Breathe…He couldn’t breathe…
Suffocating perhaps, for the air was there, but also not.
Each breath was more difficult than the last. Why was it so hard to breathe?
Hot...seared, he was inflamed.
The burning sensation continued to engulf his senses. How was it possible when it was freezing a while ago? Was the tent on fire? It couldn’t be, because the heat was not painful to the touch, but a fire of a different kind. The unspeakable carnal craving he had felt before, yet had ignored many times in the past. For the desire of the flesh will doom the most upright man. Still, his body had a mind of its own. Try as he must, it still sought comfort and warmth where his consciousness did not.
However, a sudden breeze woke the half slumbering Scholar. Blinking. Awakened. Qi Heng came to realize it was not a dream, nor was the tent was on fire.
“Bai Tu…,” from within the darkness, the shadow rasped. Feeling the hot breath against his neck, Qi Heng’s senses alerted. There was no denying this was real. Held. Barely clothed under the pelt blanket, against the heated body molded to his own.
Still, something was not right...Beyond his bare skin against another, his mind finally reached clarity. Qi Heng shook his head in protest, “Don’t....stop….”
Qi Heng tried to resist, but there was no escape, when his own flesh was held, grasped! At the mercy of the Wolf, the Predator of the Grassland, who not only reigned his body, but his consciousness. Rough, yet gentle hands continued to touch.. stroke….
“No, no...stop!” Qi Heng began to struggle, but his strength was made willow by the foreign touch.
“Shhhh, Xiao Bai Tu,” the Wolf coaxed gently with an edge of roughness belying his own urgency, “You’re almost there...”
Only half understanding what he meant, Qi Heng fought against his shuddering body. “Let me go…no...no,” he cried, but the man stroked with more intensity than before. Desire flooded, almost blinding, with his sanity barely intact. Naive the Scholar may be, but not too clueless when it comes to his capturer’s hunger. Understanding dawned like the sudden spark bursting from the fire. Qi Heng pleaded again for mercy, “I-I beg you…I can’t…Boli... Boli...please stop….”
“You can…don’t be afraid...,” the Wolf reassured, at the same time his wet tongue had swept over the vulnerable pulse of Qi Heng’s neck, making his prey squirm from head to toe. The Predator was relentless. Maintaining each stroke with decisive rhythm, encouraged further by every cry and gasp, he redoubled his efforts, as the torturous feelings continued to last.
“Bai Tu, let yourself go…come for me…,” the Beast tempted, lured, ready to consume at will.
“Don’t....please….let me go…,” Qi Heng feebly protested, even knowing it was pointless to fight when his body had betrayed him. Qi Heng’s rational mind slipped, as the last frail thread of his sanity vanished. His hips shamelessly arched against Boli’s hand. His body vibrated, tightened….Shook. Once release arrived, a choked cry broke.
He was bewitched, enchanted…deceived. Glistening, unshed tears blinded Qi Heng’s vision. He shut his eyes and felt them burn.
Seized before thought, liberties before rationale.
A starving Wolf is an impatient Wolf, because when a beast is hungry, he becomes rash. His intention was clouded by his need to claim what had already been his. Too early, he realized, when the frightened rabbit shoved Boli off with a sudden strength. Half falling and scrambling, Qi Heng rushed toward the sitting table. He snatched up the carving knife and circled to the other side of the fire.
The Scholar turned and raised the small blade in shaking hands. “Don’t come any closer…”
Despite the warning, Boli still made his approach. “Qi Heng? What’s wrong?”
“St-Stay away...or I-I…” his brave but foolish Scholar still threatened him with the ridiculous small blade. Does this rabbit not know who he is? Boli doesn’t know whether to laugh or be insulted.
“Qi Heng, be careful,” the General of the North said calmly, “You’ll hurt yourself. Drop the blade.”
“Stay where you are!” Qi Heng’s entire body shook.
Boli paused his steps. With the bright fire between them, Boli took in the vision before him. Disheveled, half dressed, with his emotions barely in check -- his Scholar, his Beauty was scared. Afraid.
“Why do you fear me?” Boli asked
“Why? You asked me why?” Fire sparked from his eyes; distress was instantly replaced with wrath. “You waged war and attacked my homeland. Your people, barbarians…. pillaged and raped,” Qi Heng cried his accusations. “After you laid waste on our soil, you demanded tribute! You took me away from my home. My Family! Why did you tell them you wanted me? My people despised my very existence. They believed it was I who caused the war. Caused their suffering…When...when we never even met!”
Floored by those claims, which he could not refute, the General was left speechless. Generations after generations, this was always the method of his people. To have what they wanted, they had to claim it with their own powers. If he didn’t wage war, the likelihood of Qi Heng becoming his would be wishful thinking.
“That’s where you’re wrong,” Boli denied the one belief that should not be held true. “I would never have started a war over a figment of my imagination. We have met. You may not remember, but...”
“I don’t care!” Qi Heng snapped, glaring with cold intensity that could turn the other to ice, “It does not matter to me.”
“Qi Heng, let me explain...I-I...”
“Don’t come any closer…,” Qi Heng stumbled back, almost losing his balance with the knife in hand.
“Be careful, or you’ll hurt yourself. Qi Heng….I…No!”
Boli’s sentence cut short when he realized Qi Heng had raised the knife to his own throat!
Sprinting over the firepit, the General quickly snatched Qi Heng’s wrist and twisted it behind his back, while the other arm secured his captive against his own body. With a deliberate grip on the hand that held the blade, Qi Heng cried in surprise when the pain made him drop the knife.
“Let me go!” But the more his Xiao Bai Tu tried to struggle, Boli would tighten his hold. Held secure, the captured prey angrily snarled, “I’d rather die! Just kill me!”
“Qi Heng, listen carefully,” the General’s voice returned, “The truce remains as long as you stay with me. If you take your own life, I won’t keep my end of the bargain. There’s no place for you to go, even if you run from me. Your people will only send you back. Unless," Boli emphasized, "You want another war on your Kingdom’s soil, then don’t do anything foolish.”
Frozen from the chill of the ruthless threat from the man who was not known for his mercy, Qi Heng ceased his struggles. His body wilted in defeat. Boli lifted his precious cargo and returned him to bed. The Scholar tensed when the General sat down with him in his arms. Predictably, his stubborn rabbit, still had some fight in him. Swinging his fist back, he attempted to strike, but Boli quickly caught his wrist easily.
Raising his brows at the pointless action, the chuckling General grasped Qi Heng’s neck. The skin was smoother than velvet to the touch. Expertly, his thumb traced the sensitive spot behind the delicate lobes, forcing the Scholar's lips to part as he gasped. Encouraged by the response, Boli’s eyes darkened. Tilting his head as he leaned forward, but before their lips could meet, Qi Heng gave his final blow.
“I hate you.” The sound so small, it was almost a passing breeze, yet, it was enough to make the General pause, reflect. Ashamed.
“I know,” Boli acknowledged the bitter truth, as he gazed upon eyes full of loathing.
The battle was over when he won the war. The tribute was his. Qi Heng belonged to him, did he not? But why was he still fighting the inevitable? Is it too late? Could they start over? Years in battle, not once had he felt this vulnerable before an opponent.
The General could take him, he could force his Scholar to submit. It would be easy. Mark him as his own this very night, but would it be wise? Will the same eyes of hatred stare back at him at dawn? Yes, it would.
Fear makes a poor bedmate. Nor does he want just a passing night. He wanted more. More than he ever wanted anything. Once the fire ignited, it could not be stifled.
Raised to hunt, kill, command, but most importantly to conquer. Years of training, patience was essential. Yet, tonight, within this tent, he could not take back the callous action of the man who didn’t hold back.
Rising, with Qi Heng in his arms, Boli placed him gently on the bed. Qi Heng, fearing the worst, scurried to the corner of the bed, only realizing a moment later the General had retreated. The breeze filled the quiet tent, while neither spoke from unknown nature, weighted down by what may come.
“Stay with me,” Boli broke the silent, causing the man on the bed to lift his head but still refuse to meet his gaze. “I’ll give you whatever you want,” the General pleaded. “Anything you desire...I can..”
“Let me leave. I want to go home.”
“Except that, it’s the only thing I can’t give,” Boli admitted, the only wish he could not fulfill. “I waited half my lifetime for you. No, my whole life. Qi Heng, I can’t, I won’t. Without you...I...”
“If I submit tonight, would you give me back my freedom?” the cold bargain struck, pulling the Wolf’s leash the General never knew he had.
Boli’s attention alerted, with an instinctive urge to accept. However, the desire to hold was quickly diminished upon realizing his quiet Scholar could barely meet his eyes. The spark that once was, had dimmed. Flickering dangerously, for any moment it may extinguish.
It may take decades to build a Kingdom, but only a moment to destroy it. The General could have waited, but he didn’t. He should have listened, but he refused.
In a split second, his prey was lost. Worse, the Scholar would never let his guard down again. Once the signs were recognized, instinct took hold. Senses heightened. Fight or flight, the prey reacted, because no one wanted to be devoured.
Returning to the bedside, the General kneeled before the light of which he fought to possess. The fragile flame that may quench before his eyes if he did not restrain himself.
“Forgive me,” he implored earnestly, “Please, let me make amends.”
Finally, the Scholar raised his head. Their eyes locked, uneasy but unwavering. His lips quivered, “How?”
“I’ll give you my word, I won’t force you. I’ll wait…I’ll wait as long as you need.”