Chapter 66

246 8 0

written by Panda
edited by kakashi

Mo Yuan sat at the bank of his favorite waterfall at Kunlun Mountain, hoping the steady hypnotic swish of water would help relieve some of his inner turmoil.

I shouldn't have let her go.

But how to hold on to the wind? It was two days after his fight with Shao Wan. Zhe Yan had healed his physical wounds, but he still had periods of disorientation. He knew it was because of how much control he had lost in his dragon form, but it was still very discomforting. It reminded him too much of his time in the Nothingness.

What he could recall of his fight with Fenghuang was exhilarating, yet draining. She had matched him claw for claw, kick for bite. She had spared no inch and had been his equal in strength and cunning in every way. And yet, even when he had been defending himself from her razor sharp attacks, she was the most fascinating thing he had ever encountered. In an attempt to get closer to her, he had flown lower than he had ever flown over deserted mortal lands, tricking her into doing the same, trying to get her to land so he could admire her shining beauty. But as time went on, they had drawn and lost too much blood. His power had drained away and it had ended with an inelegant crash in some mortal world. Slowly bleeding out in a tight, deadly embrace with the most beautiful thing he had ever beheld, he had finally blacked out, only to wake up at Zhe Yan's Peach Blossom grove in human form.

The only thing on his mind ever since was that she had been harmed by an unknown, deadly poison. Anxiously, he had waited to get news from the demon realm, any news, but mainly news about her health. But no such news had come. He had even started to hope for a formal complaint from Cheng Yin about the killing of demon soldiers, just so he had a reason to interact. No such complaints had been lodged. The Demon realm was shut tight and quiet. Much too quiet.

Whenever Mo Yuan closed his eyes, her image appeared in front of him. She had looked so fragile, so frail in his arms. He had handed her over, had not wanted to, yet knew this was not his choice to make. She was not his to keep. Never before and never again. And yet, his wish to hold her in his arms, to nurse her to health, to protect her from all evil, was almost overwhelming.

I never stopped loving her.

Of course he hadn't. If he had not allowed pride and anger to cloud his judgment when she had left him, he would have realized it sooner. This love was worth protecting. They just had to find a solution to the impending war.

He was so tired of warfare. As the God of War, fighting was what he had been created to do. But all wars left their mark. The deaths, the devastation, each seemed more terrible and more pointless in his memory than the last. He had sometimes thought that one of the benefits of him sacrificing himself to the Bell was that this would have put an end to the creation of instruments with such catastrophic effects. He had even felt relieved that he wouldn't have to watch his beloved students die again. But he of all people should have known Fate wasn't going to spare him. The God of War existed to fight wars. To make sure he didn't forget, she had thrown another one in his path. And she made sure to torture him by giving him superior enemies: A highly skilled madman whose alchemical prowess was unprecedented, fighting side by side with the most formidable fighter Mo Yuan had ever faced – Shao Wan.

Mo Yuan would not lie to himself, he feared Fate, since he had good reasons to. But this time, he wasn't going to wait for her to do her worst. He would stop this war. And he would get Shao Wan back.

When he heard footsteps approaching, he adjusted his robes and opened his eyes.

"Shifu, the Demon Queen has arrived," Chang Shan told him deferentially.

Mo Yuan nodded. "Put her in the hall and offer her refreshments, I will be there shortly."

After Chang Shan had left, he took a few more minutes to gather his thoughts and clear his mind. He then stood up, his eyes steely with determination. Yes, it was time for him to act and stop thinking.

When he got to the hall, the Purple Queen sat quietly, swirling a drink in her hand, apparently lost in thought. He cleared his throat for her to register his presence. She looked up, her unguarded expression changing immediately with her eyes narrowing. He still had difficulties assessing her abilities and trust was not something he would easily give her.

"God of War," she briefly inclined her head in greeting.

"Purple Queen," he nodded and sat down on his dais.

"I apologize for my tardiness, I trust you were welcomed in a suitable manner?" he inquired from her.

"Why yes. Your disciple has been plying me with this wine. Maybe he means to get me drunk." She smirked. "This wine," she lifted her cup to salute him, "it starts simple but has complex and robust undertones. I like it very much. After the war, maybe we want to discuss a business venture?"

Mo Yuan lifted his eyebrows.

"Or maybe not," Yi Mei Niang said with a shrug.

"I have called for you because there might be a new development," Mo Yuan said. "I have reason to believe that the Yellow King and your Demon Ancestor have had a falling out."

Her hands stilled fractionally as she lifted her cup of wine to her lips. "I have heard nothing of that sort," she then stated baldly after taking another small sip. "There has been no news from her household at all."

Mo Yuan instantly felt disappointment - and apprehension. No news of Shao Wan's health. No news at all.

"God of War, what happened between you and the Demon Ancestor?" she asked with deeply probing eyes. Of course, news of his appearance in the mortal realm and their subsequent fight would have spread quickly.

"You know we had an encounter recently. It looked like...," Mo Yuan fell silent. What if he was mistaken?

"You failed to kill her," the Purple Queen stated. "That was a golden opportunity handed to you on a platter, God of War, and it would have solved all our problems. Is she too strong for you?"

He said nothing. The Purple Queen snorted. "Never trust a man who has tasted a woman's sweet love."

"Careful, Queen," Mo Yuan snapped.

"The stakes for me are high, God of War," Yi Mei Niang snapped back. "I put my trust in you because of your reputation. What I see is sentimentality and wishful thinking. Just be glad she isn't much stronger than you, or Shao Wan would have killed you without a second thought."

"I am trying to prevent this war," Mo Yuan said in a calmer tone, "I am looking for a way to avoid the bloodshed and the loss of countless lives. The realms have bled enough already. I believe there is a chance I and the Demon Goddess could come to an understanding."

Sighing softly and with a voice you would use on an unreasonable child the Purple Queen said: "Cheng Yin has moved into the guest home of her palace."

Only centuries of rigid self-control prevented Mo Yuan from reeling backward in shock. "I thought you said there was no news," he remarked, his voice a dangerous whisper.

She shrugged. "I did not think you'd consider this significant news. Everybody knows how much he was wooing her, and he must have succeeded after that fight you had. He got wounded, so did she, they must have found solace in each other's company. You cannot reason with the Ancestor any longer, I do hope you finally understand this."

Yi Mei Niang stood up. "Without being rude, I must take my leave now. I do not want to travel too late in the realms these days. These are dangerous times."

Mo Yuan got up as well. "I will get my disciples to watch over you covertly until you get to the border."

"My trusted bodyguards would be insulted by the gesture, but thank you for the thought. One could call this a pointless meeting, but I am thinking it was not. Prepare yourself. This war is inevitable. I take my leave."

Not if I can help it.

Mo Yuan stood looking at her retreating back. He then called out for Chang Shan to come meet him. He would not give up. Never again.

***

Losing no time, Mo Yuan enlisted the help of a grudging Donghua to send missives to both Cheng Yin and Shao Wan. The missives stated in very few words that the Celestials wanted to have a Peace Meeting again, to discuss an agreement that would meet the demands of both sides. The meeting would bring together only a select few and would be held in a neutral place. Mo Yuan had initially suggested the Peach Blossom grove but that had been immediately rebuffed by the Demon contingent, who did not consider Zhe Yan to be impartial enough. They suggested to hold it at the border zone between the Fox and the Ghost Realm instead, where a recently abandoned garrison offered the necessary privacy.

Mo Yuan got to the venue hours before the agreed time. He scouted the location twice, each time finding no signs of trickery or sabotage. The third time, he already knew it would be a waste of his time, but he just had to do something to expel his anxiety over meeting Shao Wan. He had a lot of things to say. He had even considered writing them down.

Donghua and Ye Hua arrived next - early. The latter hurried immediately to his side, with Donghua strolling more leisurely behind him.

"Da-Ge," Ye Hua greeted him anxiously. "Has there been a change in plans? We thought we would get here a bit early to check for traps, but it seems you already..."

Mo Yuan grasped his brother's shoulders. "There are none. Ye Hua, I have not had a chance to thank you yet for coming to my... to our rescue."

Flushing a bit, Ye Hua nodded. "Da-Ge, it was nothing. I am just very glad I found you in time, you were very severely hurt. Are you sure you should be exerting yourself so soon?"

Mo Yuan nodded again. "I am completely fine. And I feel very much committed to trying to stop this accursed war."

"Mo Yuan, did you perchance sleep here?" Donghua teased, having finally gotten to where the brothers stood.

"Donghua," Mo Yuan greeted him briskly, refusing to rise to his bait. "Thank you for coming and overseeing this meeting. You still have a lot of standing with the Demon Tribe."

Grumbling, Donghua adjusted his purple robe. "You gave me no choice. Sometimes, I understand why people are afraid of you."

Demon energy suddenly filled the air. Somebody else had arrived early.

Mo Yuan turned around. As always, her beauty robbed him of words and reason. She wore an armor of immense value. It was red and golden, made from Dragon and Qilin scales. It fit her perfectly, accentuating her lithe elegance and fierce strength. Shao Wan did not acknowledge him at all though. She only briefly nodded to Donghua and walked into the wooden house. Cheng Yin on the other hand, clad in black leather, very much acknowledged him. His face showed hate so deep and vicious when he looked at the God of War, Mo Yuan involuntarily took a step back when the Demon King brushed past him.

When they all sat at Donghua's invitation, Mo Yuan anxiously surveyed Shao Wan from head to toe, trying hard to disregard her companion sitting shoulder to shoulder with her. Cheng Yin now displayed little of the hate he had shown before, but made a point to appear relaxed - and close to Shao Wan. He kept whispering things into her ear and smiling widely while throwing snide looks at the Celestial group. Suddenly, his violet eyes sought out Mo Yuan - and the look of triumph and possession in them had Mo Yuan clench his fist so as to hold himself in check.

All almost came undone when he saw Cheng Yin tuck Shao Wan's hair behind her ears.

"Da-Ge," Ye Hua's expression was calm, but his eyes shot a warning to Mo Yuan as he whispered, "Da-Ge, please."

I will be calm, I must be calm, he will not provoke me, Mo Yuan repeated to himself and re-arranged his face into his customary expression.

Finally the talks began.

Clearing his throat, Donghua started: "Tensions are high between the Celestial and the Demon tribes. The situation has been escalated by the recent fight in the Mortal realm, when Demons broke immortal laws and were punished. That both sides have a lot at stake was demonstrated by this recent event. With a bit of goodwill, it should still be possible to find a way to prevent the war."

Cheng Yin smirked. "The Demon Ancestor and I have been subjected to a lot of indignities by the God of War. I am afraid that while other leaders might bow down and stifle the issues, we will not - as long as he is around."

Mo Yuan heard Ye Hua start talking in rebuttal, but his interest lay elsewhere. He turned his gaze to Shao Wan and examined her more closely than before. She looked rather well, he thought in relief. He couldn't see any visible signs of the poison on her visage and the color of her skin was back to normal. Why? He had to know.

He stood up. Immediately, Cheng Yin also sprang up, drawing his whip, and Ye Hua followed suit by drawing out his sword. Only Shao Wan remained sitting, her eyes fixed on the floor before her.

Donghua rolled his eyes. "Everybody stand down, no need to kill each other yet. No drawn weapons, no fighting. Please, sit."

He turned to Mo Yuan who had remained standing in the melee: "Does the God of War wish to say something?"

"I would like to speak with the Demon Goddess. Alone." Mo Yuan stated into a suddenly quiet room.

Now, she lifted her eyes to meet his gaze. She stared at him, her eyes steady and her expression unreadable. Beside her, Cheng Yin protested loudly but stayed his protests when she whispered something into his ear. Mo Yuan's blood started boiling when he saw her place her hand on his shoulder to steady him. The Demon nodded, grudgingly. Shao Wan stood up lithely and motioned to Mo Yuan with her head to follow her to the inner room.

She walked in front of him, head high, shoulders square, her hair bound in a knot showing off the delicate nape of her slender neck and he had to prevent himself from reaching out to her and drawing her close.

Finally they were alone. He was feeling...overwhelmed, nervous...

She turned around and looked at him, a challenge in her eyes.

"You... look well, Shao Wan," he stammered and winced inwardly as he heard himself say such empty words. Maybe he should have written down what he wanted to say.

"Celestial, what did you want to speak to me in private about?" she asked coldly. She took a step back and surveyed the room they were in. "I have business to attend to back in my realm, so hurry up."

"I...," Mo Yuan swallowed. He had known this would be difficult. But he realized that in all his years of existence he had rarely experienced such uncertainties like he was experiencing now. "I am sorry for what happened in the Mortal Realm. I am sorry I hurt you. Shao Wan... See, when I came to, I realized that..."

Her mocking laughter stopped him.

"Celestial, is this a joke to you?" She asked, her eyes flashing as she prowled around the room. "Is this what the Peace Meeting was about? I thought you had come to your senses after seeing the sheer number of our troops and had decided to come offer some restitution. What happened in the mortal realm is no matter, I only regret you did not die."

Restitution? "Shao Wan, I was very worried. I had no news about how you fared, I feared the worst... I do not want to go to war against you. I want to stop this war."

"Stop? You cannot stop this. It is much bigger than you or me."

"Please, Shao Wan...," he stepped closer and took her right hand in both of his. Maybe she was too surprised to pull it back, but she put up no resistance when he lifted it up and placed it on his chest, holding it there. "I made mistakes, I see that, but I want to patch things up between us, I want to..."

"Stop," she said again, gently but firmly removing her hands from his. "Regarding your feelings, Celestial, those are your problem, not mine. I think it's apparent at this juncture that we will not find a common ground. I declare this meeting over."

Mo Yuan stood there dumbstruck. Then, what he had feared from the moment he had seen her well and smiling by Cheng Yin's side was true?

"You have gotten the antidote to the poison?" he asked quietly.

An expression flitted across her face, so fleeting he could not quite read it. "Yes, I have," she said. "The poison is not your concern either. It is mine."

"I will help you," he pressed out, "I will make sure you do not have to bend down to Cheng Yin's will. I will find a way."

"You do not need..."

"Here," he quickly continued, "these peaches are for you from Zhe Yan." He held out four ripe peaches to her. "He sends his regards. He says to eat those as they are at their height of sweetness and your favorite."

She looked very puzzled but took the peaches from his hand and put them into her sleeve pocket. Then, she looked at him again. "Celestial," she said slowly, "you are mistaken about everything. I chose him when I left you battered at Kunlun. I choose him again now. You are a fool, Celestial, to continue to involve yourself in my affairs. We are finished here."

And indeed, they were.

One look at his face once he stepped back into the room and Donghua could see that whatever plans he had made had gone awry. Donghua shook his head slowly his eyes uncharacteristically gentle while Ye Hua came to stand next to him. Cheng Yin quickly pulled Shao Wan into an intimate conversation but not even that could penetrate the coldness and numbness Mo Yuan felt from his conversation with her.

He was indeed a fool! How many times did she have to break his heart before he believed that it was pointless? He of all people should know that just because you loved someone didn't mean the person would love you back.

Cheng Yin's scornful laugh interrupted his reverie. "Peace talks indeed," he spat out. "Just for a chance to talk to an ex-lover alone, fie. What an underhanded move even for the God of War!"

Shao Wan also walked up, her face slightly paler than at the beginning of the meeting. "Donghua, Crown Prince, I bid you farewell. The next time we meet, it will be on the battlefield. Train well. Especially you, Celestial," she ended with a brittle laugh and pointed a finger at Mo Yuan's chest. "I will be looking for you. Farewell."

No-one said anything for a few minutes after the Demon Lords had left. Finally, Donghua let out a long sigh.

"I won't give up," Mo Yuan found his voice again, "but we need to continue mobilization. It looks like we are going to war after all."

Ye Hua's reply was drowned out by the arrival of Si Ming who came running towards them, almost falling over, shouting: "There has been a murder! There has been a murder! Princess Mao Qing of the Eastern Seas is dead and her brother is about to attack the West Sea Kingdom!"

Fate indeed knew how to test him, Mo Yuan thought. Would it ever end?

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