Trailing her slender fingers along a blossom-laden branch in a gentle caress, Bai Qian meandered aimlessly through her family’s peach grove. Tidy rows of trees, their fragrant blooms perfuming the air year-round without end, stretched out for miles before her. The full moon hung suspended above her in a cloudless sky, its soft glow illuminating the crisp, cold night around her. Winter had taken hold of the immortal realms and wouldn’t release its grip until spring.
The night breeze picked up, ruffling Bai Qian’s hair, her long wavy tresses falling freely down her back. She pulled her woolen cloak, the deep color of cocoa, tighter around her with a shiver when a chill prickled its way over her skin. Every breath she exhaled was visible in the night air. She disliked the cold, usually doing everything she could to avoid it. But, tonight, she did not raise a barrier around herself to keep out the chill; she welcomed it for it matched her restless and melancholy mood. An empty void of loneliness filled her, making it impossible for her to relax.
With a sad smile slipping across her lips for a brief moment, Bai Qian directed her gaze upwards as she walked. A full moon in a cold winter sky.
Bai Qian’s mother would say it was a night for lovers, a night for whispered promises spoken while holding a cherished one close. It was a night for losing oneself within the raging fires of passion as they burned away the icy hours of darkness, a night for love and desire wrapped up in affection and comfort while spending intimate time with the other half of one’s soul.
Her steps slowing to a halt, Bai Qian pushed back the unexpected tears welling up in her eyes with the unwanted direction of her thoughts. She managed to hang on to her composure but a pained frown now graced her delicate features. She should be warmly sheltered within the protective embrace of her two dragons on a night such as this, the heat from their hard bodies enveloping her as they possessed her mind, body, and heart, filling her completely in all ways over and over and over… until that moment of euphoric pleasure engulfed the three of them and it became impossible to tell where her soul ended and theirs began.
Her eyes slid closed, her lips parting with a gasp as hazy memories of a passion filled night filtered through her mind, the pictures moving too rapidly for her to hang on to any one of them for longer than a second. She shivered from a very different kind of chill this time; her nipples tightening as she reached for one image after another. A familiar ache throbbed between her thighs, her core clenching with need, as one image after another slipped from her grasp. Her undergarments grew damp with her aroused longing as she failed to bring any sort of clarity to her memories.
She was losing them, her dragons. A few uncontrolled tears slipped down her face.
Forcing her eyes open, Bai Qian wiped the stray tears from her cheeks, ignoring the powerful urge to seek the privacy of her room in order to try and find some kind of relief for her lonely aching body. She knew very well that to do so would only lead to frustration. It wouldn’t matter how expertly she tweaked her tight nipples and caressed her bare breasts, how firmly she stroked her fingers along her moist folds and against her swollen clit, or how vigorously she pulsed her cultivation up into her core while running arousing vibrations through the streams of her power. None of those things worked for her body anymore. They would drive her right to the edge but she could never find that final blissful moment of release, no matter how hard she tried to push herself over.
All her lonely frustration had started right after the moment she had run from her dragons, right after they had stopped searching for her. Her victory in evading them had been a hollow one because, immediately after, they pulled away from her. She had felt none of the expected relief when Ye Hua’s portraits of her had disappeared from the realms or when Mo Yuan’s soldiers had gone back to their regular duties. Her erotic and sweet dreams of them had dissipated into blank, empty nights. She hadn’t been able to climax by herself since. And she could forget trying to seek pleasure with another; intimate touches from other men were not only unfulfilling, the mere thought had become repulsive to her.
But it wasn’t only a physical emptiness her dragons had left behind in their wake. Bai Qian often felt sad for no reason she could define. She could be surrounded by friends and family and still feel all alone. The activities she used to enjoy had lost a lot of their meaning. She had thought once Mo Yuan and Ye Hua stopped looking for their sweet fox, her life could go back to some semblance of normalcy. But that was not the case. She missed them more than ever and yet they felt further away from her than they ever had.
She started walking again, attempting to escape the heavy loneliness in her chest and the pulsing ache of need between her thighs. Not even the bitter cold of winter could completely numb away her desperate need or chase away her feeling of isolation. No matter how much Bai Qian tried to avoid it, the truth was there, staring her in the eye. Her life had faded into something bleak and colorless without her dragons by her side, her body always longing to be possessed while remaining perpetually unfulfilled, her heart always lonely yet stubbornly unmoved by any other. No matter how much it shamed a part of Bai Qian to admit, she needed Mo Yuan and Ye Hua in her life to be happy; she could no longer deny the truth of it.
Reaching the end of the orchard, Bai Qian stopped to rest underneath a large peach tree, realizing with surprise this had been her intended destination the whole time. This tree was her tree, the one she had planted as a sapling and cared for over the years. Nobody in her family had helped her; she had poured so much of herself into this tree to help it stay healthy and reach maturity.
Bai Qian loved this peach tree above all the others and she had always selfishly kept the blossoms and peaches from it all to herself. So her undeniable urge to give her dragons all the blossoms from her tree when she had left them behind that night should have told her more than anything else that Ye Hua and Mo Yuan were special, that her night with them was much more than a passionate one night stand in her heart. It had taken her tree years to flower again after she had stripped it of its blossoms and yet she hadn’t been bothered by the loss at all; that in itself spoke volumes about her feelings for the dragon princes.
Looking up at the moon through the tangle of branches and blossoms above her, Bai Qian considered her next step, hesitating with uncertainty. She could never convince herself to regret her passionate night with Mo Yuan and Ye Hua and she didn’t regret seeking them out at the Summer Solstice Festival. But she did regret running from her dragons when they sensed her close to them. She wanted a chance to correct her mistake, wanted to reach out to them.
Would they even care to see her now that they had stopped looking for her? Had they moved on from her? Could the three of them make a happy life together?
The agonizing fear of ending up alone after a doomed love affair with the dragon princes, abandoned and heartbroken while watching Mo Yuan and Ye Hua move on with their proper wives, still lingered within her heart and mind. But how was that any different than the way she felt right now? She didn’t know how a relationship with her dragons would eventually end if she never allowed them to get close to her. Shouldn’t she take the risk? Weren’t they worth it? Yes… a potential life with her dragons was worth pursuing.
And if it all fell apart? At least Bai Qian would be able to say she had tried instead of running away from the possibility of happiness like a coward.
Two pink peach blossoms from her tree appeared in Bai Qian’s outstretched palm, protected from the frost of winter by Bai Qian’s magic the way every other tree in the orchard was protected by her family’s magic. She wrapped the blossoms in a preservation spell as she faded out of sight to go to her bedchamber. She had many important questions and she knew of only one way to get the answers she sought. But even beyond her desire to find those answers, she longed to see Mo Yuan and Ye Hua again, to feel their warmth and desire surrounding her once more and to have them entirely immersed within her again.
Preoccupied with recording the details of a new battle strategy he had developed with input from Ye Hua, Mo Yuan did not turn his attention to the numerous scrolls awaiting his response until very late in the day. He signed his name to the sheet of paper spread out before him with a satisfied smile; his part in the project was now complete. Ye Hua just needed to look it over one last time and then add some illustrations to help further explain the different tactics before they handed it off to their father for final review.
His neck and shoulders stiff from writing all day, Mo Yuan stretched his sore muscles, wincing as he did. His smile fled quickly when he saw the large number of bamboo scrolls stacked on the corner of his desk. There hadn’t been so many earlier in the day! How had he missed the sight of them piling up right in front of him? It would take him most of the evening to slog his way through all of them. He contemplated leaving them be until morning but then discarded the idea. There would be plenty of work demanding his attention tomorrow without adding today’s tasks to it and, unlike Ye Hua, procrastination had never really been Mo Yuan’s style.
Grumbling under his breath, Mo Yuan reached for the scroll on top of the stack, judging how urgent the message contained within would likely be based on the waxen imprint sealing the scroll closed. Using the images on the wax seals as a guide to identify the origin, Mo Yuan started separating the scrolls into three piles based on importance. Some would need to be dealt with immediately; others could wait until he had some extra time. Then there were the few he was unsure about.
He uncovered the lone paper scroll amidst all the bamboo towards the bottom of the stack, pausing when he noticed it. A ribbon of mint green silk tied into a bow secured the scroll closed instead of the usual wax seal. Mo Yuan sighed. It must be a letter from some lady of the realms declaring her strong feelings for him; he received them from time to time as did his brother. Deeming the scroll unimportant, Mo Yuan created a fourth pile for scrolls he would very likely never respond to and reached for the next scroll waiting in the original stack.
His eyes helplessly drawn back to that simple paper scroll, Mo Yuan found himself abruptly changing his mind about it, ignoring the next bamboo scroll and reaching for the intriguing roll of paper instead.
Composed of high quality paper, the only adornment on the outside of the scroll other than the neatly tied ribbon was his name written with black ink in gracefully feminine brush strokes, handwriting he didn’t recognize. And he noted it was only his name written there without the addition of his official title or any other formal address as was protocol. Despite himself, the familiar use of his name piqued Mo Yuan’s curiosity even more, prompting him to untie the ribbon and open the scroll.
His heart skipped a beat when a single peach blossom slipped from the paper and slowly floated down to his desk, settling on the wooden surface before him without a sound. All thoughts of the other scrolls vanished from his mind as Mo Yuan studied the light pink blossom, wondering for a moment if he could be imagining its presence, relieved when it did not fade away from his sight.
Mo Yuan picked it up with unsteady fingers, rubbing the soft petals gently as he lifted it to his nose. The arousing fragrance of peaches and his female fox filled his senses when he breathed in, igniting a fire within him. He had almost given up hope that his and Ye Hua’s ploy would ever work, had almost convinced himself he would never experience the wonder of holding her close again. Finally, she was reaching out to them but Mo Yuan cautioned himself not to get too excited. The happiness growing inside him may be short lived once he read her words. Was the blossom a final parting gift from his sweet fox? Or could it be an invitation for more lovemaking?
Turning his attention back to the paper still in his hand, Mo Yuan read the message written there with the same feminine brush strokes as those forming his name, scarcely daring to hope.
After sunset on the night of the next full moon.
A flood of need rushed through Mo Yuan at her invitation, his heart speeding up and his clothing growing uncomfortably tight as his length hardened with arousal. Her influence over his body was instantaneous; it always had been. All it took was one single thought or memory of holding his sweet female fox and his erection would be rock hard, ready to possess her, in seconds. His nights continued to be filled with erotic dreams of making love to her. How many nights had he awakened in bed to find himself engorged and aching, always on the very edge of climax? He had lost count of the number of times he had taken himself in hand and stroked himself to release in the early morning hours.
And yet, even with all his bottled up sexual frustration, Mo Yuan had not once sought to ease his body’s needs with another woman. The opportunity was there; women willing and eager to share his bed were all around. They always had been and, in the past, Mo Yuan had been known to enjoy a night or two with one of them on occasion. Even during his periods of intense study when he abstained from all aspects of sex, the desire and interest were still there within him. But now, his interest in those women around him had disappeared. It didn’t matter how aroused he had been from a dream the night before or how unsatisfying the use of his hand to find relief had been; any intimate touches from women other than his female fox left him feeling nothing more than cold and indifferent.
Mo Yuan knew it wasn’t just him that had been changed by that night in the bamboo forest. He had watched Ye Hua turn down one sexual invitation after another. His brother’s lack of interest in other women had surprised him. More social than Mo Yuan even on his worst days, Ye Hua had enjoyed female company both in and out of the bedroom often over the years. While periods of celibacy were not that unusual for Mo Yuan, they were unheard of for Ye Hua. Yet, to the best of Mo Yuan’s knowledge, Ye Hua had not shared his bed with any woman since that passionate night. While Ye Hua may still be polite and friendly when talking with women, there was a cool reserve and distance in his demeanor around them that Mo Yuan had never seen in his brother before.
Somehow their sweet female fox had woven an unbreakable spell around both of them, a spell that seemed to be growing stronger every day.
In recent weeks, Mo Yuan had started having new dreams. Interspersed with his arousing dreams of lovemaking were dreams of quiet moments spent with his sweet fox next to him; a dream of the two of them snuggling close with hands clasped while sheltering from a sudden rain storm, then a dream in which he and Ye Hua helped their sweet fox plant a vast field of peach trees. The most recent had been a dream of the three of them lying in a huge bed together, their sweet fox nestled safely in between him and Ye Hua, while they talked in hushed tones, laughing quietly with each other.
What did these new dreams mean? Was Ye Hua experiencing them as well?
While Mo Yuan well understood the intense sexual longing the erotic dreams brought him, he didn’t fully understand what it was he longed for after having one of the quieter dreams. They left behind a very different kind of ache inside him, an ache that was much more intense than his arousal after one of the erotic dreams but it was an ache Mo Yuan couldn’t yet define. All he knew for sure was that these new dreams were special. He cherished them for reasons that still eluded him and they pushed his determination to find his sweet fox further and made him want to hang on to her even tighter once he and Ye Hua found her.
Staring thoughtfully at her written words on the paper scroll and the peach blossom he had placed next to them, Mo Yuan went through the details of his most recent quiet dream again. A certain detail from the dream continued to appear over and over in his mind. The headboard of the bed had really stood out. It had a large emblem engraved into it, an image of two dragons wrapped protectively around a nine-tailed fox. He couldn’t get it out of his head. He had never seen such an emblem before but it struck Mo Yuan as being profoundly important.
The sudden urge to give the bed to his fox as a gift hit him. He would be with her again in less than a month; the moon would be full again in three weeks. Mo Yuan didn’t want to make love to her on the hard ground again; he wanted to provide her the comfort of a bed with a soft mattress. But the bed needed to be hers alone, a bed that had never been seen or touched by another woman. Could he manage to get it made in time?
Both he and Ye Hua were tall with lean muscular physiques so the frame of the bed would need to be large enough to fit both of them comfortably with plenty of room leftover for them to avoid intruding into each other’s personal space. And there needed to be a spot in the middle for their sweet fox. He considered the dimensions of the bed carefully; he wanted his sweet fox close to him at night but didn’t want to sleep too close to his brother. He imagined Ye Hua would feel the same.
Turning his attention back to the headboard, Mo Yuan wondered what to do about the design he wanted there. He did not share any of his brother’s artistic skills. Did Ye Hua know how to engrave an image into the grain of wood? Would Ye Hua even agree to help him replicate the emblem on the headboard? He didn’t want any person other than Ye Hua to add the design to the bed.
Considering the questions carefully, Mo Yuan found himself hesitating with the decision of whether to ask his brother without knowing whether Ye Hua felt the same confusion of uncertain feelings for their sweet fox as he did. Would Ye Hua understand this strong need he felt to give their female fox such an unusual gift? Would he understand that giving her such a gift was intended to show her she was a unique and special woman in their lives? The changes he had seen in his brother led Mo Yuan to believe Ye Hua would understand. Just the simple order Ye Hua had given Jia Yun to find silk to make ties for restraining their fox spoke volumes.
Knowing very few people would accept or understand his preference to sometimes restrain his lovers during sex, Ye Hua only shared that secret part of himself with those women he trusted completely. They had been few and far between over the years. But when Ye Hua took that step, Mo Yuan knew the choice of what he restrained his lover with was very important to his brother. Not only was Ye Hua already thinking of revealing that part of himself to her, he had also chosen crimson silk for their sweet fox, the color and fabric of love, passion, and everlasting commitment.
Mo Yuan made a mental note to include hooks on the frame of the bed for his twin to use.
A knock on the door interrupted Mo Yuan’s thoughts. He looked up as the door opened and Ye Hua hurried into the room, bringing waves of heightened excitement and tension with him.
Knowing what his brother’s unexpected visit must be about, Mo Yuan erected a privacy barrier around his study after Ye Hua took a seat opposite him at his desk. The excited light in his twin’s eyes matched the nervous anticipation Mo Yuan was starting to feel himself after all his planning.
“You received a scroll too, didn’t you Da Ge?” Ye Hua asked as a scroll matching the appearance of the one Mo Yuan had received appeared in his hand.
Unsurprised to see the paper in his brother’s hand, Mo Yuan nodded and moved the message their female fox had sent him closer to Ye Hua for his brother to read.
“After sunset on the night of the next full moon,” Ye Hua read thoughtfully, placing his own invitation and peach blossom next to Mo Yuan’s.
When Ye Hua looked up and met Mo Yuan’s eyes a second time, there was a different, more intense light burning in them, one Mo Yuan also recognized. His brother was feeling the same fires of arousal that Mo Yuan experienced every time he thought of seeing their sweet fox again.
“Mine says the same thing,” Ye Hua continued with a pleased smile. “Pulling back from our search worked. Our sweet fox misses us and finally wants to see us again.” His smile faded as the intense fire in his gaze flared hotter. “I don’t want to wait any longer to touch her, Da Ge. It’s been much too long as it is. I need to feel her now, to possess her, to taste her, to drive myself into her clenching…”
“Stop, Ye Hua,” Mo Yuan growled out, powerful lust slamming into him and burning hot as he remembered the sweet taste of her release filling his mouth and the indescribable feeling of her lips and tongue caressing his engorged flesh as she sucked his erection forcefully. His length stirred and hardened all over again with the erotic turn of his thoughts. He glared at his brother, blaming Ye Hua for his renewed discomfort. “The next three weeks will be difficult enough without you reminding us both of what we’re missing the whole time.”
“You’re right, Da Ge. Sorry.” Ye Hua sighed. “I can’t help it sometimes. I keep dreaming about her so I often feel this painful aching need for her. Don’t you?”
“Yes.” Mo Yuan’s voice sounded less gruff now, sympathizing with his brother’s frustration. He knew it very well, after all. “All the time.”
Silence descended over the room with Mo Yuan’s admission. Mo Yuan turned his thoughts inward, forcing himself to focus on something other than his arousing memories of that night to help cool his heated body and calm his throbbing erection. He still needed to broach the subject of the design for the dragon and fox emblem with his brother. The bed would give them both something productive to focus on during the interminable wait for the next full moon to arrive.
“I’m nervous about seeing her again, Da Ge,” Ye Hua blurted out before Mo Yuan could voice his newest idea.
“Nervous?” Mo Yuan couldn’t keep the surprise out of his tone as he faced his twin once again. He had never expected to hear Ye Hua, who was always relaxed and confident around women, always at ease when spending time with them, admit to experiencing the same nerves Mo Yuan was feeling when it came to spending time with their female fox.
“Yes.” Ye Hua took a deep breath. “I’ve had these new dreams, Da Ge. They’re very different from the other ones. They’re… softer. I don’t know how else to describe them. Does that make sense?”
“Yes,” Mo Yuan answered quietly, understanding his brother’s meaning perfectly.
“I’ve never had dreams like these before,” Ye Hua continued. “They’re about simple things… drinking tea with our sweet fox or walking quietly through a forest with her.” Ye Hua paused, looking down. “Or the three of us planting peach trees together.”
Mo Yuan’s eyes widened as he caught his brother’s mumbled words. “Planting peach trees together?”
Ye Hua nodded before looking back up at Mo Yuan, uncertainty on his face. “Yes… the three of us were planting peach trees. Do I sound crazy? “
“No, not at all. I’ve had similar dreams.” Mo Yuan didn’t know what else to say to reassure his brother but he didn’t have a chance to say more.
“You’ve had them too, Da Ge?” Some of Ye Hua’s tension and uncertainty dissipated as Mo Yuan nodded in return. “They’re simple dreams but they’re intense. And confusing. I don’t understand what they mean. They make me eager to see our sweet fox again but they also make me nervous about seeing her. I don’t want her to run away this time. What if we scare her off again?”
“I have an idea that might help, Ye Hua.” Any lingering uncertainty Mo Yuan may have been feeling about sharing his planned gift with Ye Hua left him as he heard his brother admit to not only experiencing the same dreams as he had but also to experiencing the same confused emotions because of those dreams. Ye Hua would certainly understand the importance of the bed he wanted to give to their female fox. “Have you ever carved an image into wood before? Or drawn one that could be carved?”
“No,” Ye Hua responded, curiosity lighting up his expression. He waved his hand over Mo Yuan’s desk, moving their letters and the precious peach blossoms aside to a safe place before a blank sheet of paper appeared before him. Next, Ye Hua summoned his favorite brush and some paint, dipping the brush into a well of black paint before looking up at Mo Yuan expectantly, wearing the eager smile only seen when he was starting a new art project that excited him. “It shouldn’t be that hard. What did you have in mind?”
⇛ Next part: Hunting 5: Holding Their Fox Closer
⇚ Previous part: Hunting 3: Ye Hua and the Elusive Fox