The arrow seemed to come out of nowhere. One moment, Ye Hua was enjoying Bai Qian’s playful antics among the flowers, and the next, he was watching in horror as the projectile appeared in his peripheral vision, heading straight toward his wife’s back. She had no idea the arrow was aiming right for her, and there was no time to call out a warning.
Ye Hua had a split second to make a decision, and he didn’t hesitate to jump in front of her to block her from the weapon. He created a shield around them a second too late.
He felt a white hot, searing pain as the arrow embedded itself deeply in his shoulder. A cold, penetrating ache quickly followed as he felt icy, dark magic begin to spread down his arm. He staggered to one knee as he desperately tried to keep his shield in place to protect Bai Qian.
It took Bai Qian a couple seconds to fully process what had just happened. She felt a rage course through her as she watched Ye Hua drop to one knee right in front of her. She immediately summoned her fan and stepped in front of Ye Hua, frantically searching the forest around her for the source of the arrow that had struck her husband. She caught movement among the trees to her left.
With two broad sweeps of her fan, Bai Qian released two powerful bursts of deadly energy toward the movement, growling in frustration when her strikes met only empty air.
She shifted her fan into a sword and took a few running steps forward before halting. She wanted to hunt the perpetrator down, but she couldn’t leave Ye Hua unprotected. His shield around them was wavering, and she knew he wasn’t able to defend himself at the moment. He needed her to stay by his side.
Bai Qian, instead, focused her magic outwards, searching through the dense trees for the intruder who had dared to disrupt their peaceful interlude. She concentrated further when her sweeps of magic failed to find anybody. Ye Hua’s shield collapsed completely, and she glanced behind her, distressed to see his complexion becoming paler with every minute that passed.
Her need to keep her guard up fought against her natural impulse to go to him and offer aid and comfort. Her mind quickly formulated a plan to get them both out of here. She could jump them both to Kunlun Mountain, where she could safely leave Ye Hua to find Zhe Yan, who was the best person to help.
She began to steadily back up towards Ye Hua, continuing to keep her attention on the trees around her for any movement. Suddenly, she felt cold energy wriggle its way inside her head and she heard a deep, echoing voice within her mind.
Your husband is dying right next to you, my lovely fox goddess.
The words created a dull ache in her head, and Bai Qian lowered her sword slightly as she tried to push the intrusive magic out of her mind. The icy power evaded her every attempt to force it out.
How much cultivation are you willing to give for the weak dragon? Is he truly worthy of such a sacrifice?
The words echoed inside her mind as the dull pain in her head intensified into a sharp, stabbing ache that disoriented her. The tip of her sword dropped to the ground as her hold weakened.
You should not sacrifice for him. The dragon prince is not worthy of you, my beautiful fox goddess. Never forget this.
Ye Hua watched through a haze of pain and weakness as Bai Qian stumbled slightly and lowered her sword, bringing a hand up to her temple. He attempted to force himself to his feet, but his legs gave out under his weight. He collapsed back to the ground, angry at himself that he was unable to help Bai Qian when she was clearly beginning to struggle and needed him. He was frustrated at his inability to protect her.
Bai Qian whimpered in pain as the power abruptly released its grip on her mind and the voice suddenly left her head. She dropped down to her hands and knees, her sword disappearing, as confused thoughts became jumbled inside her mind. How had this happened? What should she do?
Ye Hua needed help. She closed her eyes and desperately tried to focus on this one thought and not on the churning confusion in her mind and the intense pain in her head. Zhe Yan. She needed to get to Zhe Yan, bring him here to help Ye Hua. Her thoughts scattered and she pounded her fist into the ground in frustration, reeling them back in.
She needed to get help for Ye Hua. No, she couldn’t leave him here alone. She needed to bring Ye Hua to Zhe Yan. Would Zhe Yan be able to help? Her thoughts began to wander. Who had invaded her mind? Why couldn’t she find him anywhere? No, that wasn’t important right now. She needed to focus on Ye Hua. He needed her help. Why did her head ache so much? Where had the arrow come from?
“Qian Qian.” Ye Hua’s weak voice helped her concentrate slightly through the storm of confused thoughts swirling in her mind. She winced with pain as she finally turned to face him.
He was laying on his uninjured side, the red stain on the shoulder of his robe growing increasingly larger as blood steadily seeped from his wound. His hand was reaching out towards her. She crawled over to him, tears running down the sides of her face, as her thoughts again tried to become jumbled.
“Ye Hua.” She grasped his outstretched hand with her own. She gently reached out to touch his shoulder pulling her hand away when he flinched in pain. She stared at her shaking hand, at his blood coating her palm. Where had the arrow come from? Who had invaded her mind? Why was Ye Hua not worthy of her?
Her thoughts were pulled back in when Ye Hua squeezed her hand firmly to grab her attention. She leaned her head down to rest against him.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered through a broken sob. “I don’t know what’s wrong. I can’t concentrate, can’t figure out how to help you.”
“Qian Qian,” Ye Hua responded, his voice filled with pain. He was extremely worried about his wife. She seemed distant and she wasn’t making sense. What had that bastard done to her? His strength was declining quickly. He needed to make sure she made it someplace safe. “You need to get to Kunlun Mountain. Now.”
“Yes,” she murmured, distracted, trying desperately to focus on his words and not allow her mind to continue to wander aimlessly from one thought to the next. “Shifu. Shifu will be able to help us.”
Bai Qian felt her thoughts start to scatter again, and she clenched her hand into a tight fist, purposely digging her nails in to her palm with enough force to draw blood. The pain helped her clarify her confused thoughts.
“Can you make it to Kunlun, Ye Hua?” she asked quietly, unsure if even she could concentrate long enough to make it there.
“No. You’re going to have to go without me. Send help once you are safe. Go now, Qian…” Bai Qian was alarmed as his voice trailed off. She continued to painfully clench her fist tighter and tighter as she grabbed him close to her with her other hand. She couldn’t leave him. She willed herself to focus long enough to jump both of them to Kunlun Mountain. She had to do this. Ye Hua’s life depended on her getting him there.
Long Wei watched the couple disappear from the now eerily silent forest. Drops of blood stained the flattened wildflowers within the previously peaceful clearing. A victorious smile slowly spread over his face before he quickly vanished, leaving no trace behind.
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