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


Chapter 2 - Sparks

written by Lalaloop
Consultant: Juls
edited by kakashi

The next few days flew by peacefully. Kunlun disciples were now busy entertaining a frequent visitor: A-Li.

The first time A-Li came to Kunlun, he ran to Bai Qian and casually called her ‘mother’, which caused multiple pairs of eyes to cast upon her in bewilderment. Then came teasing and a series of jokes from her seniors when she had explained the situation, which also earned her a peculiar look from Moyuan. After the awkward introduction and a debate on how he should address Moyuan, A-Li soon proved he had no trouble making friends; his caring nature and thoughtfulness brought immediate sensation among them. Even Moyuan himself smiled more often whenever A-Li was around. The little Riceball had become so familiar and comfortable at Kunlun that he now visited them almost every other day. The sight of him sitting together and chatting with Moyuan’s disciples no longer surprised anybody.

Bai Qian, at one point, even saw him whisper something to Changshan while taking a tour around Kunlun’s grand kitchen, which she suspected had to do with the loquats she had made him eat during the time he and Yehua visited Qingqiu.

Soon afterwards, just chatting and playing hide-and-seek around Kunlun was not enough; upon realizing that A-Li was also an extremely quick learner, they started to teach him simple martial art techniques and spells that they had used to entertain themselves in their younger days whenever Moyuan was absent.

Once, convinced that A-Li had had enough practice with the illumination spell, they took him into the hall where Moyuan and Zheyan, as always, were in the middle of a discussion.

“High God Moyuan, High God Zheyan,” exclaimed A-Li excitedly, skipping to the front. Moyuan and Zheyan cut short their conversation and turned to give him their full attention.

“They've taught me a new spell,” A-Li proudly pointed at Bai Qian and her seniors. “Do you want to see?”

“Of course.” Said Moyuan as he lowered himself to A-Li. Zheyan walked over to Bai Qian and nodded with anticipation.

A-Li immediately assumed a dignified pose - a sight that caused all of them to quietly giggle - and closed his eyes to concentrate. After two seconds, he shot his palms sideway.

Though instead of the result Bai Qian and the rest of them had hoped for, a loud explosion followed A-Li’s poorly conjured spell. Tables nearby were knocked backward, cushions blown out of place. Little sparks formed in midair and flew in all directions, which had everyone scatter to avoid being hit. Sparks attached themselves to everything in their way and everywhere they touched they left black spots of ash.

Moyuan, who was closest to A-Li and could not cast a strong shield spell in fear it might hit the boy, got the worst of the blow - the upper half of his blue robe had been burned miserably. Half of what used to be decorative buttons were now hardly recognizable and, by the look of it, would take a great deal of work to repair.

After the last spark had sizzled and died, Bai Qian and the rest of the disciples stood up straight, looked around and at each other in embarrassment. Zheyan shook his head at the scene as though he had expected it.

“I’m sure this is not what you all had in mind.” Moyuan glanced at them while brushing off the dust and ashes from A-li’s shoulders and cap with his hand. He added a chuckle to assure A-Li he was not in trouble. “What was supposed to happen?”

“If he'd done it right,” said Diefeng while adjusting his robes, “each spark would have attached itself to a candle in the proximity and lighted it up.”

They then spent the rest of the day cleaning up the hall while Moyuan and Zheyan recoached A-Li on the illumination spell.

***

“That’s vinegar, Seventeenth, I said white wine.” Said Zilan impatiently. Bai Qian quickly put down the ‘vinegar’ jar, picked up the one that was labeled ‘white wine’ and handed it to him.

She and Zilan had been put in charge of keeping watch over the Kunlun cauldron - in which Zheyan was making the elixir for Moyuan - tonight. And out of boredom, they had decided to take a stroll to the kitchen and make themselves peach blossom pudding.

Since their reunion, Zilan had occasionally mentioned Yanzhi, the Demon Princess, and how they had met in the mortal realm. Intrigued by this subject, Bai Qian had once or twice pressed him for more information, but Zilan took care to never reveal more than he desired to.

Today, however, when Zilan had announced out of nowhere that he would like to seek residence at the Sea of Innocence and become one of the guards, Bai Qian swore to herself she would find out why. And while brainstorming to find a way to trick him into telling the truth, she had almost given him vinegar to put in the paste he was making.

“I just mean... why the Sea of Innocence?” Asked Bai Qian as she watched Zilan stir the paste inside the bowl. “ Why would anyone go there unless they’re being punished?”

Zilan slightly shook his head. He pressed his lips together while adding white wine to the paste and gave no reply.

“When are you leaving?” Bai Qian asked again.

“When Shifu begins his meditation,” said Zilan. “I hear our seniors will also leave Kunlun for a while to settle their family affairs before returning.”

“Are you going to talk to Shifu?”

“Are you?” Zilan flashed a subtle grin at her, looking satisfied that he had created a stunned silence and had, for the first time, managed to make Bai Qian’s jaw drop in shock.

“What are you…” she squinted, lost for words.

“We grew up together for heaven's sake.” Said Zilan, he’d gone back to adding more sugar and stirring the paste. “You think I wouldn't know it if something was bothering you?”

Bai Qian knew it was no use denying that she was deeply troubled by the nightmares, but she also did not want to verbally admit that she was such a delicate weakling who could not handle a couple of bad dreams.

“Nothing’s bothering me. I was a little downhearted is all.” Said Bai Qian, though she could feel the reluctance in her voice had belied her own words.

“You have no reason to be downhearted,” Zilan pointed out, “so why were you?”

“I…” Bai Qian stuttered, partly annoyed that her plan to interrogate Zilan had backfired.

“Let’s make a deal,” suggested Zilan, “I’ll tell you about Yanzhi if you tell me what it is about Shifu that causes you to yell nonsense in your sleep and go blank every time someone mentions your marriage engagement. I mean, I'm afraid of him too, but not to this extent.”

“Shifu has nothing to do with it,” said Bai Qian curtly, privately hoping she was right while trying to look as though she thought Zilan was going mad. “And it's not about being afraid. I'm not afraid of Shifu,” she continued, craning towards the door to make sure they were the only ones there.

“I’m just telling you what I saw. And in the hall the other day, I saw you…”

But Bai Qian never got the chance to find out what Zilan saw in the hall for at that moment, one of her seniors barged into the room; his frantic appearance made her think something had happened to A-Li, who was staying at Kunlun for the night and, she was sure, should be in bed at this hour. Luckily, it wasn’t that.

“Seventeenth, what are you doing in the kitchen?” He said, all out of breath. “Aren’t you supposed to be watching the cauldron?”

Bai Qian was half bemused, “I know, we just came down here for a quick…”

“Never mind that,” he interrupted, “you'd better come quick, it's your niece. High God Zheyan is already there.”

Bai Qian and Zilan exchanged a brief look and dashed after their senior without further delay.

***

After Lord Donghua left, Fengjiu slowly fell asleep. Bai Qian left the room and aimlessly wandered around Kunlun, wondering what could be going on in Donghua’s head. Then she thought about the Reincarnation Stone and her desperately stubborn niece - who had attempted something knowing inescapably clear failure would be the likely outcome.

“So irrational!” Hissed Bai Qian angrily to herself, though she was not even sure if Donghua was the rational one of the pair.

“Xiaowu.” Bai Zhen’s voice interrupted her thought process. She turned to see him and Zheyan sitting at a table by the lotus pond, on the other side was Moyuan. “Come join us,” he waved and gestured at the seat next to Zheyan.

Bai Qian curtsied to Moyuan and Zheyan when she had reached the table.

“How is Fengjiu? Is she asleep?” Asked Bai Zhen. Bai Qian nodded with a sigh.

“I don't understand this,” Bai Qian sank into the cushion opposite to Moyuan, looking crossed. “One simple and honest explanation and this whole thing could have been avoided.”

Bai Zhen shook his head and sighed deeply in agreement.

“Lord Donghua was trying to protect her, he still is.” Answered Zheyan with his usual know-it-all smile. He poured some wine into an empty cup and passed it to Bai Qian. “Fengjiu is too young to understand there are things you simply cannot alter. And the result of her knowing is exactly as Lord Donghua had foreseen - a disaster.”

“What she did was certainly not the most sensible thing.” Said Bai Qian, helping herself to a grape from the fruit plate. “What I mean is - I understand the frustration. If she’d known about the record on the Stone earlier, perhaps she wouldn't have acted so desperately.”

“The truth might have been too much for her to handle,” said Bai Zhen, sipping wine from his cup.

“I believe our generation can handle reality better than people think,” Bai Qian threw him a look of utter frustration. “I hate not knowing; and I absolutely hate to be maneuvered. The information would have pained her anyway, I suppose, but the pain would have been shorter and less brutal.”

“Perhaps Lord Donghua preferred not to cause her any pain at all.” Spoke Moyuan suddenly, his finger tracing the edge of his cup. All three heads turned in his direction.

“I’d rather be hurt but informed than sitting somewhere trying to figure out what's going on without a clue where to start.” Bai Qian forcefully protested. “And his plan didn't exactly work, did it? He too has been hurt. Honestly, what sort of person would swallow tears and put so much effort into concealing from the world what he really thinks? I would explode from the pressure; I’d rather take a lightning trial.” She took a short pause to catch her breath. “If you’re no longer sure you can bear the burden alone, share it, especially when the alternative is the possibility of complete catastrophe. Who would voluntarily sign up for such self-torture?”

Bai Zhen raised his cup in approval to greet the end of her passionate speech.

“You're right,” said Moyuan quietly. “Only a fool would do that.”

Something in his tone suggested this was not exactly an agreement, Bai Qian slightly blushed and turned to look at her brother, who simply shrugged. Zheyan, on the other hand, seemed to have found something more interesting than this conversation in his wine cup, into which he kept staring with his eyebrows furrowed.

“I'm not saying Lord Donghua is a fool.” Bai Qian said apologetically when it suddenly dawned on her that she might have been too blunt and insulted Moyuan’s most respected friend. “All I'm saying is…”

“I know,” said Moyuan tensely without looking at her, “we’re speaking hypothetically.”

As Moyuan was staring blankly into space, Bai Qian snuck a glance at him. She then brought the wine cup close to her face, pretending to drink while cautiously observing him with her head slightly to one side. A vague theory formed in mind, but she quickly dismissed it and instead found herself wondering if he had ever thought about getting rid of that beard.

***

Later that night, when Zheyan and Moyuan had retired to their quarters, Bai Qian went back with Zilan to make sure the elixir was taken care of, then sought out Bai Zhen while he was playing a game of chess against himself in the hall, expressing the wish to travel to the mortal realm and visit Yehua - something she was surprised at herself for delaying until now. After being offered multiple bribes, Bai Zhen finally agreed to give her an hour and promised not to tell any of her Kunlun seniors about this little unnecessary trip of hers.

“Do you think I should tell Shifu before I go? He might be glad to hear...”

“Don’t bother, just go.” Bai Zhen cut her off, his eyes still glued to the chessboard.

Bai Qian shrugged and turned around. As she started to head towards the gate, she heard Bai Zhen mutter something that sounded suspiciously like ‘tactless’. Too used to his random sarcasm, Bai Qian kept walking without a care whether his remark was meant for her.