Fanfiction: Moyuan and Bai Qian, Book 2 - Chapter 8, Part 5 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)


Chapter 8 - Divided

Part 5

written by LalaLoop, consulting by Bunny, edited by Kakashi

Something was wrong and Bai Qian could not understand what it was, something that had created a deadly hollowness inside her. It was not Zheyan’s death, or Moyuan’s betrayal, or how their meeting at Kunlun had gone. It was an unsettling darkness that consisted of all things she was terrified of, threatening to take away what she had left.

For how long, Bai Qian did not know, she had sat by the lake of Qingqiu, chasing one thought after another with very little result.

Perhaps the wrongness lay in her persistence to hold on to the trust she used to have in him, and the fear of having to live without it - the very fear that was hovering above her like a dark cloud, promising of further disaster, so frightening that every other moment she thought about how easy everything would become if she could swallow some Oblivion Potion now, if she could hide inside that meditation room, cling to him, and not face that fear of knowing the truth about him.

She had raged at him, had thrown at him the most hurtful things she could think of, that she knew he feared; yet he had been looking back at her with blank eyes that gave away nothing. And when they had parted ways, when there was no one for her to take the rest of her anger out on, no way to distract herself from her own pain, she was forced to recall those eyes, which only brought more pain and worst of all, confusion.

She wanted to be sure. She had made it look as though she was sure in front of Moyuan. Everything was as clear as day and even Moyuan had not cared to defend himself. She had seen with her own eyes him taking Zheyan’s life. He had left the Nine Heavens while innocent people were fighting for their lives. That was more than she needed to know that her choice was right. But a strange fear was enveloping her like thick, cold fog when Bai Qian realized that she was not so sure after all.

No, perhaps she was, but her heart, with very little reason, was fighting with all its strength against that choice. It was telling her something despicable - that no evidence of a betrayal or collapsed ethics would be enough to tear her away from him completely. A large part of her was still searching every bit of her memory of the night Zheyan had died to find something, anything that could give her hope that it had not been real. Had her common sense left her? Of course all of it was real. But what did that say about her judgement all along? Arguing voices echoed in her head, pulling her back and forth from one side to the other.

The disappointment from her friends if they ever knew of her uncertainty... Bai Qian thought painfully, pulling her eyes shut for a moment.

She’d never truly had the courage to brush away what people said even though she often pretended so. Fengjiu was the brave one who would soldier on whatever the world had to say about her decisions. But she was not. She felt sick of herself and despised her own indecisiveness.

Yehua was drowned in concern and fear for A-li, Pojing and Yanzhi risked their lives to help them obtain the device, Fengjiu and Bifang had not been heard from, yet here she was, trying to muster sympathy for someone who’d betrayed them all.

The intense feeling of disgust mixed with rising tears made her grimace.

But still she found herself unable to stop thinking of the dreadful time at Kunlun just hours ago. It was no use, but she kept recounting his every word, every look, until her head hurt. But even then, her confusion did not alleviate.

What she remembered most clearly was a stranger who possessed the face and voice of someone she’d used to know, someone whose arms had been her anchor of safety and comfort, whose heart and mind she’d thought were hers.

All she could find now where he used to be was a dark blankness, that which the indifferent eyes and cold voice had left.

The only time there had been something more than blankness in his voice was when he’d protected that woman from her condemnation. But by the Gods, she could not bear to relive what he had told her, because underneath her outrage and resentment towards him was a torment so savage it numbed all her senses, leaving her nothing but a fierce desire to run far away and cry herself to death. He had chosen that woman. Whatever their relationship was, he had decided to stand by that Demon Queen. And he had no problem throwing her trust aside along with everything else to achieve what he wanted for the woman. What could prompt such devotion to someone? What…

Bai Qian shook her head vigorously to chase the maddening thoughts away. None of it made any sense. She sprang up from her seat, filled her lungs with large gulps of air and looked towards Qingqiu’s borders.

Now was not the time for it, with determined steps she started moving along the bank of Qingqiu’s lake. Now was not the time for anything that did not make sense. She had been wasting precious moments sitting here and pondering over something that could not be undone when all along she knew there was one thing that could be done.

Bai Qian held the jade pendant that had belonged to her Ninth Senior tightly in her palm and started to take large strides ahead, her other hand gripping the silk fan.


***


When she had asked the little sprite to bring her the wooden box, not just the hairpin, she’d simply wanted to find a way to keep something of Kunlun with her since she’d always known that Lingyu’s pendant was in there. She was unable to bear the thought of being cut off from the mountain. But now more than ever Bai Qian was glad she was in possession of this pendant, because she certainly needed it.

There was something that she had to make sure of as soon as possible, and was willing to take the risk to do so.

Moyuan had taken away her Kunlun pendant when he had no reason to. She had every reason in the world to completely remove him from her life but for him to inflict pain on them both by severing her from Kunlun was inexplicable the more she thought about it.

Before anything else, they’d share an unbreakable bond between master and disciple, the foundation of her respect for him and his for her, the bond that had given rise to their appreciation of each other’s minds. Moyuan might have committed a crime, he might have stopped loving her, perhaps he had never loved her - but none of those occurrences would explain why her relation to Kunlun must also end. The promise they’d made at Kunlun’s grand hall 90,000 years ago held a great significance to them both.

He would never be the one to destroy this bond.

It had not been done out of malice, or revenge. It was simply -- unnecessary. And the one thing she was confident about Moyuan was that nothing he did was unnecessary.

That, was the only thing that made sense.

It was never about breaking their bond as master and disciple, but about taking away the only mean that would allow her into Kunlun.

Which must mean that it was her he specifically wanted to hide something from and was hoping very much that she would not want to come back. What this thing was she could not be so sure, but Bai Qian knew that the more she waited, the less likely she would be able to find it.

Yanzhi, Yehua and Pojing must still be asleep, Bai Qian glanced back in Qingqiu Cave’s direction. None of them would think that going back to Kunlun now was a good idea, even Little Sprite, and especially Yehua. She must be back here as soon as she could.

A few steps away from leaving Qingqiu, Bai Qian took a deep breath.

“I must be mad.”

But she walked on and left the shield anyway.


***


Kunlun was a vast place, especially when one did not know what to look for.

Feeling like an intruder, Bai Qian took very quiet steps up the stairs where she had spent almost all her life racing up and down. There were a few places she believed Moyuan could be if he was here. But did she want to see him or not? Bai Qian stopped when she was reaching the grand hall to collect her thoughts. Whatever Moyuan was hiding, would finding it require her to come face to face with him?

But it dawned on her almost immediately. The one thing Moyuan had always put an effort in to keep her away from, so often that it had become a habit even though it was not always intentional - injury, weakness, anything that might warrant what he’d like to call ‘sympathy’ from her.

Well, it was certainly intentional this time, Bai Qian made a turn and started towards his study, hoping that unlike the meditation room, it was not shielded.

Excuses, a notion abruptly sprang from amidst her thoughts.

All of this thinking, what she was doing, was it all an excuse so that she could see him again? Was she still fooling herself that by seeing him, the solution to all problems would appear out of thin air?

Bai Qian started to run. The internal battle she had with herself, she would have to resolve later. She could not afford any more distraction. She had come here to see if her theory was right; and that was what she must accomplish before she left this place.

The study soon came into view.

The door stood half ajar and there was no light coming from the inside.

Was he in there?

Bai Qian slipped through the narrow opening the wooden door left, fear flooding her head. What would she do if he was awake, rely on how fast her feet could carry her?

The room was awfully quiet. The window at the far end was wide open, allowing fresh air to flow in, filling every corner with a pleasant smell. Several candles on the branched holder had gone out, leaving the room only dimly lit.

Her eyes found the the meditation platform and the sight of him made her forget her fear immediately and almost gasp out loud. Having seen the state of Yehua and Pojing when they’d left Kunlun, she’d known that Moyuan could not have come out of that fight unscathed. But she’d expected to see him in sitting position, perhaps meditating inside a shield and rebalancing his powers, not lying down, worn and completely without awareness.

His outer robe was hung on the wooden divider at the end of the platform and a thin blanket was pulled up to his belt.

She closed the door behind her and cautiously took a few steps towards the platform, which was obviously being used as a bed. Besides the uneven breathing, it did not look like Moyuan was suffering from anything severe. Godly, untouchable, he still looked; yet something strange about the way he was lying on his side with his eyes tightly closed bothered her. It was as if he had shut out the whole world and given up on even what he considered important. What was the matter? Surely this could not be because of Yehua and Pojing.

The fever he’d caught in the mortal realm had been terrifying and outside of his control, but he had fought it. The battle against Qingcang had not ended without severe injuries, but he hadn’t let it defeat him. Whatever battle he was in, by choice or not, he had always been a fighter.

But she could see no fight in him now; he seemed too tired to put up a fight. Fatigue showed around his eyes, between his brows, and his skin could not be any paler. She could believe now that he’d not expected any visitor at Kunlun, least of all her.

One of his sleeves was rolled up and Bai Qian could see why - an unbandaged long wound spread from his elbow to his wrist. She crept forward and knelt down by the platform.

Had Yehua done this? Bai Qian grimaced. No, it could not have been Yehua. Yehua had told her that no blood had been shed, they’d only battled in magic. And this wound did not look like it had been left by a sword, or leopard claws - the cut would have been smaller and there’d be more than one. It must have been something more vicious. A magical beast, perhaps? Bai Qian peered closer. Why had he not at least treated it before lying down? It was unlike the God of War she knew to neglect himself.

But what do I know, really… she scoffed at herself.

Bai Qian gave a glance at the tired face - sweat was gathering on his forehead and his breathing had quickened for some reason.

Her first instinct was to reach out and check his temperature, but she quickly reminded herself that this was not the safehouse in the mortal realm. And this was not the Moyuan who had sat by her near the canal where the lanterns had flown. Whatever she did, she could not wake him.

When Bai Qian turned back to the cut on his arm, however, she noticed a drop of blood slowly seeping out from the wound and dripping onto the bed, then another followed. Soon a thin line of blood was making its way down.

She glanced to her left - there was a basin in which water was still warm right beside the platform, next to it a little familiar looking vial which Bai Qian recognized right away - it was the substance that could heal any bleeding wound instantly and return the skin to its original state if the injury was not so severe. She had used it once to treat the scars on Moyuan’s back and chest. Too impressed with its spontaneous effect, she had spoken to Zheyan about it afterwards.

Bai Qian uncorked the vial and brought it to her nose - that very smell. Hate and anger followed her identification of the medicine and for a moment she felt a wild satisfaction to see him lying here, helpless and alone.

If it weren't for him, Zheyan would still be here. Zheyan would be the one to take care of him, of all of them.

He killed Zheyan, the voice in her head agreed, there is no reason to help. Let him bleed.

Bai Qian sighed, tears quietly rolling down her face but she did not bother about them. What would Zheyan say to her if he was here now? What would Zheyan think if he knew she wanted to leave an injured man to bleed?

She picked up the cloth from the basin but then released it right away. She could not leave any trace of her presence, Bai Qian decided and quietly pulled out her own handkerchief from her sleeve pocket and soaked it in the warm water.

What was wrong with her? Bai Qian shook her head as she brought the soaked cloth closer to Moyuan’s arm. Why was she trying to find reasons to help someone who had proved in every possible way that he neither deserved nor needed her sympathy? Was she only doing this to satisfy her own need to be close to him? Bai Qian shuddered and was once again repulsed by her own thoughts. Was she simply too weak to follow reason and had given in to a nonsensical gut feeling instead?

But the proud and indifferent God of War who had thrown Zheyan down Zhuxian Terrace in cold blood and taken her Kunlun pendant away was nowhere to be seen at this moment.

All she could see was an exhausted man who, for some reason, had not cared to heal himself properly and was in need of tending to, someone who had lost his will to fight. He might be a killer, Bai Qian inhaled sharply, but she was not. Who knew what had given him that nasty wound and delayed treatment might cause it to never heal. She could not have this on her conscience.

Bai Qian brought her hand forward and carefully dabbed the blood away. The second the fabric’s warmth touched the wound, his fist tightened with a jerk, making her jolt in fright. But when nothing happened afterwards Bai Qian continued with the cloth as quietly as she could until all the blood lines had been wiped clean.

Still, he was deep in sleep.

Had Moyuan put the basin of water there himself? Bai Qian suddenly realized that she did not understand any of this. Technically, it was possible to conjure the basin with magic and summon this water from somewhere nearby while sitting in this room, but why would Moyuan do it at all? Did he also take off his outer robe and spread it on the wooden divider himself? If he was well enough to do that then why couldn’t he have walked back to his bedchamber?

Was someone else here…? Bai Qian nervous glanced at the door as she picked up the little vial.

One drop would be enough, she said to herself, holding the vial an inch above his arm, tipping it. Just like last time, the medicine managed to stop the blood that was on the verge of flowing out but to Bai Qian’s surprise, the state of the cut remained the same - the potion had not healed the damaged skin.

It was not a usual injury then, she concluded and put the vial back exactly where she’d picked it up.

If you want to destroy the whole world for that woman, at least take well care of yourself first, Bai Qian sighed.

It was done, she told herself and took a look around. She’d come here to see for herself what Moyuan was hiding and she’d found the answer. Why he was bearing this wound was a different story and she would not figure it out by sitting here, next to him. The hollowness returned to her stomach, bringing with it a cold dread. Was it time… to leave?

She reached to his forehead, hand slightly shaking. As her fingers came close to his hair a sharp pain rose to her chest and repressed tears streamed down her cheeks like a broken dam. The warmth radiating from his body that her hand could feel was like a torture to her. Her heart ached with a yearning she could not control. But amidst her tears Bai Qian understood that this longing she had, this mad desire to hold him and disappear from this world altogether, was not for this man, but the man she’d thought he was, perhaps the man he’d once been.

When had she stopped to matter to him?

How had it happened?

There had been many lines but Moyuan had crossed the last one when he’d taken Zheyan’s Feather. Trust, respect, affection, whatever they had had for each other, he’d banished them all to hell for that woman.

It was beyond her ability to forgive, beyond anyone’s ability to understand. She must remain on the side she’d chosen, remain as far away from him as possible. But the problem was, she could not. Not when she had seen him like this.

She could hold her ground against a calculating and unfeeling God of War but not a defenseless one. Seeing him weakened and powerless made her question her choice and lessened her hatred. But the hatred towards him was all that was keeping her strong; it was the only thing that kept her on the right path.

Kept her from him.

And she simply could not lose it.

No, she would not move another inch towards him. This -- was as close to him as she could allow herself to be.

Moyuan suddenly stirred. Bai Qian jerked back, hand over her mouth to prevent herself from making any noise, her heart pounding frantically. Then before she could decide whether she should leave for good, his eyes flickered open.

Bai Qian froze - he had seen her.

His brows came slightly together as he looked upon her for a long second, a perplexed look appearing on his face. Bai Qian, still petrified, held her breath, wanting to spring up and flee from the room but her legs somehow had lost their mobility.

In her dumbfounded state, she saw Moyuan’s arm drawing towards her other hand, which she had realized too late was resting right beside his injured arm. The warmth of his fingers reached her wrist and she was forced to stay still, unable to think fast enough.

Though the crease between his eyebrows and the confused expression on his face puzzled her. Why was he not asking her to leave? Who reacted like this to an intruder in their home? Did he know it was her at all?

His hand slowly raised; and after a long minute it was nearing her face. Still staring at him, Bai Qian jolted back, trying to call on all the reasons that she should not be near him to her aid. But there was a mysterious force from the gentleness of his hand that was drowning her willpower, chasing all the questions out of her head.

Her cheek burned at his touch, not out of shock but the pain of the realization that when she would have walked out of Kunlun today, they would likely never see each other again. Like a spell, the thought propelled her own hand upward to meet his. Though just as she’d expected, the pain in her was now worse than if she had stayed still.

A smile broke on his lips but immediately vanished.

“Trust…” he spoke in a faint, raspy voice. “Trust me…”

What?

But Bai Qian said nothing out loud. The familiarity, she frowned. It felt as if a thought had just knocked on the back of her head, but so very gently, letting her know it was there yet not showing itself.

Then to her astonishment, he scoffed and let his eyes shut, his hand going back to resting on hers, and he drifted to sleep once more.

He thinks I’m a dream.... Bai Qian blinked and clutched her chest in great relief. He thinks this is a dream.

But how worn out was he to not be able to tell that there was another immortal in the room? The magic to detect immortal essence was an active spell, not a reflex, Bai Qian knew that, but for powerful - and most of all, frequently aware - High Gods such as Moyuan, this type of magic came almost as naturally as a reflex.

Footsteps.

Bai Qian jolted. So there was someone else at Kunlun… who was it?

But she quickly remembered that she could not be found here. Bai Qian looked back and forth between the unconscious man on the platform, who already looked like he was about to wake, whose hand was on hers, and the door which could be opened any moment.

There was no time to lose.

As quietly as she could manage, Bai Qian ripped her hand away from his hold, rose from the floor and threw her fan out the open window, shooting a transformation spell at it as it disappeared into the darkness, and she herself zoomed in the same direction. Both hands pushing against the window sill for momentum, she soared up the night sky and descended onto the newly transformed sword that had been waiting for her.

Had she been too loud? Thought Bai Qian as she raced towards the nearest exit. But she believed that if Moyuan had thought she was a dream even though he’d seen her with his own eyes, even after she’d cleaned the blood on his arm and let a drop of healing potion onto his wound, then there was a good chance he hadn’t heard her flying out the window at all.


***


Bai Qian had barely made it out of Kunlun’s gate when the sight of someone standing right outside nearly made her sword crash into a tree.

“Pojing!” she jumped off her sword.

Queen of Qingqiu,” he hissed, taking large steps towards her, looking weary but as alert as ever, eyes almost glowing in the dark. “What -- are you doing?”

She did not answer right away. In truth, Bai Qian was still in a daze, as if she’d just stepped out from a very confusing dream.

“Queen of Qingqiu!” Pojing fumed.

“What?” Bai Qian gasped, trying to arrange her face into an innocent expression. Though she knew that it was no good, Pojing was no longer looking kind or understanding but instead glaring at her like he had the first time they’d met in the Nine Heavens.

In the distance, a shadow suddenly shot out from behind a tree trunk and disappeared into the thickness of the woodland that surrounded Kunlun. Out of impulse, Bai Qian grasped the King of Xunzhua by his arm, cloud-jumping them both away.

As their feet touched Qingqiu’s lands, Pojing did not wait a moment to start interrogating her.

“Are you insane?” his expression darkened. “What were you doing at Kunlun?”

“Were you following me?” said Bai Qian to buy herself some time to think of a believable story.

“I saw you walk out of Qingqiu’s shield with your weapon on hand so I needed to make sure you wouldn’t do anything stupid,” he replied with unveiled disapproval in his voice.

“Stupid?” Bai Qian repeated. “Like what?”

“Like picking a fight with Luoji to take revenge, for instance. But don’t turn this on me, Queen of Qingqiu, why did you go back to Kunlun when we’ve just barely escaped from it?” he asked with immense bewilderment. “Did you actually go back to check whether we’ve ruined your school?”

“No --” Bai Qian frowned.

“Then why?” Pojing stepped closer and stared at her as though he thought she had been possessed. Bai Qian sighed in frustration - even if she wanted to explain why she’d gone back she wouldn’t know how. He would just call her ‘foolish’, ‘mad’, or something along that line.

“I don’t think you understand the seriousness of our situation right now, Queen of Qingqiu,” Pojing continued in a tone that made Bai Qian feel she was being scolded by an older brother. “The Nine Heavens are being controlled by dark immortals, Luoji spies are everywhere. Tribe leaders are probably closing their doors to all foreigners. People are trying hard to stay hidden and get in touch with their trusted ones. Now is not the time for rash actions!”

“But I wasn’t doing anything rash!” Bai Qian cried. “I was inside Kunlun. I was safe!”

What?” Pojing’s eyes were now slits of amber. Bai Qian immediately regretted what she’d said but it was too late to take it back.

“Well…” she stammered.

“Are you unsure about what happened at Zhuxian?”

“No…”

“Then why in Fuxi’s name do you still think that Kunlun is safe!” he raged. “It’s safe from Luoji, yes, but not safe for someone who’s just taken a valuable item the God of War sealed inside his meditation room!”

Bai Qian said nothing. She was not sure where Pojing or Yehua had been exactly when her conversation with Moyuan at the top of the mountain had taken place. But they must have heard something - no matter how much she’d tried, there’d been times when she could not control her anger and had let it show through her voice; and even the densest person must have suspicions from what they’d heard. Was it why Pojing was looking at her like that? To remind her that she could not declare Moyuan an enemy then go back to him the next minute without telling anyone and still expect her friends to trust her judgement.

“I’m sorry --” said Bai Qian quietly, looking away from him. “For making anyone worry.”

Pojing responded with yet another scowl; though his anger seemed to be deflating. But the minute his face showed some understanding Bai Qian wished he would just keep scolding her. She could not take this kindness knowing that somewhere deep down, he was disappointed in her; and his refusing to ask any personal questions only deepened her embarrassment.

“Are you hurt?” he broke the silence.

Bai Qian was confused for a moment but then realized that she was still clutching the piece of cloth that was dotted with blood.

“No,” she shook her head and pulled the cloth into her palm.

“But how did you get inside Kunlun? I saw the God of War take that thing you used to open the shield earlier.”

“I have another one.”

“So you each have two of those things in case you lose one?”

Bai Qian lifted her head at him - a smirk was stretching his lip and his eyes were glistening with jest; and she could feel herself blushing.

“There was one inside that box Little Sprite brought me,” she said. “This pendant I have was one of my Seniors’.”

“I see,” Pojing nodded. “Did you find out anything useful?” he asked; and this question lifted her mood significantly. “If you’ve risked your life then I hope you’ve at least collected some useful information.”

“There was someone else on the mountain,” she said. “I don’t know who but I’m sure this person knows more than any of us about the device or what High God Moyuan is doing.”

“Someone else? So you did see the God of War.”

“He didn’t know I was there. He was not exactly... awake.”

Pojing chortled; and the next second his laughter filled the atmosphere.

“What?” Bai Qian’s forehead scrunched.

“You broke into a man’s room while he was sleeping? It seems I’ve underestimated you, Queen of Qingqiu. You -- fox who disguises as a bunny --”

“Oh be quiet!” she hit him across the shoulder, her face as hot as coal.

“A word of advice though,” he continued between laughs. “You might want to consider wearing less of that fragrance you have on next time. I can smell it from a mile away. Not exactly a good idea if you don’t want to get caught.”

“Well not everyone has the nose of a cat!” Bai Qian gave back. Whatever shame she was feeling vanished within a second. But Pojing’s laughter persisted and strangely it made her hopeful despite his impudence. Perhaps this was just what she needed after what they all had been through - laughter, the ability to laugh fear and sadness away. Even if it was only temporary.

When Pojing seemingly felt his point had been made, he cleared his throat and tried to restore some seriousness to his voice. “Didn’t you say that no one could get into Kunlun without a pendant? Who could it be?”

“That’s right,” said Bai Qian. “It can’t be any of my Seniors, they’re away, they’re all being kept occupied. The only other person who has natural access to Kunlun is Lord Donghua.”

Could the footsteps she’d heard have been Donghua’s?

“We’ll figure it out later,” Pojing decided and started walking. “Let’s just go back inside; I can really use some rest now. We have a ton to talk about tomorrow and I’d like to be awake for it.”

Bai Qian quickened her steps to catch up with him.

“You know,” Pojing’s voice suddenly became stern as they approached Qingqiu Cave. “I believe that if the God of War wanted to hurt us, he would have.”

“You think so?” asked Bai Qian very quietly.

“He might have been holding back because of his brother. Even though it looked like he’d already been injured before we came. He was trying to block our spells, not use any sinister spell himself, and break the shield at the same time. That’s why he couldn’t win.”

Bai Qian nodded - that was not far from what she knew about Moyuan. So some things were still the same after all.

“Also,” said Pojing as they approached the cave, “I suggest you don’t tell the Celestial Crown Prince about your little trip, I don’t want to get blamed for… oh, fantastic --” he rolled his head airily.

Bai Qian looked up from the ground and saw Yehua and Yanzhi standing at the cave entrance, neither were looking too pleased.

Chapter 8, Part 6