Fanfiction: Moyuan and Bai Qian, Book 2 - Chapter 11, Part 2 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)


Chapter 11 - The Master of Penglai

Part 2

written by LalaLoop
edited by kakashi

consulting by Bunny

Bai Qian held a letter she had addressed to her brother Bai Zhen and quickly headed for the building where she had been told was the home of messenger pigeons. With the assistance of a few passing maids and up some sets of stairs, she arrived at the place. It was by no means the highest building of Xunzhua palace, but the room she entered was certainly the one with the most doors and windows. It was large and tall with marble shelves attached to the four walls and open archways and the place was currently guarded by two Xunzhua men, each wearing protective gauntlets on one of their arms. Each shelf was divided into several quarters inside which stood a pigeon, and by the look of it, there must be more than five hundred birds in total, large and small.

There was a separate wooden shelf in a corner that seemed to be the temporary home of pigeons that were either uncategorized or foreign because they, she noticed, did not wear the same kind of ribbon around their legs as the ones on the marble shelves.

“Queen of Qingqiu,” one of the Xunzhua men greeted her with a deep bow.

“I wish to send this to Qingqiu,” said Bai Qian, holding up her letter.

“Ahh,” he smiled and accepted the letter with another bow. “There was no need to come here yourself, Queen of Qingqiu. You could have asked one of the maids or guards to do it.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Bai Qian said courteously. “I needed the walk.”

“How fast do you need this message to get there?”

“As -- quickly as possible. I need to let my family know I am safe.”

“Of course. And I see that your letter is unprotected. Do you require a container with a Sealing Enchantment so that only the person to whom this letter is addressed will be able to open it?”

“Oh,” Bai Qian pondered - she hadn’t considered that at all. Not that she had written anything that confidential to Bai Zhen or hadn’t learnt about this enchantment, but a pre-enchanted container? What convenience! “That would be great,” she said with a satisfactory nod.

The man turned to the wall and held out his hand with a slight whistle. One of the pigeons from the highest shelves immediately flapped her wings and zoomed towards him, landing on his arm. Next, he removed its leg ribbon and summoned a tiny wooden cylinder and a quill from one of the low shelves.

“May I ask you to write the recipient’s name on the outside of your letter again with this quill, please,” the man said.

Taking the quill, Bai Qian did as asked.

Very carefully, the man slipped the rolled up letter inside the container. When the item was attached to the pigeon’s leg, he turned towards the open archway and let the creature go.

Staring at the bird’s figure that was becoming smaller and smaller, Bai Qian hoped it would bring back some news on Fengjiu.

The sooner she could talk to Master Gejing, the better, Bai Qian thought as she made her way across the palace’s ground, back to the guest wing to look for Yanzhi. She did not want to keep secrets from Yehua that concerned his own brother. But of course, if she told him that she’d met Moyuan in the mortal realm now, she would have no coherent information to offer regarding Moyuan’s plan, and she’d likely have to chain Yehua to a pillar in order to prevent him from storming out and looking for his brother. So...

“Concentrate, Zhuowei!” she suddenly heard Pojing’s voice coming from somewhere nearby. “I’m fighting you with my left hand and you’re still losing.”

“I am concentrating!” the Princess shouted back. “But you’re attacking me!”

“Yes, that’s kind of the point.”

Bai Qian looked around. The voices came from behind a group of large rocks on her left. Dashing to the other side, she chuckled as it all became clear. Pojing was practicing some sort of hand combat with Zhuowei, who did not look too thrilled to be on the training ground. His broken arm was still splintered yet he had both of his sister’s hands in his grip. Zhuowei, to Bai Qian’s great surprise, looked rather unlike the fluent and capable person she normally was, instead she seemed clueless about what to do. She broke free of her brother’s hold - something Bai Qian suspected Pojing had allowed to happen so that they could move on - sweeping her front foot and attempting high kicks, but was quickly overpowered again.

Yehua, who was not too far away, was also training A-li. And the pair of them seemed to be achieving more than the other two. This did not come as a surprise to Bai Qian at all - one quick look and she could tell that Yehua was a far more patient teacher who took the time to explain the techniques he expected A-li to use and did not sigh or scowl every time the boy made a mistake, something that Pojing did once every five seconds.

“Come on,” Pojing urged his sister, who looked as though she’d given up. “Fight back.”

“I don’t want to fight back —” the princess pulled a face. “I’m not in the mood…”

“I’ll tell you that the Demons out there won’t wait for you to get in the mood once they have you cornered.”

“This is not fair. You’re too strong!”

“It’s not about force,” Pojing said. “It’s technique, and speed.”

Nalan was standing nearby, next to a rack of various weapons. He dipped his head low as Bai Qian approached.

“Should your king be doing this yet?” Bai Qian asked. “His right arm is still recovering.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t worry about him, Queen of Qingqiu,” Nalan grinned. “It’s the princess who’s suffering.”

Bai Qian laughed along. “Does he always train the princess himself?”

“Not always. The Princess usually trains with one of our generals, but once in a while His Majesty wants to see whether she has improved.”

On the other side of the field, Bai Qian saw Yehua whisper something to A-li. The boy nodded happily and the both of them started to walk over to Pojing and Zhuowei.

“Switch?” Pojing said in response to something Yehua had suggested. “Why not,” he flexed his left arm and turned to A-li.

“All right, Little Prince, I guess you’re with me now.”

Zhuowei, who looked delighted to finally have a different instructor, stood and listened patiently as Yehua explained to her what was to be done. Then, they began the duel slowly and less forcefully with Yehua adjusting his moves to guide the princess rather than simply attacking her.

Spotting Bai Qian standing next to Nalan, A-li waved at her and smiled brightly. Pojing too threw her a grin.

“You’re next,” he said.

“Don’t, King of Xunzhua!” A-li gasped. “Qianqian is really good and you might need both arms if you want to train with her.”

Really?” Pojing bent down and patted the boy’s head. “Well, I guess I’ll have to be very careful then.”

I’m not fighting an injured person, Bai Qian chuckled and shook her head. Though the idea got her a bit excited. She had learnt to fight against many types of weapons before but not yet claws. Perhaps when his arm was healed completely, she would take up this invitation.

“Queen of Qingqiu,” a sudden soft voice spoke next to her.

Bai Qian turned. It was one of the physicians she frequently saw going in and out of Master Gejing’s room. Hope rose in her at once as the man continued with a quick bow.

“I am glad to find you here. I have been to see your friend, Master Gejing, today and have conveyed your wish to speak with him. I believe he is well enough for a quick conversation.”


***


“He will recover, won’t he?” Bai Qian asked as they walked along a corridor of the guest wing.

“Oh yes, I am certain,” the physician said confidently. “I have removed the last traces of demonic magic from his body and there should be no more relapses if he gets enough rest, which, I should remind you, means plenty.”

“Of course,” Bai Qian nodded. “I will make this as quick as possible.”

“Also,” the physician’s expression stiffened a bit. “I think I should tell you that I have found something interesting -- ah -- I mean peculiar, while healing him. But as a physician, I find it to be quite interesting too.”

“Yes?”

“It appeared that a fraction of his memory has been removed.”

“Removed?” Bai Qian repeated, keeping up her pace.

“Only a minuscule fraction,” he continued to explain. “The current state of his health has nothing to do with this missing memory. But I do wonder who could have done this. This is an extremely advanced spell that only a handful of immortals can perform, even so, no one would choose to use this magic if there was an alternative.”

Advanced spell? Something suddenly popped up in the back of Bai Qian’s mind.

“Why?”

“Because this spell leaves severe consequences for the caster. Some who have attempted it fell incurably ill, some even lost a massive amount of their immortal powers and cultivation. Others who are more skilled and can withstand the consequences get fevers that last for days.”

Fever… The God of War’s face flashed across her mind at the word. Mortal realm, she recalled. Moyuan had been taken by a fever that had nearly driven life out of him.

“Can you -- explain to me a bit more about this spell?”

“Yes,” the physician said. “As you know, there are many spells and potions made to erase memories, but the mind is a complex structure with multiple layers that are interconnected, you cannot remove one layer of memory without affecting many others. This spell, that I suspect has been performed on Master Gejing, is not only capable of removing one piece of memory from the mind, but also of eliminating and adjusting the fractions that are associated with it in the other layers, making it completely nonexistent, therefore leaving no vacancy in the mind of the individual.”

“No vacancy?”

As though sensing the confusion in her voice, he went on with simpler words. “When you forget something, Queen of Qingqiu, hit your head on a stone, so to say, or take an Oblivious Potion, the memory that gets affected as a result is still there in the back of your head. If you taste, see, or smell something familiar, your mind is triggered and what is forgotten can come back to you. With the right magic, you can regain that memory.”

This she could understand, Bai Qian nodded to herself. Zheyan’s Oblivious Potion had never been able to make her forget her trial completely. The Soul-Gathering Lamp had brought them back by filling in the empty spaces.

“This spell,” the physician continued. “If done properly, can wipe out a memory in its entirety.”

“But then --” Bai Qian pondered. “How can you know that Master Gejing has been subjected to this spell if the memory is completely not there?”

“We physicians have ways to detect these things, of course, if we examine the patient’s head very closely. But I confess it took me an awfully long time to realize something was unusual and come to this conclusion. Whoever cast this spell must have been skillful, indeed. The traces I found are diminutive and very obscure. Now, I might be wrong,” he admitted. “But to be frank, the problem with this man at the moment is not the missing memory, it is the internal injuries that the torture he’s gone through has left. He needs rest, a lot of it.”

“Thank you,” said Bai Qian as they reached the chamber in which Gejing was resting. “I’ll go in to see him now.”

The physician bowed to her then took his leave. Standing by the door, Bai Qian’s mind was full of Moyuan again. Was she right to associate him with the issue at hand or was she simply unable to leave him out of anything?

But it was true, she recalled, she had never thought to ask Moyuan what spell he’d cast that could have given him that nasty fever. The state of him at the time had driven everything else out of her head. And it could not have been anyone from Luoji’s side who tried to tamper with Gejing’s memory when their Master was seeking knowledge from him.

***

“Master Gejing,” said Bai Qian as she approached the man who was half sitting up on his bed. He looked drained of energy. Having slept for so many days yet the dark circles around his sunken eyes were still present. And he was thin, much thinner than the time they’d met in the mortal realm.

“Bai Qian of Qingqiu,” he greeted her back weakly. “Thank you. You… and that Xunzhua soldier who brought me here.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Bai Qian tried to smile, still mortified by how pale and weak he looked. She looked around the room. “Would you like me to open the windows? For some fresh air.”

“Please,” he chuckled.

Bai Qian moved to unhinge the inner sash of the window nearest to his bed and pushed it upward. The morning air rushed into the room, filling the space with a pleasant fragrance. She then went on to grab a chair and sat down opposite of the man.

“Master Gejing,” she said. “I know -- you’re very tired, but I have something — a lot of things — I need to talk to you about. I’m afraid they can’t wait.”

“Of course,” he said kindly. “Of course. I understand our circumstances. I’ll do what I can to help. What is it?”

“Can you -- Can you tell me what High God Moyuan is doing? I know that you know.”

“But what do you mean, my dear?” he whispered. “What is it that you believe I know?”

Bai Qian threw a cautious glance at the door, then lowered her voice. “Master Gejing, I’ve met her.”

The scholar’s eyes narrowed for a moment.

“I’ve met the Demon Queen,” Bai Qian said.

Gejing looked mortified. His feeble body jerked and he sat up, staring at her.

“What do you mean? When? Where? How could you have?”

“My friend and I got lost in the mortal realm after escaping the Arctic Prison and she found us.”

“But how do you know that it was her?”

“High God Moyuan was there too. He was looking for us and we met there --”

“Oh God… then you know too much --” the man buried his forehead into his shaking hands.

“I don’t think I know that much --” Bai Qian said, worried that she might have upset him somehow. “I still don’t understand anything at all.”

“Why is the Demon Queen in the mortal realm?” Gejing asked. “Was anyone else with her? Does she possess any powers?”

“No,” Bai Qian shook her head. “She’s alone. And according to High God Moyuan, she is on trial.”

“Have you told anyone about this?”

“No, I haven’t --”

“You mustn't!” the man implored. “No one can know about her return. If the Dark Immortal should hear about this, if he got even a small whisper that the Demon Clan’s allegiance to him can be swayed, he will bring another war upon us before we are ready.”

“I know.”

“What else do you know?” he lowered his hands in helplessness.

“High God Moyuan told me --” she said slowly, eyes boring into the man’s and wondering how much she should reveal --“he told me that -- in chess -- an opponent who is easily intrigued is also easily manipulated.”

“I see,” awareness crept onto Gejing’s face.

“But -- this is what I don’t understand,” Bai Qian went on to address what to her needed some explanation the most. “When Shifu met with us in the mortal realm, I got the impression that he didn’t expect the Demon Queen to be there at all.”

Gejing was quiet, but did not look too surprised.

“Master Gejing,” Bai Qian slowly went on. “When we last met in the mortal realm, you told me High God Moyuan had been looking for ways to gather the Demon Queen’s soul --”

Some helplessness appeared on the tired man’s face.

“Did you…” Bai Qian paused, contemplating her words. “Did you -- lie to me?”

Gejing let out a heavy sigh. “I suppose there is no point in keeping it from you anymore, if you already know so much.”

“Then tell me --” her heartbeat quickened.

“No, I did not lie to you, at least not entirely. I said the Demon Queen’s death was my Senior’s greatest regret, that is true. I said he had been looking into possible means by which an immortal’s soul could come back to the realm of the living, that is also true. But you see, he did not attempt to pull the pieces of her soul back from the Nothingness against the will of Fate. He only -- aided her...”

“Aided her? How?”

“I can’t tell you this.”

“Why?”

“Because I don’t know --”

“You don’t know?”

“But I don’t… no, I’m quite sure that my Senior had not tampered with Dark Magic.”

“He hasn’t?” Bai Qian thought back to the grey and rainy day when she had discovered this whole resurrection ordeal. “Are you absolutely sure? But he told me…”

Bai Qian stopped and thought again.

Moyuan had not told her anything. He had simply not denied the accusation she’d made and responded by giving her some advice that at the time, she’d found to be quite unnecessary. It was she who’d gone on to assume that he was turning to the Dark Side.

Gejing began with another sigh, as though he was blaming himself for everything that had happened. “High God Moyuan told me you are quite quick to see what others usually overlook. ‘Tell her one thing and she will figure out the rest’, he said. That is why I had to… had to do what I could to make sure that you would... believe what was to come… I didn’t think I’d meet you in the city that day or that I’d have to mislead you like that...”

“What was to come...” Bai Qian murmured. If this conversation had taken place last month, perhaps she would have been livid. Now, however, she was only too glad to see her theories confirmed. “You mean -- you mean what happened at Zhuxian Terrace? You knew about that too?”

“What happened at Zhuxian Terrace?” the man asked. And Bai Qian’s heart dropped - so he has no idea, either.

“High God Zheyan died,” her voice quavered. “Did no one tell you?”

“What...” Gejing gasped. The little color his face had just regained drained again.

In the fewest words possible and cautiously lest she cause the state of his health to worsen, Bai Qian told him what she had seen on Zhuxian Terrace.

“No, there must be something behind it,” Gejing shook his head in horror. “My Senior would never commit such cruelty. It is against everything he was raised to be. Have you asked him about it when you were in the mortal realm? If he has told you about the Demon Queen’s trial and his intentions towards Luoji then surely he’s given you some explanation about this. What did he say?”

“No, not about this,” said bai Qian. “He gave me no answers about this.”

“High God Zheyan… dead? No, that is inconceivable… I cannot fathom. The Celestial eruption that day,” his eyes were wide with shock, “that was High God Zheyan?”

“Yes,” Bai Qian nodded, some tears swelling in her own eyes. “Where were you that day?”

“Mortal realm,” he answered grimly. “I was in the mortal realm before those Demons found me.”

“Master Gejing, you just said that you needed to make sure I’d believe what was to come,” Bai Qian reminded him. “Did you mean that High God Moyuan wanted me -- well -- us -- wanted us to... despise him and — distance ourselves from him?”

Gejing looked agonized for a second, as though he did not know how to begin explaining. “Yes, but this is not about you, you see…”

“Yes, I see,” Bai Qian said quickly to save him the trouble. “I see it now. It’s about Luoji. It’s Luoji who needed to be caught in this game, not us. But that’s what I don’t get - what exactly is Shifu’s plan and what did it have to do with High God Zheyan? What was the purpose of taking Zheyan’s feather in exchange for the Demon Queen’s? High God Moyuan can’t possibly be thinking that having her back here, having a Demon Queen with no immortal powers who’s still on trial would do us any good, can he?”

There was a long silence in the room.

“I don’t know,” said the man, looking utterly confused with himself. “We… we talked about it - possible ways to defeat Luoji, things we must acquire, steps we must take. But I… I do not remember anything we have discussed that could have led to this tragic event… No,” he shook his head. “I’m quite sure I don’t know.”

There was no lie in his eyes, yet Bai Qian still somehow felt this was not the right answer. Then, the physician’s words from earlier came back to her.

“That time when we met in the mortal realm,” she said. “Do you remember?”

“Yes…” Gejing nodded blankly.

“Two days before you left the mortal city, did you meet with High God Moyuan?”

“Why, yes. I was the one who invited him out that night to have some more discussion about Luoji.”

“Right…” Bai Qian nodded. “Did something happen during your talk?”

“Like — what? What can you mean?”

“I mean that -- was there any attacks, or -- anything that might have caused either of you to use magic?”

“No,” he said. “It was quite a peaceful discussion. I remember that in the end, I did try to convince my Senior to help me with something -- some magic. I needed his help so much that I had to beg him.”

Magic, Bai Qian felt her heart pick up its pace again at the realization that she might actually gain an understanding to something after all. “What magic was it?”

“I don’t remember,” he said. “I must have been awfully powerful magic, no doubt, but I can’t remember what it was. Forgive me… my mind isn’t quite itself lately...”

“But did he -- did he help you?”

Gejing looked past her shoulders, his confused expression became even more blank. “I don’t remember that, either. Perhaps he did? I just know that -- out of nowhere -- he became exhausted, very ill, and I had to assist him back to the safehouse.”

So Moyuan had done that spell, Bai Qian nodded to herself in both relief and disappointment - relieved because the Xunzhua physician was right; and this was why Moyuan had been so sick afterwards. They had prepared for the worst - Gejing falling into the hands of Luoji’s people; and whatever this secret was, they had made sure no one would be able to access it. But this also meant that she had no hope of knowing what it was.

“He did become very sick,” said Bai Qian. “He had a fever and I only knew about it the next morning.”

“I see. What caused it?”

“I -- er -- I still don’t know,” Bai Qian lied, deciding it would be of no help letting Gejing know that a bit of his memory might have been removed.

“But Master Gejing,” she said. “When we were in the Arctic Prison, you said that the Dark Immortal sought knowledge you no longer had, do you remember?”

“Did I?” he said in sincere confusion. “I… I’m afraid I don’t recall anything about that day at all.”

Bai Qian stared at him, quite puzzled.

“You must understand - Luoji always looks for more ways to enhance his powers. He believes that I have useful information given my field of study at Kunlun and my close relation to High God Moyuan. He also wants to be certain he is not being fooled, that he always has the upperhand. That’s why I was captured and tortured. Now… he might have asked me a number of things but I don’t… I can’t remember the details of his questions...”

“It’s all right,” Bai Qian said quickly. “Don’t try to, sir, if it wears you out.”

“I am sorry I cannot be of more help.”

“No, you’ve been a tremendous help,” said Bai Qian in earnest. “It’s just that…” she sighed. “My friends are working restlessly to defend their tribes and ease their people’s fear, but we’re still in the dark about Luoji, for the most part. We want to know what his next steps are and how we can prepare for it.”

A look of empathy appeared on Gejing’ face.

“Master Gejing, is there anything else you can tell me about Luoji?”

“He is strong.”

“I know that, sir.”

“No, you don’t understand. He is strong. He is undefeatable,” Gejing stressed. “This mad immortal has been amassing powers and cultivation using every possible method he could think of no matter how wrong. His physical form now is as impenetrable as the pillars of the sky, his powers know no bounds. I have seen him…” Gejing’s face became stricken. “I know him to be able to do unimaginable things with his magical skills. He is impossible to kill and no one in the eight realms can win against him in a duel, not Lord Donghua at his full strength, not even the God of War himself.”

“Does such invincibility really exist without consequences?” Bai Qian asked.

“Of course there are. But I’m afraid these consequences have not yet proven to be a hindrance to him. So, whatever you do, do not go look for him. Even if you manage to make him bleed, he will always stand back up, stronger and more dangerous. Don’t try to outsmart him without a proper plan.”

Bai Qian nodded, heeding this warning with both fear and an irrational urge to come face to face with the Dark Immortal to see if all of these things were true.

“As for what he’s wanting to do now that he is in control of the Nine Heavens,” Gejing continued. “I admit I don’t know much more than you do. But given his crave for admiration and fear from anyone he comes across, he might be planning to attack any tribe, any kingdom that dare support the Celestial Crown Prince.”

“Xunzhua hasn’t received any words — threats — from the Nine Heavens yet,” said Bai Qian nervously.

“The Crown Prince has his loyal allies, I surmise, but Luoji is exceptionally effective in winning over people’s hearts. It’s only a matter of time before the eight realms are divided. If certain clans resist Luoji’s reign, an all out war is inevitable. We had always thought that this war would happen with the Crown Prince still in control of the Nine Heavens’ forces, but it seems we have been put at a great disadvantage.”

Bai Qian’s insides suddenly felt leaden. They had all been bracing themselves for whatever might come from Luoji, for the possibility that there was another war waiting to crash on their heads. But to hear the fact stated again now certainly shook her confidence a bit.

“Thank you, Master Gejing,” she said, standing up. “I’ll leave you to rest now.”

“Try to talk to my Senior again if you have the chance,” Gejing said intently. “He must have a reason. I do not believe... he could have killed his best friend, not even for the Demon Queen. There must be some explanation...”

“Yes —” Bai Qian said quietly. “Yes, I will try to.”

Chapter 11, Part 3