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Nocturne

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Centuries ago, a kingdom in the North fell to pestilence and war. The remaining population fled, leaving behind only the scraps of what had been a prosperous life. Water was scarce, and food even more. Many died of consumption, and the dire situation forced people to make inhuman decisions: the elderly were left behind, the children abandoned. Curses thrown at the heavens replaced prayers. However, in the middle of this desperation, something miraculous happened: a child, left alone to die of hunger and thirst, was found by a crow and a she-wolf. They nurtured the small creature, until…

 

No! No, no, no!

 

Shang Qinghua cursed loudly for the tenth time in less that five minutes. This was not the time to be thinking about the best way to use old legends for his latest tale! He had far more urgent problems to solve! Like, for example, the fucking blizzard that had surprised him in the middle of the goddamn forest.

 

He had thought this was a good idea, at the time. It should have been simple: go to the woods, walk around a little bit during the day, wait for inspiration to strike, write down all that came to mind. Easy. Clean. Except he had gotten too caught up in his thoughts. And the next thing he knew, the sky was dark and snow was falling like crazy, covering the tracks he had left up to that point.

 

In short, he was lost.

 

Shang Qinghua raised the collar of his coat, trying to shield his face from the icy winds as much as possible. A violent shiver went through his body, forcing him to stop in his tracks with a pitiful whine. The blizzard was so fierce that it made keeping his eyes open difficult; he couldn’t see anything apart from the dark trunks of the nearby trees. With only black and white all around, the world seemed alien.

 

Shit , he realized, with dread settling heavy in the pit of his stomach, I’m fucked.

 

He needed to find shelter and he needed to find it quickly, if he wanted to have a chance to get back to the inn in one piece without becoming a solid block of ice. His feet had already started to lose sensation.

 

Walking faster, or at least as fast as he could with his legs sinking up to his knees in the snow, he entered the cover of the thickest part of the forest.

 

There, the trees were so densely packed together that they gave him some respite from the wind. Except… except, as soon as he got used to dim light, he was met with the clearest blue eyes he had ever seen.

 

It took him exactly three seconds to understand that those eyes belonged to a wolf.

 

The sudden burst of fear was enough to set his fogged brain in a frenzy. Before he fully realized it, he was running for his life in the opposite direction, heart thumping loudly in his ears.

 

… of course. Of course there were wolves in these woods, and Shang Qinghua hadn’t even thought about asking people about it and oh, gods, he was going to die.

 

Sure enough, he hadn’t managed more than four meters before something particularly heavy crashed into his back and tackled him to the ground. Shang Qinghua’s breath was forced out of him by the impact, and the whimper that escaped his mouth was equal parts pain and fear.

 

He tried to crawl away, fingers digging uselessly into the snow and limbs flailing in every direction, trashing in a futile attempt to dislodge the unmoving weight from his back. When a deep growl came from right above his head, Shang Qinghua cried out.

 

I don’t want to die.

 

Hot breath replaced the cold on the nape of his neck and, through his panic, he knew he was done for. Shutting his eyes tight, and realizing only in that moment that he was crying, he waited for the pain and the darkness to come.

 

He waited.

 

They didn’t come. Instead, the wolf closed his jaws over the back of Shang Qinghua’s clothes, and started to drag him away.

 

Eh?

 

The icy ground was scratching his cheek unmercifully, and he couldn’t help but flinch when a particularly sharp rock dug into his hip. He must have made a noise, because the wolf suddenly stopped and released him.

 

Shang Qinghua got slowly up on his knees, wincing at how even that simple movement hurt, and was met again with those too clear eyes. Then, the wolf lowered itself on the ground and made a sharp movement with his head, as if ordering him to do something.

 

“Ah… uh, what… do you want me to do?” It felt strange to talk to an animal, but it seemed far more intelligent than normal, and Shang Qinghua was far too dazed to properly care. He didn’t really know how else to approach the situation.

 

The wolf growled again and nudged him with his whole body, rasping impatiently at the ground. A new burst of wind froze Shang Qinghua to the bones, and he found himself rattling his teeth and pressing his body into the thick fur in front of him. Suddenly his entire world shifted as he was somehow tossed over the back of the wolf (and oh gods, were wolves supposed to be this big ?) and forced to hold on as the it started to run against the wind.

 

Time and space lost meaning. The blizzard looked like a tunnel around them as they entered the heart of the storm. Shang Qinghua’s eyes were tearing up so badly that he had to hide his whole face into the wolf’s back, reveling in the slight warmth that came from it.

 

He was starting to feel drowsy and like his fingers would just fall off when the roaring of the wind subsided enough for him to risk a look around, and what he saw made his jaw fall off.

 

A manor.

 

A big fucking manor in the middle of fucking nowhere.

 

The wolf came to a halt so abruptly that Shang Qinghua rolled off to the ground and into the door. He didn’t even have the time to think about running away when another low growl came from behind him, too close for comfort. He scurried inside without looking back.

 

Torches were lining the otherwise empty hall. With his legs trembling so hard they barely managed to hold him, he miserably dragged his frozen self toward the nearest one, hoping to steal at least a little bit of the flame’s warmth. The heavy door he had just pushed open silently closed again by itself. Nobody, not even the wolf, was in sight.

 

Shang Qinghua didn’t have it in him to be shocked. He just huddled against a wall, hugging his knees to his chest to try to warm up.

 

Soon, however, footsteps started to resonate in the hall.

 

After being stranded in a snowstorm, brought face to face with an oversized wolf, and made to ride on said wolf’s back all in the span of one hour, Shang Qinghua was too exhausted to be worried anymore. A shadow fell on him.

 

He raised his head, ready to spit out a string of insults about hospitality or something, but his mind screeched to a halt.

 

In front of him stood… a man. A very, very handsome man. Tall, with wide shoulders and a sharp jaw framed by long black hair.

 

And cold, clear blue eyes that were far too familiar for comfort.

 

A loud stream of curses filled his overwhelmed brain. “You are…”

 

“Come,” said the man in a deep, rumbling voice, without waiting for him to finish. Then he turned away, as if expecting Shang Qinghua to obey without making a fuss.

 

Truth be told, Shang Qinghua did exactly that.

 

He was probably going to be eaten, and he was going to his slaughter willingly. But what else could he do? Try to run away again, only to be roughly caught a second time? He barely had the strength to keep up with the man (wolf?) without being left behind by his long strides. His whole body hurt.

 

Finally, they came to a halt in front of a door. Shang Qinghua braced himself, expecting something like a prison or a butchery, ready to get down on his knees and beg for his life. Instead, he was stunned to find himself in front of a very normal room. A room with a couch, a desk, a bed and, more importantly, a merrily crackling fireplace.

 

Throwing caution to the wind, Shang Qinghua raced inside, huddling his still shivering form in front of the flames. Everything hurt so badly. Something warm and heavy covered his shoulders and he startled, surprised in finding the fur coat that the man was wearing suddenly covering his own person. It smelled clean, with a crisp impression of snow and musk.

 

What the hell?

 

“This… uh. Don’t you need it?”

 

The man scoffed. Shang Qinghua couldn’t help but trail his eyes down over the now exposed arms and chest. The loose robes he wore did nothing to conceal the solid muscles underneath.

 

This was really too unfair.

 

“I don’t need it.”

 

Trying to tone down his nerves, Shang Qinghua snuggled into the warm furs and eyed his… savior? Captor? From his sorry position on the floor. He had to crane his neck a lot to manage that. Those blue eyes, firmly fixed on his figure, were truly unsettling.

 

He had no doubts.

 

“You… are the wolf from before.”

 

If he was going to die, he could at least sate his curiosity first.

 

The man raised his eyebrows but nodded.

 

A thrill of excitement went down Shang Qinghua’s spine. “So… are the local legends true? Are you the king of the northern forest?”

 

“I don’t know much about your legends,” he replied easily and oh, gods, it was really unfair how good that deep voice sounded. “But I do rule over this land.”

 

“Incredible ,” Shang Qinghua breathed out. Then, noting the man’s raised eyebrow, added hurriedly. “I’m sorry! Apologies, uh, your majesty?”

 

He had no idea how to address a wolf-man-king. That seemed a little bit excessive.

 

“What is your name, human?”

 

“Ah… Shang Qinghua, my king.”

 

There. Better, even if a bit awkward.

 

“I’m Mobei-jun. Why were you in my territory?”

 

“Oh, that. Well, you see, I’m a writer.” No reaction. “I write stories.”

 

“I know what a writer is, Shang Qinghua.” Mobei-jun sounded annoyed. “That doesn’t explain why I found you in the middle of my forest.”

 

Oh shit. Shit, of course it wasn’t clear! What was wrong with him today? Did the cold make him stupid?

 

“I’m sorry! The people at the inn told me about this local legend about the northern forest and its king, a mythical creature descended from both wolves and humans and…” he retreated further into the furs under that stern gaze. “I thought I could check it out to seek inspiration for my new story. But I, uh, I got lost. In the snowstorm. I didn’t see it coming.”

 

“Of course you didn’t.” Mobei-jun replied, mocking. He eyed him for a couple more second before nodding, apparently satisfied with what he saw. “You will stay the night, Shang Qinghua. I will send someone to look at your injuries. We’ll talk tomorrow.”

 

It was a clear dismissal. It was also clear that Shang Qinghua was not allowed to leave the manor, although that was probably for the best, as the blizzard continued to howl outside the windows.

 

“My king!” he couldn’t help but call, survival instinct be damned.

 

Pausing at the door, Mobei-jun looked at him from over his shoulder.

 

“Will you… uhm.” This was stupid. And possibly disrespectful. It wasn’t as if he would tell him the truth. “Will you eat me?”

 

Mobei-jun smirked. Shang Qinghua felt his face immediately heat up in response. Hot! Too hot! Unfair!

 

“No,” he said, no inflexion whatsoever in his tone. “Humans taste bad.”

 

And with that, Shang Qinghua was left alone in the room.



***



Shang Qinghua woke up slowly, registering first the soft pillow against his cheek and then the warmth of the blankets covering his body. With sleep still woven tight around his mind, he snuggled further into the covers with a satisfied sigh.

 

Then, realization dawned on him. He bolted upright -- only to regret it immediately, as breathing got suddenly painful and a wave of dizziness forced him to lay back down.

 

Of course this wasn’t the small inn where he had rented a room. That sorry excuse for an accommodation certainly did not have such a luxurious bed.

 

And so… that wasn’t a dream.

 

The night before, after Mobei-jun had left him to his own misery, two other people had knocked on the door. Shang Qinghua had tried to ask them questions, but all that he had been able to get out of them was that they were servants of the palace, like their fathers before them. He had received a clean, dry change of clothes as well as some food and water - both of which Shang Qinghua had practically inhaled, only realizing in that moment how hungry he was. Then, one of them had probed at his body with an extremely professional look and given him some primary medical care. At that point Shang Qinghua had started to believe everything was just a particularly elaborated and strange dream, and went along with it.

 

He rested a hand over the bandages that covered his cheek, and then pinched the skin on the underside of his wrist. It hurt. Definitely not a dream.

 

Fuck.

 

Sighing, he brought the covers up to his nose and chanced a look at the window. The wind was still howling, even if the sound was muffled. No chance of escaping, then.

 

He resigned himself to his fate and settled to wait for someone to appear. Every part of his body hurt too much to think about getting out of bed and exploring on his own.

 

If he was going to die, he might as well die comfortable.

 

Surprisingly enough, it was Mobei-jun himself who came through the door an undetermined amount of time later. Shang Qinghua tried to right himself on the bed, not wanting to upset the wolfman more than necessary.

 

“My king! Thank you so much for the clothes and the medicine and… everything, really.” He took a deep breath, realizing he was starting to trip over the words, and winced again. His chest hurt like a bitch.

 

“Sit back,” came the deep voice. “Your ribs are cracked.”

 

His ribs were… when did that happen?

 

Oh, right. Probably when he was thrown to the ground by the heavy bulk of the wolf. He would have loved to say something snarky in reply, but he cared about his life too much to do that. So, he obediently flopped down into the pillows once more.

 

“I apologize for inconveniencing my king.”

 

“It is an inconvenience.”

 

Shang Qinghua tried to make himself smaller in response to the harsh tone. “Ah… I’m so deeply sorry, is there something I can do to repay you… I can be useful!”

 

Mobei-jun regarded him with a doubtful stare. He crossed his arms over his chest, and Shang Qinghua noticed in that moment that the fur coat he was lent the night before had found his place again on the shoulders of the king. It suited him much better.

 

“Oh? And what can you do?”

 

“I… uhm. I can help… organize thing?”

 

He was terribly aware of how stupid that came out. It had sounded better in his head, but as he was forcing out the words, he realized that probably wasn’t of any use to Mobei-jun. Did he even have a need for finances or such mundane things, living alone so far up north?

 

“I can do whatever you see me fit for, my king,” he added, weakly.

 

“I need to decide what to do with you, Shang Qinghua.” Mobei-jun’s unwavering stare did not leave him for a moment. “You know of my existence, and of this place. I cannot allow you to spread this information.”

 

“My king, I would never…”

 

“Spare me your worthless promises, human,” he growled, showing teeth that were far sharper that normal. “Or will you try to convince me that a storyteller like you won’t talk about this the moment he is out of danger?”

 

Shang Qinghua felt his face heat up being so casually called out. He had to avert his gaze in shame. Mobei-jun grabbed his chin and forced him to look up again.

 

“You will stay here, until I decide how to deal with you.”

 

That was an order if Shang Qinghua had ever heard one. He wanted to nod, not trusting his voice, but his face was still tightly held in the king’s grap. Wetting his lips, he croaked out a “yes”.

 

Mobei-jun grunted, apparently satisfied, and let him go.

 

“You are free to move about the palace, I don’t care. But know that if you ever try to escape, I will know it. And I will find you. You are not a welcome guest.”

 

Shang Qinghua’s heart was hammering loudly in his ears. Nodding and watching Mobei-jun’s retreating back, only one thought came to his confused mind.

 

Then why, my king, didn’t you kill me in the forest?



***



He didn’t see Mobei-jun for three days, after that.

 

In the meantime, he somehow managed to befriend the entirety of the manor’s staff.

 

Not that there were that many people to begin with, but Shang Qinghua himself wasn’t really sure how that happened. Since there wasn’t much to be done in the isolated place to pass the time, he had started to explore the structure as soon as he could walk without hurting all over.

 

On the first day, he stumbled into the kitchen. On the second, he spent the entire afternoon chatting with the people that were cleaning the hallways, helping them however he could. And on the third, he had just returned to his room after an interesting conversation with the cook, when Mobei-jun knocked on his door.  

 

“My king!” He was fast to get up this time, bowing to him sort of awkwardly. “I’m sorry for the mess, I didn’t know you would come.”

 

“It doesn’t matter.” Mobei-jun eyed him with a complicated expression, and slid his gaze onto the pile of paper thrown haphazardly over the desk. “What are you doing?”

 

“Oh, this? I was writing. To kill some time.” Seeing the crease between Mobei-jun’s eyebrows deepen, he hastily added, “No, no! Not about you! Or this place. Just… it’s a love story with magic involved.”

 

Shang Qinghua tried to laugh to lighten the mood. “You can check, if you’d like. But it’s really nothing worthwhile.”

 

“Mh.”

 

Mobei-jun’s unrelenting stare was unsettling.

 

“Have you…” Shang Qinghua wringed his hands, debating whether it was a good idea to ask. But he couldn’t really see another reason for the king to come to his room out of nowhere, when he hadn’t seen him at all for the last three days. “Have you decided what to do?”

 

“Not yet.” Mobei-jun took place on the couch, choosing his position so that he could easily keep looking at Shang Qinghua. After a bit of hesitation, Shang Qinghua sat down again at his desk. “You’ve been talking to people.”

 

“... yes? Is it a problem? Everyone was very friendly.”

 

“It isn’t. My people told me you’ve been helping around.”

 

Shang Qinghua blinked, mildly surprised. They told Mobei-jun? He didn’t do much, just giving out some advice in how to make things more manageable.

 

“I did what I could, my king. It’s the least I could do since I’ve been treated so well.”

 

It was true. Aside from the terrible scare Mobei-jun had given him that first night and the not so veiled threats, his life in the palace had been quite comfortable. He had fresh clothes and bedsheets, and food was delivered to his door at every mealtime.

 

He even had a lot of time to write without distractions!

 

Mobei-jun seemed satisfied. “Good. The cook said you had some ideas about how to manage the kitchen. What is it?”

 

“It’s just… I’ve noticed that meat takes up the majority of the meals. Which is totally understandable! I mean, seeing that you are… and anyway we are in the middle of a frozen forest, so I guess it could be pretty difficult to obtain vegetables and such. But it is possible, if you use some precautions and a regulated environment, and you could store them for a more balanced meal. I was thinking…”

 

Without being fully aware of it, Shang Qinghua ended up telling Mobei-jun all the small ideas he had come up with to make the management of the place easier. When he realized he had been the only one talking for a little while, he blushed and stuttered out an apology.

 

Mobei-jun dismissed it with his a brief gesture of his hand.

 

“Stop that. It seems you didn’t lie when you said you could be useful.”

 

Shang Qinghua blushed harder. “... thank you, my king.”

 

A curt nod was the only response he received. Mobei-jun stood up and regarded him with a pensive expression again.

 

“You are welcome to help my people in the manners you see fit. Don’t betray this trust.”

 

Those clear, cold eyes trapped him in place. Shang Qinghua tried hard not to shiver under their intensity. The mere presence of the king was too much for his poor nerves sometimes.

 

“Yes, my king.”

 

“My rooms are on the opposite side of the palace, if you wish to find me.”

 

With that, he left.



***



The following days were… strange, to say the least.

 

Shang Qinghua settled into an unexpected but comfortable routine. While the mornings were spent walking around and finding ways to be useful, during the afternoons he found himself more often than not in Mobei-jun’s study.

 

It started the day Shang Qinghua had tentatively ventured to his rooms to discuss a new idea he had come up with; from there, it had become a daily thing. They wouldn’t talk much, but the silence they shared became gradually more comfortable, and Shang Qinghua slowly found himself relaxing in the king’s company.

 

Apparently he had spoken the truth when he said he didn’t want to eat him. Shang Qinghua still wasn’t sure that what awaited him wasn’t some kind of horrible death, but it became more and more difficult to imagine it as the days turned into weeks.

 

During those afternoons he would write most of all. The isolation was somehow ideal for his creative mind to come up with every kind of ridiculous plot, he just had to be careful not to include any details of his current life into his stories. Mobei-jun wrote, too, sometimes, although it was always something very professional-looking. Other times he would just settle himself in front of the fireplace and read.

 

Those were Shang Qinghua’s favorite times. He could pretend to be writing or thinking over a particularly difficult passage while, in fact, he would be looking at Mobei-jun.

 

He couldn’t really help it. The warm light of the fire seemed to soften the otherwise sharp features of his king, making him look deceptively more approachable. Shang Qinghua would feel his mouth go dry at times, a hot embarrassment crawling up his neck.

 

Invariably, those times Mobei-jun would turn and meet his gaze, making him stammer out an apology. Several pieces of paper were now ruined by large splotches of ink.

 

Sometimes he got to see Mobei-jun’s wolf form, but only from afar. The first time it happened he was looking out of his window, lost in thoughts, and he saw him at the edge of the forest - silver against stark white. It lasted only a minute before his form disappeared among the trees. After that, Shang Qinghua would purposefully search for him every day at the same hour, hoping to see that lean and elegant form once again.

 

He never summoned enough courage to ask the king to shapeshift in front of him, nor to ask the question that had been nagging at him since the first night.  

 

The uncertainty of his future, however, was starting to weight heavily on his shoulders: even in a golden cage, a prisoner was still a prisoner.

 

One day, as he was approaching Mobei-jun’s study trying to come up with a way to breach the subject, he heard from some of the palace staff that some important guests had arrived. The woman that informed him ran off immediately to deliver the tea that was requested, and Shang Qinghua followed more slowly, curious despite everything.

 

He clutched a stack of paper to his chest, wondering who the guests could be. Mobei-jun had never talked about other people, to the point that Shang Qinghua was starting to wonder if he had any friends or acquaintances at all.

 

A deep, masculine voice that didn’t belong to Mobei-jun was coming from the king’s study when he finally reached it. It was low enough that he couldn’t figure out what exactly it was saying.

 

Feeling somehow guilty, but too curious to let the occasion pass, Shang Qinghua walked silently to the half-closed door and peeked inside.

 

Black, was the first impression. A back of feathers as dark as the night - a cape, he realized - flowing from broad shoulders onto the ground. And a cascade of equally dark hair falling over it, so wavy and thick that it seemed made of feathers too. Next to him, a man clothed in light green clothes, his face partially obscured by an elaborate fan.

 

Shang Qinghua was awestruck for a while.

 

This was surreal. He felt like he had been walking into one of his stories during the last weeks. Distantly, he wished the three of them were talking louder. He could only make up one word here and there.

 

It was then that the man in green shifted his gaze toward the door. Shang Qinghua quickly retreated into his hiding spot, scared that he had been found out. As the beating of his heart skyrocketed and later returned to something normal, however, nobody approached the door. The only changed that he could hear was a slightly amused note in the tone of their voices.

 

Feeling safer, he dared another look.

 

He was surprised to see that the strange people were already saying their goodbyes. He was even more surprised to see Mobei-jun bow his head towards the black-clad person.

 

A sudden gust of wind blew in Shang Qinghua’s face, and the last thing he managed to see before he was forced to close his eyes was that same man putting an arm around his green clothed companion. A fluttering of wings filled his ears as the wind grew in intensity -- and stopped as suddenly as it had come.

 

Slowly, Shang Qinghua lowered the arm he had unconsciously raised to protect himself, and looked again. In place of the two guest, only one black feather remained, slowly fluttering into the ground.

 

Mobei-jun was seated at his desk, staring straight at him.

 

Shang Qinghua felt his legs tremble. He couldn’t hide and pretend he didn’t see anything now; it was pretty clear he had been discovered. What prevented him from falling to his knees right there and beg for forgiveness was that the expression on the king’s face was pensive, not angry.

 

For now, at least.

 

“Come in, Shang Qinghua.”

 

“M- my king, I’m so sorry, I didn’t intend to eavesdrop, I was just coming here as usual and the door was open and I was curious… but! I didn’t hear anything!”

 

“I know.”

 

“... and I- uh?”

 

“I’m saying, I know you didn’t hear anything. Sit down, get to work.”

 

Apparently Mobei-jun wanted this to be just another normal afternoon. Shang Qinghua managed to resist less than ten minutes before the need to ask became too overwhelming. Fidgeting on his spot, he chanced a glance at Mobei-jun. He seemed distracted too, looking at empty space with a deep furrow on his forehead.

 

“Uhm, my king? May I ask you a question?”

 

Mobei-jun looked down at him. “Speak.”

 

“Who were those people? If I can ask.”

 

“Lord Luo and his consort.”

 

Shang Qinghua blinked. Those names said nothing to him, obviously.

 

“You might know Luo Binghe as the Crow King. They were there to speak with me about your condition.”

 

Oh. Oh! The crow of the legend! Of course, how could he have forgotten? The wolf and the crow were always mentioned together. But more importantly…

 

“My condition?”

 

“Mh.”

 

“Did you… reach a conclusion?”

 

Mobei-jun looked at him for a long moment. Then, he admitted, “Not yet.”

 

Shang Qinghua’s shoulders sagged. Still a prisoner, apparently. It wasn’t that bad, but he was starting to fear he would have to spend the rest of his life in seclusion like this.

 

“Do you have people waiting for you outside, Shang Qinghua?”

 

“... not really, no.” He shrugged, looking down at his half-written sentences on a piece of paper. It wasn’t like he had a big family to begin with, and the majority of it had already died for one reason or another. What remained were relatives that lived far away that he visited once or twice per year. He never married, and his eccentric life and interests didn’t attract a lot of friends.

 

He wasn’t lonely, per se.

 

But he couldn’t deny that these weeks spent in the company of a wolf king and his people had somehow been the most interesting he had had in a long time.

 

“If my king is worried about someone coming to search for me, it won’t happen.”

 

Mobei-jun didn’t look too happy, but he nodded nonetheless.

 

After that, they quietly went back to work. Shang Qinghua, however, couldn’t really focus. He had far too many questions rolling around his mind, and too many complicated emotions to sort out. Mobei-jun’s concentrated expression didn’t help with those either.

 

Finally, with a deep sigh, he put down the brush and gathered every single drop of courage he had. “My king, there’s a question that has been nagging at me for a while.”

 

“Ask.”

 

He twisted his hands, swallowing the lump in his throat.

 

“That first night in the forest… why didn’t you kill me? Or… you could have easily let me die out there. You didn’t have to rescue me, give me shelter and food. I know that me being here is a big problem for you. So… why?”

 

Mobei-jun remained silent. Shang Qinghua was intently staring at an ink spot on his own paper, growing more anxious with every passing minute, wondering if this was something he shouldn’t have asked. Maybe Mobei-jun would decide he wasn’t worth keeping around. Maybe he would agree that killing him would have been the right choice, and correct that mistake now.

 

Just as he was starting to feel lightheaded with anxiety, Mobei-jun got up from his desk and walked leisurely toward the window.

 

“Do you remember the legend you heard?”

 

Surprised, Shang Qinghua raised his head to meet the king’s gaze.

 

“Yes?”

 

“There is a seed of truth in every legend. My family is a descendant of that wolf spirit, in the same way as Luo Binghe’s descended from the crow. We were many more, long ago. But as time passed, our territory became smaller and so did our families.”

 

This was the most words he had heard Mobei-jun speak all at once. He listened, enraptured.

 

“But even if we have become legends, we are still guardians of this land. Do you understand what this means?”

 

Slowly, Shang Qinghua nodded. “I think so, yes. You are... protectors?”

 

“Of our people and territory, yes. It has been a long time since a human dared to enter my forest, though. The sudden and violent snowstorms tend to keep everyone away.”

 

“Ah… I didn’t know about those.”

 

Mobei-jun’s lips raised in a half smirk. “Obviously.”

 

Laughing breathlessly, Shang Qinghua felt lighter for the first time in weeks. “I apologize for giving you so many inconveniences, my king.”

 

“You are making yourself useful. You will stay, until I decide the best course of action.”

 

“Yes, my king.”



***



Mobei-jun had taken the habit of approaching him silently, appearing out of nowhere at the periphery of Shang Qinghua’s vision and making him jump out of his skin.

 

Shang Qinghua didn’t really know why this had started or how long his poor heart would be able to hold on.

 

It made him… not exactly uncomfortable, but acutely aware of every single part of his body each time his king leaned into his personal space. More often than not, he had to remind himself that it was normal to feel like this since Mobei-jun was a very, very handsome man.

 

Too handsome.

 

He looked like one his late night fantasies, for goodness’ sake! Shang Qinghua was only human!

 

In any case, it was becoming more and more difficult to keep his cool in those situations. Like now, with Mobei-jun looking at his paperwork over his shoulder, the tip of his hair brushing against Shang Qinghua’s neck and leaving behind an utterly ridiculous trail of heat.

 

Could some higher power take mercy on his poor soul?

 

It was also strange, since Mobei-jun didn’t do this with anyone else, but maybe it was simply because all the other people living in the palace were already trustworthy, having worked for the king’s family for generations. Mobei-jun certainly didn’t have to remind them that they were being closely watched.

 

“M-my king?” He stammered out, trying not to fixate on the crisp scent of snow and pine trees that was enveloping him.

 

“Mh. A good job.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

He sighed, relieved, when the looming presence stepped away. Mobei-jun sat back down at his desk, resuming his own work. Shang Qinghua had to take a moment to calm his traitorous body. He couldn’t miss that smell already! What was wrong with him?!

 

In order to keep his mind off of dangerous paths, he settled on satisfying his curiosity. “May I inquire about something, my king?”

 

“Mh.”

 

“Why did you have to talk to Lord Luo about… my situation?”

 

Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t particularly difficult to talk to Mobei-jun. His temper was not explosive, but rather more like a glacier, growing steadily until it was impossible to contain. Thus, Shang Qinghua could easily ask many things, and his king would reply in a direct and concise manner more often than not - frequently, things that Shang Qinghua considered insolent or offensive had actually no effect on Mobei-jun. If he found the question unpleasant, however, he would just level his tiny human with a glare so icy that Shang Qinghua felt like he would be obliterated on the spot were he to push for answers. In those cases, the best solution was to hastily apologize and never bring the topic up again.

 

This time, Mobei-jun set down his brush and pondered over the question for a while.

 

“Lord Luo is powerful,” he said at the end. “And his consort is human.”

 

His consort…? Oh. Oh.

 

“Oh.” He licked his lips, embarrassed for some inexplicable reason. “Was he also a human that got lost in Luo Binghe’s territory?”

 

Mobei-jun snorted. “No. Shen Qingqiu was sort of a special case.”

 

Shang Qinghua had learnt by trial and errors when he could push for more details and when he could not. Mobei-jun wasn’t inclined to elaborate, so he forced down his curiosity and only nodded in response.

 

It was interesting, though. He remembered that Mobei-jun had… not exactly bowed to Luo Binghe, but he had certainly showed deference. Was this Luo Binghe even more powerful than his king? And what was the “special case” that involved Shen Qingqiu…?

 

Shortly after, Mobei-jun stood up. Shang Qinghua blinked, realizing it was already late afternoon and the light was quickly fading away.

 

“I’m going out. I’ll be back in an hour.”

 

“Yes, my king.”

 

As he watched him leave the room, Shang Qinghua mused on how domestic the scene looked. This wasn’t a rare occurrence either. It would happen almost daily, or at least every time that Shang Qinghua stayed in the king’s room ’till evening. Mobei-jun would go away, probably somewhere in the forest in his wolf form, and return exactly when he said he would.

 

With him, came the snowstorms.

 

He didn’t know if it was some sort of natural phenomenon or if it was Mobei-jun himself who somehow made them happen; what he knew was that the howling of the wind was a perfect alarm that announced the return of the silver silhouette of the wolf.

 

Except that day the howling came, but Mobei-jun was nowhere in sight.

 

Shang Qinghua frowned, startled by this change of events.

 

Maybe Mobei-jun had ran into some kind of problem..? Or maybe he just got distracted doing whatever wolves were supposed to do. But then, this had never happened.

 

As the minutes passed, Shang Qinghua grew more and more restless and worried.

 

Mobei-jun had said an hour, and he never gave an arbitrary time: sometimes he stated a longer period, sometimes less, but the king always returned exactly when he said he would.

 

Shang Qinghua tried to ignore the anxious feeling at the pit of his stomach. Mobei-jun was more than capable of defending himself, and the woods were his kingdom: nobody knew the place better than him. He forced himself to stop his restless pacing.

 

However, when almost an hour and a half had passed and the familiar silhouette of the wolf was nowhere in sight, he couldn’t hold it in anymore.

 

It was stupid. He was aware of it as he searched for his coat and his boots. It was irrational and probably suicidal, he realized as he threw the door of the palace open and set foot outside, in the middle of the raging snowstorm.

 

Maybe Mobei-jun would be back in a minute and would think that Shang Qinghua had ran away. Believing that he had tried to escape, this time he would certainly track him down to kill him.

 

That almost made him stop in his tracks.

 

But the nagging sensation at the back of his mind was too strong to ignore. Clenching his jaw, he burrowed further into his coat and let the wind guide him into the forest.

 

Obviously, he had no idea where to go.

 

He wandered, shouting his king’s name and title against the roaring of the storm, hoping against hope that he would, somehow, hear him. The cold was merciless. After an unknown period of time, Shang Qinghua was starting to lose sensation in his extremities.

 

Still, he walked on.

 

Swaying and heavily dragging his feet in the fresh snow, he grew more desperate with every passing second, until - he slipped. There was no way he could have noticed, not with the shadows of the thick trees and the wind blowing in his face, but where there should have been earth, his foot met only air.

 

And then Shang Qinghua was tumbling down a - thankfully small - ravine, instinctively trying to grab onto something, anything, and crying out in pain at the sudden contact with the icy ground.

 

He came to a stop after seconds that seemed way too long, and he whimpered pitifully trying to get on his knees. The shot of adrenaline had at least woken up his muddled mind a little bit.

 

“Did you hear something?”

 

Shang Qinghua froze, surprised by the unexpected voice.

 

“Apart from the fucking wind? Must have been some lump of snow falling down somewhere. Come on, let’s finish this thing quickly, before this beast wakes up completely.”

 

Dread settled in Shang Qinghua’s bones. Trying to be as inconspicuous as possible, he crawled toward the direction of the voices, until he could see the back of two people.

 

One was brandishing a long knife and walking… oh, gods, toward the slumped form of a very big wolf. The wolf wasn’t moving, but his clear blue eyes were open and somehow, strangely, impossibly, were looking at Shang Qinghua.

 

This couldn’t be.

 

Once again, he didn’t know what to do. He didn’t know what he could do. But his king wasn’t moving and the man was approaching and raising that sharp, wicked knife, obviously aiming for a killing blow.

 

He did the only thing he could think of in the brief space of an heartbeat.

 

Grabbing a broken branch that laid not far from him, Shang Qinghua stood up abruptly and run towards the two hunters, shouting like a madman.

 

That got their attention, and the surprise was enough that he actually managed to land the first blow, right on the hand that was carrying the knife. It couldn’t last, of course. Shang Qinghua was a writer, not some kind of warrior, and this wasn’t a fairytale where he somehow managed to subdue the bad guys and save the king.

 

But he did what he could to take their attention from the wolf. He kicked, and cried, and flailed his arms around to the point that both of them were needed to subdue him.

 

The first hit got him on his plexus and stole the air right out from his lungs, forcing him on his knees. From there, Shang Qinghua remembered only pain and curses, and kicks raining down from above.

 

Then a low, menacing growl.

 

The hits stopped as panicked shouting began anew.

 

“Stop it! Stop it stop it stop it you idiot use the sedative!”

 

Something heavy fell on the ground right beside Shang Qinghua with a snap, and he slowly lowered the arms that he had instinctively raised to protect his head.

 

The lifeless face of one of the men was staring at him less than a meter away, eyes wide and fixed on nothing. A paw, almost as big as his head, was pressed firmly over his unnaturally twisted neck.

 

Mobei-jun growled again, and pounced.

 

Shang Qinghua didn’t have the force, or the willpower, to turn his head to look. He heard garbled wet sounds, and then the noise of another body hitting the ground.

 

After that, there was only the wind.

 

It was over way too quickly for him to make sense of what had happened. The big shape of the wolf appeared again in front of him, his snout - now tinged pink - coming down to nuzzle against his face. Shang Qinghua felt a breathless, somewhat hysterical laugh rise out of his throat.

 

“My king,” he croaked. “You’re alive!”

 

Mobej-jun puffed out a breath and bent down beside him in the same way he had done that first night. This time, Shang Qinghua didn’t hesitate in climbing atop the wolf, clinging tight to his fur.

 

Ah , he realized, as he sank deeper into the warmth. I’m freezing .

 

It was difficult not to fall into unconsciousness, but he needed some presence of mind to keep his balance. Luckily, the journey didn’t last long, as Mobei-jun took him to a nearby cave instead of back to the palace.

 

When Shang Qinghua hit the ground, he was shivering so hard that his teeth clattered. He was glad that the harshness of the wind couldn’t find them this deep into the earth, especially because the snowstorm was reaching the peak of its ferocity.

 

His coat was wet and weighing heavily on his shoulders. Mobei-jun grabbed it in his mouth (and holy shit those fangs were as long as Shang Qinghua’s hand ) and tugged until Shang Qinghua got the hint and shrugged it off.

 

Immediately after, the wolf curled up around him.

 

He was big enough to cut off the rest of the wind, and the warmth that came from his body and his fur was so heavenly that Shang Qinghua didn’t even think about it before snuggling closer. Mobei-jun seemed content with it, because he gave a soft rumbling sound in response, and moved his tail to make a makeshift blanket for the human.

 

Shang Qinghua was so exhausted that he didn’t even have the time to question anything before sleep swept over him.



***



He came to slowly, met with warmth and the soft light of the dawn.

 

It took a minute for him to realize where he was, or what had happened at all. The hard ground underneath was nothing like the comfortable mattress he had grown accustomed to, and his current pillow was rising and falling with a regular, comfortable rhythm. He tried to adjust his position, and the dull ache that spread all across his body was a sharp reminder of the events of the previous night.

 

Which meant, the thing he was sleeping on was…

 

He didn’t even have the time to finish the thought that a wet snout nuzzled his face. He couldn’t help it - he giggled.

 

Now fully awake, Shang Qinghua sat up and fully took in his surrounding environment. He was too out of it when Mobei-jun dragged him to the cave to properly realize where they were, but it appeared it was just a regular hole on the side of a mountain. And more importantly… he felt his traitorous heart accelerate a bit as he met the eyes of the wolf again.

 

He hadn’t really had the occasion to see his king’s wolf form since that first night, and at the time he had been too scared to properly pay attention; now, with time at his disposal and a kind of daring that could come only out of drowsiness and familiarity, Shang Qinghua let himself stare .

 

Mobei-jun was gorgeous. The silver fur reflected the morning light like a fresh mountain stream and the lean lines of his the body - lazily stretched on the ground - spoke of an ease that was difficult to appreciate in his human form. Shang Qinghua absentmindedly run a hand over his back, marveling at the thickness of his coat.

 

Then, noticing the faint traces of pink around his mouth, he suddenly remembered - the ease with which he had killed those men. The thought should have made Shang Qinghua far more uncomfortable than he was feeling right now, but he could still feel the faint traces of the kicks that fell on him like raindrops, and he remembered the dread of seeing the hunter approach his king with that knife. He gulped, as Mobei-jun kept staring at him with strangely patient and content eyes.

 

Shang Qinghua snapped out of it with a sudden thought.

 

“My king!” He exclaimed, alarmed, pawing at the immense wolf body in front of him. “Are you hurt?! They did something to you yesterday, do you have wounds or…”

 

Mobei-jun huffed, a sound that sounded somehow weird on a beast that big, and nudged his whole head under Shang Qinghua’s arm, effectively blocking his frantic random searching.

 

A very wet muzzle suddenly pressed against the underside of his jaw.

 

Shang Qinghua yelped, then burst out laughing, burying his hands into the thick fur of the wolf’s side. “My king, what…”

 

And then, seemingly out of nowhere, what was in front of him was no longer a wolf. It was his king still, but fully human; and also very, very naked.

 

His laugh died in his throat as fast as it had bubbled up, being replaced by a wave of heat so sudden that it made him feel dizzy. His face was burning.

 

“I’m not wounded,” came the familiar, deep voice.

 

“M-m-m-my king- oh gods, I mean, I’m..!”

 

He backpedaled immediately, trying to scramble away in the middle of his stuttering while forcing his eyes not to look down ( oh gods don’t look, do you want to die? ), only to be brought back by a firm arm wrapped around his waist.

 

Shang Qinghua felt his soul leave his body.

 

He was… Mobei-jun had… and so now… he was in his king’s lap.

 

His very naked, and muscular, and wide, and terribly attractive king, who seemed completely unfazed by his state of undress.

 

“My king I’m so so deeply sorry I beg you I need to go I- I can’t--”

 

“Stop squirming,” Mobei-jun frowned. Then he started to prod at his tender spots.

 

Shang Qinghua’s new attempt at escape was met only with more resistance as Mobei-jun refused to let him go, and tightened his embrace. Shang Qinghua couldn’t help the tiny pained sound that escaped him. Finding himself tightly pressed to his king’s chest, he thought this would be the thing that finally killed him.

 

“Stop it, you’re hurt.”

 

And also there was no way he wouldn’t notice…

 

“I’m so sorry my king but YOU ARE VERY ATTRACTIVE!”

 

Oh, crap.

 

He had shouted that, didn’t he?

 

He chanced a look up, and was met with a questioning stare.

 

“Yes? Is that the problem?”

 

“... uh?”

 

“I know I am. It’s normal you would have a reaction.”

 

Could something, or someone, please materialize out of nowhere and take him somewhere far away, so that he couldn’t even find the traces of his embarrassment? He was sure his face’s temperature had just exceeded that of an active volcano.

 

“Or…” Mobei-jun added, studying him closely. Shang Qinghua realized he still had his hands hanging awkwardly in the air, afraid to touch any part of that glorious body. “Are you perhaps requesting a courtship?”

 

A what?!



“... eh?”

 

Mobei-jun’s face started to give off signs of irritation. He growled, putting emphasis on each word. “Do you want to be courted, Shang Qinghua?”

 

Shang Qinghua just stared blankly back at him, uncomprehending.

 

“... maybe not.”

 

There was something in Mobei-jun’s tone - something incomprehensibly close to disappointment - that snapped Shang Qinghua out of his stupor. He grabbed Mobei-jun’s shoulders and shifted just enough to look at him in the eyes. Then, swallowing, he moved his gaze against the cave’s walls.

 

“Wait. I mean. Do you… want to, my king?”

 

His voice sounded tiny to his own ears, almost afraid.

 

“Why else would I ask?”



“I… I don’t know!”

 

“So, your answer?”

 

“... ah. Oh. I mean. Well.”

 

Everything would probably be easier if he wasn’t still pressed to that naked chest. Maybe, just maybe, his brain wouldn’t feel that fogged.

 

“Well what ?”

 

“Well… I guess… if my king really wants to… I wouldn’t… object…”

 

Was this really happening? However, when Mobei-jun took his chin in his free hand to redirect Shang Qinghua’s gaze upon him, he didn’t look pleased.

 

“This is not an obligation, Shang Qinghua.” He sounded angry. “I won’t hurt you if you wish to refuse, if this is what you are worried about.”

 

Shang Qinghua blinked. He felt like he was having a hard time keeping up with the conversation, and he didn’t know if it was just his own problem or something else.

 

“What? No, I know you won’t hurt me. Well, I know it now at least. It’s just…”

 

“Stop leaving sentences unfinished. Do humans have different courting rituals? Explain .”

 

He felt an hysterical laugh trying to force its way up his throat. “It’s not that either! I mean, this, ” he gestured wildly at Mobei-jun’s nakedness and his own compromising position, “Is not exactly a courting tradition but! The point is that you are a king! And handsome! And I’m just… I’m just a human, an average author with nothing to offer and this honestly doesn’t feel real--”

 

His ramblings were quickly interrupted by a hand pressed against his mouth. Mobei-jun shook his head, appearing confused and mildly insulted. “Nonsense. I did not ask you this, Shang Qinghua. I asked if you want to be courted.”

 

Shang Qinghua felt his face warm up all over again. His throat was suddenly dry and, ultimately, he could only nod. Mobei-jun made a rumbling, pleased noise in response, and it was only then that Shang Qinghua realized he still had his hands placed on his king’s shoulders.

 

His gaze dropped of his own volition, and he found himself unable to stop trailing his fingers down Mobei-jun’s chest. Shang Qinghua’s breath hitched just from the sight.

 

Then Mobei-jun leaned in and inhaled deeply, nose lightly pressed to his neck. “I can smell your arousal.”

 

Shang Qinghua felt ashamed at the needy sound he made.

 

“Ah… my king…”

 

He swallowed, feeling his pulse flutter against cold lips, and tilted his head to leave the king more space. Gods, he wanted.

 

Mobei-jun tightened the hold he still had on his waist and growled, pressing his mouth to the offered throat in an open mouthed kiss.

 

“Shang Qinghua… do you know what this gesture means?”

 

Shang Qinghua had to blink away the building haze of arousal, momentarily confused. The meaning came to him in a rush that left him almost panting, as he realized what he had just done in front of a king that was both a human and a wolf .

 

Licking his lips, he breathed out, “Ah... submission?”

 

He felt Mobei-jun nod, the barest hint of teeth pressing against the column of his throat. “Do you offer it willingly?”

 

Shang Qinghua tilted his head further back, breathing heavily. Fuck, gods- “ -- yes.

 

He moaned, tightening his hold on Mobei-jun’s shoulders as he felt a tell-tale hardness press against his backside. Then Mobei-jun’s lips parted and his teeth pressed down, and Shang Qinghua’s thoughts scattered.

 

Mobei-jun kept working on his neck, biting and sucking and keeping that small body against his own until Shang Qinghua was panting just from that. He was fully hard, leaking inside his pants, unable to keep his hips from thrusting up against Mobei-jun abs.

 

“My king,” he whined, digging nails into his shoulders. “Please.”

 

A deep growl answered. Mobei-jun cupped his cheek with a single hand, and Shang Qinghua had the time to catch a flash of heated blue before lips were pressing down on his own, a tongue prying them open to slip inside.

 

He felt like drowning.

 

Mobei-jun made quick work of his sash. Shang Qinghua shivered as the cold air brushed against his too hot skin, but then a rough hand sneaked into his pants to press against his dick, and all he could think of was his own need.

 

His own short, sharp thrusts made him leak even more, and he whined as his tongue was sucked and teased mercilessly by too-sharp teeth. Mobei-jun growled appreciatively, stroking Shang Qinghua’s cock more firmly.

 

Another spike or arousal shot down Shang Qinghua’s spine in realizing that Mobei-jun’s hand was big enough to almost cover him entirely. He came up for air, wrapping his arms around his king’s shoulders and holding on for dear life.

 

Mobei-jun didn’t want to tease him. He swiped his thumb over the head of Shang Qinghua’s cock repeatedly, gathering precome to ease his own movements, and he fisted him fast and dirty. With a sharp twist of his wrist at the end of every upstroke, he coaxed louder and louder moans from the writhing mess in his arms.  

 

Shang Qinghua’s pleasure was cresting so fast he found breathing difficult.

 

“M-my king, I don’t... ah-

 

He was trembling.

 

Yes ,” Mobei-jun growled, sucking a new mark right under Shang Qinghua’s jaw. Shang Qinghua pressed down in his king’s lap, feeling a heavy length drag against his clothed ass, and the answering thrust was strong enough to make him choke out a pitiful sound as his cock was driven harshly in the fist of Mobei-jun’s hand.

 

He started to plead mindlessly.

 

Then Mobei-jun’s thumb stroked directly under the head, rough and firm, and he was gone. White stripes of come covered his king’s chest as that perfect hand kept stroking him through his climax. His whole body was shaking so hard that Mobei-jun had to physically keep him upright.

 

As Shang Qinghua slowly came back to himself after one of the best orgasms of his life, he blinked his eyes open to the sight of Mobei-jun licking his own hand clean. Watching that tongue curl around long, dirty fingers, his own cock twitched in a futile attempt at getting hard again.

 

“My king.”

 

He felt sated. Mobei-jun’s erection was still pressing against him, but the king didn’t seem bothered by it. Shang Qinghua shifted his hips, breath catching in his throat at the feel.

 

Mobei-jun finished licking his own fingers clean and lifted Shang Qinghua’s face to give him a deep, filthy kiss.

 

“My king, you haven’t… let me, please.”

 

“No,” he breathed against his mouth, his thumb stroking Shang Qinghua’s bottom lip. “We’re going back. I want you.”

 

Shang Qinghua trembled in his embrace.



***



The ride back to the manor was something of a blur.

 

The snow was no longer falling and a timid sun was peeking out behind the clouds, but Shang Qinghua’s mind was too wrapped up in itself to really pay attention to his surroundings. He felt like he was living out one of his wildest fantasies. But the warm body of the wolf below him was very much real, the muscles shifting at every leap a reminder of how strong Mobei-jun was in every form.

 

In all honesty, his mind kept going back to their encounter in the cave, to the way his king had kept him still and stroked him to completion so fast and dirty, devouring his mouth like he couldn’t get enough. He tried to remember the feel of his hard cock pressed against his ass, and had to bite his lips to cut back a moan at the prospect of taking it all in.

 

Fuck, he was getting hard again.

 

The wolf below him growled, and ran faster.

 

They went straight to Mobei-jun’s bedroom, passing through the area where they had spent so many quiet afternoons. Shang Qinghua dismounted as he looked around, his arousal temporarily forgotten in the face of curiosity.

 

All he could make out, however, was a general sense of sobriety - old furniture and nothing superfluous - before a wide chest pressed against his back, demanding his attention all over again. Mobei-jun’s hands grabbed his hips, almost enveloping his whole waist, and the mere thought sent a wave of arousal through Shang Qinghua’s body.

 

“My king…”

 

“Get on the bed.”

 

Shang Qinghua scrambled to obey the order. When he turned back, heart already beating wildly in anticipation of what was coming, his eyes widened.

 

Mobei-jun was standing in front of him completely naked and unashamed, all lean muscles and poorly concealed strength. He let his eyes travel down from where long hair brushed against wide shoulders, across the expanse of his chest and abdomen until…

 

Oh.

 

Oh, holy shit.

 

Well, it was probably rude to just plainly stare like this, but Shang Qinghua couldn’t really help himself as he felt what remained of his coherency leave him altogether.

 

Nestled within a black thatch of hair was, to put it simply, the best dick Sang Qinghua had ever seen in his life. Not that he had seen that many, but…

 

Mobei-jun, even half-hard as he was in that moment, was big . And thick. And gorgeous. And everything that he had ever dreamt of in his late night fantasies.

 

Shang Qinghua’s mouth was suddenly very dry.

 

When he finally managed to tear his wide eyes off his king’s dick, he found Mobei-jun staring at him with a smug expression, an unfairly attractive smirk curving his lips.

 

“My king… I need you.”

 

Mobei-jun’s eyes darkened. He closed the distance to the bed in two long strides and made quick work of Shang Qinghua’s already ruined clothes, tearing them off in his impatience with an ease that did nothing to calm the fire in Shang Qinghua’s guts.

 

Then, he stopped.

 

Shang Qinghua whined, arching his back to try to press against those wonderful hands once again, every bit of self-consciousness thrown out of the window. However, Mobei-jun just frowned, a strange light flashing in his eyes.

 

“Stay still.”

 

The touch of fingertips over his heated flesh was surprisingly gentle, but it was only when Mobei-jun growled and pressed down, eliciting a pained gasp, that Shang Qinghua realized why.

 

His own sides and arms were a constellation of emerging bruises, where the kicks and punches of the two hunters had landed. Shang Qinghua shifted, trying to cover them.

 

“Ah, this. It’s nothing, really…”

 

“Don’t.” Mobei-jun grabbed his wrists, scanning his body with a sort of focused attention that made Shang Qinghua squirm. He trailed his nose over each contusion, inhaling deeply and darting out his tongue to taste. “They’re not serious injuries,” he said finally, glancing up.

 

Shang Qinghua’s cheeks were on fire. “A-aren’t they? How can you…”

 

“I can smell the blood collected under your skin.”

 

“... oh, wow. Great.”

 

He received a grunt in response, as Mobei-jun got back to lick his chest following the contour of his ribcage. Shang Qinghua shivered as his tongue flickered over a nipple.

 

“Nobody will hurt you again, Shang Qinghua.”

 

“My king…”

 

Nobody.”

 

The intensity of that word alone was almost too much. Shang Qinghua nodded, cupped his king’s face, and bent down to kiss him senseless.

 

Mobei-jun surged against him like the tide, not wasting time in pressing him into the sheets. Opening both his mouth and his legs, Shang Qinghua welcomed the wide frame of his king, reveling in having all that skin pressed against his own.

 

He searched for friction, trying to roll his hips up, but to no avail. Mobej-jun pressed them down and trailed hungry, open mouthed kisses all over his neck.

 

“Fuck… my king, please.”

 

“Stay.”

 

Mobei-jun was gone so fast it left him dizzy, but it didn’t last long. Shang Qinghua watched him open a drawer and take out a small bottle. He felt hyper aware of every single, sensitive spot on his body, the chilly air of the room heightening every sensation. Between his legs was a core of heat that begged to be touched.

 

His body ached but that, too, seemed to only fuel his arousal.

 

Then Mobei-jun came back, spreading his thighs to make space for himself, and Shang Qinghua latched onto his shoulder immediately, pressing him close. The low rumble that reverberated through his chest made him giggle - and then gasp, as nails scraped over a nipple.   

 

He had no respite after that. Mobei-jun kept kissing and biting every part of his chest he could reach, skimming closer and closer to the ugly bruises until Shang Qinghua could feel the dull ache of it, breath coming in short pants. Mobei-jun sucked over them, making him cry out.

 

Pain and pleasure mixed in a heady combination that left him almost delirious, as his king kept going over the expanse of his sides, kissing and sucking as if trying to replace those marks with his own. Somewhere in the mix, slicked fingers had found their way between Shang Qinghua’s legs, lightly stroking over his hole.

 

When had Mobei-jun opened the bottle? He didn’t know. He didn’t care. He couldn’t find purchase anywhere, his hands twisted pathetically in the sheets as he writhed under his king.

 

Finally, finally , Mobei-jun’s breath ghosted over his cock. Shang Qinghua cried out at the first touch of tongue over the sensitive head. He gave an involuntary kick, and Mobei-jun grunted, grasping his thigh in his free hand and pressing it back against Shang Qinghua’s chest.

 

Shang Qinghua wasn’t sure he knew how to breathe anymore. He chanced a glance down, meeting Mobei-jun’s heated gaze. A mouthed plea left his dried lips.

 

Mobei-jun took him down to the root as he sank a finger inside.

 

The orgasm took Shang Qinghua by surprise, washing over him with an intensity that made a sob catch in his throat, hands suddenly fisted in his Mobei-jun’s hair as he kept swallowing around him, lapping up every single drop until Shang Qinghua could only lay there boneless under the onslaught of sensations. Shivers ran down his body, overstimulated but too weak to do anything about it.

 

He whimpered.

 

How shameful! So embarrassing! So fast! But how could he hold on, with a literal god between his legs determined to destroy him?!

 

“... I’m sorry.”

 

Mobei-jun hummed, satisfied, burying his free hand in Shang Qinghua’s hair and capturing his lips once again. Shang Qinghua responded to the kiss, shivering violently when Mobei-jun started to thrust that single finger in and out.

 

He let himself get lost in the rhythm, pinned in place by his king’s hungry gaze. Sparks of overstimulation flew all over his skin, just on the right side of too much. He was unsure if time lost sense again or he actually dozed off a little, but at a certain point one finger had turned to two and then to three, and the filthy wet noises were loud in the silence of the room.

 

Mobei-jun was looking at him like he wanted to eat him whole, his control barely hanging on by threads.

 

“My king, please . I’m ready.”

 

Shang Qinghua moaned as the fingers pressed up against his prostate. He was somehow getting hard again.

 

Mobei-jun bent down to kiss him deeply, removing his fingers and making Shang Qinghua keen at the sudden sensation of emptiness. He greedily swallowed down all the sounds, rubbing his cock against Shang Qinghua’s slickened hole. Then he started to push.

 

Shang Qinghua cried out, clenching around the intrusion.

 

Mobei-jun grunted, teeth gritted in the attempt to restrain himself, and adjusted his stance. Slowly, he kept sinking into the tight heat. When he finally bottomed out, Shang Qinghua was delirious with need, almost convulsing around the length buried inside him.

 

He felt so full.

 

With a harsh shiver, he pressed his too-hot cheek to the blanket, panting.

 

“Shang Qinghua,” his king called in a deep rumble.

 

Shang Qinghua blearily opened his eyes, whining as he tried to shift to get some friction, but Mobei-jun’s hands tightly clasped his hips and pressed them down to the bed.

 

“My king!”

 

“Look at me.”

 

He did. Mobei-jun’s pupils were blown wide, alight with a desire so fierce that made Shang Qinghua tremble again. He wanted nothing more than to be overwhelmed.

 

With their gazes locked, Mobei-jun pulled out a little and then thrusted back in.

 

Every residual thought flew out of Shang Qinghua’s mind as Mobei-jun set a deep but slow pace, dragging every centimeter of his cock out and then in again, jabbing against Shang Qinghua’s prostate with deadly precision every time.

 

Gasps and choked-out moans kept spilling from his mouth in a continuous stream.

 

It was so much. It wasn’t enough.

 

“More,” he pleaded, hands fisting in the sheets.

 

Mobei-jun snarled and slipped out of him entirely, only to grab his hips and flip him around like he weighed nothing. Shang Qinghua felt his breath leave his lungs all at once as Mobei-jun took him again, hips slapping against his backside in far harsher thrusts.

 

His head dropped forward between his elbows. His own neglected erection was hanging heavily between his legs, flushed an angry red, and every drag of Mobei-jun’s cock inside him pushed more precome out of him.

 

He wanted to touch himself so badly, but his king’s pace was relentless, giving him exactly what he asked. His arms gave out and he wailed at the sudden change in angle.

 

A strong, firm chest pressed against his back, pushing him down more firmly. With Mobei-jun’s hands gripping his hips so tight they would probably leave bruises, there was nothing Shang Qinghua could do but lay there and take it, moaning and thrashing and begging for release.

 

Mobei-jun made a pleased, low sound against his ear.

 

A particularly rough thrust made Shang Qinghua yelp and scramble for purchase on the ruined sheets, only for Mobei-jun to stop moving completely, buried to the hilt inside him.

 

Dragging his tongue up to Shang Qinghua’s nape, Mobei-jun rolled his hips lazily, coaxing more broken sounds from the tiny human in his arms.

 

Shang Qinghua thought he would pass out.

 

“My king…” his voice sounded ruined to his own ears.

 

“Mmh.”

 

“My king, please .”

 

Mobei-jun kept the rolling of his hips steady as he swiped one broad palm up along Shang Qinghua’s cock, not nearly firm enough to give him the stimulation he needed. His thumb swiped over the head, gathering more precome, and Shang Qinghua sobbed.

 

Suddenly that same hand was in his face, fingers pushing in his mouth and pressing down against his tongue, so unexpected that Shang Qinghua almost choked. A rough, but somehow tender stroke on his cheek made him realize he had been crying.

 

Then Mobei-jun’s free arm wrapped around Shang Qinghua’s waist, and he felt himself being pulled up back into his king’s lap. His head spun from the sudden change in position, as Mobei-jun’s cock pressed impossibly deeper.

 

He moaned weakly around the fingers in his mouth, head lolling back.

 

Mobei-jun adjusted his position, trailing his now wet fingers down Shang Qinghua’s chest, brushing over a nipple before wrapping tightly around his dick.

 

The shudder that tore through Shang Qinghua’s body was so strong he almost fell from his king’s lap. A stream of incoherent words fell from his lips as Mobei-jun resumed his thrusting, stroking him with the same unforgiving pace.

 

Like this, the pressure against his prostate was relentless, and it didn’t take long for Shang Qinghua to feel the pleasure in his groin coil tightly and crest with an intensity that stripped him of his voice entirely. He came with a soundless cry, shooting spurts of white all over his own abdomen and his king’s hand, as Mobei-jun kept fucking him through it.

 

Mobei-jun’s thrusts became faster and rougher, barely pulling out before burying himself to the hilt again, mindlessly chasing his own release. He bit down on Shang Qinghua’s shoulder and growled, eliciting a pained whimper from the man.

 

Shang Qinghua’s eyes rolled back in his head as he kept gasping under the assault, his entire world reduced to too sharp but delicious sensations.

 

Finally, Mobei-jun shoved his cock in deep one last time and came with a resounding groan, releasing inside. Shang Qinghua moaned brokenly at the feeling.

 

He felt too weak, too boneless, to do anything.

 

Mobei-jun’s arms wrapped around his waist, pressing him tightly to a sweaty, heaving chest. A giddy feeling welled up inside him.

 

Slowly, as if he was reluctant to part, Mobei-jun lifted him up from his spent cock. It slipped out easily, and Shang Qinghua would have felt embarrassed at the amount of come that dripped out of him and down his thighs, but the unmistakable sound of satisfaction that came from behind him was enough to make him feel warm all over.

 

His body hurt, the strain from their rough fucking on top of the previous night’s beating, but he couldn’t make himself regret a single second of it as he was manhandled with unexpected gentleness into a lying position.

 

Mobei-jun threw a heavy blanket over the both of them, hugging Shang Qinghua closely to his chest. Shang Qinghua buried his face in the crook between his shoulder and neck and inhaled deeply, satisfied. He felt his king nose lightly between his hair.

 

“My king…” He started, only to be interrupted by a yawn.

 

“Sleep.”

 

“Mmh.”

 

He wanted to say a lot of things, but he felt his eyelids drop, and was lost to sleep in the span of a minute.   



***



Shang Qinghua kept staring straight ahead, internally panicking.

 

Mobei-jun’s arm was draped heavily across his middle, his broad frame pressed against Shang Qinghua’s back. His own body was as rigid as a wooden table. He remembered in vivid details what had happened not so many hours before but, even if he didn’t, there was no mistaking the ache in his lower back, nor the stickiness that had dried between his thighs.

 

Well.

 

That… had happened, he supposed.

 

He had just been fucked out of his mind by the most gorgeous creature he had ever laid eyes upon. And said creature was currently wrapped around him possessively.

 

This was totally fine.

 

… or maybe not. Did… did Mobei-jun want him just for a not-so-quick fuck? He had asked if Shang Qinghua wanted to be courted but then… he had shamelessly offered himself. Gladly! He totally would do it again but… what did it mean…

 

He fidgeted, growing anxious by the minutes.

 

Mobei-jun grunted and pressed closer.

 

“Stop moving.”

 

Shang Qinghua yelped, then felt his face heat up all over again. What was wrong with him?! Could he not overthink for once?!


“I’m sorry! Yes. Not moving.”

 

He lasted for the entirety of one minute before he couldn’t take it anymore, and blurted out, “My king, what do you want to do with me now?”

 

There was a brief moment of silence, then he felt Mobei-jun shift and prop himself up on one elbow. As he was turned around none too gently, Shang Qinghua couldn’t help but curse his own lack of filter. His king’s eyes were as dark as a storm.

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“I mean… we’re… we did…” he gestured vaguely, unsure on how to explain it. “And I gave you so many problems by coming here, so I guess…”

 

Shang Qinghua .”

 

Oh. Oh, that tone was way too angry. He winced, chancing a look up.

 

“Yes, my king?”



“I asked if you wanted to be courted, and you agreed. Are you going back on your words now?!”

 

What?

 

“NO!” He shouted, rushing to sit up and wincing at the sharp jab of pain that shot up his spine. Grabbing the shoulders of his king, he bit his lips and looked aside, embarrassed. “I mean I really really want that. It’s just… this kind of thing usually happens after a courtship between humans, so I thought… nevermind.”

 

Mobei-jun frowned. He placed one hand on Shang Qinghua’s hip and dragged him closer.

 

“Trust me, please, my king. You wanting to court me makes me really happy. I was just… unsure. Of your intentions.”

 

For some reasons, admitting that made him feel far more flustered than begging for his king’s dick. Blood was roaring in his ears.

 

“Good.”

 

He breathed out a sigh of relief, heart fluttering.

 

“I guess… that this sort of solves the problem of me being here and knowing about you.”

 

“It does. You will stay here.”

 

Shang Qinghua smiled. “Yes.”

 

“You are also free to go outside, if you wish.”

 

He blinked twice, surprised. “Uh? Outside?”

 

“Outside the forest. If you want to. But you must come back.”

 

That… was way more lenient than he had expected. “Thank you.”

 

Mobei-jun gave a curt nod. “You assisted me against other humans, the other night. I take that as proof of your loyalty. I pay it back with trust.” His eyes became sharp for a second. “Do not betray it.”

 

“I won’t, my king.”

 

“Good.”

 

After that, Shang Qinghua spent the entire day in bed. It was sort of a necessity, since even sitting was extremely uncomfortable, but he enjoyed it nonetheless. Mobei-jun had made the servants run them a bath, and the warmth of the water had done miracles for his sore muscles.

 

It was almost sunset when Mobei-jun pushed aside his scrolls and got up, staring him down with his own typical sort of intensity. Shang Qinghua set down his brush, careful not to get ink on the bed sheets, and looked up at the looming form of his king with uncertainty.

 

“I want you to see something.”

 

Curiosity immediately replaced his wariness.

 

“Sure.”

 

Without further word, Mobei-jun disrobed. Shang Qinghua’s eyes almost bulged out of his orbit.

 

“M-my king!” He squeaked, caught by surprise. What did he want him to see?! He had certainly seen everything that very morning! Multiple times! Up close! He wouldn’t mind a reminder either, but he doubted his ass could take it at the moment!

 

“Take your coat and get on.”

 

“Get o-- oh .” Shang Qinghua lowered his gaze to the wolf, marveling at the fluid and effortless transformation. Slowly, he slid out of bed and did as he was told.

 

They went outside under the fading light of the day, and Mobei-jun quickly took off. He didn’t run excessively fast this time around, either minding Shang Qinghua’s physical condition or just not feeling the need to hurry. Shang Qinghua was glad for it, and took the occasion to actually enjoy the ride and look around.

 

Mobei-jun took him high up a mountain side, and stopped near the edge of a cliff. The forest spread below them like a dark green carpet, so vast Shang Qinghua couldn’t really see the edge of it, old and alive. It made him smile. He got down and found a nearby stone to sit upon, watching the orange light wash over the treetops.

 

Then, Mobei-jun raised his head to sky and howled.

 

At first, it was just him.

 

Then, gradually, others answered his call from down below, in a crescendo of voices that filled the chilly air with life. The wind started to blew, stronger and stronger, and Shang Qinghua watched with breathless fascination as the previously clear sky filled with heavy, grey clouds.

 

The first snowflakes, somehow, didn’t come as a surprise.

 

As he watched the blizzard build in front of him, confirming what he had already suspected, Shang Qinghua’s heart started to beat loudly against his chest, full of an unnamed emotion. Mobei-jun’s fur seemed spun from real silver in the fading light, as his howl called forth the snowstorm.

 

And the king of the northern forest sang, bending Nature to his will, as snow swirled all around him…

 

Ah.

 

Shang Qinghua realized, with a sort of calm resignation, that it would be terribly difficult for him not to create a story based on the magic he was witnessing.

 

Maybe, just maybe, he could convince his king to let him write it, never to be shared with anyone else. He had no intention of leaving his palace, after all.

 

There would be time to talk about it.

 

When the howling of the wind covered Mobei-jun’s voice completely, and Shang Qinghua was forced to hug his coat tighter to his own body, the wolf-king walked up to him, completely unruffled, and waited.

 

Shang Qinghua got up suppressing a shiver, but his own eyes were shining in excitement.

 

“Is it time to go back, my king?”



Mobei-jun nodded. Shang Qinghua climbed on his back and, together, they ran into the storm.