Ten Miles of Peach Tree Woods
Within Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms, all three men sat cross-legged around a small wine table centerpiece. Under a big fruit-bearing tree, while a gentle breeze blew around them lightly. The blush-hued, fully blossomed, peach flowers swayed ever so slightly and made a faint hush-hush whisper like sound.
Unfortunately, the beautiful, calm, tranquil surrounding went unnoticed, since the last thing the Fox King and Mo Yuan felt was peace or relaxation.
“Ye Hua believes Xiao Wu is his dead mortal wife. He’s agreed to a mutual cancellation, only if she spends three weeks with him.” Zhe Yan relayed Bai Qian’s message.
Zhe Yan’s shocking information about recently married Bai Qian, being with her previous fiancé Ye Hua, produced the same chemical reaction as putting baking soda in vinegar. Explosive.
Most upsetting to her father, Bai Zhi, but even more so for her new husband, Mo Yuan.
Zhe Yan, however, had time to adjust to the news since he was Bai Qian’s messenger. So, for once, he was the calm one within the trio. A real rarity during their brotherhood-like kinship, that spanned over two hundred thousand years.
The Fox King appeared openly upset that his daughter failed to discuss the matter with him, before leaving with Ye Hua…upset was a significant understatement. He was privately immensely infuriated.
Bai Qian was lucky she wasn’t around, because her father would have gotten the thickest peach branch, and given her a good old-fashioned whipping. Yes, the Fox King was old school.
Concerned, Bai Zhi turned his confused expression towards both Mo Yuan, Zhe Yan and asked skeptically, “Why does Ye Hua believes my Qian Qian is his deceased mortal wife? Is there a possibility he’s right?”
“I saw his mortal wife, SuSu, just once before her death. Yes, there were facial similarities, but then, I only saw the bottom half of her face. I even detected a faint scent of my peach orchard from the woman. She was blind also, well…actually, she didn’t have eyes.” Zhe Yan confessed.
“Please tell me Ye Hua’s wrong! I heard the terrible story about that poor creature. A true tragedy. If Qian Qian were SuSu, the results would be caustic for the Celestials. Possible war.” The Fox King declared.
Mo Yuan shared more intimate details of Seventeen’s mortal life, “No, Ye Hua can’t be correct. Seventeen told me about her mortal life, and she has her memories. She recalls her human life, vividly. Place, names, time and everything else.”
“Seventeen was the mortal woman, Chen, a concubine in a royal harem in Qing. She served the human man, Emperor Qianlong, for almost 30 years. How could she have been both SuSu and Chen at the same time?”
Mo Yuan queried and continued, “Let’s compare the timing. When did Seventeen return? Zhe Yan, how long after SuSu’s death did she come home?”
After a few moments, Zhe Yan replied, “It’s true. The timing is wrong. Xiao Wu came home almost a month and a half after Ye Hua fell into his sixty-year coma. I know because I treated him personally the day his mortal wife died. Xiao Wu’s mortal life ended naturally.”
He tilted his head doubtfully and Zhe Yan repeated firmly, “I know Xiao Wu died from a natural mortal death of old age. If she were Ye Hua’s mortal wife, she would have returned immediately after the jump from Zhuxian Terrace mostly dead!”
“Could Qian Qian in her mortal state survive, return to the human world and lived under a different alias? Maybe lost her memories from jumping off Zhuxian Terrace?” Bai Zhi asked doubtfully because the concept was improbable.
Zhe Yan scoffed at the absurdity of such a ridiculous idea. He retorted adamantly and confidently, “Impossible! I saw him with my eyes. Ye Hua the immortal was near death from the leap. Also, SuSu just gave birth, so her body was already weakened before her death. No, that’s not even feasible!”
The Fox King sighed profoundly and spewed, “Damn, I hate complication! Let’s attempt to simplify this matter. Shall we begin with Ye Hua being wrong, which I pray is the case.”
“Ye Hua will realize he’s wrong after a couple of weeks and Qian Qian will return. After a little while, we can announce her marriage with Mo Yuan. The Celestials will have nothing to say since the cancellation will be mutual.” Bai Zhi hoped this would be the result because it was simply cut and dry.
Playing devil’s advocate, Zhe Yan asked, “What if Ye Hua is wrong, but he won’t cancel the wedding, then what will we do?”
The Fox King scoffed and asked suspiciously, “Could Ye Hua’s absurd claim be a contrived plan created with Heavenly Lord, for a larger sum of compensation from Qingqiu?”
“Ye Hua wouldn’t do that.” Mo Yuan quickly defended his brother’s character.
“Well, if Ye Hua won’t agree, then we’ll cancel from our end, and immediately reveal Qian Qian and Mo Yuan’s secret wedding. Who cares when love’s involved, right? YOLO! You only live once, except Mo Yuan; he’s lived twice. Regardless, it’s only money! I’ll pay whatever they demand, but Zhe Yan, get some lubrication ready before they bend me over. Damn Celestials! No offense Mo Yuan.” Stated the Fox King as he patted Mo Yuan’s leg affectionately.
Mo Yuan chuckled and professed, “I’ll cover the compensation. Seventeen is my wife. I also have a responsibility in this matter, since I married her while she was still engaged to Ye Hua.”
“We don’t call you Tuzi (hare) for nothing! But in all fairness, my daughter seduced you, so let’s go 50/50.” Bai Zhi exclaimed boisterously.
Zhe Yan spoke frankly. “Tongues will wag after exposing Mo Yuan and Xiao Wu’s marriage. Let’s be honest; it’s a bit scandalous for one twin to marry the other twins fiancé, without previous cancellation.”
Highly humored, the Fox King snorted loudly and declared in a bold, booming voice, “Let them say whatever they please! When have we ever cared what others think or their opinion about us, right boys? They’re just green with envy and jealousy, so let them talk!”
Then he released a deep exhale and asked in a solemn tone, “This is only hypothetical, but what if Ye Hua is correct and my daughter was SuSu?”
The thought was terrible and frightful to everyone. The last thing the Fox King wanted to hear. If by some unexplained mystery, his Qian Qian were SuSu, then the situation would be precarious, even dangerous. Severe enough to declare war on the Celestials.
“If Xiao Wu was SuSu, how did she return to the human world alive? Jumping from Zhuxian Terrace? Ye Hua was and is still, the only immortal to survive such an insurmountable feat.” Zhe Yan reminded both Bai Zhi and Mo Yuan of the indisputable facts.
Bai Zhi swiftly glanced to Mo Yuan and remarked, “Shit, Mo Yuan! Then you’ve married a married woman.”
Then he paused thoughtfully, and considered his statement in silent reflection and finally asked, “Would a mortal marriage performed during a heavenly trial still be valid? Ye Hua may have married Qian Qian, but she was not in her real form. He married her temporary alias. What is the legality of this, Mo Yuan?”
Mo Yuan’s reply flew immediately, and turned the point towards what he felt was most relevant. “Seventeen’s mortal marriage isn’t the most critical issue if Ye Hua is correct. The most significant matter is he took her eyes! She suffered greatly. Unjustly. That’s my foremost concern.”
Zhe Yan nodded in concession and contributed, “Mo Yuan is entirely correct on this issue. SuSu was innocent and blinded. She suffered profound humiliation and prejudice during her time in Nine Heavens. She was the victim in Heavenly Lord, and Ye Hua’s side consort Su Jin’s treacherous and evil deeds against her.”
“I’ll have to kill them!” Bai Zhi roared in a fury. His face became blotchy and red with excitement.
In a swift movement, the Fox King threw his wine down his throat, and slammed the empty glass on the table forcefully. “I must have justice if my daughter was SuSu.” He growled in a tone full of wrath.
“I must see blood, or I won’t be able to face my ancestors when I go to the realm of nothingness! I’m sorry Mo Yuan, but I must seek vengeance, and will kill your brother first!” Bai Zhi was enraged.
The sorrowful expression on Mo Yuan’s face was one of grief and worry. Bai Zhi had the right to seek revenge for such brutality. What was done to SuSu was beyond justifiable. The sheer level of savagery was criminal. Unpardonable.
Thoughtful, Mo Yuan asked in a low voice, “Bai Zhi, if Seventeen was SuSu and you kill Ye Hua, then you’ll be killing your grandson’s father.”
“Damn those savages!” Bai Zhi bellowed in rage. He jumped to his feet and angrily stomped off unable to control his explosive temper.
After Bai Zhi was out of sight, Zhe Yan leaned closer to Mo Yuan and questioned, “Brother, what will you do if Xiao Wu was SuSu and she wants Ye Hua? When Xiao Wu returned from her heavenly trial, she didn’t show any signs of birthing a child, but let’s just say, worse case scenario, Mo Yuan. What will you do? She is now your wife also.”
“I’ll do what my heart tells me to, which is to make her happy. If Seventeen wants Ye Hua, then I must let her go. I’m too indebted to ask anything of her, Zhe Yan.” Mo Yuan replied soberly, but there was still a faint smile on his lips.
Anxiously, Zhe Yan grabbed the wine bottle, instead of pouring a glass. He gulped the entire contents of the dark glass container in one single prolonged drink.
He wiped his wet mouth with the back of his hand and stated with conviction, “Xiao Wu won’t be able to forgive Ye Hua if this happens to be the case. Not with her temperament. She might kill him before Bai Zhi even gets a chance.”
“Zhe Yan, love is mysterious. I taught her to love her enemies and to show mercy. Seventeen is more enlightened than you would expect or imagine. I’m an outstanding teacher. I’ll encourage her to follow her heart.” Mo Yuan’s voice softened when he spoke of his beloved disciple, Seventeen.
“The hell you will, Mo Yuan!” A booming voice roared from behind.
Fiercely, Bai Zhi shouted, “If by some freak of nature chance, she was the mortal SuSu, I’ll never allow her to remain with Ye Hua! Not as long as I’m still breathing! She’ll never live with the beast who maned her! My child is my life! I’d rather shave her head bald, and send her to a convent so that she can become a nun!”
“You’re her husband, Mo Yuan! Act like one! If you allow Qian Qian to continue with your brother after all is said and done, I’ll never see you again! If my daughter was the mortal SuSu and you permit her to stay with Ye Hua, I’ll never forgive you!” Bai Zhi was done talking and promptly left in a puff of hot vaporous air.
Mo Yuan closed his eyes after Bai Zhi’s sudden hostile departure. His anger was understandable and reasonable. Mo Yuan didn’t know what he’d do if Seventeen were the mortal SuSu.
Could he sit by idly and do nothing? Bai Zhi had a valid point; Seventeen was his wife. There would be a need for him to defend her honor and seek restitution for her sufferings, if she was SuSu.
Just as the Fox King and Mo Yuan were in an inner turmoil, Zhe Yan was also quite distraught. He’d watched Bai Qian grown from birth. He teased her relentlessly, but he loved her. She was the closest thing to a daughter he’d ever have.
He challenged, “If Xiao Wu was SuSu, you’re going to lose your wife to the man who purposely ripped out her eyes? Mo Yuan!? I have to agree with Bai Zhi on this one. I know Ye Hua is your brother, but Xiao Wu is your wife! He damaged SuSu to the point of suicide. The human chose death over staying with him and her newborn son. What does that tell you?”
“If you do nothing, I’ll never forgive you either.” Zhe Yan stated adamantly.
Mo Yuan sighed profoundly and exclaimed in a low, hushed voice, “I love my brother…I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I love Seventeen more. No, I won’t let Ye Hua have her. I can’t.”
“If Seventeen was SuSu, he’s hurt her once, so there’s a chance he could do it again. I can’t allow that to happen while I’m alive. No, Zhe Yan. I’d never forgive myself, if something ever happened to Seventeen.”
Mo Yuan continued in his soft voice, “She’s my wife and I won’t let her go.”
Mo Yuan uttered the most selfish words he’d ever spoken, and strangely felt relieved instead of guilty.
Zhe Yan spoke in earnest. “Mo Yuan, I’m putting my trust in you to protect my Xiao Wu. She’s my darling baby girl.”
While Mo Yuan and Zhe Yan came to their conclusion, the Fox King, Bai Zhi, without real validation was full of rage, resentment and wrath. Set on taking Ye Hua down if his daughter was the unfairly victimized mortal woman, SuSu.
All High Gods. Utterly commanding, dangerously powerful, mighty seasoned players…team Mo Yuan were now on the defense to protect their precious daughter, wife and beloved friend, Bai Qian of Qingqiu.
“Qian Qian,” Ye Hua’s soft voice called out as his hand tenderly caressed her sleeping face.
His face was close. Bai Qian felt the warmth of his breath on her cheek.
Lightly, Ye Hua whispered in her ear, “Qian Qian, it’s past noon. You can sleep more but eat some break…lunc…brunch first. Come on now. Wake up and eat a little something for me. A couple of bites and I’ll leave you alone all day. I promise.”
Bai Qian sat up groggy from sleeping too long. Yawning, she mumbled tired, “It was all the fresh air here that makes me sleep so much.”
Ye Hua snickered and bit his bottom lip slightly in the process. Yes, he openly laughed at her. He knew Bai Qian was lazy and napped or often slept just like she did when she was SuSu. She was the same and nothing had changed.
“What’s so funny?” Bai Qian turned her sleepy gaze at Ye Hua.
Still giggling, Ye Hua adoringly pushed her wild bedhead hair from her face, beamed and rose to set up her meal.
Grinning, Ye Hua watched her eat with an expression of pure satisfaction, and chuckled every now and then without a specific reason. He appeared pleased just to be near.
“I normally don’t sleep this much because I’m very active.” Bai Qian stated a boldfaced lie while looking directly at Ye Hua.
She then looked around and asked without expression, “Is there any wine? I’d like some…now.”
“You drink wine with breakfast and when you wake up in the morning?” Ye Hua asked dumbfounded by her ridiculously outlandish request.
Unfazed by Ye Hua’s stunned reaction, she replied proudly, “It’s past noon. It’s cocktail hour somewhere in the world. And yes, I drink wine with my breakfast. Sometimes, it is my breakfast.” Bai Qian’s self-declaration made her giggle delighted by her obnoxious behavior.
“There is, but…you’ve been sick, so, tomorrow. Not today, Qian Qian.” Ye Hua answered firmly like a strict father.
Miffed, she smirked at Ye Hua and continued eating while humming off-key. Bai Qian was utterly and entirely tone deaf.
Ye Hua was in high spirits and a fantastic mood. Bai Qian was privately annoyed. She disliked happy morning people. They were so darn irritating.
“Why don’t we take a short walk after you’ve finished here and then you can take a nap.” Ye Hua spoke with an adorable tiny smile on his full shapely lips.
Both he and Mo Yuan had the perfect cupids bow on their top lip. Charming and so utterly kissable.
A slow-paced stroll through a dense forest right out of a fairy tale was enchanting. An explosion of various scents from nature floating in the air; greens, woods, earth and floral all in perfect harmony.
Bai Qian took a deep long refreshing breath and felt glad Ye Hua suggested the walk.
He glanced at her hand as they walked and coaxed, “Qian Qian, you can hold my hand if you want to, because I want to hold yours too.”
Both hands immediately moved and tightly grasped behind her back. That was Bai Qian’s silent answer. Softly, Ye Hua chuckled when he saw her deliberate display.
“So, you purposely avoided your pregnant wife and then what happened?” Bai Qian picked up right where they’d ended their conversation the night before.
Ye Hua stopped walking and stared up at the bright, cloudless, blue, vast sky, took a deep inhale through his nose and finally replied wistfully, “Heavenly Grandfather and Su Jin made a deal. I didn’t realize until later, but he promised to grant her a position in my harem as my side consort. Of course, if she helped him get rid of you.”
“That’s when everything started to decline swiftly…between you and I. Many misunderstandings. Too many to mention but you became hurt in the process.” Ye Hua revealed solemnly.
Bai Qian didn’t understand by sharing and retelling their story, for Ye Hua in a sense, he was reliving the heartbreak again…still. The same tragically, haunting tale that replayed in his mind silently for hundreds of years, but now spoken out loud.
“Was Su Jin in love with you?” Bai Qian questioned curiously.
Ye Hua spoke with an expression of disdain, “Love or obsession…Yes. She’d expressed her affections for me since childhood. I saw her as an older sister or an aunt, but for Su Jin, it was more. Much more. A single-sided unrequited, obsessive love. An illness.”
“Isn’t she your side consort now? I’ve heard she’s favored by you. That’s what everyone believes. Another reason I won’t marry you is the fact that you already have two side consorts. I know only one is still living, but I’m going to be the one and only wife to the man I marry. He can’t have consorts, concubines or a harem. I won’t allow it.” Bai Qian clarified clearly for Ye Hua.
Ye Hua let out a single mocking laugh and stated, “She’s not my side consort. Far from it. I have zero contact with her. Su Jin isn’t allowed in my, your old or A-Li’s residences.”
Bai Qian started to walk again at the same leisurely pace. “Why didn’t you just pretend to care for Su Jin so she’d leave SuSu alone?” She asked.
“I don’t pretend. I don’t know how. I show how I feel and I can’t change that about myself. If I could I would have. But how could I lay my hands on Su Jin’s foul surface and then touch your clean skin? I wasn’t able then and I still can’t.”
Ye Hua paused and stated, “She’s the embodiment of all things evil and vile. Su Jin is the assistant to the enemy of my soul. The devil’s apprentice. The day I was forced to marry her, I drove my sword into her heart. My second biggest regret is not killing her.”
“What’s your greatest regret?” It was strange, but Bai Qian felt a cautionary precursor, and sense of fear to hear what would come from Ye Hua’s lips. Still, she asked the question to an answer she honestly didn’t want to know.
Abruptly, Ye Hua stopped walking again and with purpose, he deliberately delayed his response. He couldn’t bring himself to reply right away.
He hated to utter the words out loud but confessed shamefully, “I took your eyes. I blinded you with my own hands.” Ye Hua raised his hands and looked down at them woefully, as if he couldn’t believe he’d done such a nefarious deed. “These hands you taught to love, in return hurt you most heinously.”
Utterly disturbed, Bai Qian stared at him in terror and swiftly jumped back and away from Ye Hua. She shuttered and gawked at him with an expression of utter horror and shock.
She stuttered in confusion and demanded, “Ye Hu…Hua. Why the hell would you do that? What? Did you want an extra pair for yourself? She was your trusting wife that waited for you. She was a weak mortal!”
“How could you do such a thing to another person? The woman was carrying your child!” Bai Qian screamed in uncontrollable rage.
“You’re supposed to be a cultivated god! You’re a son of Heavenly Father who created the world! How could you do such a thing to another living being!?” Bai Qian shouted at him furiously as tears fell freely down her face in utter disbelief. She was weeping.
Ye Hua sobbed hysterically. Loud, bellowing wails echoed through the forest. He covered his eyes with both hands and bawled like a child.
Bai Qian angrily commanded for an answer, “Why? With your own hands to the mother of your child!?”
Between breathy, ragged, broken sobs, Ye Hua explained, “Su Jin staged a fake accident that blinded her and blamed you. I was trying to save your life. I thought if I did it myself, I could make it less painful and…”
“Less painful?! Bai Qian yelled in disbelief.
It was full ungovernable fury. She couldn’t get a hold of her ferocity. Bai Qian felt so badly for the poor mortal woman, who’d suffered so unjustly by the hands of Immortal Gods, who were supposed to be benevolent and more humane.
Loudly, she growled, “Both you and your Celestial Clan are animals! Hateful, vicious beasts!” Bai Qian’s blaring, screaming voice was deafening, and all the forest animals and occupants suddenly became silent.
She couldn’t control her wrath. Bai Qian didn’t know why she was so enraged, but the injustice and sheer brutality of such a ghastly act blew her mind. She couldn’t wrap her head around what she’d just heard, and oddly how profoundly her heart ached for the mortal woman, SuSu.
Unable to look at him anymore. She ran away from Ye Hua as fast as her legs could run. Bai Qian raced until her lungs felt as if they might collapse, and repeatedly screamed like a grieving creature in mourning.
Internally, she couldn’t understand her rage. It wasn’t about her. Ye Hua hadn’t taken her eyes, but she felt an unexplained kinship and connection to SuSu.
Violently, she lashed out as she pictured Ye Hua doing such a wicked deed. Bai Qian knocked down all the trees in her near radius with two swift, deadly, sweeps of her Jade Purity Fan.
Bai Qian precisely knew what if felt like to be a blind mortal woman. She fully empathized with poor victimized SuSu. Had she been around during her torturous treatment, she might, no, she would have put a stop to it.
Lovelessly, Bai Qian would have married Ye Hua to control his harem and save SuSu.
It was her duty and not because she was a cultivated High Goddess. But just as another living, breathing person to a fellow being. What SuSu endured was a sin against humanity. Inexcusable!
Ye Hua caught up with her and tried to hold Bai Qian, but she resisted him as if her life depended on it. With both hands balled into tight fists, she repeatedly hit him in the chest screaming ‘Why?’ so near to his face, that her spittle flew from her open yelling mouth.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” Was all Ye Hua could say. He cried in heavy, broken, ragged, torn breathes.
Distraught, Bai Qian’s limp body plummeted to the ground and she rocked herself in full hysteria. She whimpered in between sobs, “I wish I were SuSu for vengeance…punishment.”
She cried bitterly and declared, “If I were SuSu, I would kill you all!”
Bai Qian didn’t remember, but there was a part of SuSu still inside her who was weak, fragile and broken. She felt fury towards Ye Hua, Heavenly Lord and Su Jin, but it was also subconsciously directed at herself. Her self-pride wounded from her inability to protect herself when she was SuSu.
In a flash, the complex rotations within the tornado storm of three hundred years of pent-up anger, resentment and heartbreaking disappointment shattered their walls of containment. The damming barricades crumbled, and toppled down like the trees swept over by her Jade Purity Fan.
To be continued…..