Several months passed in the mortal world during Bai Qian’s brief absence. It was just the beginning of spring when she left and now it was summer, and considerably warmer than it was just a few hours prior. She went back to the little hut and there he was, shirtless and busily chopping wood with a hand ax.
His golden hued body was slender but defined. His chest was hairless, sweat dripped and ran down the sides of his face and sculpted body, making him appear slightly wet. In the hot afternoon sun there he stood dewy with wetness wearing only his pants looking very manly. His topknot was a bit messier and stray hairs hung in his handsome face and stuck to his damp forehead.
Bai Qian openly stared at his tantalizing appearance and forced herself to turn around. She was wildly blushing, deep crimson swiftly rose up her cheeks and her entire face was warm flushed with color.
She asked, “Don’t you have clothes? Why are you half naked?”
He chuckled and replied, “I live here so it’s natural for me to be half dressed but why are you back?”
Nervously Bai Qian rocked on her toes, and tried to come up with a plausible answer that sounded reasonably believable. She turned just in time to see him pour a bucket of cold water on his body. He undid his topknot and poured another bucket over his head. Now he was soaking wet with his hair hanging in his face and looked so utterly appealing. He carelessly shook his head to rid some of the excess water, and gazed at her through his drenched hair hanging in his dark pool-like churning eyes.
He calmly asked, “Princess, have you ever considered how dangerous it is for you to keep coming back here? What if I decide to have my ways with you?”
Bai Qian snorted and scoffed at his lame attempt to scare her off. She was about to say something snippy in return when he suddenly rushed up to her. Mere inches away, his face was now abruptly close to hers. She nervously swallowed when he stared intently into her eyes. He smirked and arrogantly stepped away from her.
He turned his back to Bai Qian and stated, “Don’t worry, Princess. You’re not my type and I’ll put on some clothes for Your Highness.”
His comment was a bit, no, it was highly offensive. Bai Qian briefly considered using an enchantment spell, to wipe that arrogant expression off his face but held back. It was astonishing how offended she felt by his offhandedly thrown out comment.
“Do you like men?” Bai Qian snapped back in irritation.
Softly he laughed at her angry retort but he didn’t look back at her and continued walking into his hut. Bai Qian sat on the steps to his home and lightly fanned herself, suddenly overheated by the summertime weather but also his unbelievable attitude. He came back and handed her a cup.
“It’s fresh cold peppermint tea. It will help cool you off.” He casually sat next to her but looked out into the distance.
Nonchalantly he glanced up at the blue sky and a tiny smile came to his shapely lips. He didn’t try to make small talk or eye contact with her. Instead, he just drank his tea in silence.
“My name is Bai…” He immediately cut her off from saying anything else.
His voice was whisper soft when he spoke, “I don’t need to know your name. So, do you get bored with your life of luxury and come to play with strange men who live alone in a forest?”
“Why are you so antagonistic?” Bai Qian asked wholly interested in his response.
Amused he chuckled and replied, “Do you often go to a person’s house uninvited and insult them after they’ve offered you tea?”
Finally he turned his face to hers and carefully studied her gaze. Bai Qian felt herself blush from the intensity of his dark searching stare. She shook ever so slightly due to his extreme attractiveness. He had the perfectly sculpted face of an immortal god. He was quite beautiful and when he smiled, her heart pounded uncontrollably.
“Alright, my name is Ming Hua but you can call me Ming. I’m just going to keep calling you, Princess, so I don’t need to know your name.” Ming’s soft voice was so silky smooth and more delicious than the refreshing minty tea.
Ming had the face of a young man but the personality of someone much more mature. For such a youthful man the adult way he spoke caused him to appear ten thousand of years old. Bai Qian considered him to be an old soul, possibly.
Ming curiously asked, “So, Princess, why do you keep coming back here?”
“I don’t really know.” Bai Qian answered honestly.
Ming scrutinized her expression and his full brows furrowed slightly. He took a sip of his tea and asked, “Are you attracted to me? Is that why you keep coming back?”
Bai Qian choked on her tea at his frankness and Ming chuckled humored by her reaction.
He said, “I’ve met a lot of girls like you. At first, I seem interesting but then, they realize I’m a pauper and quickly lose interest. I know how to spot girls like you from miles away.”
Bai Qian laughed out loud and haughtily replied, “I’ve never been called a gold digger before so today is new for me, Ming.”
Her voice softened as she asked, “So, Ming, where’s your family? Why are you all alone out in this lonely wilderness? Are you in training to become a monk and took a vow of chastity? Do you live out here to stay clear of temptations?”
“Just because I’m not interested in you, Princess, you assume I’m a celibate monk? Judging by your appearance, it must be weird that I’m not all over you. Does it hurt your pride?” Ming’s eyes sparkled playfully.
“I don’t have anyone. My parents have passed away and I’m the only child.”
Ming interlocked his graceful hands in his lap and continued, “I’m comfortable being alone and I like the quietness out here. Princess, haven’t there been times when you want to run away from your life? Well, this place feels like a sanctuary for me.”
Ming finished the last of his tea and wordlessly took the empty cup from Bai Qian’s hand.
His back was already turned to her as he started to return to his home when Bai Qian asked, “How did you know I want to run away from my life?”
He casually glanced back and replied, “You keep returning here and I’m pretty sure it’s not because you’re in love with me. You just want somewhere to hide.”
“What if I am in love with you? What will you do, Ming?” Bai Qian queried as she swiftly stood and faced him.
“I’d run like hell! See you next time, Princess.” Ming left Bai Qian standing alone outside his hut.
She waited for a few moments and when he didn’t return, she silently returned to Qingqiu feeling more confused than ever.
She was such a strange woman. Ming had many experiences with women in his life but she was quite unusual. In secret, he watched her until she left. He wondered why she kept coming back?
She was indeed stunning, yes, she was incredibly beautiful. Perhaps the most gorgeous woman he’d ever met, but Ming wasn’t in the position to fall in love or become enamored with anyone.
Laughing at himself, he knew she was just the type of woman that would break his heart. Even being with her once would cause him to need her and that was something he couldn’t do to himself.
After a lifetime of deliberate detachment from others, Ming knew if he ever grew to need someone, that person could easily leave and he’d be alone again still. For his self-protection, he purposely pushed people away before they could abandon him first. He’d never given anyone a chance, ever, to get close enough to break his emotional armor.
Yes, Ming decided Princess was dangerous and someone that he needed to keep at bay. Close enough but still very far away. She was comparable to a gorgeous piece of art, something one appreciates but from a distance because she was entirely out of his league and social class.
Association with him would gain her nothing and perhaps cost her everything in the long run. At that moment, Ming encased his heart and promised himself that he’d never fall in love with the nameless Princess.
To be continued…..