Formidable and awe-inspiring. Those were the words Bai Qian thought of when she first saw Kunlun Temple as she and Ye Hua approached the impressive structure.
Kunlun Mountain itself was breathtaking. Bai Qian had never stood on the summit of so tall a mountain before. The panoramic view of the surrounding lands was magnificent. She had gazed out at the picturesque landscape in amazed silence. The mountain air was cool and crisp; it carried the woodsy scents of pine and sap from the coniferous forest growing on the mountain. It smelled very different from her beloved peach tree forest but was no less refreshing.
The mountain was awash with divine energy; the purity of its power declared Kunlun Mountain to be a sacred place. That divine power emanated from the summit and increased in strength the closer she got to the temple.
Bai Qian studied the facade of the structure rising up before her, moving closer to Ye Hua’s side as they approached the steps leading to the entrance. Kunlun Temple was constructed from coarse, dark grey rock; it reminded her of a type of volcanic rock her father had once shown her. A yin yang symbol graced the top of the open doorway. The eyes of a great carved dragon seemed to watch her as she and Ye Hua climbed the steps. Bai Qian suppressed a smile as she was reminded of her handsome black dragon; she didn’t think that was the effect the dragon carving was supposed to have.
Ye Hua halted her progress with a gentle touch to her arm before pointing towards a blank area on the temple’s facade off to the side of the doorway.
“The temple isn’t quite finished yet. As God of War, Mo Yuan needs an official seal he can place on his temple. I’ve been creating the design for him. It will be carved into that spot.”
Bai Qian’s eyes widened in surprise. “God of War?” Ye Hua expected her to train with the Celestial War God? Was he out of his mind? There was no way she was qualified to learn anything from the top leader of the Celestial military. She had zero fighting experience. Some of her doubts must have shown on her face because Ye Hua took her hand with his.
“You never said your brother was the God of War, Ye Hua!”
“It will be okay, Qian Qian. I promise.”
“But I don’t even know the proper way to hold a weapon,” she protested. “Your brother is War God. He must be accustomed to training men with some combat experience.”
“Don’t let his title intimidate you, Qian Qian. It only comes into play during times of war. Mo Yuan’s disciples are young and some have little training. He wants to help guide them into becoming military leaders and elite warriors one day but they are starting from the beginning. Mo Yuan would say that teaching the basics is just as important as teaching advanced combat strategy and weapons skills. All soldiers need a solid foundation to build their skills upon.” He paused before giving her hand a squeeze. “Don’t worry. If Mo Yuan says no for some reason, I will teach you what you need to know.”
“Okay,” Bai Qian responded with a small smile, turning to face the temple entrance.
Her smile faded and her stomach knotted with nerves. Mo Yuan, War God for the Celestials and Ye Hua’s twin brother, was standing there. There was no mistaking him for anybody else. The resemblance between him and Ye Hua was remarkable. If Mo Yuan shaved his facial hair, he and Ye Hua would be exact mirror images of one another. It took Bai Qian by surprise despite seeing the two of them together in the peach tree forest several weeks ago. It would take some time for her to get used to.
Mo Yuan’s gaze moved to her and he seemed to study her. His expression was stern. It was much different than the relaxed one he had worn when she had watched him play the guqin. Bai Qian’s stomach knotted once again. He didn’t look very pleased to see her. What if he didn’t approve of her relationship with Ye Hua for some reason? Would that opinion matter to Ye Hua? After listening to many of his stories, it had become clear to Bai Qian that Ye Hua was close to his twin.
Fighting the sudden urge to duck and hide behind Ye Hua, Bai Qian straightened her shoulders instead. If Mo Yuan didn’t approve of her spending time with his brother, she would just have to find a way to change his mind. She wasn’t going anywhere. Her eyes met Mo Yuan’s straight on as if daring him to speak out against her. It was a maneuver she had often tried with her older brothers, with mixed results, when she wanted to make a point.
To her surprise, it worked as if she had just passed an unspoken test. A warm smile crossed Mo Yuan’s lips, changing his expression to a welcoming one. Bai Qian relaxed a little bit and followed Ye Hua as he climbed the rest of the stairs. The black dragon growled a soft greeting to Mo Yuan, startling Bai Qian. She watched, interested, as a golden hue glinted in Mo Yuan’s irises as his dragon returned the greeting.
“I was just sitting down to write a response to your message when I sensed your arrival,” Mo Yuan said.
Bai Qian groaned inwardly. She leaned towards Ye Hua, speaking to him softly. “I thought you had already heard back from your brother.”
“Not yet.” Ye Hua shrugged. “But I knew he was going to agree. He’s always willing to help when I need him. He’s dependable. Right, Da Ge?”
Mo Yuan scoffed, his response dry in tone. “When it involves you, I think foolish is a much better word for it.” He directed his attention towards her. “Don’t worry, Bai Qian. I’m used to Ye Hua barging his way in when he needs something.” Mo Yuan gave his brother a forceful pat on the shoulder with a grin. “It’s just one of the many joys and responsibilities that come along with having a little brother.” Ye Hua scowled and Bai Qian hid a smile, relaxing even further. She preferred this introduction to Mo Yuan over a more formal one. Both brothers seemed to sense that.
“Qian Qian and I will be sure to return the favor, Mo Yuan, when Meixiu kicks you off the mountain,” Ye Hua retorted. “You can come and stay with us until you grovel and plead your way back into her good favor.”
“That’s very kind of you, Ye Hua. I’ll be sure to hold you to it.”
Once again, Bai Qian hid a smile when Mo Yuan did not become irritated by Ye Hua’s comment as Ye Hua had obviously intended. As her oldest brother would have said, Mo Yuan had just won that exchange.
Ye Hua seemed to remain annoyed for a second longer before he smiled. “Congratulations on your engagement, Da Ge. I will help you keep the news quiet until you and Meixiu are ready to announce it.”
“I wanted to congratulate you when you were in the Heavens but didn’t get the chance with everything that happened.”
Ye Hua’s expression grew serious and so did Mo Yuan’s. A look passed between the two of them and Bai Qian had the impression much had been said in that brief moment even though neither of them had spoken a word. She wondered what it was.
“I have some information to share with you both but I will let you come in and get settled first. Mother and Father are waiting inside.”
Bai Qian was happy to hear Heavenly Mother was here on Kunlun Mountain. She had been looking forward to seeing her again.
“Since Ye Hua has forgotten to do so, I’ll introduce myself. I’m Mo Yuan. It’s an honor to finally meet you, Bai Qian,” he told her. “I was relieved to find out you were safe and unharmed after what happened with Weisheng. You are family now so Kunlun Mountain and Temple are open to you. You are welcome at any time for any reason.”
“Thank you,” she whispered, awed by his generosity after only having known her for a few minutes. She bowed her thanks to Mo Yuan, thinking she should say more to him. But what? She barely knew him.
“I really enjoyed the music you played in the forest,” she blurted out, cringing inside at her awkwardness. She forged ahead anyway. “It was beautiful. I wanted to thank you for that as well.”
“It was my pleasure,” Mo Yuan responded, showing no sign he noticed anything amiss with her awkward attempt at conversation. “It had been a while since I had played. I will be sure to play for you and Ye Hua again while you’re both here.”
“I’ll sing along,” Ye Hua added, grinning at Bai Qian when she reached for his hand to hold it.
“No!” Bai Qian and Mo Yuan spoke the word together in unison. “Nobody needs to hear you sing more than is absolutely necessary,” Mo Yuan added.
“Fine,” Ye Hua muttered along with something else Bai Qian didn’t quite catch though she suspected he was insulting Mo Yuan in some way.
“Ignore him,” Mo Yuan told Bai Qian, hiding a grin before leading her and Ye Hua inside. “I’ll take you to see Father and Mother. If we don’t hurry, Mother will hunt us down just so she can see you’re okay with her own eyes.”
Bai Qian tightened her fingers on Ye Hua’s to give his hand an affectionate squeeze as they walked. He caressed her skin with his thumb in return, making her smile.
She didn’t experience the same rush of nerves she had felt before at the mention of seeing Heavenly Father. After Heavenly Mother’s and Mo Yuan’s easy acceptance of her, she was beginning to realize that, at least in private, Ye Hua’s family was very much like her own had once been. It didn’t matter that they were the most powerful of the dragons in the realm and the ruling family of the Heavens. In the end, they obviously cared and looked out for one another as her own family had. It was easy to imagine herself seeking advice from Heavenly Mother as she had once sought advice from her own mother. And Mo Yuan reminded her of her oldest brother in many ways; it was difficult to see him as the War God for the Heavens.
Warm happiness filled Bai Qian. Not only had she found someone special to love and share a life with in Ye Hua, she had also found a family to surround and support her again. It was a wonderful feeling. Her fox yipped in agreement.
The inside of Kunlun Temple was just as inspiring as the outside. The interior walls were made from the same dark volcanic rock as the exterior but there were many windows allowing natural light to brighten the corridor they walked along. They passed an impressive battle axe whose sharp blade glinted with reflected light from its place on the wall near a long spear bearing clusters of black feathers secured with strips of leather.
Various examples of realm art decorated the walls and Bai Qian paid particular attention to the two painted by Ye Hua. She recognized his signature right away from the painting he had given her. One was an aerial view of the summit of Kunlun Mountain before the temple had been built. The other was of the Celestial Palace in the Heavens. The colors were muted and she wondered if the image was showing the palace as it looked at night. She had never seen the Heavens at night and still found it difficult to believe it was always light outside there. How many of Ye Hua’s paintings did Mo Yuan have hanging in his temple?
Before she could ask, Mo Yuan stopped to speak with one of his disciples. The boy greeted her and Ye Hua politely before turning his attention back to Mo Yuan. The disciple must not have liked what Mo Yuan was telling him based on the frown that came over his face; it reminded Bai Qian of how she had always felt when one of her parents assigned her a chore she didn’t want to do. Mo Yuan seemed to ignore his disciple’s expression and continued to patiently give him instructions.
Bai Qian glanced Ye Hua’s way. “I go out of my way to sing off key whenever Mo Yuan is around because it annoys him so much.”
She eyed Ye Hua skeptically. “So you’re saying you can sing well when you want to?”
Ye Hua hesitated.
“No, he can’t,” Mo Yuan answered, joining them again. “I’ve heard him sing when he thought I wasn’t around. He still sounds terrible. But I couldn’t draw something simple to save my life while Ye Hua makes people and places look alive on paper with nothing more than paint and a brush. So it makes us even.”
“Are there more of your paintings hanging in the temple?” Bai Qian asked Ye Hua.
He nodded. “Yes, I’ll show them to you when we have some time if you’d like to see them. I think I know where most of them are.”
“I’ve asked my disciple, Die Feng, to prepare two guest rooms for you to use while you’re here,” Mo Yuan explained as he led them down a shorter corridor to a pair of wooden doors. “I’ll introduce him to you later. If you need anything, you can always ask him if I’m not available.”
Bai Qian nodded her thanks, experiencing a sudden bout of shyness now. Ye Hua’s parents were in the next room. They must be. It was time to meet Heavenly Father again. Would he approve of her and find her worthy of his son?
She entered the room on trembling legs after Mo Yuan slid the doors open and gestured for her to go first. Ye Hua’s parents were seated with Zhe Yan at a table on the far side of the room on a small dais. All conversation stopped when they noticed her. Bai Qian bowed to them in a respectful greeting that would have made her parents proud only to be enveloped in a tight embrace as she straightened.
“Qian Qian,” Heavenly Mother said, her arms stronger than expected for such a petite and slight woman. She pulled away to look over Bai Qian up and down. “Are you really okay? I’ve been so worried about you. Weisheng didn’t hurt you anywhere, did he?”
“I’m okay,” Bai Qian responded, “he scared and surprised me but he didn’t hurt me.”
“Are you sure?” Zhe Yan asked as he joined Heavenly Mother at Bai Qian’s side. “I have some medicinal herbs with me so I can heal you if needed.”
“I’m okay, Zhe Yan,” Bai Qian answered, reassuring him with a smile.
He also gave her a quick hug. “I was worried about you.” His expression sobered. “I’m sorry I didn’t realize Weisheng had left the gathering sooner.”
“Don’t apologize, Zhe Yan, “ Ye Hua said, moving to Bai Qian’s side. “You’re the one who noticed first and let me know.”
“And you’re okay too, Ye Hua?” Heavenly Mother looked her son over as well, with a critical eye for injury only mothers seemed to possess. She remembered her own mother giving her that same close scrutiny when she had been a girl.
“Yes, Mother. I’m okay. I promise.”
The room grew silent as Heavenly Father stood from the table and approached Bai Qian, a grave expression on his face. He looked like an older, wiser version of his sons though the angles of his face were more pronounced than theirs would ever be. His eyes were the same shade of brown. His hair and neatly trimmed beard and moustache were streaked with small amounts of grey. But his powerful presence filling the room was what caught Bai Qian’s attention the most. He commanded the respect of everybody there while returning that respect in equal measure. There was no question he was the most powerful God in the Heavens and beyond, an overwhelming and terrifying force to reckon with for those who broke the laws of the Heavens, yet Bai Qian sensed no reason to fear him.
His eyes held sadness and regret as he stopped before her. Bai Qian wasn’t sure what she was supposed to do next so she remained quiet.
“I’ve waited so long for this moment, Bai Qian,” Heavenly Father said, his deep voice soft. “No, I’ve hoped for this moment for so long. Everybody always insisted you were lost with the rest of your family yet I couldn’t stop looking for you, hoping and believing they were wrong. And now you are standing before me–alive; a brave girl grown into a resilient and lovely young woman despite everything that happened.”
Bai Qian gasped, surprised when he dropped to his knees. “I’m sorry for not protecting your family and Qing Qiu, Bai Qian. It was my responsibility as their ally and I’ve carried the weight of my failure for a long time now. I will always regret not doing more to monitor the demons’ activities after the alliance was sealed. I never expected them to retaliate in such a brutal way and yet I should have. It angers and pains me to know Weisheng was allowed to get near you during your recent visit to the Heavens. That should never have happened and Ye Hua, Mo Yuan, and I will find out how it did.”
He paused. Not a single sound could be heard in the room.
“Will you forgive me, Bai Qian, even though I don’t deserve it? Qing Qiu and its surrounding lands are yours. I’ve kept them safe for you and they will remain under my protection for as long as you wish it. As Queen of Qing Qiu, the decision for what happens to the land is yours to make.”
Queen of Qing Qiu? Bai Qian was stunned to hear herself referred to by such a title. That would make her the ruler and protector of her father’s lands. Was she ready for that? She had told Ye Hua she wanted to take back Qing Qiu and turn it into a refuge for those who were lost like she had once been, hadn’t she? She would need to be queen to do so properly. The idea would take some getting used to.
“I forgive you though there’s no need for it,” Bai Qian finally spoke, meeting Heavenly Father’s eyes when he looked up at her. “I know my family would never have blamed you for what happened. I’m sure Father knew the possible consequences when he agreed to the alliance and he still did so because he believed in and respected your cause. Qing Qiu will be honored to accept the protection of the Heavens now and into the future.”
Relief replaced the sadness in Heavenly Father’s eyes. “Then you intend to bring Qing Qiu back to life and make it a part of the realm again?”
Bai Qian nodded with a smile.
“That is wonderful news,” Heavenly Father told her, standing. “I’m pleased to hear it. The realm was a better place with Qing Qiu in it. I will help in any way I can. But first we need to find out what Weisheng is planning.”
“Qian Qian can help with that, Father.” Ye Hua guided Bai Qian to the table as his family and Zhe Yan took their seats once again. When Bai Qian was settled next to Ye Hua, he turned toward her with an encouraging expression. “Tell Father and Mo Yuan what you told me, Qian Qian.”
Nervous, Bai Qian clasped her hands tightly in her lap, reminding herself Ye Hua had believed her even though she had worried he might not. He seemed to think his family would believe her as well. A large warm hand slid over hers, giving them a comforting caress with his fingers. “Go ahead,” Ye Hua murmured.
She lifted her eyes and met Mo Yuan’s for a second and then Heavenly Father’s before taking a deep breath. “There was a dragon in the Fox Den the night my family was killed. He appeared soon after the demons left.”
To her relief, Mo Yuan and Heavenly Father had listened to her story without judgement and had wanted to know more about what she could remember of the unknown dragon from that night. Heavenly Father’s expression had remained unreadable throughout her story but a dangerous golden light had entered Mo Yuan’s eyes when he learned about the traitor. It had reminded Bai Qian of the rage she had sensed within Ye Hua when she told him only with a slightly sharper edge to it. She had suddenly understood that Mo Yuan did indeed fit his War God title when the situation called for it.
Over supper, Bai Qian had listened closely as Mo Yuan and Zhe Yan had both discussed what they had each discovered after her encounter with Weisheng. She was grateful they had included her in the conversation. She wanted to know what was going on even if only a little information had been uncovered so far. A bear had started the fire in the warehouse using phoenix fire and had then escaped to the north. A vulture had snuck onto Kunlun Mountain from the south but Zhe Yan and later Mo Yuan had been unable to determine in which direction he had headed after his trespassing.
Ye Hua had surmised that both the bear and the vulture were likely opportunistic criminals taking advantage of a large offer of money as opposed to being true allies of Weisheng and the dragon traitor. But if even one of them could be tracked down, Ye Hua thought they could be persuaded to reveal who had hired them. The information would be helpful even if they wouldn’t be able to reveal the larger plan in play. Heavenly Father and Mo Yuan had agreed.
Heavenly Father and Mother had left after supper. Bai Qian hoped she would see them both again soon but especially Ye Hua’s mother who she already felt very close to.
“I should be leaving now too,” Zhe Yan announced, standing from the table.
“Wait, Zhe Yan.” Bai Qian jumped up to stop him before he left the room. “Can you stay just a few more minutes? I have something to give you.”
“What is it?”
“It’s something important. I… is there a quiet place we can go to talk?”
“We could go to the lotus pond,” Zhe Yan responded with a confused frown.
Bai Qian glanced back at Ye Hua to ask if he wanted to join them.
“Go ahead, Qian Qian,” he said before she could voice the question. “I need to talk to Mo Yuan. I’ll find you later.”
Zhe Yan led her to the lotus pond behind Kunlun Temple without saying a word. He seemed suddenly anxious as if sensing something difficult was about to happen. Bai Qian wished she could reassure him everything would be okay but she couldn’t. There was no way to know how he would receive her brother’s letter. Or if he would even want to read it after so much time had passed.
They found a small area surrounded by small maple trees overlooking the calm waters of the pond to sit. None of Mo Yuan’s disciples were around and they had complete privacy.
“What…?” Zhe Yan started to ask only to stop when Bai Qian handed the sealed scroll of paper to him.
“It’s a letter from Zhen Zhen,” she murmured, her tone solemn. “I stumbled across it one day when I was looking for something on his desk. He was so angry with me when he discovered I had found it but then he told me he intended to give it to you on his birthday. I don’t know what it’s about but I know it was important to him. You don’t have to read it unless you want to. I just thought…” She trailed off when Zhe Yan broke the wax seal. His hands were shaking now.
Silence enveloped them as Zhe Yan read the letter. Bai Qian wasn’t sure whether she should leave him alone or stay with him to provide comfort and support if he needed it. She remained where she was, gazing out at the few lotus blossoms in the pond, trying to give Zhe Yan privacy while remaining with him in case he needed something. She didn’t look over at him until he broke down in sobs next to her.
Bai Qian inched closer to him so she could wrap one arm around his shoulder, rubbing his back in what she hoped was a comforting gesture.
“I’m sorry, Zhe Yan,” she whispered when his crying had lessened, tears prickling her own eyes. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“Don’t be sorry.” Zhe Yan took a shuddering breath followed by a second one before turning to look at her, his eyes red. “I’m happy I have this because now I know how he really felt. I will hang on to this letter and treasure it. I just wish I had known his feelings sooner, that’s all. We never got to…” He trailed off and stared out to the lotus garden.
“Tell me if it will help,” Bai Qian said softly.
“There were so many things Zhen Zhen and I had talked about doing but we were never able to. Nor did we ever discuss the bond that existed between us. We were both too reluctant to talk about our feelings for a long time. And then… it was too late.
“The last time I saw your brother, Qian Qian, was a few weeks before he… died.” Zhe Yan swallowed hard. “I only spent an hour with him though because I had just discovered a new book on medicinal herbs and I was eager to get back home and study it. He asked me to stay but I didn’t. Why didn’t I stay? The book could have waited.” He paused before turning back to her. “If I could go back and do it again, I would spend the whole day with Zhen Zhen. And I would tell him how I felt. But I didn’t know…” Zhe Yan’s voice shook. “I didn’t know that would be my last chance. I’ve always regretted that day.”
“There was no way you could have known, Zhe Yan.”
“I know,” he responded softly. “But it doesn’t make it any easier.”
“No, it doesn’t.” Bai Qian thought of all the things she had missed experiencing with her family, of all the regrets she held in her own heart.
“I still miss Zhe Zhen,” Zhe Yan said, tears visible in his eyes again. “I’ll be fine for long periods of time but then something will remind me of him and it all comes back to me. I still miss him so much sometimes it hurts.”
“So do I.” A tear slid down her cheek. “But I hold tight to Zhen Zhen’s memory in my heart and that helps a little.”
“Do you mind if I hold on to him in my heart as well?” Zhe Yan asked quietly.
“No, I don’t mind. I think he would like that as long as we both don’t hold so tightly we stay trapped in the past.”
Zhe Yan nodded pensively.
Familiar fingers brushed Bai Qian’s hair in a sweet caress. She glanced up and gave Ye Hua a small sad smile as he joined them, taking a seat on Zhe Yan’s other side.
“Here,” he said, handing Zhe Yan a cup. “I’ve brought some of your father’s strongest wine. I thought it might help.” Ye Hua gave Zhe Yan’s shoulder a supportive squeeze without once acknowledging Zhe Yan’s tears in a tactful move that seemed to calm Zhe Yan.
Zhe Yan downed the wine in one go. “Thanks,” he muttered, holding the cup up for a refill. Ye Hua filled it before the jug of wine disappeared from his hands. Again, Zhe Yan drained the cup in a single gulp.
Ye Hua glanced at Zhe Yan’s face, a sympathetic expression appearing in his eyes as he watched his friend.
“No, I don’t want to talk about it anymore,” Zhe Yan said, seeming to answer a question Ye Hua had asked without saying anything.
Ye Hua nodded his understanding. “Do you remember the last time we drank this wine, Zhe Yan?”
To Bai Qian’s surprise, Zhe Yan smiled a little, wiping away the remnants of his tears. “I do.”
“We dared Mo Yuan…”
“You dared Mo Yuan,” Zhe Yan interrupted, seemingly grateful Ye Hua was distracting him from his sorrow.
Ye Hua nodded. “Right. I dared Da Ge to pretend he had a partner on his arm and dance down the streets of this mortal town we used to visit near the Eastern Sea.”
Then Zhe Yan chuckled. It wasn’t his usual boisterous laugh but it was something. “You should have seen it, Qian Qian. Everybody watched him twirl along the streets like he had lost his mind. I thought Mo Yuan was going to kill Ye Hua the next day when he was sober again.”
Bai Qian laughed as she imagined it while admiring the way Ye Hua knew the perfect way to make his friend feel better.
“Then there was the time Da Ge and I flew way up high in the sky over the Mortal Realm in our dragon forms to see who could go the longest without being spotted. That wasn’t one of our smarter ideas.”
“No, it wasn’t,” Zhe Yan agreed. “I thought your father was going to kill you both that time.”
“He was angry with us, wasn’t he?”
“That’s an understatement if I’ve ever heard one.”
Bai Qian smiled as she listened to Zhe Yan and Ye Hua continue to reminisce, wondering how the stories would change if Mo Yuan were with them as well. She remembered how her own brothers used to tweak stories to make each other look bad and would argue over the details. As she listened to the conversation, she was reminded of many happy memories spent with her own family. She was grateful Ye Hua had joined them and she sensed that Zhe Yan was too.
Later, as Bai Qian lay in the unfamiliar bed in her room in Kunlun Temple, she couldn’t help but think back over Zhe Yan’s earlier words of sorrow and regret. She understood how he felt. She often wished she had shared the beginning of the story she had started writing with her father before he died. Just as she often wished she had paid more attention to the important things her mother had always tried to teach her.
She turned on the soft mattress to face the wall separating her room from Ye Hua’s, imagining she could see him lying in bed. She had learned the hard way how quickly and unexpectedly someone could be taken away and what had happened in the Heavens yesterday had been a cruel reminder that even the best planning didn’t eliminate all the risks. She didn’t want to have any regrets about her time with Ye Hua if it were to be cut suddenly short. The idea was a painful one but she didn’t shy away from it.
I don’t want any regrets.
Her fox howled a soft mournful yowl, declaring her unhappiness with their sleeping arrangements. She didn’t want to sleep away from her dragon.
Bai Qian didn’t immediately respond. She also didn’t want to sleep apart from Ye Hua if she were honest with herself. It didn’t feel right sleeping separately after their time together in the cabin. But they weren’t alone in the forest any longer and it wasn’t proper for an unmarried man and woman to sleep in the same room together. But why?
“We’ll see them in the morning,” she told her fox and herself out loud. “It’s just for the night.”
Her fox howled the pitiful sound again and Bai Qian sighed. “I know. It feels wrong, doesn’t it?” She received a soft yip in agreement.
Why is it improper to sleep in the same room? Because of what happens after a kiss?
Her train of thought brought that crucial question she had been pondering for weeks back to the forefront of Bai Qian’s curious mind. What comes after a kiss? It was something special; she knew that much even if she was clueless about many of the details. Did it have something to do with that wonderful tension Ye Hua’s lips never failed to evoke within her when he kissed her? Yes. It must be like that but even more powerful.
A shiver ran down her spine and goosebumps appeared on her bare arms as she remembered the dark and captivating expression that would appear in Ye Hua’s gaze during those intense moments between them. It was as if he wanted more from her but could never bring himself to ask. He held himself back for some reason, stopped himself from moving forward. She sensed that when he pulled away as he always did when the pleasurable sensations he stirred within her body increased. Just as she sensed his frustration in those moments though he tried to hide it from her.
She stared harder at the wall separating her from her dragon. It frustrates me too. What are you waiting for, Ye Hua? I want you to show me what comes after a kiss. I want to share whatever it is with you.
Bai Qian wasn’t sure what was stopping him and she frowned as she considered whether to ask him. She needed to.
I don’t want any regrets.
The thought surfaced again and spurred her into action. She didn’t want to miss her chance to share something that was obviously very special between a couple with Ye Hua.
I don’t want to spend my life wishing I had asked Ye Hua to show me sooner or find myself regretting lost opportunities with him as well.
Decision made, Bai Qian climbed out of bed and pulled on the mint green wrap that matched the silk nightdress Heavenly Mother had given her earlier in the evening. Is Ye Hua still awake?
If he wasn’t she would simply climb into bed with him so she could sleep next to him as she was used to doing. Her fox yipped her eager agreement with this plan, urging Bai Qian to hurry.
If he was awake… I’m going to ask him to show me what comes after a kiss. If he doesn’t agree, I’m just going to have to find a way to change his mind. No more waiting, Ye Hua. No more holding back.
Bai Qian crossed to the door of her room on silent steps, the stone floor cold against her bare feet. She hesitated before opening the door. Maybe it would be better to sneak into Ye Hua’s room as a fox. There was less chance she would be caught in her fox form because nobody but Ye Hua and the black dragon would be able to sense her presence.
Inhaling a deep breath for courage, she opened the door just a crack, grateful it opened without a sound. “No more regrets,” she whispered before shifting into her fox form and peeking her muzzle out into the empty corridor.
⇛ Next part: Ch 40: A Heartfelt Request
⇚ Previous part: Ch 38: The Light of Tomorrow