6(第六章) The Hands of a Warrior

Dark lashes curled lightly along the edges of creamy smooth eyelids; eyelids whose corners were crinkled with a smile.

Bai Qian’s silk band had slipped off when he’d caught her head.

There was a certain symmetry between the soft curves of her fingertips and those of her eyebrows, Mo Yuan noted.

Like yesterday, it disturbed him not to be able to see Bai Qian’s eyes, more so now that they were unveiled but closed.  It was disconcerting to see.

She gave no reaction to the cloth being gone from her face. Could it be she wasn’t even aware it had come off?  If her silk band served no immediate perceptible purpose to her,  then what was it for?  Mo Yuan thought she wore it to protect her eyes. 

Or was it to hide them.

A barrier of sorts. 

The more time Mo Yuan spent in Bai Qian’s presence, the more intrigued he became by her unique ability to surprise him with the unexpected. And surprise him she did just now! The stunned Dragon didn’t know what to make of it.

Bai Qian had shown absolutely no fear or hesitation to touch him at all.

Any Celestial who ever met the Dragon God of War normally held him in awed reverence and kept their distance. Even Mo Yuan’s own disciples shied away from him in terms of physical proximity. With the exception of the training courtyards, none ever stood closer than an arm’s length from their master. 

As for tickling his beard like a smiling Bai Qian was doing now…

When her smile vanished with a gasp, Mo Yuan snatched her dropping hand.

“You’re bleeding. The palm of your hand is cut.”

She’d instinctively thrown out her arms to break her fall. Luckily, Mo Yuan had been able to catch her before anything other than one of her hands struck the ground.

But it wasn’t the cut or the blood that kept his attention fixed on the hand he held.

Delicate yet strong, sturdy yet fine, Bai Qian’s hand had a sun-kissed hue. Her way of walking, Mo Yuan concluded.  He’d observed it during moments she’d not been holding the Phoenix’s arm. 

Bai Qian walked with her palms down and hands slightly raised, as if about to push off the air. An unconscious habit? Or was she somehow able to guide herself by the feel of sunlight against the back of her hands? Could it be for the sun’s touch of warmth?  Yet Bai Qian’s hand was cool.

And rough.

Mo Yuan studied the toughened skin. Would her palm have even gotten cut had it not been for the sharp grit of the pathway?

Then there was the scarring.

What looked to be all manner of faded nicks, cuts, and burn marks criss-crossed the skin. Had Mo Yuan not known better he’d have thought her hands battle-hardened. Every Celestial female Mo Yuan had ever encountered had pale, soft, dainty hands. It had been his belief that goddesses were self-conscious about their hands, resisting any activity that could mar them. Not so the Fox Goddess Queen of Qing Qiu.

Bai Qian had the hands of a warrior.


Bai Qian was beyond startled when Mo Yuan grabbed her hand. Was she about to get a scolding for having touched him? He wasn’t saying anything though, only holding her hand, even pulling it closer to his face. His breath flowed along her fingers again. Then she realized what was going on. 

As much as curiosity had gotten the better of her, it would seem to have gotten the better of Mo Yuan as well.

He’s studying my hand.

Even if she hadn’t been able to tell from Mo Yuan’s breathing, the fact he had no compunction about turning her hand this way and that in front of his face was certainly undeniable.

Mo Yuan’s hand was warm.

The press of his fingers across the back of hers revealed them to be long and slender. He had the rough calluses she expected of a practised swordsman (her father had similar though not as pronounced) but it was the faint ones on the pads of his fingertips she distinctly recognized. Those belonging to a guqin player.

Why was there but a trace of them? Did Mo Yuan not play his guqin on a regular basis?

Wait.  Now was her chance, wasn’t it?  She could discover the answer to the question she’d set off with this day. Being held this close by him was an opportunity she would not get again. What was the scent of a dragon? Bai Qian drew in a breath. Yes, there it is. Mo Yuan’s scent is that of… of…

Leather-clad arms and a firm muscled chest were a little… distracting. Bai Qian’s face flushed as her heart skipped. Was that tingling in her fingertips from having touched his beard? 

Bai Qian stiffened. “My hand is fine, thank you,” she mumbled, pulling her hand out of his grasp. She pushed off his shoulder to stand. “It’s just a scrape, Lord Mo Yuan, I’m fin–” wincing sharply, Bai Qian stumbled off balance. Mo Yuan’s hands gripped her forearms to steady her.

“Qian Qian!” Zhe Yan’s cheerful voice came from the path above them. “I foun– What’s wrong?”

Bai Qian sent a silent prayer of thanks to Fate that Zhe Yan hadn’t arrived sooner. Witnessing her stroking Mo Yuan’s beard would surely have earned her at least several reincarnations-worth of teasing from the Phoenix.

Mo Yuan released her and she felt her friend’s hands squeezing her arms instead.

“I just tripped, Zhe Yan,” she said embarrassed. It’d been a very long time since she’d fallen anywhere, and of course it had to be in the presence of the realm’s God of War. Why not naked in front of the entire Celestial court while she was at it?


If she wished hard enough, would a hole open up next to her that she could jump into?

Zhe Yan’s robes and cloak rustled as he knelt and placed his hand against her ankle.

Pain shot up her leg again. Bai Qian sucked in a hiss of breath through clenched teeth.

“I can dress you up but I can’t seem to take you out, Qian Qian,” Zhe Yan said. “You’ve a nicely sprained ankle to show for today.”

“And a cut palm,” Mo Yuan added to which the Phoenix tsk-tsked. A soothing wave of Zhe Yan’s healing magic flowed over her palm and the stinging she only felt now vanished.

A flash of heat and a fiery crackle of flame erupted behind her. 

“Was that what you tripped on, Qian Qian. A tree root? Well, Mo Yuan just incinerated it. Nothing’s left but soot on the ground.” She could always rely on Zhe Yan filling her in on what she missed. Her best friend always had her back.

“Here is your silk band, Lady Bai,” Mo Yuan said. 

Bai Qian’s hands flew to her face. Her band was off! Why hadn’t Zhe Yan said anything?! Why hadn’t she felt it for herself?! Because you were distracted by a beard, on a muscled, leather-clad dragon, you dumb fox

Could this garden excursion turn out any worse? Mo Yuan saw my eyes. Could that be why he was studying my hand? He’d been taken aback and chose to direct his focus on something else?

The slippery length of silk brushed against the back of her wrist. Mo Yuan was holding it out to her in a manner she would feel.

“Thank you,” Bai Qian almost whispered as she swiftly took it and tied it back on. What else could she say? ‘Sorry you had to see what I do my best to keep hidden away?’

“Perhaps we best head back to my study where Master Zhe Yan may apply his medical skills in a more comfortable setting,” Mo Yuan offered.

Before Bai Qian could answer, a warm mist of cloud energy surrounded her as Mo Yuan whisked the trio from the garden.


Seated by the hearth fire once more, Bai Qian soaked in its wonderful heat with her hands and tails extended forward. Zhe Yan’s healing magic coursed through her ankle as he knelt beside her holding it.

Mo Yuan stood a distance away, presumably listening as she was to Zhe Yan’s observations about the silver moon orchid.

“I never imagined there could be but the one flower.” The Phoenix’s questioning tone meant for Mo Yuan.

“Yes. The silver moon orchid is but a single flower. When it dies off, another grows from its roots to take its place. The flower blooms and grows, wanes and waxes if you will, following the phases of the moon; hence its name.”

Mo Yuan’s rich voice was directed away from them. What is he looking at? Bai Qian wondered.

“You mentioned finding a reference to it in an ancient tome, Master Zhe Yan?”

The Phoenix cleared his throat. “Yes, well, ancient tome… One of legends and children’s stories.” 

Bai Qian straightened with a frown. She knew it! She’d been right when Zhe Yan had first talked to her about it. It was some children’s story! Oh, Mo Yuan must think them a right pair of idiots right now.

“Children’s stories,” Mo Yuan repeated in a dumbfounded tone.

“Mm-hmm,” Zhe Yan drawled, obviously amused by whatever expression Mo Yuan was giving him, “a children’s story about the First Immortal’s Garden.”

“My father then,” Mo Yuan sounded… regretful? “I don’t recall my father ever mentioning the silver moon orchid curing blindness.”

“In this particular story,” Zhe Yan continued, “the silvery glow of the orchid was used as a beacon of light for a sightless dragon lost in an abyss of pitch darkness.”

Mo Yuan’s voice drew closer.  “Artistic license does not necessarily adhere to fact, Master Zhe Yan. Some immortal poet or storywriter composing an entertaining tale about the flower rendering sight does not make it truth.”

“I disagree, Grandmaster. I’ve learned in fact that many a truth can be found in tales, even something as simple as a story meant for children.” Zhe Yan is in his element now, Bai Qian thought.

“And from this, children’s story, you concluded that it might reference a cure for blindness?” Mo Yuan didn’t even try to hide the skepticism in his voice.

“I have sought for many years a way to help Bai Qian,” Zhe Yan retorted a little sharply. “It’s worth investigating, is it not, Grandmaster? If my continued observations turn out to be all for naught, then no harm done.”

Continued observations?” Bai Qian lowered her hands to her lap.

“Mm-hmm, the flower emits a silver glow but is otherwise inert. I sensed nothing with my cultivation that would lead me to believe it possessed any magical properties I could combine with my healing powers. But given it is a flower that waxes and wanes with the moon as Lord Mo Yuan says, I’ll need to observe it for its life cycle of a lunar month then.”

“A lunar month?!” 

“And you’ll need to be close-by during that time too, Qian Qian.” Zhe Yan was sounding more cheerful by the moment. “If at any given time there’s some kind of magical revelation from the orchid, I’d need you there at a moment’s notice if some kind of transference of magic was necessary right then and there.”

Zhe Yan stood up and approached the fire. “As a single flower, I wouldn’t even consider removing it from the ground here to bring back to the Peach Grove to study. It risks altering any of its potential effects. The flower must remain in its natural habitat in order to preserve all its properties.”


Bai Qian sprang up with hands balled on her hips, her ankle protesting but weakly.

“You never said anything about being here for a month, Zhe Yan! I can’t just leave Qing Qiu for that long! We can’t impose upon Kunlun like this.”

“Qian Qian, I only saw the flower for the first time today. How was I to know? Besides, if my current suspicions are correct, as they usually are,” Bai Qian’s fox tails flicked,”we would only need to be here at night. As I said, the flower was inert in the day. The only thing emanating from it was its glow and its fragrance which–“

“–was like snowflakes, as if they were spiced,” Bai Qian interrupted without thinking.

“What?!” Zhe Yan started laughing. “Spicy snowflakes?! Sometimes you come up with the weirdest descriptions, Qian Qian. Good thing I’m not some magpie who goes around repeating everything you say everywhere!”

Bai Qian pressed her lips together. For some reason, she didn’t want to reveal that the description had been Mo Yuan’s. She actually found it to be quite an apt one the more she considered it. If it were possible to combine the icy, almost metallic scent of snow with a faint hint of spice… Hmm, like wu xiang fen…  Yes. That would be exactly what the silver moon orchid smelled of!

Who’d have ever believed that the God of War, who also knew of flowers, could be so flowery with his words as well? But then dragons did have a predatory sense of smell, she knew this from some of the stories her father had told her as a child. Could it be she had something in common with Mo Yuan? The need to find creative ways to describe what could only be scented, not read?

“It happens to be exactly what the orchid smells like, Zhe Yan!” Bai Qian insisted despite herself, realizing at the same time that she had yet to find the words herself to describe the scent of a dragon. The Dragon.


Had she heard him chuckle under his breath just now, Mo Yuan wondered. He knew the Phoenix hadn’t.

The Phoenix was grinning madly from ear to ear. He enjoys bickering this way with Bai Qian, Mo Yuan observed as the two friends seemed to forget he was present. 

She didn’t reveal to the Phoenix that the snowflake description had come from him. Interesting.

A lunar month.

If Mo Yuan were going to uncover a connection between Bai Qian and Qing Cang, a month should be sufficient time for him to do so. And as no other message had followed from his Fourth Disciple, it was imperative that Mo Yuan find out what he could… By any means possible.

Mo Yuan watched Bai Qian reach out to his fire again. He recalled how cool her hand was earlier.

And he recalled how she’d tensed and her heart rate had jumped as he held her.

The beginnings of a plan started to form in Mo Yuan’s mind.

“I will arrange accommodation for you both here on Kunlun for the month you require, Master Zhe Yan.” Mo Yuan went to stand beside the fire.

“The temple has several guest chambers. I will have some apprentices prepare a couple for you. And it will be no imposition at all, Lady Bai. If there is any way the silver moon orchid flower can render you your sight, then I am more than happy to accommodate you here. Besides, if what Master Zhe Yan suspects is true, it sounds as if you would only need to be here at night. You’d be able to return to Qing Qiu anytime during the day to oversee your business.” Which would provide me a reason to accompany you back and investigate goings-on there as well.

Mo Yuan faced Bai Qian directly.

“Please, I insist,” he said to her with a warm smile of charm.


五香粉 (wu xiang fen) Chinese five spice powder

⇛ Next part: 7(第七章) By the Hearth Fire

⇚ Previous part: 5(第五章) The Scent of a Dragon

Notify of

Inline Feedback
View all comments