It was impossible, but for the second time in the same week, Bai Qian woke up naked under a wedding quilt. Her body ached as if she had the flu, and she was so weak she could barely sit up.
Ye Hua walked in and gingerly sat on the edge of the bed, while Bai Qian sat dazed, nervous and overcome with sheer panic. She was in the small bamboo framed bed on Mount Junji – nude with him.
Gripping the blanket securely to cover her nudity, she glared at Ye Hua suspiciously.
With uncertainty, Bai Qian spluttered, “Why am I naked? Where are my clothes?”
Ye Hua held a small bowl in his hand, blew into the container to cool the contents and explained, “I undressed you.”
Bai Qian was aghast and hissed, “How dare you! I knew you were a pervert! I’m going home!”
“You were sick last night. All night. One of the flowers you handled yesterday was wisteria, which is poisonous. You suffered and vomited for hours.”
He continued to explain his actions, “Your clothes…well…I couldn’t leave you like that, so I undressed you before I put you to bed.” Ye Hua said softly while scooped a spoonful of porridge, and held it to Bai Qian’s lips.
Bai Qian dis-trustingly accused, “What else did you do to me?”
“I undressed you, clean you off and put you to bed. Qian Qian, you seem to have misunderstood my intentions. I love you, therefore, I didn’t bring you here to molest you.”
Somberly, Ye Hua sighed and added, “I made porridge for you, since it would probably be best to start with something plain, and easy to digest. Does your stomach still hurt?”
Bai Qian hesitantly opened her mouth and took a bite, because her hands were holding up the blanket.
“You’re too skinny, Qian Qian. The thinnest I’ve ever seen you. Don’t you eat at home or do you just drink wine all day long?” Ye Hua’s expression was one of sincere concern.
He raised another spoonful to her mouth and asked, “Doesn’t my brother feed you and worry about your health?”
“Why would my Shifu be responsible for my daily food intake? I’m not a Kunlun Mountain disciple anymore.” Bai Qian snipped back.
Ye Hua chucked dryly and replied, “I was under the impression that you and he had a more…intimate relationship than merely Shifu and disciple. He should notice you’ve become too slender.”
Ye Hua lifted another spoonful, but Bai Qian refused to take it. Instead, he placed it down beside her on the bed and stated, “I think you should stay in bed today and rest. I’m going to catch something to put some meat on your bones.”
He pointed to the table and spoke gently, “Your clothes are clean and dry. I thought you’d prefer to dress yourself instead of me seeing you nude again. There’s more porridge in the kitchen, but I’d advise to take it easy and let me warm it up when I get back. I won’t be too long.”
“Here’s some peppermint tea to settle your stomach but drink slowly.” Ye Hua moved one of the stools from the kitchen beside the bed, placed the teapot and cup on top of it, and set it near Bai Qian so that she could reach it readily.
Ye Hua quietly grabbed his bow and arrow and wordlessly walked out the cottage.
Bai Qian looked around and saw a basin full of clean water and towels beside it, nearby. Neatly folded were her clothes on the wooden tabletop. In the sink, dirty sheets; Ye Hua was in the process of hand washing.
There were clear signs she’d been sick and Ye Hua was up all night nursing her. Suddenly, Bai Qian felt guilty for treating him so rudely and accusing him doing evil acts, while she was unaware. Especially, after all his efforts and tender treatment and caring for her.
Ye Hua probably hadn’t slept a wink the previous evening because of her, and even washed her vomit-covered clothes, body and bedding. Not an enjoyable task.
Bai Qian decided it was time to treat Ye Hua with some kindness. He was honest. Even conveying his lustful desire for her out in the open and not sneaky, or deceitful behind her back.
In Bai Qian’s short time with him, she sensed Ye Hua wasn’t malicious but merely desperately grasping at straws. Choosing delusion because he was unable to accept the painful truth.
If anything, he was traumatized. Bai Qian guessed; Ye Hua’s life with SuSu started blissfully and ended heart-wrenching and tragically. Why else would he tenaciously and persistently insist she was SuSu?
Ye Hua merely needed closure so that he could move forward, from his profound grief and sense of loss. Strangely, he tugged at the tendinous strands in her compassionate heart.
Bai Qian finally opened her mind and soul to the idea, she and Ye Hua could be friends.
While she stayed in bed, Ye Hua returned and busily tended to her needs. He was quiet, and she didn’t attempt to make small talk. He continued to wash, cook, clean and fuss over her as if she was an infant.
Finally, in the evening after tending to all her needs, Ye Hua silently ate alone and started to set up his bed on the floor, even though most of the extra bedding was still damp from being recently washed. Bai Qian wondered if he was angry with her outburst, when she first awoke without her clothes.
She lightly cleared her throat and said softly, “Thank you…and I’m sorry you had to do so much today. It was wrong of me to lash out at you.”
Instead of being angry, Ye Hua smiled genuinely and replied, “You’re my wife, and you don’t need to thank me for doing what a husband should. Qian Qian, I would do anything for you. Are you feeling better?”
“I’m fine.” She coughed lightly and stated awkwardly, “Ye Hua there isn’t enough bedding for you to sleep on the ground tonight. You can sleep beside me but no touching and separate blankets. No direct body contact.”
A tiny pleased smile came to his full lips. Ye Hua waited for her to move inside and sat next to Bai Qian. He remained still until she’d situated herself again, and carefully covered her with her blanket.
Bai Qian felt Ye Hua’s eyes staring at her with that adoring gaze. Fawning over her and adjusting her pillow and blankets for greatest comfort. He was extremely attentive.
Their light breathing was the only audible sound in the silence.
Playfully, Ye Hua took her open palm, placed on top of his and with his other hand lightly wrote out a character. (淺) Qian twice. Qian Qian, with his fingertip.
“Can you guess what I wrote?” Ye Hua asked lightheartedly.
Bai Qian asked, “Again,” and Ye Hua did.
“My name, Qian Qian.” She answered.
This time she took his hand and reversed their positions. She wrote out, (白真) Bai Zhen. Bai Qian’s brother’s name.
Ye Hua closed his eyes and quickly answered, “Your brother’s name, Bai Zhen.”
They switched again and Ye Hua traced out, (愛) Ài (Love).
She smirked and without replying, she took his hand and wrote out, (瘋) Fēng (Crazy).
Ye Hua chuckled lightly and itched his palm as if her fingertip tickled.
“Last one.” Stated Bai Qian and slowly marked out on Ye Hua’s hand,
(取消 婚) Qǔxiāo Hūnyīn (Dismiss marriage).
Ye Hua laughed out loud, took her hand and wrote out his reply, (不可能) Bù kěnéng (Impossible).
Bai Qian pulled back her hands and put them under the covers. The profound silence was so awkward, so she attempted to start a conversation and asked, “So, you left your wife often and planned to join her in the mortal realm, but what happened?”
Ye Hua crossed his extended legs at his ankles and sighed. He looked off into the distance as if to gather his thoughts.
Finally, Ye Hua responded, “Let’s see, we found out you were pregnant, and I rushed to start the Mermaid War. I was going to fake my death and come back to you but…”
“Wait for a second; you popped in and out like the wind yet still managed to impregnate your wife? Well, weren’t you two a fertile couple.” Bai Qian snorted.
Bai Qian laughed slightly mocking and added, “Ye Hua, with that genius brain of yours, that’s the best plan that came to your mind? Was your idea to run away like a pissy teenager after an argument with your parents? You don’t have to say another word; I already know what happened. You screwed up!”
Ye Hua released a long, forced, deliberate exhale and nodded his head ‘yes.’ In retrospect, it was a crazy idea and he acknowledged it, honestly.
“I was desperate and foolish. Anyway, while I was in battle with the Mermaid King, I purposely took a hit and well…Heavenly Grandfather found you, and took you up to Celestial Heaven.” Ye Hua said sadly as he recalled the terrible incident.
Bai Qian’s eyes widened and her mouth dropped open in shock. She knew Heavenly Lord was a despicable man, so she could only imagine the horror Ye Hua’s poor mortal wife endured.
Ye Hua told of how while he was recovering from his injury, he’d discovered SuSu’s whereabouts after regaining consciousness. He spoke of his forced act of indifference, and his plan to return her after the birth of their child.
“If you were going to return your wife and child to the mortal world, why did you wait until after the birth? Why not sooner, so SuSu didn’t have to suffer?” Bai Qian asked confused.
Ye Hua responded in a soft grievous tone, “Not both, just you. I planned to return you to somewhere safe.”
Bai Qian appeared more perplexed and asked curiously, “What about her baby? How were you going to separate a new mother from her infant?”
“I was going to have you drink water from the River of Oblivion and forget the baby and me.” Ye Hua’s forlorn tone reflected his regret and shame.
She snorted and retorted, “Oh, that’s fair. Sure. Use your wife as a mortal incubator and then toss her out, when she’s served her purpose. Keep the fruit of her labor…literally. I’m sorry to say this, but you Celestials are a wacky bunch.” Bai Qian sighed heavily.
His eyes watered as he recounted SuSu’s bondage, and being locked up in an abandoned palace, when the crimson fire started. How Ghost Lord Li Jing saved her life.
Bai Qian smirked when she heard Li Jing’s name and commented, “At least Li Jing did something right. Bastard.” She almost snarled ‘Li Jing’ when she pronounced his name.
“That’s how you got that scar on your wrist, Qian Qian.” Ye Hua said in his lightest tone. He took her hand and tenderly rubbed the scar with tears in his eyes.
Bai Qian could sympathize with Ye Hua’s pain. His choices were foolhardy, poorly planned, but she could imagine how heartbroken he must have been, to see his innocent wife in such a precarious predicament. His story was lamentable.
Candidly, Bai Qian declared, “I’ve always thought your grandfather was a miserable piece of shi…work, but after hearing your story, he’s just evil, Ye Hua! I despise him and I’ve only met him once, but I can imagine how he must have treated your mortal wife.”
She continued and confessed, “I have many but one of the reasons I’d like to cancel our engagement is that, I can’t bring myself to kowtow and serve him tea at our wedding. I’ve always disliked your grandfather, but after hearing your story, I loathe him even more. I can’t wait until he gets his due retribution.”
“You haven’t heard anything yet, Qian Qian.” Ye Hua stated somberly.
Wiping the tears from his eyes, Ye Hua continued. He confessed how SuSu never saw him. How she suffered severe morning sickness and all he could do was watch from afar. His purposeful avoidance of her to keep her safe, but she became hurt in the process, emotionally.
Ye Hua revealed SuSu’s endless loneliness and his constant longing for her.
“This is why I can’t cancel our engagement. I’ve longed for you from the first time; I had to leave you alone on Mount Junji. I don’t know what’s stronger? My love or my yearning for you? Maybe both…equally.” Ye Hua revealed his inner truth most openly.
Carefully, Bai Qian studied Ye Hua and saw how he suddenly looked drained. Utterly wiped out. Between caring for her the night before, and the emotional overload of sharing his disturbing past and painful story, his exhaustion was visible. She told him she was tired, turned her back on him and pretended to have fallen asleep.
When Ye Hua tenderly, reached out to cover her with the quilt; the warm masculine scent of his golden-hued skin wafted through the night air, and provoked an inexplicable feeling inside Bai Qian.
Never would Bai Qian admit it, but the same peculiar feeling of déjà vu washed over her again. For a brief moment, mere seconds, the idea of Ye Hua stroking her body didn’t seem like such a foreign concept or thought. Just as his kiss felt so natural, the sensation of lying beside him in the little bed felt hauntingly familiar, as if they’d slept together before. Numerous times. Which was crazy and impossible.
She concluded it was due to the exhaustion from her recent illness, and an overdose of mixed chaotic emotions, that created a storm of confusion in Bai Qian’s body and mind.
Inwardly, she chastised herself fiercely for being an immoral woman. Thinking about Ye Hua while possibly married to Mo Yuan, was a sin and the mentality of a wanton woman lacking virtue. Something she was not.
Moving to the furthest side away from Ye Hua, Bai Qian circled herself up tightly in her blanket, like a finely rolled Cuban cigar and fell asleep.
It’s easy to be judgemental, but one can’t blame Bai Qian for thinking and feeling certain things for Ye Hua, while married to Mo Yuan.
It was completely excusable. Bai Qian’s plausible and understandable reason was that she was SuSu. Ye Hua was her husband and they’d kissed, embraced, made tender, loving, sweet love and slept in each other’s arms many times.
Very much like muscle memory, her heart and body remembered him, even if her mind didn’t. If anything, Bai Qian’s body had only memories of Ye Hua since she was too intoxicated, and blacked out when she and Mo Yuan made ardent, fervent, impassioned, crazy love.
So in the middle of the night, Bai Qian rolled into Ye Hua’s embrace and slept in his arms, just like she’d done when she was SuSu.
Bai Qian thought Ye Hua came near to her and faintly whispered, “I love you and I know you’re in there. I’ve been waiting for you to return to me. Please remember who you are. Recognize me, us…our love. I’ve missed you. Come back to me.”
But in actuality, it was she who went to him.
It was shocking. The expression on the Fox King’s face, when he saw Mo Yuan and Zhe Yan enter the fox den without being invited, forced or threatened, was one someone would make after watching the sun rising from the west. Pure confusion. Mo Yuan wasn’t one to visit casually without a reason or purpose.
Everything Mo Yuan did and said was significant and meaningful.
The Fox King asked in wonder, “Zhe Yan, I think I’m becoming senile or seeing hallucinations because I see Mo Yuan here…and I don’t recall threatening him, recently. Come and check my vitals.”
Mo Yuan lightly cleared his throat and replied in a warm, friendly, casual tone of voice, “Bai Zhi, you’ve been senile for thousands of years.”
“Well, I haven’t been day drinking today, but here you are in my sight. Let me feel you and make sure you’re not a mirage.” Bai Zhi firmly punched Mo Yuan in the arm, and then swiftly shook his fist to express hitting his muscular arm, was more painful to himself than to Mo Yuan, the recipient.
Zhe Yan urged in his playful tone, “Mo Yuan has something he needs to tell you. It’s about…Xiao Wu.”
Suddenly, the Fox King looked overly concerned and nervously told everyone to sit down. He requested Migu to serve tea to the guests, but Zhe Yan interjected and said, “Bai Zhi, I’d suggest some wine for this conversation. It’s a doozy!”
Mo Yuan tensely waited until Bai Zhi had a couple of shots, before starting the recall of the night with Seventeen. He revealed everything. The wine, conversation, drunkenness, and what he woke up to when Zhe Yan returned in the afternoon.
Nervously blushing and occasionally stammering during his narrative, Mo Yuan told Bai Zhi about the wedding and unquestionable consummation, that happened with his youngest child, Bai Qian. Mo Yuan was highly embarrassed when he admitted, not being able to remember anything.
In silence, Bai Zhi said nothing during the entire recall of the story. He was speechless for a prolonged period after Mo Yuan was through. Instead, the Fox King poured himself and Mo Yuan a glass of wine and sighed profoundly.
Mo Yuan’s heart palpitated and his mouth went dry during the silence.
Finally, Bai Zhi stated in a flat tone, “So…Mo Yuan, my daughter got you drunk, forced you to marry her and then jumped you.”
Mo Yuan nervously swallowed when Bai Zhi paused, and shook his head at him as if he was utterly disappointed with him.
“It’s your fault for taking too long. I know my daughter lacks patience, but you made her wait too long. For heaven’s sake Mo Yuan, you got bamboozled by a girl a third of your age. You should be embarrassed to be Heavenly Father’s son!”
Clicking his tongue repeatedly at Mo Yuan, he continued, “There goes all the years you abstained and refrained from carnal pleasures. If I know my daughter, she must have used an enchantment spell too.”
Bai Zhi apologized and spoke, “I’m sorry for my daughter’s imprudent behavior. Allow me to apologize for raising her poorly and overindulging Qian Qian. She’s my only daughter and my youngest kit, so I’m to blame as well. Forget whatever happened and I’ll punish her severely when she comes home. Where is she now?”
“Bai Zhi, you seemed to have misunderstood me but…I’m married to Seventeen.” Mo Yuan replied.
The Fox King gulped his wine and answered somberly, “Mo Yuan, I know you’re a fine man with strong convictions, noble intentions and feel responsible, but there isn’t any need to continue.”
“I’m sorry my shameless daughter deceived you, into doing something wicked against your will. Just forget it ever happened. I won’t say a word. Ever.” Bai Zhi stated with an expression of embarrassment and guilt at his daughter’s impulsive, reckless ways.
Indeed, the Fox King was mortified by his daughter’s rash actions. Drugging, forcing marriage and seducing a chaste High God, who’d abstained from carnal pleasures for a tremendously meaningful cause was alarming. He didn’t hide his real emotions.
Flabbergasted, Zhe Yan snorted loudly and bellowed, “Bai Zhi! Mo Yuan wants to be Xiao Wu’s husband! He loves her! You jackass!”
“What!? Since when? Why?!” Bai Zhi blasted so loudly that his sonorous voice echoed within the fox den.
Angrily, he hollered at Zhe Yan, “I’m a Nine-Tailed Fox, not a jackass, you birdbrained hen!”
Turning to Mo Yuan with an earnest, concerned expression, inquired disbelievingly, “Is this true, Tuzi (hare)? Are you in love with my youngest kit, Qian Qian?”
“I am. I love Seventeen.” Responded Mo Yuan candidly.
Stunned by Mo Yuan’s confession, the Fox King’s mouth slacked open, stared and then finally inquired, “Mo Yuan, are you still suffering aftereffects from the aphrodisiac drugs in the wine? Or the enchantment spell? Riddle me this, why in the hell would a sensible, wise and intelligent man like yourself, love my silly, stubborn, knucklehead daughter, Qian Qian?”
Abruptly, Bai Zhi rose, gently placed his hand on Mo Yuan’s shoulder with sympathy, and suggested in a tender, caring tone, “Don’t get me wrong Mo Yuan. I’d love to have you as my son-in-law and I love my daughter, but you and I are brothers. Be prudent and heed my advice, being married to Qian Qian won’t be easy. Quite the contrary.”
“I say this only because I love you my friend. I’d suggest running back to Kunlun Mountain, never look back and seal it immediately so she can’t get in. Ever!” Bai Zhi nodded a firm resolute ‘yes’ to show that’s what Mo Yuan should do.
Mo Yuan smiled and replied softly but firmly, “Bai Zhi, Seventeen is my wife of choice, and I’ve loved her for longer than you can even imagine. I want to be her husband. We’re husband and wife. Legally married. Zhe Yan is my witness.”
“Zhe Yan, is this true? Did you see something that indicated they married each other? Or did Tuzi suffer brain damage from being dead for too long?” Bai Zhi questioned, wholly baffled by Mo Yuan’s bold statement.
Zhe Yan smirked and replied assertively, “No! He has always been this moronic, but you’ve never noticed because Mo Yuan doesn’t speak much. And yes, the evidence is still there. I haven’t touched a single fabulous, breathtaking item in the lovely wedding chamber. It’s spectacular!”
“Words alone can’t describe the grandeur. One must see it with their own eyes to truly appreciate the sheer magnitude of it all…I can’t wait for you to see it Bai Zhi! It’s magnificent!” Zhe Yan clapped his hands excitedly and giggled with utter exuberance.
The Fox King bent down to Mo Yuan’s eye level and affirmed sternly, “Once you take her, don’t come back crying that you can’t handle her! I warned you! Mo Yuan, no refunds, exchanges or clan credit. She’s a final sale! Do you still want her?”
“I do.” Answered Mo Yuan firmly.
Loud laughter boomed in the den when Bai Zhi exclaimed, while shaking his head in utter disbelief, “Let’s go see this evidence Zhe Yan is so enthralled to show me. It must be good. I think he has an erection, he’s so damn worked up!”
After carefully examining the excessive, grand festive, celebratory, crimson interior, red candles and the wedding platform in Zhe Yan’s hut, the Fox King finally turned to Mo Yuan. He slapped him in the center of his back, hard. He then grumpily mumbled under his breath, about Mo Yuan being too muscular at his advanced age.
He declared, “Well…you’ve just lost your opportunity to run away, now that I’ve seen all this.” Bai Zhi gestured directly to the elaborately decorated hut with both of his arms fully extended.
“Welcome to the family Mo Yuan. Don’t ever say I didn’t try to warn you. Zhe Yan, take all this shit down, unless you want people thinking you and Bai Zhen married each other. It looks very misleading! By the way, where is the new blushing bride, my daughter?” Shouted the Fox King.
Before Mo Yuan could answer the question, Zhe Yan blurted instantly, “She’s with her fiancé Ye Hua, for three weeks! Alone!”
“What the fricken frack did you just say?! Exclaimed High God Bai Zhi, the Fox King, at the top of his lungs.
To be continued…..