Chapter 37b

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written by Miniorchid
consulting by Juls
edited by kakashi

Before Bai Qian could leave the room, as was advised in situations such as these, the Ghost Princess had already pushed Zi Lan off herself. Yan Zhi hurriedly brought her disheveled clothes in order and ran passed Bai Qian in such haste, she was afraid the Ghost Princess might trip. Once the door slammed shut behind her, the only sound to be heard was 16th's groaning. He had hit his head against the wall quite forcefully.

Her seniors had relayed Zi Lan's condition to Bai Qian on her way to his chambers. 16th had been in such a dire state upon his arrival at Kunlun, they had feared they might lose him. His injuries were substantial and he had lost a lot of blood. But thanks to 2nd's elixirs and the hundreds of years of intensive training with Shifu, he had recovered much quicker than they had anticipated. Now, he was no longer near death's door, be it through sheer stubbornness or desperation. Bai Qian was not surprised: she knew that 16th would not allow his weakness to keep him from protecting those he cared for, and he would not allow himself to die unless he was sure they were safe. Whether it was to protect Kunlun or a damsel in distress, he would lay his life down without hesitation.

Speaking of damsels, now that Zi Lan's love interest had left, there was no point in Bai Qian leaving as well. She had come to check on 16th's condition and check she would - besides, there seemed to be much for them to talk about, not least that scandalous demon woman next to Shifu. So, without further ado, Bai Qian sat down at the sitting table and poured herself some tea, watching her 16th senior sitting against the stone wall of his bed, looking dazed and shocked. After she had finished her 1st cup of tea, she decided to break the silence.

"I thought you were injured... heavily," she smiled at him.

"I am," he answered grudgingly, not meeting her eyes.

Pouring herself another cup of tea, she took a sip, then marveled at the cup in her hand. "From your display earlier, it was hard to tell. You certainly didn't wait until you recovered," she added with a smirk.

Zi Lan blushed and began to straighten his white robe that still exposed his chest.

Finishing her cup of tea, Bai Qian placed it down and turned to him. "So, my encouragement at the festival worked - you went and got your Princess back!"

"No, not even close," he said and pressed his head back against the wall behind him, closing his eyes in agony.

Bai Qian narrowed her eyes at him. "I don't understand. Then why were you two..."

Zi Lan covered his face with his hands. "I didn't know it was real," he groaned in misery.

"Excuse me?" She stood up and walked closer to his bed. "Say it again."

He rubbed his neck with his hand. "My body was burning up, it must have been that darn elixir for internal injuries that 2nd makes. I thought I was lucid dreaming just now. I must have grabbed her... and...," he could barely finish the sentence before he had to cover his face again in shame. "She'll hate me even more," he groaned.

Oh, poor 16th! Despite his womanizing ways, he was still basically an innocent in the matter of women's hearts. And yet, Bai Qian couldn't help but smile at his misery. As his (reluctant) junior, she would help him see the light in this unfortunate, yet fortunate situation he had put himself in.

"I doubt that," she told him.

"What do you mean?" He looked puzzled.

She turned around, and made herself comfortable next to the table again. "Did she stop you?"

He shook his head warily. "No... I don't know..."

Holding his gaze, Bai Qian asked: "Did she respond in this 'lucid dream" of yours?"

His face blushed, but Zi Lan seemed to try and recall what had happened. Looking perplexed, he finally answered: "Yes..?"

Bai Qian hit her fan on her palm. "So there is hope."

"Is there?" he asked, hesitantly.

"16th, if a woman didn't desire you, she wouldn't have let you go that far and she wouldn't have responded. Considering you're injured, it doesn't take much to push you off like she eventually did. She still wants you."

"But she cannot forgive me," he shook his head.

Bai Qian sighed. "Give her time," she told him softly.

"I let her wait for over 700 years."

"Then stop making her wait."

He closed his eyes again, unconvinced. Bai Qian shooked her head - this was much harder than she had thought. Zi Lan's natural confidence was hindered by his guilt. He needed all the advice he could get if he was going to succeed.

"Zi Lan, we all have to wait for our fated one, whether it's 7 years or 700 years, or even 70,000. Our time apart is a trial itself. Have faith in yourself."

"How?" He looked at her, his eyes full of uncertainty.

"You have to fight for her."

But Zi Lan remained silent, still full of doubt.

She shook her head at him and said: "What happened to my charming 16th in mortal realm? Remember all the women you seduced?"

"She is different from other women, I don't want to seduce her," he countered.

"No, but you can make her love you again."

Zi Lan laughed out loud.

"Why?" she asked in confusion.

"You're giving me advice?" he asked, shaking his head in disbelief.

"Oh yes, you need it. But please do not take the easy way out and die on her like my husband did, it is inconvenient and traumatizing to say the least." Bai Qian closed her eyes at the memory. Shaking her head, she continued, "and by the look of your current state, you were trying to do the same."

Maybe because Zi Lan felt the concern in her voice, he relented. "What else?"

"Ha - you're really taking my advice?"

16th waved his hand in front of him, and said, "It's not like I have other options. I am certainly not going to ask Shifu for advice."

Bai Qian narrowed her eyes at the mention of Shifu. "Is she giving you a hard time, this ... woman?"

Zi Lan shook her head again. "No. She is pretty preoccupied with him. And he with her. "

Bai Qian swallowed down her anger. Ye Hua had told her about the ways of the Demon Clan just now. She was completely unfamiliar with them, in fact, hadn't met many Demons before she met Shao Wan, because they had closed their borders and kept to themselves after the Demon War. They were a fierce warrior clan, men and women alike, who gained cultivation through constant fighting. Any weakness could mean death at the hand of a contender or enemy. Ye Hua had guessed that to Shao Wan, Bai Qian's relationship with Mo Yuan was a threat.

Bai Qian sighed. She would have to talk to the Demon Queen again soon to explain. And she hoped that Mo Yuan would explain from his point of view before that.

"Tell me, Zi Lan - how did this happen so quickly?" Bai Qian was curious to know the details of Shifu's romance.

"They go way back," Zi Lan said with a shrug, "did you not see them at the Festival? The way he looked at her ... it was so obvious."

"And she moved in here right away?"

"Ah, no. Shifu had to go to her rescue. You know how he is - he did not hesitate for a second, despite the odds. She was badly wounded when he brought her back. Did you not hear about this in the Nine Heavens?"

Bai Qian shook her head. "The gossip up there is usually far removed from the truth! There are people who claim Mo Yuan stole her away from her former lover, the Yellow Demon King. He tamed her using some tricks and made her his woman against her will."

Zi Lan snorted. "Tamed? She is most certainly not tamed though he did have to seal her powers to help her recuperate. She wasn't happy about being his wife at first, but that has definitely changed."

After a short break, he added: "It was his actions on top of your words that made me reconsider and go seek out Yan Zhi in the mortal realm. Without him, I would not have been there when the assassins hit."

"So maybe you could have asked him for advice after all!"

"Never!" Zi Lan laughed.

"I think our seniors are in desperate need of women themselves. They're the last people you can go ask in such matters. I was considering asking the God of Love and Marriage to find suitable brides for them after Shifu's Wedding - well, the first wedding, but that plan was foiled because of the cancellation."

Zi Lan grinned at her. "I didn't know you were so concerned over the state of bachelorhood at Kunlun."

"Of course I care and worry about everyone! And now, I'm particularly worried about you."

Taking a deep breath, he conceded: "What worldly advice do you have for me? I think my elixir is going to wear off soon."

"Excellent!" Ecstatic because of his willingness to hear her out, Bai Qian waved her fan, magically placing a shield around the room.

He looked at her skeptically: "Was that necessary?"

Bai Qian poured herself another cup of tea and said: "What I am about to tell you cannot leave this room."

Zi Lan stared at her. "I am beginning to regret my decision."

"Do you still want to recapture your Princess' heart?" she asked with the devilish smile she used to give him in their younger years at Kunlun.

"Yes."

"Then shut up and listen," she told him sternly.

And he did. He listened, and argued, and reflected. It was not an easy task to convince 16th to see the new light before him. But a drowning man will take any lifeline coming his way, and her advice was sound and sensible, informed by years of stories from her brothers and their spouses, from plays she had admired, and from her own experience. Thinking back, she thought she should have intervened much sooner for 16th's sake, but there was no need to dwell on what could not be changed. His Princess was now within his reach, fate had given him another chance to make amends.

His eyes were determined when she left his room. Bai Qian was glad she had come today, all things considered. There would be obstacles in Yan Zhi and Zi Lan's way, but everyone had their own trial to endure. She could only pray for fate to take pity on their years of separation, so that they would not have to suffer long before they could find their own happiness, like she had found hers.

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