The scents of pine and ice filled his snout as he searched the Demon Realm with growing desperation. Snow covered mountains sped by, the atmosphere frigid and unwelcoming against his black scales. The claps of thunder of his storm followed in his wake.
Ye Hua and his dragon couldn’t find Bai Qian. Her power must be suppressed because they couldn’t sense her anywhere. The excruciating loss of her comforting and beloved presence scared them. And it infuriated them. They would destroy Weisheng when they hunted him down. Then they would do the same to Jinjing, the traitor.
Starting from the moment he had stepped into the Peach Tree Forest for the first time, before he knew how to explain his feelings to himself, Ye Hua had sensed Bai Qian there with him. And her existence had been a part of his ever since, their souls and spirits intertwining in new and wondrous ways. He must find her. Only her safe return would fill the emptiness inside him.
And with this thought came another, an instinctive one. She was nearby, to the north of him. He couldn’t explain how he knew this other than to say it must be the unbreakable connection between their souls, a connection that transcended the physical and the magical, leading him. Ye Hua didn’t bother to question the idea. His instincts had always guided him better than logic or anything else when it came to Bai Qian.
Ye Hua urged the dragon to fly toward the northern boundary of the Demon Realm.
Jinjing held the dragon talon sword aloft as he left the cave, his confidence returning. Bai Qian’s knowledge of his true identity had unnerved him which had in turn angered him. But, in the end, it didn’t matter how much she knew because she wouldn’t live long enough to tell anyone else. The soldier guarding her would have to die when his duty was over. Jinjing regretted having to lose a talented young soldier. But he couldn’t allow him to live and risk the truth being revealed before he was ready.
Wrapping demon magic around the talon sword, Jinjing transformed its appearance to that of a typical broadsword. Now Ye Hua wouldn’t realize the true nature of the weapon until it was too late.
Sparks of demon fire flickered in the air before Jinjing, a piece of folded paper appearing as the flame extinguished. He plucked the paper from midair and read the scrawled message. War God Mo Yuan and a small contingent of Celestial soldiers had arrived at the Demon Fortress.
Jinjing’s order in response was a simple one. Demon soldiers should use the new battle formations they had been learning to engage Mo Yuan and his forces, keeping them occupied so they couldn’t march further into demon territory and interfere with his battle with Ye Hua.
A furious roar echoed through the surrounding mountains again. Lightning flashed through the dark clouds followed by a loud clap of thunder. Rage filled the black dragon and he wanted everyone in the Demon Realm to know it. Jinjing’s beast stirred from his enforced quiet. Jinjing did not allow his own dragon to answer the challenge. If he used his dragon magic he would shatter the demon disguise he wore.
Another roar rumbled through the mountains. Jinjing smiled. It was time to end Ye Hua and his dragon.
He stared up into the churning grey sky, looking for his opponent. He wouldn’t need to wait long.
The black dragon appeared from behind a storm cloud, sensing his prey as Jinjing had known he would. The great black beast wheeled around, speeding toward Jinjing with murderous intent flaring in his dark eyes. The storm strengthened with his approach. Dragon magic poured into the atmosphere, bearing down on Jinjing like a great weight. He welcomed it with a raised sword and pleased expression, answering the dragon’s challenge with a shot of demon magic.
The dragon dodged the stream of magic without effort. Multiple flashes of lightning streaked through the sky as the clouds opened up. Rain fell on the valley in torrents, washing a layer of the ice and snow away before slowly freezing to take its place. Jinjing was soaked through but he paid this discomfort no mind.
A powerful gust of wind swirled around Jinjing, almost knocking him off his feet. He braced himself with his magic. His hand tightened on the hilt of his sword, preparing to meet either dragon or man in battle. It didn’t matter which one he faced. Either way he would be victorious.
The black dragon disappeared and Ye Hua appeared, sword drawn and fury on his face. He stalked toward Jinjing as soon as his feet touched the ground.
“Where is she?” Ye Hua snarled.
Jinjing feigned confusion. He intended to savor this moment he had planned for so carefully. “I don’t know who you’re talking about. You’ll have to be more specific.”
Ye Hua’s eyes narrowed, violent intent in his expression. He swung his sword, blasting Jinjing with a wall of dragon magic. Jinjing erected a shield to block it but he was still forced back several steps. His confidence did not falter despite the power in Ye Hua’s attack. As long as he wielded the talon sword he had the advantage.
“Where is Bai Qian?” Ye Hua demanded, a furious growl underlying his voice.
“I’ll never tell,” Jinjing responded, taunting Ye Hua with a grin. “She is hidden away in a place not even you can locate. You will never find her. She is lost to you forever.”
Weisheng’s words inflamed Ye Hua’s rage further. He and the black dragon bellowed in unison.
Ye Hua raced the short distance separating them, his sword held in a two handed grip to the side. He swung his blade upwards toward Weisheng’s chest, putting as much strength into the strike as possible. Weisheng brought his sword up to parry the attack. It sliced through Ye Hua’s sword, cutting the steel blade into two.
His battle reflexes finely tuned, Ye Hua leaped back before he had fully processed what had just happened. He dodged the brunt of the blow but could not avoid Weisheng’s blade altogether. It cut through Ye Hua’s armor and sliced a ragged, diagonal wound across his chest.
Staggering, Ye Hua formed a shield around him, panting as he watched Weisheng’s sword bounce off the magical barrier when he swung it again. The cut on Ye Hua’s chest was shallow but blood flowed from it. And the wound burned with an icy fire that could mean only one thing. Demon poison didn’t need a deep wound to work its terrible, unrelenting purpose. It would drain Ye Hua of his strength before taking his life.
Again, Weisheng’s sword arced toward Ye Hua, rebounding off the shield with a clang. Ye Hua’s eyes focused on the weapon, studying it.That sword was a mystery. It looked like an ordinary broadsword. Yet it had done something no normal sword should be able to do. There was no time for him to wonder about what magic could be behind it.
The poison was already wreaking havoc with his magic and strength. The shield was consuming power that he could be using for another purpose. If he wanted to destroy Weisheng and save Bai Qian before he perished, Ye Hua needed to act now while he still could.
The realization that he would never share a long and loving life with Bai Qian struck him hard, hurting him more sharply than any physical wound ever could. He would never have the chance to call her his wife, never sit at her side while watching their children playing outside in the sun, never grow old together with her. There were so many wonderful things he would never experience with her.
Tears streamed down his cheeks but he paid them no mind.
Ye Hua hated to leave Bai Qian after she had already lost so much. He had always wanted to protect her and care for her, to always be there for her so she would never be all alone again. But she would make it through this and live her life to the fullest. Of that, Ye Hua had no doubt. She was strong and resilient, his courageous Bai Qian. She would find happiness again. And she would always have the love, friendship, and support of his family and Meixiu and Zhe Yan.
I love you, Bai Qian. I will love you for all eternity, long after my soul has gone into the nothingness.
Shouting with fury and agony, Ye Hua pushed the magic of his shield outwards with force. It exploded over Weisheng. The demon flew backwards, landing with a sprawl in the ice. The power disguising his sword was stripped away. Now its secret was revealed to Ye Hua, shocking him. That sword should not exist and should not be in the hands of the Demon King. But the knowledge of the weapon’s identity changed nothing in his current situation.
Drawing power from the storm raging around them, Ye Hua allowed his spirit beast to take form again. The black dragon would be able to stave off the worst effects of the poison for longer than Ye Hua. A sharp burn hit the dragon as the wound shifted along with the rest of him, now running across his underbelly. Blood steadily drained from it, dribbling onto the snow underneath him.
With Ye Hua urging him on, he roared and swooped toward Weisheng. Only it wasn’t a demon he faced. The black dragon recognized the true nature hidden within his enemy. It was the traitor dragon who dared harm his fox and Bai Qian. He bellowed and pushed through the barrier Jinjing had put into place and his black talons dug into flesh, knocking his enemy down. He opened his mouth, fangs searching for the vulnerable neck of his prey.
A pulse of power shoved his jaw away before he could make the lethal bite. A sword came up and bit into his side, tearing through his scales. The dragon ripped away a chunk of Jinjing’s thigh before taking to the air. More demon poison raced through his veins, pumped on by the adrenaline driving him. It would drain his power more quickly.
The dragon swerved and dived back toward Jinjing who was just regaining his feet. The dragon lashed out at him. His fangs were bared as he attempted to dig his talons into Jinjing once more. Jinjing jumped back and swung with his sword. The beast dodged it and wheeled around to snake back toward him. The fierce storm started to wane as the dragon’s strength began to falter.
He went for Jinjing’s throat but again had to dodge the sword. He managed to sink his fangs into Jinjing’s arm instead. He bit down hard, crushing bone. Jinjing screamed, dropping the sword. The dragon crashed into him, pinning him into the ground.
Using demon magic, Jinjing pried the dragon’s jaw open and lifted his body enough to crawl out from under him. The dragon growled but no longer had the strength to get himself back up into the air. He panted heavily, in pain from his wounds and weakening power. The poison burned ever more keenly.
The dragon never took his eyes away from Jinjing who struggled to his feet, wavering for a moment before catching his balance. He swept a wave of weak healing magic over himself. The dragon growled as he watched Jinjing pick up his sword and then drop it again with a cry. He then grasped the hilt with his other hand. His sword arm was obviously still too injured for him to use.
The man limped backwards several steps to assess the fallen dragon.
Ye Hua had fallen still and silent inside his beast, the poison rendering him unconscious.
“You failed to save her,” Jinjing declared with a triumphant expression. The dragon stirred but was unable to move from his spot. He growled again, his last thoughts wandering to his fox and Bai Qian. He had failed to protect them. He would never get to see either of them again. They had given new meaning to his life and he, like Ye Hua, mourned the future they would never have together.
The dragon sensed Jinjing gathering power around himself, preparing for the final strike to end him. The beast gave one last effort to move but had nothing left.
Soaked by the torrent of rain falling from the storm churning above him, Mo Yuan swept his sword sideways, knocking back two Demon soldiers and disarming a third. A swift stab followed by another killed the two advancing on him again. He stepped toward the disarmed demon. The young man held up his hands in a sign of surrender before retreating toward the fortress. Mo Yuan let him go.
This was a rescue mission not a war. He couldn’t allow it to escalate.
While there was a lull in the action surrounding him, Mo Yuan assessed the situation. He needed to decide the best course of action.
Meixiu and Zhe Yan were engaged in a fierce fight with the captain of the Demon guard and one of the Demon generals. Mo Yuan recognized both Demons. Meixiu had the edge in skill and speed. She had the general in a position where he could do no more than defend himself.
And Zhe Yan, who had not picked up a weapon since deciding to study medicine, hadn’t lost a step in his martial prowess despite his lack of recent training. The Demon Captain was falling back from Zhe Yan’s attack.
Everywhere Mo Yuan looked, there were pockets of Celestial soldiers battling demons. As one demon fell or fled the action, another one would be there to take his place.
The Demons may have greater numbers and a greater knowledge of the terrain, but these elite Celestial soldiers trained hard for long hours to prevail in such a scenario. They had a skill advantage in this engagement but Mo Yuan and his team were still failing to gain ground. The Demons were holding their own against them.
Mo Yuan ordered a change in combat formation yet again. And again the Demons responded in kind, adapting to the change quicker than they should have been able to. Jinjing must have shared Celestial battle strategies with them.
A Celestial soldier fell and Mo Yuan jumped back into the fray, stopping a demon’s kill shot with his sword. He cut the demon down with a counter swing of his blade. The fallen soldier scrambled back to his feet and took up the duty of guarding Mo Yuan’s back.
The battle raged on but the storm fueled by Ye Hua’s magic was starting to die down. Mo Yuan’s dragon stirred with sudden distress. His brother was in pain and his strength was failing. He needed help but Mo Yuan could not leave his soldiers in the middle of battle, not even to save his twin.
Blocking a blow with his sword, Mo Yuan kicked the demon out of his way. He jabbed his elbow into the nose of another, stepping over the prone demon when he fell backwards. Mo Yuan sprinted to Zhe Yan’s side, engaging swords with the Demon captain in his friend’s place. Zhe Yan shot him a startled look.
“Find Ye Hua,” Mo Yuan said, glancing back at Zhe Yan over his shoulder. “The storm is dying. He’s in trouble.” There was no time to say anything more. He turned back to his enemy as Zhe Yan ran off in the opposite direction.
Heavy silence descended over the cavern in Jinjing’s wake, broken only by the distant sound of thunder outside, the rumbles distorted by the echoing nature created by the walls of the cave. Bai Qian stepped closer to the bars separating her from the demon guard. The keys to her chains still dangled from his hand. His expression was stony as he watched her. She needed to find a way out of here and her only choice was through that guard. She had no clear plan but that wouldn’t stop her from trying what she could. First, she needed to get him to move closer to her cell.
“He’s not really King Weisheng, you know.”
The guard said nothing.
“He’s not,” Bai Qian continued. “His scent gives him away. Scents don’t lie.”
“You’re crazy,” the guard muttered, but there wasn’t much conviction in his voice.
“I’m not. You saw the way he responded when I confronted him about it.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I think you do,” Bai Qian prodded. He appeared to be a young man and she thought she might even be able to sway him to her side. “Haven’t you noticed him acting differently than he used to?”
The guard said nothing.
“You must have noticed something.”
“Maybe I have,” he conceded, stepping a little closer to her prison.
Bai Qian met his eyes to show him she was sincere. “He’s not your king and he’s leading you and your people down a path towards war. Is that what you want? Do you really want to go to war with the Heavens again? After all the devastation from the last one?”
“He has the sword,” the demon responded. “And he has a plan.”
“The sword,” Bai Qian scoffed, feigning an indifference she did not feel. “That sword won’t win the war for you. It gives him a momentary advantage now in his fight with Ye Hua. Nothing more.”
She moved closer to the bars, lowering her voice as if she were sharing a special secret with him. He leaned forward to hear her better when she spoke again.
“I know Heavenly Father and Mother. I’ve spent time with them. They are kind and just rulers and I’ve heard your people have lived in relative peace and prosperity under their rule. But they are powerful. More powerful than you can imagine. What do you think will happen if Demons murder their son?”
A wary expression crept into the guard’s eyes.
“And it’s not just them you have to worry about,” Bai Qian continued, digging in with her argument. “What do you think War God Mo Yuan will do if his twin brother is killed?”
The guard frowned now, not disagreeing with her assessment of the situation.
“Do you really think Heavenly Father doesn’t have a way to destroy that sword? Or Heavenly Mother for that matter. They will seek justice for the death of Ye Hua and it will be violent.” Hearing herself speak the word death in reference to Ye Hua caused a tremendous ache in Bai Qian’s heart. But she kept her face calm, determined to make her point.
“But we will have your father’s heart magic under our control,” he protested weakly.
“It won’t matter,” Bai Qian responded, sensing her words were having the desired effect. “Yes, my father was a powerful man. But he wasn’t Emperor or Empress of the Heavens. His magic may help you prolong the bloody conflict but, in the end, you will lose. You will lose. And countless people will die in the process. Just like they did in the last war.” She paused. “Is that what you want? To see your people slaughtered in a war they can’t ever hope to win. I might be able to stop that from happening.”
“Do you know what will happen to me and my family if I don’t follow my orders?” He stepped back. “I know what you’re trying to do and I won’t help you. The only thing you should be worrying about is how you’re going to extract the magic from your father’s heart so it can be handed over to King Weisheng.”
Bai Qian sighed with frustration. The moment of understanding that had passed between them was gone.
“So be it.” Her voice was soft as she moved away from the bars. She would need to find another way. “I guess I have no other choice.”
The stone ground was frigid and uncomfortable for her knees when she knelt next to the magic urn Jinjing had thrown into her prison. The container was carved from pure white jade with a strange symbol she had never seen before. Such an artifact must be filled with dark magic. She wanted nothing to do with the object but forced herself to reach for it and pick it up. She placed it upright on the ground next to a loose rock she had noticed nearby. It was a little larger than the size of her hand. She then placed the clay jar containing her father’s heart on the ground next to it.
Keeping her actions just out of sight of the guard, Bai Qian pretended to struggle with the urn and jar in front of her for a few minutes. She huffed with annoyance, exaggerating the sound for effect.
“This isn’t going to work,” she said after a minute more of pretense. “I don’t know how he expects me to do this without access to my magic.”
“If you think I’m releasing you from your chains, you really are crazy,” the guard responded. “Figure it out.”
“Fine.” Bai Qian pretended to struggle for another few minutes.
“This really isn’t going to work,” she repeated. “I can’t keep the urn steady on the uneven ground. It keeps tilting. I need both hands to lift the heart from the jar so I can’t hold the urn to keep it from falling.” She released the urn roughly and it fell to the ground with a surreptitious nudge from her fingers. “See what I mean. If you want me to do this, you’re going to have to help me. I may need you to use some of your magic. Otherwise, you can forget it. And then you’ll have to explain why you didn’t help me accomplish what I was ordered to do.”
The guard hesitated. Bai Qian held her breath, waiting.
“All right,” the guard finally growled. “But this had better work.” He slipped the ring of keys over his wrist and stomped up to the bars, opening the door with a wave of his power. He knelt next to her with an aggravated expression flashing in his eyes. “What do you need me to do?”
“Hold the urn steady,” Bai Qian answered. “That’s all you need to do. I think I can figure something out with your help.”
When he looked down and cupped his hands around the urn, she snatched up the rock and knocked it against the back of his head with as much force as she could muster. There was a hollow thunk. The guard slumped to the ground, bleeding from the wound she had caused. She poked him hard in the shoulder before she dared let go of her makeshift weapon. He didn’t stir. He was out cold.
Wasting no time, Bai Qian slipped keys from his limp hand, and unlocked the manacles around her wrists. A small surge of magic flowed through her and she could better sense her fox’s presence.
She locked each metal cuff around the guard’s wrists, chaining him to the wall and suppressing his magic. Then she picked up the jar with her father’s heart, cradling it against her chest, and fled the cell. All of her magic returned to her as soon as she stepped out from the warded bars of her prison. She dropped the keys in the middle of the cavern beyond the reach of the unconscious demon and then rushed down the passageway leading out of the cave.
Her power pulsed through her as she reached out with it at the cave opening to try and sense Ye Hua and the black dragon.
They were there but weak. She could barely feel them. It was enough to tell Bai Qian where they were though. She ran in their direction. The storm she had heard earlier had died down. Ye Hua must not have the power left to keep it going. The demon poison. She picked up her pace, sprinting through the ice and snow as fast as she could. She used small amounts of magic to aid her passage on the slick terrain, fearing the amount of magic needed to transport herself closer would give her presence away. Her heart raced with adrenaline and fear.
Jinjing’s scent wafted her way, telling Bai Qian she was getting close. Still running, she followed it to an open valley.
She skidded to a halt and froze when she saw the black dragon lying helplessly on the ground. Jinjing stood before him and the atmosphere was charged with demon magic as he gathered his power around him. The dragon made no move to get out of the way.
Jinjing was going to kill Ye Hua and the black dragon.
“No!” she screamed, disappearing from her place. She erected a shield around the dragon mid jump, blocking the blast of power from Jinjing. It ricocheted off to the side. Then Bai Qian reappeared in between him and the dragon. She faced Jinjing down as she sensed him gathering his power again. Her magical barrier wasn’t strong enough to withstand his onslaught for long. And she wasn’t sure she could cloud-jump with the dragon in tow. She didn’t dare try when he was so seriously wounded. She could harm him more, maybe even kill him in the process.
Bai Qian held out the jar and showed it to Jinjing. He stopped as she had suspected he would. He couldn’t hit the black dragon without striking her in the process. If he struck her, he would risk damaging her father’s heart which would ruin all his plans. They were at a stalemate.
Jinjing snarled at her, hatred in his eyes.
“What are you doing here? Get out of my way, you stupid fox!”
“No. I will never leave him.” Bai Qian met his vicious gaze with a determined one of her own. Her fox growled a warning. They would both give everything they had in them to save Ye Hua and the black dragon.
⇚ Previous part: Ch 53: Hidden
⇛ Next part: Ch 55: An Unbreakable Bond
Yes, I’m sticking with your amazing stories. Hope and pray you’re doing well, health wise. Can’t wait what next to our beloved dragon and fox, facing dangerous situations until they defeated that monstrous JJ. The heart power still an enigma especially to QQ and hope she’ll figure it out or remembered something from her ancestors past story. Excitingly awaits!!! Thank you for all your effortless writing skills. God bless.
Thank you! I hope you’re doing well and staying healthy as well. The next chapter for the story is almost ready. I should be able to update this weekend if all goes according to plan. Enjoy the rest of your week!
Sorry I’m sleepless for couple of days and did not realized I forgot to put my name here before hit the post comment. Have a great day.
I guess, we’re going closer to the end of the story. Part of me I can’t barely read previous stories with saddened realization and heavy heart not to read more stories of my favorites couple. Thank you. Can’t comments again in Wattpad, same problems all the times.
Yes, the story will be coming to a close very soon. Sorry to hear Wattpad is giving you problems. It gives me problems all the time. Thanks for sticking with the story!