Ch 38: The Light of Tomorrow

Mo Yuan is hunting me.

The thought had been crashing its way through Jinjing’s mind all day, making it difficult for him to concentrate on anything else. The War God had made no formal announcement but word was spreading fast– Mo Yuan was hunting the traitor who had betrayed his brother. And Jinjing feared it wouldn’t be long before Ye Hua joined. 

Both twins would soon be hunting him down.

Dread settled in the pit of Jinjing’s stomach along with a heavy dose of anger directed at the foolish Demon King. Weisheng had been alone with Bai Qian. He wouldn’t have dared to approach her if anybody had been watching. So why hadn’t he grabbed her and disappeared the second he found her? Why linger in the area long enough for those men to stumble upon them? 

Jinjing frowned. He needed answers. Which meant he needed to speak with Weisheng as soon as possible. But how could he do so without drawing attention to himself? Maybe request a leave of absence? No. Leaving the Heavens now would only serve to draw attention his way. 

Every move he made from here on out was critical. One misstep and the life and status he had worked so hard to achieve would come crashing down around him. To avoid suspicion, he needed to maintain his regular schedule while doing everything he could to steer clear of Mo Yuan and Ye Hua. But especially Mo Yuan; Jinjing feared the War God would sense his deceit if they crossed paths.

Taking a seat at his desk, Jinjing jabbed his brush into the inkwell before slapping a blank sheet of parchment onto the wooden surface. He didn’t bother to mask the anger in his words as he composed a hurried message to Weisheng, demanding to know what had happened. Jinjing would find a way to get the note to the Demon King while remaining unnoticed, even if he had to sneak away to the Demon Realm in the dead of night to do so. 

Jinjing would get his answers from Weisheng soon. The more difficult task would be finding out how much information Mo Yuan had uncovered during his initial investigations of both the damaged warehouse and the Kunlun intruder. For all practical purposes, spying on Mo Yuan directly was impossible unless one had a legitimate reason to be on Kunlun Mountain. Which Jinjing did not. He would have to find other channels to use to keep tabs on the War God while also hoping Ye Hua conducted his part of the investigation from the Heavens. 

Sweat broke out on Jinjing’s brow as he admitted the deadly consequences he would face if he were caught by either Mo Yuan or Ye Hua. He had no choice but to keep going with his plans. 

Pushing back the panic that was attempting to claw its way into him, Jinjing focused on finishing his letter to Weisheng. Jinjing reminded himself that he was a master at finding the information he needed without getting caught. It would all work out in the end. He grimaced as his bravado faltered almost as quickly as it had formed. 

He was in a lot of trouble.


The Fox Den was still and quiet, almost peaceful even, as Ye Hua cradled Bai Qian on his lap, his arms wrapped around her slight shoulders. Her heartbreaking sobs had ended. She rested against his chest as they both savored the bond connecting them to one another, his feelings of love and protection surrounding her in an emotional embrace as earnest as his physical one. He pressed a gentle kiss against her head, inhaling the fox and peach blossom scent of her hair. 

Her words swirled through his mind as he held her.

Bai Qian’s memories had ignited a rage inside Ye Hua as she had shared her ordeal with him. It was simmering below the surface now, waiting until the appropriate time to be unleashed on those who sought to harm her.   

When Ye Hua’s search for Bai Qian had started and he had tried to imagine what she might have experienced as a girl, he had failed. He hadn’t come anywhere close to guessing the true horrors she had witnessed. He could envision her as a lost little fox kit curled up next to her father’s dead and mangled body with more clarity than he would have liked. She must have been terrified. He now understood why she had been so determined to stay hidden once she had disappeared into the forest. 

But Ye Hua still didn’t understand why she had run to the peach forest in the first place. The demons had left. She knew King Zhao Hui well. Why would she run when his soldiers approached the Fox Den? They would have taken her to the Phoenix King who would have cared for her as a part of his family. Either that or he would have brought her to the Heavens to live under the care of Ye Hua’s parents. 

So why did she run? Had Bai Qian mistaken King Zhao Hui’s soldiers for demon soldiers returning to the scene? Or was there some other reason? She had told Zhe Yan she hadn’t sought refuge with his family because she had been scared but Ye Hua couldn’t help but wonder if there was more to it than that. He wanted to ask but hated to interrupt the calm silence.

“Qian Qian?” he ventured after several minutes when his curiosity got the better of him. He would ask but he would not press her to answer if she didn’t want to. 

Bai Qian lifted her head from his chest and faced him. Her eyes were red, the skin around them swollen, from her earlier crying. Tracks of tears had dried on her cheeks. But that tragic, haunted look had vanished from her gaze to be replaced by something positive and much stronger… something determined. His beautiful Qian Qian was going to be okay despite all she had lost.

Ye Hua smoothed damp hair away from her face and tucked the dark strands behind her ears with a gentle caress. He gave her a small smile and received one in return.

“May I ask you something about that night, Qian Qian?”

Her smile faded, her expression growing somber again. But the determination in her eyes remained. He was relieved the haunted look did not return. She nodded.

“Yes, but there’s something else I need to tell you first. Something important.” 

“Okay,” he agreed softly. “You can tell me anything.”

She took a deep breath, moving off his lap so her eyes could better meet his. Her expression conveyed the seriousness of what she was about to say. “There was a dragon here in the Fox Den that night, Ye Hua.”

Disbelief washed over him before he could stop it. A dragon taking part in the attack on Bai Zhi and his family? That couldn’t be true, could it? Ye Hua wanted to tell Bai Qian she must be mistaken but the solemn look in her eyes stopped him from voicing his thoughts. 

“You’re certain?” he asked instead.

“Yes. Some of your father’s soldiers had been in Qing Qiu earlier in the day. Zhen Zhen and I had been arguing about whether or not they were really dragons and Father told us they were. So I recognized what he was when he showed up.”

“Could he have been one of the soldiers who visited that day?” 

Bai Qian shook her head. “I don’t know for sure… but I don’t think so. It all happened so quickly though. He appeared after the demons had left the den. I hid from him as best I could and watched as he searched my father’s body and the room. I think he was looking for something but I don’t know what it was. At first, he didn’t seem to know I was there. But then…” Bai Qian paused and drew in a shaky breath. 

“Then he did. Somehow, he sensed me there. He started toward my hiding place and I was sure he was going to kill me. But, for some reason, he disappeared before he reached me. I didn’t know who to trust after that and I feared I might become trapped inside the den again if someone else came inside. So I ran to the forest as quickly as I could.”

Ye Hua remained silent. His mind raced with possibilities as he processed this new and unexpected information. There was a dragon out there who had betrayed the Heavens and Qing Qiu, a dragon who had sensed Bai Qian’s fear while she hid inside the Fox Den. Had sensed her watching him. Had he known it was Bai Qian? Probably. But even if he hadn’t known for sure, he must have considered that possibility when her body had not been found among those of her family. And if he had discovered that Ye Hua had found Bai Qian alive and well? This unknown dragon was a person who would want Bai Qian gone because of what she had just revealed. 

His banked rage threatened to flare hot. Ye Hua clenched a fist tight and ground his teeth together as he and the black dragon wanted to roar with fury. A fellow dragon had betrayed Bai Qian’s presence in the Heavens to Weisheng! Ye Hua was sure of it even if he couldn’t fully explain why. He managed to keep the black dragon’s roar inside but a low growl escaped. Bai Qian jumped, giving him a questioning look. Ye Hua was relieved he sensed no fear in her and he took a deep breath to dampen his anger again. 

“Ye Hua, I’m sure…” she started but did not finish her thought.

“I believe you, Qian Qian,” he responded, guessing what she had been about to say.  

“Do you think he’s still out there?”

Ye Hua’s eyes met hers again and he nodded. “I do. I think he could be the person who told Weisheng you were in the Heavens yesterday.” 

“I had that same thought. That’s why I didn’t want to wait any longer to tell you.”

“Mo Yuan and Zhe Yan are already searching for him, Qian Qian. We will find him. And this information helps narrow down the list of who the traitor might be. Do you remember anything about him? His appearance? The sound of his voice? Anything at all?”

Bai Qian shook her head, frustration apparent in her expression. “He didn’t speak and I didn’t see his face. He was wearing a black cloak and the hood hid it from view. I have no idea what he looked like.”

“Did he shift into a dragon? Not all dragons can assume the physical form of their spirit beast. If he could, it would narrow the list down further and may even identify him.”

“He didn’t shift. Not where I could see him, anyway.” She closed her eyes and her brow furrowed slightly. Ye Hua remained silent, allowing her to concentrate. 

“His scent was…” Bai Qian frowned. “I’m certain I could just barely detect it underlying the stench of blood and death but it was so long ago. And it was faint.” After a few minutes, she opened her eyes with a huff. “I can almost remember it. The memory of it is there. I know it is but I can’t quite reach it.”   

“Mo Yuan may be able to help you remember.”

“Your brother?” Ye Hua nodded and confusion crept across Bai Qian’s face. “How can your brother help me remember something that happened when I was a girl?” 

“Meditation.” Understanding dawned on her face as he explained further. “Meditation can help you recover lost memories and Mo Yuan is the best person to help guide you. He mastered multiple meditative practices a long time ago and has a natural skill when it comes to teaching others. Plus, meditation will help you cultivate and strengthen your magic further.”

Interest sparked in Bai Qian’s eyes and her determined expression grew more intent. “I want to become stronger. If I can combine meditation with what your mother taught me, maybe I can cultivate more power more quickly.” She looked down at her lap where her hands rested, fingers clasped. Then she looked back up. “And I need to learn how to defend myself, Ye Hua. I’m tired of feeling helpless.” 

Ye Hua didn’t answer right away. He wished he could insist there was no real need for her to learn such things unless she wanted to but he knew better. She was right. 

“I know you will be there to protect me whenever you can,” she added quickly, seeming to misunderstand his silence. “But you have important duties that can’t be put on hold forever. And you can’t be with me every hour of every day. Nor should you have to be. I don’t…” She stopped.

He placed his hand over hers, rubbing his thumb against her skin in an attempt to soothe her. “You’re right, Qian Qian. It’s important you be able to defend yourself when needed. I think it’s a good idea.”

She smiled at him. “Will you teach me?”

“As much as I can but I will talk to Mo Yuan about it as well. He is the better person to teach you. He won’t hesitate to push you when needed. He’s dedicated his life to teaching his disciples martial arts, strategy, and awareness during combat among many other things. He enjoys it and he’s good at it. You can learn a lot from him.”

“Do you think he will agree to it? He doesn’t even know me.”

Ye Hua hesitated. Would Mo Yuan agree to teach Bai Qian? Surely, he would. His brother understood the importance of Bai Qian being able to defend herself against Weisheng and the unknown traitor. “I think he will. He doesn’t accept female disciples on Kunlun Mountain but you won’t really be a disciple. If nothing else, he will want to make sure you know the basics to get your training started.” Ye Hua hesitated again. Now was the best time to broach the subject of Bai Qian moving out of the peach tree forest. He was uncertain how she would take the idea.

“Qian Qian. I’ve asked Mo Yuan if we can stay with him on Kunlun Mountain until things are more settled. Kunlun has very few visitors, unlike in the Heavens. Those who do visit are people Mo Yuan knows well and they do so only once they have his permission. It’s the safest place to be until the traitor is found and Weisheng is stopped. But we won’t stay there unless you’re okay with it. What do you think?”

Bai Qian didn’t answer right away and Ye Hua wondered if he had pushed a bit too far. Maybe she wasn’t ready to take such a big step? If she disagreed with the idea, Ye Hua would talk to Zhe Yan about moving the cabin closer to the heart of the forest for a time. The ancient trees in the grove would be able to help him protect Bai Qian. And she would still be spending the majority of her days on Kunlun while training.

“If your brother is okay with it then I think it’s a good idea,” Bai Qian answered before Ye Hua could share his new plan with her. “I will be able to start learning everything I need to more quickly if we are living there.” 

“I will let Mo Yuan know as soon as I hear back from him.”

Bai Qian nodded before reaching into the hidden pocket of her dress to pull out an object. Ye Hua took it from her, surprised when she handed it to him. It was a dagger but it was very worn and the balance of the weapon was off. It may have been a reliable weapon at one point but it had seen much better days a millenia or two ago. The dagger wasn’t worth restoring. 

“I thought I needed a weapon when…” Bai Qian stopped and shook her head before Ye Hua could ask her to finish. “It doesn’t matter why I needed it. I sometimes sneak into a village right outside the forest at night to scavenge for discarded things I can use. This was the only weapon I was able to find on my last visit there.” 

Ye Hua looked down at it again, wondering how to tell her the dagger she had been carrying was useless.     

“I need a better weapon. Do you have one I could use? Or know where I can find one?”

The memory of his earlier visit to the Fox Den unexpectedly surfaced in Ye Hua’s mind, bringing with it images of the contents of the wooden chest in Bai Qian’s old chamber. “I do, Qian Qian,” Ye Hua told her, standing. He reached his hand down to grasp hers and helped lift her to her feet. “We will eventually need to find you a sword but I know of something you can use right away. Come with me.”

She nodded, curiosity in her gaze, and followed him as he led her towards the back corridor of the Fox Den, lighting candles as he urged her along. Bai Qian balked when he tugged her toward the door of her bedchamber though. Ye Hua looked at her but was unable to interpret her expression as she resisted crossing the threshold.

“Are you okay?”

“Yes. I just never expected to enter this room again. It… it feels strange for some reason. Almost like it doesn’t belong to me anymore.”

Ye Hua gave her hand a reassuring squeeze. “I think it’s normal to feel that way. A lot has changed since you were a girl but I think you will find the contents of this room familiar once you see them again.”

“You’ve been in my old bedchamber,” Bai Qian stated. Ye Hua didn’t detect any anger in her tone but he still wondered if she was upset with him. 

“Once,” he responded, tensing a little. “Right before I started looking for you. It was never my intention to invade your privacy. I just wanted to try and learn more about you because I thought it might help me find you.”

“Did it?” she asked him softly.

Taking a minute to consider her question, Ye Hua finally nodded. “Yes. I think it did in some ways. Are you angry with me?” Ye Hua relaxed when she shook her head with a small smile.

“No, I’m not angry. Just surprised.” 

Stepping aside, Ye Hua allowed Bai Qian to enter the room on her own, following a few steps behind her. She stood in the middle of the room for a minute, saying nothing. He kept a close watch on her reactions and mood as she walked around the room, examining everything in silence. She seemed thoughtful and he didn’t sense any distress coming from her. 

Approaching her old bed, Bai Qian reached out to the doll sitting against the pillow but stopped before touching it, pulling her hand back quickly. She turned to her old desk and ran her fingers along the rolled up scroll sitting there.

“My story,” she murmured, looking up at Ye Hua for the first time since entering the room. He moved closer.

“There were so many stories of princes and warriors rescuing their ladies and so few stories about the ladies doing the rescuing. I told Father I was going to write some for myself. It was more difficult than I expected to create a story of my own but I was determined at the time. Maybe I will finish it one day.” Bai Qian turned to look across the room.

She hurried over to the wooden rack where her childhood dresses were hanging, answering Ye Hua’s silent question about what had caught her attention. She picked up the dress with the bright mismatched fabric and uneven hem and held it against herself with a fond smile. Ye Hua grinned when he saw it.

“Do you remember this dress?” she asked.

Ye Hua laughed. “Yes, I remember it.”

She looked back down at it before draping it over a hook, running her hand over the fabric. “This was my favorite dress,” she told him, still wearing a smile. “I loved it. I worked for hours designing it just the way I wanted.” She glanced his way. “You should have seen Mother’s reaction when I described what I wanted. She must have asked me a hundred times if I was certain about my design. She finally agreed when I insisted it was perfect for me.”

She pulled her hand away, curling her fingers into a loose fist. Bai Qian’s smile faded. “It was too big for me back then. I was always tripping over the hem. And now… “ She sighed. “Now it’s too small. I never had the chance to wear it when it fit perfectly to see how it looked.” She turned away from the dress rack. “I guess some things just weren’t meant to be.”

An idea popped into Ye Hua’s mind and he quickly grabbed the dress, folding it before slipping it into the hidden pocket of his tunic with a pulse of magic to make it fit. Not wanting Bai Qian to notice the dress was now missing, Ye Hua hurried over to where she was standing in the middle of the room.

“Why did you want to come in here?” she asked Ye Hua when he reached her side.

“It’s in the chest over here.” He led her to the wooden chest near the wall. When he knelt before it, Bai Qian joined him.

The creak of hinges filled the room when Ye Hua lifted the lid. A wave of floral scent swirled around them; the fragrance had grown fainter compared to when he had looked in the chest several months ago.     

“I don’t understand. The only thing in there is dried flowers. I was trying to preserve the blossoms and their fragrance to use around the den and to give to people in the village.”

“And this,” Ye Hua added, reaching down into the chest to grab the jade box tucked in the far corner. He handed it to Bai Qian whose fingers trembled as she traced the tips of them along the lines of the nine-tailed fox carved into the lid. She lifted it to look at the silver dagger with its leather hilt bearing Bai Zhen’s name nestled inside.

“Si Ge’s gift,” Bai Qian whispered in a shaking voice. “I had forgotten all about this.” She closed the box and shook her head, placing it back into the chest. “That is Zhen Zhen’s dagger. I can’t take it from him. I… I can’t use it. It belongs to him. I… no, I can’t.”

“He would want you to have it, Qian Qian.”

She was silent for a time. When she finally looked up at him there were tears welling up in her eyes. “You really think so?”

“I do,” Ye Hua answered softly. He took one of her hands with his, intertwining their fingers. “Siblings take care of each other, Qian Qian. Even when they’re most annoyed with you, they will still protect you if needed. Your brother would want you to be safe, to be able to defend yourself. I think he would want you to use the dagger in his stead.” 

Bai Qian sighed. “Zhen Zhen always did look after me. He complained about it sometimes but he still looked out for me.”

He reached for the jade box again and offered it to Bai Qian. She hesitated for just a moment and Ye Hua was sure she was still going to refuse it. But then she took it from him and tucked it into her dress without saying a word.

“Are you all right, Qian Qian?” Ye Hua gave her hand a small squeeze.

“Yes.” She offered him a tremulous smile that almost convinced him. “Or I will be. Today was difficult and yet I feel lighter inside than I have for a long time. And now that I have a plan to develop my strength I feel more hopeful about the future.”

“We’ll face it together,” Ye Hua reassured her.

“Together,” Bai Qian repeated in a soft voice and her smile became genuine. She lifted her face to his and pressed a soft kiss against his lips, allowing her mouth to linger on his. Ye Hua needed no further encouragement and his tongue swept along the seam of her mouth, seeking to deepen the kiss. 

Not yet and not here, a practical voice within him said, interrupting Ye Hua before the kiss could get out of control. He hated that reasonable voice sometimes.  

Ye Hua wrenched his mouth away from hers. It was neither the time nor the place for lovemaking of any kind, he reminded himself while holding Bai Qian against his chest. And he wasn’t yet certain she was ready for more. But his instincts told him she would be ready to take that next step with him very soon. He just needed to be patient for a little bit longer. Their lovemaking would be all the more passionate and fulfilling for having waited. His patience would reward them both in incredible ways. He was certain of that. 

Clearing his throat to help ease away some of the tension now crackling between them, Ye Hua put a small bit of distance between them. “Are you ready to leave, Qian Qian?” He cleared his throat again when his voice sounded huskier than expected. 

“Yes,” she whispered, giving him one of her shy smiles that he loved so much. “There’s something I need to get from Zhen Zhen’s room if you don’t mind. It shouldn’t take more than a minute.”

“Of course,” Ye Hua agreed, standing before helping her up.

He followed her across the corridor to her brother’s room, waiting at the threshold as she entered the cluttered bedchamber. She paused in the room for just a minute, seeming to take in the possessions her brother had left behind when he passed out of this world and into the next. 

The messy room contrasted with Bai Qian’s neat and orderly bedchamber, telling Ye Hua neither his father nor King Zhao Hui had straightened her room when they had secured the Fox Den. He had wondered about that during his previous visit with Zhe Yan. Bai Qian was an organized and tidy person. Now Ye Hua wondered how long it would take her to learn he was neither of those things. He smiled. Would it drive her crazy like it did the rest of his family?

Bai Qian crossed to the desk in the corner of Bai Zhen’s room and pocketed a scroll of paper that had been stowed away in a drawer. She then returned to Ye Hua’s side.

“It’s a letter Zhen Zhen wrote to Zhe Yan,” she explained as she exited the room. “Zhen Zhen was so angry with me when I found it by accident while looking for something on his desk. But then he confided in me that it was an important letter and made me promise not to say anything about it. He planned to give it to Zhe Yan when he was here for Zhen Zhen’s birthday celebration.” She stopped and glanced at the ground before looking back up at Ye Hua. “I don’t know if Zhe Yan will want to read it now or not but I thought I could ask him.”

“He will want to read it, Qian Qian,” Ye Hua reassured her, remembering Zhe Yan’s admission of having had feelings for his old friend. “You should give it to him.”     

She nodded and then reached for his hand to hold it. “Can we stop by my family’s memorial before we leave? I’d like to introduce you to everybody. It’s not far… just right outside.”

“I’ve seen it,” Ye Hua told her quietly. “I’d be honored to meet your family.”

Bai Qian led Ye Hua out of the Fox Den and into bright sunshine and warm air. It had turned out to be a beautiful day. There were birds singing off in the distance along with the whirring of bees searching for flowers to harvest. A gentle breeze stirred Bai Qian’s hair as they walked, the long waves brushing against Ye Hua.

They approached the small memorial, tucked into its granite nook, in silence, and knelt before it in unison. Bai Qian picked up the small jade dragon figurine Ye Hua had placed off to the side several weeks ago and smiled at him.

“You gave them something.”

“Yes,” Ye Hua responded. “I wanted to honor them and show my respect. And I wanted to reassure them you weren’t alone. Not anymore.”

She placed the dragon in a prominent position next to the jade nine-tailed fox token. Seeing his dragon figurine not only in the memorial itself but also resting at the side of the fox carving filled Ye Hua with happiness. 

“Thank you,” Bai Qian whispered to him before carefully removing all the dead peach blossom petals. She summoned fresh blossoms and arranged them carefully around the portrait of her family, moving closer to Ye Hua’s side when he did the same. She didn’t light the candle, however. There wasn’t much wax left and Ye Hua made a note that he and Bai Qian should pick out a new candle to burn in honor of her family. They could use a Celestial candle, one that would never burn down. It would always be there to provide light for Bai Qian and her family. 

“Mother. Father. I’m sorry I haven’t been by to visit you in a while. A lot has happened since I was here last.” She glanced at him before turning back to the family portrait. “This is Ye Hua. Heavenly Father’s son. Do you remember him, Father? He’s the boy who pulled my hair. And then I kicked him in the shin.” Ye Hua grinned as she laughed. “And the one who apologized without really apologizing. Do you remember the story, Mother?”  

“Your apology wasn’t sincere either, Qian Qian,” Ye Hua teased and she laughed again, wrapping her arms around one of his.

“That’s true. It wasn’t.” She turned back to her family but didn’t release her embrace. “We get along much better now.” Her smile faded as her expression grew more serious. “Ye Hua is… my friend. And something more. I… I love him. He makes me happy. We will take good care of each other so you don’t need to worry about me so much anymore.” 

“I will visit you more often,” Bai Qian continued after a brief pause. “I don’t know if I will ever live in the Fox Den again but I won’t let go of it either. And I won’t allow Qing Qiu to remain empty and abandoned. I will bring our land back to life, Father. I want to welcome any survivors of the attack, if there are any, back to their homes. I want Qing Qiu to be a safe, joyful place again… and a place of refuge for any who need one. Because I know what it’s like to feel lost with nowhere to go. I was lucky the peach tree forest was there.”

Bai Qian turned to Ye Hua with uncertainty in her eyes. “I know I should have discussed this with you beforehand. I…”

“It’s okay, Qian Qian,” he told her, wanting to reassure her he liked the idea. “This land is yours to do with as you wish and it’s a good plan. The realm was a better place with Qing Qiu in it. I will help you rebuild as much as I can.” He would also help her create an effective defense system to protect the land from future attacks. He and Bai Qian would make sure the massacre of Qing Qiu never happened again.

Turning back to the family portrait, Bai Qian amended her earlier statement. “Ye Hua and I will bring Qing Qiu back to life. I promise.” 

Bai Zhen’s intended gift appeared in Bai Qian’s hand before she moved her attention to her brother. “I have the letter you wrote Zhe Yan, Zhen Zhen. I will make sure he gets it. And I… I’m going to borrow the dagger Second Brother helped me pick out and buy for you for your birthday if that’s okay.” She smiled, holding it up slightly. “I know you always hated it when I borrowed your stuff without asking. I’ll return it as soon as I can. And I’ll take good care of it.”

Ye Hua waited patiently as Bai Qian took the time to address each of her other three brothers in turn. “I love and miss all of you very much,” she finally murmured.

Silence descended over the area and they remained motionless for several peaceful minutes until Bai Qian broke the quiet.

“We can go now,” she said softly. “I’m ready.”

“One minute more,” Ye Hua responded, the sudden urge to address her family for himself coming over him. He bowed his head at the portrait. The figures had started to fade and Ye Hua hoped he would be able to paint an identical one to give to Bai Qian one day. He didn’t want her to lose this important image of her family.  

“King Bai. Lady Bai. It’s a pleasure to formally meet you. I haven’t forgotten my earlier promise to you both. I am honored to be a part of your daughter’s life. I will cherish and protect her until the moment I breathe my last breath.” The black dragon rumbled a hushed growl in agreement.

“Ye Hua,” Bai Qian whispered, her voice shaking with emotion. She hugged his arm tightly, resting her head against his shoulder. 

“Forever,” Ye Hua told her in a quiet voice, pressing a soft kiss to her forehead to seal his promise.

⇛ Next part: Ch 39: Kunlun Mountain

⇚ Previous part: Ch 37: The Shadows of Yesterday

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