*mature content (18+)
“Jia Yun, if you’ve come to Qing Qiu to escape the frosts of the North you’ve come at the wrong time!”
Bai Qian chuckled as Ye Hua’s civil officer bowed to her.
It was a lovely, late winter’s day in Qing Qiu. A light dusting of snow had fallen overnight. She could hear Ali’s laughter coming from outside the Fox Den as he and Mi Gu played in the cold powdery stuff.
“Crown Princess,” Jia Yun smiled back at her. “You’ve no idea. But I bring a missive from his Majesty for you.”
The officer stepped forward to place a scroll in Bai Qian’s hand.
“How go the treaty talks?” she asked.
Ye Hua was away on a diplomatic mission in the Snow Ranges, overseeing the implementation of a treatise between two Ice Mountain clans that had been in conflict for years. The Crown Prince’s presence ensured that both sides would honour and respect any and all agreements reached, knowing the Ninth Sky was directly involved.
“They are going well, your Highness. The Crown Prince thinks he should be able to wrap things up in the next few days.”
Bai Qian had decided to come visit the Fox Den with Ali during Ye Hua’s absence from the palace. Ali had been delighted. He loved to visit his fox relatives and his “uncles” Mi Gu and Zhe Yan.
After exchanging a few more pleasantries, Jia Yun politely took his leave.
Settling down at her favourite seat with a very hot cup of tea, Bai Qian unrolled Ye Hua’s scroll…
Dearest Qian Qian,
The treaty talks are proceeding well. But every night, my thoughts are only of you and how much I miss you. I hope you and Ali are enjoying your visit to Qing Qiu –a place vibrant even in winter I’m sure, not like the dull snowbound cliffs here.
As I drift to sleep tonight, I will dream of you in my arms.
Bai Qian’s fingertips lightly caressed the refined brush strokes forming Ye Hua’s words. As a painter, his calligraphy was most exquisite. She could see in her mind’s eye his long, slender fingers holding his brush, his hair sliding forward past his shoulders as he leaned forward to write this.
It had been nearly a week since he’d been gone and she missed him.
Blowing the steam coming off her cup, Bai Qian rested her chin in her palm. She recalled the one time she’d been to the Snow Ranges herself. She’d been just a kit. Her fourth brother had brought her there to show her what “real snow looked like” –she having complained to him once too often about the lack of it in winter in Qing Qiu.
Dull snowbound cliffs? You’re being kind, Ye Hua. More like a colourless, lifeless frozen wasteland. After the initial euphoria of seeing so much snow in one place, the spirited, adventurous, warm-blooded mammal that was little Bai Qian had quickly grown bored of, and chilled from, the endless expanse of ice and snow. She felt a little sorry for her fiery dragon being stuck in such a place right now.
Bai Qian’s daydreaming gaze lingered over his words some more.
Poor Ye Hua… Maybe sending my warm thoughts would help?
Bai Qian’s eyes snapped into focus. The corner of her mouth twitched, a sly half smile on the corner of her lips. Lowering her teacup to the table, she conjured brush and scroll.
“Mi Gu! Is all well? What brings you here?” Ye Hua descended from the stone dais to greet him face-to-face. It just happened to be during a break in the talks that Bai Qian’s tree sprite had arrived and been escorted to Ye Hua’s private quarters by Jia Yun.
“All’s well, Crown Prince. Gu Gu asked me to deliver this missive to you.” Mi Gu bowed his head as he handed Bai Qian’s scroll to Ye Hua. “She said to tell you she wished to send you her warm thoughts,” Mi Gu emphasized, “in response to the missive you’d sent her.”
The moment Ye Hua took the scroll, Mi Gu started bouncing from foot to foot and blowing into his balled hands. Ye Hua, wrapped in a thick black fur cloak and boots, could sympathize with the tree sprite. It was indeed quite cold in this place.
“Thank you for the missive, Mi Gu. You best head back now. This is no place for a tree sprite to be. Your roots will freeze if you stay too long. Tell Bai Qian that I appreciate her warm thoughts. I should be able to join her and Ali in Qing Qiu in a few days.”
Mi Gu blew into his hands once more before giving Ye Hua a grateful, quick nod then cloud-jumping away.
With the first true feeling of warmth he’d had in days, Ye Hua settled back into his seat at the dais and unrolled Bai Qian’s scroll.
My beloved Ye Hua,
Ali and I miss you very much. We’ve had a rare, light dusting of snow here in Qing Qiu but of course that does not compare to the land of ice and snow you find yourself in now.
I too dream of being in your arms every night. Were I there with you, I would slip all my tails under your robes to touch your skin and wrap them about your body to keep you warm.
The steaming cup of broth Ye Hua had brought halfway to his mouth as he started to read now hung suspended in the air.
“Jia Yun? Is everything ok? You were just here yesterday.”
The civil officer bowed his greeting. “Crown Princess, his Highness asked me to deliver a new missive to you today.”
Bai Qian’s eyebrow arched. “Oh?”
She held her hand out for Jia Yun to give her the scroll. The bamboo slats still held the chill of that far off northern land.
“Did Ye Hua wish for me to respond right away?”
“The Crown Prince didn’t say, my Lady. He just said he wished to convey to you his warm thoughts in return and requested I deliver this to you now.”
“If that is all then,” the reserved Jia Yun said.
Bai Qian nodded and Jia Yun vanished in a cloud of mist.
She paused, contemplating the rolled bamboo before she pulled at its string…
Dearest Qian Qian,
You are correct. A light dusting of snow in Qing Qiu does not compare to this land of ice. But were you here at night even with your lush tails around me, I’d worry that you’d be cold too. So nestling you in my arms, I would slowly remove every piece of your clothing, then mine. Skin to skin contact is the best way to maintain body warmth.
(…to be continued…)
***Liking this story? You can read the complete work over on Wattpad:
“Wet Ink” written by SunInTaurus is part of the Peach Blossom Dreams – Short Stories anthology (18+). Read the collection of works by various 3310 fanfiction writers over on Wattpad.