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The Light of the First Moon (Bellosh & Dubstep)


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The First Moon: that was the name the Long Sun gave to the very first lunar cycle of the year... the dawn of a New Year. For 15 days between the first new and full moons of the year, beings all across the Dragon Kingdom celebrated the First Moon with family gatherings, dumplings, firecrackers, pageants, and all other possible methods of expressing revelry. The venerable serpent dragons also celebrated these holidays, and so it was a common sight for the youth among their kind to fly down dance in the streets of Long Guo's cities along with the qilin and longma.

 

While it was customary for many shops and establishments throughout the country, things were business as usual over at the Imperial Palace. From the windows of Empress Yuè's bedchambers, the sounds of festivities were but faint echoes from across the Forbidden Lake. Although the royal qilin had always marked the First Moon with the importance it deserved, it had been a long time since she had actually gone out on the streets to join in the partying; not since entering adolescence. Two weeks ago had been the closest Yuè had gotten to the action in many years... this time as Empress, standing on top of a lofty gatehouse overlooking the Imperial Square as to the cheers of thousands, she officially declared the First Moon to have arrived.

 

...That was typically the one time each year the average commoner could catch sight of their sovereign.

 

Although tonight the First Moon would cultivate in a lantern festival that even the Palace servants partook in, Empress Yuè had more important plans. She had a very busy day scheduled tomorrow, but inconveniently the greatest and loudest fireworks were always reserved for the final night... this night. The Empress needed to wake extra early the following morning and so she wanted to get in bed right after supper, theoretically giving the mare plenty of time to fall dead asleep before the fireworks had a chance to boom and disrupt this process. A part of Yuè wished she could stay up longer to catch the show, but as empress, she was better than lamenting about such things.

 

And so Yù Yuè, already undressed, was giving the twilight sky and rising full moon one final glance from her balcony before intending to retreat to her luxurious empress-sized bed....

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Through the late night air, Àilóng wistfully circled around high over the cloudtop city of Longri-La. Tonight was the last night of the First Moon, Long Guo's joyous celebration of the new lunar year. Even in the tranquil city of the Long, the celebrations were in full swing. But for the past two weeks, the dragon had spent most of it helping set up rather than partaking in the festivities. Granted, it was a pleasure getting to help the council and the citizens out, but by the time everything was ready, he was far too tired to enjoy any of it! The time he did have 'free', was spent in Dragon's Heart taking care of duties of the Serpent King, which meant even less of a chance to enjoy it. Tonight though? Tonight would be different.

 

It had been some time since Yuè's visit. Time to think, time to pine, time to plan. But the time to do any of that had passed, the time to act was now. With a little snort of smoke and a grin, Àilóng zipped his way off towards Huangjing as swiftly as he could...

 

Which for a dragon was rather swift. Music and merriment filled the air of the Imperial capital, Àilóng was certain tonight would be a perfect chance. Despite the temptation to join in on the dancing and laughter, the King had a goal in mind. The palace, as tightly guarded as it always was, was rather easy for Àilóng to slip into. It was like the guards knew that he was The Serpent King and wouldn't dare try to stop him or something! The Long giggled to himself as he flew up and over towards where he knew Yuè's room to be, landing gently on the balcony. "Surely you don't intend to retire for the evening just yet?" he said breaking the silence of the mare's stride towards her bed.

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  • 3 months later...

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Before Empress Yuè had a chance to take off her earrings and place them in a safe place when the familiar voice of a certain dragon startled her. "Oh my!!" the qilin mare gasped, one hoof concealing her wide open mouth as she turned to face the Serpent King. "À-Ailóng, what are you doing here!?" Didn't he know the proper protocols for visits to the Imperial Palace. It was always basic courtesy for the Palace servants to be informed in advance to make proper preparations. As that stern old Chamberlain reminded his empress on several occasions, the Wise and Noble Dragons won't ever regard Long Guo's sovereign rulers as true equals if the emperors failed to adequately prepare their own home to receive such distinguished visitors.

 

Of course, Àilóng never did strike Yù Yuè as picky on details... but nobody else knew that. What sort of rumors and whispers would fly about with the Serpent King's unannounced appearance? How would this reflect on how others perceive the Dragon Throne? On a more immediately pressing level, the Empress was also concerned that she wouldn't be able to get to sleep as early as she needed. Yuè asked with caution; "Are you quite sure it's... wise to be here right now?"

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That's about what the dragon had expected Yuè's reaction to be. The poor mare had become increasingly worried every passing day with proper this and wise that and protocols and bluh. It wasn't healthy for her! Àilóng wasn't going to let her worry herself stubborn like her advisors and chancellors and chamberlain. "Oh certainly! Remember, the unexpected arrival of a Long is always an auspicious occasion. Especially on a holiday!" he said with a lighthearted giggle. "Speaking of holidays, tonight is the last night of the First Moon. Surely you're not intending to miss out on the festivities?" he already knew the answer, she had intended on it, whether she really wanted to or not. The weight of this crown was slowly snuffing her passionate flame, and he simply couldn't stand it.

 

Àilóng shook his head. "That just won't do! We can't have you missing out on this wonderful occasion. It's a great chance to connect with your people, and to unwind from the stresses of the days past." And it perhaps gave him a great chance to express how he felt for his longtime friend. The Long held out a claw. "Come on, never let a chance to enjoy your life pass you by."

 

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.....What was Àilóng THINKING??? What would Empress Yuè's courtiers say about her if she couldn't get to sleep as planned, and then either chose to either wake up without being refreshed enough to tackle her royal duties or simply sleep in. Oh, they'd quietly mumble to one another that Yuè was never prepared to sit on the Dragon Throne to begin with, silently agreeing that something needed to be done to undo the final error of the mare's father. Even if the Serpent King provided some valid reasoning, he just wasn't considering how things would develop in the long term. In Yuè's life, slip-ups were something she could ill afford.

 

"I... don't know," the qilin mare hesitated, scrambling her hardest to gently let her dear Àilóng down; "It's not like I can-"

 

"WONDERFUL NEWS, YOUR MAJESTY!" The overly giddy voice of the Palace Chamberlain could be heard from the other side of the door leading out of the bedchamber. "The Serpent King himself has been spotted overflying this very palace! EEEHEHEHEHEHEHEEEE!!!!!!"

 

Yuè sighed a soft "Aiyaaa..." before solemnly whispering to her draconic counterpart; "This... is why it's reckless to soar around the Palace as you please." In no way did the Empress want her night to be ruined by what would come next.

 

The Chamberlain prattled on; "I advise we act quickly least the King of the Wise and Noble Long believe we're disrespecting him! Give the word Empress, and we’ll rouse all those layabout servants and put them to work preparing a great banquet in the King’s honor!!!"

 

Another groan and a facehoof from Empress Yuè. Not only was there no hope anymore of getting early sleep in, but she knew Àilóng well enough to know the torture he'd suffer from courtly etiquette in the most stuffiest and pompous form known in all known existence. Yuè also couldn't let her life-long friend bear the guilt of inadvertently ruining the final night of the First Moon for everyone in the Household staff.

 

.....There was only one way out of this disaster, but Yuè needed to act now! "Quickly!" She quietly instructed Àilóng with unquestionable haste; "We must leave now!" Wasting no time, the qilin mare dashed to the balcony and climbed onto the serpent dragon's back when presented with the chance, making sure to keep her grip extra tight. Letting a tiny amount of her fillyhood self slip through her adult shell, Yuè commanded her airworthy mount; “Yip yip, Àilóng!”

 

The oblivious chamberlain meanwhile waited for a response… "Your Majesty.....? ...Are you there.....?"

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Àilóng knew full well what he was doing, and knew full well how the Chamberlain would react. AND knew full well that Yuè would not want to deal with the Chamberlain. The dragon sometimes came across as having his head in the clouds, but was smarter than some may give him credit for. Thus far everything was going as planned. Not that there was really much of a plan! He smiled as Yuè climbed aboard, and even brighter still as she let herself have a moment of play! Tonight may just work out after all!

 

Wiggling almost like a cat, Àilóng soon zipped off and up into the sky as soon as he was sure that the Empress had a firm grip on his back. What kind of date would it be if she fell off midflight!...Not that uh, not that it was a date though. Ahah. Ha....Were the Chamberlain to peek into Yuè's chamber, he'd only catch her and the dragon already halfway gone into the night!

 

"You really need a nicer Chamberlain." the King commented with a little smile over his shoulder as he made the way towards the night's festivities.

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By the ancestors, how good it felt to Yù Yuè to feel the free air blow through her mane once more! These moments were far and few between, but each time the qilin mare's exhilaration managed to rekindle the flames of passion in her heart. Tonight was no exception.

 

From her high vantage point, the Empress could gaze down at the Imperial Capital which she was its ultimate symbol. Currently, the imperial sovereign and her draconic counterpart were overflying Huangjing's Inner Ward. The situation down there was not all that much different from the Palace; small festive congregations here and there, but otherwise subdued and cordial. A short distance ahead was a sea of lights and noise... the Outer Ward and all its commoner population in the midst of celebration. On this final night of the First Moon, the Outer Ward was an absolute zoo both on the streets below and the skies above. Yuè could even spot a few younger Long gliding about in that airspace.

 

"Àilóng, you mustn't ever fault anyone in my service for diligently performing their duties." Empress Yuè tried to calmly defend her chief servant's actions, but it was a pathetic half-attempt. She didn't even bother to disguise a sigh beforehand, very uncharacteristic of her. Honestly, the royal qilin would love few things more than dismissing the Chamberlain who's been a pain in a neck to many people around her. Yet Yuè feared that without a valid enough cause, such an action would be seen by other courtiers that their new empress intended to become a power-hungry monster like Tyrant King Faba of all. And of course, the Chamberlain himself would not appreciate losing face after he had tirelessly spearheaded Yuè's crash-course tutoring in the Art of Ruling in those bewildering first days of her reign.

 

Yuè didn't even have to ask where Àilóng would want to celebrate the climatic lantern festival; she knew her dear Serpent King far too well. As the bustling Outer Ward drew closer, the qilin mare subconsciously clutched her dragon tighter as she anxiously questioned; "Are you absolutely sure we can discreetly navigate Huangjing's streets together with all these crowds?" It wasn't the possibility of being recognized that Yuè feared; most Long Guo citizens would only know their Empress through her emotionless Official Portrait, complete with shimmering Imperial Regalia. Rather, did Àilóng have a plan for spending the night with Yuè that didn't involve getting entangled in ground-level congestion? What if they got separated? And what if someone noticed how awfully familiar a mere qilin was around one of the Wise and Noble Long? Would Àilóng himself be recognized as the King of Longri-La and cause a general mayhem of reverence around him?

 

So many things that could go wrong. Aiyaaaaaaaaa.....

 

---------------

 

“Hmmmph,” the Chamberlain slammed his hooves on the balcony railing as he watched his monarch fly off into the night with the Serpent King; “The Elder Serpents will never respect the Empress if she allows them to summon her like a lowly PET!!!

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The dragon knew that tone. She was trying to reprimand him but it was blatantly obvious that her heart just wasn't in it. She obviously didn't like the Chamberlain, and even the little good that he did do doesn't make up for his frankly terrible attitude. "Of course, forgive my impudence, Empress." Àilóng teased gently as they flew along. Off and away over and past the Outer Ward and towards the entrance of the city. It was probably more than a touch confusing for Yuè as Àilóng made a landing, not within Huangjing, but just outside the city in a small secluded clearing by the trees. "First stop! Heheh. Yes I'm absolutely certain. Not like this though, hang on. Hop off please~"


Once Yuè was clear of the dragon's back, Àilóng blew a small ring of smoke into the air. That ring lingered and shimmered, opening a small little pocket into...somewhere that the king reached into. "Surprising to most, I do sometimes think things through." he gave Yuè a wink as he withdrew a necklace from the portal and held it up. It wasn't quite clear at first glance just what the necklace was, which was likely the point, but somepony like Yuè would recognize the Long Pearl nestled in it. "It's not often things like this see use in Longri-la, but they can come in handy." Àilóng draped the necklace around his neck and gave the pearl a little rub. There was a flash light and a thick cloud of smoke that covered where the dragon stood. "Gosh this is a bit over dramatic." he said on the other side of the obscuring cloud. It wasn't but a few moments later that the cloud began to disperse.


Once the smoke cleared, Yuè would be met with a surprising sight. Where once stood the long slender form of the Serpent King was a handsome Longma with the same colouration and that same kind smile on his face. "There we go, that should throw anyone off!" Àilóng stepped over and gently let Yuè's mane down. "And thaaat should work for you! Nobody will suspect a thing ah?"

 

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Àilóng was flying past the city limits? Hmmm... he probably had his reasons for coming to this secluded spot first. With those thoughts in mind, Yù Yuè initially seemed rather nonplussed as she dismounted and watched Àilóng do feats of dragon breath and summon Long Pearls as if they were just a mundane part of her daily routine. Granted, the qilin mare HAD been fostered among the Serpent Dragons, so of course she found none of this particularly shocking. At least, not at first.

 

Yuè assumed that Àilóng would go for something like the Breath of Change; dragons using pearls for shapeshifting was not unheard of. As the vapors dissipated, the qilin mare the form into which her counterpart transformed to and...

 

.....

 

Oh my.

 

Who Àilóng was now heavily contradicted with Yuè's lifelong perception of him. Instead of the playful mischief-making cousin figure she's always known, there stood a longma stallion with the bearing of a, forgive the vulgarism, a stud. Yuè stared with eyes agape and cheeks burning red, unable to process this new vision of Àilóng. The young mare's blushing only intensified as the drake stallion trotted over to undo her hair. That had almost been enough to cause spontaneous combustion.

 

"Errr, right," a reeling Yuè answered the longma's question, forcing her mind to remember the sweetheart dragon Àilóng really was. But while that process went on, the qilin couldn't help but inquisitively caress the other's cheek, then the scales underneath his chin, and finally the stallion's cyan mane, curious to feel how effective the dragon's magical transformation was. "You... pass for a longma quite well."

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Àilóng had anticipated some sort of reaction from Yuè, but not one quite like this. Truthfully he had been expecting a polite chuckle and a jest or two. But this was certainly welcome. When the mare laid hoof on his cheek and chin, and yes even his mane, it all felt just as it should be. The fur was soft, the scales were smooth, and his mane was silky. A smile spread across the transformed dragon as his cheeks tinged a light pink from a blushing of his own...Welcome indeed. He would be happy just to stay like this with her the rest of the evening but well, he stole her from the castle to have fun and what sort of fun was just standing around huh?

 

The King chuckled and gave Yuè's cheek a rub in kind. "Thank you, I like to think I do fairly good work when I put my mind to it. Shall we make our way? There's so much to do this evening, and I wish to share all that I can with you." Àilóng would grin and motion for his friend to follow along beside him. The festivities, despite the lateness of the evening, were still in full swing. Peddlers selling their festive wares, games still drawing in foal and adult alike for a chance at knickknacks and trinkets, food vendors cooking up a wonderful smelling storm, and all around the city the hustle and bustle of the celebrations were back dropped by all kinds of music. "Where shall we begin?"

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Sensory overload, here we go! Long accustomed to the orderly halls of monasteries and palaces, Yù Yuè experienced much difficulty just even trying to process the bustling scene around her. There were throngs and stalls as far as the eye could see, and this was just the far end of the Imperial Avenue! And with no guards or servants around the incognito Empress, the royal qilin felt a peculiar sense of vulnerability she never felt before. One mare — virtually alone in a sea of thousands — nothing more than a small insignificant fish in a pond too large for any lone being to make any noticeable ripples.

 

Yuè grew tense, cognizant of the fact that inattentiveness on her part could potentially lead to getting lost in the crowd's hustle and bustle, which would put a rather large damper on this night the young mare was supposed to spend with her dear friend. Under the light of the First Moon, even an empress could be helpless in the face of a mighty current.

 

.....

 

Ah, but was that not what the Balance of Nature was all about? Life was a current best served by flowing with it; such is the primary teaching of the Harmonious Path. Yuè's spiritual training kicked in, and she momentarily detached herself from her surroundings as the qilin exercised her breathing. Deep... calming... breaths. Let yourself flow with the Current- wait, was that smell what Yuè thought it was? Were those... Fire Flakes?

 

Hmmm, apparently that is where the current will take Yuè first.

 

"This way Àilóng!" she beckoned, cleansed of anxiety, as she daftly maneuvered through the crowd in the direction of a cherished smell from her Huangjing foalhood.....

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Yuè was nervous, it was plainly clear to the dragon. He had known her for far to long to expect her to be completely calm in the face of such a sudden tumultuous evening. So much happening at once everywhere, it was understandable that she was overwhelmed at first. But he was quite happy to see she took a moment to breath, relax, and center herself. Because really, if she wanted to draw attention, the best way to do that would be to have a panic attack, and neither of them wanted that.


What did surprise Àilóng momentarily however was how her mood seemed to do a complete one-eighty as she excitedly beckoned the disguised serpent to follow her! And so he did through the miniature crowd of people over to...Ah, Fire Flakes! Of course, that certainly was to be expected. There was rarely an inner foal that could resist the call of Fire Flakes, the King was guilty of it for more than a number of foods. Of course he hadn't had his spirits crushed by a stifling title nearly as bad as Yuè...But that was neither here nor there. Not missing a beat, the 'stallion' stepped up to the stand and paid for an extra-large serving for them to share, withdrawing the fund from a pouch at his side that was...that was there before right? Regardless, he paid for food and stepped over to his friend with a smile. "Here, I figured one this size to share would be more filling over one smaller for each of us."

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...So maybe Àilóng went a little overboard with purchasing an extra-large order of Flamin Fire Flakes. Then again, just because Àilóng no longer appeared as a dragon didn't mean he longer lacked the appetite of one either. Either way, Yuè gave her friend a flawless smile to show her gratitude before munching on her cherished snack... making sure she didn't come off as too much of a barbarian slob, of course.

 

"Mmmmmmmmmm, these flakes are perfect." By that, the content qilin mare meant that these particular Fire Flakes were made with a ridonkulous amount of chili spices. Not too long ago when her sworn sister Mei visited the Imperial Palace, she told the Empress a story about how one time smoke billowed out of her deerest mate's mouth and ears when he inadvertently consumed too much chili sauce. Not even a glass of water could cool that poor caribou's inwards.

 

But what was absurdly hot and spicy for the average being's palate was pure bliss for Yuè, who welcomed the burst of heat and flavor on her tongue. "This brings me back," she took a break from eating to reminisce; "I remember long ago when my sworn sister and I would venture all by ourselves to the Outer Ward and buy treats like these, and eat them without a care in the world....."

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It warmed Àilóng's heart to see Yuè smile! Doubly so when he was part of the source of that happiness. Too much of her time was forced into that placid stoic facade that she felt an empress needed to be to garner respect. She needed time to be able to feel like a normal qilin now and again, time to step away from her worries and just be Yuè again!


The dragon took a bit of the Fire Flakes as he listened to his friend's story. YEP those were hot alright! Àilóng wasn't unaccustomed to spicy foods by any means, though his favourite leaned more to sweets and savouries. Idly he lead the way over to an unoccupied bench where the two could sit and enjoy the meal sized portion of snacks without clogging up the walkway while they did. "Sworn sister...Mei right? I don't think I ever had the pleasure of meeting her." Àilóng replied between bites. "Though, if you would enjoy it, I'd be happy to bring you treats to the palace now and then. Or sneak you out for some."

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Against all probability, Àilóng managed to find an unoccupied bench for he and Yù Yuè to sit on. Nodding to confirm her companion got Mei's name right, the qilin took another handful of flakes as Àilóng offered to provide further treats from outside the Imperial Palace. Yuè swallowed her food; "Well, actually-" Yes, that was her first instinct; to remind her friend that as Empress, she could ask her own personal palace chef to prepare anything her heart desired. But the qilin quickly corrected herself; letting Àilóng feel appreciated required her to think like Yuè the young mare instead of Yuè, Heavenly Daughter of Dragons.

 

"...That would mean very much to me." A warm smile and heartfelt glance at the supposed longma's direction accompanied her words, but then Yuè turned away with thoughts of mischief. "I've always longed to taste delicacies freshly made from the farthest reaches of the world..." An utterly unreasonable request to make of 99% of sentient beings, but Yuè has seen serpent dragons in flight... ridden on at least two of them! For Àilóng, such a world-spanning odyssey would be but a minor inconvenience of a day trip; a jest Yuè didn't seriously wish the Serpent King to continuously go through anyway.....

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This was all going...amazingly well! Àilóng hadn't really expected her to be able to let go of the Empress mentality so easily, even if it was just for a night. But perhaps tonight was one full of surprises. The disguised serpent returned Yuè smile with a bright grin of his own. He'd probably end up getting an earful from someone back in Longri-la for all this kerfuffle, but it was worth it to see her smile. Genuinely smile, not a painted on one for the sake of the crown.

 

"I can do that." he replied in complete seriousness before taking another bite of the Fire Flakes. Traveling hither and yon to find great meals to bring to the mare he loved? Plus the icing on the cake of getting to try food from around the world too to find the best delicacies for her? Who could turn THAT down? "I'll start tomorrow. I hear Polyneighsa has some wonderful dishes. Perhaps the day after I can stop by Germaney." the king tapped his chin in thought. There were quite a few places to choose from, where would he even begin!

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  • 3 weeks later...

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...Of course, Àilóng would be the sort of dragon who'd weave a half-serious plea into reality. Yuè wouldn't have batted an eye over the promise of weekly offerings of exotic foods, but daily visits? That truly gave the qilin mare a reason to ponder. Was her friend looking for excuses to get away from Longri-La? Or... did Àilóng really badly wanted to see the mare as often as he could? But wasn't that sort of behavior limited to lovesick adolescents who were only just discovering the power of romantic attraction?

 

Àilóng didn't think of Yuè in that sort of way... did he? Had he become yet another being who had fallen for the charms of an empress?

 

Not being quite sure what to think yet had left Yuè's face blushing with the passion of a thousand suns. Maybe if she pretended that Àilóng merely wanted reprieves from his kingly duties... "Oh, but surely the Wise and Noble Long would start questioning why their king is making extended daily journeys beyond the Abode of the Ancients." The qilin recomposed herself to smirk with impish purpose; "What would Auntie Yuchou have to say about that, hmmm?" Ah yes, bringing up the specter of the Matron was enough to remind Yuè that the handsome stallion at her side was no other than dragon she'd held dear for many years.....

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hmm. That is a good point and an even better question. Just what would Auntie say about this. Àilóng took another bite of the Fire Flakes as he contemplated. This was not a matter of the country though, it was a matter of the heart. It was a matter of helping bring the world to a friend who hadn't the time to see it herself. The disguised dragon shook his head and swallowed his food. "It would be presumptuous of me to assume the Matron's thoughts on the matter one way or the other." Two could play at the impish game. Though he wasn't as constrained by them as he was sure that Yuè felt, he still knew those courtly manner and regal attitude.
 

"And besides, it's not as though I cannot finish my Kingly duties before I take a trip. Or even take care of it before they begin for the day in case of breakfast." Àilóng grinned and leaned against a foreleg he let rest upon the table. "And besides, it'd be worth it to make you smile! Speaking of, where shall we head off to next? I'm sure there's loads of activities you've been itching to take part in." he motioned dramatically around at the festival. Food of course was great an all, but the First Moon always had so so much to offer!

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  • 9 months later...

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Yù Yuè scanned her surroundings, checking to see which else she and Àilóng could do in the side plaza they were at. Over on the far side, she noticed numerous small groupings of outsider creatures — tourists from other lands who’ve come to experience the First Moon celebration for themselves — congregating around what appeared to be festively-decorated workshop tables. A few more seconds of spectating suggested that the creatures were assembling lanterns, under the guidance of friendly locals.


“Oh my,” it dawned on Yuè; “I almost forgot the sky lanterns are launched at midnight!” The qilin mare glanced towards her companion; “Nearly everyone else would have had a head start already.” To a traditionally-minded Long Sun, it was almost sacrilege to bask in the full light of the First Moon without crafting their own sky lantern.....

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Chuckling softly, Àilóng would raise up to his hooves. He wasn't terribly surprised that his little comment either went over Yuè's head or was simply brushed off as worded wrong. Whatever the case may be, the disguised dragon was pleased with his friend's choice of their next activity. Truth be told, this was the one he had been looking forward too all night, but he had been so enraptured by the Empress' company that the passing of the time had all but been a blur.
 

With an offered hoof and a smile, Àilóng would seek to help the mare up to hers. "Well, we better not waste time then! If we help one another I'm sure we can have them built and ready to fly before it's too late. Perhaps we can make one together as well?" smile growing into a kind grin, the glamoured king would lead Yuè towards the tables.

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Humoring Àilóng, Yù Yuè allowed herself to be led by her companion over to the tables. The qilin blushed at the glamored stallion’s question; normally such a cooperative activity by two unrelated individuals wasn’t done unless there hearts were... especially entwined. Maybe the dragon DID possess deeper feelings for the young mare afterall.


Yuè would dwell on the ramifications (and question Àilóng on the matter) later; right now she had a sky lantern to focus on! While the royal qilin hadn’t reveled in Huangjing’s streets for years, lantern making had been a festive activity that Yuè has continuously partaken in along with her fellow students back at Fenghuang Monastery. Yuè still remembered the ancient art, but what of the King of Longri-La?


Taking careful notice of Àilóng’s comfortableness with the lantern construction materials, Yuè asked; “How do the Wise and Noble Dragons of the Abode mark the occasion of the First Moon, if I may ask?” Although the royal qilin had often been brought to Longri-La in her early youth, she had never been there for the dawn of the new year. Traditionally, Long Sun always spent the holidays with their own families.....

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  • 1 month later...

Taking a moment to step up to the supplies, Àilóng would exchange a few pleasantries with the stall's owner before returning to Yuè's side with a smile, laying them out on the table before them. Vibrant reds and purples were apparently going to be used with the materials the disguised dragon had chosen, as well as a bit of yellow to accentuate. "Oh you know you're free to ask anything of me, Yuè." he'd reply with a smile as he started into his part of the work. "Truth be told it is much like your own celebrations! Even some of the stuffiest amongst us find themselves loosening up and partaking in dances and games with their friends and neighbors. Our homes are decorated with colourful lanterns and much time is spent together fixing things like yuanxiao, fagao, or yusheng." he couldn't help but to lick his lips a little and laugh. The food was usually the best part of these celebrations, with the mare at his side that was easily beaten.

 

"But what of you and yours? How does the palace celebrate this most wonderful of occasions?" Àilóng asked with a tilt of his head. A large part of him assumed that his poor friend barely got a moment to even think about the holiday, let alone celebrate it, but knowing her brother as well as he does the bigger part of him was certain she at least had a little time to indulge in some 'frivolity'.

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Not surprisingly, Yù Yuè favored red as the base color for her lantern. As a qilin who aligned herself with Fire, it was the obvious choice. Perhaps she should have expected that the First Moon for Serpent Dragons did not vary too considerably from how it’s observed by Long Sun, the Elder Serpents being the source of many traditions to begin with.


As for how things were done in the Imperial Palace? “You’ll be pleased to know that the First Moon is also an occasion for celebration at the Palace. The kitchens have been working non-stop for the last two weeks, cooking up ample dumplings for the servants each night. Right now, they should be finishing up with their own paper lanterns.....”

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  • 3 months later...

Àilóng would nod softly as he worked together with his dear friend to piece together the sky lantern. He had to wonder if she knew how he felt. What something like this meant to him. Or if she thought it a simple kindness from one royal to another. Saying it aloud would be so easy, yet what could come of it? Would it be laughter? Dismissal? Disbelief? Disappointment?
 

"And what of you, Yuè? How do you celebrate?" it couldn't be easy for the Empress to celebrate freely, he was sure. What with how difficult it was to even get her to sneak out with him this evening. Had it not been for the nosy Chancellor, would she have? As he pondered this, the glamoured dragon's hoof met Yuè's and he would turn his head away from the nearly completed lantern to gaze into her eyes.

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  • 4 weeks later...

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Yù Yuè paused for a moment as she contemplated how to answer Àilóng’s question. The qilin mare knew the long would chastise her (but probably only in a playful way) if she revealed the truth: that she hardly did anything at all to celebrate the occasion. If only Yuè had one grain of truth she could cling to which could be spun as festive.....


After several moments, something DID come to Yuè’s mind. “...I make a habit of writing my mother each year during the First Moon. Not just standard pleasantries either; I always compose a verse of poetry for her to read.” It had been one of many subjects the qilin learned during her spiritual training at Fenghuang Monastery. “...My work is but a pale imitation of the Great Masters, but my mother enjoys my compositions nonetheless.”


Yuè noticed Àilóng’s hoof coming in contact with her own, but she made no effort to move it away. “Although we live far apart, my mother and I are keenly aware that when you strip away the festivities and the clamor..." Yuè’s gaze finally turned towards her counterpart; “The First Moon is, at its very heart, a time meant to express how you cherish your loved ones.....”

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