“Read this scroll well, and comprehend its teachings,” the fox declared to the boy, as they were seated in the library. “It shall teach you the foundations to this technique.”
Xong Yun Ren nodded. “Thank you, Guardian,” he said, bowing respectfully. The fox nodded with grace. He should be thankful. The Befuddling Mist of Da Ji was a powerful technique, probably too powerful for the boy’s current strength, but he did not need to comprehend all of it.
Really, had the loneliness made him soft, to give out such a treasure? Or was it the oddly familiar smell the boy had, like a sibling, or a friend long passed. It was faint, so faint, and barely lurking under the surface. But for some reason, it made him think fondly of the boy..
The fox shook his head, eyeing the boy, as he immediately went to sit down carefully cracking open the scroll.
“Just that one, boy. Do not read any of the others,” the fox commanded. Yun Ren looked up from the scroll and nodded.
Eyes taking in the slight amount of dust in the library the Guardian hummed, and left him to it..
The fox made a note to repair the wards again. The damn things kept letting dust in.
Yawning, he left, to survey the rest of their domain.
It had been rather a shock, to awaken to a rat slinking through their home.
Albeit a polite one. A polite and stange rat that had woken them up far, far too early from his slumber, it seemed. And it had been such a wonderful dream too.
The fox shook their head again, driving away the fugue state. What were they doing again? Oh, yes.
The kitchen was dusted. The other seals checked. The grass was still the right length, the marker unblemished by the elements, and Summer’s Sky was… awake?
The fox squinted at the blade, and the faint stirring within the Spirit Blade’s consciousness. Curious, how curious.
There was a twinge from the wards in the library. Oh? That sneaky brat, touching what wasn’t his! Well, his fault for being absent-minded, and leaving him to read where there was such temptation!
The fox moved like liquid smoke, his body roiling down the hall and seeping into the library. The Fox pondered on how to deal with this. To appear behind him again? No, that was getting old. A storm of lightning with a howl of fury? He smirked. That would do.
The Fox twisted through the shelves, ready to catch the sneaky trickster in the act—
Yun Ren was humming to himself, as he put the scroll back. He carefully took another one off the shelf, examining it for damage, and wiping some of the dust off being careful not to damage the seal. It was a task that seemed rote. As if he had cleaned scrolls many times before.
But what was he doing? The fox had tasked the boy with reading the scroll, why was he cleaning?
“Boy, what are you doing?” the fox asked, appearing from the smoke. The boy didn’t startle, merely turned to the fox that was suddenly there in the room with him.
Like he was used to things suddenly appearing.
“Meditatin’,” the boy stated, as he took a cloth to the shelves, wiping them until they were clean.
“Medi—what?” the fox asked, baffled.
“Yeah, normally I chop wood. But I didn’t know if ya needed any of that done, so, well, this place was kinda dirty, and I’ve helped out Elder Hong and Meimei clean their house before. Both of ‘em are picky about how you clean scrolls. They’d have my head if I hurt anything,” the boy explained before he went back to his task.
The fox watched him in utter bewilderment. This was not a technique that required such things. Just who had taught this boy?
“...ya got any lacquer? I can fix this part here, if you want,” the boy asked.
“No, no, I shall attend to that myself. If you are meditating, that means you have comprehended The Befuddling Mist of Da Ji?” the fox asked. It was extremely fast, his comprehension was truly incredible if he had managed already—
“Nah, not one bit,” the boy returned easily. “It's confusing. It's written in the Courtly Characters, so I got like… Half of what it was saying, but what I did get didn’t make any sense. “Meditate upon the Room of the Fox Queen”? How can I “meditate on and envision” the room of some person I’ve never met, or seen?” the boy grumbled.
Yun Ren hadn’t comprehended anything at all, had he? Not even the basest part of this technique.
He turned back to the fox. “So I thought I’d give the whole meditation thing a go before telling you I had no idea what I was doin’.”
The sheer guileless truth. The Guardian bit their tongue. Really? This boy was too amusing! What fool admitted weakness so easily?!
“...who is your master?” the fox asked, curious. Had they taught the boy wrong on purpose as a joke?!
“Don’t got one. Jin taught me how to meditate, and he helped me through the whole “breaking stuff” phase, but otherwise?” The boy shrugged.
That tempered the Fox’s amusement. No master. And yet there was no deviation in his Qi, his foundation was surprisingly solid. Wandering blindly in the dark, yet striding forward without a care in the world.
How interesting. The fox sniffed at him once more. The scent of fox, however faint, was upon the boy.
“I see. Well, I have wasted your time. That scroll is useless to you.” The boy looked up at the fox startled and confused.
Most men comprehended scrolls. He had simply believed this boy would be the same, but it appeared a more hands on effort was required. Perhaps he would be more like a pup than a man?
“Come. Follow me.” They returned to the meadow, the boy following along.
“Now, show me the image you wish to recreate.” Yun Ren shrugged, taking out his abysmal quality crystal. Really, that he was using that at all was strange. An image formed of a city, stretching out below. A giant lake.
The Guardian nodded.
“Now, observe.” He flowed through the motions of the technique. Qi flared.
The wall seemed to bubble and shift, colours flowed painting the image perfectly.
Yun Ren’s gaze was intent.
“Could… could you do that again?” he asked, this time bringing the crystal into position.
The fox indulged him. There were several crystal chimes.
Yun Ren frowned, and moved his feet into position.
“So, that was kind of like… hup, and twist, and then it went all floaty…” he muttered to himself, staring at the projection of the fox in mid technique.
His hands moved.
Sparks burst out.
“Okay, not hup, prolly more like ha,” he nodded to himself. His feet adjusted slightly, and his Qi started moving more like it was supposed to.
Slowly, a grin spread across the fox’s face.
How utterly and completely interesting. It had been a while since the fox had met with a man who learned this way.
The fox watched amused, as the boy ran through his Hoos, into Harahs, from twists to turns.
Yun Ren sighed, as he sank into the water. He had found out what was behind the door. An underground spring, with warm water.
Pretty nice of the fox to let him use it, especially after Yun Ren had provided dinner. The fox was the first person he had met that hadn’t started saying the rice was the best they’d ever tasted. Merely having a single, small bowlful, and declaring it “passable”.
Well, it was a fox. What did it know?
At least the warm waters were soothing his pounding headache and the slight nausea that always came with Qi overuse.
He was completely and utterly exhausted.
When Yun Ren had made his request to the fox, it was mostly a shot in the dark. He did want to learn how to do permanent illusions so that he could permanently project his images. How awesome would it be, to have an entire wall that was a recorded image of the sky, with fluffy clouds, and the perfect blue sky?
Mostly, it was for himself. But he could not deny a certain sense of pride in his work. If he could more easily show his compositions to others, could he not have his name recorded in history, as a great sculptor or artist? Maybe he could even get one into the Palace at Pale Moon Lake City?
He chuckled at the thought.
“Is the water to your liking, boy?” Yun Ren paused at the voice of the fox. While normally slightly growly, to the point where he couldn’t tell if it was a boy or a girl, this was downright feminine and sultry.
Yun Ren swallowed thickly and turned. Tales of beautiful foxes seducing men danced in his head.
A voluptuous body. Smooth, creamy skin, as fine as jade. Beautiful, long white hair that looked like it was made out of silk.
The vision of loveliness had one large flaw.
A face that looked nearly exactly like his mothers. They could have been sisters, for the resemblance.
Yun Ren gagged, the enticing vision crumbling into dust.
The fox paused, looking a bit confused at his reaction. Her eyes narrowed, and she let loose a throaty chuckle as Yun Ren turned his eyes away.
A form pressed up against him. An arm wrapped around his neck, and smooth hard muscle pressed into his side.
“Is this form more to your liking?” a husky male voice whispered in his ear.
Yun Ren turned back to the fox, his hopes and dreams dead and ruined.
“Not really. Besides, I got a girl I like.” He glared at the man.
The very pretty man, who looked a bit like one of his cousins.
“A man should experience all he can in life,” the fox declared conspiratorially, wiggling his eyebrows.
Yun Ren shoved himself away from the fox-man, scrabbling to the other side of the pool.
The man threw his head back and laughed.
“Ah, forgive me my games, I haven't gotten to play with anybody in a while!” The fox chuckled. “Although I believe I haven’t been rejected quite that out of hand in centuries! You are the most amusing cultivator, Xong Yun Ren!”
“Glad I’m entertaining.” Yun Ren grumbled, glaring at the perfectly sculpted body of the Guardian.
“Rejoice. My dear companion would have enjoyed your reactions too, if he was alive to see them!” The Fox’s hand went behind him, picking up Yun Ren’s recording crystal, examining it closely.
“An interesting use of such a weak crystal, but the craftsmanship leaves much to be desired. You should have complained to whatever sect you purchased this from. Look at this, it's almost like a mortal crafted this piece,” the fox stated, waving Yun Ren’s crystal negligently toward him.
Yun Ren felt strangely defensive about his first purchase. “...because one did? Biyu’s just a normal gal, I’m pretty sure. Her first actual crystal out of her apprenticeship. It wasn’t supposed to be sold.”
The fox paused.
“...a mortal made this?”
The fox nodded his head, considering. “Biyu… She certainly is a precious stone, is she not?”
Yun Ren smiled at the thought of her, and of the meal they had shared together. The slight blush on her face—
“Now, I am sure you have images of your lover, show me her face!” the Fox commanded.
Yun Ren flushed. “She isn’t my lover….” he grumbled. “Yet... Maybe… Why am I even talking about this to you?!”
But he showed off the image anyway. It was a good picture