Ye Hua struggled to hide his smile. Si Yin fell right into the trap set up by Ye Hua. It was just like a little fox to get caught so easily. Si Yin sat on the step by the lotus pond and looked up at Ye Hua and asked curiously.
“What are you good at?”
Ye Hua didn’t understand his question and it reflected clearly on his face. Si Yin rephrased himself.
“I’m good at drinking wine. I can tell the difference in wine and know what they are just with a single taste. Are you a good drinker?”
Ye Hua shook his head no.
“What about games? Do you know any games we can play together?”
Ye Hua looked back at Si Yin and shyly replied, “I’m good at strategic planning, combat, and I play some chess..I can draw quite well.”
Si Yin made a face of disappointment and smirked. “Can I change my wish? Is it too late to ask for treasures instead?”
Ye Hua slowly sat beside him and felt a warmth radiating from Si Yin’s body penetrate his skin. Ye Hua sat a little closer but not close enough to cause alarm. It felt as if he was basking in the the warm sunlight at high noon during a crisp, early spring day. He felt Si Yin’s heat penetrate and circulate inside his body. Warming different areas as it passed through him internally.
“What do you enjoy Si Yin? What do you like to do…other than drinking wine?”
Ye Hua suddenly felt his regal princely self confidence fade away. It never crossed his mind that Si Yin wouldn’t want to spend time with him. Ye Hua didn’t think he’d be at this crossroad already so he was unprepared. In all honestly, Ye Hua didn’t know what ‘friends’ did when they were together.
Si Yin put his petite elbow on his leg, brought his hand under his chin and looked up to the clear blue sky. “I like to go into the mortal realm and listen to stories at my favorite tea house but you probably can’t go there since you’re the Crown Prince, right?”
“Heavenly Lord prefers that I don’t go into the mortal realm. When immortals meddle too much in their world it can alter a mortal’s fate.” Ye Hua said feeling childish and boring but quickly added. “I know stories. I can tell them to you.” Ye Hua smiled ever so slightly when he saw Si Yin smile brightly at him.
Ye Hua told Si Yin of the latest scandal in Celestial Heaven. His heavily favored second uncle Sang Ji was sent to Qing Qiu to meet Bai Qian, but instead fell in love with Bai Qian’s maid, a snake spirit. Uncle Sang Ji tried to sneak the snake spirit into Celestial Heaven but Ye Hua realized and warned his third uncle to intervene. Ye Hua noticed how deeply Si Yin was engrossed in his story and felt proud of his story telling skills. He continued. Now Heavenly Lord was furious and had his second uncle’s beloved snake spirit thrown into the Evil Sealing Pagoda. Si Yin’s mouth fell open when Ye Hua paused his story.
Ye Hua paused to build more tension into his story. It was always Ye Hua’s choice not to speak but he didn’t know that he had such a gift for fine story-telling. Ye Hua saw how Si Yin was deeply under the spell of his words. Si Yin made the circular hand motion to continue with his story.
Ye Hua continued, Uncle Sang Ji made a formal passionate appeal to the Heavenly Lord on his knees and all this happened with Ye Hua witnessing his Uncle Sang Ji’s humiliation. Ye Hua took a deep breath.
Si Yin looked completely absorbed and asked. “Then what happened, Prince Lotus?”
“That was the last I saw before coming here today.” Ye Hua replied as he crossed his slender hands in his lap on his shiny black robe that appeared wet against the bright contrasting glare from the sun.
Si Yin suddenly jumped up and quickly paced the whole distance around the lotus pond. Ye Hua just saw a flash of white before he finally stopped. Si Yin looked very concerned and Ye Hua took note as to how compassionate Si Yin was. He looked extremely worried after hearing the story and asked cautiously.
“What will happen to Shao…the snake spirit I mean?”
Ye Hua looked up at Si Yin and answered without any emotion. “If she lasts through the night it will be a miracle.”
Si Yin had creases on his forehead and his mouth became a tight, tense line. Ye Hua would have to remember that this little fox couldn’t handle too much excitement for his future stories.
“Is there anything you can do to save her, Ye Hua?” Si Yin asked almost pleading.
Ye Hua looked at him and asked softly, “Why should I?” Ye Hua realized instantly that he had answered poorly when he saw Si Yin’s reaction, so Ye Hua started to go in the opposite direction. “I haven’t tried anything yet…but I’ll discuss this important matter with third uncle Lian Song as soon as I return.”
Si Yin pulled Ye Hua up by his arms. “You must go now then! You must hurry! Come back tomorrow and tell me what you did!” Si Yin’s cheeks were flushed and his eyes full of concern.
Ye Hua quickly returned to Celestial Heaven and found himself seeking out his third uncle Lian Song. During his search, Ye Hua wondered why he told Si Yin that he would do anything at all. It wasn’t like him to get involved in matters that did not involve him personally. Yet strangely, Ye Hua felt the desire to do something because Si Yin had asked him to.
Si Yin nervously paced by the lotus pond after Ye Hua’s departure. How could Prince Sang Ji be so foolish and take Shao Xin to Celestial Heaven? She should have felt angry for their betrayal but that emotion would come after she knew Shao Xin was safe. Si Yin considered going to Celestial Heaven herself but what could she do? Nobody knew she was Bai Qian. Si Yin was too busy pacing to realize how close she was to the water’s edge, so when she took a quick turn she found herself inside the lotus pond. This day was just getting better and better Si Yin thought to herself sarcastically. She reached to grab the edge when she saw a strong hand reach for her.
Si Yin lifted her eyes as the bright sun temporality blinded her, but even without her sight she knew it was her shifu, Mo Yuan. Si Yin knew his scent. Mo Yuan lifted her petite body up easily and she could see the worry in her Shifu’s eyes. She expected a scolding but he looked more concerned about her current state. Shifu’s deep expressive eyes became more distressed.
“Seventeen, why are you throwing yourself in the lotus pond?”
Si Yin smiled and made a motion to be released and placed down. Mo Yuan compiled without a word. They had spent enough time together so they were able to communicate without the use of words.
“I just tripped. Shifu knows how clumsy this disciple is.” Si Yin tried to laugh off her embarrassment.
“Has Ye Hua gone?” Mo Yuan asked after not seeing Ye Hua anywhere.
Si Yin shook the water off her body and answered confidently “Yes..but he’ll be back tomorrow.”
Mo Yuan contemplated asking her more questions but seeing her standing before him in wet and dirty clothes made Mo Yuan’s concern shift to Si Yin.
“Seventeen, go take a bath and change into something else. Before attending your next lesson.” Mo Yuan stood and watched her intently as she excused herself to do as Mo Yuan instructed.
While Mo Yuan had stepped away some of the disciples started to complain. They didn’t understand why Seventeen was always favored by Mo Yuan and now by Crown Prince Ye Hua. He was the youngest but this was starting to become unfair in their eyes. Senior Die Feng firmly told everyone to stop acting childish and behave as the brothers they were. This didn’t stop everyone from complaining.
One disciple whispered, “Si Yin is really a wild fox. He never takes baths.” Others agreed. Never had they seen him in a bath.
“Maybe he’s shy?” Another disciple asked causing the other disciples to throw things at him. They were still arguing when Sixteen stuck his head inside the group.
“You are all clueless. Seventeen bathes more than anyone else here. He’s taking one right now in the middle of the day.”
Suddenly Sixteen’s eyes lit up and everyone in the circle started to giggle. They grabbed all the buckets they could find and filled them to the brim with water then one of the disciples used a spell and turned the water into ice cubes. They all held a bucket of ice in their arms and snuck towards the bathing area while elbowing each other and covering their lips to muffle their laughter.
Si Yin was quietly enjoying her bath while ridding herself of the pond scent from her skin. She was lost in thought when she heard a sharp swish, smelled familiar skin, felt strong arms lift her naked and wet body before feeling herself cloud jumping. When Si Yin opened her eyes she saw herself in Mo Yuan’s muscular arms naked, wet, and exposed. She was too shocked to speak but felt herself being placed down gently. Si Yin felt one of Shifu’s heavy robes being placed on her shoulders to cover her nudity.
“Forgive me Seventeen, but it was unavoidable and necessary.” Mo Yuan’s cheeks were flushed and pink as he turned in the other direction to give her privacy.
Si Yin was still in shock and couldn’t find her voice. She just held on to Mo Yuan’s robe tightly to hide her body. After some time she was finally able to whisper. “Shifu, how long have you known?”
Mo Yuan’s back was still turned but Si Yin heard her Shifu reply clearly, “From the very start.”
To be continued…