Fanfiction: The Moon Mirror (Pojing & Bai Qian Alternative Ending) - Chapter 6 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

 

Chapter 6

written by LalaLoop
edited by Kakashi  
consulting by Bunny

Bai Qian woke up before dawn, not that she had slept much. Strangely, she was not tired despite a whole night of wandering around the city and a reckless fight in the desert, only frustrated. She threw her blanket off and yanked hard at the bedsheet as she hauled herself up.

Everytime she tried to close her eyes, Pojing’s face would be there, her heart would start hammering at the thought of having to see him again shortly in the light of day.

Where did they stand with each other?

This war was already making everyone's life, including hers, difficult, and she could live without something like this being thrown at her.

Maybe she had just dreamt it.

Well… no. Until now, she could still feel the prickling of his stubble against her jaw.

She had been kissed before -- immature mistakes during her school years, recklessness in the mortal realm, proper courtship. Yesterday was different. It was like a stampede.

Bai Qian shot up from her bed and opened the doors to the balcony. What was worse, she did not hate it. She had even wanted to keep going, to match his fierceness, to see which one of them would break the other first.

“Chirp,” the little sprite hovered in front of her, pointing to the door on the other side.

“I know.” There was a meeting to attend this morning.

Bai Qian shook her head as she stopped staring out and began to get ready.

She had to stop. No matter what her feelings were, she needed to know the right thing to do, what kind of future she wanted, and soon. Thinking of Pojing made her lose reason, and the idea terrified her.

***

Just when she arrived at the courtyard, Bai Qian spotted Yehua taking off on a Kirin and disappearing into the clouds.

Another few flying Kirins were lined up in front of the large fountain in the center, being tended to by a couple of stablehands, occasionally stomping their feet on the ground.

“Queen of Qingqiu,” Nalan turned from a creature he seemed to have chosen for himself.

“Lieutenant,” Bai Qian nodded, then gestured at the Kirins. “I suppose they know the way to the Glass Tower?”

“Yes, you can select any of them. Our princess and the Celestial Crown Prince have just left, as a matter of fact.”

What about your king?

“May I assist you in choosing one, Queen of Qingqiu? It isn’t a long way to the Glass Tower, but if you would like a mount of speed…”

Nalan’s expression suddenly sterned, then he and the stablehands bowed deeply.

. They all murmured “My King” as Bai Qian turned around, feeling blood rising to her cheeks.

“King of Xunzhua,” she said with a quick nod and averted her eyes instantly.

“Nalan,” Pojing said.

“Yes, My King.”

“I was told the God of War is here.”

Bai Qian’s heart jolted. She went still for a while as Pojing directed a brief look her way and went on.

“Excellent timing too, Zhuowei will be giving us a report on her progress with the new sword. You can leave for the Tower now, Nalan, I believe you have preparations to make.”

“Yes,” Nalan bowed again, and as quick as a lynx, he swooped on top of a Kirin and took off.

Bai Qian breathed in deeply -- Moyuan was here, so he was still safe after all. Oh gods, all the things she had to say to him… Why today of all days? She wasn’t sure she could form a coherent sentence about anything at all. Reluctantly, Bai Qian strode forward, grasping one of the Kirin’s reins. The stablehand stepped far back as she put her foot through the stirrup.

“Queen of Qingqiu.”

She turned back and pulled away from the stirrup as she saw Pojing approach. Whatever this was, she probably needed both feet on the ground.

He came up to her side and nonchalantly took hold of the leather rein hanging down from the Kirin’s neck. After an uncomfortable silence, he began.

“About yesterday.”

Bai Qian cleared her throat and tried not to look away, wishing the ground would split in half so she could bury herself.

“I meant no offense,” he said. “I had doubts, but your message was well received.”

What exactly had she said or done that had given him these doubts? Bai Qian attempted to respond, but in the end she decided to stay quiet, afraid that she might just say something stupid if she opened her mouth. The silence stretched and enveloped them, to the point where she couldn’t hear the waterfall or the grunting of the Kirins anymore.

Pojing went on, “We do appreciate Qingqiu’s aid, and until this war is settled, I hope we can remain allies.”

This time she looked at him for a long minute, unsure whether she could push away what had happened completely from her head. Though Pojing certainly made it look like an easy feat. Perhaps that was the kind of life he was accustomed to, emotions -- if any -- must be moderated for the sake of duty. And his duty was to survive a war and secure an alliance with an influential clan, not to pledge his heart and soul to its leader. It made perfect sense that her rejection had little effect on him even if he had wanted more.

Well, apology acknowledged, Bai Qian thought to herself, her nervousness all morning replaced by some indignance. Pointless to dwell on it now.

There was, however, something that baffled her more than everything else that Pojing had done yesterday. “Did you really think I would willingly put myself in danger for any reason?”

“Why does it matter now?” he frowned.

“I’m not reckless, Pojing, and it’s important to me that my ally trusts me to do something as simple as taking care of myself.”

“I know you can do that.”

“Then why were you so angry?”

Pojing looked away for a second, then back at her.

“If you had to risk your neck for someone, carry them up multiple flights of stairs, pay for expensive healing potions, and then got told the next day that this person had decided that she was too good to do as your physicians recommended, you’d be angry too.”

He was so strangely expressionless that Bai Qian could not tell whether it had been a joke, though she couldn’t say he didn’t make sense.

Bai Qian took the reins and hoisted herself onto the Kirin’s back.

“I am sorry for any inconvenience I’ve caused yesterday.”

“See you in the tower,” he responded.


***


Xunzhua’s Glass Tower was the tallest building Bai Qian had ever been in. In fact, it was so tall that she felt the height was mostly for showing off, not functional purposes. Although her sentiment was soon proven wrong when she realized that each chamber did, in fact, seem to serve a purpose. But despite the tower’s enormous size, finding her way to the designated room was not at all difficult.

It took quite an amount of walking and stair-climbing but Bai Qian was there at last, the top of the tower. It was an extraordinarily large room with multiple display stations along the walls, and a huge empty center, huge enough to fit an entire Celestial Court in. The floor-to-ceiling windows and the dome above their head were made of a see-through material, like a transparent protective shield, allowing a great deal of sunlight in from every angle.

Stepping further in, Bai Qian spotted Moyuan right away. His back was turned and it seemed the princess of Xunzhua was deep in conversation with him, they were both gesturing at one of the items atop a station. Yehua stood on the opposite side, examining some models of weapons, occasionally exchanging notes with Nalan.

“Ah, Queen of Qingqiu!” Zhuowei addressed Bai Qian, shutting her scroll.

Moyuan turned around. Despite his obvious weariness from the journey, he seemed to thoroughly appreciate what he was seeing in this room.

“High God Moyuan. Princess.” Bai Qian nodded back. “Is this where you work, Princess?”

“Oh no, this is the testing area,” Zhuowei grinned.

Of course they would not let any outsiders into the real work place where the most important weapons were made, Bai Qian’s curiosity rose despite her unease.

“Are we testing something today?” she asked.

“Not during the meeting, but I thought everyone would like to see the new sword afterwards, and the Celestial Crown Prince might want to try it out.”

As soon as Zhuowei wandered away from Moyuan to start examining the nearby cased artefacts, Bai Qian quickly made her way toward him.

“Did Luoji make things difficult for you?” she asked, at the same time he said, “How is your arm?”

“I just fought and won a fight against a dozen desert hunters yesterday, both of my arms are fine.”

What?” he said in a whisper through his teeth.

“Please don’t touch that!” Zhuowei ran over to Yehua, laughing nervously. “This scroll is from heavens know what decade, it’s very fragile.”

“Just tell me, Shifu, did Luoji do anything to you?” Bai Qian went on.

“No, but he has made things a little more complicated. I will have to be more careful until the device in my charge is taken care of.”

“So there is no life-threatening injury on you?”

“No, Seventeenth.”

Bai Qian nodded -- he was well, and so was she. Now… they would actually have to talk about other things, if not right away, then after this meeting. How exactly was she going to do that, Bai Qian had no idea.

Moyuan did not leave her side, his arms clasped tightly behind his back. There was a certain coldness in his eyes she could not explain, as though something in him had changed during their time apart. His expression was not encouraging and it seemed that he also found it difficult to address anything beyond her health. Guilt once again twisted her stomach as she found she absolutely could not give him the answer he wanted, and also could not stay silent forever and go on as if nothing had changed. But then… had she ever been sure of what Moyuan wanted?

“Well, I am impressed,” said Yehua from the other side of the room. “Quite an effective system you run here, Princess.”

“I can’t take all the credit,” Zhuowei replied happily. “My brother had something to do with it too.”

“Not much,” a voice raised at the door. Pojing swiftly entered the room and walked to the center. “I mostly just pay for everything.”

Zhuowei laughed, shaking her head and stepping away from Yehua with the ‘fragile’ book in her hands.

“God of War,” Pojing approached them after a brief silence, his eyes bearing the same sentiments he had once frequently directed at Yehua and Celestials in general. The latter nodded in response, clearly returning the dislike even though he might hide it better. “We did not have the chance to welcome you properly last time.”

“No matter, King of Xunzhua,” said Moyuan. “The palace attendants were most hospitable. I’ll take this opportunity to say that I appreciate your cooperation in the Nine Heavens.”

“I was simply there to keep my friend from further harm. If your plan happened to take an advantageous turn, High God, you deserve all the credit.”

“Your modesty moves me.”

Bai Qian knew that voice too well to assume that Moyuan was sincere in his compliment. She suddenly wished she was not standing between them.

“I see you have found interest in that.” Pojing gestured to Moyuan’s right. A protective bubble surrounded what looked like a warrior shield on a high station. And indeed, it was the item he and Zhuowei had been exchanging notes over when she’d arrived here.

“The princess had just introduced me to it a moment ago,” Moyuan remarked. “Quite a unique design.”

“Thank you. This model is reserved for our generals at the front.”

“If you don’t mind my asking, why such a modest size?”

Bai QIan squinted -- the shield did look a little small for a grown man to take cover behind.

“It can be enlarged or reduced as the wielder commands,” Pojing replied.

“Would that not have a negative impact on its efficiency?” Moyuan went on.

“Hmm,” Pojing exchanged a look with his sister, then walked closer to the shield, something that did not seem friendly sweeping across his eyes. “Should we -- test it?”

“Test the shield?” Moyuan repeated.

“We have tested this design several times, but not yet against a Celestial force as strong as you. Would you do us the honor?”

“I do not wish to cause disarray in your Glass Tower, King of Xunzhua.”

Bai Qian’s eyes slightly widened, she wasn’t too sure Moyuan was passing a compliment or was actually concerned for this tower. In fact, he sounded like he would love to cause disarray underneath that calm voice. Nalan, next to his princess, looked as though someone had just insulted his life’s work.

There was a brief, uncomfortable silence before Pojing replied.

“You won’t. This tower was built to withstand much worse than the Bell of Donghuang.”

“Based on an estimation of the bell’s capacity, I assume?”

“I’m confident it was a reliable estimation.”

“Then perhaps we should test this item.”

“Erm…” Bai Qian jolted. “Why not let the princess’ scholars carry this out? They are better equipped…”

“But none of them are as strong as the God of War,” said Zhuowei, who seemed hellbent on seeing her invention in action.

From one of the windows, Yehua strode to the center, looking from the shield to the other two men. “Why don’t we save this for Luoji?”

“Or we perfect it as much as we can to prepare for Luoji.”

Pojing walked to the station and held up his arm. A ray of light from the emerald ring on his thumb briefly shot forward, the protective sphere dissolved at once, leaving the shield floating a few inches atop the station’s surface. Swiftly he pressed his upper arm to its backside, leather enarmes fastened around his arm instantly.

“Nalan,” Zhuowei said. “The windows, please.”

The transparent windows came down, high winds rushed in and everything after that happened so fast that Bai Qian had no time to say this was a bad idea before she had to move away from the center to make room for whatever test this was. A protective shield erupted to encircle the testing area, separating the participants from the audience.

Were both of them mad? She shook her head hard at Pojing and Moyuan. Was this weapon inventors’ unique way of passing compliments?

Next to her, Yehua silently expressed the same sentiment.

Pojing raised his shield, a blinding silver current of power shot out from Moyuan’s palm and hit the metal square in the center, the impact so intense Bai Qian could feel it through the force field. The small shield began to transform. First, it became big enough to cover Pojing’s upper body, then it was as big and tall as him.

Moyuan retracted his magic, the shield was reduced to its original size almost instantly.

Bai Qian barely had time to celebrate as another strike came at Pojing, who reacted equally quick, slamming the bottom of his once again fully enlarged shield against the ground to anchor himself. Something suddenly flared across the metal surface, brighter than the silver light, and Moyuan’s force was redistributed in the caster’s direction.

In a second, he conjured his own shield from magic, which deflected the returned strike that barely missed his face. The tower slightly trembled at the assault of Celestial magic on its structure.

“Oh good gods,” Bai Qian muttered in frustration when she realized they were still not stopping.

Several Xunzhua scholars rushed into the room from the lower levels, mouths ajar, eyes huge at the scene. Mutters began to be passed around, though most of these men seemed more excited than worried.

In the center, Pojing unstrapped the shield and sent it flying like a swinging axe in Moyuan’s direction, who caught it with precision and put it on just in time for an attack. Sharp blows came at him continuously, but with each one, Moyuan pushed closer to the center; and so did Pojing.

At last, in a burst of great speed from both sides, they clashed. Standing face-to-face, Pojing’s gauntlet hit the shield in Moyuan’s arm with a loud clang that reverberated against the protective force field, making the people on the other side all stumble backward. The claws on Pojing’s gauntlets fully protruded, Xuanyuan flashed in Moyuan’s free hand for a second and disappeared the next. Still, his hand remained ready for it to materialize again.

People stared wide-eyed for a second, but before anything else could happen, the shield around the center disappeared, the windows were back up, and they were standing in a calm, silent room again, Zhuowei and Nalan both wearing proud grins. It seemed the ‘test’ had confirmed their confidence in the new invention.

Both men in the center stood back, their weapons nowhere in sight now.

“Well,” Moyuan spoke, handing the small shield back to Pojing. “My compliments.”

“Likewise,” the latter responded. Then, to the scholars who had just joined them from below, he said, “Excellent work on the shield.”

They all bowed and quietly left.

Despite what had just taken place, Pojing and Moyuan somehow looked like they still hadn’t had enough, so before one of them could come up with something else to run a test on, Bai Qian cleared her throat and said with her most polite voice, “King of Xunzhua, the meeting? I have plenty to discuss.”

“So do I,” Yehua echoed from where he stood. “Shall we start?”

Chapter 7
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*Author’s note: I won’t be elaborating on this “meeting” since it would cover the same material in chapter 15 part 2 of the original story regarding Luoji and the war.