With his legs sprawled out crookedly before him, blood soaking through his robes at the shoulder and seeping between the cuts on his face, Ye Hua squinted a little from the mid-morning sun as he looked up.
I thought you and I had an understanding. Can you not start chirping already?!
Her little bird simply puffed itself out to ruffle its feathers as it sat quiet in its cage suspended above. And Ye Hua got the impression it was enjoying watching him grow bored and impatient slumped upon her steps.
Fine. See if I ever catch your cage again.
Propping his chin on his hand, Ye Hua leaned on his elbow and frowned.
Until just how late in the morning does she sleep?!
It had never occurred to him to consider this. Sleeping with her in his arms every night, Ye Hua had always changed back to her “black snake” before she awoke, leaving behind a sleeping form of it so he may head back to the Heavens without arousing suspicion. He’d always done this before dawn, assuming she rose with the sunlight and birdsong.
But this was the first time he hadn’t changed back nor left to return to the Heavens… the first of many if his strategy worked. After gently extracting his arms from around her and rising quietly from the bed, Ye Hua had walked out of her bedroom this time; his robes and hair transforming to those of a mortal man as he descended the hut’s steps in the predawn hour.
Eager for the sun to rise, Ye Hua excitedly spent several minutes trying out different “pity” poses. He had decided after having spoken with his third uncle that he would pretend to be a man who’d been attacked by a monster.
First, he’d lain flat on his stomach with his arms stretched above his head grasping the top step, as if he’d collapsed trying to crawl his way up. Hmm, too dramatic… I may frighten her thinking I’d been trying to break in.
Ye Hua then tried lying curled on his side on the ground at the base of the steps, clutching his middle. No, not good either. I should be clutching my shoulder since that’s where I’ll be putting the blood stains… No wait, maybe the middle is better because that would make sense when I cough up blood at the same time. But from this angle off the ground, he worried she wouldn’t catch sight of him right away when she’d emerge from her bedroom.
He finally decided to simply sit hunched over on the steps as if he could go no further after having stopped there before continuing on his way. Yes, that would be good. Ye Hua was just about to create the injuries to his shoulder and add the blood stains to the robes of his disguise when he paused.
I’m missing something… And his brow furrowed in concentration.
He absolutely needed a sword if he were going to be convincing as a man who travelled in the wilderness. Quickly Ye Hua conjured an unassuming broadsword sheathed in a well-worn scabbard. Looking at it, he wondered if he should unsheathe it and hold it in his hand. Adding blood to the blade would add credence to his tale as well.
But maybe coming upon him with a bloodied sword in his hand would frighten her … Keep it in its sheath propped beside me then.
The first rays of dawn rose from the eastern horizon.
And so Ye Hua waited.
Why isn’t she coming out of her bedroom? The birds in the forest had long before started their morning song. She surely couldn’t still be sleeping, could she? Yet given the absence of sound from behind her bedroom door, a surprised Ye Hua realized she definitely could be.
Could he rouse her somehow? For a moment, Ye Hua entertained the idea of calling out but quickly decided against it. No, he wanted her to come upon him in her own way. He was eager to catch her look of pity when she found him.
So he waited. But as the morning stretched on, Ye Hua grew impatient as all remained quiet in her room. She still wasn’t getting up.
Then it occurred to him. Her little bird was quiet too. Ye Hua thought about how he’d spared the creature an unpleasant tumble when its cage had nearly fallen off the bed. And now Ye Hua smiled as a gleam of mischief appeared in his dark eyes. You owe me one, little bird. Time to collect. With a wave of Ye Hua’s hand, the birdcage, along with its occupant, materialized on the hook above the window sill.
Will she be alarmed to find it here? To the best of Ye Hua’s knowledge, she’d never questioned how the birdcage had come to be on her bedside table the next day rather than in her bed where she’d brought it (for Ye Hua had never put it back before he left, in case it would fall again). Ye Hua had to believe her endearing ability to fail to remark upon such things would extend to her believing she’d left the cage outside overnight.
Waiting for her little bird to join in the morning chorus of the woods and thus awaken her, Ye Hua took the time to look at his shoulder again. Was there enough blood? He added some more stains to the back of it just to be safe. Hmm… is that enough? Mortal men would bleed more from injuries inflicted by a monster, no? Ye Hua increased the amount so his entire side was soaked. Ugh, no, no, no, too much! It looked like he was bleeding out to death so he changed it back to how it was before.
I know I’m missing something again.
Though his upswept hair was held by a pin, Ye Hua had made sure it looked tousled. He’d added a pallor beneath his honey-toned skin and beads of sweat upon his face as well. His face! That’s it! I need something that will catch her eye right away. Extending his forefinger and index at his face, Ye Hua scored his left cheek. The cut began to bleed. There that should do it.
Her up-till-then silent bird was now staring straight at Ye Hua with its feathered head tilted most disapprovingly. Ye Hua arched a brow at it. Oh, so now you decide to speak up. Fine, fine, everyone’s a critic. Ye Hua raised his fingers again and made a parallel cut on his cheek.
Glancing back up at the bird who’d fallen silent once more, Ye Hua watched it puff itself out and shake out its feathers again.
Alright, I think that sho–
Tweet! Tweet! Tweet!
Oh? Really? Well, if you think so. When Ye Hua added a third cut now, the bird turned away in its cage and began preening its wing feathers. That’s it? You’re not going to continue chirping?
The bird ignored him. And Ye Hua settled himself to wait… again.
He’d come the evening before to ensure she hadn’t been traumatized by what she’d witnessed the other day before enacting his plan in the morning. Though she hadn’t been frightened at all when it happened, Ye Hua knew that sometimes it took time for shock to set in.
So he’d been there and listened out of sight when she spoke to her empty basket as if he were there. She spoke of having wanted to dig a winter burrow for him but that it had all come to naught since he was really a dragon and had flown away.
That priest had been lucky he’d faced the dragon and not Ye Hua himself! A fury Ye Hua had never felt before had taken hold of him when the priest had incited the crowd against her, and Ye Hua had barely stopped himself from emerging in his human form just so he could satisfy his raging urge to beat the priest to a pulp with his bare hands… Instead, Ye Hua had unleashed his dragon form, knowing it would hold the crowd back.
But Si Ming had best not hold back punishment however.
The forlorn tone of her voice had nevertheless reassured Ye Hua that she was none the worse for wear in terms of shock, and his plan come morning would be alright.
After he watched her take her bird with her to bed, he’d waited outside her door till he was sure she’d fallen asleep, then he materialized at the side of her bed. Leaning down, he gently pried the birdcage from her grasp, for she slept with her fingers tightly clutching the tiny bars this time. Once done, Ye Hua placed the birdcage on the side table, nodding to the little bird therein who just squat there eyeing him.
Ye Hua sat down on the edge of her bed and proceeded to remove his boots, neatly placing them alongside her small shoes. Then lifting the edge of the wedding quilt she’d gotten for them, he settled himself underneath it to lay beside her. Ye Hua saw nothing wrong with this. After all, she’d gotten the blanket to keep him warm, had she not? Though her snake was gone, he still had an obligation to fulfill in that respect.
It didn’t even take a minute before she rolled over in her sleep and stretched out her arm to embrace him, as she always did. And Ye Hua’s heart warmed, as it always did as well, when he slipped his arm beneath her to bring her closer. But whereas he would normally fall into a blissful sleep til just before dawn, this night he stayed awake, gently stroking her forearm that lay across his chest.
Ye Hua smiled softly to himself anticipating what tomorrow would bring.
She was up!!
Ye Hua heard shuffling behind her door. And as if that had been his stage cue all along, her little bird finally burst into song. Why thank you, Ye Hua thought dryly. You couldn’t have done that 3 hours ago? Then Ye Hua forgot all about the bird as he fixed his gaze upon her closed door, awaiting his stage cue as well.
The door swung open and she emerged with bowl in hand making a beeline straight for the birdcage.
Ye Hua began coughing while throwing furtive glances her way. Yes! He saw her put down the bowl and heard her quickening footsteps as she raced outside.
Coughing and moaning in earnest now, Ye Hua grimaced as best he could.
“What’s wrong? Are you alright?” she cried as she flew down the steps and crouched beside him.
No! I’m very, very injured. Can’t you tell? And to make it clear, Ye Hua vomited up the blood he’d kept pooled inside his cheek for this moment which he was pleased to see riveted her attention.
Now slump forward and look like you’ve passed out.
She’d have made a poor physician, disregarding his bloodied shoulder as she slung his arm behind her neck to try and lift him. So as to make it easier for her, Ye Hua rose upright himself, which she didn’t notice as she “carried” him up the steps.
It took everything Ye Hua had not to break out laughing as she lead him inside her hut.
He couldn’t help but peek at her. How adorable she looked!
Like a little bird herself, she fluttered about her table grinding more of that noxious concoction she’d smeared on his wounds before when she’d thought she’d been treating an injured snake.
After having sat so many hours on the hard steps outside, Ye Hua was enjoying the soft feel of thei.. her bed beneath him as he lay comfortably on his back.
Focus Ye Hua… He was letting himself get distracted and forgetting to act out his pain. When she turned his way again, he coughed and tried to look as pitiful as he could.
It had soon become evident to Ye Hua that she prattled on when she was nervous… and he loved the sound of her voice. His excitement rose again with the anticipation that after these three months he would finally be able to share his with her.
I need to sit up to speak with her better.
Remembering to grimace and moan, Ye Hua made a show of struggling to sit upright, which earned him a chiding as she raced over to help him. “Don’t move! Don’t move! You’ve bled a lot!” she said. Bled? No, I’m still bleeding. I’m very injured after all! But I should reassure her a little, shouldn’t I? So Ye Hua dropped the grimace and assumed a straight face as he told her not to worry, that it was just a minor injury, all the while making more blood spill from his mouth.
“Minor injury?! You’re still bleeding!”
It was only when she dashed out of the room after saying she would cleanse his wounds, that Ye Hua let himself relax again for a moment, revelling in the success of his plan thus far.
Thin rivulets of blood continued to course down his chin as he smiled at the inside of her hut. He’d never seen the interior in the daylight with his human eyes before. He was amused to see how despite her scattered way of thinking, she kept her hut tidy and clean. The neatly folded wedding blanket he saw as he looked down to his left, attested to that. And though she might return at any moment, Ye Hua couldn’t stop himself from leaning over and caressing the red silk… imagining how it would feel to lay with her beneath it while they were both awake.
Her footsteps were coming back! Ye Hua quickly closed his eyes and moaned, letting himself drop back against the bedpost. Should I spit up some more blood? he wondered as he resumed his coughing. I need to stop letting myself get distracted! I keep forgetting to cough. And I must do better to moan from time to time. It would be good too if I can–
“Can you take off your clothes yourself?”
. . .
. . .
. . .
Ye Hua!!! Focus!
He started to fumble with his sash but dropped his hands when a certain thought struck him. Would she…? Only one way to find out, so with a loud thump of his head against the bedpost, Ye Hua pretended to almost pass out again.
Will she do it?
Will she do it?
Will she do it?
“All right, all right. I’ll help you,” she said shyly.
And all reminders to cough, moan, and grimace flew out of his head at the touch of her delicate hands undressing him.
She was so pretty.
Ye Hua couldn’t take his eyes off her face. So pretty, so enchanting, so… desirable. Ye Hua’s expression softened. And the more worried and agitated she became as she peeled off his blood-soaked robe from his shoulder, the calmer yet more intense his gaze became.
His entire body tingled as she wiped her wet cloth on his skin, and he simply couldn’t take his eyes off of her. Her face was so expressive, so delightful to watch. You have beautiful eyes in the daylight, Ye Hua thought as he shook his head gently when she asked if she was hurting him applying her “medicine”.
At least this time the mashed herbs she applied would cause no harm. The ugly gashes he’d taken his time ensuring looked as raw and bloodied as possible were not real.
It was then that she realized he was staring at her for she paused to stare back at him. Their gazes held, as did Ye Hua’s breathing, until she was the one to look away.
Only when she went to change out the water and he was no longer held captive by her eyes, did Ye Hua’s brain turn back on and finally register the tears he’d been seeing and her current weeping in the other room. Have I gone too far? Why is she crying like that? Ye Hua sighed. His acting skills were simply too good and he’d let himself get carried away by them.
She called out that maybe she should seek a physician for him. No, no one else may be here. It has to be just you and I. So again, Ye Hua decided to play upon her innocence. Raising his fingers, he sealed off the gashes rather than make them.
“Your wound is healed?” The disbelief in her voice was evident when she sat back beside him.
Ye Hua bolted upright and looked to his shoulder in shock. “It is healed!” he made sure to exclaim in wonderment and awe. But this time, she was not so quick to fall for his tricks. She kept staring at his shoulder in disbelief. Say something, Ye Hua! But before he could, she leaned forward to touch him directly.
. . .
. . .
. . .
He could neither utter a sound nor think; her face was so close, her eyes looking right up into his. Ye Hua was paralyzed by her touch on his skin, the spell of which only broke when she leaned away in embarrassment, realizing what she’d done.
Ye Hua scolded himself again. He had to stop losing himself in her eyes. There was still more to his plan to go!
Pulling up his sleeve on his own in order to cover himself, Ye Hua asked if she’d used the rare magical healing herbs he’d heard existed on Mount Junji –complete nonsense he’d just made up. No such herbs existed but he had to ensure she wouldn’t continue to question how he’d healed so magically. How honest she was! Admitting she picked the herbs at random and had no idea.
Then she asked if he had any internal injuries.
Ugh, Ye Hua! You forgot again! She must continue to believe I’m injured so she’ll keep me here. Covering his mouth with his hand, he gave a few pitiful coughs. “Why yes, I have severe internal injuries.” Then she finally asked the question he’d been prepared for since the start.
“Why are you so badly injured? Did you encounter an enemy?”
Now was his chance to further ensure she would wish him to stay with her here for a little while at least.
“I came across a monster and fought it,” Ye Hua told her.
That lovely light in her eyes surged with her astonishment.
When he asked her if she’d known there were monsters on this mountain she continued to look so adorable with her wide open eyes and rosy flushed cheeks. “Monsters?!” she exclaimed. But she’d been there for months and had never encountered any she told him.
“You…” but just as Ye Hua had been about to ask her why months only and where had she come from before then, some of the blood he’d still been holding back slipped down his throat making him cough for real this time. And while it robbed him of his question, it did earn him her touching him again, as she insisted he was in no shape to continue talking and that he should lie down. He allowed her to push him gently back down onto the bed.
“I will go prepare some food for you,” she said now.
And Ye Hua’s smile would not be contained any longer as he happily lay beside their blanket, knowing the day was far from over.
The Heart of the Dragon by SunInTaurus is a retelling of key scenes from the original drama from Ye Hua’s point of view. Read it on Wattpad.
Love this story as it broadened the scene from the film.
Thanks for reading! The collected work can be read for free on Wattpad if you’re interested in more.
I loved reading this I love 10 miles peach 🍑 blossom 🌸 yehua and su.su beautiful love story