The door swung open with force. The raw power of dragon essence blasted through the room, setting the hearth fire ablaze in its wake. Steady, measured footfalls advancing upon the bed roused Bai Qian. And the intense press of sunlight upon her now open eyes made her blink.
Mo Yuan. She’d fallen asleep. She needed to apologize to him for coming into his chamber while he wasn’t there. But before Bai Qian could utter a word, searing fingertips stilled her lips.
He’d arrived as the torches were being lit.
Cloaked and with his essence suppressed, Mo Yuan walked through the alleys of the Mushroom Market once again, this time with the stealth of a hunter. He observed the vendors and the few shoppers remaining, studying their body language. He noted no change of demeanour from yesterday. They were not acting any differently than they had when he’d been there with Bai Qian. Their initial reactions had been sincere then. But Mo Yuan’s observation was merely cursory.
They were not his quarry this night.
The rabbit boy, Delun, raced past him with a wide grin of mischief on his round cheeked face. A moment later came little Jia in hot pursuit. Mo Yuan watched them go. A carefree childhood… what a precious gift.
Rounding the next corner, Mo Yuan’s vision narrowed upon the Grey Wolf at his stall. His instincts fired just as they had yesterday when he’d taken in the place then empty. For the Dragon sensed the currents and eddies of life which flowed and merged here in the Market. The vibrancy of the woodland spirits who frequented this place all blended with a rich, dynamic harmony… except where the Wolf’s stall was. Here the currents blocked. A pocket of dead air. There was something here that didn’t fit in with the rest. An odd note which soured the song.
The Wolf was putting away his wares. Mo Yuan hadn’t met many wolves before but of those he had, they tended to be well-muscled men in their human form. This one, while his frame was large, seemed thinner than average, as if he didn’t eat well enough. The Wolf kept casting furtive glances at the stars. Was he anxious for the time to pass?
When he finally left his stall, Mo Yuan followed.
From his vantage point in the forest, Mo Yuan watched the wolf pace back and forth in his cave for a span of time. Then the man shifted to his beast and lumbered off on four legs into the night like a predator on the hunt. Golden scales coiled up into the air as the greater predator hunted him in turn.
The Wolf never once sensed he was being tracked.
Stopping in a clearing, the beast appeared to wait for something —or someone. Mo Yuan shifted back to his human form and waited in hiding as well. Hours passed. Nothing happened. The Wolf, growling and snarling low, kept raising his muzzle to the sky. Finally in the hour before dawn, the Wolf left the clearing to return to his cave where with an angry bark, he curled into a ball and fell asleep.
A frustrated Mo Yuan decided he would devise some pretense to return to the Market tomorrow with Bai Qian. He wanted to see what would happen when the two of them appeared before the Wolf together. And if the Wolf wasn’t there, Mo Yuan would simply arrive at his cave instead.
For now however, the unfinished song of the hunt sang through his blood as the Dragon cloud-jumped back to Kunlun.
Dinner with Mo Yuan’s disciples had been a surprisingly lively, convivial affair.
Arriving with Die Feng, Bai Qian had been greeted formally by each of the disciples who’d stood one by one to introduce themselves by name –and tone of voice! Taken off guard, a laughing Bai Qian had been filled with heartfelt mirth at how each man made a point of describing in the utmost flowery fashion what was distinct about their voice as they said their name.
The Seventh Disciple especially had had them all in stitches. “Welcome Lady. I am the God of War’s Seventh Disciple, Gao Fushuai, whose voice is as wonderfully handsome as his face!” This had earned him a rich round of guffaws and teasing from his Brothers.
One disciple had the voice of running water, another like sand falling through a crevice. One likened his voice to butterfly wings flapping in a snowstorm. Bai Qian had giggled at that one. The ever stoic Die Feng had refrained from joining in, but Zi Lan had played along, introducing himself as if for the first time and then describing his voice as a “majestic whinny in the wind”.
“Majestic something in the wind all right,” Bai Qian had heard Die Feng mutter under his breath. Then there’d been Da Bao, whom Bai Qian couldn’t resist speaking for when he’d been about to describe his voice to say it was like an earthquake laughing. “Ooooohhhhh!” came the good-natured ribbing of all the other disciples at that. “Look at the red-faced baby!”
Once seated at the long table of the reception hall, Bai Qian found herself flanked once again by her honour guard of Zi Lan and Da Bao, neither of whom made any remarks about her eyes being exposed. In fact, no one there said anything about it, treating her with all the courtesy due a guest of their Shifu’s and thus a guest of theirs. These were all elite warriors, generals of men, highly educated and trained by the God of War himself. That they all shared a communal sense of humour and obvious camaraderie was testament to their close ties.
Throughout the meal, the Sixteenth and Eleventh Brothers eagerly discussed with her their mutual points of interest; a hush falling over the table when Bai Qian demonstrated some of the bird calls she knew well from Qing Qiu to an ecstatic Da Bao. Bai Qian was told Mo Yuan’s Fourth Disciple was away but that Zhong Yi would regret not having been there. A master of dialects, he would certainly have appreciated her gift of mimicry. Zi Lan scoffed, remarking how if only bird calls could serve some kind of tactical point, and would Bai Qian please explain a little more about her airborne catapult manoeuvre she’d used against the White Goddess instead?
The 15 disciples present were all very kind and well-spoken. But even though they made her feel comfortable, they would only address her as “Lady” the whole time. She’d given up early on asking to be addressed as just Bai Qian. It had only resulted in a lot of throat clearing and shuffling of feet, with repeated echoes of “Shifu wouldn’t like that” — just like Zi Lan had said to her the other day.
Yet as much as Bai Qian found herself enjoying her present company, she’d kept her ears and her senses open the whole time for the telltale signs of a certain someone’s arrival, which never came.
When she’d thanked Mo Yuan’s disciples for the dinner and their company and risen to make her way to her guest chamber for the night, Zi Lan and Da Bao had insisted on escorting her again. Once in her room and changed into her nightgown, a tired Bai Qian had gone to turn down the covers, only to feel Mo Yuan’s blanket that was still there.
Whichever apprentice responsible for making up the guest chambers must not have been present at the breakfast when she’d let it be known that the Grandmaster had left his blanket in her room. They must have assumed it belonged to Bai Qian and had spread it out for her on the bed.
Closing her eyes, Bai Qian pressed the blanket to her nose. Mo Yuan’s scent made her skin tingle and chased away the chill in the air.
She stood that way with a shy smile for many long minutes.
It was late and she was tired, but Bai Qian couldn’t help thinking Mo Yuan would arrive back to his chamber in the night with no blanket for his bed. A rather silly thought. Of course Kunlun must have other blankets! Why would she think he’d be without because of this one. Yet, it didn’t seem right nonetheless to have it here with her. What if… what if it were a different apprentice who came upon it tomorrow? One who had heard her make her infamous breakfast proclamation? The last thing Bai Qian wanted was to embarrass Mo Yuan about it now. It had been her temper after all that had made her tongue lash out.
She should return the blanket to Mo Yuan’s chamber. It was the least she could do. He’d carried her here with it after all so as to not have her be embarrassed at having fallen asleep in his chambers.
Shall I return it now?
Bai Qian bit down on her lip. Mo Yuan had yet to return as far as she knew. She could be in and out with none the wiser.
She trailed her thumb along the edge of her nightgown’s collar.
There’d be no one in the corridors at this hour just like last time, right? She really didn’t feel like getting dressed and then undressed again. And the thought of dragging the blanket along in her fox form didn’t appeal either. She didn’t want to use magic to tuck it away or send it to Mo Yuan’s chamber in case it triggered any privacy spells in place.
With a mischievous grin of daring, Bai Qian wrapped Mo Yuan’s blanket about her and braved the chilled floor barefoot to tiptoe out, just in case.
Bai Qian hesitated before the door after feeling its handles. There was no lock spell. Mo Yuan wasn’t there that she could sense either.
It’s not like I’ve never been inside, she tried to justify to herself. But Mo Yuan had always been there with her.
One did not simply enter someone’s bed chamber uninvited. Another shy smile played on Bai Qian’s lips. He entered my bed chamber ‘uninvited’ last night. Yes, technically she was with him and never said that he could or couldn’t. But it set the precedent she needed, did it not? I’ll just enter quickly and place the blanket on his bed. Leaving it outside his door wouldn’t work in case he doesn’t return this night. Students passing by in the morning would see it and wonder.
Mo Yuan’s chamber door closed behind her with a faint boom.
It felt strange not to have the warmth of the hearth fire welcome her. With fox tails gently sweeping ahead, Bai Qian nimbly avoided the set of chairs and the table then paused.
Where would Mo Yuan’s bed be? The whistle of a breeze came from where she knew to be the far end of the room, towards the left… a window. And the scent of peachwood came from there as well… Mo Yuan’s guqin. Assuming Mo Yuan preferred natural light when working in the day and playing his instrument, his desk must be in that area. If his chamber was approximately the same dimensions as the guest ones, the bed –which had to be the biggest piece of furniture in the room– must be somewhere ahead on her right.
Clasping the blanket more snugly around her neck with her left hand, Bai Qian stretched her right hand ahead of her and walked forward slowly, her tails sweeping a little faster. She paused again when they touched large box shapes. She sensed a spell of privacy upon these… chests. Giving them as wide a berth as she could, Bai Qian tread past them.
The tips of her tails now traced a long edged outline, a raised platform. Mo Yuan’s bed. She’d found it.
Her shins bumped up against the edge of a mattress when Bai Qian carefully stepped up onto the platform’s ledge. Running her palms over the smooth, soft surface, she found there to be but the mattress with only a pillow at the top. Nothing else. Bai Qian nodded. She’d done the right thing coming here to return the blanket.
She shivered when the whistle of the breeze blew through from the window again, pushing a draft off the floor. Her toes cramping with cold, she sat on Mo Yuan’s bed to rub her bare feet with her hands, trying to heat them up with friction as best she could. Again, she wouldn’t risk using magic in case she set off any spells. The chill off the floor continued blowing upward which made her draw up her legs and wiggle to the centre of the mattress.
Let me just warm up my feet here out of the draft for a few moments before I leave.
Curling onto her side, Bai Qian settled the blanket about her shoulder to be able to hold her feet in her hands. Thoughts of heading off in a few moments faded to nothingness as sleep quickly overtook her surrounded completely as she was by Mo Yuan’s warm, protective scent.
She was in his bed.
His blood still singing from the unfinished hunt, the Dragon’s eyes flashed. And the God of War made his way forth to claim his bed… and what lay upon it.
Mo Yuan’s inner fire radiated from his hand as he touched Bai Qian’s lips then slid his palm to cup her cool cheek. Her eyelids had fluttered open and she now blinked unseeingly at him. His hair fanned over her as he lowered his mouth to her ear. “Forgive me, Qian Qian,” came his hoarse whisper.
Bai Qian rolled onto her back and placed her hand over his.
Mo Yuan felt tremors run through her body when, growling low, he rubbed his thumb against her lips with firm strokes. Her heartbeat quickened when his essence surged, triggering him. Roughly sweeping his hand into her hair, he pulled back her head, exposing her throat. When she swallowed hard, he parted his lips over her tender flesh to graze the column of her throat with his teeth.
With a sigh of abandon, Bai Qian lifted an edge of his blanket off of her… inviting him in. Her nightgown vanished in a pulse of magic from him as his naked body touched hers. Bai Qian gasped then moaned when Mo Yuan flipped her onto her stomach and hoisted her hips, bringing her knees beneath her. She cried out when he mounted her, thrusting himself deeply into her core. The Dragon leaned over her quivering back awash in ripples of gooseflesh to bite her neck into submission. And the Fox’s purrs and shivers of pleasure answered the call of blood within him.
You are mine, Bai Qian.
It was well into morning when Mo Yuan awoke.
Die Feng hadn’t come to bring him the schedules and scrolls for the day at the usual time. A most astute man, his second in command.
“Good morning,” came Bai Qian’s soft voice along with her fingertips that found his chin to tickle through his beard. Mo Yuan turned her over to a squeak and lay himself partially upon her back, tucking her under his side possessively as he stroked her hair.
“Your Disciples are all men of honour,” Bai Qian sighed with contentment at Mo Yuan’s caresses down her back. “I really enjoyed my dinner with them last night.”
Mo Yuan nuzzled her neck. A fox’s purrs began to resonate in the room once again…
They both jolted as a strange, powerful wave of energy burst through the temple. Mo Yuan exploded onto his feet as the Bell of Kunlun began to toll.
“Bai Qian, remain here!” the God of War ordered.
“Mo Yuan?! What is it?! What was that?” But the sound of the slamming door was the only reply. Bai Qian tried to summon her clothes from her chamber only to feel her magic blocked. Grabbing the blanket around her, she banged painfully off the side of the table as she raced to the door. It was sealed and locked against her magic.
“Mo Yuan!!” She pounded her fists against the wood. “Mo Yuan!! Why did you lock me in?! Mo Yuan!!!”
The tolling of the Bell continued to boom throughout the temple. Bai Qian could hear shouts and running feet in passageways nearby.
“Qian Qian?! Qian Qian!” Zhe Yan’s voice called from the other side of the door.
“Zhe Yan!! What’s going on?! I can’t get out. Mo Yuan sealed the door!”
She heard Zhe Yan curse under his breath.
“Qian Qian! The Dragon set a powerful barrier about the chamber. Stand clear of the door! I’ll try to blow it open!”
Bai Qian scrambled backwards to the hearth. There were stones jutting out from the wall there and she pressed herself behind them as best she could.
When she felt the tremendous swell of Zhe Yan’s power rise from the direction of the doorway, she instinctively raised her hands to shield her face. A fraction of a second later, the door exploded with a loud crack of wood, splinters whistling as they flew past her.
The Phoenix grabbed her hand. “Let’s go, Qian Qian!”
Her magic no longer impeded, Bai Qian summoned her clothing directly upon herself.
“Zhe Yan, what’s going on?! What was that energy wave just before?! Why did Mo Yuan lock me in here?!”
They were running through the passageway. Zhe Yan’s grasp tightened. “It was a black curse, Qian Qian. Demon essence fouled and perverted. It struck against the protective shield surrounding Kunlun. I felt it while I was in the garden. Why the Dragon locked you in… “
“At the gate, at the gate! Shifu is there with the senior brothers!” Voices of older boys shouted. “All juniors and apprentices to their chambers!!” Students were rushing past them.
“Zhe Yan, I want to know what’s going on! How can we get to the gate quickly when we can’t cloud-jump within the temple?”
“Hold on, Qian Qian.” Bai Qian felt Zhe Yan force his way past the protective spell of the mountain preventing outsiders from jumping in and out. She’d always known Zhe Yan was a most powerful being, but her friend rarely revealed the true extent of his magic.
A rush of cold air met them as they materialized outside.
Bai Qian heard harsh, ragged breathing along with the creak and scent of leather and iron… the disciples in battle gear. Then came, a voice.
“Ah, the blind fox has arrived.”
“Zhe Yan?” Bai Qian questioned hesitantly. “What’s happening? Who is speaking?”
“Oh gods…” came Zhe Yan’s whisper of revulsion.
Mo Yuan stood with his sword at the ready before the severed head of Zhong Yi, grotesquely propped upon its neck before the gates of Kunlun.
Kunlun’s Disciples stood in defensive formation behind their God of War, armed and with all senses open to impending attack. But there was no one else there. Mo Yuan knew there wouldn’t be. The point of this obscenity was not about attacking Kunlun.
He’d been staring into Zhong Yi’s sunken, milky white eyes, when Bai Qian materialized with the Phoenix. The Phoenix must have broken through his barrier as well as been able to circumvent the shielding spell upon the Mountain.
Mo Yuan wanted to shout for Bai Qian to get back inside the temple now! He’d sealed her in the moment he’d felt the demon energy. The calm before the storm he’d told Tianjun, and the storm had come.
Zhong Yi… The fury Mo Yuan felt at the butchery and desecration of his disciple had his eyes blazing gold.
It may have been Zhong Yi’s mouth speaking, but his was not the distorted voice that emerged when Bai Qian appeared.
“Qing Cang, you will pay for this dearly.” Mo Yuan’s voice was filled with deadly rage.
Bai Qian gasped. Zhe Yan’s grip on her hand turned to ice.
“Now, now,” groaned the severed head of the Fourth Disciple, “is the worm upset I took away one of his pretty boys? I must commend you, Mo Yuan, on getting a spy so deeply inside. Of course, entering your disciples deeply is something you’re good at, no?”
Qing Cang’s twisted laughter filled the air.
“Sixteenth! Stand down!” Mo Yuan commanded as a blanched-faced Zi Lan made to hurl his flying dart into the mouth of the head.
“What’s wrong, Mo Yuan? Frustrated you and that fat simpleton in the Ninth Sky can’t find me? No worries. I’ll be coming to find you shortly enough. My grand plans are soon coming to fruition. Only one more battle to go.”
Zhong Yi’s mouth curled into a decayed grin.
“Care to guess where?” Qing Cang’s voice mocked.
Milky eyes slowly oozed to the side to fixate upon a now trembling Bai Qian. “How fast can you run home, little nine-tails? It’ll be interesting to see how well the absent Fox King’s blind daughter can defend her home without him.”
Bai Qian’s heart froze. Qing Qiu…
高富帅 (Gao FuShuai) – Tall, rich and cute
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