Flanks heaving, the Grey Wolf dropped his head with a pant of relief when he saw the first swirls of dark mist appear.
He almost hadn’t made it in time.
The Wolf had woken in a chilled daze, limbs stiff and numb, sprawled on his side on the floor of his cave. The Shaman Diao Wu’s brutal punishment of lashing him to a tree had really taken a toll on his body.
He’d stared groggily at the night darkness beyond the cave opening. It was not yet morning. Then he raised his muzzle with grunted breath. What was that stench in his cave? Rotting fish?
The Wolf struggled to his feet. The fish he had last brought to his cave had been fresh just before he left to report to Diao Wu. Fish didn’t spoil that fast in so short a time. It wasn’t the same night! He must have remained where he’d collapsed for the whole next day and it was now the following night!
The Shaman would be expecting him midway through the hour of the Rat. Had he missed it?! With a panicked whine, the Wolf left the cave and set off as fast as his trembling legs would take him through the forest.
He’d made it to their rendezvous point just in time, the Shaman materializing from the black mist but seconds after.
“Well?” Diao Wu snapped out without preamble, not even looking at the Wolf.
“Bai Qian’s tree sprite came by my stall today to get fresh fish for her,” the Wolf lied. “He told me the fox and the phoenix returned to Qing Qiu in the morning as usual and that they were leaving again for Kunlun before sunset as usual as well.”
Raising his hand to summon the black mist once more, an impatient looking Diao Wu paused. “Any word of Mo Yuan?”
The Wolf shook his grizzled head. “None, my Master.”
Diao Wu vanished without another word.
Hackles raised, the Wolf bared his teeth at the empty space where the Shaman had been standing.
He would have to come up with some excuse for the Mushroom Fairy as to why he hadn’t shown up at market today. He would have to make sure to arrive earlier than usual to open his stall in the morning. But first, he needed to catch some fish to eat. Disgusting fish again… The ravenous Grey Wolf pointed his muzzle towards the direction of the Rabbit Hole at the other end of the forest, jaw frothing with drool.
Casting the spell of transference upon the remains of the Kunlun disciple was proving much more difficult than he’d expected; there was some kind of residual energy upon the man that caused Diao Wu’s black magic to rebound at first, shooting bolts of excruciating pain up his arms… Mo Yuan. It could only have originated from the Gold Dragon. Diao Wu had a suspicion it could be the same for all of the God of War’s disciples and pupils. They might all carry some trace of the Dragon’s powerful breath of cultivation. Being consistently in Mo Yuan’s presence and training under him in his lair meant they could all be …contaminated… in this manner.
Qing Cang’s heavy footfalls came up the tunnel behind him.
“What news from your dog?”
The Shaman had had to interrupt his spellcraft this night in order to meet up with the Wolf, further compounding the difficulty of it. Had the disciple been a demon it would have been over before it had even begun.
Diao Wu gritted his teeth, his hands engulfed in bright flames of green over the severed head of Zhong Yi. The rest of the man’s body had begun to decay so Diao Wu had rendered it to ash. The head alone sufficed for the sanctum.
“Bai Qian and Zhe Yan follow the same pattern of coming and going between Qing Qiu and Kunlun for now.” Diao Wu grunted with exertion. He nearly stumbled when his black magic broke through and the disciple’s head started to glow green as well.
Qing Cang watched in silence for a few moments. “If the blind fox goes to Kunlun every night,” the Demon pondered aloud, “why not use her now to spy on the worm and discover what he may be planning?”
“As useful as that could be, my Lord, we can’t.” Diao Wu’s face was lit green. “There will only be that short window of time from when we open her sight for us until her brain burns out. The curse can only be brought to fruition at the moment we unseal the sanctum and release those within.”
The Demon Emperor was not one to be told no. Diao Wu knew the only reason he wasn’t being sliced in the back with a halberd was because Qing Cang understood Bai Qian could only serve at the one crucial point of their plan.
“When can I get the head?” The Demon leered at Zhong Yi’s frozen expression of death.
Qing Cang was also not one for patience.
His mouth set in a hard line, Diao Wu forced more of his power through his arms.
Zhong Yi’s eyes opened, the sunken orbs milky white.
Diao Wu smiled. “Soon.”
The first rays of dawn filtered through the natural skylights of the Fox Den.
Slowly opening his eyes, Mo Yuan’s eyes drank in the sunlight before he buried his face into Bai Qian’s hair. Given the steady rise and fall of her warm breasts against his arm, he knew she was still asleep.
They lay naked on their sides on her bed. Mo Yuan’s knees were tucked up behind Bai Qian’s as he held her close.
The lushness of her tails covering them both made him smile in contentment. The slight motion of her rounded bottom against his stiffness as she shifted in her sleep made him release a low, hungry growl.
Burrowing his face deeper, Mo Yuan reached the back of her neck where he rubbed his face against her fragrant skin, parting his lips to lightly graze the soft flesh with his teeth. Bai Qian’s chest heaved and her tails twitched. He’d woken her.
When she shifted slightly again and her bottom nudged his lengthening staff, Mo Yuan’s hand cupped her throat and he nipped the back of her shoulder, causing her tails to quiver. Mo Yuan started rocking his hips gently as his hand went to her breasts. Her nipples hardened between his rolling fingertips as his erection slid up and down the crevice of her buttocks.
Nine fox tails rose and Mo Yuan lifted his arm so Bai Qian could turn over to face him. Her closed eyelids held him transfixed, now that he could see them again in the light.
“Qian Qian… open your eyes for me.”
She went perfectly still. But Mo Yuan knew this was something he could not let pass… not anymore. He brushed the tip of his nose along her lashes.
“Please Bai Qian, whatever it is you fear that I’ll see in your eyes, don’t. Has the Phoenix ever been alarmed at what he’s seen? Your tree sprite Migu? Your Father? Why would I be? What makes me different?”
Bai Qian began to tremble.
“You accused me of playing dragon the other night. You have no idea of what you speak, fox goddess. The predatory urges I must always master, the power and rage of the blood hunt only a trigger away. As God of War do you think I fear a gaze? If your fox has eyes so clear and bright, what changes in your human form?”
“Please, Qian Qian.”
Mo Yuan waited as he sensed a storm of emotions within her.
Then… Bai Qian opened her eyes. Mo Yuan gazed into their warm chestnut depths as tears welled in them, her pupils constricting slowly in the ambient light, peering sightless into the distance without focus.
Mo Yuan caressed Bai Qian’s cheeks. “If the eyes be the windows to the soul, Qian Qian, then yours is most breathtakingly radiant in its beauty.”
Cupping her face, he kissed her deeply.
“Qian Qian,” he whispered against her mouth, his hands falling upon her shoulders to gently ease her onto her back. Mo Yuan lay himself partially upon her. “May I join with you again?”
With a tremulous smile at first, Bai Qian’s fingers landed on his cheek, seeking and finding his beard which she lightly scratched. Mo Yuan caught her wrist and moved her hand to his lips where he gently kissed her fingertips, delighting in the blink of her eyes as he did this.
Her reply came in the form of a purr as she raised her head to the side to nip him on the shoulder as he’d done to her before. With his blood humming in his veins, Mo Yuan snatched both her wrists and pulled her arms upwards, pinning her hands to the bed on either side of her head to rise over her and lay himself completely upon her body; his chest cushioned upon her warm supple breasts, his abdomen flat against her soft middle. He ignored for now the pain of his erection compressed over her downy mound. Instead, Mo Yuan delved his tongue into Bai Qian’s mouth to lightly caress hers while his lips suckled.
Bai Qian’s moans of pleasure ignited a hunger within him, her quiet sensuality filling him with a need that defied reason. She enthralled him with just her touch. Mo Yuan wanted nothing more than to be able to anticipate her every desire while burying himself inside her sweet heat and bringing her to ecstasy. He made a strangled sound as Bai Qian’s mound rubbed against his swollen member when her legs began to writhe.
He wasn’t going to last long this way.
“Part your legs for me,” Mo Yuan murmured into her ear, flicking his tongue over its sensitive lobe. And he nearly climaxed right then when her moist heat engulfed him when his hips sank between her spreading ones.
“If you bend your knees, Qian Qian,” he rasped, “I can go deeper than before, if you desire.”
Purring into his mouth as he placed his parted lips over hers, Bai Qian raised her knees. Mo Yuan interlocked his fingers tightly with hers as he shifted his pelvis. The silken lengths of her inner thighs brushed up against his outer hips as he slowly entered her.
Fox purrs became breathless sighs as Mo Yuan gently pushed both his tongue and his staff into her with slow, deep, repetitive rhythm. Whenever his staff was fully immersed, he would slide his pelvis upwards a little further, fusing his flesh to hers, causing her back to arch. He strengthened his grip on her arms to hold her in place.
Their passion seemed to stretch on forever until the Dragon experienced the sensation of soaring and diving in the sky both at once. His seed spilled into her the same moment Bai Qian cried out her release with eyes wide. Mo Yuan collapsed atop Bai Qian, his erection still twitching within her.
When both could move their limbs again and breathe once more, Bai Qian’s arms encircled his sweat-sheened back and she kissed his cheek.
“Thank you, Mo Yuan,” she whispered, “for this precious gift… for teaching me…”
Mo Yuan withdrew from her, rolling to her side while gathering her in his arms.
“It is you, Qian Qian, that have given me a most precious gift… that of your trust…
…and the glimpse of your soul.”
Bai Qian had tucked away her tails and now sat between Mo Yuan’s bent legs, her back on his chest. Her head rested upon his shoulder as he leaned back against the bed’s headboard.
It was within that secure and protective embrace of Mo Yuan’s arms that she quietly told him the story of Jinbing. The low beastlike sound she heard emerge from Mo Yuan’s chest when she’d finished worried her briefly. Where would he have gone and what would he have done if she’d let him go at that moment?
“You are not a soulless creature, Bai Qian.” That edge of danger was back in Mo Yuan’s voice. “Your eyes are not empty, lifeless voids! When I look into them, I see clear pools of life, warm chestnut eyes that capture and reflect the light around them. I have seen the eyes of evil, Bai Qian. And they are not yours.”
Mo Yuan held both her hands in her lap, his thumbs lightly tracing and lingering over what faint scars were there. Bai Qian had also revealed the last of what Mo Yuan wished to know, giving him the answer to the last question he’d had… that of what had happened to her hands.
Mo Yuan released a slow exhale. His heated breath blew down her chest, given her back was to him.
Never turn your back on your opponent, Qian Qian! Never! Her father’s words echoed from the past.
The chill wind the other day at the gates of Kunlun had made her shiver but not just from the cold. The whistling of it in Bai Qian’s ears, the sound of the White Goddess’ blade thrusting towards her; both had brought back the cold memories she could never forget.
As an adult, Bai Qian understood her father’s reasons for why he’d done what he had. She could even feel some measure of gratitude for it. But back then? Back then it had been a different story.
Bai Qian had been able to plead with her father not to kill Jinbing. The Fox King’s fury had been palpable in the air when he’d finally gotten his sobbing daughter to tell him what had happened. But in one matter the Fox King would not be dissuaded by a young Bai Qian’s agonized tears. She would learn the song of the sword and its related lessons whether she wanted to or not. Given what had happened with the tigers, Bai Zhi decided she had to be old enough now and it was for Bai Qian’s own good and protection.
But no matter what her father said to her, how he threatened… or how he punished, Bai Qian refused to wield any weapon herself. Therefore, while he was never able to force her to do so, he was merciless in forcing her to face one again and again…
Fire, swords, knives, daggers… The nicks, scars, and burn marks on her hands were testament to those times when she hadn’t executed a defence fast enough or countered quick enough. And after it was done, every time, Bai Zhi would treat her body and her tails but not her hands, saying coldly, “Let them heal on their own. You will learn to react faster next time.”
The cruel lessons had further broken her heart at the time but they served their purpose in the end, effectively teaching her how to use her tails, her body, and her magic to defend herself despite being blind.
“Qian Qian? Mo Yuan? Are you in the kitchen?”
Bai Qian gulped. Zhe Yan!!
There came a dull crash –a chair?
“Owww!! My shin again! Qian Qian! I’m not some flamingo who can hop around on one leg!! When are you ever going to remember to light up the candles when you have guests over?!?!”
She felt Mo Yuan tense behind her.
With her face flushing hot, Bai Qian’s mortified gasp was followed by every single candle in the Den erupting into balls of flame with drips of hot wax flying in all directions given the strength of her pulse of magic.
“Yikes!! No need to singe my feathers!” Zhe Yan’s voice stayed put in the main area.
Burying her face in her hands, Bai Qian spun in Mo Yuan’s lap. “I…, I… Have you been in the darkness all this time?!”
Mo Yuan laughed softly, hugging her close to kiss the tip of her reddened nose which poked through her fingers.
“I may have been in some darkness before… but no longer.”
The Hour of the Rat (11 PM – 1 AM)
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