Ch 20: A Meal for Two

For the first time in several months, Bai Qian’s slumber had been quiet and peaceful. There had been no violent nightmares invading her sleep and none of the bittersweet dreams of days past that left a lonely ache in her heart upon waking; there had been nothing but blissful silence. She woke later than normal feeling relaxed and well-rested.

Eyes drowsy, Bai Qian stared up at the granite ceiling above her, the small details of the rock softly illuminated by the rays of morning light that managed to make it through the small entrance to her den. Smiling when her thoughts turned back to the night before, the memory of all the wondrous emotions she had experienced filled her. She suspected Ye Hua’s cultivation was the reason her sleep had been less troubled.

Maybe I should try and connect with his cultivation again tonight.  

The thought made her fox yip with excited agreement which echoed inside Bai Qian with a pleasant tremor. Bai Qian’s gaze wandered to the small rock crevice where she had placed Ye Hua’s painting for safekeeping the night before. She imagined she could feel herself once again wrapped up in a heated layer of protection as her eyes landed on the gift Ye Hua had given her. She wanted to keep that feeling of warm safety with her always.

Shaking off the last hazy remnants of sleep, Bai Qian lifted herself up into a sitting position and forced her eyes to move away from the paper scroll. A worried frown pushed Bai Qian’s smile away. She needed to be more careful with her thoughts and actions. She couldn’t allow herself to become attached to or depend on someone that may not always be around. Ignoring her fox’s protests, Bai Qian told herself she would not return to one of Ye Hua’s traps; she couldn’t make a habit of seeking them out. What would she do if they suddenly disappeared from her forest one day?

The black dragon will never leave us. Her fox’s thought was an unusually clear one and Bai Qian couldn’t say with any certainty that it was only her fox thinking it. Realizing it may have come from both of them worried Bai Qian even more. While his presence had felt like a wonderful gift last night, now she couldn’t help but see it as something that could be snatched away from her. 

Resolving to ignore Ye Hua when he returned to her forest today, Bai Qian stood and stretched, cleaning her dress and body with a wave of cultivation. Wherever he is, I will be on the opposite side of the forest, Bai Qian promised herself as she grabbed a peach for breakfast. It didn’t matter what crazy antics he got up to today, she was going to pretend he wasn’t there. 

It shouldn’t be that difficult to disregard Ye Hua… the vexing man, Bai Qian told herself as she shifted into her fox and squeezed through the small doorway of her den. And yet, the first thing she did when she stepped outside was check the forest’s magic to see if Ye Hua had arrived already. Disappointment filled her when she did not feel his presence among the peach trees. Bai Qian tried to tell herself she was only feeling her fox’s disappointment. After all, Bai Qian was no longer going to care whether he showed up or not. 

Barely pausing to check her surroundings as she usually did, Bai Qian crossed the open clearing to reach the cover of the peach trees opposite her den. The tall grass still glistened with drops of dew that had not yet been evaporated away by the sun and the moisture clung to her fur as she stepped into the shadow of the trees, her paws making no noise as she trotted further into the forest. 

Having no particular destination in mind, Bai Qian took some time to simply enjoy the beautiful peach blossoms covering the branches above her as she had not allowed herself to in a long time. She would often pause in areas of dappled sunlight to bask in the warmth of the day. 

Despite her earlier resolve, every time the air currents shifted even the tiniest amount, Bai Qian closed her eyes and sampled the forest atmosphere to see if she could feel dragon cultivation mixing through it, her muzzle and nose lifting to check for that unique thunderstorm scent. Every time she heard the soft whisper of leaves moving against each other, her ears and tails would perk up at the sound. She would hold her breath as she listened closely, checking for a particular rhythm of masculine footsteps and the brush of robes against vegetation. 

Bai Qian tried to convince herself she searched for Ye Hua’s presence so she could avoid him but, deep inside, she knew that wasn’t true. For this whole time, her fox had been steadily leading them to the place where Ye Hua had left his painting for them, the last place they had seen him, and Bai Qian had done nothing to stop her even though she knew very well what her fox was doing. It wouldn’t really hurt to check in on what he was doing when he arrived, would it?

And when Bai Qian felt the sudden surge of powerful dragon cultivation flooding through the peach tree forest, the scent of rain and lightning surrounding her even though there were few clouds in the sky, her heart jumped with happiness and she felt relieved in the knowledge Ye Hua was now there with her. Her reaction happened before she could suppress it. Bai Qian shared her fox’s anticipation and was finally forced to admit that she wanted to see him again even with her fear of what the future may hold. His presence helped chase some of her loneliness away. 

Using Ye Hua’s cultivation as a guide, Bai Qian started in his direction at a slow pace, determined not to just carelessly rush towards him, ignoring her fox’s pleas to hurry up. Bai Qian thought it important to remain cautious for now. But then the scent of cooking venison wafted their way on a forest breeze, enticing Bai Qian’s fox like no other scent could. Before Bai Qian could stop her, the fox jumped forward and started running, racing toward the scent of deer and spices. Bai Qian had no choice but to go along, only managing to stop her fox right before she rushed them both headlong into the clearing with the cabin.               

An unexpected sight greeted Bai Qian when she looked out from the edge of the trees. The old fire pit had been cleared of debris and now a fire was burning brightly inside the circle of stones. A large black pot was dangling from a rack above the fire, flames licking against the iron. Ye Hua, his robe a dark maroon, was seated at a table placed near the fire. He was chopping a carrot with quick motions of his knife. She watched as he moved the pieces of carrot from the table surface to the cauldron with a wave of his magic.

Ye Hua was cooking something! Bai Qian found the idea of a Dragon Prince from the Heavens cooking for himself over a small fire in the middle of a forest an amusing one. But he appeared to be at ease while doing so. She crept forward a little further to try and get a better look. Did he know she was there? She thought he might for he seemed to hesitate for just a second before continuing with what he was doing. She didn’t let the possibility scare her away like she would have in the past. 

Instead, she continued to watch as he finished adding vegetables and spices to the venison she could smell in the air. Her fox’s attention stayed centered squarely on the scent of food different from what they had been eating the last fifty thousand years but Bai Qian’s eyes never strayed far from Ye Hua. She imagined, once again, that she was surrounded by the comforting warmth of his cultivation as she gazed at him. Her fox’s attention aligned with hers when the memory of the night before played out in Bai Qian’s mind and her fox urged her to move closer to Ye Hua, eager to be near the source of that warmth.    

No longer wary of Ye Hua, Bai Qian didn’t dismiss her fox’s idea. What would happen if she did walk over to him? Maybe now was the time to find out. 

Taking a deep breath for courage, Bai Qian crept out from the underbrush of the forest and into the grass on silent paws, her body instinctively crouched low to the ground due to years of being cautious. Her heart started racing as she braced herself for Ye Hua’s reaction only to watch in confusion as he walked to the cabin as if he didn’t see her. She raised her head and relaxed her tense posture as she saw him step through the cabin doorway, disappearing into the dark interior. 

Did he not know she was there? Only yesterday, he had sensed her presence when he shouldn’t have been able to. She looked around her. Now what? Should she go back into the forest? Much to Bai Qian’s surprise, the idea of leaving Ye Hua was one she didn’t want to consider for longer than a second. Her fox continued to urge her to move closer. Bai Qian sat, the tips of her tails twitching with thought as she studied the open doorway, a doorway that looked so close but felt like it was miles away from her.

Maybe I could talk to him… ask him what he wants from me. I could find out why he’s here.  

Bai Qian was hardly able to believe the daring idea had even popped into her head but she couldn’t make it go away once it was there. She had once loved talking with other people. Ye Hua’s presence in her forest had started to remind her of all the things she used to enjoy doing when she had been a young girl. But that had been so long ago; she wasn’t certain she would even be able to do those things now. Something that had once been so familiar to her felt strange and unknown. 

But she couldn’t turn and walk away either. Something about Ye Hua called to her; she found that pull was stronger than ever after her connection with his cultivation last night. Did he know about that? There was only one way to find out.  

Just shift, walk over to the door, and knock. That’s all you have to do. But what do I say? I should introduce myself. Bai Qian groaned at the thought. He already knows who I am. Maybe I should just say hello. But then what? 

Feeling rooted to the spot, Bai Qian grew frustrated with her inability to make herself do something as simple as walk up to somebody and say “hi”. Speaking with others had once been so easy for her. But now it felt like an impossibly difficult task to complete. 

Talking to Ye Hua is a risk I shouldn’t take. I shouldn’t even be here. Following him here was a mistake.   

Her frustration controlling her actions now, Bai Qian ignored her fox’s protests and stood, turning to head back into the forest. She needed to get away from Ye Hua so she could think things through more clearly. She didn’t want to do something she might end up regretting. 

She didn’t take more than two steps before a horrible grating sound filled the air. Bai Qian’s fur stood on end and her ears flattened in an attempt to muffle the terrible noise. Turning back to the cabin, she sighed, unsurprised by this sudden disruption of the peace and quiet. Ye Hua was growing more skilled at disturbing the tranquility of her forest with every passing day. She tilted her head curiously when she heard a heavy thud, followed by a dragging sound, coming from inside the cabin. 

What is he doing in there?  

Grimacing when the grating sound assaulted her sensitive ears again, Bai Qian located the source of the awful noise this time. Ye Hua was opening the windows of the cabin, windows that hadn’t been used in several millennia; the wooden frames must have become warped over the ages. She caught a quick glimpse of Ye Hua’s stern face before he turned away. 

Taking a few steps forward, Bai Qian paused when a rhythmic scritch scritch reached her ears. This new sound was soon followed by a cloud of dirt and dust exiting the open doorway in a gritty puff. The noise repeated and Bai Qian finally recognized what it was she was hearing. Ye Hua was sweeping the floor! With an ancient straw broom! 

Why is he sweeping?

Unable to contain her curiosity, Bai Qian crept closer only to stop when a loud rattling sounded from the interior of the cabin. Her ears perked up when she heard angry squeaks from a group of disgruntled mice as they scurried away from the intruder invading their home. Chasing mice was usually one of her fox’s favorite games but, right now, both Bai Qian and her fox were intent on finding out what Ye Hua was doing.

Is he cleaning? It was the obvious explanation but it didn’t make any sense to Bai Qian. Why would a Dragon God be cleaning the old rundown cabin in the middle of her forest? And without magic!

Another cloud of dirt and debris came flying from the doorway before Ye Hua stepped outside again. Bai Qian ducked down, once again preparing herself for his reaction upon seeing her. Once again, he gave no indication he knew she was there, confusing her further. Surely he could sense her now that she had gotten closer to the cabin. Despite having thought it was impossible for anybody to feel her presence when in fox form, Bai Qian was certain he had sensed her yesterday. So why not now?

She stared, fascinated, as he leaned the broom against the outside wall of the cabin and then reached for a large wooden bucket. Her eyes followed him as he walked to the small lake and scooped up some water, carrying it back to the cabin. Water sloshed over the rim of the bucket, dampening the hem of his robe, as he strode by her.

He must be cleaning the cabin! But why?

Unable to help herself, Bai Qian followed silently behind him, stopping just outside the entrance when he went back inside. Keeping her body and tails close to the ground, she slowly peeked around the doorframe, ears perked up with curiosity, scenting the air for information while her eyes adjusted to the darker interior. Lightning and rain reached her first, then the scent of soap, before dust invaded her nose. Eyes watering, her muzzle twitching as it tingled with irritation, Bai Qian tried to hold back the sneeze but was unsuccessful.   

The sound was soft but it still seemed to shatter the quiet around her. Bai Qian froze in place, closing her eyes, waiting for Ye Hua’s reaction when he finally realized she had been watching him. Would he be upset with her?

“Sorry about all the dust.”

Shocked to hear his voice speaking to her in such a nonchalant tone, Bai Qian’s eyes popped open only to find him looking for something in a cupboard like he still didn’t know she was there. He had said something to her, hadn’t he? Or had she imagined it? No, she was sure he had just spoken to her. Which meant he knew she was there… right? 

Feeling more baffled by his actions than ever, Bai Qian watched as he pulled two beige rags from out of the cupboard, closing the oak doors afterwards. Staring as he dipped one of the rags into the bucket of now sudsy water, she had to move fully into the doorway and turn her head to keep sight of him when he headed over to the small table near the fireplace and began wiping it down, following the motion with the second rag to dry the wood.

He really is cleaning without magic! But why? 

“Mother taught both Mo Yuan and me how to clean, along with many other things, without using magic.” 

Ye Hua’s soft voice broke the silence that had descended over them again, his calm tone washing over Bai Qian without causing her alarm. She was surprised to hear him answer her unvoiced question as if he knew what she was thinking as she watched him. Maybe he did. After all that had happened, she was no longer certain of anything when it came to the man in front of her.

“She always claimed it was important we know how to do things with and without magic,” he continued, moving the rag to the back of a chair without looking her way. “That you never know when a situation might call for doing something without it. I’ve only recently had the opportunity to understand why she thought it so important.”

He paused his words, dipping the one rag back into the soapy water and wringing it out, and Bai Qian waited anxiously for him to continue, wanting him to keep talking. For this whole surreal situation felt a lot less awkward when he was speaking to her. And there was something special about the sound of his voice. She was reminded of the day she had been unable to ignore him when he had spoken her name; only she had been too frightened to appreciate the possible significance of it at the time. Now, it made her wonder why she felt so drawn to it.  

“I usually hate cleaning.” Bai Qian’s gaze never left Ye Hua as he moved to scrub the brick mantle of the fireplace. “The clutter in my private study drives Mother crazy. And my brother calls me a slob sometimes.” Ye Hua chuckled. “Of course, Mo Yuan is a real stickler when it comes to organization. He’s weirdly obsessed with keeping everything neat and tidy and in its proper place. I’ll never understand it. Zhe Yan used to tease us about it, claiming there’s no way we’re actually identical twins.”

The affection she heard in Ye Hua’s tone while he insulted his brother amused Bai Qian for it reminded her of her own brothers and their relationships with each other. And hearing Zhe Yan’s name mentioned brought back additional memories of Bai Zhen. 

For the first time she could remember, the unexpected memories from her past didn’t bring the crushing sadness along with them. Bai Qian was surprised to realize it must be because Ye Hua was still talking to her. She couldn’t deny there was something soothing about his voice, the deep tone and easy cadence of it calmed her soul in the same way his cultivation had last night. 

“But, every once in a while, I find cleaning to be an enjoyable activity,” Ye Hua said, pulling Bai Qian back to his words. “It can become an exercise in meditation.” 

She watched as Ye Hua crouched to clean the hearth and found herself moving more fully into the cabin with him, tucking her paws underneath her as she settled into a comfortable position on the floor. As Ye Hua cleaned, he talked about various things. And as Ye Hua talked, Bai Qian listened, intrigued by this opportunity to learn more about him while having the chance to enjoy his voice. 

He would make a great storyteller. She wasn’t sure where the thought had come from, but it refused to go away once she had discovered it. Maybe one day she would find the courage to ask Ye Hua to tell her a story. She missed the days when she could listen to a new story whenever she wanted. She would never take simple things like that for granted again. 

Not once while he talked did Ye Hua try to turn and look directly at her. Bai Qian wondered why that was as she studied him. 

She was so absorbed with trying to figure him out, Bai Qian didn’t immediately notice when Ye Hua stopped talking. The new silence encroached on her slowly, interrupting the direction of her thoughts when it enveloped her. She focused her attention back on what Ye Hua was doing only to find him frowning intently as he scrubbed a spot on the footboard of the bed. His face looked stern again.

Before she even realized she intended to do it, Bai Qian sent a stream of her cultivation to the stubborn bit of dirt he was trying to wipe away, making it disappear with a brush of her magic.

“Thank you, Qian Qian,” Ye Hua said, turning to give her a grateful smile.

Qian Qian? Did he just call me Qian Qian?! 

Surprised, her eyes slid away from the dirt and back to Ye Hua, realizing as she did that he was looking directly at her now. His smile softened his features, making it impossible for her to look away.  

Bai Qian’s heart jumped as Ye Hua’s gaze locked with hers. She suddenly found it difficult to breathe properly with him looking at her that way; a bit of that unfamiliar warmth from the previous night filled her chest. Was this what the stories were talking about when a man was described as being so handsome he could take a woman’s breath away? 

She had once heard the phrase and it had stuck with her at the time because she hadn’t understood what it meant. Having your breath taken away by somebody sounded really awful but the story had treated it as if it were a wonderful thing. She remembered asking her mother about it. Her mother had smiled softly at the question, that knowing look grownups sometimes got appearing in her eyes. Her mother had tried to explain it but her explanation hadn’t made much sense to Bai Qian. Now, Bai Qian thought she might understand.  

Is Ye Hua handsome?  


The question and its answer formed unbidden in her mind and Bai Qian squirmed in place. Why was she thinking about something like that? What was wrong with her?

If she had been in human form, Bai Qian knew her cheeks would be burning a bright red color right now. She suddenly felt shy and wanted to hide from Ye Hua’s gaze while also experiencing the urge to move closer to him. Where was this strange feeling coming from? Did Ye Hua know what she was thinking? The possibility made her want to panic.

Please tell me he doesn’t know what I’m thinking.

The silence in the air now felt heavy to Bai Qian as she waited for him to turn back to his cleaning. Why was he still looking at her? Why wasn’t he going back to his cleaning?!      

Just as Bai Qian was preparing to bolt through the doorway in order to escape the uncomfortable moment, the wind shifted outside and the scent of venison and vegetables flooded through the cabin. Bai Qian’s stomach growled loudly, breaking the strange spell surrounding her and Ye Hua.            

Ye Hua’s captivating smile widened into a grin before he turned away from her. Bai Qian groaned to herself, embarrassed for a whole new reason now. Still, it was better than that awkward silence from before. Her eyes lowered to the floor when it happened again, willing her stomach to calm down.

“The stew will be ready in another hour or so,” Ye Hua said in a very casual tone. “You’re welcome to stay and eat some if you would like.”

Bai Qian glanced up at him, surprised by his offer. He was back to wiping down the wooden surfaces of the bed and did not look her way again. Her fox yipped inside with eager excitement,  practically begging Bai Qian to stay and let her have some of the venison. She really wanted to stay and eat with the dragon. 

Sighing, Bai Qian knew there was no good reason not to listen to her fox’s request. Plus, if she were being honest, she was now looking forward to eating some of the stew herself. But eating with Ye Hua? She wasn’t sure if that was a good idea, especially after what had just happened.


Despite admitting he didn’t like cleaning, Ye Hua did indeed clean the entire interior of the cabin without once using magic. 

Impressed by his determination, Bai Qian had watched as he cleared the cobwebs from the rafters with the broom, disturbing some spiders along the way. Then, he had swept all the ash and soot from the fireplace, wiping down the iron tools next to it that had been used to tend the fires of the past, before turning his attention to the small brick oven. He had even found larger rags to mop the wooden floor with at the end. 

Now they were outside and Bai Qian watched as Ye Hua hung the quilt and blankets he had removed from the bed onto a piece of rope he had strung between two trees. First, he had used the handle of the broom to beat all the dust and dirt away. Then he had taken them to the lake and washed them. Once he finished hanging them up to dry he would be finished. 

As the afternoon had grown late, Bai Qian had started to feel a little guilty as she watched, wanting to help him. It was a big job after all. But in order to help without magic she would have had to shift into her human form and Bai Qian couldn’t quite work up the nerve to take that next step. A part of her really wanted to, wanted to stand up and walk over to him on two legs instead of four and talk to him. Then, he wouldn’t be forced to continue his one-sided conversation. And she could ask him why.

Why are you doing this?

It was an important question for Bai Qian and it encompassed so much more than just her curiosity about why he had spent most of the day cleaning the cabin. There was still so much she didn’t understand about Ye Hua, things she now wanted to learn. 

“Finished,” Ye Hua declared with a tired but triumphant smile, pulling Bai Qian’s thoughts back to the clearing and the cabin. 

Her eyes followed him as he walked over to the fire to check the stew, something he had been doing more frequently in the last hour. 

“When I tell Mo Yuan I cleaned the whole cabin by myself, you have to back me up,” Ye Hua continued as he stirred the thick stew. The enticing scent of it wafted into the air as he did so. “Otherwise, he’ll never believe me.” He glanced her way. “What do you say?”

Without thinking, Bai Qian nodded her agreement, earning herself another one of his happy smiles.

“The stew is ready,” Ye Hua told her, two bowls appearing in his hand. “I didn’t find any plates or utensils in the cabin, so we’ll have to use these. Zhe Yan, Mo Yuan, and I would use these when we went camping.”

Her mouth watering with anticipation, Bai Qian’s stomach growled again as she watched him ladle a generous portion of stew into one of the large bowls. He walked towards her, stopping a few feet away from her as if he knew instinctively she wasn’t yet ready to have anybody in her personal space.     

Crouching down to her level, Ye Hua placed the bowl on the ground for her. “You may eat as much as you would like,” he told her softly. “I made plenty.”

Bai Qian glanced up into his eyes and they caught hers. There was a new expression in Ye Hua’s gaze; it was gentle and yet very intense, a strange combination that stirred up the nervous feeling of chaotic butterflies fluttering around in her stomach. The undefined warmth was back too. She realized there was some hidden meaning in this gesture of his, a meaning she didn’t understand but it seemed to be very important to him.  

Thinking he was about to say more, Bai Qian waited.

Instead Ye Hua stood, breaking the sudden tension in the air. Bai Qian’s attention turned back to the bowl of steaming venison and vegetables, the spicy scent luring her over to it, as Ye Hua walked over to spoon some out for himself with the wooden ladle.

“Do you mind if I stay out here and eat with you?” 

Looking up at him, Bai Qian hesitated. She had never eaten in front of somebody in her fox form before. She had always been taught it wasn’t the proper thing to do.

Jumping forward impatiently, her fox made the decision for Bai Qian, shaking her head at Ye Hua to let him know she didn’t mind sharing the meal with him, before leaning down to capture a warm piece of venison with her teeth. She had been waiting all day to eat the stew and didn’t want to wait a second longer. 

Warm juices and a delicious mix of spices exploded on her tongue as the fox enjoyed her first bite of the meal, which was quickly followed by a second. Reminding her fox to eat the vegetables along with the meat, Bai Qian savored the mix of flavors along with her fox who was eating from the bowl eagerly, albeit politely with small bites as per Bai Qian’s request. 

It had been so long since she had eaten anything like this, Ye Hua’s stew was a real treat for her. Bai Qian added cooking to the list of things she knew he was skilled at doing. Despite knowing it was impolite to ignore him, Bai Qian’s focus remained solely on the meal before her for several minutes.

When she did finally look up from her bowl, she found Ye Hua sitting on the ground by the table, watching her with an unreadable expression on his face, an expression reminiscent of the one that had confused her just a few minutes ago. He smiled at her when he caught her looking at him and then turned his attention back to his own bowl. 

Bai Qian appreciated the fact he had maintained distance between them but she was also very grateful he had stayed outside to eat with her. She had forgotten how nice it felt to simply sit and share a meal with someone. In the past, family meals had always been a happy time for Bai Qian and her family, something she hadn’t realized she missed so much until this moment. It wasn’t exactly the same but this meal with Ye Hua was special in its own way. Bai Qian could admit that to herself and she was comforted by the thought; maybe there were still good things out there for her. 

A comfortable mood settled over the clearing as twilight shrouded the forest in shadow and Bai Qian and Ye Hua ate together in companionable silence. Bai Qian’s fox now felt a great deal more affection for Ye Hua after this meal and after having spent the day with him. Bai Qian could sense it and suspected it would be more difficult than ever to keep her fox away from him. She would want to follow along with him wherever he went from now on. But the fox wasn’t the only one feeling it. 

No matter what happened in the future, this moment with Ye Hua was one Bai Qian knew she would always cling to and cherish, a bright happy moment chasing away some of the darkness her life had become.  

“This forest is very beautiful,” Ye Hua said, his voice deep and thoughtful. Bai Qian’s ears perked up at the soothing sound and she glanced his way but he wasn’t looking at her. “But there’s a lot of sadness in the air and also a great deal of loneliness. I would like to stay here for a while, to try and give some happier things to the forest. I will never harm anything here. That was never my intention.” 

Bai Qian studied him as he spoke, understanding there was an important message underlying his words. He finally looked her way with a serious expression in his eyes.

“If you ever find you really don’t want me here, Qian Qian, you can tell me.”

Unable to turn away, Bai Qian nodded. She did not doubt his statements like she once would have. And while she would have jumped at the chance to get rid of him two days ago, she no longer felt that way. She had enjoyed his company today. A big part of her really wanted to shift to human in that moment so she could answer him with words of her own, but, again, she could not make herself go through with it. It was so very simple. Why couldn’t she bring herself to do it?

Ye Hua stood and reached for the sack that had been sitting on the table all day. “Stay here,” he encouraged her. “I’ll be right back.”

She watched, curious, as he went back into the cabin. She felt a surge of his magic before he stepped back outside ten minutes later, the delightful scent of apples and cinnamon steaming from the surface of the plate now in his hand. Her mouth watered and her nose twitched as she inhaled the delicious fragrance of warm apples wafting around her. She had eaten so much already. How could she still be hungry?

He set the plate down on the ground near her, a spoon appearing on the plate from out of nowhere as he stepped back. 

“Goodnight, Qian Qian.”

Confused for a moment, Bai Qian watched as he walked back into the cabin, closing the door behind him, leaving her alone in the clearing. Then, she realized what Ye Hua had just done. He had left her alone so she would feel comfortable enough to eat the dessert in her human form if she wanted to. It was a very nice gesture; Bai Qian didn’t hesitate to take the opportunity he had given her. Why did Ye Hua seem to understand her so well? 

Shifting into her human form, Bai Qian picked up the plate and savored the sweet scent. She hadn’t tasted apples in fifty thousand years. Once she had taken the time to fully appreciate the first bite, the baked apples disappeared quickly.

Placing the plate down when she had finished the sweet treat, Bai Qian sighed with contentment, a smile on her face. Her hunger hadn’t been satisfied this well in what felt like forever. This was one of the best meals of her life, a meal she appreciated a great deal now that she had gone so long without. One day, she would find a way to tell Ye Hua just how grateful she was that he had offered to share his meal with her. It wasn’t something he had needed to do nor had she expected him to. 

Using her magic to clean the bowl, plate, and spoon for him, Bai Qian stood and carried them over to the table. She glanced toward the closed door of the cabin as she set the stuff down. 

You can tell him tonight. Just walk up to the door and knock on it. All you have to say is ‘thank you’. It’s very simple. You can do it.

Frowning with frustration when her feet refused to move in the correct direction, Bai Qian clenched a fist. It shouldn’t be this hard. And yet it was. Tomorrow, she told herself. I will try again to talk to him tomorrow.

With that thought clear in her mind, Bai Qian hurried to the edge of the clearing, pausing for just a moment before stepping into the forest. 


Glancing through the window to gaze out into the darkness, Ye Hua sucked in a sharp breath when he saw Bai Qian stepping into the shadows of the forest, her slender form dressed in a white dress, waves of long black hair cascading over her shoulders and down her back. He had not realized she would be standing right there. 

Wanting to respect Bai Qian’s right to decide when she was ready to show him her human side, it had not been his intention to catch a glimpse of her like this. But, once he saw her, Ye Hua could not make himself look away and his dragon quickly moved forward to see her for himself. Their glimpse of her was very brief however, for a second after Ye Hua’s eyes had landed on her, the woman disappeared to be replaced by a snow white fox with nine flowing tails. 

Both sides of Bai Qian were beautiful to Ye Hua and his dragon, especially when she was bathed in moonlight. They stood entranced, staring at the place where she had been, long after she had faded into the night.

⇛ Next part: Ch 21: Night Watch

⇚ Previous part: Ch 19: A Recipe to Follow

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