How strangely she persistently lingered, refused to fade and disappear. Mo Yuan thought of her during his many lectures, and Bai Qian roamed freely throughout his mind without permission at any given time. Randomly he reminisced about her at all different times during the day, of the sweet candied fruit-like pleasing scented air that trailed and slowly wafted behind her.
It was the undivided charm and intrigue of Bai Qian, the reason he found himself thinking of her always. There was an undeniable fire within her, and she exuded a glow that he recalled heating him just by being near. She possessed a warm and loving heart precisely like her father.
He wasn’t exactly sure about the nature of his vague interest, but there was a general curiosity to become better acquainted with her. In Mo Yuan’s long eternal life, he’d met many but Bai Qian was rare, unique and stood out from others or at least in his mind.
But as usual, he hesitated with endless days of skepticism and pondering swiftly passed by. Mo Yuan secretly questioned if he should approach her. If so, what should he do and how should he go about doing so? It was then he did something entirely out of his norm, fearlessly took the plunge and popped in somewhat unexpectedly.
It was funny her perplexed expression of uncertainty. Bai Qian appeared utterly confused when Mo Yuan asked for her instead of her father. In awkward silence, they walked by the fragrant lotus ponds in Qingqiu and both had the same stiff postures. They held their hands firmly behind their backs. Even their slow footsteps fell into perfect sync and natural harmony.
Mo Yuan’s big hands were slightly clammy due to nerves when he spoke first and immediately felt silly, because it was such a dull thing to say.
“The lotus ponds are lovely in Qingqiu.”
“I understand you have one up on Kunlun Mountain that once held your twin brother in flower form.” In an ultra polite voice, Bai Qian automatically responded in a tone one uses with guests and strangers.
Why was making small talk so complicated? He found himself struggling to come up with something to converse about, when Bai Qian abruptly asked, “High God Mo Yuan, if I may be so forward? Was there something you wanted to say to me?”
At a complete loss for words and Mo Yuan wasn’t a talkative person by nature so all he could think of was, “Would you like to learn how to make wine?”
His unexpected question threw her off guard. Bai Qian’s perfectly arched brows immediately rose, and she puckered her rosy tulip-like lips before asking, “Make wine like a vintner?”
Swiftly her uncertain gaze moved up to the vast sky. Her eyes darted back and forth while in deep reflection, then responded enthusiastically, “Honestly, that sounds delightful! Are you going to teach me ALL your secrets?” Bai Qian asked playfully with a newfound interest.
Raising one full eyebrow ever so slightly and gradually nodding his head ‘yes’ Mo Yuan said solemnly, “I could…but then I would have to kill you.”
Bai Qian’s eyes brightened amused and gawked at him surprised, before bursting out into a fit of happy melodious laughter. Then quite unexpectedly, she affectionately linked her arm around his. This sensation was the warmth he’d experienced, during their first conversation on the steps in front of the Fox Den.
Mo Yuan found her to be a very tender and sweet person who wasn’t afraid of natural innocent skin-ship. Something he no longer had the pleasure of encountering being surrounded by male students all day long.
She pressed her arm into his and spoke most informally, “My father told me that you were truly the silliest one out of the bunch from school. I didn’t understand but I think I do now. You have a dry sense of humor that most don’t recognize.”
Suddenly pulling her arm away and instead, she walked backward directly in front of Mo Yuan. She curiously inquired most forwardly, “So… I heard that you used to be quite popular with the ladies. Why did you decide on celibacy? Also, what does celibacy have to do with world peace?”
Mo Yuan was taken back by her open and frank nature. Bai Qian freely spoke whatever popped into her mind. She’d just asked a much older man about his private sexual decisions, and the life choices without the hint of blush to her youthful cheeks or embarrassment.
“Bai Qian, the things you’ve just asked me I only share with friends.” Mo Yuan replied impassively.
She openly giggled giddily. Her eyes rounded in obvious delight before a broad smile came to her animated face and asked, “High God Mo Yuan, if we were friends, I would call you just Mo Yuan. Shall we be friends?”
A light chuckle was Mo Yuan’s response. It was difficult to meet her inquisitive and spirited gaze without blushing. He merely nodded his head in the affirmative and said nothing more.
Bai Qian brightened up and beamed with pleasure. She swiftly grabbed his arm again and whispered, “So, friend. Tell me about this celibacy thing I keep hearing?”
“To stay unbiased, I feel it’s prudent to stay chaste. Women have a way of complicating a man’s mind, heart and I wouldn’t be able to stay neutral if my thoughts were swayed.” Mo Yuan responded honestly after smiling softly.
Her feminine voice came out jaunty like a chipper bird when she inquired without the slightest bit of hesitation, “Don’t you miss it? Sex I mean?”
Stunned by her straightforward question, Mo Yuan swiftly turned to face her and reddened by her frankness. He was utterly flustered but she wasn’t. If anything, Bai Qian was unblinking with genuine roused curiosity. Inwardly he wondered if things were so different with the younger gods and suddenly felt considerably aged. In his time, a direct conversation like this wasn’t done, especially between a man and a woman.
“I don’t think about it anymore.” Mo Yuan answered softly.
Bai Qian instantly poo-pooed him, waved her hand dramatically at him in total disbelief and stated, “Liar! Everyone thinks about sex! I don’t keep friends who speak falsities.”
“It’s the truth. Why would I lie to you?” Mo Yuan stopped walking, met her unconvinced gaze straight on and explained, “It’s like any other indulgence. If you don’t actively practice it, you no longer crave it. Furthermore, how can you talk so openly about sex with an unrelated man?”
She threw her head back, laughed out loud and taunted, “I know you come from a different time but it’s not the stone-age anymore. Hold on to your pants because this might shock you but…women talk about sex! We even think about it more than men! You need to get out more often, my friend, instead of staying locked up on a boring, isolated mountaintop full of men.”
“After we spend some time together, I’ll show you the way. Think of it as enlightenment! I’ll be your Shifu into the modern-age!” She brazenly declared, snickered utterly entertained by his old fashioned and conservative mentality.
She tightened her hold on his arm. Bai Qian clung fast to him and cheerfully led the way, while slightly dragging Mo Yuan to her quickened youthful steps. There was such an unspoken level of comfort with her and she wasn’t the typical woman. She was entirely lively, playful and bold. Warm. She was unquestionably her father’s daughter, so similar to Bai Zhi that Mo Yuan found it to be somewhat humorous and unbelievable.
He didn’t have a preconceived plan or reason but Mo Yuan suddenly asked, “Would you like to visit Kunlun Mountain?”
“Why? Are there some handsome disciples you’d like to set me up with like a blind date?” Without delay, she tweeted in response cheerfully smiling radiantly.
After meeting her questioning gaze, all he could do was chuckle. Mo Yuan said nothing when she swiftly turned the subject around and slyly asked, “Friend, would you like me to set you up with a cousin? What you need is a Nine-tailed Fox in your life!”
She said this while excitedly shaking her head, and wagging her brows suggestively to bring more emphasis to her wise self-opinion. Mo Yuan heard himself groan defeated. He felt as if he were with Zhe Yan but in a female form and cringed involuntarily. Bai Qian sensed his body’s subtle tremble, she scrutinized him waiting for Mo Yuan to explain himself and his aversion to the idea of a Nine-tailed Fox.
Mo Yuan’s soft voice sounded weary when he asked, “Are you going to be another Zhe Yan?”
“What about Zhe Yan?” Bai Qian’s long dark sable gaze innocently softened and the corner of her full mouth quirked up.
He considered what’s the best way to describe his complicated relationship with Zhe Yan, who is brotherly yet nemesis-like and explained, “Zhe Yan has been trying to get me return to a life with carnal pleasures, ever since I became the Master of Kunlun Mountain.”
“However, if I were living with women in my life then he would want me to be celibate. Does that make sense? Recently he even used someone to cast an enchantment spell on me.” Mo Yuan casually continued as he glanced up, and saw the entrance to the Fox Den in the near distance.
The loud, shocked gasp said everything, and Mo Yuan didn’t even need to look in her direction to know the expression on Bai Qian’s face. He could practically feel the heat radiating from her shame and embarrassment.
In a soft whispered tone, she apologized profusely and her voice vibrated nervously, “I’m sorry, High God Mo Yuan. I didn’t know and I was tricked by Zhe Yan as well. He didn’t keep his promise for the free wine.”
“Free wine?! You did it for free wine? Bai Qian, I thought we were on first name basis now?” Mo Yuan replied and unfazed. His poker face was unchanged but his tone sounded wholly gentle.
It didn’t dawn on Mo Yuan how long they’d been walking until the high afternoon sun glared overhead, and he squinted causing the corners of his eyes crinkled. He held his hand above his eyes to shield the sun-rays, when Bai Qian wordlessly summoned an umbrella to block the sunlight for him. He liked her consideration of others which added to her appeal.
Holding the umbrella steady single handed with her left hand and her linked right arm leaned into his. She sneakily inquired, “So…did my spell have any effect? I put ALL my magic into it.”
Mo Yuan stopped walking and faced her. He gave her a visual once over and declared straight faced, “I didn’t think so but now that I’ve seen you again, I’m starting to think perhaps it did something. You see, you looked more beautiful the other night when I first saw you. But now I’ve seen you in the light, Bai Qian, you’re not as pretty as I thought you were. If anything, you’re kind of homely.”
From the top of her head to the tip of her chin, Mo Yuan rubbed his hand flat over her face with a single deliberate swipe and teased, “I guess your brother, Bai Zhen inherited your mother’s beauty and you acquired your father’s looks. Don’t fear, Bai Qian, at least you’re intelligent and I’m sure there’s a man or two out there who prefers brains over beauty.”
“Did you just call me homely?!” Bai Qian asked in a voice that was more like a high pitched half-shout full of disbelief.
Aloofly with a subtle shrug of his shoulders of indifference, Mo Yuan corrected without the slightest hint of a smile, “Perhaps, homely is a bit excessive and mean. How about just not pretty?”
The frozen dumbfounded expression on Bai Qian’s astonished face was utterly ticklish and hilarious, it kept Mo Yuan laughing long after he returned to Kunlun Mountain.
To be continued…..