Chapter 58

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written by kakashi

This morning, after Zhe Yan had finished examining him, the Phoenix had told Mo Yuan he would have a special elixir ready for him tonight, the last one he would need for full recovery. Since he had some important business to tend to at the Peach Blossom Orchard all afternoon, and because there was a faint possibility some adjustments needed to be made to the elixir at the last moment, he had asked Mo Yuan whether he could come and pick it up himself.

Naturally, Mo Yuan had agreed. Zhe Yan's elixirs had worked wonders, he was feeling like his old self again. The headaches assaulted him less frequently, he was no longer strangely disoriented, and he could train for a whole day without feeling tired. In addition, going to the orchard was a welcome change from his daily routines and he even thought he might enjoy some wine with his old friend. Zhe Yan's Peach Blossoms were of a particular, haunting, sad beauty in the light of a full moon, too white and too ethereal, shimmering like ghosts that found no rest but quivered in fear until the moment they fell into the abyss of the underworld.

However, as soon as Mo Yuan arrived at Zhe Yan's Peach Tree Orchard at the agreed hour, he froze. He had been too gullible.

Her scent was so strong, it overpowered the fragrance of the peach blossoms. Her aura was so radiant, it burnt in the dark like a huge bonfire. His treacherous, useless heart responded by speeding up, so he slowed it down, forcefully, until his balance was reestablished and he felt nothing.

"Shao Wan is here," Mo Yuan said to Zhe Yan, who was waiting for him in front of his hut.

"She is," Zhe Yan affirmed, managing quite well not to look too smug, "she came by to pick up some more of Fong Hung's elixir. He is growing at-"

"I am not interested in the pets of my enemies," Mo Yuan cut the Phoenix off.

"Both elixirs are not quite ready yet," Zhe Yan continued undeterred, "you have to wait. There's peach blossom wine on the stone table."

"Do you really mean to insult my intelligence?" the God of War said, quite astounded by just how little of an effort Zhe Yan made to mask his meddling intentions.

"Sit down and relax for a moment, Mo Yuan," Zhe Yan implored, "please. Let's set aside all differences, just for tonight."

"I would rather go and count every single peach blossom eight times," Mo Yuan said, "than sit down and drink with her."

"Mo Yuan. You cutting her out is not the solution. Can't you two talk? Maybe there is still a chance that we can solve this situation peacefully."

Mo Yuan scoffed. "Peacefully? She made her intentions more than clear. She chose to be our enemy, Phoenix. Fine with me if you do not want to get involved in any more wars, but please, do me the favor and don't get involved at all. It is tiresome."

"Mo Yuan?"

Mo Yuan whirled around at the sound of her voice.

It was already dark, but the world got even darker - only she shone like a flame, like she was pulling all the available light towards her. The Demon High Goddess was beautiful beyond words. Her midnight blue hair was intricately braided and pulled together at her nape into another masterful plait. She wore her feather above her left ear, worked carefully into a silver barrette. She was dressed in a purple velvet gown that accentuated the curves of her body and showed just enough cleavage to make a man long to see the rest of the promise. He knew without having to check that her almond shaped eyes were of a dark brown right now, wary and alert, yet curious and inquisitive. But the most fascinating aspect of her appearance were her powers that flowed around her like a second gown, visible to his eyes. Mo Yuan had never seen anything like it: it was both mesmerizing thrilling and bone-chilling alarming.

"Very clever, Phoenix," Shao Wan said, throwing Zhe Yan a dark look.

Mo Yuan pulled his reluctant eyes away from this glorious image of absolute power. "I was just leaving," he said, turned his struggling body around and got ready to cloud jump away.

"No, do what you came to do at your brother's place," she said softly, "I will be the one to leave, High God Mo Yuan."

His body turned back instantly, it had obviously just waited for an excuse, and froze again completely as their eyes met. Hers were full of questions and something like ... anticipation, which ... he suddenly felt he was not prepared for this.

"Are you well, Mo Yuan?" she asked gently.

He just continued to stare at her, wide open to any sort of attack she would want to throw at him, wide open to her uncanny ability to read people's essence without doing any apparent soul-searching magic. When he felt her probing gaze, it was like a caress, a whisper against his skin, giving him goosebumps.

"You are well," she said, "they scared me, saying how gravely hurt you are, but I see they lied."

"Ehem," said Zhe Yan, "I have to go back to the elixirs, they need to be stirred frequently. They should be ready in about two incense sticks - or more. Drink wine or don't drink wine, but please, leave my peach trees alone."

They stood there in silence and stared at each other in the dark after Zhe Yan had left.

But as time passed and the full moon rose and moved into the sky above them, Mo Yuan managed to find his bearing and reestablish control over his body. He was prepared after all - since it was a simple matter of willpower. He had not wanted to resist her during their brief dalliance, but now, he no longer wanted to yield, not even an inch.

He looked at her still form and he felt suddenly thrilled that she had changed so much since they had last stood here, the kind of thrill you felt when you met an old enemy and realized they had acquired new battle skills that you wanted to test out. Nothing about her reminded him of that impulsive, rageful creature that had pounded on him like a predator. She was assessing the situation just like him, patiently and carefully, so much more deadly than before.

Now that the spell was broken, he was able to see beyond the mesmerizing beauty. When his eyes adjusted, he noticed she was thinner than when she had left him. She had a haunted look, a faint paleness, eyes that lay too deep in their sockets. This woman was exhausted and her eyes spoke of a pained soul, waiting for someone to ease her burdens.

And that, that made her vulnerable.

...unless she was putting on an act to make him lower his defenses? Of course, that had to be it: She would make herself seem weak in order to lure him into feeling sympathy, into making a mistake. But he wouldn't. He had fallen for her tricks once, and that was all he would ever fall for.

"I thank you for your concern," he said coolly, "I am indeed well."

Her head perked up when he spoke and her eyes shone brightly in the moonlight as she replied: "I am very glad to hear it."

She managed to sound sincere. He now realized he had always underestimated her before, just another confirmation for how clever this woman had been in her deception all along.

"How is Fong Hung?" he asked, since he was sensing the mount nearby and since he knew this was a subject to rattle her.

"He has grown so much in so few days!" she said, her voice quivering just a little, "do you want to see him? He is just over there."

"Please, Demon Queen," he said politely and followed her with measured steps and high alertness, deeper into the orchard, towards that stone table that they both knew so well. Incidentally, Zhe Yan had put two bottles of peach wine there. Next to them sat Fong Hung, in the blue protective bubble Mo Yuan had put him in. He was almost too big for it now, but blinked rapidly when he saw Mo Yuan.

"He likes it in there," Shao Wan explained, throwing Mo Yuan a look from the side. "I found a way how to open and close it."

"The bubble doesn't expand," Mo Yuan said, somehow baffled, "he will soon be too big, it will hurt him."

"Oh." Shao Wan extended her hands towards the blue orb and small discharges crackled up. She pulled her hand back quickly, pressing her lips together.

Mo Yuan did not understand why she had kept her demonic mount in the cage he had made, especially not if the energy hurt her like this. It must be part of her trickery, he concluded, because it threatened to affect him, this gesture, her keeping something he had given her, even if it was only a cage he had made to kick her Mount off his mountain. Very clever.

"I could make a new one?" he offered, testing how far she would play along.

Her expression changed. She looked much more alert and quite wary all of a sudden. Of course, she was cautious, like she should be. Quickly, he reached for the bubble and split it in half, making action follow words, giving her little time to think. Deep down, the impulsive, gut-driven creature lay dormant. He only had to tease it out of her.

The very moment he was free, Fong Hung glared at him and quite clearly said: "老." (lao)

Shao Wan stared at her mount with eyes as round as the moon above.

"Lao," the toad said again, loud and clear, turning her head towards her, "Lao. Lao."

"He has just spoken, hasn't he?" she whispered. "What is he saying?"

"I think he is calling us old," Mo Yuan suggested with a frown.

Shao Wan laughed, the sound piercing like an arrow through Mo Yuan's resolve, then hugged the golden-green animal so fiercely, his eyes bulged out even more.

"Fong Hung, Fong Hung, you will soon be able to guard my back again! I knew you would come back, I knew it!" she cried and kissed the toad's warty skin.

She was so close. Mo Yuan could see every strand of her hair, he could see her wet eyes and long, curved eyelashes, carefully painted like her elegant eyebrows, the powder on her flawless skin, her pointy nose, perfect for tapping one's finger against, her lips ... taunting him to punish them for how hurtful they had been. What if he just devoured them until she begged him to stop? What if he let it go further? What if he ripped that revealing dress off her and repeated what he had done during their first meeting here? He wanted to anger her, to make her lose her composure, to have her rage and scream.

But he could also see her feather and that took precedence over everything else.

It was right there in front of him. One quick move and it would be his. One quick move and he would tilt the odds in his favor, save his clan a lot of pain. Such a small object, such a small move, such immense consequences.

With only the slightest hesitation, Mo Yuan reached out his hand. He expected to hit a force shield, was getting ready for the pain and for his attempt to break it...

..."croak!" - Fong Hung took a leap from the table and bumped forcefully against his chest. Mo Yuan closed both his arms around the heavy animal instinctively, but the unexpected impact made him stagger backwards. Quickly, Shao Wan's hand came up to steady him. It was only a brief contact, because Mo Yuan found his balance again immediately, but her touch was as painful as a thunderbolt during a heavenly trial.

Cursing silently under his breath, Mo Yuan put the glaring Fong Hung back onto the stone table. You already are protecting her back, aren't you, Mo Yuan thought. You always were, from the very beginning. You never wanted me near her. You have more foresight than both of us together. He formed a large blue bubble between his hands, large enough to contain Fong Hung for some time longer, even in case his growth accelerated further.

"Should I...," he swallowed hard. He had turned around to address Shao Wan and found her standing right behind him, watching closely what he was doing. So close again. His body cried out in yearning, but his head was the one in control.

"Yes," Shao Wan said. She made a point not to look into his eyes, but had hers fixated on her toad. Yet, there was the faintest of blushes on her skin, and it gave him much satisfaction to see her discomfort, wherever it came from. Turning back around, Mo Yuan carefully enveloped Fong Hung with the bubble, closing it with a strong protective spell, leaving only a small door for her to open. The toad immediately licked the walls of his new home, looking content.

"Thank you," Shao Wan said. "Thank you. For this... and everything else you have done for us. Thank you."

He turned around again and this time, she was looking at him. They were of almost equal height so that her eyes were quasi level with his. They were doorways to another dimension - and his certain doom. This was the woman who had forever changed him and he wanted to hate her for it.

He forced himself to think of Cheng Yin, of how the Demon held Shao Wan in his arms, of how he kissed her, had her... and it was sufficient to instantly purge all the conflicting feelings from his heart. But it also was the end of his ability to pretend he wasn't about to explode from anger. How dare she taunt him by pretending to be concerned about him? How dare she talk to him like nothing had happened?

"It is no matter," he said icily, "I would have done it for anybody."

She frowned, but before she could react, he added: "Would you care to sit, Shao Wan?"

"I cannot drink a lot," she answered, throwing him a sullen look. But she sat down at one end of the stone table, after putting Fong Hung in his bubble on the ground next to her.

Mo Yuan sat down at the other end, took a bottle, uncorked it and said: "To old enemies."

"To old enemies," Shao Wan repeated and uncorked hers.

She only drank one sip, he noticed, before putting the bottle down again. He on the other hand didn't care whether Zhe Yan had given them his aphrodisiac again or not, it wouldn't work on him this time anyway.

"You can drop the act now," Shao Wan said frowning after he had downed about half of the bottle. "What are you trying to achieve?"

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