Chapter 95

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written by Chimera and MiniOrchid
edited by Chimera


Zi Lan was dead. Die Feng did not feel much as 5th delivered his report in a hoarse voice. His gaze remained at the slice of daylight visible between the tent flaps, his mind expecting Zi Lan to walk in any moment, smirking. There was no body. By all accounts, Zi Lan had burned, his aura vanquished.

"Senior?" 5th prodded.

Die Feng wrenched his gaze back to 5th. "Yes?"

"When will be the funeral?"

Funeral? Die Feng spat out a bitter laugh. There could be no funeral because Zi Lan couldn't possibly be dead. The fell energy surrounding the tower made it impossible to approach. He would speak to the Ghost Princess. Find out exactly what happened. But before that he needed to speak to someone else. Forcing himself to unclench his fist, Die Feng strode towards the tent entrance.

"Senior?" 5th asked behind him.

"I must see to something," Die Feng said, still looking straight ahead. "3rd is in charge while I am gone."

In a daze, he walked to the edge of the camp and cloud jumped.

When Zi Lan had been leaving for the Ghost Realm, Die Feng had discouraged him. "It's too dangerous," he had said.

Zi Lan had replied with his customary smirk, "Senior, life is dangerous. Aren't you bored of whiling it away in safety?"

Die Feng hadn't understood that impulse then and he didn't understand it now. He should have tried harder to persuade Zi Lan, watched over him if he couldn't be persuaded, fought beside him if needed, just... done something. Anything. Looking after the disciples was his responsibility and he had known Zi Lan would be a troublemaker from the first day when Zi Lan and Si Yin had snuck off to see who could climb the highest peak at Kunlun first. Die Feng had brought them back in time just before Shifu found out.

As he floated on his cloud, Die Feng didn't cry. People who weren't responsible for their junior's death had the right to grieve. Not Die Feng. He had to see what could be done next.

This realm was where it had began, their unlikely alliance as they searched for Zi Lan. As he had suspected, she was strolling in the marketplace. Her aura was hidden but he would recognise that silhouette anywhere.

Without ceremony, Die Feng grabbed her hand. Quick as a cat, she twisted out of his grasp, "What are you doing?"

"I need you to come with me," he said roughly. Something in his voice must have made her relent. With a suspicious look, she placed her hand in his and Die Feng cloud jumped them to the Lakehouse.

She twisted away the moment they landed. "Why did you bring me here?"

Her eyes glinted in the darkness. Snowflakes drifted down outside the window, piling on the ledge, pale in the moonlight. A cold draft whooshed in the ghostly silence. With a wave of her hand she lit the stove. A ball of fire remained floating in her palm as heat spread across the freezing room. The fire cast long shadows on the wall, cutting her features into sharp relief, the flame reflecting in her eyes. Die Feng had never noticed the resemblance before but in that moment she looked every bit the Yellow Demon King's sister. Her nose was high, her eyes disdainful.

A wave of anger washed over him, the first emotion beyond shock that he had felt after hearing the news. "Where did you disappear?" he growled out. "After giving them the Tower plans?"

"Am I answerable to you now?" she bit back. "Kidnapping the Demon Princess is a foolhardy strategy even for Celestials."

Her words stoked the fire beginning to burn inside him. He welcomed it. Anger made things happen. In a flash he had her arm twisted behind her back. "I am not playing," he growled in her ear. "I have questions but you are hardly a hostage."

A moment and she was out of his grasp, their positions reversed. "You have acquired a charming new manner. Pity you did not have it before or I might have bedded you." Her fireball hovered near his face.

"You will burn me?" he asked quietly. "Like Zi Lan burned?"

After a moment of shocked silence, she abruptly released him and turned, flinging her fireball against the wall with a force that shook the house. "What do you want Die Feng?" she said in a brittle voice.

"Li Ying, I want to talk," he said.

She whirled around. "What is there to talk about? He's dead."

"No," said Die Feng urgently. "That's what they say but they might have missed his aura. He could still be-"

"He's dead," she said firmly. "Accept it."

Anger surged again. Wasn't she listening? Zi Lan couldn't be dead. "No!" he spat out.

"Yes," she said in that infuriating way.

Die Feng grabbed her by the shoulders. "No!"

She threw him off, "He's dead, Die Feng."

Die Feng flew at her again, sword materialising in his hand without thought, "Stop saying that!"

Her whip met his sword with a clang, Li Ying sidestepping to keep distance between them, "The tower burnt to the ground. The energy surged around for leagues. Everyone in the Demon Realm felt it."

Why was she so infuriatingly calm? Why was everyone accepting it so readily? Die Feng lashed out with his blade again and again, unable to see straight in his fury.

Li Ying met him blow for blow. "Not even a high god could have survived."

No no no... "Did you lead them into a trap?" he hurled next, not caring about his words.

Her eyes flickered to the side for just a second before her expression shuttered. "Yes," she said.

He stopped short. That was the last thing he expected her to say. Denial, appeasement, anger at the accusation, all of those he expected, not caring if he hurt her while lashing out. He wanted the hurt inside him to bleed out into the world, wanted to hurt her, shatter that calm façade, make her feel the way his insides were clawing at him. Make anyone feel what he was feeling because surely it was too much to be contained by his body. But acceptance? What was wrong with her? What was wrong with everyone?

"You're lying," he said.

"What?" she snapped, whip at the ready.

"I said you're lying! You wouldn't do that, Not to your friends," he panted, not lowering his sword.

"Have faith in me now, do you?" she sneered.

He advanced upon her. "I won't make the mistake of doubting you again."

The sneer slid off her face, replaced by something that looked like fear. "Why not?" she whispered.

"Because I know you," he continued. "You have a pure heart. Only, I was too afraid to see it."

"Stay away," she spat out, spinning her whip to stop him from getting any closer. Gone was the calm. She looked very near panicking, in fact.

Die Feng pressed his advantage. "Li Ying what happened? Just tell me the truth!"

She took a deep shuddering breath and closed her eyes. "You know the truth." Her eyes snapped open, flaming. "Didn't your juniors report to you?"

"They said," he clenched his jaw in frustration. "They said you led them into a trap and Zi Lan burned at the bottom of the tower to save the Ghost Princess. Li Ying, please. I need to know. I was wrong before. Tell me I am wrong again. It couldn't have been you." He looked at her with desperation. Nothing was making any sense. "Please tell me you didn't know it was a trap."

Her eyes were burning as she flew at him. "You think I would betray my own brother, my own blood? For an enemy tribe I barely know? Does that make sense to you, Die Feng?"

Die Feng didn't hesitate as he leapt forward to meet her whip. "You're lying," he ground out as metal clashed again. "That day you helped save Zi Lan from your brother's men."

"Only because I didn't know they were my brother's," she snapped back. "We're in the middle of a war! Of course I will side with my own kind!"

"Side? You call it siding? You are accused of deliberately gaining their trust to lead them into a trap. Plotting the murder of an innocent child!"

"Why are you shocked? You always expected this. You wanted this, in fact."

"I wanted this?"

"Admit it. Isn't a part of you relieved that I turned out to be a treacherous Demon after all?"

"No!"

"It would make things so much easier. Black and white. Well, have I lived up to your expectations?"

"You're lying."

"Admit it. You must relish the thought you were right all along."

"I don't believe you," Die Feng maintained fiercely, as he gazed upon her fiery eyes. "Do you know what 16th said the last time I saw him? He said you're not your brother. He accused me of not trying hard enough to seek you out. He told me it was never too late. I was going to come to you, enmity be damned!"

"Then he was a fool and so are you," she snarled, coming at him with renewed force. The heavy storm had finally arrived, beating against the walls.

*****

She couldn't keep lying to him. He had the look of someone grasping at the seams as his world fell apart and Li Ying barely knew what she was doing. The only thing she knew for sure was Die Feng had to stay away from her. Could she do nothing right? Everything she touched turned to ash. Zi Lan's death was directly her fault. She had as good as led them into the trap. The consequences remained the same so what did her intent matter? Who would be next? Yan Zhi? Qiao Er? Die Feng? She had no idea what her brother would do to exploit her connection with the West Sea Prince. Ask her to spy on Celestials? Hold Die Feng hostage? Kill him just to spite Mo Yuan? Die Feng had to stay away, for his own safety, and the best way to keep him away was to let him believe she had led to Zi Lan's death. It was true enough. She deserved his contempt.

But what she hadn't counted on was how hard it would be to convince Die Feng. In the past he had been all too eager to assign guilt to her. But now...

He dodged and parried her strikes eagerly. Here was a man looking for a fight. Frustrated, she fought harder but he would not retreat. He would not give up on her. Fine. She would make him.

"It seems like you need a reminder of what demons are capable of," Li Ying snarled, right before she dropped her whip and cloud jumped forward. A moment, and she had him against the wall with her hands against his chest. Without pausing, she surged forward, her hands slipped behind his neck, she grasped a handful of his hair and pulled him down to meet her ravenous lips.

Now he would struggle, now he would retreat she thought as she kissed him, playing the enchantress he had feared she was. Instead, he seemed to come alive. Pulling her closer, he took her mouth greedily, to punish or reward her, she couldn't tell. His sword clattered to the floor as she pulled on him more forcefully, biting his lips, and he held her tighter, tongue warring with hers. His hot breath against her jaw, his mouth slid down the fragile outline of her throat.

This...was unexpected. He's changed she thought as he kissed her like his lips could anchor her to him, like his lips could move past her lying façade to the truth of her core. He's not running away anymore.

The thought was both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time and she allowed herself to fall into the intoxication of his touch. His hands roamed over her, seeking every bit of skin they could find. He was rough and fierce matching her angry kisses with raw need, seeking her warmth. She needed his warmth too, as much as he needed hers. She allowed herself to hold onto him, the feel of his flesh the only thing that felt real in all the realms, grounding her while she was adrift and alone in a sea of uncertainty. Their embrace grounding them both as the shared guilt and grief that held them frozen slowly thawed.

"Li Ying-" she cut him off as her body pressed against his, molding their shapes together. Eyes closed, he shuddered. Then he grabbed her waist and switched their positions, holding her against the wall.

"Li Ying," he breathed heavily.

Rationality was slipping through their grasp the way the precious heat between their bodies drained from the room. The snow gale crept through the cracks of the windows, sending fallen papers scattering around them like a tornado. The crackling of the wooden stove nearby was not enough to warm their body, yet there was a fire burning between their heated gazes.

Her cold hand rose to touch his heated face, chilled breath escaped her lips. Lips that he looked like he very much wished to capture again. "Die Feng, I'm cold." Her voice was a hoarse whisper.

"Li Ying," his hands tightened on her waist. She pulled his head down to hers, their cheeks met as she greedily nuzzled his cheek, stealing his heat, his warmth. But her touch only stoked the passion burning within them both. Heart racing, breath quickening, she demanded more, more of his touch, more of his skin on hers.

"Can you warm me?" she asked, vulnerable words that were more for her sake than his. Her body couldn't hide her true need. Here was one truth she could speak among the lies she had whispered that day. Lies that he could see through, stubborn man that he was. He could see through her. He knew. He knew.

"Die Feng, I'm freezing," she pleaded again, but this time, she held his gaze. Her eyes demanded his attention, drawing him in. "Warm me," enchantress words escaped her lips.

And she knew she had won because in that moment Die Feng couldn't help but heed her command. His forehead pressed against hers, ignoring the snow storm that burst the window open, sending fresh white floating snow into the room. Without looking up, he waved a hand to slam the window shut and send more coal to the fire. The dark room was now illuminated with a bright yellow glow. With a groan, his head bent to capture her lips softly, delicately, savoring the taste of her. Arms tightened around her waist, pulled her body up, her toes barely skimmed the floor. Like petals in the blizzard, they were lost within their whirlwind world of this eternal moment. Her moan made him tremble with satisfaction, he kissed her harder, chased away her worries. Her tongue met his with relentless hunger, tasting, seeking the comfort he offered.

"Die Feng," her voice was somewhere between a moan and a plea.

"Here," he gasped, his lips slid to the side of her neck, heated tongue tracing her cold skin, her body quivering from the tantalizing tip of his touch. "Sweet, sweet Li Ying."

He kissed her as if after sharing his warmth he wanted to set her on fire. As if he wanted to share his own fire and feel her burning. He kissed her as if he would make the edges of her sanity come unraveling and give and give until she came undone. He kissed her as if his lips could chase away her worries and guilt and the only thing remaining would be his touch, his kisses, his name.

Die Feng, if you kiss me like this how can I keep lying to you? But he knows. He knows.

He knew she lied and he soothed and inflamed with his lips as if determined to chase away her demons.

Without breaking away, she reached for his belt, unknotting it in two quick snaps. Groaning, his hands pulled aside her collar, his lips travelling to her chest, biting, nibbling, tasting.

She removed his belt, pulling at his clothes until her greedy hands slipped under his robes. Here was skin. Here was burning flesh. He moaned as she moved lower, palming him through his trousers.

His hands unknotted her belt, reaching inside to cup her breasts. His touch branded her skin, sending heat between her legs.

She pulled his head back to her lips. He didn't resist, returning her kiss eagerly, his kiss gentle yet fierce, he captured her lips with desperate urgency, sucking on her tongue as one drunk on mead. She returned with the same enthusiasm, branding him with each nibble and bite, her teeth grazed along his jawline, the rasp of his aroused breath sending her over the edge of excitement.

He cupped her breast just over her xin yi, kneading the abundant softness, making her tremble. His heated eyes locked onto hers, their breaths synchronized. Moving closer, his hands slipped beneath her robes, sliding to her back, he found what he sought. The knotted ties, easily removed, to expose her to his gaze. Yet, he paused before pulling on the ties, as if not yet satisfied.

He captured her lips once more. Savagely this time, not letting her pull away, capturing each of her breasts. His hands slipped to the front, under the xin yi, he caressed her bare breast, his own breathing quickening to the sound of her moans. Eyes narrowed in concentration he touched her as if he wanted to draw out her moans, turn them into cries louder than the sound of the blizzard beyond the walls.

And then Die Feng broke the kiss, and bent, lifting the red fabric that partially exposed her breasts. She gasped again, writhing from anticipation. He gazed at her breasts in wonder, his eyes worshipful. As if unable to hold back any longer his teeth clamped on her vulnerable breast. She jumped in surprise, her squirming turning to tremors when his mouth started to suck, his tongue tracing the edges of the mounds, nibbling along the way. But Li Ying couldn't take it anymore, she tried pulling him closer, desperate for something, anything more than this teasing that drove her insane. Her knees started to buckle as she cried out, but he caught her waist.

He nodded, then dropped to his knees and placed her hands over his shoulders. He slipped under her robes, pulling on her undergarments; he slipped them down, exposing her to his view. His heated breath against her dark curls sent slivers of sensation up her spine. Die Feng inhaled her scent deeply before lifting her leg over his shoulders, holding her against the wall.

Her hand reached for the bookshelf on her left. He glanced up and smiled at her surprised look. Excitement grew in her as she bit the edge of her lips.

With a curious expression, Die Feng parted her damp curls, exposing the lips to her core. Her body tensed, thighs tightened from his exploratory fingers as she bit back a moan. Her heated velvet petals tingled from his touch much to her frustration, because he wanted to learn, to see, to feel her desire. Engrossed by her response to his merest touches, he slipped his index finger into the hot wet flesh. Slowly...but too slowly; Li Ying pressed down, clamping her hold on his finger. She started to move and moan, her mount grasping yet releasing, in a rhythm he soon learned. He slipped in another finger, pressing deeply into her soft core, as she tightened even more around him. He soon took over the vital motion she had taught him.

Still, he did not seemed satisfied. He pulled his fingers back making Li Ying cry out in vexation.


Ignoring her frustrated protest, he lifted her other thigh over his shoulders, as he inhaled yet again, licking his lips. His eyes had a primal need, a look that she recognised as he looked up at her once and then closed his mouth over the parted clefts of her throbbing core, his tongue beginning to move.

Yet he was slow, too slow, because he wanted to play.

Her body was like a new instrument he had yet to learn. This was new to him. He was eager, yet patient. Clumsy, but a fast learner. With every touch, he stroked her like a zither, testing the sounds which escaped her lips. But it was not hard for her body to respond to his touch. If he only knew how much she had yearned for his embrace, he would not have to do much at all.

But patiently, he held back, on instinct, he played her body to his will, to his control. His tongue experimented, exploring as it traced along her petals, sucking the juices along the way, catching each gasp and whimper with primal excitement. He treated her flesh like a delicacy; he took his time to taste every rippling pulsing reaction from her body. When he knew he had found the right spot, he stayed with it, savoring her clitoris like she would peach blossom candies.

"Don't stop!" she gasped between breaths. Li Ying was cold before. For days, years, probably her whole life. But now, her body was on fire. She relished the flame that broke through her barrier.

Her body inflamed further by his heated breaths against her stomach, soothing away her icy spirit. Body tightened, her hip rose to press her sensitive throbbing nub against his lips. She wanted to scream, but she couldn't. The sensation arrived before she realized, but it was still beyond reach. Heart hammering, her body continued to burn. She was afraid she would lose it, her hands grasped his head tighter, pressing herself against him, not letting go. Taking the cue from her frustrated cries, he sucked harder, his hands tightened over her hips. Before she knew, her body convulsed on its own. Yet he did not stop, because he didn't know. He continued to devour, sending electrifying sensation flowing through her veins like a wave of rippling water over endless falls. He kept drawing until every last ounce of sensation was drawn from her core, leaving only the hot sated throbbing flesh behind from his torment.

Roughly, he rose, capturing her lips with his. "Li Ying," he panted. "Li Ying."

She kissed him back, intoxicated on the taste of her flesh on him. He was hers, hers, hers. Had laid claim, undone, unmade... Her thoughts were broken half sentences as she kissed his face, his nose, his jaw, tenderly now, tenderly.

He was trembling, holding her as if she was the most precious thing in all the realms and maybe, in this moment, she was. His forehead against hers, eyes closed, nothing in the world but his arms to hold her, firm, secure. They stood there a while with nothing but the sound of their breaths slowing down, together.

He kissed her forehead and she nuzzled closer still. They would soon part, but she would savour every drop of his touch, greedy that she was, and take more still. "Li Ying," he said.

"My precious Li Ying. Look at me."

She opened her eyes to look into his warm ones. The horrible numbness that had been there when he brought her to the Lakehouse had melted, replaced with emotion. Good. He needed to feel, to process. Even if the feelings were painful. They both did. He had thawed her cold and she couldn't trust herself to speak. She wouldn't be able whisper her futile lies again. He had seen to her core. He knew. He knew her as no one did.

"Come back to me," he said, holding her gaze, caressing her with his eyes, cupping her face in his hands. "Stop punishing yourself. What happened was not your fault."

She wanted to sob as her stomach sunk at his words. Words. Words were not to be trusted. Unlike the honest response of the body, words could be manipulated, used against him. She could not return his gift of comfort with words that would lead to his death. For she knew...if he knew the truth he would not let her go. And her brother would kill him. Her words would not take his pain away. Nor would they save his life. Words were useless. She gently disentangled herself.

"Li Ying tell me what really happened," he begged. "Are you afraid of your brother? We can protect you."

"Don't be presumptuous, Sea Prince," she chuckled bitterly. "It doesn't suit you."

The look of hurt in his eyes almost made her take him in her arms again. She turned around, hiding the tears in her eyes as she righted her clothes. Another fight was beyond her. She had stayed longer than she could afford to. She needed to leave.

"Li Ying, please talk to me," he begged ducking his head to look into her eyes.

She avoided his gaze, unable to keep up the ruse. "I have to go."

"No wait!" his voice rang behind her as she cloud jumped to the Demon Realm.

*****

Cheng Yin's wrath when he found about Li Ying's involvement in leading Yan Zhi to the tower had been unnerving. However, in the end, Li Ying had managed to convince him that she had been helping all along by leading them into a trap.

"Well done sister," he had said. "You are not idle, I see. But next time consult with your ge-ge first." He had said with a smile that did not reach his eyes. "The Ghost Queen should have died. But no matter, I will have my victory still." He had looked at her with a new, calculating gaze. He did not trust her, she could tell, yet why he didn't confront her she had no idea. And the lack of confrontation set Li Ying on edge. What was he waiting for? She knew Cheng Yin had her under watch.

Her brother's spy had been watching her every move ever since the Tower fell and Zi Lan died instead of Yan Zhi. She could sense the constant presence of his aura no matter where she went. She had managed to finally give him the slip when Die Feng cloud jumped her to their secret Lakehouse. For a while they had been alone but Li Ying had no idea how long that would last or whether her brother had other means of spying upon her. Her brother must not, at any cost, find out that she had lied. Everything was riding upon Cheng Yin thinking he had her under control.

Her brother would never physically hurt her, she was sure. He still cared for her but he hated Mo Yuan just as much. In the days leading up to Zi Lan's death, she had investigated her brother's activities and found his desire for power and complete domination stronger than she ever anticipated.

Walking into the Obsidian Palace, she found him waiting for her in her chambers.
"Sister," he said with the same smile that did not reach his eyes. "Where have you been?"

Li Ying schooled her face into a neutral expression. "In the mortal realm."

Cheng Yin got up from his seat and walked towards her. "Really? That's funny, because my man here says he saw you cloud jump with your sea prince."

Li Ying smiled back. "He tried to kidnap me. The Celestials thought holding me hostage might give them a hold over you. But I escaped."

"Oh, and that is why his scent is all over you?" he sneered.

"How else do you suppose I escaped, my dear brother?" she raised an eyebrow.

Cheng Yin laughed, walking towards the door. "It seems the Celestials think you are my weakness, sister." He clapped his hands. Guards in black appeared, blocking the entrance. "Now we can't have that, I'm sure you'll agree," he continued. The guards parted to allow Cheng Yin to pass through. "They are new guards for your protection. You will stay here." Cheng Yin smirked. "For your own safety, dear sister."

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