Rules in nature…..
Xuan Nu’s sharply arched eyebrows furrowed deeply and she didn’t hide the expression of regret as she reluctantly turned her back towards Bai Qian. She sighed until her lungs hollowed and declared, “As much as I’d love to watch you take your last breath, Bai Qian. Your daughter calls my name, but I can’t help wonder if you loathe me as much as I despise you?” Xuan Nu smiled wickedly then added as if amused, “They say arch enemies end up as lovers in their next lives so perhaps…you and I will meet again.”
Bai Qian coughed and more blood dripped down her chin as she croaked back hoarsely, “You don’t hate me but you do envy me, and I don’t despise you but I do respect you. To save your dead child, you boldly kidnapped the Imperial Great Grandson of the Celestial Clan and tried to kill a High Goddess. The price for your devious acts would condemn your soul to hell forever, but you did it for your dead child which is more than I ever did for mine.”
Xuan Nu blatantly rolled her eyes at the absurdity, and her shrill voice hissed as she challenged, “You respect me?! Lies! You stole my love! Even now…you’re trying to kill time until your men come to your rescue! Your narcissism… Bai Qian…” Xuan Nu pointed at her and yelled, “You didn’t make a single sound for the entire week we tortured you because of your superior pride! Your arrogance may outlive you!”
“I didn’t make a single noise because I didn’t have the right; after everything I did to the ones who tried to love me. I didn’t cry out because I didn’t deserve to shed a tear. I accepted and endured because it was my redemption.” Bai Qian replied faintly as she gradually seemed to gather her strength.
She pushed her frame up, and slowly put out her hands in front of her body for balance then stated, “And your timing is perfect, since I transferred half my immortal energy to my daughter just days ago.”
“So you see, nobody can harm her now and even if I die; she will and can be birthed by another. Nobody is coming in or leaving this Fox Den. I sealed it behind us.” Xuan Nu glanced back at the entrance and saw traces of Bai Qian’s magic. How did Bai Qian know? And the Old Fox seemed to read her mind.
“Your spell was almost perfect but you lacked Shifu’s magical breath.” Bai Qian explained as she steadied her wobbly stance even more, “Only three, no, four people in this world know Zhe Yan’s concealment spell, and your rare poison was impressive but ineffective. It wasn’t potent enough to kill me but my magic is momentarily paralyzed and useless, nonetheless. But you’ve used all your magic imitating Shifu.”
It was true. Xuan Nu had used every ounce of magic within her to appear as Mo Yuan.
“Xuan Nu, you and I are now both tired old women without magic. Come sit and we can continue our unfinished business, after we’ve gathered our winded breath…then only one of us will walk out of this den alive.” Bai Qian spoke as she gracefully poured two glasses of amber hued wine, and gulped hers in a single swift movement.
The Fox Den was sealed and Bai Qian was drinking wine. She was pale, weak and there wasn’t even the slightest trace of magic coming from her. But Xuan Nu had foolishly underestimated Bai Qian’s elite cultivation as a High Goddess, and put too much faith in the poison.
Nevertheless…now the mighty High Goddess was vulnerable without her magic, and only half her immortal energy. Bai Qian was defenseless, so Xuan Nu boldly sat across from the woman she’d hated and envied all her life.
Yet staring at her, it was similar to staring into a magical looking glass of her dreams, because all Xuan Nu ever wanted was to be Bai Qian since childhood. The beautiful legitimate daughter of an Emperor. Royalty from birth… Even now, over one hundred thousand years later, Bai Qian was even more beautiful than she had been in her youth.
The pure envy made the sweetness of the wine taste bitter and acidic on her tongue, as she studied Bai Qian’s every movement. “Xuan Nu…”
Bai Qian’s soft voice sounded stronger and firmer but lacked arrogance when she asked, “Xuan Nu, why didn’t you come to us to help save your child? Why didn’t you seek help instead of resorting to such extreme measures?”
Xuan Nu couldn’t help but snort in disbelief at Bai Qian’s ridiculous question. The Old Fox must have suffered brain damage from drinking too much of Zhe Yan’s amnesia potion. “You would have killed my child and me for what I did during the Ghost War!” Xuan Nu’s hostile words echoed in the otherwise silent den.
Tears immediately filled Bai Qian’s eyes and flowed down her blood smeared cheeks, as she whispered Ninth Disciple’s name, “Brother Ling Yu… Xuan Nu, innocent children are not responsible for the sins of their parents. You and I are both from the Fox Clan. We’ve known each other since childhood. I lent you my appearance and married is your sister into the Bai family name. We would have tried to save your child had you come to us first, but you chose poorly.”
“Whore, you don’t have any rights to judge me and my actions. You can’t even remember anything so you’ll never know what truly happened.” Xuan Nu smirked and snorted in ridicule at Bai Qian’s audacity. The sheer notion of Fox Clan helping her was nonsense, but there now resonated the new idea Bai Qian could have been correct.
The Fox Clan were exceedingly compassionate and this was a well-known fact, but never did Xuan Nu consider coming to them first. No, she wouldn’t fall for Bai Qian’s mind games now.
Xuan Nu was reaching for the hairpin in her twisted bun, when Bai Qian pushed back the hair hanging in her delicate face then admitted openly, “I never drank Zhe Yan’s potion. I never lost my memories.”
A loud gasp came from Xuan Nu as her jaw slacked at the shocking revelation.
“How could I live comfortably as if everything was forgotten and forgiven, after the terrible things I did. I don’t deserve such luxury. I’m not as shameless as others believe…but I did it for them. I went along with the act so they could move on with their lives. I thought if we all avoided each other…everyone would go on with their lives, but how could I drink Zhe Yan’s potion with you still alive?” Bai Qian’s eyes narrowed as she stated, “As long as you’re alive my children will never be safe.”
Xuan Nu laughed giddily and boasted, “I don’t believe you! If you had your memories, you would have killed me first! Your stupid Shifu and disciple brothers, too! I escaped Kunlun Mountain easily! In the middle of the night after your Shifu sealed my magic… I left before he took my immortality!”
“Xuan Nu, if Shifu was going to kill you – you would be dead. Shifu is benevolent and magnanimous. He is the protector of life and a commander of war. War and killing is always the last resort. Shifu told us after he returned from his death not to seek revenge, because you were young and blinded by love and were used by Qing Cang.”
Bai Qian’s tone of voice conveyed her profound respect for her mentor, “He allowed you to escape after sealing your magic, because he hoped for your redemption. He didn’t take your immortality because he was giving you time to mend your ways. You caused his death, but he still protected you by hiding you from me all these years. Shifu knows me too well. He might even know that I didn’t drink the amnesia potion……”
A sudden breeze stopped Bai Qian mid-sentence. The entrance to the den was sealed but a cold draft moved through the vast open room. Unable to use her magic, Bai Qian silently stood, turned her back to Xuan Nu and threw more wood into the fireplace. She reached out and wrapped a soft pink colored garment over her shoulders, before coming back to the table with another bottle of wine.
How strangely it gave her pleasure to know Bai Qian had suffered, and longed for the ones she loved too. Misery indeed loved company. Xuan Nu continued to listen but stayed tense on the defense expecting the Fox to attack. But Bai Qian’s fatigue was evident as she somberly drank her wine and said the ridiculous, “I need to thank you for the week you held me captive. During that time…everything in life clarified. In the face of death – my questions, doubts and mistakes – I saw everything I did wrong and the many ‘what if’s’, the ‘why didn’t I’ scenarios played in my mind repeatedly. Perhaps, I finally understood love, sacrifice and myself……”
Her voice trailed off and Xuan Nu watched Bai Qian close her eyes, as if she were back at that place of torment. But an odd smile came to her face as she whispered, “For the gift of clarity; I have one for you too. Xuan Nu, your daughter lives. She is almost 30,000 years old and lives with Yan Zhi.”
Xuan Nu leaped up in a fury at the cunning fox and her lies. Bai Qian took the pink garment off her shoulders, tossing it to Xuan Nu casually and urged, “There are some rules in nature: One, a Fox mother knows her kit’s scent from any other cub. That garment belongs to your daughter. Fox Magic is powerful and mysterious. Your daughter has my heart’s blood running in her veins.”
Could it be? Could Bai Qian be telling the truth?! The soft fluffy woven garment was child sized. Why hadn’t she noticed? And the familiar sweet scent. The faint fragrance was identical to the smell on the piece of baby blanket Xuan Nu carried always. It was her child’s scent. Tears of disbelief run down her cheeks and strangely Bai Qian cried also.
“A mother’s pain…the longing. I understand you better than anyone else.” Bai Qian whispered as teardrops ran down her face. She didn’t wipe the tears away but instead closed her watering eyes.
Newfound courage coursed through her veins. Her daughter was alive and this fact gave Xuan Nu strength. The Fox had her guard down and she was defenseless. Xuan Nu swiftly pulled the steel hairpin from her bun hair and aimed for Bai Qian’s heart.
But even without her magic, Bai Qian’s sensitive fox ears still caught the whizzing sound of the metal rod slicing the air. She shifted back slightly causing the hairpin to miss their mark, and stick in her shoulder instead. And when Bai Qian smirked, Xuan Nu knew at that moment, this was Bai Qian’s plan all along. She needed the sudden injury stimulus, and the intense pain did as she hoped precisely.
It forced her to turn into her Fox form. Bai Qian couldn’t do without her magic and lack of cultivation what her primal body did naturally. Her body’s reaction of flight or fight. And Bai Qian’s choice was to fight as her cutting fox claws tore into Xuan Nu’s face. Bai Qian’s muzzle opened wide with her sharp razor teeth bite, and tore into Xuan Nu’s soft fleshy throat.
Bai Qian used all her strength, clamped her teeth down and tore away, until she felt an explosion of warm blood flood into her mouth. Metallic blood, soft flesh, tight muscles and veins ripped apart from Xuan Nu’s neck. Bai Qian still in her Fox form continued her attack by biting into the other side of Xuan Nu’s neck, until her head was almost severed and ravaged her to fulfill the second rule of nature.
The second rule of nature: A Fox mother protects her offsprings with her life and kill those who threaten their safety.
To be continued…..