"You've been here before?" he sounded surprised.

"I play in the mortal realm all the time," she assured him.

Against his better judgement it seemed, Die Feng relented. "All right, we must hurry. This way."

They set off down the alley, the noise from the market dimming with each step.

Excited that she could tag along, Li Ying's mind buzzed with possibilities. "What if your junior doesn't have the mirror shards anymore? What if he threw them away?" she asked.

Die Feng frowned, "16th knows not to do that."

"But what if he was attacked and did not have time to collect the shards? Or what-" Li Ying caught sight of his expression. "I'm sorry, my chatter is scaring you."

"I'm not scared," he snorted. "But let's refrain from imagining the worst." Despite his casual words, his jaw was tense.

"You're really worried about him, aren't you?" she asked.

Die Feng sighed, "16th used to get into trouble all the time. But he hasn't been himself lately. This must be something serious."

"You two sound very close," she remarked.

He smiled, "My juniors are like my brothers. They're my responsibility."

"Have you known them long?"

"Countless years," said Die Feng. "We've fought battles side by side and grown together."

Li Ying sighed, "It must be nice to have companions like that. I grow bored at my palace so I come here to play."

Die Feng gave her a strange look. "Don't you have friends in the Demon realm?"

Li Ying blushed. "I have a friend! The Blue Demon Lord and I have gotten drunk together during state visits," she assured him, then paused. "But ordinary Yellow Demons are in awe of my brother. His anger can be terrifying but it's only because he cares so much. One just has to be careful to not be troublesome."

"I see," he replied, looking thoughtful.

Li Ying wasn't sure how to explain it to him. After taking the throne, her brother was left with endless responsibilities he had to handle alone. She knew she was exasperating on many counts so she tried to make herself scarce. In the early days, she often told her brother she wished she could help him more but he assured her there was no need. Eventually, she stopped dwelling on it, finding her books and plays more interesting than political intrigue.

Sometimes her palace felt empty. There were people around but they answered to her brother – bodyguards to protect her, maids to look after her needs, and lovers to please her. Cheng Yin left her to her own devices as long as she did not disturb him. And the best way to not disturb him when she grew antsy was to head to the mortal realm. He found her excursions amusing and did not interfere.

After all no one in the mortal realm could do her lasting damage or forge a close relationship with her. They would long be old and dead before her next visit. So, she satisfied herself with mortal food, sweets and stories and physical pleasure. When it was time to come home she brought back literature and paintings and little keepsakes and memories. She never brought mortals back.

To take Die Feng's (and hers if she was honest) mind off troubling thoughts, Li Ying found herself relating bits of her mortal adventures as they walked through the town. Unlike the realm of the gods, change was a constant in the mortal realm, she explained. After having explored mortal worlds for millennia she still found something new on each visit, so there was no possibility of being bored. Sometimes Li Ying made herself invisible and lived inside mortal houses, bearing witness to their lives.

Mo Yuan and Shao Wan (三生三世十里桃花) - Vol. 1 [COMPLETED]Read this story for FREE!