Fanfic: Mo Yuan and Shao Wan 2.0 - Chapter 25 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 25

written by kakashi
Edited by Panda & LigayaCroft

Some men were born fighters. Either because they had no other choice than use their fists to survive or because their fists itched to be used for other things than holding a brush.

Mo Yuan was not one of those men. His hands were delicate, the long fingers more naturally made for drawing fine patterns and plucking the zither than clutching a sword. Had he been left entirely to himself, he would have chosen to spend his days and nights studying and would have striven to capture the beauty of his father's creation through music.

But Mo Yuan happened to be born into a time in which war was the rule, not an exception and in which scholars ended up dead at the hands of soldiers. As the son of Father Deity, Creator of All, Supreme Commander of the Heavenly Forces, it was his filial duty to excel in everything, especially fighting.

By the time Mo Yuan was 356’000 years old, his martial arts had become such an intricate part of him, he no longer thought of himself as a scholar who had learnt how to fight due to unhappy circumstances. Body - mind - soul… in every task, all three were equally important. In essence, the task of playing the zither was no different from leading troops into battle. Facing an opponent was like reading a book. Winning was like playing a near perfect tune.

Fighting with his mind rather than just his body was how Mo Yuan had become one of the best martial artists in the realms. That proficiency made many eager to try their skills against his. But once he had settled at Kunlun after his Father's demise, he had not accepted many challengers - only a few of his later disciples had been allowed to fight him for sport. Since it was so rare to experience him fight or just see him, the ferocious God of War on his Holy Mountain soon became a living legend, a part of songs and stories sung and told by parents to their offspring.

The opportunity to see Celestial High God Mo Yuan, and not only that, see him fight in the pits of Huang Juéwàng was so exceptional, it came as no big surprise that the majority of Demons were literally ready to kill for a seat. The price for entry had reached dizzying heights shortly after the announcement had been made. But Shǒu had a heart for the poor. Whoever signed a document vowing loyalty to him and his cause got a chance to enter their name into a ballot, from which a few hundred lucky individuals were selected. There were no seats left, but who needed them? People could arrange themselves otherwise.

It was a day never to forget.

Mo Yuan was pretty oblivious what his presence meant to the people gathered in this strange place. He did not realize that him wearing Demon clothes was instantly turned into new stories of a pact between Celestials and some Demons against others. Demons loved nothing more than these kind of tales. There could only be one reason for the God of War coming to this rebel stronghold - the days of the Purple Overlord’s reign had come to an end. If there was someone who could beat the God of War, that someone would most certainly be the next Overlord - why stage such a grand spectacle if not for this?

Mo Yuan had never cared for the legends about him nor for acting in ways that met the legend-shaped expectations of people. That morning, when he stepped out into the blazing sun on sand that reeked of the blood of those unfortunate enough to find an untimely end here, he felt only one thing: urgency. He needed to win to save Shao Wan.

Urgency was a dangerous thing for any martial artist. If not handled with caution, it could lead to carelessness, which could easily mean death if the opponent was good. But Mo Yuan knew how to use it to become even more precise and efficient. He had always won his fights by foreseeing the moves of his opponent. It was part experience, part knowledge from reading thousands upon thousands of pages about fighting styles, part the speed acquired through diligent practice. Thus, urgency made his reflexes even keener, his movements even faster.

In the first few rounds, Shǒu sent his top professional fighters against him, scarred by hundreds of fights in the pits, leading to just as many wins... until they went up against the God of War who vanquished them in an embarrassingly short time without even using a weapon. His movements were so quick that most spectators did not even see what happened and it was over before it had really begun. Before the spellbound audience could make up their mind whether to be utterly disappointed or utterly thrilled, the next wave of fighters, a bigger number than before, were sent out.

“That was… quick,” Yue stammered in awe after round three - there was a very short break, because some fighters had refused to face this Celestial monster, as they called him, which led to some heated discussions in the fighters’ quarters - and extended a piece of cloth towards Mo Yuan, for him to wipe his brow. Only, the God of War had not even broken a sweat.

“Do you… want a drink?” the young guard asked and offered Mo Yuan a water skin with a shaking hand.

“No need,” came the curt, almost impatient answer.

In round five, one of the fighters used an underhanded trick involving a fine powder that temporarily blinded the God of War and managed to cut Mo Yuan’s upper arm with a dagger. The arena roared in a mixture of delight and horror at the first Celestial blood that was ever spilled on these grounds. But the cut, even if it was deep, was healed quickly and underhanded tricks only worked once. If anything, the wound only helped to heighten Mo Yuan’s feeling of urgency.

But there also was a feeling... a prickling on the back of his neck, skin that wanted to break out in goosebumps but did not quite. It was ominous. Something was coming. This could not be all.

And of course it wasn’t.


390’000 years ago

“Are you going to fight her?”

Mo Yuan curled his lips in disdain ever so slightly. What a pest that woman was. After causing such a scene on her very first day and then rubbing it in his face whenever she could that she considered herself the winner of that confrontation, she was now claiming she was by far the best fighter of the whole school and nobody would be able to beat her. Ever.

“She really is very good,” Donghua said and narrowed his eyes at the scroll he was reading. “Mo Yuan, can you help me with my homework? I do not know half of the signs in this script, what strange language is it?”

“Maybe you shouldn’t associate with that Demon Woman so much,” Mo Yuan scolded him, “and study more instead. If you keep sneaking out of school and spending whole nights awake, you will not pass any of the upcoming tests.”

“Ah,” Donghua sighed, “you are right, of course, as always - but she is too convincing. I really cannot resist her when she begs me.”

“Lots of begging going on,” Zhe Yan snickered, “it goes like this. ‘Donghua, let’s…’ - ‘yes, great idea, Shao Wan!’”

His friends were laughing, but Mo Yuan felt...angry. Her constant provocations grated on his nerves and his friends weren’t exactly loyal to him. She, the best fighter? He knew that wasn’t true - couldn’t be true. Someone as lazy as her could never beat him, who had read whole libraries about martial arts and had practiced diligently every day of his life.

“Yesterday, she said that all Celestials like to boast endlessly about how good they are at fighting, but that in truth, they are the weakest of all tribes.”

“I heard her,” Mo Yuan said, gritting his teeth.

“Yao Guang almost cried after Shao Wan beat her, but I think it was because of her hurt pride, not because of her hurt body. Did you watch at all? What a win!”

“I did not,” Mo Yuan murmured. Even if he had wanted to - a lot. But he was not ready to bend even one inch to the Demon Woman’s wishes, and that included watching a fight she was in, so he had stuffed his ears with wax not to hear the excited shouts from the fighting grounds and had buried his head in his books.

“She cried for real,” Donghua interjected, “Shao Wan doesn’t hold back, especially not towards people she dislikes. It’s actually better if you don’t fight her, Mo Yuan. It will be too gruesome. I can picture you two hitting your teeth into each other like mountain lions and not letting go until both are bled out and quite dead.”

“Epic,” Zhe Yan sighed. “Should we start taking bets, Donghua? Or are we not allowed to do this at school?”

“I am not sure,” Donghua shrugged, “have you ever seen any regulations written down? I don’t even know the rules.”

“But Mo Yuan does,” Zhe Yan added, “so we can ask him. Mo Yuan, are we allowed to take bets?”

“I am not going to fight her,” Mo Yuan snapped.

One day later, he faced the Demon Queen across the sand in the practice grounds. She wore a disdainful expression on her face and managed to smile haughtily at the same time. Of course, she was considering this a win already - she had provoked him until he had had no other choice but to accept her challenge. Her hair was braided intricately - it looked like many hours of work, so at least, she had good use for those maids she had brought into school against the regulations - and bound back so it would not hinder her vision. He noticed that the white school uniform looked different on her than on other women. Was it because she was tall? Or… because she was so... shapely?

“I am going to beat him without even using a weapon,” she declared loudly.

Now that was amusing. He had some respect for whips and he had heard she used hers with great proficiency, but beat him in a fist fight? She was delusional.

“Last opportunity for placing your bets!” Zhe Yan shouted.

Every single student had turned up, Mo Yuan noticed, he had never seen the stands this crowded. The Demon Queen lifted her whip to throw it away and people cheered… all of a sudden, he wasn’t quite sure what they had come to see. Surely, they all rooted for him and not this… crass and loud Demon? Or… would people be swayed by pity? And her… looks? She seemed to glow in the gentle sun, her skin was white and almost translucent like the purest and rarest of porcelain.

“I hope you had a good look in the mirror this morning,” she challenged him, “because you might not recognize yourself after we’re done. I detest your pretty boy looks the most! I will make you look more like a man!”

Taunt me all you want, he thought, I will not let myself be provoked by you.

The thought of marring that beautiful face of hers in return filled him with abhorrence though. Was she using some sort of special bewitching magic only known to her kind? He had tried to find out more about the Demon Clan not too long ago, but records were surprisingly sparse.

He looked over to this friends, who grinned happily while counting money and paid no attention to him at all. He couldn’t expect any help from them of course. That was not surprising, she had bewitched them too. His eyes returned to her shapely form.

She narrowed hers at him. “What are you staring at, you pervert?” she challenged him angrily. “Have you never looked at a woman before? Probably not, seeing how your nose is usually stuck in a book. These here are called breasts.”

She chuckled at her own joke while putting her hands under that part of her body, juggling them for emphasis. Mo Yuan considered it a miracle he did not blush. Considering it a better option not to say anything and get on with things, he changed into the Gōng bù stance.

She wrinkled her nose.

“Don’t expect any of that artful girly type of fighting from me,” she said with a sneer and rushed at him, faster than he had ever seen anyone move before. Her hands shot forward, aiming straight for his throat. He parried. It was a close call, she had managed to surprise him, but he got back his bearing quickly. Soon, their hands danced in the air in front of them.

It was most wonderous, he managed to think, because he recognized immediately that she truly was the best fighter he had ever faced from his age group. She was fast, maybe even faster than him, her style entirely foreign to him. Unexpected… everything about it was unexpected. He could read her, but only a fraction before her move, which forced him to react, never initiate.

Did time stop?

His world narrowed down to her, her flashing eyes, her fists, palms, fingers, feet. She bore down on him with the ferocity of a saber-tooth tiger. He could not get the upper hand, he could not even start using his brain to analyze the situation. Much later, when things started to feel rather desperate, he came to the conclusion he had to change the dynamic or this would end badly for him. They may be equally matched in speed, but she was lighter and ultimately, he had an advantage because he was stronger, due to the simple fact of being born a man.

So he dodged an attack and took a great risk diving under the next, ramming his entire body into hers with all he had. Elegant? Definitely not. Bad form? Absolutely. It was a desperate move, but it was effective.

Their bodies slammed to the ground, he on top of her. The impact drove the air out of her lungs with a woosh. His fall was cushioned by her body, which was all inviting softness against his as they lay there, panting heavily. Her face contorted in pain, making him feel sudden regret. Of all things.

“Yield,” he pressed out, gasping for air, trying to hold down her arms, fighting the instinct to check where she was injured.

“You bastard,” she spat, “I will never.”

With a burst of strength, she catapulted her entire body into the air and threw him off her. He managed to turn and come to his feet, but she was already on him again, attacking with new ferocity. Again, their hands and feet took up their dance. She hit with all she had. He tried to do the same, but he’d rather have locked her up somewhere so she’d stop taunting him and could not be hurt.

He stumbled.

Never before in his life had he made a mistake like this. The moment he started falling, the audience went frantic. There was so much shouting his ears wanted to explode. The sand came at him with incredible speed, but he managed to turn at the last moment and roll over his shoulder inelegantly. There was a fraction of time he was not fully aware of his surroundings and of course she took advantage. Her weight hit his back like a stone and her arms and legs came around his body, trying to squash in his ribcage and at his throat, choking him.

“Now you yield,” her voice said into his ear, her breath tickling him in the most curious ways, “you are done for.”

Quite out of instinct, Mo Yuan shut down his mind and let his body rule. It was the right decision in this kind of fight and yet, when he reflected upon this experience later, it was something he vowed not to repeat anytime soon. He had practiced this of course, using unbridled Beast Power but not quite transforming, but it was playing with fire, or rather, Dragon Power. It went wrong more than half the time, ending in him transforming into a very angry Dragon who hated to be “used by that stupid human”, as he liked to put it and could not be calmed down for days.

This time, with her tightening her iron grip around his midriff and around his throat, it worked exactly like he had always imagined it would. A surge of power ripped through him, temporarily making his form fluid. It freed him, more, it gave him an opening and an advantage that he knew to use well.

Their positions were reversed in an instance. His arm was around her neck, his other arm around her ribs. “You yield,” he growled, barely controlling the Dragon, “this is it.”

“You bloody cheated,” she said full of disdain, “of course you did. You Celestials always do.”

And with that, she bit him into the arm, deeply and painfully, drawing first blood.

It was hours later that Donghua and Zhe Yan joined them in the sand. The sun had set, most people had left. “Like mountain lions, didn’t I say so?” Zhe Yan sighed. “You can stop now. I’d say it’s a draw? You, Donghua?”

“Sadly, yes,” their silver-haired friend said with a sigh, “I lost a lot of money. I bet on you, Sister Phoenix. But you let me down horribly tonight!”

“He…. cheated…” she wheezed and feebly tried to hit Mo Yuan one last time.

He caught the offending hand in his and held on with the last strength he could muster. “And… you…. didn’t?” he wheezed back.

“Are you going to lie here all night? In your own blood? Some people are into the strangest things...” Zhe Yan remarked, looking down at the entangled mess of them. “Donghua, we should leave them alone, I suddenly feel like an intruder.”

“No! Get… him…. away from me!” the Demon Queen said, but quite to the contrary, she tightened her painful grip on his hair.

“If you let go,” Donghua said, after studying the situation with skepticism.

“If I let go, he will come at me again,” she whined. “And then he’ll say he has won!”

“Not if we make him promise,” Zhe Yan said. “He always keeps his words. Mo Yuan, be a good lad and promise not to attack your friend the Demon Queen again. The fight is over. You both won. Or rather… you both lost. Are we in agreement?”

“She is… not… my…. friend,” Mo Yuan pressed out, the disappointment he felt made him petty. He had been quasi beaten by a woman, more the horror, by an uncultivated Demon with no finesse and no schooling. How was that even possible?

“Ah, don’t be such a sore loser,” Zhe Yan continued. “Though… you will be very sore, I reckon.”

“Next time,” the Demon Queen said and grinned rather unexpectedly at him, “we fight with weapons, Celestial Bastard. You will most certainly lose then.”

“I never lose,” Mo Yuan gave back and to his great surprise, his own mouth curved upwards too.

“You will lose to me, Celestial. You will lose everything to me, just you wait.”

Oh, but he couldn’t wait, he realized. Sore or not, he knew he would most certainly face her again in the morrow, with weapons or without them, he did not care. And he would keep going until he had her defeated and begging for mercy in front of him.

Fighting had always been a duty. But fighting her… it was pure pleasure.


Mo Yuan thought it strange that Shao Wan’s words from so many millennia ago would echo in his head like the whispers of a ghost. You will lose to me, Celestial. You will lose everything to me, just you wait. No, He would not lose, he had never lost.

But he was tiring. He felt dizzy, partially the aftereffects of the tea, partially because of the mounting heat in the crater. Seven rounds won, three to go… he kept healing his wounds right away, but that cost him a lot of energy, too much.... They were slowly weakening him through a thousand cuts over time rather than one big blow.

Sword, he thought, dodging the vicious attack of one of the mother Dais, whose sharp talons that had aimed for his heart had almost cut through the armored vest Yue had given him. Three fluffy Dai babies wailed pitifully in the middle of the arena, held in place by chain-magic. Shao Wan’s excited face appeared in his mind, how she had yelled in delight: Celestial! Look - at - this - ADORABLE - little - fluff ball. I want one for my palace! I need one! It seemed like it had been in another lifetime. They had been so young back then. He had been so in love. Why had he ever let his Father deter him from making her his?

The thought of her suffering in that frail body gave him renewed strength, but going up against one protective mother Dai was already quite dangerous and Shǒu had found three to use against him. This species bore one baby only once in their lifetime. Thus, Dai mothers were ready to die for their young without hesitation, but they always made sure to take whatever threatened their young with them into death.

Mo Yuan would have to kill them before they killed him, but that meant killing the babies too, because they would not survive at this age without their mothers.

Mo Yuan summoned Xuan-Yuan.

The arena went utterly quiet. He looked around himself in astonishment… it was as if every single person watching this was holding their breath in awe at the sight of the sword.

Every single person froze in awe, but the Dais did not. Seeing their enemy stand still, they charged forward. When his sword pierced the first one’s heart, Mo Yuan felt great sadness wash over him. He jumped into the air using the sword handle as leverage and vaulted behind the second, at the same time pulling out the sword from the dying first monster. The second’s head was cut off cleanly, rolling through the sand, stopping in front of the younglings. Their wailing stopped.

“You will pay for this,” Mo Yuan whispered and looked up to where Shǒu sat, pointing the sword at him in a threatening gesture.

The third Dai was frozen, looking at her dead sisters with what looked like sorrow. The owl’s three eyes were large and wet and its three ears were hanging down sadly as it turned its large head to look at Mo Yuan. It said something in its high pitched voice, a question maybe and made a step forward.

Killing was no pleasure but when one did it enough times, it sadly lost some of its horror. But from time to time, even to someone who had killed thousands, the prospect of killing just one more pitiful creature became a crushing weight of such a magnitude, it could not be done - unless one was ready to damn one’s own soul into the land of eternal black despair.

Mo Yuan knew he could not kill this animal. More, the deaths of the other two sickened him to such a degree, his hand with the sword started to shake. A mother protecting its young - there was no purer thing in the world.

He made Xuan-Yuan disappear and lowered his hands. What was he even doing here? Slowly, he stepped away from the fluffy babies. The remaining Mother Dai followed his movements with its swiveling head. The chain-magic… would he be able to break it without hurting the babies?

He was still unfamiliar with Demon magic.

“Yue,” he said, not letting the Dai out of his eyes.

“Yes, High God Mo Yuan,” the Guard said behind him, his voice shaking.

“Can you break those chains?”

“I… I will try. They won’t like it.”

As soon as Yue directed his powers against the babies’ chains, every single person in the audience who was not already standing sprung up and started shouting. In confusion, the Mother Dai charged forward, but Mo Yuan quickly went between the Guard and the animal, lifting his hands in a gesture of peace. They were red from blood, quite a bit of it his own. He felt his legs begin to shake too.

I cannot fall, he told himself, I cannot show any weakness.

“It’s done!” Yue panted.

The younglings came free. One ran to its mother on feet that seemed far too large for such a small creature. Cooing excitedly, the Dai wrapped her baby into her wings protectively so that only its feet sticking out underneath and its tiny beak poking out between the white feathers gave away its presence. The other two, finding themselves utterly alone in the world, started wailing in terror again.

“Get them out,” Mo Yuan ordered Yue, “take them to a safe place. Find a Beast Master from the Ghost Realm who knows what they eat. Give him…”

“I cannot leave you alone,” Yue said sternly, “you are wounded. This is not over.”

Of course it wasn’t. Servants and Beast Masters had appeared through one of the small doors in the wall, stunning the large Dai with spells and gas until it slowly toppled over and could be transported out. The two orphaned younglings ran behind Yue and tried to hide.

“Leave them alone!” the audience yelled, their demand soon turning into a chant that could not be ignored. His fury plainly visible on his face, Shǒu waved at his Beast Masters to comply with the wish of the masses.

“This round has not been won!” he yelled at Mo Yuan, “you are disqualified!”

It was then that something in the arena changed. Mo Yuan looked up with a frown. At first, he thought it was the weather, that clouds had gathered unnoticed by him, that it might rain soon. It had gotten darker all of a sudden and much colder. Indeed, the sun had moved on and had disappeared behind the rim of the crater, only bathing the top rows in its evening light.

But that was not it.

It was a vast, impure power that Mo Yuan felt draw near. It was chilling him to the bone. The goosebumps that had just lingered spread from his head to his toes.

The gates across from him opened slowly for the ninth time and in they brought a wagon. On it was a cage. Inside the cage, held down by Devil Tower bonds, was the most grotesque and hideous creature Mo Yuan had ever seen.

It was one of the Lost Ones from Diushi Mogui Ta, the Demon prison where Sixteenth had lost his life during the War. A Demon Immortal who had lost his sanity and self control when his cultivation had become imbalanced. An aberration, a life that could not be, an festering sore in the fabric of the Universe.

Shǒu had jumped to his feet, his sudden paleness an indication that he was not the orchestrator of this.

A familiar looking woman clad in a dark blue dress with a golden pattern stepped forward into the middle of the arena, her cold eyes brazenly measuring Mo Yuan before turning upwards to the host. Her voice was clear and just as loud as necessary to be heard.

“I challenge you, Shǒu, and your Celestial champion: If I win, I will be Overlord. You all be my witness.”

She looked like Yu Dian, Mo Yuan realized. It must be his sister. Behind her, the sneering face of Ying Ming appeared. In his hands, he held those devices of power he had used in the Heavens before.

“No,” another voice interjected from the stands not far from him. “High God Mo Yuan is my champion. And if he wins, I will be Overlord again.”

Chapter 26