written by MiniOrchid
Edited by kakashi & Panda
Thousand Beasts Mountain, Ghost Realm
He didn't want to die...
Why...had they left them here? Defenseless, taken from their homes. In this harsh, unforgiving landscape, with nothing but each other.
No creature would want to die after such a short life. He had not had the opportunity to turn into human form yet, had not yet had the pleasure of experiencing life like his other immortal siblings. The ones that survived to adulthood.
Yes...he remembered now. It was the custom of his kind. He and his siblings were left on Qian Shou Shan (千兽山, Thousand Beasts Mountain) when they were close to reaching immortal status. The mountain was full of fiery mythical beasts who had nothing but their claws and strength to fend for themselves. Still in their true forms, unlike other immortal children, Bai Ze Beasts did not turn to their human form until they reached 4,000 years of age.
Many mothers in his tribe had multiple litters, but not all survived to their adulthood, due to this harsh custom. But it was a necessity, because they couldn't afford to have too many of their kind roam. Only the strongest, luckiest, the ones that were destined to bring glory to their people could live. They bred only leaders.
The ancestral testing ground for his kind was not so merciful to his litter of eight: only he remained after a little more than four hundred days of being on this mountain. The first hundred days, he had watched his most eager and docile siblings become victims of a Nian (Mountain Beast). The remaining six tried to be more cautious and they worked together to endure the harsh reality that was set upon them. They stayed within their pack, huddled together, while keeping an eye out for predators that would do them harm. But the mountain was never forgiving, despite the beauty it held.
Everything was deadly, especially if one lost sight of the hidden danger behind the allure of the flora and fauna. Even the water from the river was not safe to drink, because deadly two headed serpents lay in wait for the opportunity to strike.
It was the first attack that sent chills down their spines, as they watched their eldest be strangled to death by the large two headed yellow serpent. The noisy struggle was long and agonizing. Each breath became more short lived as the serpent tightened its hold. The desperate sibling tried to bite and claw at the unyielding beast, but to no avail. They watched her disappear under the dreadful murky dark waters. They felt fear and anger at their own helplessness, because they couldn't save her...their only sister, who had protected them since their arrival.
And it was him....who she had saved that day...
Because he had not heeded her cautious words, had approached the water where the monster lurked. She gave her life as a result, took his place...because he had not listened. The funny thing about attachment was the weakness it gave one's soul. From the first moment they licked each other's wounds as cubs, their sibling connections became non severable. If only his sister, the strongest among them, had not bonded like this with him, she would have been the last remaining.
But fate would have it, like destiny had decided before they had even stepped foot on the mountain, that it was not the strongest who would survive. Somehow miraculously, he was the only one remaining, the weakest link present on that fateful day. They had all protected him until the end, feeding him, sheltering him, and taking on all the danger that lurked in the shadows.
How was that fair, he wondered, because it was not how it was supposed to be. Only the strongest should remain breathing. But they did not care; they did anything to protect their youngest.
He did not understand the depth of their sacrifice until the day he transformed into an immortal child. His last two remaining siblings' bodies were not yet taken by the merciless world, and he did not want their bodies to be eaten by savage beasts. Nor could he built a fire to burn their corpses. So with his bare hands, he dug their graves, and laid rocks over them. He could not cry, because there were no tears left....but the heavens took pity. The sky mourned the loss of his siblings for him, covering the forest with soft rain.
The warm sweet rain continued to fall as he descended the mountain - alone.
Though his will to live was strong despite the horror he had witnessed, he was much weaker in human form with no knowledge of magic to protect himself. He soon found his way down the narrow path escaping the mountain, for the shield only blocked the passage of beasts. He was hungry and starving as he made his way back home, an instinct within their blood, like a beacon that wouldn't turn off. He did not stop, even though his body was merely skin and bones, because he had the will to live, to survive despite the physical suffering.
His siblings, they had sacrificed themselves for a weakling, but even as a weakling, he would not give up. He would not let them die in vain.
Then, one day, he finally collapsed on the high grass rocky plains of Hong Yan Gu (Red Rock Valley), midway to his home. He didn't know how long he had passed out, but he was finally awoken by the smell of freshly roasted meat, while he was covered in thick braided straw mats. The warmth that was so foreign yet comforting came from the heat of the nearby fire.
"Are you hungry?" came the youthful voice of a female, unbelievable to his ears. The situation was so strange and impossible, he almost thought he had reached the underworld.
He turned to look at a young girl not much older than himself, in dark green and black hunting gear, with a pair of thick braids, sitting next to a well-made fire. Curiously, she was all alone. He tried to speak, but no words came out, only a hoarse sound. He realized he had never used his human tongue before. Like a trained animal, he nodded eagerly, until she handed him the freshly roasted bird.
"Here, eat this."
Desperate as he was, he did not hold back. Hurriedly he snatched the life saving nourishment that he had thought he'd never have the chance to taste again. Gorging the bird down, bones and all, he realized he had taken the whole bird. He looked up at her guiltily, but she only smiled and urged him to continue, as she tossed a leather bag full of water next to him. He couldn't open it, he had never seen anything like it before.
At her approach, he instinctively backed off. He was fearful of other life forms, no matter how gentle they may seem. He wanted to trust her...but his body continued to react on its own, in the defensive posture of a predator.
But she was not only kind, but also patient; cautiously, she approached him, as he bared his teeth, reverting to the beast within.
"Don't be afraid." Fearless, her voice was calm, like the tranquility of the night. Her dark green eyes with a hint of violet glowed from the fire besides them...hypnotized, he forgot his will to escape, to attack.
Suddenly, the water bag was back in his hand, opened this time. He was so mesmerized, he didn't realize how close she was. Her serene presence was unlike anything he had known from his harsh existence. Without reservation, he drank heavily, consuming all that was given. He soon fell back asleep after he finished the rest of the meal. She was gone when he woke up. At first, he thought it must had been a dream, until he realized that she had left her water sack behind.
The next day, she had returned with another game she had caught. This time, she brought him clothes. Despite his inability to converse with her, or help her with the hunt, she always returned. His savior, his only friend, kept bringing him provisions, until he was strong enough to leave after twelve days of her continued care and company. He wanted to remain, but the call to be back with his kind was too strong. Surprisingly, she knew he had to leave, even without words.
When he left, he had vowed to find her again.
He found her 45,000 years later, at the gathering of warriors arena festival that was held every 100 years. It was her, he had no doubt about it. She wore the same silver hydrangea hairpin he remembered from long ago, with the same dark green eyes he could never forget. He realized he had fallen for her that moment he recognized the girl from his dreams, who had become a woman. But as fate would have it, she did not remember him, contrary to his foolish belief. But why would she, when she was the eldest daughter of a General, one of the bravest and powerful men he knew. She couldn't possibly care for a wild urchin she had saved long ago.
What was the worst was his inability to form coherent sentences in front of her, succumbing to his past handicap. He tried many times when the opportunity arose. Offending her on many occasions, his stammering wouldn't cease due to his nervousness, whenever he was in her presence.
He was no match for her, he knew; with his background, his skills, he was a nobody, the one that should not have survived. But the will to be with her was stronger than he had realized. Because he was determined, he worked harder than he ever had before. Astonishingly, he became a General himself, at the age of 66,000 years, through much hardship and perseverance. He never backed down from a challenge. He was beaten more times than he could count, but still, he stood up from every failure. He managed to become the youngest Ghost General who was not from royal blood. But that wasn't enough. He wanted to become more than just a man with powers he wanted to be a man she deserved. No matter how strong he became, he was still not at the top.
So he had to retreat, to wait...for the day she would accept him. He could only pray for the day she would remember the wild child she had come across millennia ago.
Present Day, Red Rock Valley, Ghost Realm
By the cliff side of Hong Yan Gu, Zhao Yan leaned against a red boulder, with Xiu Yin on his lap, nestled safely in his arms. He gazed at the flock of white cranes on the horizon returning home as the sun set. It was a beautiful day, gorgeous in fact. He wished for time to stop so that they could forever remain where they were.
"Xiu Yin, I always wanted to bring you back here. To show you the place we first met. But I was afraid...afraid you would reject me."
He held her closer, waiting for the moment she would respond, would speak, even her usual scowl would have been fine, but she remained silent. The irony of their situation didn't escape him, because he could speak freely without his usual stammer, while she remained in her peaceful dream.
Zhao Yan caressed her cheek, smiling as he spoke again: "Remember when you brought back that spotted rabbit? It pretended to be dead, but it soon escaped when you handed the rabbit to me. I tried to cry out, but couldn't form any words. You were already busy preparing the fire. When you turned around, I had already tripped over a log trying to catch our dinner. I thought you would chastise me for losing it, but...instead you laughed at my predicament."
His thumb caressed her soft rose lips, his heart starting to ache at the memories of their youth. "I still remember your smile on that day, brighter than the stars above us. If only you could smile now like you did back then, if only fate wasn't so cruel."
Lifting her hand to his lips, he kissed her fingers tenderly. How many days had it been, he wondered. A part of him wanted to remain in this dream forever...to stay here for all eternity. But reality was not so kind, because a rustle of footsteps within the forest told him their time was up.
"General Zhao," the Celestial called out to him. The High Immortal who was a cautious man kept his distance.
Zhao Yan turned his head to the side, his eyes narrowed dangerously. "How did you find us?"
"General Yu provided your location," he answered.
"Why did they send you?" he asked in puzzlement.
The Celestial did not show any nervousness and his voice remained calm. "Considering we have been sparring partners for quite some time, you should know I am a man with no fear. And not many can counter your blows," he added.
That was true. Anyone else, Zhao Yan would have blown away with his magic; except for the Celestial, whom he had never fully understood yet was more alike him than he wanted to admit. Their unusual bond in the arena would give him pause before he delivered his attack.
"I apologize for disturbing you," he said regretfully, "but the Xiu Sisters...their family, they wanted their elder sister back."
"She is mine," Zhao Yan claimed. His grip instinctively tightened around her body- Xiu Yin who continued her eternal slumber. He had waited for a miracle these past days, for Xiu Yin to open her dark green eyes. But no matter how much he prayed, they would remain forever closed.
Days before, they had suffered another attack. Although they had prepared like they had for the first battle, fate had turned the tables on them. No one could have predicted that Xiu Yin would become a casualty of war. She took the deadly blows meant for her third sister, Xiu Tao. Zhao Yan had tried to reach her in time, but he couldn't. By the time he arrived by her side, she had already succumbed to her wounds.
He had lost his last strand of sanity as he slaughtered the remaining enemies in his vicinity, until nobody was left. What was the point of his whole existence when he couldn't protect the most precious person, the one and only pure being from his childhood? Blood lust of his kind took over as he morphed into Zai Be, increasing ten times in size, into a lion body of white fur, nine eyes and six horns. He was the beast of nightmares, killing whoever was in his path, chasing the enemies soldiers who tried to run.
But his rage didn't cease: his powers were out of control. He had continued to pursue them, past the boundaries of their borders. General Yu had cut off his path, but Zhao Yan was beyond reason. The General chose to blast him with magic, pushing him back to their borders. Zhao Yan was no match, he knew, but he fought against the older General, enraged by his interference. But the experienced General Yu used magic to restrain him. Using his staff, the General targeted his pressure points, forcing him back to human form. Pulling him back to his senses, his grief.
By the time Zhao Yan returned to Xiu Yin's side, his bloodlust was gone. It was replaced by the chill of death as numbness took over. He was thrown back to days he was on Thousand Beasts Mountain; the images of loved ones slain before his eyes filled his visions. Memories he had long suppressed resurfaced. Without speaking a word, he lifted her body into his arms and cloud jumped away from the battlefield.
He never expected they would find him so soon.
"We both know that's not true," the Celestial continued, "you've been grieving for four days now. It is time to return."
"Xiu Yin will stay here with me," he growled.
"Her sisters will disagree. Their mother wants to see her daughter. She already suffered the loss of her husband," he reasoned.
"I don't care!"
"But Xiu Yin would," the Celestial countered. True to his character from the arena, calculative...he didn't approach but settled himself on a nearby rock. He turned to look at Zhao Yan directly, his gaze hardening. "You know Xiu Yin, the most responsible and attentive of all the sisters, would want to be with her family, her loved ones. She would not want them to suffer any further, you included."
"Stop talking!" Zhao Yan roared. He lifted his hand, magic fire ready to blast, but he reigned in his urge to attack.
The Celestial was not taken aback by his anger nor his threat, he persisted. "Zhao Yan...," he said, calling him by his given name for the first time, capturing his attention once again. "I can only imagine the pain you're going through. But you have to let her go. Her soul will linger, unable to cross over if she were to remain here, away from her loved ones."
Despite his rage, his hand fell back upon hearing those piercing words.
"I know...," he mourned, he understood. But Zhao Yan didn't want to let her go. His hand smoothed over her cheek tenderly, but there was no sign of warmth, her life force was gone. No matter how much he tried to convince himself, she would not come back.
How could the first time he held her, touched her, be when she was no longer in this world? Why was he being punished, when all his life he had worked to be the man she deserved?
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Mo Yuan and Shao Wan (三生三世十里桃花) - Vol. 1 [COMPLETED]Fanfiction
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