Hunting in the Mist (Mo Yuan & Bai Qian & Ye Hua)

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~by lemjo61 ~

Mo Yuan was alert to every little sight, scent, and sound that reached him as he and Ye Hua moved stealthily along the winding dirt trail leading them farther into the heart of the dense bamboo forest. Both men were dressed as mortals, wearing robes of dark green to better blend in with their surroundings. They both had swords drawn and ready for a fight.

The task Mo Yuan shared with his brother in the Mortal Realm this night was a simple one: find the great five-horned beast that had been killing mortals from the devout town of Ganglei. The beast hid among the thick bamboo shoots in order to stalk and hunt unsuspecting merchants traveling the trail. The townspeople had prayed and made offerings to the Dragon Gods for help so Mo Yuan and Ye Hua had been sent to answer their prayers and eliminate the threat. When they found the beast they were to destroy it, ensuring no trace of the creature's existence was left behind.

The moon was full and bright above them, bathing the forest with a soft ethereal glow. The night sky aided the brothers, lighting the way as they moved swiftly but silently along the narrow path. They were making good progress until pockets of dense mist began to appear intermittently; the low-hanging clouds creating patches of pale silver in the night and obscuring certain areas of the forest from view. As they moved farther along the trail, the fog continued to thicken around the giant bamboo stalks until Mo Yuan and Ye Hua were finally forced to slow their pace to a crawl.

Mo Yuan lifted his hand in a silent gesture to stop, not even glancing Ye Hua's way to see if his brother understood. The two had been hunting together so long, words were no longer necessary to coordinate their movements. The fog was dense enough to be confusing to the senses, so Mo Yuan closed his eyes to shut out the physical world and sent out his dragon's cultivation to feel the spirit of the forest around him. He knew Ye Hua would remain alert and guard his back while he did so.

Mo Yuan detected nothing but the spiritual energy of the ancient bamboo for miles all around him until he felt the natural pull of water tugging on his dragon's instincts from the south. There was a body of fresh water. He opened his eyes, making plans in his mind. Water was an essential requirement for life and often served as a gathering place for all sorts of creatures. The fog made hunting the five-horned beast more difficult, but a good place to set a trap would be near water. And the strength of dragon energy was always enhanced when water was near.

Using a quick hand gesture asking Ye Hua to follow, Mo Yuan stepped off the trail and headed toward the south. He followed his dragon's instincts until the scent of water reached his nose, his sense of smell and instincts leading him to a warm spring gently bubbling up from the ground. He crouched down and remained hidden among the bamboo shoots and dense underbrush as he assessed the clearing for any immediate threats. He felt Ye Hua move next to him to do the same.

The clearing was small and secluded, untouched by any signs of mortal men. The mist was sparse, visibility better than in most other parts of the forest. The entire area was lit gently with the soft glow from the moon. Mo Yuan knew this spot was their best chance to try and catch the beast until the fog had cleared and hunting became the better option again. He just had to decide what bait to place in the clearing to try and lure the beast out of hiding.

Mo Yuan had just turned to quietly question his brother when he caught movement out of the corner of his eye. He tightened his grip on the leather-wrapped hilt of his sword, muscles tensing in readiness as he swung back around to face the clearing and a possible attack. He immediately froze, sucking in a sharp breath at the vision before him. The beauty that met his eyes took his breath away. A female nine-tailed fox had just entered the clearing.

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