Fanfic: A Cypress in Winter – Chapter 13 (Ice Fantasy - 幻城)

Chapter 13


Written by UnicornSlippers and Drama Panda

The following afternoon, Xing Jiu strode into Mirage Hall, mouth set in a grim line as he mentally prepared himself for a verbal battle with Shi. He was exhausted and irritable, having spent most of the past four days either traveling or worrying about Lan Shang. He knew that sneaking off to his room to steal a few hours of sleep would probably be a more prudent course of action right now. The respite would clear his mind and allow him to better handle the capricious young Ice King, but he needed to confront Shi now before he lost his nerve.

Xing Jiu rounded a corner and spied Wu Zan and a young woman talking in a shadowy alcove at the lower end of the hall, the recessed area marked by a vaulted ceiling and the dim outline of narrow pillars. The woman was leaning back against the wall and smiling coyly, while Wu Zan twirled a length of her dark hair languorously around his finger. Xing Jiu saw him lean in close to whisper something in her ear and suddenly realized that the woman was Song Bai’s older sister, Jingfei. Shameless fools, thought Xing Jiu testily as he approached them. Under other circumstances, he would have found the Servant Master’s flirting amusing, but Jingfei was a Shi’s honored guest and a royal Princess. She was also married. Wu Zan was playing with fire.

“Wu Zan,” Xing Jiu called out, hoping his interruption would stop Wu Zan from whispering anything too terribly inappropriate to the Earth Tribe Princess. From the sultry look she was giving the Servant Master, he suspected he was too late.

Wu Zan looked up and narrowed his eyes at Xing Jiu, clearly peeved at the intrusion. Xing Jiu motioned him over.

“Where is the King?” Xing Jiu asked shortly, deciding to ignore Wu Zan’s licentious behavior with Jingfei. He had more important things to worry about.

Wu Zan smirked and looked Xing Jiu over, taking in his uncharacteristically disheveled appearance and the dark, purplish smudges under his eyes.

“Where have you been, Advisor?” he asked, giving Xing Jiu a knowing wink. “With Lan Shang?”

“I don’t have time for a chat, Wu Zan,” Xing Jiu sighed. “Just tell me where I can find the King.”

Wu Zan shrugged. “He’s in the Imperial Library, doing the job he gave to you a few days ago.”

Xing Jiu winced, knowing quite well that Shi hated pawing through dusty old books. This wasn’t going to make the discussion with him go any smoother.

“Fine,” said Xing Jiu tightly. “Thank you.”

He turned to leave and heard Wu Zan cough behind him.

“Xing Jiu… He is very angry with you. I think he mentioned cutting off those pretty little ears of yours that Lan Shang likes to nibble on.”

Xing Jiu ground his teeth with aggravation but did not respond, moving swiftly in the other direction and towards the Imperial Library.

A few minutes later, Xing Jiu arrived at the entrance to the vast room where the Ice Tribe had archived thousands of ancient texts and artifacts. Two stern looking guards stood on either side of the immense crystal doors, but stepped aside as they recognized him as the King’s advisor.

He took a deep breath and walked inside, spotting Shi immediately on the far side of the room. The Ice King was bent over a large, leather-bound book with yellowed paper, flipping slowly through the pages and moving his lips silently as he read the printed words.

Xing Jiu stopped in front of him, bowed and cleared his throat.

Shi ignored him and continued to flip through the pages of the text that he was reading.

“Your Highness,” Xing Jiu began. “I would like to have a word with you about Lan Shang.”

Shi didn’t look up, but responded quietly with a question. “Do you know what I’m doing, Xing Jiu?”

“You are looking through texts in the Imperial Library,” Xing Jiu said, wary of Shi’s calm demeanor.

Shi turned another aged, crumbling page carefully. “Yes. I am looking for information that could connect Earth Tribe and the Blood Red Lotus. Does that sound familiar to you, Xing Jiu?”

Shi’s tone was mild, but his eyes were like two hard chips of ice as he continued to study the book in front of him. Xing Jiu knew that this meant trouble. Shi was irritated. Very irritated.

“Your Highness, if you would let me explain...” said Xing Jiu.

Shi suddenly closed the heavy cover of the book with a loud whump, the sound reverberating around the circular chamber and setting Xing Jiu’s nerves on edge.

“You defied my orders and disappeared with Lan Shang. Now I’m doing your job. What is there to explain?” Shi asked, his anger evident in the harsh tone he used.

“You aren’t listening!” Xing Jiu suddenly yelled, his fists clenched in anger. “I want to talk to you about Lan Shang!”

Shi blinked in surprise, taken aback at Xing Jiu’s uncharacteristic outburst. Xing Jiu took Shi’s momentary bewilderment as his chance to speak and pressed on.

“Your Highness, what you did to Lan Shang was wrong. You know better than anyone else the hell that she has been through. We were both devastated when Kasuo died. Do you really want to snatch away the little bit of happiness we have found together in our grief over his death?”

Shi sighed in exasperation. “Xing Jiu…” he began, his eyes holding a warning.

“No, Shi. You will listen to me just this once,” Xing Jiu said fiercely. “I love Lan Shang, and I think she loves me too. We will be together regardless of how you feel about it. You don’t understand because nobody has ever loved you....”

Shi’s face registered astonishment, and then hurt confusion. Xing Jiu felt immediate regret for his insensitive outburst. Looking at Shi’s pained expression, it was as if he had just kicked a puppy.

An uncomfortable silence stretched between them as Shi visibly struggled to shake off Xing Jiu’s words. Finally, he spoke, his voice thick with emotion.

“Xing Jiu, I sent Lan Shang away for several reasons, one of which being that she needed to attend to her own people. She is the Queen of the Mermaid Tribe. She needs to start acting like it. I appreciate that you have strong feelings for her, and perhaps she does for you as well, but she is a distraction. She has already caused you to disobey your King and ignore your duty these past few days.”

Xing Jiu shook his head vigorously. “Lan Shang a had nothing to do with that…”

“Let me ask you a question Xing Jiu,” Shi interrupted. “Are you committed to saving Kasuo or not?”

“Of course!” responded Xing Jiu, incredulous that Shi would think otherwise.

“Then you will set aside your feelings for her and focus on our task. I don’t want to hear another word about Lan Shang after this conversation ends. Do you understand, Xing Jiu?”

Xing Jiu opened his mouth to protest and Shi put up a hand swirling with icy-blue flames. The obvious threat of a voice freezing spell caused Xing Jiu to quickly press his lips together and remain silent.

“That is an order, Xing Jiu. Enough. Now, come with me. I need to talk to you about another matter.”

Shi brushed past his advisor and exited the Imperial Library, not looking back to see if Xing Jiu was following.

Xing Jiu trailed behind Shi, incensed that Shi had once again chosen to disregard his feelings. He held his tongue for the moment, not wanting to attract attention by yelling at the King in the hallway as they walked to Mirage Hall. If he unleashed his anger again in so public a place, he would likely be dragged off by the Ice Tribe royal guard.

Shi led Xing Jiu out to the balcony that overlooked the common area of the palace. The weather today was unpleasant, a storm having come through a few hours earlier. Xing Jiu tried to reign in his temper as he looked out over the colorless landscape, damp snow drifts looming high and pockmarked with sleet.

“I need some advice regarding the Earth Tribe Princess, Song Bai,” Shi said, leaning against the a wall and eyeing Xing Jiu coolly.

Xing Jiu turned and regarded Shi for a long moment. “What about her?” he asked, not bothering to be polite. He was still furious with the Ice Tribe King.

“While you were gone we spent some time together. I was trying to find out if she knew anything about the Blood Red Lotus,” Shi said.

“And?” replied Xing Jiu. A look of annoyance crossed Shi’s face at Xing Jiu’s rude tone but he let is pass.

“And, I didn’t find out anything. I am having trouble concentrating around her. She is very beautiful, Xing Jiu, and rather sweet. She makes me nervous, and I need to know how to control it.”

By the God’s Hairy Asses, was Shi ACTUALLY asking him for advice about a woman that he liked?? Xing Jiu thought, totally outraged. The selfish little shit…

Shi walked out to the edge of the balcony and stood next to Xing Jiu, looking uncomfortable as he crossed his arms and stared out at the snow.

“I have never had this problem before. I’ve been around many attractive women, but this is different. I can’t speak properly when she is in the room and I can’t stop thinking about her when she isn’t. It’s utterly frustrating.”

Xing Jiu turned towards Shi, trying to keep the venom out of his voice. “What do you want to do about it, your Highness?”

Shi didn’t answer at first. His brilliant blue eyes followed a pair of sleet birds as they soared through the heavens, dipping and chasing each other through billowy grey clouds suspended in the overcast sky.

“I need her,” he responded quietly.

Xing Jiu’s simmering anger disappeared momentarily as he marveled that Shi actually admitted such a thing.

“I need her to help me save Kasuo, but I can’t fall apart everytime I’m with her. She must know something about the Blood Red Lotus. Can you help me?”

Ah, there it was, thought Xing Jiu acidly. Shi was thinking only about himself again. The King’s advisor was no fool, however. He could tell that Shi already cared deeply for Song Bai, even though he was yet unwilling to admit it to himself.

Blood boiling, Xing Jiu turned away from Shi and watched the sleet birds as they suddenly dove, their sharp talons extended as they fell from the sky, aiming at some unseen prey in the courtyard below.

“I need to think on it, your Highness,” Xing Jiu responded. “Let me get some sleep and I’ll have a solution for you in the morning.”

He turned away from Shi just in time to see the sleet birds rise up from the courtyard and launch themselves into the air, bloody meat from some unlucky creature clutched in their claws as they flew away screeching together in triumph.


It was evening and Xun Ru was bone tired. After a hard ride through Snow Fog forest and then into Earth Tribe realm, the entire party was ready to make camp. They had barely spoken to one another on the journey, but they had taken measure of each other during the ride. Xun Ru didn’t care much about what the Ice Tribe guards thought about him. This sojourn wasn’t about making friends. It was about rescuing the Earth Tribe King.

Zhanshi informed Xun Ru in a clipped tone that he was assigned to second watch, so he rolled himself up in a thin blanket near the fire and immediately fell asleep. Just past midnight, he was woken up by one of his companions to take his turn at guarding the camp while the others slept. He yawned and rubbed his eyes sleepily, stumbling over to a tree near the edge of clearing to noisily empty his bladder. The guard who had woken him, now rolled up in his own set of blankets, sneered at Xun Ru and turned away.

Xun Ru shrugged, buttoning the front of his pants and leaned against the rough bark of the tree, one hand moving to rest on the hilt of his sword. His sharp eyes kept watch on the forest, the shadow-dappled leaves swaying and rustling in the gentle nighttime breeze. His mind began to work over the events of the past two days as he stared into the distance. He was still stupefied that the King was alive. How could that possibly be? When they were fleeing Sanctuary, Mao Jiang had captured the King and most of the other members of the royal family. Only the three Earth Tribe Princesses had made it out safely, with himself and a retinue of the Earth Tribe royal guard. He just prayed Mao Jing wouldn’t kill the King before they got to Sanctuary.

Suddenly he looked up, his whole body at high alert. He had heard footsteps in the forest.

He drew out his sword and stalked towards the sound, his movements through the tangled undergrowth completely silent. His body was tense and strung as tightly as a bow, ready to strike at the intruder without hesitation.

Xun Ru weaved his way through the woodland patiently, stopping to listen for the footsteps every few minutes. They seemed to be moving away from camp, but he continued to noiselessly follow, the forest as familiar to him as breathing. Not a half-mile from camp, he was confronted with the intruder; It was a furious Princess Song Bai.

“Princess!” he sputtered, sheathing his sword. “Are you insane? I could have hurt you. What are you doing here?”

“Xun Ru,” she replied, her voice shaking with fury. “I cannot believe that you left me alone at the palace in Snow Blade City. You are my personal guard. And, you are on a rescue mission for my father! You should have told me.”

“I couldn’t tell you, Song Bai,” Xun Ru said quietly. “I had to leave suddenly and Wu Zan…”

“Wu Zan isn’t your master, Xun Ru,” Song Bai barked. “I am. You should have told me.”

“Song Bai,” Xun Ru groaned, pleading with her. “Please keep your voice down. You’ll bring Fire Tribe down on us if you keep raising your voice.”

Song Bai glowered at him but remained silent.

Xun Ru exhaled slowly. “I didn’t want you to get your hopes up, just in case…”

“Especially since you already told me he was dead?” she hissed, turning away. “Luckily Xing Jiu came to tell me about my father and where you had gone.”

Xun Ru knew that Song Bai was angry with him, but she was also frightened for her father. He wanted to take her into his arms and offer her comfort. It was an impossible ambition, he knew, but it didn’t stop him from longing for her.

Song Bai turned back to face him. "I will go with you to rescue my father."

"It is not necessary, Princess,” Xun Ru responded, trying to soothe her. "I will safely lead the Ice Tribe guards to the palace at Sanctuary. We will rescue your father and bring him back to Snow Blade City. Now please, I implore you to return to the Ice Kingdom."

"Xun Ru, if you continue to insist that I go back to Snow Blade City, I will get on my horse and go to Sanctuary rescue my father without your assistance. I am deadly serious." Song Bai stood very still, glaring at him as she spoke. Her stubbornness was evidenced by the defiant tilt of her chin, and Xun Ru found that he had to drop his gaze in order to escape the chill emanating from her green eyes.

He sighed and knew he had been defeated. She would do exactly as she threatened and ride into Sanctuary alone, probably getting herself killed in the process. He had to protect her.

“Alright, Song Bai. Let’s get back to camp. We still have a hard day’s ride tomorrow before we get to Sanctuary. We will need all the rest we can get.”

Song Bai relaxed, relieved that she had won the argument and would be joining the mission to save her father. She shook off her anger and nodded, giving Xun Ru a small smile.

“I am indeed tired from my journey. A good night’s sleep will do me some good.”

Song Bai stepped back to mount her horse, but the beast unexpectedly reared and she lurched forward, tripping over some tangled vines. Her outstretched arms looped themselves around Xun Ru’s neck to catch herself and she landed in his arms.

Xun Ru stared down at Song Bai's face. He could see her apprehension and anticipation, and he knew he wasn’t misreading her. She was extremely attracted to him and it pleased him. He also knew that she would not be intimidated easily. She was spirited and courageous and impetuous, nothing like how people thought a well bred Princess should be. She was stubborn too, he knew from experience, and so wild. She drove him crazy.

His mouth descended to hers in a kiss that was forceful. He felt her jerk with the initial touch of his lips, but he ignored her, and tightened his hold on her hair until she opened her mouth to welcome his tongue. He invaded her mouth, tasting and probing the corners and recesses. His kiss was not gentle, for in truth he knew little about seducing women; still, he made an effort not to overwhelm her. He tried to kiss her with the little finesse that he possessed. He reminded himself that this was a Princess, not some prostitute from the village tavern he paid to share his bed for the night. He knew he needed to proceed slowly, but as things progressed, he began to lose control. She tasted so sweet, so fresh, and when she finally began to respond, when her tongue timidly touched his, he felt a wave of hot fire race through him.

He shifted the angle of the kiss and put his second hand on her waist to draw her closer to him. He realized that she was no longer a shy participant, but was actively kissing him back, her arms now more tightly wrapped around his neck. He tugged at the ribbon holding her hair up and the tight crown of curls quickly unwound, falling down below her shoulders as he buried his hand in her thick curls.

He continued ravishing her mouth and her hands roamed all over his back, her body straining against him. He took his hand from her waist and brushed the front of her bodice. Her soft moan in response sent him over the edge, and he pushed her down on on the mossy earth, hastily trying to remove her riding gown. In frustration, he finally tore open the front, the sound of the ripping fabric bringing him to his senses. He dazedly looked down at Song Bai, her eyes glazed over with lust.

“Song Bai, we should stop...“

Song Bai stood, discarding the tattered remnants of her clothes and placed her hands on the front of Xun Ru’s robe, spreading it open with a deft move and pushing aside the soft cloth. She leaned forward until her small breasts touched the fine mat of hair covering his chest. She shivered as she held him tight, her words semi-muffled.

“Xun Ru, I am making this choice on my own. I want to mate with you.”

Afraid she would change her mind, he picked her up and gently placed her back on their makeshift bed of moss and leaves. He removed his clothes and saw her eyes widen as she took in the hard, lean muscles of his body. Moving quickly, he bore down on her. She rubbed her hands over his chest, and he looked at her in disbelief as her touches steadily made their way down his body. Her boldness made him even more aroused.

She got to his sheath and touched him hesitantly, making him tremble all over. She became more brave as she saw his reaction to her attentions and touched him more aggressively, stroking him as she stared into his eyes.

His control snapped. He covered her mouth with his, hungrily taking her with his tongue. She
matched his passion, kissing him deeply as she continued stroking his hard length.

"I want you now," he growled in a ragged whisper. He knelt between her legs, his hands holding her hips and plunged into her. He felt her immediately freeze under him and heard a small whimper escape her lips. He tried to go slowly at first, to ease her pain. The tension soon left her body, however, and she started to move in response to him, panting and moaning out her pleasure. As her passion rose to meet his, he was utterly lost and he plunged into her frantically, finding his release as he cried out her name.

Xun Ru suddenly jerked awake, Zhanshi bending over him with a puzzled expression on his face.

“Xun Ru,” he said firmly. “I said wake up. “It’s your turn to take watch.”

Confused and embarrassed, he blinked up at the Ice Tribe captain, bunching his blanket around around his midsection and flushing bright red. “What time is it?”

“Just past midnight,” Zhanshi responded. “I don’t know what you were dreaming about, but it must have been good.”


At the same time, Song Bai woke up with a start, her skin clammy and the back of her hair damp with sweat.

It took her a moment to orient herself and realize that she was in her room in the palace at Snow Blade City. She climbed out of bed and poured a small cup of water from a pitcher from a nearby table, hand shaking as she carefully lifted the vessel to her lips.

She was flustered by the dream that she had just experienced. Xun Ru had been on a mission to save her father, and she had found him in the woods in Earth realm. They had made love, mating under the stars in the dark forest as she had always fantasized. She shivered at the memory. It had seemed so real!

She set the cup down and shook her head in defiance. No, this wasn’t right, she thought. It was just a dream. Dreaming about being with Xun Ru was natural. She hadn’t been mated at the proper time and her dreams were nothing more than a product of her overactive hormones. She had no interest in having a relationship with Xun Ru.

Or… did she?

She groaned in exasperation, confused and unwilling to think further on it just now. She climbed back in bed, resolving to visit the Ice Tribe healer in the morning. Perhaps he could give her a sleeping draught that would keep the dreams away tomorrow night.


Xing Jiu backed out of Song Bai’s room after she had climbed back in bed, unseen to her as he did so. His hands were still tingling with the dream magic that he had just used, and his energy was fading fast. He needed to get back to his room and rest.

He was lucky that he had run into Wu Zan again after his discussion with Shi earlier in the day. Over drinks, he had gotten the story about Xun Ru and Song Bai in the barracks, and also the mission to Sanctuary. From there, it was easy to manipulate Song Bai and Xun Ru’s dreams, guiding the meeting between them while they slept, but allowing their own desires to fill in the details. He had watched their dream unfold, but had turned away when Xun Ru had taken Song Bai into his arms, giving them some privacy. The dream had made him ache with desire for Lan Shang, and he wondered what she was doing right now in the Mermaid Kingdom.

He knew his meddling would push Song Bai further towards Xun Ru, and it would cause Xun Ru to renew his efforts to win her. He felt a stab of guilt as he walked through Mirage Hall, feeling as if he had no right to play with other people’s lives as if they were puppets. As he passed the door to Shi’s room, however, the old anger came bubbling back to the surface, reminding him of why he had chosen to use his dream magic this night.

Shi was falling in love with Song Bai, and with Xun Ru out of the picture, she might very well return Shi’s affection with time. If the Ice King wouldn’t let him have Lan Shang, then he would make sure that Shi didn’t have Song Bai.

Xing Jiu stalked off towards his room and finally fell into bed, shattered with exhaustion and fully satisfied with the result of this night’s undertaking.