyes over to the table where the two women were sitting. He and Crooked Teeth both got up from their seats and stormed over. They propped a leg each up on the edge of the women’s table and leered at them. “Come on, say it again.”

“Such a pity…” Crooked teeth clicked his tongue, “This chick has a heavenly voice, but must be too ugly to show her face!”

“And what about her friend? This one is staying quiet so she must sound just as ugly as she looks!”

The two started cackling. Bai Qian’s anger blazed out of control. She could not hold it any longer and threw her fist down onto the table. The littered peanut shells bounced up from the impact.

“What kind of scoundrel goes around calling women ugly?! Who do you people think you are?” Her finger flung in the direction of their faces, “Have you looked in the mirror? I’ve thrown up vomit prettier than you!”

“Oh, someone seems to be upset… Do you think this little milksop is referring to us?” Bushy Eyebrows turned to Crooked Teeth and smirked. He then walked over to her.

“Hey sissy, did you wake up this morning wishing for an ass-whooping?”

“I’ll whoop you! You stupid turtle egg! You think just ’cause you’re big, you scare people?” Bai Qian shot out of her seat and stood in front of him, the top of her head barely grazing his sternum. She reached her hand up to poke at his eyebrows, “How’d you hatch with these caterpillars attached?”

He began cracking his knuckles, “You… little… piece… of… sh—”

“Ha… Ha ha… Hahaha…” An unnatural sounding laughter was coming from the table across the way. Bai Qian looked and saw that Ma Zhiwen was holding his belly, nearly in tears. What is this horse laughing at?

“Turtle egg… Caterpillars… Haha…” He kept laughing for half a day before looking up at the room full of people staring at him. “This little fellow, what’s your name?”

“Who’s asking?” She threw him an indignant look.

He just smiled at her. A smile that makes you want to punch something. He finally got up and lazily moved toward her, eyes scanning up and down. When he got close enough, his hand came up and unexpectedly captured her chin.

Bai Qian was dazed for a moment, then knocked his hand away. “P-Presumptuous!”

He gave no response and just moved his face closer, his eyes squinted to examine her. That squinty face kept moving closer and closer, looking completely focused and serious. Bai Qian really didn’t know what he had planned, she just kept inching back.

“Am I… attracted to a man?” Why are you asking me?!

He then snapped his head back and without any hesitation, reached up to take out the little wooden hairpin that was holding her hair in a bun. Bai Qian’s long locks came tumbling down.

Furious, she leapt forward to grab for it, but he kept her at bay with one hand and continued to squint at her.

“However I look at it, you don’t look like a man… You should have been born a woman…”

“Return it this instant!” She raged, struggling to grab his hand.

“No, no, this is no good. What if father finds out that I’m like this?” This primitive half-wit was actually having conversations with himself out loud.

“I know! Maybe you’re a woman in disguise! I’d better check—”

His hands were about to reach for the collar of her robe when suddenly, something caused him to break out in a loud and painful groan. His arms were being twisted by an invisible force, jerking them away from her. The fist that held her hairpin was pried open, and the wooden pin floated into Moyuan’s hand.

The force dissipated and Ma Zhiwen buckled down on one knee.

“Ma Delan is a reasonable man. It’s unfortunate that he did not manage to raise a son with better manners.” Moyuan said. He rose from his seat and walked over to her.

By a wave of his hand, her hair was restored to its previous state. He then tucked the pin into her bun, securing her hair into place. Looking up at him, Bai Qian couldn’t help but feel a little flustered.

“You are…?” Ma Zhiwen was white as a ghost and raised his hands up in front of Moyuan. “Forgive me, it seems I have been blind and offended a high god…”

“Aiya, this Pony Boy… he really is blind...” Xiao Yu said to Moyuan, “He was so busy flirting with your disciple, he didn’t even notice his beloved Princess was sitting here watching this whole time…”

Bai Qian and Ma Zhiwen both snapped their heads over at Xiao Yu. Seeing their puzzled expressions, he angled his chin toward the table where the two veiled women were sitting. But now, it was vacant. The pair had vanished.

Princess… That woman was the Princess? Where did she go?

Xiao Yu sighed and singsonged loudly as he lifted the pot of tea to refill his cup, “What did I promise you Furball? This sensational play is only just getting started…”

Chapter 5