Fanfiction: Moyuan and Bai Qian, Book 2 - Chapter 8, Part 1 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 8 - Divided

Part 1

written by Lala Loop
consulting by Bunny
editing by kakashi

Silence. Triumph.

The Dark Immortal stood in front of the Celestial Court, his two trusted lieutenants standing closely behind. The sky had returned to its former cloudless state before the commotion. Was this what he had worked day and night for during the last several millennia? Was this how they all lived? His victory against Haode was so effortless that it felt almost dull.

“NO!” a high voice suddenly tore through the silence.

A child.

Luoji took his eyes off the sky. The Spinner and Sufeng stepped up from behind him, glaring around for the source of the voice. All three of them slowly made their way down the stairs that led to the courtyard.

“No! Let me go!”

Not too far away, a boy around three hundreds years of age was wrestling a Celestial guard to break free of his hold. Eventually he succeeded and slipped away from the man’s arms. He threw himself forward and ran in the direction of the main gate. Though, unstable on his hasty feet he tripped and fell soon afterward.

“Master, I apologize!” said the guard who had failed to contain the child. He quickly caught up and wrapped his arms around the latter, lifting him off the ground. But the child did not surrender easily, he started punching and kicking his captor with surprising strength. Luoji stepped closer and watched the struggling pair in silence and with more interest than he had been paying any member of Haode’s family.

“Be still, you…”

“Let me go! LET GO! I want my father!”

“Stop the noise!” hissed Sufeng.

“What is this?” asked Luoji for no particular reason that he could think of.

“This is the Crown Prince’s son, Master,” said the Spinner.

“Which consort is his mother?”

“It seems his mother died a long time ago. She was a mortal woman. According to the maid who cares for him,” the Spinner threw his head at A-li, “the Crown Prince married this mortal woman in secret without Haode’s permission. When they discovered the affair, she was brought to the Nine Heavens and faced a jury. Something happened after that which caused her to lose her life at Zhuxian Terrace.”

“Interesting,” came the cold reply.

Looking at the wriggling child for another minute, Luoji took a step forward.

“Let him down,” he commanded. The guard complied immediately.

“Where’s my father? Where’s my grandmother? I want them!” shouted the boy, breaking into tears. He looked around for a way to escape the four men who were blocking his way. Though the courage in his eyes was sprinkled with fear instantly the moment he looked upon the Dark Immortal.

“Listen to me,” Sufeng’s eyes flared up. “From now on, you…”

“Stand back,” said Luoji to all the men present in his quietest voice; and once again his subordinates obeyed without question. He took another step then stooped down in front of the boy.

“What is your name?”

The boy was trembling so violently that his speech was almost incoherent.

“A… A-li…”

“I see. Which li is it? Do you know?”

“The li of... ‘separation’.”

Tears continued to flow from the little prince’s eyes, but Luoji went on, as if aware of those tears and the pain that caused them, yet choosing to ignore it all.

“Why particularly?”

“Why… why d -- do you a -- ask...?”

A-li started to sob, his whole body trembled as he stood before the stranger who was asking him questions about something he would not talk to anyone about, especially now when his head was ridden with fear about the armoured men who had locked him in a room for the last few hours, the ones his father said would protect him. Why did some of them act so differently today? As if they had swallowed some potion and changed personality overnight. And where was everyone now? His grandmother, Nainai… He bit down on his lip to stop the sobbing but it went on uncontrollably.

“What have you got there, A-li?” the stranger’s voice suddenly changed its tone. He gestured at the wooden thing A-li was clutching tightly in his hand.

“A spi -- spinning top,” said A-li.

“Is that a dragon painted on it?”

A-li nodded. “Qian… Qianqian got it for me when she was at a mortal festival. She said the dragon reminded her of me.”

“Who’s Qianqian?”

“She’s a friend of mine.”

“Let me show you a trick,” Luoji extend his hand toward the toy.

A-li gasped and quickly clutched the spinning top then hid his hand behind his back.

“Don’t worry,” Luoji gave an assuring nod. “I will give it back.”

A-li stared. He did not want to give this stranger his toy at all, but fear brought his hand slowly to the front and he loosened his fingers.

The Dark Immortal reached forward. Taking the top in one hand, two fingers securing the tip of the string that was coiled around the bottom, he pulled. Free of the string, the wooden toy spun in midair then landed on the man’s palm, where it kept spinning.

A-li sniffled, eyes widened. He brushed away the tears with his sleeve and stepped closer to the Dark Immortal without knowing it. Brilliant, his frightened face lit up a little.

“Would you like to try?” asked Luoji, gripping the top to make it stop and handing it back to A-li, who took it with both awe and suspicion in his eyes.

The stranger had not lied to him, A-li thought as he wrapped the string back around the top. Frightened still, yet curious about whether he could do the trick, A-li pulled the string. The top leapt up but instead of spinning, it simply fell to the ground.

“Try again,” said Luoji.

A-li did. This time, the top swirled a few times in the air before it started to fall. He caught it with both hands before it could hit the ground.

“It takes practice, but you will get there.”

Staring at the Dark Immortal, A-li asked again, “where’s my father? I want to see him.”

“Your father isn’t here.”

“Where is he?”

“Does your father always tell you where he goes and what he does?”

“N -- no…” a little sob sounded.

“Well then. No reason to be stubborn and keep asking for him, is there?”

“But…” fear expanded in A-li again. “when will my father be back?”

“Whenever it is, I am sure he will be glad to see you perform that new spinning top trick,” said Luoji with a smile kind enough to wipe some more doubt from the boy’s face. “So let’s focus on that now, shall we?

“What about Grandmother?” he pouted.

Too young. Luoji rose to his feet. Too young for the truth, too sheltered to understand why this Celestial Court and their leader deserved worse than death.

“Arrange for him to see his grandmother,” he said to the guard.

“Master?”

Luoji responded with a silence that extinguished the questioning look on the guard face.

“Yes… of course, Master,” he bowed.

Taking A-li by the shoulder, the guard herded him back in the direction where they’d come from. Confusion hung over both of their heads as they walked.

“Sufeng,” said Luoji.

“Master,” the Xunzhua man stepped forward.

“Tell that grandmother of his to be careful what she says to him.”

“I understand, Master,” he dipped his head and quickly left to carry out the order.

“But Master…” the Spinner grimaced. “Are you sure he should be wandering about? He’s a Celestial Prince after all.”

“Are you afraid of that 300-year-old, Spinner?”

“I…”

“Understandable, I admit, considering what a mere boy only half your age could do to you,” Luoji scoffed at the large scar on the Spinner’s face.

“He… had weapons I did not expect, Master.”

“Well, we shall see what Sufeng can do about that should we come across him again in the future. Any news on Gejing?”

“No, Master. But I will try to locate him as soon as possible.”

“I should hope so. We need him to tell us what he knows to see if what happened at Zhuxian Terrace was just an act, don’t we.”

“An act?” the Spinner’s face became utterly clueless. “But -- how could it be? No one could have arranged something like that.”

“Moyuan could.”

“But Master, the blue feather is real. You’ve inspected it yourself. And that explosion -- only the demise of an immortal of that much cultivation and powers can cause such a disturbance in the atmosphere.”

It was true. The death of a phoenix - magnificent creatures whose existence was a wonder within this universe. And more than that, Zheyan had been a god of supreme rank. When such a life ceased to exist, the universe would acknowledge it. And it had.

“Why would he even want to put on an act like this?” the Spinner went on. “There is no need --”

“Indeed,” said Luoji, his mind travelling back to the God of War’s expression when the feather had made its appearance. Sentimental was what the God of War had always been when it concerned Shaowan. But he believed Moyuan to be a more complicated opponent than some reckless fool who acted without thinking to satisfy his sentimentality. Complicated and deserving of a good challenge.

With a quiet sneer Luoji decided to put a stop to the subject.

“I am not seeking knowledge from Gejing out of fear, Spinner, but curiosity. In fact, if it was an act, then I will thank Moyuan for making it all more interesting.”

The Spinner remained quiet. He still had questions yet was not daring to voice any of them. Luoji slowly walked back up the stairs and stepped into the grand hall, gazing upon the Dragon Throne. He was capable of destroying it, crushing it to dust, just like he had destroyed its former master. And Zheyan. And Moyuan’s integrity.

A mortal losing her life because the Celestials needed to feel they were in control. A wild laugh exploded in his head - not much had changed in this place after all.

...

“Mortal. Lowly. Undeserving.”

The Lady whispered. She was so close to them and the fragrance coming from her made the child hold his breath. It was a glamorous smell that reminded him of golden spoons, silk robes, and beautiful hair ornaments, yet it was so unpleasant at the same time, almost more unpleasant than the air around this place - Zhuxian Terrace. She was going to hurt them again, the boy knew it. Even in his mother’s arms he knew they would not be safe. This was what always happened whenever his father was away. If not this Lady then another one, or the Heavenly Lord. These people never left them alone. He stared at the stairs in the distance, praying desperately for someone to come. He knew that all these maids and guards standing around them were eager to see him and his mother get hurt. Not one of them would care if they died.

And his father… did he care? Why did he keep leaving them alone with these sharks?

The woman suddenly reached out to grab his arm and yank him away from his mother.

“Let me go!” he cried and tried to fight. But the woman was much stronger than him, her fingernails digging into his arm. She threw him backward and into the arms of one of the maids behind them.

“Yuan’er!”

“Tell me,” she stepped closer to his mother. “What dark magic have you cast on His Highness?”

“Please don’t hurt him…”

“Tell me the truth. What does he see in a despicable mortal like you? You are without wealth, without talent.”

His mother was silent. He could tell by her expression that she had given up fighting.

“No? Then I will have to punish you for it,” the Lady whispered. “Do you object to that?

Silent still.

“Good. Because deep down, you know you deserve it. Your son might be spared because of his father’s blood, but you,” she ran a line along his mother’s face with her finger. “You need to understand that this is not your home, not somewhere to be stained by the presence of a lowborn like you. It was wrong of you to come to His Highness in the first place.”

“He…” his mother breathed, in her eyes a sudden fierceness. “He came to me. Not the other way around.”

It was as if those words had thrown a scorching flame right at the Lady’s face. She sprang to her feet. The boy saw her hands tremble and ball into fists. In a mad rage, she snatched the whip from one of her guards, extended the thong and struck. His mother’s scream tore through the air and rang in his ears.

“Mother!”

The whip was raised and cracked down continuously without mercy.

“Mother! No… stop! Leave her alone!” He wrenched himself loose from the maids and bolted forward, pulling the Lady by her sleeve. “Stop it!”

“Yuan’er!” cried his mother. “Yuan’er, don’t!”

The woman threw him to the side and continued to strike down on his mother’s crumbling figure. Without thinking he launched forward and wrapped his arms around her.

“Stop it!”

The moment he turned around to face the Lady, he saw the tip of the thong come whipping down and before he could react, before his mother could push him away, it had hit him.

He saw red. And then darkness.


...


The boy stirred. There was a terrible pain on his face between his eyes, so painful that he wanted to cry out. Tears gathered in his eyes and found their way out even when his eyelids were shut tightly.

“He is fine now,” said someone’s voice above his head. “But the wound left by that
whip -- it is a vicious weapon. I’m afraid he will have to bear the scar for the rest of his life.”

“God…” a hand softly touched his forehead, making him flinch in pain.

“Please don’t, Your Highness. Let it heal.”

“I am sorry…” said the boy’s father. “What about his eyes? They have not been damaged, have they?”

“No, fortunately.”

There was a deep sigh and he felt his father’s hand on his face again.

“I have seen to the consort,” said the other man. “The injuries were severe, but not beyond my ability to heal.”

“I came too late,” said his father - the same thing he had said last time they’d been locked inside their own place. And the time before that… it seemed he was always late.

“Yuan’er,” he called. To the boy’s own surprise, his father’s presence was only angering him. A hotness he could not control crept to his throat and started to spread to every inch of his head.

He wanted nothing to do with his father now. He did not want another empty promise. He did not want to look at that worried face. He was afraid if he opened his eyes and saw that face, he might start yelling and throwing and kicking things around. His mother would not like that.

He hated them all, the people in this place. And he hated himself, for both having the blood of a Celestial and being a mortal.

Powerless, hopeless, little - that was the person he was now. And he despised himself for it.


Chapter 8, Part 2