There was something about the way his father said it—despite the even composure he had been able to keep until then, the slightly exasperated tone made him snort and toss his head.
"Zhenxun," This time there was more control behind it, a tightening of the reins that forced him to meet those blue eyes, "There is no harm in loving the wild flowers of spring, but you must accept that for every spring, a winter will soon follow."
Again he snorted. "I know very well, father, that for every spring must come a winter, but—"
"—do you, Zhenxun?" It was only then did the older male take a step forward, circling around his remaining son. "You act as id I have forbidden you a love of wildflowers. I have not, Zhenxun. But if you persist in loving a single blossom, you only drive yourself to ruin. I understand your currents run deep and strong, but—"
"—do you, father?" It was his turn to interrupt now. "Do you understand? You—and all the rest—compare loving a single man like loving a single flower. Both are fleeting, yes, I understand. But a man is more than just a fragrance, or a color, or a shape of the petal, a man—"
"—is what, Zhenxun? Please, tell me what makes your plum blossom brighter than all the rest."
It was a direct challenge, and he knew it. Pointedly looking away, he shook his head to fluff his 'mane.' "A good heart, an inspiration. Strong, honest hands. There is poetry in his spirit that I have never seen before, and—"
His father didn't even need to speak: he just held up a hand and shook his own head slowly. "You have never seen such before solely because you are young, Zhenxun. You think you are the only one who has been taken with the beauty of a single blossom? But as unique as you think it is, there are hundreds of flowers just like it." Jerking his hand, he made sure his child stayed silent. "There are countless men with strong, honest hands and poetry in their spirits. Mortal things make up for their fleetingness with an intensity of beauty, Zhenxun. Just like wildflowers. —and! Just as wildflowers, no one is unique."
As if burned, Xun jerked back. Chin pressed against his own shoulder, he snorted. "You say that now, father, but only because you have never known a man. If you did—"
"—and if I got to know a single blossom on a tree, it too would seem terribly singular." Those long, white whiskers twitched at the tips. "That does not make it so."
"Everything is singular—nothing is singular. Isn't that so, father? We are all connected, all separate; all the same, all unique." The passion in his words grew with every syllable, calm but forceful. "I am merely celebrating the singularity of one, finding the joy—"
"Do not delude yourself like that, Zhenxun." Despite himself, it was when his father's voice dipped so low that he stopped cold. "If that was so, you would not have mourned his passing as you would have known him. Bai Huan was a good man, yes, but you would not have been so keen to drown in the company of another like him, as he would have been too singular."
It was unbecoming and insolent, but Xun could not stop the hiss through his teeth had he wanted to. "There is no living thing like my Huan—"
"—he was not yours to keep and to hold, Zhenxun—"
"—and! And while other men may share strong hands with him, other men might sing with poetry, none shall have it as he did. None! A great beauty was lost, as a star going out. Only a blind catfish would see fit not to mourn the loss of that light, father. You! You are too distant, even if I am too close. I rather that fate, to know beauty personally and be moved by it, even if I am brought to ruin by it. It is better than only seeing snow while looking across a field of wildflowers!"
A moment of tense silence passed between them, and Xun puffed out his chest in victory. With a final toss of his head, he spun to leave—
"... Zhenxun. You are still blinded by the pain from that arrow, and the kindness of the good man that followed." The old male sighed sadly as his child stopped still as stone. "We are in the debt of Bai Huan for your life. We have not forgotten. But he has no descendants, and while a good man... Zhenxun. You will destroy yourself, believing that some grand act of beauty. He was a good man, Zhenxun. It is a lovely thing, but not worth this devotion. A wildflower has no use for it."
Slowly, stiffly, Xun shook his head. "You are mistaken, father. Wildflowers grow in sunlight. And if it blinds me, so be it." Throwing one glance over his shoulder, he huffed. "It is you who are still blinded by the pain of that arrow, father, not I. I am not Jing."
And with that, he was gone.
With one, long, slow breath, the old beast in man's skin sighed. "No, my child. You are not Zhenjing." He shook his head and turned. "You are much worse."
Alternate Title: That Thing You Do
Changxue is Xun's father. He is a very old creature, and has seen the rise and fall of empires. He is from a time that remembers dragons, and he watched his middle child grow old and die of his own volition.
He worries about his youngest child, rather a lot. An immortal beast is not meant to love a single, mortal thing.
Some backstory (if in a sideways way) can be found here: Longma.