Fanfiction3: A-Li's Three Lives, Three Worlds - Chapter 65 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 65

written by LigayaCroft
edited by kakashi

Two months and a half rolled by and as summer drew to a close and autumn arrived, so did Huo Zheng’s belly begin to increase.

Her role in the village had inevitably changed.

She had released herself from surveying the plantation because her husband and the whole town had been trailing her everywhere, short of putting their clothes on the ground she would walk on, to ensure her and her child’s safety.

She was now allowed to sleep in, which used to be a luxury, as A-Li and Gun Gun took over the pre-dawn meetings. Her lovely husband would be back in time to prepare and serve her breakfast and dote on her belly, before heading back out to work in the fields.

Once a week, either A-Li or Gun Gun would venture out of Huicūn to check on Qianling. It had brought great comfort to Huo Zheng to know that her daughter was being properly cared for and had been adjusting well to her new life. Children were resilient creatures, and it had pleased Huo Zheng to know her daughter had charmed the household staff and even Chen Tzu himself.

Life in Huicūn had then settled back into a gentle rhythm especially after the wedding. Her own pregnancy had been generally trouble-free which she attributed to the right amount of hot and cold foods that she had been eating. A month and a half ago was when she first felt her baby kick, the force of which only grew in frequency and intensity as the weeks passed.

The first time A-Li felt the baby was also a favorite memory of hers during this pregnancy. That look of wonder and disbelief, the way his eyes suddenly turned watery and red, had made her so sure he was indeed going to be a great father to their child.

“You’re daydreaming again,” Mei Lin’s voice broke through her thoughts followed by a tap on her shoulder. “But that’s good. The baby needs to grow in your belly surrounded by happy thoughts.”

Mei Lin placed the tied up pile of dirty laundry inside the carved rock wash basin filled by a continuous stream of fresh river water. With the efficiency brought about by months of familiarity, she unknotted the blanket that held the laundry together, grabbed a mandarin-sized balled-up zhào jiá powder and a tunic, and began washing.

“Maybe A-Li can take me back to the beach we went to after our wedding. It would be nice to take a dip in ocean water once again.”

“I doubt Li-Gē will let you travel anymore.” Mei Lin reminded her, the squishing sounds coming from between her wrists loud. “You're about three months away from giving birth.”

She shrugged and her hand touched the wooden comb he had fashioned for her from peach wood a month ago. It was not the most skillful of work but it was her husband’s handiwork hence she had made sure that she wore it every day.

“Nevertheless I will ask him later tonight,” she decided, splashing the water with her left foot. “Maybe we have time for one more trip.”

Mei Lin suddenly straightened up and cursed. “I forgot to bring out my innerwear for tomorrow. Just stay there and make sure not to touch anything… or slip on anything.”

Huo Zheng nodded and watched Mei Lin disappear back inside the house. She squinted against the glare of the sun in the sky, noting that she needed to prepare lunch soon. Her husband and Gun Gun had been busy tending to the fields all day, so she should serve something refreshing.

Time was a commodity she now had plenty of as A-Li had also asked her to stop receiving birthing patients about a week ago. She had never realized how much time she spent on them. Further, she was excluded from any chore that required lifting and pulling, which drastically reduced her usual workload.

Now she was just a laid-back, well-loved pregnant woman.

Huo Zheng hummed to herself as she peeled her early-season persimmon, her mouth watering at the prospect of slicing it and sprinkling it with some salt that A-Li had procured for her in a small bottle from a traveling merchant.

“Excuse me,” an unidentified male voice called out from behind her. “I am looking for the village leader Huo Zheng. I was told I could find him here?”

Huo Zheng turned her head a little to the left, taking note of the leather-booted feet and the ornately-embroidered golden silk robes of the man who stood behind her. She wrapped her fruit inside her handkerchief, set it on the ground beside her and with minor difficulty due to her growing stomach, stood up and turned.

“I am Huo Zheng,” she introduced herself to the stranger, looking him up from his shoes to the top of his head, taking note of his immaculate appearance and expensive clothes. He was good-looking, probably a heartbreaker in his prime, and that gold headpiece on his head told her this man was a noble. “How may I be of help?”

The man took an awkward step back, his face white, mouth open and jaws slack, with the trembling finger of one hand pointing at her.

“Yes, I am a woman. Is that really so shocking?” Huo Zheng sighed. What was it about men coming out surprised whenever they found out the town was run by a woman?

But this man looked familiar. Huo Zheng took a step closer, making the man back up another shaky step.

“Do I know you?” she asked, racking her brain to remember where she had seen him last. A visiting alumna at school? The Royal Court? One of Chen Tzu’s seniors?

The crackling of leaves and shuffling of feet removed her attention from the visitor. Huo Zheng turned and saw A-Li and Gun Gun running toward her direction as fast as they could.

“Gēge!” Gun Gun shouted, waving, the smile wide on his beautiful face. “Gēge!”

It was at that moment that Mei Lin also stepped back into the wash area. The new bundle of clothes in her hand fell to the ground with a gasp before she rushed to stand in front of the stranger, cupping her hands in front of her and with a reverent bow, said, ”Shifu…”

Shifu? Huo Zheng looked at the man again who still didn't smile as he watched A-Li and Gun Gun approach.

This man had to be Lian Song.

Huo Zheng’s heart picked up its pace inside her chest at the reality of meeting an in-law. Not just that but this man was also her husband’s teacher! Her hand cautiously reached up to touch her hair and ensure no unruly strands stood out, and that the comb she used to set her hair in place was not askew.

The Three Monkeys were now in front of Lian Song, their heads remained down in a respectful bow.

A silk fan unfurled, its white jade spokes glistening as it threw off the direction of sunbeams to different directions.

“I don't know how to properly understand what is happening here and which is more shocking: the loss of my powers, finding the three of you in such sullied states or finding her—” the fan closed and now pointed straight at Huo Zheng. “Why is she here?”

Huo Zheng lost no beat and as fast as she could, stood to her husband’s right and mimicked his bow.

“Dìanxìa, Huo Zheng greets you and apologizes for her rudeness earlier.”

The silk fan went under her chin to tip it up until her eyes could meet Lian Song’s. His pupils were still wide but eventually his eyes slowly narrowed down.

“No, you can't be her. Jia’er’s skin was flawless like the purest jade. You are darker and have… freckles!”

The way he gasped at her imperfection was so hilarious that Huo Zheng had to struggle to swallow her laughter.

“Huo Zheng, was that what you said your name was?”

“Yes, Dìanxìa.”

“Plain! How plain!” He touched the sleeve of her peasant’s garb. “It is amazing just how different you are from her.”

Huo Zheng felt self-conscious again. Even after A-Li had told her everything there was to know about her past life, it still bothered her that somebody like her had once been regarded as a renowned beauty. She had been called many things before, but never a beauty. Seeing Lian Song’s reaction upon meeting her again affirmed just how high the beauty standards her past life had set was. Meanwhile, she, in comparison, couldn't be bothered to comb her hair. Right now, she was fighting against the desire to comb her fingers through it again to check its sorry state.

“Shūshu, can we escort you inside our house so you can sit down and we can serve you some refreshments?” A-Li asked, finally releasing his bow. The rest followed suit.

Lian Song’s head shook, as his hands and fan snapped behind his back.

“Zhízi, if only the Heavens could see you now— why do you, and Gun Gun too, look like farmers?”

“That’s because we are farmers, Shūshu.”

“And what about you, Zūzu? Always following these two around, but I don't think you would follow them into farming, wouldn't you?”

“Shifu,” Mei Lin’s smile and the pride in her eyes almost stole the sun’s shine. “I have been training under Huo Zheng as a healer.”

“A healer!” Lian Song started pacing back and forth, every now and then stopping to look and shake his head at each of his wards. “Farmers, healers, all noble professions but a profession still! Show me your hands!” he demanded, and the three did. “Calluses! Cuts! Burns! Unacceptable!” He stalked in front of Huo Zheng, looking like he was almost about to cry. “Are you a shaman, a witch, who has enchanted my wards into staying in this forsaken place where our magick does not hold any ground? Because what else can you be, to be able to turn them into… commoners?”

Huo Zheng knew Lian Song meant well but his words reminded her of how much more vicious the immortals could be.

Her vision of Lian Song’s righteous anger was blocked by A-Li’s back.

“Please watch your words, Shūshu. You are talking to my wife.”

A-Li’s authoritative tone, something she hadn't heard him use since Chàngyìng, must have worked because Lian Song became quiet.

“You are just like your father…” she heard Lian Song hiss after some time but A-Li’s back in front of her prevented her from seeing his face. “And then what do you do next? Wage a war so you can fake your death? Give up your immortality for her?”

“Shifu!” Mei Lin rushed forward, and Huo Zheng wondered if Lian Song had swayed and almost fainted.

“And you married her only because she looked like Xue Jiaolong?”

Lian Song’s tone spoke of hurt and betrayal. From her husband’s stories, she knew that Lian Song has been his second father, someone who knew A-Li better than his own father did.

“Gēge,” Gun Gun spoke up. “Huo Zheng is the reincarnation of Xue Jiaolong.”

Lian Song’s response was an audible intake of breath.

“Shifu, let’s go indoors and we can talk some more. We need to get you out of this unusual autumn heat,” begged Mei Lin.

Lian Song gasped. “Zūzu, why are your clothes wet?”

Huo Zheng could no longer restrain herself and sidestepped her husband. His hand immediately shot out to hold hers, the pads of his fingers grazing her knuckles in a soothing manner. Lian Song’s eyes were shooting daggers toward Mei Lin who was apologizing for her wet robes.

“Laundry? What do you mean you are doing the laundry? Have they turned you into a servant here?”

“Shūshu has never lifted a finger for doing household chores his entire life,” A-Li explained, leaning over toward her left ear. “He’ll eventually recover from the shock.”

Her husband’s teasing tone comforted Huo Zheng by a bit. “He does remind me of how Mei Lin was over a year ago.”

Huo Zheng watched Lian Song inspect Mei Lin up close, bemoaning her friend’s lightly-freckled face, scarred hands and unkempt appearance. The Three Monkeys took his indignation all in good stride but the laughter was cut short when Nǎinai’s shout from indoors broke through the air.

“Zūzu, the millet better not boil over this time or else!”

“Who…” Lian Song’s eyes flitted from one ward to another. “was that?“

“Do you think he’ll be ready for Nǎinai?” Huo Zheng whispered toward her husband.

“No one ever is,” he whispered back then to Lian Song, said, “Come, Shūshu, let me introduce you to my grandmother-in-law.”

“Zūzu!” Nǎinai shouted again, this time louder.

“Coming!” Mei Lin shouted back.

“She sounds vicious,” Lian Song complained as they walked back toward the house.

“She’s adorable,” Gun Gun shared but his face couldn’t hold back his mischievous smile. “Even Cheng Yu will like her.”

Lian Song stopped walking and once again turned toward his wards.

“And how is that supposed to comfort me?”

Heng! Heeeeeeng!

“What was that?” Lian Song looked around l, his eyes wild.

“Oh no,” A-Li detached his hand from hers and started rummaging through Lian Song’s robes.

Lian Song swatted A-Li’s hands away. “What do you think you are doing, boy? I am about to meet your in-laws and you are further wrinkling my clothes!”


“Shūshu, it’s important. Do you have sweets on your person?”

“I have candies,” he replied with a frown. “I don’t see why that is—”

Weixiao burst through the bushes and before anyone could do anything to stop the pig, it flew straight for Lian Song’s chest.


Lian Song surveyed the measly accommodations that Gun Gun called his home and tried hard not to give in to the urge to cry. It was even worse than the simple house where A-Li and Mei Lin stayed at.

Somebody somewhere had decided to play a joke on him by leading his wards astray this way. These were Sons and Daughter of Immortal Kings and Queens, yet they had been turned into mortal farmers and a healer. They would surely become laughingstock if anyone ever found out, and would further add shame to Tianjun’s name especially once Celestial opinion caught up.

He surveyed the bamboo bed that used to belong to A-Li before his boy married Huo Zheng, noted the low-quality blanket and thin pillow that used to host the head and protect the body of the First Prince of the Celestial Realms, and it made him feel dizzy. What would Ye Hua and Dong Hua say to him if they ever saw the state their sons were living in?

Even the chair that they had offered him to sit on looked likely to collapse anytime. But the three looked content and comfortable, Mei Lin at boiling water, Gun Gun with his unusually happy chatter, and A-Li—

Gods, his beloved boy was now married, and would be a father soon enough.

Lian Song’s head hadn't stopped throbbing since finding out. Except for the addition of a sharp-tongued grandmother-in-law and a pig who bodily assaults you for sweets, Lian Song felt like he had so many years ago when he enabled his nephew Ye Hua’s infatuation for Susu leading to the mess that followed afterwards…

Why did it have to happen to him, again, of all gods?

Then there was the issue of Mei Lin and Gun Gun. Something had clearly changed between them, and like a child fearful of seeing monsters but still peeking between his fingers, he opted to test it out.


“Yes, Shifu?”

“You’ve changed.”

The hands pouring tea to his cup stilled. “What do you mean, Shifu?”

Lian Song could almost hear the song of his impending doom when he choked out, “You’re more… womanly now.”

And there it was, the frozen smile, the eyes that quickly side-glanced toward Gun Gun, followed by a sharp laugh.

“Shifu, it’s too late in the afternoon for jokes!” The cup clattered as she served it in front of him. “Let me just return this pot of boiling water back to the stove—” She didn't even finish her statement but rushed out of his sight toward the kitchen.

Lian Song raised a brow at Gun Gun who also avoided his stare.

He was certain. He was going to be a dead man. The God of War had explicitly instructed him to prevent his daughter from being involved with Dong Hua’s son. Lian Song might not like Mo Yuan much, but the God of War had valid reasons.

These children. The roads they’d taken.

He sipped his tea as he waited for the three to settle down and kneel in front of him. The village indeed served excellent tea, probably better than the best immortal teas he had had in his long lifetime. It would be a shame if he didn't take time to enjoy it first, let the fleeting moment last as long as it could, especially since his head was inevitably caught smack in the middle between Ye Hua and Mo Yuan’s swords.

But these children. They looked more mature now. Happier. Stable.

Lian Song blinked against the tears that threatened to form in his eyes. He unfurled his fan and started fanning himself to release some of his internal tension.

His A-Li.

His little riceball was going to be a father.

Ye Hua’s early years as a widower had been harrowing for Lian Song to witness, as his nephew juggled heartbreak at losing Susu with the duties of lovingly raising a son. He had also never forgotten how Ye Hua almost took his own life during the earlier days of Susu’s death— a striking reminder of how feral his nephew could become when reacting to anything that put his wife’s life in peril. Attempt to kill himself? Start a manhunt against the Demon Ancestor? Wage a war against his own brother?

“It is imperative that we do this right,” he began, when he had all three kneeling in front of him. “If Huo Zheng is indeed a goddess on a trial like your Mother has been, we need to ensure her safe and welcome passage into Jiuchongtian.”

A-Li nodded his agreement. “I can introduce her to Father and Mother when we—”

“A-Li,” he cut his nephew short, shaking his head. “I don't think you fully understand the troubles your Father Lord is currently facing. Bringing a mortal to Jiuchongtian without proper preparations may push the dissenters over the edge. At this point, we don't even know who our enemies are.”

“What do you suggest we do, Shūshu?”

Lian Song rearranged the folds of his robes and put his cup down. “We need to properly confer this with Tianjun first. It’s my Father’s birthday so if Tianjun needs to meet with other members of the Celestial Council about your situation, the celebration is the perfect opportunity since everyone’s attendance is guaranteed.”

“Everyone?” asked Gun Gun.

“Everyone,” he sighed. “You children have been gone for about a month but a lot has happened since then. It is appalling how gossip about our family has turned into a past time for gossipmongers and dissenters. We will be getting full attendance not because we are revered but because we have been made into something short of a spectacle— the way mortals flock into one of those theater plays. They expect full attendance and we,” he paused for emphasis. “We will not disappoint them.”

“I cannot go. My wife is about to give birth.”

Lian Song understood his grandnephew’s hesitation but, “I’m afraid your absence will bring your case more harm than good. You should at least show up.” He pointedly looked at Mei Lin. “All three of you should.”

“Two immortal hours, three at a maximum,” Mei Lin calculated. “I am Xiaohu’s midwife. I cannot be gone for longer than three hours.”

Lian Song’s jaw couldn't help but drop. A midwife? Their Baby Phoenix was also a midwife? It sounded like a macabre business. What business did an unmarried woman have at assisting at birthing?

“Shūshu, I need to talk this over with my wife first.”

Lian Song turned his head to A-Li and his memories brought him back to the times when a conflicted Ye Hua had been hardpressed for time to go back to Susu in the mortal realms.

But the difference between the two men and the women they loved was also apparent. Susu was naive and Ye Hua did more damage than good by consistently keeping her in the dark. Huo Zheng was sharp as a whip and steely in character. She was aware of who they all were, and it seemed the couple communicated well. Assured that Huo Zheng was a leader first before she was a woman, Lian Song felt confident that she would counsel A-Li to do the right thing.

“Go ahead, talk to your wife,” he concurred, then to all three he said, “Get your affairs in order because whether all of you are coming or not, I will leave the day after tomorrow.”

The three hurriedly bowed and left— A-Li to talk to his wife, Gun Gun to check on the next batch of teas for packing, and Mei Lin to attend to a woman who was giving birth tonight— and it was only much later as Lian Song observed the calm scenery from Gun Gun’s hut that he understood the two conflicting feelings that warred in his heart.

Yes, there was fear but there also was pride.

* * *