written by Chimera and Miniorchid
It was calm, too calm. The calm atmosphere contrasted with Li Ying's unnerving emotions that lingered at each step. The sun began to set as they descended the uneven steps leading to the dark corridor. The smell of dirt, moss, and mist rose from the walls, filling their nostrils. This was a place like no other in the Palace, unlike other areas, which were pristine and clean. Like his many characters, this was a place he wished to hide from the world, from her.
Had she known him at all?
They soon reached their destination; a grand circular door at the end of the corridor. Two large stone wolves, like guardians, flanked either side of the entrance. The figures were fierce, fangs bared, threatening harm to those who dared venture beyond the gate. Without even touching the stone, Li Ying could feel the power of the magical shield pulsating, vibrating behind the gate. The Demon who had caste it was powerful, far beyond what Li Ying had imagined.
She did not yield to the implied threat of destruction. She was here for a mission, and she would complete it without falling back. Her hands rose, forming a glowing sphere of power. Bright white, like her chain whip, she blasted her magic against the door. The shield was lifted, they pulled on the wolf face lever and hurried in.
The object inside was definitely magical; it glowed with a breathtaking essence. Li Ying never thought there would come a day she would get to see the Ancestor's Demon Tongue. She was already in awe of the powers of the weapon she had never even touched. For millennia she had heard stories about the fierce magical weapon forged by the Ancestor herself. One's weapon defined oneself, one's character, one's soul. Now Shao Wan's weapon floated within reach, beckoning its owner like a whispering echo of the mountain's breeze.
They only had this one chance; the consequences would be dire if they failed. The Demon who wished to harm the realms wouldn't stop, couldn't be stopped. But enough was enough. She couldn't sit back and watch him destroy what she held dear. She had to thwart his plan, no matter the consequences. Yet, Demon Tongue was behind a formidable shield.
Cautiously, the Ancestor approached the invisible shield. She looked tempted to touch, but knew better than to take her chances. Li Ying turned to Shao Wan with concern in her eyes. "Ancestor, the seal is more powerful than the barrier we surpassed. I doubt I can break my brother's seal."
"Not all shields are made equal, that is true, but they are unique. Luckily for us, this shield is not about powers," the Ancestor answered evenly.
"It's not? Then why did you need me?" Li Ying asked, her brows furrowed in puzzlement as she reached Shao Wan's side.
"This seal requires your blood."
"Your brother, Cheng Yin, has a habit of using blood for his most powerful magic. This shield was undoubtedly created by blood magic. That's why I couldn't break it before, no matter how many times I tried. But with your blood, his closet kin, we can surely break it without much effort."
"Ancestor, did you lead me here just on a guess?" Li Ying couldn't help but ask. Not because she wanted to doubt the Ancestor, but it seemed too easy.
"If we don't try, we would never know. If we don't stumble, we would never reach the journey's end," the Ancestor replied, unusually contemplative. Despite her words of wisdom, Shao Wan was nervous, Li Ying could tell. Any mistake would alert her brother. But they were cornered, trapped like prey. The only recourse was to fight back. The world would come to an end if he was not stopped.
The Ancestor and Li Ying were fated to have met today; undoubtedly, it was the will of the Universe for their paths to cross. Li Ying had been trapped within her chambers, on the orders of her suspicious, unstable brother. He no longer trusted her, but she wasn't going to allow herself to give up so easily. With her wits, she had knocked out the guards standing at the entrance to her chambers. They were easily subdued, because her brother had never known of her powers.
Well, he had never expected much from her. Ge-ge had always sheltered her like a rare bird whose wings he had clipped off long ago. She couldn't fly way, he had surmised, believed, and trusted. A weakling in his mind, and in the minds of the people around her, even the guards at her door. His miscalculation was his undoing. Unknown to him, her wings had grown back, much stronger than before. Li Ying had hidden her powers, and flown away many times without his knowledge. The need to be stronger was in her blood. The same blood that ran through her brother's veins. Although escaping would give her charade away, even on the edge of hell, she would not give up. Perhaps it was time for the truth.
The victors are not those who never fail in their attempts, but the ones who never quit.
Escaping the Palace, she had been almost spotted in the garden, but Shao Wan had pulled her behind the vegetation before the guards approached. With her usual charm, Shao Wan had proceeded to direct the guards to a different part of the Palace. She even chastised their unruly appearance that hurt her eyes. After they left, Shao Wan hurried behind the plants. She listened to Li Ying's situation with concern, and told her of Cheng Yin's plan to destroy the realms. Seeing Li Ying's distress at the revelation, the Ancestor had smiled and assured her that there was a way to tear Cheng Yin away from the greed that consumed him. Shao Wan had a plan, and she needed Li Ying's help.
Now that they were here, Li Ying would do what was necessary to save her brother. Allies are few when the world falls apart. She trusted the Ancestor to lead them to victory before calamity fell upon the realms.
Giving instructions, Shao Wan handed Li Ying her dagger. Repeating the ancient spells, Li Ying grasped the blade with her left hand. With a decisive jerk, the dagger slashed across her palm and fingers. Her blood dripped as her palm unfolded but the life giving essence did not touch the ground. The precious stream of droplets floated like silk weave...encircling, surrounding the sphere shield. Spreading so thinly, cell by cell, that Demon Tongue remained visible behind the transparent pink glow of her blood. Her palm rose, hand pressed against the shield, she transferred more of her cultivation, her magic, forcing the blood sphere to enclose the shield. As if on cue, the shield began to shrink as the cells of her blood attacked the magic particles one by one, eliminating the molecules. With each burst of the clash between her blood cells and the shield's magic, the sphere sparked like a miniscule firework, until the sparks completely enveloped Demon Tongue, causing the whip to radiate brightly. They had to close their eyes from the brilliant glow. When the brightness was gone, the whip fell to the floor with a thump.
Her blood had worked. The Ancestor had been right. It was kin blood magic. "There was much I don't know about my brother...even this," Li Ying whispered.
The flower may be dead, but the roots remain. He used kin magic because he would never have thought she would betray him. Despite everything, he had trusted she would remain true. What had she done?
The Ancestor lunged forward to grab her whip, but upon touching it she screamed in pain, involuntarily dropping it.
"Ancestor! Are you alright?!" Li Ying hurried to her side.
"I'm fine, I forgot how powerful it was," Shao Wan laughed. She then pulled out a black leather glove, and pulled it on over her right hand. Her hands shook but, this time, she grasped the whip without wincing. Yet Li Ying could tell something wasn't right. She hadn't noticed before, but now that she looked at her more clearly, the Ancestor was different tonight. Not just her demeanor, but something else was missing. Her aura was different, lacking its usual glow, for some reason that eluded Li Ying. Before she could ask, the cave began to vibrate. The shield had broken just moments before, yet ge-ge was not far behind.
"Ancestor, quickly! You must leave, my brother is coming," Li Ying pushed her out of the cave.
"Li Ying, come with me! He'll kill you if he finds you here!"
Li Ying shook her head. "I have to speak to him Ancestor. If there is any good left in him, I can reach it. I must try and convince him. And like you said, the only person who could break the spell was I, and I am his only kin. I'd rather face him now than wait for him to hunt me down. Besides, I could hold him back while you escape," Li Ying told the Demon Goddess in a reassuring voice, despite the chill in her veins.
Even though Shao Wan was reluctant, she knew they had no choice. Time was against them.
Li Ying grabbed her hands in a tight squeeze. "My Ge-ge will be furious, but he won't kill me. Now go..."
She would speak to him, beg him. She would make him see reason. On some level she had always known it would come down to this – her confronting him. And she knew he would react badly. Li Ying wasn't delusional. Perhaps that was why she had avoided it for so long, hoping her brother would come to his senses on his own, hoping that he would stop. She had let him get away with it all because she hoped, or maybe because she knew that "letting" him do anything was out of her hands. He was powerful, much more powerful than her. He always had been. And after he killed their father, his thirst for power only grew – Li Ying recalled, with a sickening jolt, the basement that she had discovered in his palace, full of remnants of pain and blood magic and torture.
It had happened while she lived in the same Palace, a few corridors away. She had let it happen, never protested, never bothered to find out, turned a blind eye to all the signs. Well, no more! He would be angry but she would not back down. And after his anger passed her brother would listen to reason and she would bring him back. It had been them together in the past, hadn't it? Trust might have eroded but they still loved each other.
Footsteps rang behind her and Li Ying spun around, "Ge-ge! You must-"
Her words were cut short as she was blasted off her feet. Li Ying slammed into the cave wall and fell to the floor.
She lay there, stunned. Her ge-ge had never raised his hand against her before.
"Insolent girl!" his booted feet neared. "What have you done?"
Li Ying ignored the pain in her back and forced herself to get up. She fought back the wave of shock and anger that threatened to overwhelm her. He was angry so she had to be calm. They both couldn't lose their temper. She looked up and his expression sent a jolt of fear through her. Cheng Yin had his teeth bared in a snarl and his eyes were wild, bloodshot, furious. She forced words past the bile in her throat. "Brother, I had to. The Ancestor needed her whip and this pointless war has gone on long enough. We must stop."
Ignoring her, Cheng Yin started to pace the length of the cave, muttering, "I had my suspicions but never did I think you would sell me out to our enemies. You have betrayed me. You lied and deceived. After all that I have done for you, for us." The last word he turned around and flung at her like a slap.
Li Ying drew a shuddering breath. To the last he would draw out her guilt with accusing words. "What has happened to you brother? You were not like this."
"What has happened to me?" Cheng Yin's voice rose. "I fought and killed and plotted—all to make us secure, yea, so that someone like our father could never touch us again. I carried the burden of my fool of a sister so that she may be happy and this is how I'm rewarded? Ungrateful wretch!"
Her anger rose at his accusation of being ill used. "So that I may be happy? You think this will make me happy, brother? You did this for your own greed. You have used me."
"How dare you!"
Li Ying forced calm back into her voice. "Brother, please, stop this destruction. You captured an innocent child. You have tortured and slaughtered thousands. How much more power do you need? I scarcely recognise you."
"You think me a monster?" Cheng Yin sneered. "You sat back, did nothing while I suffered, fought, gained the kingdom, secured our place. It was always I. Left to you we would still be cowering under the lash of father's whip. You are weak!"
Still he underestimated her. Even after everything. It was hard to keep her voice low as she saw through, finally saw through, his manipulation and control, "Brother, look at yourself. You sound like father. Stop this relentless pursuit of power. It will only bring fire and destruction on the realms. Let the Ancestor end the war and come away with me. We will have each other. Is that not enough? There is still time. It can be the two of us living peacefully like we used to imagine."
"I knew no good would come of you mingling with Celestials. I should have put a stop to it earlier but I was too indulgent."
Ever the liar, her brother. He twisted and used words as it suited him. "Indulgent? You needed me at Kunlun for your plans."
"We needed this victory, sister," He swiftly changed track, "So long as Celestials ruled we were unsafe. We would never be secure while there were threats and powers to rival my own." His eyes burned in anger. "You have doomed us both!"
Li Ying pressed her eyes closed, took a deep breath, and opened them. "My brother, my dear brother, please stop. For my sake please stop."
Cheng Yin was unmoved, no hint of affection in his eyes. "Treacherous girl! You will have me killed? Your own blood?"
"No!" Ice clutched around her heart. "The Ancestor said the war can be stopped with her whip."
"Fool! She will have me dead and take over my kingdom with her Celestial beside her. I will have the world burn before it happens."
Had the Ancestor lied? Or was this her brother's paranoia? In terror, Li Ying caught hold of his arm, imploring, "Brother you must not. What purpose will all our deaths serve? Don't do this."
Cheng Yin backhanded her, sending her stumbling. "As for you my naive, foolish sister, you will suffer a fate worse than the others. You, who are so eager to make new friends and be loved. My love was not enough for you."
For a moment she saw a flicker of disappointment in his eyes.
Her brother was gone, replaced by this madman. Only she had been too stubborn to see it, hoping that deep down her ge-ge could still be reached. Their father's torment had broken and twisted him on a fundamental level, she now saw. It was too late for her to do anything. He was beyond help.
"I had a gift prepared specially for you should this day ever come. Li Ying, Li Ying," he smiled. "What are you afraid of?"
She backed away, unable to stop trembling at his feral grin. Cheng Yin advanced upon her. "Remember this sister. Remember your brother was the only person who could love you and you carelessly threw him away."
Her back hit the cave wall and she shrunk as far from him as she could. She flinched as Cheng Yin bent, an almost affectionate look in his eyes, and kissed her forehead. His kiss was warm and protective, like a brother's.
"Remember this when you are alone in your torment biting yourself," he tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.
Li Ying felt the transformation before it happened. The monster lurking inside her rose, spread, taking over her mind and heart, like a dark shadow obliterating everything that was colourful and bright in her. She was forced on all fours, screaming as her back arched and her limbs twisted. Transformation into her true self always came as naturally to her as breathing. Yet when forced by Cheng Yin it twisted into something unnatural, ugly. Li Ying cried out as the bones in her body broke and realigned.
It was true, what Cheng Yin said. Her brother's madness, her father's rage, she'd always had it. Running in her blood, in her veins, tightening its tendrils around her heart no matter how hard she fought to keep it suppressed, denied. Blood called to blood. And the same blood that allowed her to betray her brother now betrayed her. She had never deserved the world's kindness or love. A monster, through and through, she had been a pretender walking amongst innocents, much like her brother.
A family of monsters killing each other and now the circle was complete. Had she thought she was any different? Foolish indulgence! She should have known that the day she broke her two humans. How could something as pure as love could touch her when she was dirty, baying for blood? The madness would have taken root sooner or later. A beast incapable of friendship, incapable of love, incapable of loyalty alone alone alone...
Her mind receded until only the rabid wolf remained. A white spot marked its forehead. A pair of brown and purple eyes glinted in the faltering light. Snarling, the wolf spun around, looking to attack its source of pain.
The cave was empty.
Deprived of its prey, the wolf threw back its head and howled in fury.
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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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