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

Chapter 8 - Divided

Part 2

written by LalaLoop
consulting/editing Bunny and kakashi

With a second cloud-jump Bai Qian landed on the bank of Qingqiu Lake, Yehua half unconscious on her shoulder. With considerable help from Yanzhi, she managed to stand up straight to support his weight. It was quiet, Bai Qian noticed and let out a breath of relief. Nothing had happened here, it seemed. A warm light suddenly exuded above her head, she looked up and saw the protective shield of Qingqiu showing itself for a moment, then disappearing again.

“What was that?” asked Yanzhi nervously.

“Qingqiu’s shield,” Bai Qian said. “We’re all right.”

“Gu-gu, Princess!” Migu’s voice hit her ears. The Tree Spirit had appeared at the top of the hill, carrying all kinds of thing in his arms - fruits, clothes, little jars. He dropped everything onto the ground, rushed to Bai Qian’s side and took Yehua onto himself. “I was going to go out and look for you two!”

Bai Qian caught her breath. “Migu, Where’s my Fourth Brother?”

“He’s busy taking care of the wounded, Gugu. There was an attack at the borders but we fended them off. He said that if I find you, I’m to tell you that you all will stay inside Qingqiu and wait for him. It’s too dangerous out there at the moment --”

“The wounded?” Bai Qian asked in a small voice.

They made their way up the shallow hill, toward Qingqiu Cave.

“From the other tribes, Gugu. It seemed they all came from the Nine Heavens, a lot of them were injured. High God Bai Zhen is helping our guards to make absolutely sure we’re not letting in anyone from the…” he swallowed, “from the dark side. After what happened in the Nine Heavens, he said we can’t take any chances --”

“Of course,” said Bai Qian, as blankly as someone without a soul. What little power her mind had left was devoted only to thinking about what needed to be done. “Migu…”

“Yes, Gu-gu?”

Into the cave they went. The warm candles, the tea set on the table, the duster on the ground, everything was where she had left it, as if nothing had changed.

“The King of Xunzhua will be here soon --” Bai Qian said. “I hope so anyway. He’s staying behind in a forest near here to wait for his soldier to come back. Let them in when they get here. I know that all our entrances have been sealed except the main one and my brother would want to interrogate anyone who wishes to come in, don’t try to stop him but let him know that they’re my friends.”

“Yes,” Migu nodded. “But -- Gu-gu, where’s Princess Fengjiu? She rushed to the Nine Heavens right after you left, she heard what you and High God Zheyan said.”

“Si Ming and Lord Donghua took her away.”

“Si Ming and Lord Donghua?” the tree spirit’s face lit up. “That’s good... I’m glad. They’ll protect her.”

“I hope so,” Bai Qian whispered. She was not too sure that Donghua could protect anyone in the state she’d last seen him in, but at least Si Ming was with them. The Star Lord was not a fighter, but he’d certainly know how to keep them safe.

“Keep the Crown Prince here, Gugu,” said Migu after they had put Yehua on the cushioned platform in a far corner of the room. He then dashed away without any warning and disappeared through the small door that led to the kitchen. One minute later he re-entered the room, in his hands a basin of what looked to be hot water.

“This is for his injuries. I’ll go tell High God Bai Zhen you’re back safely and get a physician for the Crown Prince!”

“Mi…”

But Migu had vanished from sight - not a word about Zheyan. Understandable, Bai Qian thought painfully, why would Migu worry about Zheyan? That carefree but powerful, and reliable Old Phoenix had never caused anyone to worry. He had always been able to get himself out of even the most hopeless situation.

But they would have to know soon - Migu and her brother. She could not hide the truth from them forever. Sitting down on the platform, Bai Qian caught Yanzhi’s eyes while tears burned her own. She picked up the white cloth, soaked it in the basin, drenched out the hot water then began to carefully clean the blood from Yehua’s face.

She desperately hoped for someone to burst through the cave entrance to disturb this painful silence that was enveloping her, forcing her to relive everything in her head. Zheyan’s hand on her face. The blue fire. The cold eyes and the hand that took his life. Everything. But at the same time she prayed no one would ever come in this room or speak to her. Her courage was draining with every minute passed and she suspected that soon she would not have enough of it to mention Zheyan’s name again.


***


Half an incense later, Yehua stirred awake. With Bai Qian’s help, he sat up, hand grabbing the back of his neck.

“Where are we? What happened?” he asked.

“Qingqiu,” said Bai Qian. “How are you feeling?”

“Qingqiu…”

She nodded.

“Have you… heard from Kunlun? Is he back?”

“Yehua…”

“Gu-gu!” Migu had reappeared at the doorstep, followed by Pojing and the Xunzhua soldier. Both were supporting a limping man as they all walked in.

“Uncle Liansong!” Yehua got down from the platform in an instant, rushed over and along with Nalan, he helped the injured man onto a chair.

“Yehua…” Liansong, whose robes were torn and bloodstained and whose face was bearing cuts from the struggle in the Nine Heavens, managed to smile in relief at his nephew. Then, without wasting a moment, he went on, “Yehua, I know you’re worried about A-li, but listen to me…”

“Uncle --”

“Jiayun is with A-li…”

“What --”

“This Dark Immortal has appointed some of his men to follow and protect A-li.”

“I don’t understand -- protect A-li?”

“Well, I’m not sure if those guards are protecting A-li or not, but they’re certainly keeping a close watch on him. A-li and your mother are being kept in A-li’s palace. Luoji has not hurt them and Jiayun told me he’s specifically ordered his men to keep A-li unscathed.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know. But A-li, for now, is well.”

“He isn’t. He can’t be, not when he’s still in Luoji’s hands.”

“Yehua, you are not to do anything reckless,” said Liansong intently. “Luoji’s people have taken over the place. The Celestial soldiers who resisted… have been killed. Several of them escaped but not many. Whatever you do, you cannot throw yourself in there. What’s important is that Jiayun has managed to become one of the guards in A-li’s palace, and he will let us know what we can do.”

“What about Tianshu and General Wenzhen? Have you seen them?”

“No. They might have escaped and are trying to find you. They might have...”

“They might have been working for Luoji all along,” Yehua said bitterly.

“Yes, I’m afraid that might be the case. We can’t trust anyone who used to work for us.”

“I can’t possibly sit here and wait --”

“You don’t have a choice!” Liansong glared into his nephew's eyes. “Luoji’s powers are not to be underestimated. I shouldn’t need to tell you this, Yehua, you fought him yourself! His men are standing guard at every entrance in the Nine Heavens, a lot of them are our own soldiers; they known the shields and they know every corner of that place. Don’t think about breaking in. Luoji has managed to corrupt our people and convince them to work for him without any mind spell at all; you cannot face someone like that alone, not tonight. Listen to me, be patient for a few days and wait for Jiayun’s instructions.”

“A few days, I can’t…” Yehua let out yet another sigh of hopelessness and frustration. For a long minute he and Liansong said nothing else. They simply exchanged looks - such familial looks that reminded Bai Qian she was an outsider.

She quickly turned away, in doing so she noticed that Pojing had been standing next to her and Yanzhi. She looked up at his face and found a reassuring smile. It was true that she felt much safer now that he was back with them. Safe, grateful, yet neither of which she could express at the moment. She knew for certain that tears would come out of her instead of words if she tried to speak.

“What about the others, Uncle?” Yehua went on. “My father, Uncle Sangji and his wife?”

“I’m afraid I don’t know anything about them…” reaching the end of his sentence, Liansong clutched his chest and broke into painful coughs.

“Migu,” said Bai Qian quickly. “Please take the Third Prince inside and fetch one of our physicians to tend to him.”

The Tree Spirit was fast to take Liansong’s arm and help him walk toward the inner cave.

“My King,” Nalan, the Xunzhua soldier, spoke. “If I may.”

“Yes, what is it?” Pojing responded.

“I can go back to the Nine Heavens and aid the Celestial soldier with his mission if you wish. When we came across each other, it seemed to me that he has been injured and currently incapable of defending himself.”

Pojing did not answer right away, but looked to Yehua for an opinion.

“It’s true. Jiayun was wounded during his last trip and is still recovering,” Yehua quietly sighed.

“Go back and keep us informed,” Pojing said to Nalan. “And be careful.”

The Xunzhua soldier bowed and left them.

“I am grateful for your help, King of Xunzhua,” said Yehua.

Pojing responded with a curt nod. They quickly looked away from each other afterward and both took a few steps in opposite directions.

The silence once again reminded Bai Qian that it was time she let them know the truth. It was the only thing left to be done now. So out of the silence she muttered Yehua’s name. When his attention was directed to her, Bai Qian settled onto a chair, watching her friends do the same.

Once the two pairs of puzzling eyes were set on Bai Qian. She and Yanzhi took turns to tell them what they had seen at Zhuxian Terrace.


***


As the last words of the account were spoken, Yehua became so still that he resembled a stone statue, he stared at Bai Qian with a blank expression while Pojing looked at them as if they were telling a joke, as if he thought she and Yanzhi had been hit on the head. A few moments later, shock and disgust began to alternate on his face.

“When did this happen?” Pojing asked.

“Before Luoji took over the Nine Heavens,” said Bai Qian.

“Are you… God…” he stammered, seemingly unable to decide which part of that story was the most ridiculous.

“Are you telling me that the God of War - a protector of the eight realms - is trying to gather someone’s soul… no no, not ‘gather’, seize, trying to seize back a soul that the Nothingness has claimed? You are saying that he is prepared to break every rule we all live by knowing that he’s not the only one who’s going to suffer the consequences?”

Bai Qian found she could not contradict anything Pojing had said no matter how much she wanted to.

“Yes,” she nodded.

“For the Demon Woman?” said Yehua, quietly yet with more shock in his voice than she had ever heard before.

She responded by looking down at the ground. Pojing, who was still finding it all unbelievable, stared at them both.

“I don’t care whom he’s doing this for - this is wrong,” he said, as if waiting for one of them to tell him this was indeed a joke. That too was what Bai Qian had been waiting for. She wanted someone to pull them out of this terrible joke that had become a nightmare. Every look from her friends, every question, felt like a hammer banging on her head.

“We’re talking about destruction beyond control here,” Pojing shot up from his seat. “Does he want to call disaster onto us all? A shattered soul belongs to the forces that maintain the Balance, by pulling the soul pieces back the God of War is directly disturbing the Balance that’s keeping us alive. The veils around the pillars of the sky might be torn open. If the magical bonds created by the primordial gods that are imprisoning dark creatures in the Forbidden Seas are ruptured because of the disturbance, they can escape and bring disaster to the lands. Somewhere in the eight realms the earth can split open and swallow whole towns and villages. That’s the kind of thing that will happen if you violate these unbreakable rules! Does he not know that? Or does he know but decide it was fine to take a chance with Fate? The God of War might be powerful enough to protect his own mountain but what about everywhere else?”

“This is not possible,” said Yehua as he stood up and took several steps away from them. “No, there must be a mistake. Why don’t we go to Kunlun...”

“He won’t be at Kunlun now,” said Yanzhi. “Not after what happened. Also -- none of us should go out there tonight, especially you, Crown Prince...”

“We don’t know what happened,” Yehua cut her off.

“Bai Qian and I saw it happen,” said Yanzhi quietly. There was some reluctance in her voice still, and Bai Qian knew why. Qingcang had known this Demon Queen; given his taunting during the battle at Ruoshui River, he too had believed in the complicated relationship between the Demon Queen and the God of War. Both Yanzhi and Lijing must have heard stories from his mouth growing up.Though Bai Qian knew that, having spent so much time at Kunlun since the battle, the Ghost Princess found it bewildering that someone who had taken her and her niece in, treated them like his own disciples, could have done what she’d just witnessed. Even if it was for someone he’d never stopped mourning for, never stopped wishing he could make amends to like this Demon Queen.

“I know High God Moyuan,” said Yehua in a faint voice. “He would never…”

Something, like a sudden thought, flashed through his eyes. He took a shallow breath, as if preparing to say something, but the words never came out.

“Yehua?” Bai Qian pressed on. She hoped to hear a defense from Yehua, to hear that she had been mistaken and had overlooked something. But he only looked as though time had frozen. His gaze set upon her the next moment. He had something to say - Bai Qian was sure of it - but could not in front of Yanzhi and Pojing.

“Does anyone else know about this?” asked Pojing, looking around at them all. “Has anyone reminded the God of War of the danger he’s charging into?”

Bai Qian breathed in deeply and lifted her head. “I… tried to--”

“You knew of his intentions before today, Qianqian?” Yehua whispered in shock. Yanzhi’s face seemed to be asking her the same thing.

“I thought there was time to turn it around. And to be honest, I didn’t believe that he would actually carry out this plan.”

“I cannot believe this,” Pojing almost laughed. “This is impossible. The God of War? Abandoning his people at the dawn of a war, prepared to let the eight realms pay for his breaking magical rules? Why?”

“I don’t think… that is how he’ll do it…” said Bai Qian weakly, not daring to look any of them in the eyes.

“You mean there is an acceptable way to do it?” Pojing stared at her.

She sighed. “It’s possible that he might be... planning to take all the punishment onto himself.”

Just as Bai Qian had expected, an explosion of speech took place.

“This is not something he or anyone can control,” said Pojing. She knew this, of course.

“Unless you get involved with dark magic, which I doubt the God of War would do,” said Yanzhi. That, Bai Qian had also considered...

“But we have every reason to believe that he would now, don’t we,” Pojing said. “If he’s considering turning the whole world upside down to gather someone’s soul that’s been buried for millenia, capable of taking the life of his friend to achieve this goal.”

“Have care how you speak of my brother, King of Xunzhua,” Yehua’s eyes flashed.

“I am sorry, Celestial Crown Prince,” said Pojing, though he sounded less sorry than stunned. “But if what they say happened at Zhuxian Terrace is true then I’m not sure what else can be said about this matter.”

“I’ve known him for longer than you and what I am certain of is that the God of War does not share every single one of his war strategies with the whole world, nor is he obligated to do so. I also understand more than you about how he views dark magic. So until we know more, please mind your words.”

“How you choose to make your judgement of the God of War is your own business, what I care about is what we should do now that he is no longer on our side and is trying to summon the Demon Queen’s soul.”

“High God Moyuan has never failed to be a protector of the eight realms and never failed those he loved,” said Yehua again forcefully.

“Well, then I suppose it’s quite clear now whom he loves, isn’t it,” said Pojing.

Bai Qian’s eyes pulled themselves shut, so tightly that it hurt. Two large drops of tears fell onto her lap. She felt as if air had just been knocked out of her lungs and that she could collapse any minute. She wanted to run away and hide.

Bai Qian sensed Yehua’s eyes on her for a fleeting second then saw him take a step toward Pojing as she looked up.

“King of Xunzhua --”

“Yehua,” Bai Qian said instantly, making Yehua stop where he was and retreat.

Pojing, who seemed to be utterly confused as to what he had said that was so wrong, looked as though he was going to say something more, but kept his silence.

For a long while none of them said anything, each finding a spot or object in the cave to stare at. Bai Qian kept her head down to avoid the sharp pair of amber eyes that occasionally rested on her face.

When Yanzhi spoke again, it felt as if it had been years. It might as well have been, Bai Qian believed she had lost the concept of time the moment she saw the blue fire ignite at Zhuxian Terrace.

“I have something to tell you all,” the Ghost Princess cleared her throat. “It’s about the Dark Immortal and it involves this Demon Queen.”

Quiet still, they looked in Yanzhi’s direction.

“Bai Qian and I were talking about their secret relationship before… well… we were talking about how they used to practice dark magic together and the items that Luoji took from the Demon Queen. It’s obvious now that one of them was the Feather.”

They expressed their agreement with more silence, though Pojing still looked quite repulsed at the mention of this Feather.

“During my stay at the Ghost Realm, I’ve made some discoveries about the other item. It might be useful for us to learn more about it if we’re to face Luoji in the future.”

“What have you found, Princess?” asked Yehua.

“I sought out some of the Elders who served during my father’s time and learned a few things from them. Being -- particularly interested in magic and devices that prolonged immortality, my father had also crossed paths with Luoji once or twice.”

The blood curse, Bai Qian recalled. Ghost Lord Qingcang was so obsessed with securing his immortality that he had made devices capable of assembling a broken soul from the blood of his children.

“According to the stories my father had collected, the Demon Queen also made one of those. Not with a blood curse, but it was a device that looked like an ordinary item which had the ability to summon souls. She learned how to craft it from Luoji and created one just before the Demon War using her powers. She used something of sentimental value to perform the enchantment on because she wanted to keep it with her at all time, well -- at least that’s what my father believed, and perhaps give it to someone she trusted if anything happened to her. But Luoji stole it after it was complete, along with the Feather.“

“Why could Luoji not make one of those devices himself?” said Yehua.

“Because the making of something like this requires a lot of powers, an enormous amount. It’s possible that Luoji didn’t want to waste his own powers or -- this is against the laws of Immortality, of course, and it’s a great risk, people don’t make these devices every other day, so maybe he wanted her to take the first turn in case anything went wrong.” Yanzhi took a deep breath and went on. “The Demon Queen lost the Feather, obviously, but she was able to take her device back. But it too was lost during the last battle of the Demon War. No one knows where it is now and from what I’ve learnt, Luoji’s looking for it.”

There was a moment of silence while they all registered that last bit of information.

“Why would Luoji need something like that?” Pojing pointed out. “He’s here now, isn’t he. Surely he doesn’t need resurrection magic?”

“That is the point. My sources say he needs it now. Apparently one of his trusted servants has been rambling all over the place to look for it and no one else knows about it except him.” Yanzhi said determinedly, “it’s somehow very important to Luoji. It is also said that Luoji occasionally goes on the hunt himself.”

“Sen… timental value?” Bai Qian suddenly realized, her brows pinched together.

“The Demon Queen’s item? Yes,” Yanzhi nodded. “The Elder also told me he had heard my father say that it was something he nearly managed to steal once when they were younger. The Demon Queen and her friends were on a trip away from Kunlun when he saw them that day, he saw her yell at someone because the person almost broke the thing while they played war. My father broke into the cottage they built to -- explore and take whatever looked interesting afterward, but he didn’t see it. He took something else from the cottage that day, not the Demon Queen’s item.”

“What did he take?” Pojing asked.

“I don’t know. Something that belonged to one of the other Kunlun disciples, I suppose.”

“You are suggesting that if can find this item and learn its secret,” said Yehua. “There’s a chance it can tell us something useful about Luoji.”

“Yes,” Yanzhi nodded again. “Why would a powerful immortal like him have to depend on this item? Does it -- does it have to do with his sources of powers or maybe -- something even more important? Luoji’s powers are boundless. We all saw what he can do; he needs nothing. So if this item is something he cares about enough to go look for, it must be holding some kind of knowledge.”

“How did you come about this information, Princess?” asked Pojing curiously. “I’ve never come across anything like that in our reports at Xunzhua. How could Luoji be so careless as to let something this significant be found?”

Yanzhi sighed. “The Ghost soldier who obtained this information nearly lost his life because he was discovered by Luoji’s servant. He would have been killed that day but was rescued and cloud-jumped to safety.”

“Who saved him?” asked Pojing with even more curiosity in his voice.

“He said he didn’t know, his savior left him the moment they landed and he was too weak to ask for a name.”

“And you are sure we can trust this Ghost soldier’s words? You’re sure he isn’t under any kind of spell?”

“No,” Yanzhi said firmly. “I made sure.”

“Would Zhongyin know anything about this?” said Pojing. “He was the Demon Queen’s brother, he would know about the people and things she used to treasure. This — item might be somewhere in the Demon Realm as we speak.”

Yanzhi shook her head. “If it was in the Demon Realm, I think Luoji would have found it already. And -- I just don’t believe the Demon Queen would have given Zhongyin something that valuable even if he was her brother, he’d lose it the next day given how careless and impulsive he is.”

Sentimental. Bai Qian let the sound of the discussion go into one ear and out the other while she submerged in her own thoughts. This Demon Queen, an orphaned child who had spent most of her young years at Kunlun, she’d had a Shifu who’d given her a home, friends who had opened their circle to her, friends that she had betrayed, and… foster parents. Yes, he had said so.

Tears threatened to choke her again at the thought of him, but Bai Qian swallowed them back.

“Well,” Pojing folded his arms. “Given the state of things, we will have to be cautious whatever we do. We wouldn’t want Luoji to know how far his secret has travelled. Sending more spies into the Demon Realm might defeat the purpose, not to mention it is too dangerous.”

“After we have rescued A-li, we can pay a visit to Penglai,” suggested Yehua. “That’s where Luoji spent most of his childhood. The oldest Senior during his time is now the Master of the school, perhaps he can tell us something, if not about the Demon Queen’s item then at least about the sort of thing Luoji used to do there, it might lead us to something helpful.”

“We don’t need to go to Penglai,” said Bai Qian suddenly. “Not yet.” She was not completely sure that it could be this simple, but it was worth a try before they traveled to a faraway land.

“Why?” Pojing frowned.

“Do you -- know where this item is?” said Yanzhi.

“I think I do; I’ve seen it. And I hope it’s still there.”

Chapter 8, Part 3

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List of Original Characters (so far):

Luoji - aka the Dark Immortal. Main villain.

Sufeng - Luoji’s supporter. Formerly imprisoned in the Arctic lands. A Xunzhua citizen.

The Spinner - Poison dealer. Luoji’s supporter.

Pojing - King of Xunzhua.

Zhuowei - Princess of Xunzhua. Pojing’s younger sister.

Nalan - A Xunzhua soldier and spy. Pojing’s trusted lieutenant.

Wunian - Lijing’s daughter (in this FF only).

The Crafters’ Eldest - Leader of the Crafters. Inventor of unique magical items.

Gejing - Fuxi’s disciple. Moyuan’s Junior. Studies different magical energies.

Wenzhen - A Celestial Commander.

Yue-lao - aka Man of the Moon. A High God. Character based loosely on the Chinese God of Love/Marriage.

Little Sprite - Bai Qian’s pet. A wood sprite from the Crafters’ forest. Spends most of its time pretending to be Bai Qian’s hairpin.

Zhongyin - Mentioned in Tangqi’s Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms. Shaowan’s adoptive brother in here.