Chapter 84

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written by kakashi
edited by Panda

His embrace was warm and comforting, his body behind her like a protective shield. This was how they had lain before, her head cushioned by his arm, his face buried into her hair, his soft breath at her ear.

It had, after all, been inevitable, their renewed union. Shao Wan knew this now, and she would not fight it anymore, since it was clearly futile. Certain things naturally gravitated towards each other in the universe, pulled together by mysterious forces. She did not understand how, even less why she and Mo Yuan were being pulled like this, but she was capable of accepting something that was destined, without having to understand the reasons.

Not that her fears were gone.

If she started to trust him, she would sooner or later depend on him. If she depended on him and he withdrew his support, she would be in a very bad position. On the one hand, she knew the son of Fuxi to be stubborn, prideful, but also steadfast and dedicated. On the other, she had rejected and angered him so many times. He certainly liked her body, there could be no doubt about that, but would that be enough to keep him interested? She was very doubtful. There were so many women in the realms, many much more accomplished and refined than her. What if he tired of her soon?

"Just so you know, I'll never learn how to play the zither and sing," she murmured.

"Much obliged," he whispered back. His warm breath hitting the sensitive part of her ear gave her instant goosebumps and made her shiver.

"Are you cold?" he asked and fumbled for the blanket that was somewhere down by their feet. Pulling it up, his hand slowly followed the curve of her body, her thigh, hip, her belly... and stopped at her breast.

"Hmmmm," he made, lightly cupping it and stroking his thumb over her nipple.

"Is it my breasts you like the most?" she asked.

He chuckled and let go, putting his hand on her tummy, where it radiated pleasant heat, warming her core.

"You don't?"

"All of you. I like every bit," he said sleepily. She felt a bit discomforted by that reply. What did that even mean? Surely, he didn't like her elbows as much as her breasts? He must be lying again. But why would he? She lay very still and listened to his regular, deep breathing. How could he just go to sleep?

"What are we going to do, Mo Yuan?"

In response, he pulled her even closer and buried his face in her hair, inhaling deeply. Was he not concerned anymore? She had shrugged it off when he had asked this question before, but that had just been an attempt to appear nonchalant, when in truth, she had no idea how they could continue now. She had not considered intimacy with him in her plans.

"You don't know either, do you. Ah, and here I was, thinking you have a solution to everything."

He stirred fully awake with a tiny sigh and lifted his head to whisper into her ear again. "Let's leave this realm."

She punched him gently in the ribs. "I was being serious."

"So was I, Shao Wan," he said. "Let's disappear to the mortal realm together and not come back."

Her heart stopped for a brief moment before it continued at a faster pace.

"I know a place," he continued, "I believe you will like it there. I have built a house, it is nothing much, but the roof is stable, the water is clean, the forest is beautiful and there is land to-"

"Stop."

"Shao Wan-"

"Stop. I do not want to hear such things. Do you really think I would leave my armies? And would you really be capable of doing the same? Don't lie to yourself."

"My brother Ye Hua is very competent. He can take over."

"Don't...," she disentangled herself from his arms and moved away from him, almost falling off the bed in the process. "No. Ah, now I remember what I've always hated about you, Celestial. You are so damn entitled."

"Entitled?"

"You have no idea how hard it is for the rest of us. You were born with everything and you have never lacked a thing. You would give up your status of Supreme Commander just like that? Without hesitation, on a whim? Of course, because you never had to fight to get to that position."

Mo Yuan said nothing and Shao Wan felt a sinking feeling in her stomach. Oh no. She had done it again. She had offended him, even though she hadn't even wanted to this time. Her damn mouth.

"Mo Yuan," she faced him in the dark, reaching out a hand towards him. "I meant what I said, but...I will try and work on the way how I say it."

"Shao Wan," he said and edged closer, "I did not say it 'on a whim'."

She could not move away from him any further or she would fall to the floor. She decided to move towards him instead. His body was right there, waiting for her and his strong arms grabbed her and turned her around so that she lay with her back towards the tent wall and him right in front of her. Her heart started beating very fast again.

"I understand you, Shao Wan. I accept what you want to be - what you are. I will not stand in your way, I will not hold you back. But neither will I let you walk away from me again. Never again. Do you understand?"

She nodded meekly. He turned on a few candles all of a sudden and continued: "I also do not want to talk to you in the dark anymore. I want to see you. I want to see you all the time."

"Hmmm...yes," she mumbled, feeling herself blush deeply under his intense gaze.

"Nothing about you is 'on a whim' for me. I think about things endlessly. I think about you all the time."

When he was smooth-tongued like this, she did not know what to do or say. She scrunched up her face and nodded again. She felt rather defenseless. Soft. Everything was soft, warm, comforting. And she was so tired of fighting. What he offered right now was impossible to turn down.

"Wait," he said...and conjured up her feather, it dangling merrily from its silver chain, its sweet song filling her head. He would give it back? Just like this? Gently, he placed it around her neck, sliding his left hand underneath her head, fastening it at her nape. A feeling of harmony descended on her. He looked at her with wonderment, with utter reverence.

"You are...," he swallowed and took a deep breath, "the most beautiful being I have ever seen. Absolute perfection."

You are not bad either, she was about to say but the expression in his eyes shut her up. Now he had even robbed her of the ability to speak. She was doomed.

"Just three incense sticks, Shao Wan," he said. "Let's go to the mortal realm for only three... four, maybe five incense sticks. Please. I know we have armies to command, I know you have plans...But I want more time with you. I cannot part with you yet."

He kissed her, not so gently, making her heart beat very fast again. Five incense sticks? That was quite a bit of time in the mortal realm. Days...weeks even. And it wasn't much more time than she would have needed to return to her own encampment anyway. Nobody would notice. It was...very tempting.

"Alright," she said, suddenly feeling very excited, "show me this mortal world of yours. Do I need to get dressed?"

***

The world he took her to - his hand tightly wrapped around her waist on their cloud jump - felt serene and majestic. A bit like him, she thought, as she followed him up a small path in a light, fragrant forest with many tall white and red pines and a few golden ginkgos. Judging from the angle of the light falling through the trees, it was past mid-day here. The air was fresh and crisp, with the smell of wet leaves, moss and mushrooms - autumn. Mo Yuan had put on a hunter's garb, breaches and a tunic made from soft leather patches in different colors. His hair was bound back but not as tightly as usual. He looked adventurous and very handsome. But when did he not.

After a bit of walking in front of her, he took her hand. He smiled at her, a boyish, excited kind of smile that made her decidedly weak-kneed. Adorable, she thought and pressed his hand.

"I will reset the wards so that you can come and go on your own without any issues," he declared just as she felt a slight dizziness, likely when they crossed the magical barrier he had erected. He walked a bit faster, pulling her along, and suddenly, a lake appeared before them - its deep blue surface reflecting the sky and the little, white clouds above - at its shores a wooden house with a thatched roof, sitting comfortably on a sunny, slightly elevated patch of grass.

She stopped and so did he, involuntarily pulled to a halt by her. He looked at her questioningly, a bit nervous.

"It's...," she shut her mouth, feeling whatever she wanted to say would not do it justice. He had built this? It was so harmonious, so simple, so perfect. She looked at him, the man who had robbed her of words and the man who could build houses like this, and smiled. Maybe I am dreaming, she thought, and secretly pinched herself. But no...she was wide awake.

"Come," he said softly, "let me show you inside. You must be tired."

She wasn't tired at all, how could she be in such a place where the eyes wanted to feast on the natural beauty endlessly, but he took her by the waist and led her into the courtyard and up a short flight of stairs to the veranda. He opened a door to the right and guided her inside and she was careful not to step on the threshold, because she remembered that was bad luck in the mortal realm.

"Sit down," he said and pulled back a chair for her, "I will be back shortly."

Mutely, she did as told. Everything was dusty, but there was a comfortable looking, rather large bed, the table she sat at with four chairs, a lacquered red-golden trunk, a colorful cabinet with many drawers, a paravan with a red sun and cranes in flight, incense stick holders and empty vases. The wooden lattice windows showed squares and circles, simple, yet soothing patterns. She stared at them for a while, wondering when Mo Yuan had built all this. It smelled nice, this place.

He stayed away for quite a bit and she became curious and a little lonely, so she went to look for him. "What are you doing?" she asked when she found him on his knees in another room that seemed to be a kitchen.

"It's called making a fire," he laughed.

She scowled at him for making fun of her like this.

"I am boiling water for our tea," he explained, pointing to a teapot and three cups and a kettle on the stove. "There's a well behind the house so that we do not need to walk to the lake all the time."

"You think to live here like a peasant?" she said, flabbergasted. "Without any servants? Without magic?"

"A bit of magic can be used, since we are High Gods," he said with a shrug, "if you use it too often or too much of it, it may result in a sore throat, a bit of sneezing, sometimes a fever. But that's for Celestials...who knows how Demons are affected. Maybe they'll lose their stamina?"

She must have looked shocked, because his face went serious. "I will be your servant if you need one," he said simply. "I want you to be comfortable here."

"You?" she laughed. "You could have been the ruler of all Realms. You are no servant."

"What is it you need servants for?" he asked. "To do your hair? I will gladly do it for you."

Self-consciously, she touched her head. Her hair must be a big mess, she had not even considered that. He got up, stepped closer and extended his right hand to gently run it through the strands of her hair. "You can teach me to do it the way you like. I'm a fast learner."

She felt herself blush a little. "No, no, I can do it myself," she mumbled. He probably did not know what it meant for a Demon if a warrior did a woman's hair. Or he knew exactly what it meant and was deliberately flustering her.

"We will have to go to town tomorrow," he said and turned back to the stove. "We need supplies. I will buy you anything else you want or need when we're there. For our meal tonight, I will have to go hunting."

"Oh, let me do it!" she said, "I want to be useful too while you make fires and tea."

"Alright," he agreed, "Wait here, I will fetch you my bow and arrows."

She shot two rabbits in the forest before she remembered that Mo Yuan ate no meat. Hanging the animals over her shoulder on a bit of string she had taken from the house, she went to look for edible mushrooms and berries that she carried back to the house in her skirt. Luckily, she had chosen a plain kind of dress, quite fitting for such a fanciless place. Mushroom and berry stains would not be of consequence. In fact, the patterns looked interesting. Maybe she would roll on the forest floor tomorrow. With him. The thought of plucking leaves and twigs from his hair pleased her. There was a good chance she would be able to ruffle his proper looks here.

Mo Yuan had dusted and cleaned everything in her absence and the bed was freshly made, with new, clean sheets and several beautiful furs on top. Not only that, he had also picked a few autumn flowers for the vases and had arranged them with twigs, cones and a few colorful leaves. When she had dumped her kill in the kitchen and proudly showed him the mushrooms and berries, his face lit up. "That is very kind of you," he said with a smile, "I thought I would have to be content with the wild lettuce that is growing in the garden."

"Isn't that very bitter?"

"Oh yes," he said, "horribly bitter. I would have washed it down with peach wine."

Afterwards, they drank freshly brewed tea together from simple, unpainted clay cups, in silence. There was a bit of wind outside, a gentle, soothing rustle in the trees around them. And there were glances. Mo Yuan looked at her all the time when he thought she wasn't noticing. She let him, but she felt pressure grow inside of her, almost like she had to cry, but that made no sense at all, why would she?

"What is this place called?" Shao Wan asked, to distract herself - and him.

"People in this world call it Mei Lin (美林). And this lake is called Mei Shiu (美水)."

She smiled. "How simplistic."

"Breathtaking beauty does not need artful words," he said, smiling back.

"This house is Mei Mei Lin Shiu then?"

"Mei Mei Lin Shiu (妹妹 琳睡)? I will put up a sign tomorrow. Indeed, I assure you that you will sleep very well here."

"I must admit, I keep wondering about the bed," she said, looking behind him.

"What about it?" he asked, the expression on his face subtly changing.

"It's for two people," she remarked. That could mean many things. She wanted to be sure it was what she was hoping it meant.

"Yes it is," he agreed.

"So you-"

He got up and sat down on the chair next to her. "It's for you and me to make love in. I built it extra sturdy." He moved the chair closer, took her shoulders and turned her around so that their knees were touching.

"Goddamit, Celestial," she said breathlessly, "have you been reading mortal plays? You say all the right things all of a sudden. You are far more dangerous than I ever knew."

His hands came up, to cup her face. "I made mistakes. I do not plan to repeat them."

"Then we...try out the bed now?"

"No. I need to say something first."

"Y...yes?" Why was her silly heart hammering like this again, as if she'd run from Mount Kunlun to her Palace?

He took a deep breath. At least, he was not calm and collected while she was in utter turmoil. It was only fair that he, too, was affected by...everything. "I have been called slow and even if I would prefer to be called prudent, it is true, I sometimes think too much and act too late."

She nodded eagerly. Damn slow, yes. Always thinking, plotting. Often thinking about her, as he had said. Building a house with a bed for the two of them. That thought made her warm inside. It was true that she had also spent a lot of time thinking about him, ever since she had left Mount Kunlun. She had thought things were very complicated, but now, she felt they were probably not at all.

"But I can still learn a thing or two, despite my age. I have learned in the time since your return...that with you...my timing is completely off. Maybe it will never be right, so I will just say it now..."

Shao Wan held her breath. She put her hands onto his knees. For support, because she felt very dizzy all of a sudden.

"You shake my world, Shao Wan, you shake it so much I feared I would lose all reason. I tried to deny it, I have tried to quench my feelings, but I have failed miserably. Shao Wan...," he took a deep breath again, "Shao Wan, I love you."

"What?" she whispered.

"I said I love you," he repeated and bent forward for a kiss that made her so breathless her head began to spin even more.

"But...," she gasped when he released her mouth, "I..."

He looked determined, yet afraid when he looked deeply into her eyes. "I am...I...understand. I understand that the world you live in...it is different in the Demon Realm and you do not want to be tied down with just one man. I...I would be lying if I said I do not care, but I will try...I will try to..."

"Shush, Mo Yuan," she said. Very gently, she put a finger on his lips. "Stop talking."

She took him into her arms and held him very tightly. "You are the first person to ever say this to me," she whispered into his ear. "I simply need a moment."

Love? He had said love. Love was something she had never before received from anybody. Respect, yes, loyalty, yes. But having no father and no mother, she had never known what it meant to be cherished unconditionally by somebody. When she had been little, she had marvelled about this thing called love - later, she had sometimes envied it, in especially weak moments, she had wanted it. Even later, she had scoffed at it as a thing for the weak, the downfall of Emperors.

Now...now, Mo Yuan said he loved her and she did not know how to react. She felt like she might have to cry if she spoke and at the same time, she felt like she was going to explode from joy. She wanted to giggle, she wanted to punch the air, but she was afraid she would make a fool out of herself. How enduring was this going to be? Would he withdraw his love if she did something stupid, like dance around in this house he had built? How sure was he about it? What if she let this make her so incredibly happy, and he would then tell her he had made a mistake? What if...

"Please, Shao Wan," he said in her embrace, "if you do not reciprocate my feelings, I need to know."

"How can one be sure," she whispered. "How does one know one is in love?"

"You make me feel whole," he simply said, "with you, my existence is complete. You are everything that I lack, everything that I need to be more than what I already am."

She pondered this, realizing she was making him suffer by not telling him about her own feelings.

"Is it love if I crave you?" she asked. "If I can't stop thinking about making love to you all day."

He gently pushed against her shoulders to be able to look at her. "No. But I will take it if I get nothing else."

"Is it love if I have a wrenching feeling in my gut when I think about losing you?"

"It could be," he agreed, a small smile appearing on his face.

"Is it love if I think you are the most beautiful God I have ever seen?"

"Hm," he said and scowled a little.

"Is it love if I fear to lose myself when I am with you but want nothing else?"

"I think so," he agreed, and his whole face lit up with a happiness she had not yet seen on him, "I think it is."

"If I am happy that you are that happy right now," she whispered, "yes?"

"Yes," he said, "yes." He leaned forward until his forehead rested on hers and put his arms around her neck. "Am I too greedy to want to hear you say it?"

"Yes, a bit greedy," she agreed, "and a bit shameless. What if I need time to think about it?"

But there was nothing to think about. It made all perfect sense, everything that had happened between them ever since she had woken up from 190'000 years of death. She was in love with him. It was that simple.

"Come," she said and took him by the hand, drawing him to the bed. "Lie down."

He would not take his eyes from her as he complied, and he would not let go of her hand. Why did he look so afraid? His vulnerability moved her, as always. Baring one's heart to someone else was a scary thing. She straddled him at the waist and looked down at this man she had wrongly considered her enemy ever since she had met him.

It changed a lot that he was not. But she wouldn't tell him about her plans today, just like she would not ask him about his. And maybe not tomorrow either. They still had time.

"Mo Yuan," she said and leaned forward so that she could put her elbows to each side of his head, bringing their faces into close proximity. "You are sneaky and sly: you stole my heart and I don't even know when. Now that you have it, please keep it safe. Do not hurt it. Please do not unfairly judge me, whatever may happen. Please do know that today, you made me realize that, yes..." She bent down and whispered into his ear: "I am quite sure that I love you too."

She suddenly felt extremely shy confessing her feelings to him like this, but he would not let her feel discomforted for long. He started kissing her like his life depended on it, undressing her expertly and swiftly, putting his lips on every single part of her body, elbows and breasts alike, until every inch of her was burning with the desire to unite with him, forever.

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