Shin-Ah felt the sun warming his face through the mask that hid his eyes. The young man blinked a few times against the comfortable sensation, then he opened his lids. He saw the sky shining brightly blue above him, hidden by branches of trees and lanced by soft, fluffy clouds. The air smelled light and peaceful, scents of greens mingling with those of controlled flames. Pushing himself up through the palms of his hands, Shin-Ah looked around, his eyes seeing sharp and clear.
His companions were still asleep except for one. Yun sat beside the fire he was raking skillfully, his strawberry blond hair neatly combed despite the early hour. As he noticed Shin-Ah's regard, the young boy looked up and gave a nod. "Good morning, Shin-Ah." Shin-Ah returned the nod slowly, keeping his eyes on the young boy. Silence ensued, and Yun's eyebrow started to twitch. "Did you need something?" he asked nervously. This time, his answer was a soft shake of the head, and Yun gave a sigh. Turning back to his fire, he gestured at the woods. "If you're awake already, could you fetch me some more firewood? I barely have enough for this."
Without uttering a single word, Shin-Ah got up. He fastened his sword at his back, attached their ax to his hip and brushed over his clothes once, then took one long sip from his water bottle. As he set out to chop the wood, he heard a soft p'kyuing close to his right ear. He glanced sideways to see Ao, who sleepily peeked from the white fur. Shin-Ah eyed the squirrel, the faintest of smiles gracing his pale lips. He gave Ao a short pat on the furry head, then marched on to search for a dying tree. As he walked, Shin-Ah enjoyed the warmth of the sun on his skin and the chirping of birds in the background. Once in a while, his fingertips brushed over nearby plants and trees.
He found a tree fitting his goal half an hour off their camp, but Shin-Ah didn't mind the distance. That way, the hacking would wake neither his dragon brothers, Hak or the princess. Before he set to work, he took Ao from his shoulder. The squirrel squirmed in his gentle grasp, giving one of her adorable p'kyus as she looked up with accusing eyes. The patch of grass Shin-Ah placed her on did not seem to satisfy Ao's needs for comfortability, so the squirrel hurried off and climbed a nearby tree. Shin-Ah looked after his friend for a short while, then picked up the ax and started to hack. Each blow mildly vibrated in his arms and strangely comforted Shin-Ah. For him, fetching firewood was an important task; it kept his companions – his friends – warm and fed, and for him being able to grant them such comfort was bliss.
The monotonous work stretched over minutes to an hour, but Shin-Ah didn't rest or complain once. When the tree, a quite small one, not taller than Shin-Ah himself, was about to fall, the young man took precautions to make sure that no living being would be hit by it. After an hour of hard, yet rewarding work, Shin-Ah piled up the wood neatly, then he went on to pick up as much as he could carry. Later, he would ask Jae-Ha or Kija to help him gather the rest.
Shin-Ah turned, ready to head back to camp when he suddenly heard the most heartrending of p'kyus. The firewood fell from his arms immediately as he darted to the origin of the sound. His face had become hard and rigid, not giving away any of the concern and worry he felt. Not knowing what he had to expect, Shin-Ah's hands hovered over the hilt of his blade.
He hurried past bushes to find Ao sitting on a stone, her ears hanging down. She was surrounded by three tiny squirrels, all looking up, startled. when Shin-Ah appeared. The young man looked at the scene in complete stillness. His golden eyes searched the area for any hidden enemies, and only when he found none did his muscles relax. He approached Ao and squatted low, observing his friend and the small squirrels for some silent minutes. Finally, he asked ever so softly "What's wrong, Ao?"
The squirrel looked at him with her big black eyes. Energetically, she started gesturing, cheeping hurriedly as she pointed to the young squirrels. She stretched her arms wide, then brought them in quickly and let her ears hang even further down, before she fluffed up her fur and gave a tiny roar. Then, she slumped together and made tiny, worried chirps, before she ended her display and gave Shin-Ah a long, expectant look.
Shin-Ah nodded in understanding. He had lived with no one's company but the squirrel's for years, and was as good as reading her as he could get. Looking over to the baby squirrels, he touched their tiny heads with his finger once in reassurance. "We will find your mother." He spoke the words slowly, so the squirrels would understand them. Ao made some sounds towards the frightened babies, who in turn chirped excitedly. One by one, they climbed up Shin-Ah's arm and settled on his shoulder. Ao was last, and she took the white fur and draped it around the baby animals before she gave the permission to depart.
Shin-Ah took off. If he had normal eyesight, the woods would turn to a blur around him, but his golden dragon eyes saw everything sharp and clear. The squirrels on his shoulder called out fearfully, but Ao comforted them and tucked them even deeper into the white fur. Shin-Ah reduced his speed by a little, his magnificent eyes seeing everything around them. He searched the trees and the bushes, saw through the leaves scattered on the forest ground, gazed through the treetops and holes beneath the dirt. Nothing could escape his golden glance.
All of a sudden, Shin-Ah stopped. The squirrels were pushed forward through the impact briefly, then slumped back. They huffed adorably, and Ao checked on each of the three, squeezing and pushing their cheeks as if to check whether they were still alive. The squirrels squeaked and sat straight up, and Ao turned her head questioningly to Shin-Ah. The blue dragon, without speaking a word, pointed to a nearby tree with a hole. On its edge sat a female squirrel. The tail bushy and the hairs wild, it whipped around its head in worry, releasing a desperate squeal every once in a while.
Ao released a squeal of triumph, but her sounds were drowned by the baby squirrels beside her. Jolly, the baby animals tugged at Shin-Ah's white fur wig, and the young man slowly approached the tree. When the squirrel mother heard him, she almost immediately turned away to run and hide, but a soft p'kyu from her children made her halt. Doubtfully, she sniffed the air as Shin-Ah ever so carefully took the three babies in his hands to offer them to her. Mother and baby squirrels alike broke into a wild p'kyuing as they recognized one another. The babies jumped the final distance towards their mother and hid beneath her bushy tail. Their mother looked up at Shin-Ah with brightly shining, black eyes. When she saw Ao, she p'kyued surprised and engaged in a squirrel conversation with Shin-Ah's best friend. All the while, the blue dragon waited patiently.
Finally, one of the baby squirrels yawned, and the mother took it as a cue to bid farewell to her savior. Jumping up on his shoulder, she gave the right side of his pale face a big, fluffy hug, and shoved an acorn into his half-open lips. Not wanting to be rude, Shin-Ah took the nut into his mouth and bowed. He waved towards the baby squirrels, who looked at him sleepily, then turned around and hurried back to his companions, without forgetting to pick up the firewood on his way.
He was awaited by worried faces. "Where have you been?" Yun almost cried out with burning eyes as he ran towards the blue dragon, wrapping his arms around Shin-Ah without thinking. "We were so worried when we didn't know where you went!"
"He's right, Shin-Ah," Yona nodded as she went to give her blue dragon a hug as well, carefully stepping over the dropped firewood. "Just where did you go off to for this long?"
Vaguely, Shin-Ah gestured back at the woods. "Squirrels."
That reply did not serve to satisfy his friends. Kija frowned worriedly, but decided not to raise his questions – if Shin-Ah didn't want to talk, then he wouldn't make him.
"Well, not that it really matters. Shin-Ah is a big boy and can take care of himself. I told you three not to worry so much," Jae-Ha said rather relaxed.
Hak leaned in. "Oho, is that so, Droopy Eyes? Then why did you scurry around the most and called for him at the top of your lungs?" Jae-Ha blushed and tried to deny Hak's comment, but the Thunder Beast wouldn't even listen – he had suddenly found some great interest in the scenery around him.
"Zeno is just glad the Seiryuu is back safe and happy," Zeno chimed in with a broad smile. He nodded towards Shin-Ah, who nodded back shyly. Still sniffing, Yun and Yona let go of the young dragon, trying to compose themselves.
Hak gave a shrug. "Since that is settled, shall we go? We have a lot of way to clear today." He took the lead together with Yun, who kept looking back to Shin-Ah nervously. After a few times, the blue dragon gave a short wave of hand whenever the handsome young genius did so, causing Yun to blush. Still, he wouldn't stop looking back.
After some hours, they neared the edge of the forest. Shin-Ah followed behind Yona with alert eyes, but stopped himself when he felt a regard upon himself. He turned back to the woods, to see the squirrel family looking at him. They waved at him with their furry arms, and Shin-Ah gave a small bow before he turned to follow Yona – only to meet her smiling face. The blue dragon slanted his head. "Yona?"
The princess chuckled. "Ah, it's nothing, Shin-Ah. I just thought that you truly are my moonlight – you bring happiness where ever you go."
And another Shin-Ah story with fluff (hopefully). This was yet another tumblr secret santa gift, this time for abadpoetwithdreams. It is much shorter than my other gifts, but nonetheless it contains a lot of hard work, and I truly hope that my giftee as well as you, dear reader, could enjoy it!