Chapter Thirty Four:
Cast of Appearing Characters:
Ning Fung - Jackie Lui Chung Yin
So Yee Ha Sharon Chan Man Chi
Old Man Po - Paul Chun Pui
A dark shifty figure glided cautiously from tree to tree, carefully turning his head back every now and then to check for any stalkers. He wrapped his hands around the tree trunks and shielded his body with a long black cloak like an oversized bat, only moving when he felt safe. The whole process took two hours before he arrived safely at his destination. The dark figure somersaulted accurately in a perfect horizontal plane into a dark cave. As he passed by, he could see that the traps set on the roof and floor of the caves had been untouched. He landed on safe ground and proceeded on foot to the other side of the mountain under cover.
There were a few roughly built straw huts with dim candlelight emitting from its windows. A small crack of moonlight shone from a small crevice in the rocky roof, gently illuminating the surroundings with a gentle comforting glow. A small freshwater stream that flowed quietly through the mountain, leaving a flow of tiny crystals that reflected the moonlight to lit up the hollow hideout within the mountain. Then a loud scream disturbed the tranquil setting and the dark figure quickly ran towards the hut where the scream originated from.
A young dishevelled woman was being restrained by fabric straps at her four limbs. She was tugging frantically at her restraints and made repeated bloodcurdling howls and incoherent screams at her captor, who was crouched down beside her, trying to keep her down.
The dark figure watched them at the entrance. He tossed some paper packages of dried medicine onto the table. How is she? he asked coolly. When the woman saw him in the room, she screamed even more in both pain and anguish. Her bloodshot eyes were filled with hatred and bitterness as they glared at the man in the doorway.
The older man crouched low on the ground answered him placidly. She is in pain. She passed the last remaining bits of the dead foetus last night. But the whole process took too long and her womb is inflamed. It is like an agonizing furnace from within. If she took my prescribed medicine, she would be fine within the month. But she wont take my medicine and she wont consume any food. She had suffered great blood loss from the arrow wound and the miscarriage. Her body is getting weaker by the moment, not to mention the impact of the fever form the infection of her womb. If she goes on like this, I am afraid she will join her dead child!
He scooped up the rice that had been spilt onto the dirt floor and threw it outside the hut. He rubbed the back of his right hand where he had been bitten. There were fresh bite marks still visible on the skin.
Give me back my child, you damned eunuch! hollered So Yee Ha in grief. Her outstretched fingers clawed wildly at the younger man and if not for her restraints, would have rushed over and scratched his eyes out.
The man was no other than the assassin who pursued them at the wooden bridge. He had spared her life and brought her to the care of this physician hidden in the depths of the mountains outside Beijing. Her arrow wound was cleaned and treated but the stress and tension from the incidents was too much for her and her unborn child to handle. She lost the child that very same night. If not for the excellent care of the physician, she too would have left the world.
You evil eunuch! You monster! she shrieked, You killed my child! I hate you! And she yanked at the restraints violently like a woman possessed by an evil spirit.
I am not a eunuch! the assassin explained cooly without emotion, I am an outside agent of the Western Faction.
I dont care! she yelled at the top of her voice. Get away from me! I hate you! I hate you! And with sudden burst of strength fuled by her hatred, she broke free from her fabric restraints and pushed over the crouching physician. In a state of frenzied madness, she clambered off the bed and charged aggressively at the assassin who caught around the waist with an arm and flung her back onto the bed.
Seeing a glimmer of gold next to her on the bed, she immediately grabbed it and thrust it at the assassins head. With a slick flick of his hand, he snatched the golden hairpin out of her hand.
Helpless at the loss of her weapon, she clawed at him wildly, You lowlife! How dare you take my hairpin from me? That hairpin is a gift from the Emperor himself! How dare you? Give it back or I will have your head!
Running out of patience, the assassin pulled her up by the hair and hollered back at her. Listen here, you brat! All men have a threshold for tolerance. You just crossed mine! I have had enough of you! You see, I dont have to put up with you! Neither does Old Man Po here! The older man shook his head and stepped out of the hut.
So Yee Ha pushed him away but he effortlessly pinned her down against the bed with his forearm aginst her neck. She immediately became silent with the pressure on her trachea. The assassin pushed his face against her, the both just barely an inch apart, and stared her directly in the eye and continued, I could have just shook you off me at the ravine and let you fall to your death! I could have left you lying on the ground and let you bleed to death! But I didnt. And Old Man Po saved your life! We could have sold to a brothel and have a few extra coins for some cheap wine, but we chose to feed you and keep you alive at our own expense! So show some gratitude and shut the hell up! And he got off her.
So Yee Ha panted heavily for a few moments before jumping up and clawing him at the shoulders. The assassin caught her wrists with ease and sat her back down. I hate you! I hate you! she muttered crazily over and over again.
The assassin pinned her to the bed again and roared at her. You want to hate? Then I will give you something to hate! You know your husband, the Emperor? Does he care about you or your child? No! He has publically rejected you! He removed your status and demoted you to a mere common woman! He has given orders for his men to kill you if they find you! Did you know that? Did you?
So Yee Ha puffed for air as she shook her head violently muttering, That bastard! I will kill him! Ill kill him!
The assassin continued. You know your family? All were executed yesterday! It is all over the imperial proclamations. They were beheaded yesterday because the Emperor thinks that you have dishonoured him! Word has spread that you have eloped with that intruder! Everyone out there believes that you are a despicable scarlet woman!
No! No! It is not possible! You lie! You lie! Tears of wretchedness streamed her face as she was confronted with the truth. She had left her family to pursue a life of honour and splendour, hoping that one day she would return to her hometown with riches and glory to her clan. She would be greeted with smiling faces and tears of joy from her parents. Now that would never happen. She would never see them again. Even if she managed to return to her hometown, she would not be welcomed. She might even be stoned to death.
The assassin released her hands and sat up pointing a finger at the exit. If you want to leave, then leave. I wont stop you - nor will Old Man Po. Step outside this sanctuary and see how long it takes for the Brocade-Clad Guards scouting the mountains to find you and kill you! You want to try that?
He pulled So Yee Ha to sit up again. She had stopped screaming and kicking. She had a vacant look in her eyes. The assassin thrust a spoonful of rice at her mouth. She immediately snapped out of her trance and knocked it away. She then cowered in the corner of the bed, staring intensely at him through the untidy hair over her face without a word.
The assassin leaned closer to her, If you want to die, fine! No one will pity you! Your husband will even rejoice at your death! And remember my name! My name is Ning Fung! I caused your baby to miscarry! If you want to take revenge on me, then you must eat and keep eating! If not, then starve yourself to death! Why do I care? Just another corpse I have to bury!
So Yee Ha stared at him with vacant eyes, deep in thought. Why should she die for faults that were not her own? Why should she die for no reason? She was still alive. All the people who caused her miscarriage were still alive! Lady Fung! The Emperor! Those Western Faction agents! Ning Fung! The killer of her child was seated right before her. But she had no strength to injure him now. So she must eat.
Ning Fung shoved another spoonful of food at her and this time; she opened her mouth and swallowed. She snatched the bowl from the man and pushed him away, gobbling down the contents as she glared at him with hatred and intensity. He left her eating by herself and joined Old Man Po outside on some low stools.
Old Man Po handed him a pipe which he declined. It has been years, hasnt it? I havent tasted the air outside of this cave for at least five years!
Ning Fung unhooked his sword from his belt as he straightened out his legs. It was as if a heavy weight had been lifted from him. Old Man Po, have you ever wanted to go back outside?
The older man shook his head with a bitter laugh. Why would I want to venture out there again and strive to survive when I can sit just here and get my supplies brought to me by an idiot like you? And I dont even have to pay for it!
Ning Fung smiled in response and nodded. That is true! The outside world is not an ideal place!
Old Man Po poked him in the shoulder with the end of his pipe. I have to say to you, young man! You have a strange way of dealing with women! he chuckled. I tried cooing and pacifying her for eternity and all I get are bite marks and scratch marks! She's nuts!"
Ning Fung took a swig of alcohol from a bottle nearby and sighed deeply. Everyone needs something to be obsessed about. That is how we get through hardships. Once we have a goal, no matter whether it is constructive or destructive, at least it keeps us going!
He glanced inside at So Yee Ha who was still wolfing down her meal. He casually twirled the golden hairpin around his fingers , watching the gleaming red gem sitting at the middle of the jasmine flower design twinkle its many surfaces caught the light at different angles.
Why did you save her? asked the old man curiously. Seriously, if anyone finds out that you have secretly hidden her, you are worse than dead meat!
Ning Fung shrugged his shoulders casually. Maybe even he himself did know the answer. Well, I have succesfully kept you hidden all these years and gained myself a free physician at beck and call! Maybe I get lucky and get a free maid of that wild cat! He quickly pocketed the hairpin in his belt.
Old Man Po chewed on the end of his pipe and chuckled, Good luck taming that wild cat! Shes full of fire, that one!
Ning Fung smiled and turned his head to Old Man Po who inhaled the smoke from the pipe and blew out a column of white smoke from his open mouth. What keeps you going, Old Man? Destructive or constructive obsession?
The physician blew on the dissipating smoke as it disappeared into the air. Destructive! I want revenge! I want my enemy to lose everything he possesses now because that would be more painful than death! Taking in another breath from the pipe, he asked his companion, How about you? What are you obsessed about? Constructive or destructive? The white smoke escaped from his mouth as he talked.
Ning Fung swivelled the neck of the wine bottle in a circular motion between his fingers. He thought about the question for a while before declaring, Constructive! I just want to live! And I will do anything to keep things that way!
Sorry, took a long break from writing due to work stuff! Got promoted and endd up a whole lot of extra stuff to attend to! Work is getting a bit now that all senior staff are back from maternity leave. Will update when I can. Just want to finish my story!
"Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self."
Cast of Appearing Characters:
Yeung Ming Hung Kenneth Ma Kwok Ming
Suen Nga Yin - Natalie Tong Sze Wing
A lone horse sped over the dusty roads with a magnificent plume of yellow trailing from his back to mark its journey across the arid terrain. The sun shone brilliantly on the shimmering yellow sands and the random rock formations glowed red to guide the riders to their destination. White clouds materialized into millions of strange shapes as they were driven across the clear azure skies, changing rapidly transforming within minutes to confuse its observers. But the two riders did not even take a look at the magnificent skies as they carried on their silent journey.
Yeung Ming Hung broke the silence that had been continuing for the past seven hours already. You hungry, my Lady? Suen Nga Yin shook her head without looking back.
Even though they were along together most of the time, Suen Nga Yin and Yeung Ming Hung did not speak much to each other unless it was necessary. Suen Nga Yin was true to her word that she did not need anyone to take of her. Surprisingly, she was more independent and alert than what Yeung Ming Hung expected of her. She was always up and ready when he was in the mornings and she did not complain much about the food or accommodations that were in no way fitting for an imperial concubine. But the embarrassing incident that occurred days earlier remained deeply imprinted into their minds and the two barely looked each other in the eye. Only in the past day did they begin to strike up a brief conservation over meals.
Yeung Ming Hung tried his best to alleviate the tension by creating topics, even if it ended up with him talking to thin air. We should arrive in the army barracks within the hour, my Lady! At his time of the day, my uncle should be supervising the specialized training that goes on in the desert barracks. Suen Nga Yin nodded silently.
Pointing in the distance, he exclaimed, You see that yellow barrier over the hill that looks like a long rock? You would have never seen anything like it, My Lady! It a remnant of the Great Wall that was built during the Warring States to prevent invasion from the Huns! It looks very different the newly constructed parts we passed by about an hour ago. The solid walls have eroded under the pressure of the sandstorms after so many centuries and you can even some holes that have formed!
Suen Nga Yin took a look in the direction of the sandy yellow mass and nodded. The once strong barricade that withheld attacks from the neighbouring hostile ethnic tribes now stood crumbling and desolate with odd tufts of grass sprouting from its cavities. No matter how great the structure, it cannot not withstand the sands of time.
The sight of this familiar structure excited Yeung Ming Hung as if he had just seen an old friend. I used to play hide and seek there when I was a child. There were endless hiding places across the wall and not even Uncle could find us at times!
Suen Nga Yin turned her head and asked, Did you play with So Sum and Wan Sheung?
Yeung Ming Hung paused for a moment at her sudden response, and then replied, Yes, my Lady. With both of them and my brother, Ming Ho! We trained together as children and played together when my Uncles back was turned!
Suen Nga Yin smiled faintly. When I was young, my friends and I played near the sea. My father owned a large ship that I was allowed to take out to sea with its crew whenever I wanted. I loved it when the salty sea breeze blew across my face. It was so refreshing! Yeung Ming Hung suddenly raised his arm to shelter her face as a gust of dry desert wind pelted them with a spray of warm sand.
Yeung Ming Hung blinked the sand out of his eyelashes as he asked, So, how did a cultured and sheltered lady like yourself learn martial arts?
Suen Nga Yin turned her head around and the ends of her long plaits flew freely into the air. She smiled sweetly at him. So you finally dare to ask?
Yeung Ming Hung remained silent. He had wanted to ask her the question since the day he discovered she knew martial arts but it was never the right moment. Her martial arts were not that highly skilled but her stances and choice of weapon were peculiar and rare.
Suen Nga Yin smiled again as she reminisced the past. I am cultured but not sheltered! My parents had no control over me since I could walk and I used to run amok in the mountains. It usually took the servants to find me. But one day when I was three, I got lost and the servants could not find me after sunset. Luckily, Master found me and brought me home. Master is a mysterious martial artist that roams the wulin. She took an instant liking to me and accepted me as her disciple that night. My father was terrified her and dared not refuse when she insisted that my feet were to remain unbound. So since then, I was secretly trained by my Master whenever she passed through Zhejiang which was about once or twice per year so my martial arts progress is slow.
So who is your Master and what is her origin, Lady Suen? asked Yeung Ming Hung inquisitively.
Suen Nga Yin threw her head back and exclaimed, Your guess is as good as mine! She has a secretive and temperamental personality and wont let anyone know her name. I once asked her about her home and she threw into a rage, nearly breaking the whole room apart. I never asked her again. Are all martial arts experts moody like that?
Yeung Ming Hung thought hard before responding. Not really. Uncle is strict and harsh with us when teaching us martial arts, but most of the time, he acts like the average normal person. I lost my both parents when I was five and my uncle raised me and Ming Ho by himself! He is the only family that we have left!
Suen Nga Yin gave a deep sigh that immediately reminded him that her family had just been executed. I am sorry, my Lady! I did not mean to gouge at your wounds.
A fact is a fact. What has already happened cannot be undone! Even if you avoid mentioning it, it still is a fact that my family has been executed because of me! She bit her lip to hold back her tears.
Yeung Ming Hung hung his head low in guilt. It is my fault, my Lady. If it had not been for me, the Emperor would have not been misunderstood you! I should have not been so rash to take both you and Lady So as hostages from the Forbidden City without considering your honours! I owe you two for the rest of my life!
Suen Nga Yin comforted him with her words. Dont be silly! It is not your fault. The Emperor is a heartless man! And she said those last words with extreme bitterness as she thought of her husband who was probably frolicking with other imperial concubines at this very moment. How could he order the execution of her family despite the time they shared together?
Yeung Ming Hung instinctively leapt to the Emperors defence. How can you say that, my Lady? The Emperor is only temporarily blinded by the deviousness of Lau Gan! Once we rid his ear of that dreaded eunuchs slanderous words, he will soon see the light and ask for your return!
But she seemed even more infuriated by his words. Turning around to look at him, she shouted, Would you please stop calling me my Lady? I am no longer an imperial concubine! He officially proclaimed it to the whole world already! I am now only a lowly fugitive! From now on, just call me Nga Yin!
Yeung Ming Hung bowed his head respectfully as he answered, My Lady! Your status will be resumed when the Emperor is awakened to the truth. I dare not call you by your name. You will always be Lady Suen to me!
Suen Nga Yin immediately pouted and faced the front again. She was both angry and disappointed. Fine. Suit yourself! And the remainder of the journey through the sands continued in silence again.
There were four different forms of the Great Wall in Gansu, each representing the four different dynasties in which they were constructed the Warring states, Qin, Han and Ming. Even though they braved the same elements in the same area each day, each section of the Great Wall stood detached from each other in the desert sands, unable to be impeccably joined as one due to their differences in height, width and construction material.
They were two different people from two completely opposite backgrounds - one from the desert and the other from the sea. If not for this accidental twist of fate, these two were destined never to meet. But it was not their background that kept them as strangers but the invisible barrier of moral and status. Once the Emperors woman; always the Emperors woman. A fact is a fact. What has already happened cannot be undone. As long as moral teachings remained stamped firmly in their minds, she was always the mistress and he was no more than a subject.
Let's have a quick lession about the Great Wall of China, built continuously over thousands of years around the Chinese borders to keep out surrounding tribes (Xiong Nu, Rourans, Khitans, Jurchens, Mongolians, Manchurians, etc..) who were always keen to invade the lovely Central Plains. As mentioned in the chapter above, there are four marked periods of wall building - Warring States, Qin, Han and Ming.
Building of the Great Wall started in the Warring States Period (sometime near 400BC to 221BC), where the seven Warring States were constantly alternating between war and alliance with each other, but were yet threatened by the powerful nomadic tribes of the Xiongnu which terrorized the northen borders. So the northen States, namely Qin, Yan, Wei, Qi and Zhao, had to spend extra time and effort to build a physical barrier between them and the Xiongnu. Xiongnu weaponry was not great back in those days, mainly relying calvary, arrows and long spears made from not-so-great metal,so basically a wall to stop the keen Xiongnu from climbing over or the horsies from leaping over was enough for protection. Logistics was restricted and also costly back then, so local materials had to be used - wooden boards or branches acted as a frame for the wall and then wet mud and dirt were stamped into the gaps, drying to form a solid hard short mud wall.
Under the rule of Qin Shi Huang, the State of Qin eventually conquered the other Warring States and merged to form the first unified dynasty, the Qin Dynasty (221BC - 206 BC). Qin Shi Huang saw the inevitable need to link the separate five walls made from the Warring States Period to keep out the persisting Xiongnu, and thus another wave of construction started using conscripted peasants (i.e. Meng Jiang Nu collapsing the Great Wall with her tears), prisoners and sometimes even the army. Logistics was not all that much better than in the Warring States even though they had unified width of roads, so again local materials were used. My tour guide told me that the Qin Dynasty started to utilise clay in their materials that was more stable than mud against wind erosion, but they still looked the same as the Great Wall from the Warring States.
Qin eventually fell because Qin Er Shi got the wrong genes from his father and people rebelled. After Liu Bang and Xiang Yu found out who was the ultimate boss,the Han Dynasty (202BC - 220AD) was founded. After spending some time to settle and apease the people and submitting to tribute to (guess who) the Xiongnu (yes, they just don't give up), Emperor Wu of Han decided to start a campaign to against the Xiongnu. With great generals like Li Guang, Wei Qing and Huo Qu Bing, the Han armies managed to drive the Xiongnus away (finally) and paid other minority tribes to chase them away (some say they became the Huns that terrorised Rome, but that's another story). The walls were rebuild and extended to protect the newfound territory up north in case the Xiongnu came back (they eventually did but was much nicer than their ancestors). Through trade with the Western Regions (Middle East), the Xiongnu has better weaponry and higher fortifications were built with rough stones added into the mix.
The Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) also had trouble with nomadic tribes like Jurchens, Oriat Mongols and Manchurians invading so they decided to extend and reinforced the former walls with bricks and cut stone. The walls were now smooth and very tall so no horses or human could scale it without the help of a ladder. As China was now more richer, large kilns were erected near the borders so the bricks could be made there and then to minimise transport fees. At major passes like Juyong Pass, stones were cut and engraved to act as decorations.
The Ming walls are what every one mainly sees today as the earlier walls have had trouble withstanding wind erosion, earthquakes and intentional human damage. I have had the luck of seeing the Han walls when I headed up near Mongolia last year and I urge all to quickly go up there and see a part of our history before it erodes away forever.
And one final Great Wall fact, no, you cannot see the Great Wall of China from space as widely belived because while it is humungously long, it is too thin for the light receptors of the human retina to detect.
"Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self."
Great Wall from the Warring States Period:
The one above is made of mud.
The one above is made of rough stones.
Great Wall from the Qin Dynasty:
Great Wall from the Han Dynasty:
You can see the wooden boards sticking out after the mud/clay layer has been eroded away by wind.
Great Wall from the Ming Dynasty:
You can see how much advanced and sturdy the Ming Wall is in design and construction. Will hunt down some pics I took on my holiday when I was walking up Ju Yong Pass.
Last edited by charbydis; 11-20-12 at 07:38 AM.
"Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self."
Cast of Appearing Characters:
Yeung Yat Ching - Michael Miu Kiu Wai
Yeung Ming Hung Kenneth Ma Kwok Ming
Suen Nga Yin - Natalie Tong Sze Wing
Flocks of hungry vultures encircled the skies above the desert barracks of the Ming forces, eyeing each other competitively for the fresh food source below. The smell of burning and rust from split blood filled the desert air as cries of men in pain interrupted the silence of the desert. The small military compound was enclosed at all sides by stationary troops in black uniform, who stood indifferently as lifeless corpses were strewn around their feet. Another division of these black troops had invaded the mud brick walks and were busy in attacking the last ten of the survivors that had managed to endure the ambush.
A single warrior stood out from the rest as he valiantly held back the soldiers that surrounded him as he defended his men. Dressed in a plain green robe without any armour, he looked more like a middle-aged scholar than a soldier. But yet, he moved with ease through the hordes of opponents who were unable to harm him and afraid to harm him. The movement of his spear formed an aura of gold around him that did not permit any enemy to approach within.
He could have slaughtered all the soldiers in range if he wanted but he chose to attack with only the blunt end of his golden spear.
With a fierce roar, he cried, When will you all awaken? We are all citizens of the Ming Empire! Why is there a need to slaughter each other when we are at risk of foreign invasion? What use is it to kick the other foot when running away from the enemy?
One of the two eunuch commanders of the battalions circled the compound on horseback shouted out to him. It is of no use, Yeung Yat Ching! You are a man of war tactics and you well know your odds here today! You and your small remnant of men are separated from the majority of your troops who are still garrisoned at the main barracks at Gansu! Those troops have already succumbed to our authority and will not come to your rescue! Come with us quietly and we will spare your sixteen generals! And with his whip in hand, he pointed over to sixteen bound men in armour who were being held hostage with a sword at each of their necks. There were at least a hundred foot soldiers bound tightly standing behind them in lines, each with a sword at their necks.
Yeung Yat Ching gave a cry of anguish as he saw his men being threatened and he battled even more fiercely. The soldiers in front of him stepped back warily in fear of spear for one blow was more than needed to send a man unconscious.
He called out desperately to the troops that he was battling, Men! You are all loyal troops of the Ming Dynasty! But are you loyal to the Ming Empire or the eunuchs that have usurped control of our nation? How many of you actually believe that I, Yeung Yat Ching, have commited treason to the Great Ming Empire and turned my back on the nation that I have served faithfully for last two decades?
The men bowed their heads with shame at his words but they could not withdraw their attack. Both the Battalion of Tactical Brilliance and the Battalion of Three Thousand were formed by thousands of complete men who were kept independent from the major armies. They had specialised training and only took orders from their Commanders Cheung Wing and Ngai Bun. All of them knew the truth of what they were doing but dared not resist the authority of the eunuchs that governed them. For their own lives or for the sake of their families, no one dared to speak up or act otherwise.
One of the soldiers at his side cried out, Dont give up, General Yeung! We know that you are true to the Emperor and we will gladly fight to our deaths to withhold your honour! The others echoed with agreement as steeped up close to their leader for support.
Stubborn fools! cried the other eunuch commander on horseback. Attack them, you useless assembly of garbage! They are only ten men and we are many in numbers! If the traitor Yeung Yat Ching escapes our clutches today, then you shall all be sent to the frontline to train against the Mongols!
One of the foot soldiers held hostage called out at the top of his voice, Dont give up for the sake of us, General Yeung! It has been our honour to serve you in battle! and with that, he pushed his neck against the sword and his crimson blood splattered onto the dry yellow sand.
No! bellowed Yeung Yat Ching as he watched the rest of the foot soldiers all willingly sacrificed their neck to the sword. Their blood soaked instantly in the parched land below, leaving only a faint red stain next to their lifeless bodies.
A single black horse charged majestically through the east barricade and trampled over the troops to break in. The other troops scattered to the sides in panic as a golden spear cleared a wide path to the centre of the compound where Yeung Yat Ching was trapped. White sashes shot out randomly like the numerous tentacles of the jellyfish to catch and strangle them by the throats, then quickly unravelling to find another victim.
A stampede of horses followed closely after them and the troops all scurried away in mayhem to avoid their deadly hooves. The black horse galloped along a path of dust plume encircling Yeung Yat Ching and his men, whom the other horses followed as a herd, creating a perilous circumference of death for members of the battalions who dared to infringe.
The eunuch commanders pointed furiously at the horses as they struggled to keep mounted on their steeds amidst the chaos. Look! Those are our horses! Quick, go and get them back! But as soon as any of the soldiers ventured forwards, either they were pushed back by the strong body of moving horses. Many of the soldiers had to hold onto their own horses to prevent them from joining the herd.
Uncle! cried the young male rider as he brandished his golden spear at his enemies.
Ming Hung! replied Yeung Yat Ching with a loud shout, Who is the lady? The men around him let out cries of joy as they recognised him as their young general.
We will talk about that later! Get on the horses! All of you! We can break out of here and they wont be able to stop us! Yeung Ming Hung shouted excitedly.
Come on, men! Yeung Yat Ching eyed a specific horse in the herd and chased after it as fast as he could within the circle. Then in a matter of minutes, he had leapt off the ground and landed safely on horseback. Then the rest of the men were hurled onto saddles with the help of either a golden spear or a long white sash.
But just as they were ready to break out of the circular motion, one of the eunuch commanders shouted out to them. Yeung Yat Ching! If you dare leave, we will immediately execute all of your sixteen generals! And with that, the soldiers allocated to each of the generals raised their weapons and struck at the back of their thighs, making them unable to stand.
Yeung Yat Ching looked back at his sixteen captured men, and his heart sunk. Each familiar face was an old friend and a trusted comrade in battle. He could not leave them behind. He just couldnt.
Yeung Yat Ching! cried the other eunuch commander arrogantly Even if you can scale the heavens, you cannot take sixteen handicapped men with you!
Leave, General Yeung! shouted one of the captured generals as he ground his teeth together with pain, Take the opportunity and leave! Dont worry about us!
Yeung Yat Ching turned his head to look at his nephew and said coolly, You leave first! We will catch up to you later!
Uncle! exclaimed Yeung Ming Hung.
If you still respect me as your uncle, then take my remaining men with you! I cannot abandon my generals! he shouted without turning his head as his horse sprinted towards the prisoners. Yeung Ming Hung reluctantly tugged on the reins of his horse and led the men away.
The eunuch commanders were terrified when Yeung Yat Ching dashed towards them like a fearless heavenly warrior and they froze with fear on the spot. But Yeung Yat Ching pulled his horse to a halt and landed before the battalion soldiers, casting a tall shadow over the hot sands. Why should one human life be more valuable than another? I will come with you willingly if you spare their lives! And with that, he hurled his weapon into a large red rock that was twenty feet away and it hung there, driven deep into the sandy texture.
The battalion soldiers were wary at first but seeing that Yeung Yat Ching made no attack and held his hands out to them. Then with a signal from their commander, they withdrew some yellow cord from their belts and tossed it at each other, creating a rough octagonal net that ensnared their prisoner and trapped his hands behind his back when pulled tight.
No! Uncle! shouted Yeung Ming Hung from a rocky ledge some distance away where he and the other men had paused.
Go! bellowed Yeung Yat Ching to his nephew. Find Ming Ho! He has escaped! Go! You are the elder brother; you must find and protect your younger brother! Find Ming Ho! Yeung Ming Hung took one last look at his uncle and with a gentle tug on the sleeve by Suen Nga Yin, they left.
Shouting out loudly to all men present, Yeung Yat Ching said, Open up your ears, all who hear me! I, Yeung Yat Ching, fall captive not due to a lack of ability but totally of my own freewill! If any man here today were to challenge me in a fair duel to the death, I would defeat him with ease! I give up my life and freedom now because the Great Ming Empire still needs good soldiers to defend our homeland! The Great Ming Empire can survive without one Yeung Yat Ching, but will crumple without all of you! Do not forget the troubled times our ancestors spent under the tyranic oppression of the Mongolians, and do not let history repeat itself to our descendents!
But suddenly one of the sixteen generals spoke up. They were now all lying face down in a mixed pool of sand and blood, unable to roll over or stand up as the tendons in their legs have been severed. Even if they managed to recover from their wounds, they could never walk again.
We are now disabled men! We are nothing but a burden to you! If a foot soldier can give his life for you, there is no reason why generals cannot do the same! May we meet again in our next lives, General Yeung! And before anyone else could react, all sixteen generals nodded at one another and at the same time, bit off their tongues in joint suicide.
No! roared Yeung Yat Ching as he struggled against his bonds to get to his men but the more he tried, the more the resilient the cord remained wrapped around his body.
The eunuch commander laughed. You will never get out of this without our help, Yeung Yat Ching! This has been especially selected for you by Supreme Commander Lau! Even if you summoned up all your internal energy, you cannot break the powerful fibres of the Indestructible Golden Silk!
Yeung Yat Ching glared at them with bloodshot eyes. You dogs! If not for these courageous men, the Northern Frontier would have long fallen to the Mongolian hordes! They dedicated their lives to defend the Northern Frontier from foreign enemies, using countless amounts of blood and sweat to exchange for your security and comfort within the Great Wall! How dare you treat them in such a way? How can your conscience let you rest at night?
The eunuch commander sniggered callously at his words. A conscience cannot fill the empty stomach nor clothe the naked body! Save your conscience for yourself!
Yeung Yat Ching gazed sadly at the sprawled bloody bodies of the sixteen generals and sighed. May the Heavens remember this incident today and grant you justice! We are more than comrades, more than friends! We are no less than blood brothers, yet I have failed you today! But do not worry, I will join you soon!
The eunuch commanders rode their horses around him and taunted We wont take your miserable yet! The Western Faction is coming to take you into their custody. Supreme Commander Lau is looking forward to meeting you!
Yeung Yat Ching spoke up in a low calm voice, totally suppressing all the anger and anguish raging in his blood. You had better escort me to Beijing safely, for I look forward to meeting Lau Gan too!
Sorry, too tired to write a history fact today. Just finished a large conference lasting a week. Very sleepy!
Cast of Appearing Characters:
Yiu So Sum - Tavia Yeung Yi
Kuk Yuen Yau - Lelia Tong Ning
Inside the Palace of Abundant Longevity, a lonely concubine sat at a table and fixated intently at an open scroll in her hands. They were no colourful portraits or drawings that made it interesting. Yiu So Sum could not find a reason why her new mistress was so engrossed in the lines of simple black characters that flowed neatly down the scroll.
Your tea, Lady Kuk! Yiu So Sum picked up the small porcelain cup and offered it to her mistress. Kuk Yuen Yau nodded in response and handed the scroll to her as she sipped her tea.
As she carefully rolled up the scroll and secured with the ribbon surrounding it, Yiu So Sum asked casually, What bothers you, Lady Kuk?
Kuk Yuen Yau took a deep sigh. I was just thinking of how ridiculous our lives have been! Do you think that it was wrong for Nga Yin, Yee Ha and I to have entered the Imperial Palace in the first place? One year has barely passed and look at what has happened to us! I am trapped here like a superfluous item while Yee Ha and Nga Yin have disappeared without a trace! She looked up at So Sum with worried eye and asked, Do you think that the man who took them has taken their lives?
Yiu So Sum thought of the identity of the masked intruder and replied confidently, Both Lady Suen and Lady So are kind at heart. The Heavens will surely protect them and guide them to safety. After a short pause, she continued, And you Lady Kuk, the Heavens will also bless you with great fortune. You are still young and beautiful and will soon regain the Emperors favour!
Kuk Yuen Yau laughed sullenly. Whatever fortune or favour I shall be blessed with, I am still condemned to die within the palace walls. What difference does it make?
Hope, my Lady! replied Yiu So Sum with a warm smile, You must not give up as long as you have hope! Hope will brighter up all the hardships in life and make them seem much lesser!
But before she could offer any more words of comfort, her sensitive ears prickled as the sounds of rushed footsteps pattered the corridor outside. She swivelled around instinctively to face the door as it burst open and five eunuchs charged into the room.
Kuk Yuen Yau jumped out of her seat as Yiu So Sum moved before her protectively and shouted, Who dares enter the chambers of Lady Kuk without being summoned? Do you not know it is a crime to enter an imperial concubines residence without permission?
Shut your mouth, you lowly maid! snapped one of the eunuchs who had a fierce expression on his face as he glared at her. She glared back with an equally intense gaze. He ignored her and holding up a yellow fabric scroll in the air, he ordered All kneel in the presence of the Imperial Edict!
All immediately knelt with their heads bowed low except for the eunuch who held the Imperial Edict. The Imperial Edict was equal to the presence of the Emperor himself. It was a death penalty to all who did not kneel before it.
The fierce eunuch unrolled the yellow fabric and he read out aloud, Priveleged Concubine Kuk Yuen Yau of the forth rank has been blessed with favour from the Emperor yet her family has repaid this honour by consorting with traitors of the Great Ming Empire, Yeung Yat Ching along with other vermin of the Imperial Court. Yiu So Sum froze as she heard the name of her godfather being mentioned and glanced sideways at Kuk Yuen Yau who was stunned.
The eunuch continued, She will be stripped of her title and possessions and henceforth be banished to the Palace of Prolonged Radiance as of immediate effect! The End! The other eunuchs bowed at the conclusion of the announcement and rushed at Kuk Yuen Yau without delay.
Dont you dare touch Lady Kuk! shouted Yiu So Sum as she struggled to block the eunuchs from reaching her mistress but she was pushed aside by one of the eunuchs as two more held Kuk Yuen Yau in a kneeling position by her arms.
Kuk Yuen Yau tossed her head to the sides in an attempt to resist the eunuchs who removed the jewellery from her neck, hands and hair. Her long hair hung untidily out of place as the hairpins were wrenched forcibly from her. Let me see the Emperor! she cried helplessly as she was pulled onto her feet and stripped of her robes of rich brocades, leaving her in her simple white inner garments. There has been a mistake! My father does not know a man called Yeung Yat Ching! Let me see the Emperor! There has been a mistake! Let me go!
The eunuch scoffed at her and taunted, You are nothing but a mere peasant woman now! Why would the Emperor want to see you? If you have to blame somebody, then blame your own father, Kuk Him Yu! The whole world knows that Supreme Commander Lau wants to get rid of Yeung Yat Ching yet your father allied with fifty-two ministers of the Imperial Court, dared to intercede on his behalf before the Emperor!
You So Sum stared dumbfounded at the news. So Lau Gan had finally taken action against her godfather!
The eunuch sneered menacingly down at Kuk Yuen Yau. You normal people think we eunuchs can be easily overridden by a few words! Those ministers thought that by threatening to resign all at once would force the Emperor to reverse his order for Yeung Yat Chings arrest and even had the nerve to gang up and threaten the Emperor for the demotion of Supreme Commander Lau! But you normal people do underestimate the relationship of eunuchs with the Emperor! And now all fifty-three ministers have been forcibly removed from their positions and now wait for their permanent exile to the north with their families! But you, my Lady, will be spared of the harsh punishment of exile! The Palace of Prolonged Radiance awaits your arrival, my Lady! And with a wave of his hand, the other eunuchs dragged Kuk Yuen Yau out of the room.
Lady Kuk! Yiu So Sum outside to follow them but was pushed back by one of the eunuchs.
So Sum! Kuk Yuen Yau fingers grasped the railings tightly with one hand but the force of the eunuchs was too strong for her, and her fingers slipped away from the railings.
Yiu So Sum watched powerlessly as her mistress was dragged off screaming to the Cold Palace. With her abilities, she could handle all five eunuchs with ease but what happens after? Should she expose her identity as well as that of Cheung Wan Sheung when they could stay undetected within the Forbidden City and find a chance to save her godfather?
But Kuk Yuen Yau would have not been implicated in this mess had not been for Minister Kuk to attempt to plead on behalf of her godfather. Yiu So Sum could not help but feel a little guilt when she thought of it, but she must be strong. Kuk Yuen Yau would be in no immediate danger but her godfathers life was in danger the moment he set foot in Beijing. But what sort of permanent damage can be inflicted upon such a young girl in such conditions? If only there could be a compromise between the two, Yiu So Sum would have not been so torn.
The Cold Palace is not an unfamiliar place to the common people. It is widely present in tales of life within the Imperial Palace, yet no one knew exactly where it was. Some say that it is an abandoned building somewhere within the Enclosed Palace where no maid or eunuchs goes. The drapes and windows are all left broken and the tiles on the roof leaks from low maintenance. There are cracks in the walls and doors where rats and snakes are free to roam in and out without interference. Yet some people believe that the Cold Palace is a small mansion outside the Imperial Palace that these unfortunate women are locked within and starved to death.
Where was the Cold Palace? There is no physical building by that name. It is just a literary term that developed over many dynasties for the cold abandonment of imperial concubines that have fallen out of the Emperors favour. Most still remain in the same luxurious residence despite being forgotten by the Emperor, but to an abandoned imperial concubine who had to endure loneliness and hurtful taunts, any place seemed cold and deserted.
However, there was a small selection of neglected concubines that were kept separate from the others. These women either committed an unforgivable crime within the Enclosed Palace or their families and clan have committed treacherous crimes against the nation and as a result, they had been stripped of their titles and their residence. Kuk Yuen Yau fell within this category.
The Palace of Prolonged Radiance was a lonely building that stood in the eastern grounds of the Forbidden City, away from the Palace of Heavenly Purity where the Emperor resided. It was in no way in shambles or unmaintained. After all, how could they let a wretched building ruin the overall regal appearance of the Forbidden City? The only difference between this building and the others was that there were fewer luxuries and fewer servants to share between the ladies. Food was sufficient but limited in quantity and quality. Clothing was also sufficient, but just not the rich silks and brocades that very were used to. No cosmetics or jewellery were allowed but that also seemed reasonable. After all, even if they decorated themselves like the magnificent peacock, there would be no one to appreciate.
Dragged into small enclosed courtyard, Kuk Yuen Yau was thrown into a small room and crashed headfirst into the wall. Her shoulder and arms ached where the eunuchs had been holding her. The room was neat and clean, but it was only equipped with a small bed, a table and that was all. The walls were bare and there were no wardrobe or drawers. Only a set of plain clothes were set upon the table.
There was small cut on her forehead and blood trickled down onto her garments. Kuk Yuen Yau wanted to cry yet she was too proud to do so before these vindictive servants, but she could not help the gradually reddening of her eyes and rage building up inside her.
The fierce eunuch sneered heartlessly at her plight, and said, Supreme Commander Lau sends his regards to you, Lady Kuk, and hopes you enjoy your new place of residence. I heard that he has personally chosen this secluded building for you to spend the rest of your life! And with a cruel laugh, he slammed the door shut with a loud resonating echo.
The night air sneaked in through the gaps in the open window. Kuk Yuen Yau immediately felt the cold through her thin inner garments and shivered. She quickly blew out the single candle that illuminated the room and it became pitch black. She jumped into the bed to wrap her body in the thin blanket, and then cried herself to sleep.
In the second year of the Reign of Zheng De, Liu Jin and his gang started to isolate the young Emperor from communication with his courtiers and gain defacto control of the Imperial Court. Fifty-three ministers led by Senior Tse Chin and Lau Geen (appeared briefly in Chapter 18-19) openly opposed the dominance of Lau Gan by submitting a joint petition listing Lau Gan's crimes to the Emperor and calling for his execution. Lau Gan managed to delay the Emperor's decision for days, using all sorts of ways to dissuade the Emperor from believing the petition.
Lau Gan's influence over the young Emperor was made undoubtedly obvious when not only did Lau Gan not suffer any consequenence for his crimes, all fifty-three ministers were all removed from court. Now knowing who his enemies were, Lau Gan targeted them one by one with fabricated accusations and managed to dispose of them and their enemies, either by exile or execution. After this incident, Lau Gan managed to stamp out all opposing political forces and gained full control of the Imperial Court without any interference from remaining ministers or the Emperor.
This whole process actually took a few years but I thought it would better suit the storyline if it was made into one single event. The removal of the fifty-three ministers had nothing to do with Yeung Yat Ching, I just thought it was a good plot device to get things rolling. This incident is only mentioned briefly by one or two sentences in the information I found. Some sources say Lau Gan fell to the ground grovelling before the Emperor begging for his forgiveness but that act does not suit the image of Lau Gan in my story so I decided to omit it.
Cast of Appearing Characters:
Yiu So Sum - Tavia Yeung Yi
Cheung Wan Sheung - Nancy Wu Ding Yan
Kuk Yuen Yau - Lelia Tong Ning
Siu Kei Chi - Sammul Chan Kin Fung
Kuk Yuen Yau had a fantastic dream where she was back with her family in the outside world. She had never entered the Forbidden City and her family had resigned to move back to Yangzhou where they all lived together. But then she was awoken from her dream for that was all it could ever be. There was no turning back once one entered the red gates of the Forbidden City.
A patter of sounds came from the roof above her. Maybe it was the night rain. Maybe it was the feet of the crows ran across the tiled roofs. She did not bother open her eyes to investigate. She only wanted to get back into her sweet dream where she was safe and protected. But then she heard the window creak and all symptoms of sleep disappeared straight away. Could it be the vengeful ghost of a neglected imperial concubine that had entered her room?
Kuk Yuen Yau dared not open her eyes in fear what she might see. And then a hand landed upon her shoulder and she jumped up in fright. She tried to scream for help but another hand clasped tightly against her mouth. She opened her eyes and saw two dark figures moving around in front of her and she struggled for freedom but was held down.
Dont be afraid, Lady Kuk! It is only us! came a soothing female voice. It was very familiar yet Kuk Yuen Yau could not put a face to the voice.
Then light entered the room as a candle was lit. The light shone over the two figures looming over her that had unmasked themselves and Kuk Yuen Yau breathed a sigh of relief. So Sum! Wan Sheung!
Cheung Wan Sheung helped her to her feet and handed her the clothes from the table. You must get dressed quickly, Lady Kuk! We are here to help you leave the Forbidden City!
Kuk Yuen Yau couldnt believe her ears. What did you say? How can you help me escape the Forbidden City? You are only ordinary palace maids! Quickly leave here lest you be found out and be punished!
Yiu So Sum and Cheung Wan Sheung grabbed her hands and coerced her put on the clothes. We have no time, Lady Kuk! whispered Yiu So Sum as she tied the sash around her mistresss waist, We will explain on the way! Come on! And she grabbed her arm to make her leave but Kuk Yuen Yau shook her head.
My scroll! I cannot leave it behind! gasped Kuk Yuen Yau. After reading the letter, she had promised the author that she would take good care of it as long as she lived.
But the girls kept a grip on her and forced her out of the window. It is just a scroll, my Lady! said Cheung Wan Sheung, Is your life not more important than a scroll? It will still be in your room unharmed and we will take care of it until we next meet! We really have no time! Come on!
The two girls led her across a sophisticated path between the royal gardens, taking care to stay hidden in the shadows of the buildings so the patrolling guards would not detect their movement. But the after the recent incident of intruders, the Imperial Guards were on high alert and the increase in numbers of guards made it harder for them to reach the palace gates.
Crouching low behind the bushes as a troop of Imperial Guards passed by, Yiu So Sum pointed her finger towards the north and whispered gently, There is a small path of tall trees that leads directly to the North Gate of Peace. It is the weakest security out of the four main imperial gates and that is where we will help you break out. There is a small stable within the gate where the fastest courier steeds are fed and saddled all the time in case of emergencies. Wait for us outside the stable and we will arrive shortly. Wan Sheung and I will go and distract the Imperial Guards! Begin to count when we leave and start moving when you get to thirty!
Kuk Yuen Yau shook her head earnestly and clutched Yiu So Sums arm firmly. I cannot let you two endanger yourselves! I appreciate your concern and gratitude, but you could die helping me escape! Furthermore, where will I go if I am able to leave the Forbidden City? My family has been arrested and my home confiscated. I have no friends that I can rely. I might as well stay here and await my fate!
Cheung Wan Sheung laid her hand upon hers and said quietly, You father endangered his life for my Master so we are just returning the favour now. Furthermore, do you think that we are just simple maidens? No. We are both trained by the Loyal General himself to battle numerous armies! Those weasels over there couldnt even touch a hair on our heads!
Yiu So Sum laid her hand on top of Kuk Yuen Yaus other hand and added softly, Remember, Lady Kuk! You must not give up as long as you have hope! Hope will brighter up all the hardships in life and make them seem much lesser! That was what my godfather told me when I lost all my family! And I have survived until now! It does not matter whether you have anywhere to go. As long as you are out there, you can go anywhere you like! Tears of appreciation flowed down Kuk Yuen Yaus cheeks as she heard those comforting words.
Then after a quick nod of acknowledgment, the two girls let go of her hand and sped off into two opposite directions. Kuk Yuen Yau kept her head down and started counting. One two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten ...
The guards has been alerted to the girls running. Eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty
Her hands were shaking as the guards split into two groups to chase after the girls. Twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-four, twenty-five, twenty-six, twenty-seven, twenty-eight, twenty-nine and thirty! The last of the guards footsteps faded away and Kuk Yuen Yau got up and ran for her life.
Under the cover of the tall trees, she easily made her way to the stables. The top of the North Gate of Peace could be visible from the stables. Ten horses were sniffling in the cold night air as their handlers were stretched out comfortably before a jug of warm wine. Cicadas chirped noisily unaware of the intense fight that was about to happen.
All of a sudden, a loud crack was suddenly heard and the two horse handlers gave a short cry of pain as darts the tip of a whip hit a vital acupressure point on their necks and rendered them unconscious. Two masked figures leapt out from the trees and landed beside Kuk Yuen Yau.
You see! We told you we will arrive shortly! said Cheung Wan Sheung mischievously as she curled her whip around her hand, Let us pick a horse and get out of here! But just as the three girls approached the stable, a long silver reflection appeared on the stable door that made them halt in their steps.
The girls turned to find a dark figure standing behind them, carefully reflecting the moonlight off his long blade onto the stable door to warn them. It was a shock for the girls as they had not realised that someone had come out from behind them. If the person had meant harm, then all three of them would have been dead before they knew it. But who was he?
I advise all three of you to return to where you are supposed to be before anyone else realises. came his soothing soft voice. The man lowered the sword from the moonlight which now illuminated his face. But even if not for the moonlight, Kuk Yuen Yau could never have forgotten his voice.
What do you want, you traitor? shouted Yiu So Sum, raising her sharp daggers ready for attack.
Siu Kei Chi stepped forward and repeated calmly, I advise all three of you to return to where you are supposed to be before anyone else realises. Whether for your own interest or for Lady Kuks, please return to the Maids Quarters at once! So he realised who they really were.
So you have now joined the Western Faction! Congratulations! cried Cheung Wan Sheung sarcastically as she recognised his light grey outer uniform. I hope that you can sleep well at night now without your conscience bearing down at you! No, wait! I forgot that you had already betrayed your conscience to the devil Lau Gan! Kuk Yuen Yau stared at him and did not say a word.
Siu Kei Chi tried his best not to look at her either as he replied, You and I have once served together in the same palace and me and Lady Kuk have once been servant and mistress. I do not want to hurt anyone of you but if take any further steps, dont blame me for the consequences! Get back to the Maids quarters now! The usual gentleness in his voice had now been replaced by a stern tone of command.
Yiu So Sum pushed Kuk Yuen Yau to the side and shouted, Lets see how persuasive you are! as the two girls charged at Siu Kei Chi.
I have no historical facts for this chapter.
Last edited by charbydis; 01-13-13 at 07:28 AM.
Cast of Appearing Characters:
Yiu So Sum - Tavia Yeung Yi
Cheung Wan Sheung - Nancy Wu Ding Yan
Kuk Yuen Yau - Lelia Tong Ning
Siu Kei Chi - Sammul Chan Kin Fung
The cicadas ceased their chirping and hopped away as fast as they could when sharp blades slashed their homes to shreds in a blur of silver as the fighters moved across the site. Siu Kei Chi kept Yiu So Sums short daggers at a distance with several strokes of his long sword but he could do nothing about Cheung Wan Sheung and her flexible whip.
The body of the whip twisted itself in consecutive loops across the air at his head. If his head had been caught inside one of them, it would have immediately tightened and wrapped securely around his neck til he was strangled. But he was nimble and ducked out of its way as he kept defending himself against Yiu So Sums deadly daggers.
Yiu So Sum threw a dagger at him and taking the opportunity of him turning his head to avoid the weapon; she slid slow and kicked him in the knees. Siu Kei Chi fell forwards onto his knees just as Cheung Wan Cheung came swinging off her whip and kicked him in the face. The girls kept up their fierce attacks and Siu Kei Chi could be a gentleman no longer.
With an agile twist of his hips, he gained the momentum to flip onto his knees and repelled the consecutive attacks from the girls. Then he spun around rapidly and like a small whirlwind of blades, he propelled himself at the girls. The girls leapt out of his way as the destructive force from his blade travelled ahead and felled several small trees ahead.
Cheung Wan Sheung directed her whip at him but he merely kicked upwards and let the tip of the whip wrap around his foot, trapping it firmly as he stepped down hard on the ground. But she pulled harder and Siu Kei Chis legs were pulled horizontally into a straight line.
Yiu So Sum rushed at him with daggers at hand. Her hands moved so fast that it seemed like there were ten daggers attacking all at once. But Siu Kei Chi thought quickly and flipping his flexible sword around, he hit her on the numbing acupressure point on her right shoulder with his sword hilt. Yiu So Sum instantly dropped her right dagger the moment the area had been hit for all the muscles along her right arm instantly relaxed.
Siu Kei Chi snatched the other dagger out of her left hand at this temporary distraction and palmed her backwards into a clump of trees. Cheung Wan Sheung pulled on her whip and Siu Kei Chi was dragged across the ground with his legs apart as she drew him towards a large rock. Siu Kei Chi threw both weapons into the air and pushed off the ground with both palms just as the large rock was about to smash him between the legs. He caught both weapons as he leapt into the air and with a quick twirl of his foot; he released himself from Cheung Wan Sheungs whip which came at him again with another deadly crack.
Forming a cross with the sword and dagger, he trapped the body of the whip between the blades and flicked the tip away from him, straight at Yiu So Sum who had leapt up at him. Yiu So Sum gave a cry of pain as the whip lashed across her chest and fell injured onto the leaf-strewn ground. Siu Kei Chi gave the whip a sharp tug and it was pulled out of Cheung Wan Sheungs hands. Cheung Wan Sheung came flying towards him at which he palmed her on both shoulders. Both girls lay panting on the ground in defeat as they looked up at their defeater.
Stop! That is enough! shouted Kuk Yuen Yau with concern as she ran in between Siu Kei Chi and the girls. Dont hurt them anymore and I will go wherever you want! He immediately grabbed her by the arm and swung her beside him.
Siu Kei Chi threw back their weapons at them and stood over the girls like a lofty pine. I think I had better escort Lady Kuk back to the Palace of Prolonged Radiance while you girls head off back to your quarters! The Imperial Guards would come here very soon! If I were you, I would pretend that tonights events had never happened and go on life as usual! and he pulled Kuk Yuen Yau to leave with him.
You traitorous eunuch! screamed Cheung Wan Sheung after him as she got up, As long as you are consorting with Lau Gan, you will suffer a merciless end! But Siu Kei Chi seemed not hear and pulled Kuk Yuen Yau to walk even faster.
The two had walked together alone in the palace grounds on many occasions before, but tonight was very different. Neither of them could enjoy the serenity of the night nor the bright lustre of the full moon.
Kuk Yuen Yau was the first to break the silence. Where are you taking me? she asked suspiciously.
The Palace Of Prolonged Radiance. he said calmly as they turned a corner.
Then let me walk by myself! I dont need you to escort me! Doesnt Lau Gan have other more important things for you to do?
You would be asked questioned if the Imperial Guards see you walking alone in the middle of the night. But if you walk with me, they dare not stop and ask questions when they see my uniform from the Western Faction.
You know if you expose my escape to your superiors, you might be rewarded an even more important uniform. she suggested with a hint of sarcasm. She looked at him closely to see his reaction. She really wanted to see his reaction.
Siu Kei Chi shrugged and kept walking without giving an answer.
How did you know we would be at the stables tonight? she asked.
I was following you. Right from the start I was following you. He replied without looking at her.
So you were with us all the time we were hiding from the guards! Then why did you not sound the alarm when we were in the gardens? With all those Imperial Guards there, it would have effortless to capture all three of us! Or did you want to wait til they were all gone so you can claim the merit all for yourself?
She quickly lowered her face as a troop of Imperial Guards passed by them. She wanted to run but Siu Kei Chi grabbed her by the hand and held her beside him. Just behave normally! he whispered as he held his head high and walked on ahead. The guards took one glance at him and continued their patrol without any delay.
Kuk Yuen Yau looked backwards to see that all the guards had gone before she let out a big sigh of relief.
I told you that they would not dare to stop and ask questions. He said with a smile on his face.
Kuk Yuen Yau suddenly realised that he was still holding her hand and quickly flung herself free. If you dont need to keep me here for merit, then why didnt you let me leave the Forbidden City?
He took in a deep breath and explained. It is safer for you to remain in the Cold Palace than outside. At least no one will suspect you and harm you. It is the safest place you could be in. You do not know what is happening in the outside world. In a few days, Beijing would be the most dangerous place in the whole country.
Why? Beijing was the Capital City of the Ming Empire. There were thousands of Imperial Guards within the Forbidden City and even more city guards posted at the city gates. It was the centre of power for both the Eastern Faction and Western Faction and not to mention the Brocade-Clad Guards. How could it be the most dangerous place in the whole country?
A very important prisoner will be escorted to Beijing in a matter of days. There will be many people trying to save him and many people trying to stop them from saving him. Beijing could easily become a bloodbath if one person makes the wrong move.
You are talking about Yeung Yat Ching? The one Lau Gan hates? The girls had told her briefly about him.
Siu Kei Chi nodded. General Yeung is a righteous man with high official position. He is bound to make many friends as well as enemies over the years. This is perfect time for him to see who his true friends and true enemies are! Only the truest friend would dare oppose Supreme Commander Lau and his power!
And before they knew it, they had arrived at the steps of the Palace of Prolonged Radiance. But Siu Kei Chi pulled her up the stairs and into the building. It was a short walk to her designated room but he insisted on escorting her til the end.
We are here, Lady Kuk! he announced. Take care of yourself.
Why do you care? she snapped as she pushed pass him to get to the doors.
But Siu Kei Chi caught her by the arm and spun her around. Looking her in the eye. Because I once said I would stand by you as your servant and protector.
Kuk Yuen Yau thought back to the times when he was still her faithful servant who she would divulge all of her deepest feelings. It was only several months ago that they shared a genuine friendship but yet it seemed a hundred years since it had happened. Now they only stood as a disposed mistress and promoted eunuch guard. Only suspicion and doubt would survive between them. How she ever trust him again when she now had seen his darker side?
Kuk Yuen Yau slapped him hard across the cheek for his betrayal and then ran into her room without turning back.
Siu Kei Chi froze for a while as he gazed intently the closed doors. The night breeze cooled down the burning heat from the slap and he left the grounds quietly in slow steps. They could never turn back time and could only take steps ahead, even if it were in opposite directions.
Eunuchs existed in China from as early as the Shang Dynasty (1600-1000 BC) all throughout to end of the Qing Dynasty( 1644-1912 AD). Initially, they were separated into three categories depending on duties and proximity to the Emperor:
(1) Shao Jian/Siu Gam (少監) - minor duties to maintain the palace grounds and run errands.
(2) Zhong Jian/Chung Gam (中監)- has official duties in major department within the palace
(3) Tai Jian/Tai Gam (太監)- has political influence, usually those who are in direct service to the Emperor or Empress
After the rise of eunuch status in the early Tang Dynasty due to the favouritism of Gao Li Shi by Emperor Xuan Zong of Tang, the eunuchs were collectively known as Tai Jian, regardless of duties.
During the Ming Dynasty, eunuchs were sorted into three categories:
In the Ming Dynasty, eunuchs were separated into two unofficial classes - domestic and non-domestic.
Domestic eunuchs (内監) were those who served as servants within the Forbidden City. These covered the majority of eunuch duties, ranging from companionship and servitude to members of the royal family, maintenance of palace grounds, entertainment, ceremonial preparation, etc... These were eunuchs with no special skills, often illiterate and were held in low regard.
Non-domestic eunuchs (外監/宦官) were those who either held official positions or were assigned into the eunuch armies. As mentioned before, the three eunuch factions that existed during the reign of Emperor Zheng De acted like the CIA in surveillance and interrogation of citizens and government ministers wuthout interference from the actual Department of Justice. There were two eunuch armies, though not all soldiers conscripted were all eunuchs, the commanders were definately eunuchs and acted without interference from the Department of Defense. These eunuchs had high education in either or both literary and martial arts, and often were descendents of government ministers, generals or conquered ethnic minorities that were castrated as a punishment for treason. Though in the minority, this class is able to sway political decisions and even sometimes overrided the actual government officals in terms of influence.
Last edited by charbydis; 01-12-13 at 04:41 AM.
Cast of Appearing Characters:
Kuk Yuen Yau - Lelia Tong Ning
Lee Yuk Ngor - not revealed
Madwoman - Rosanna Lui San
Kuk Yuen Yau awoke late in the afternoon the next day as they were no servants to remind her to get up. The sun was already shining brightly in the sky and its warm beams would have awoken her had not for someone carefully drew the curtains to a close. It must have been done when she was asleep, for it was still open when she retired the previous night. There was a basin of clean water with a wash cloth placed neatly on the side ready for her to wash.
For a person who grew up having maids to help her wash, dress and comb her hair, Kuk Yuen Yau did just fine. She fidgeted for a while to shape her hair into the usual hairstyle, only to realise that there was need. The small raised bruise on her forehead reminded her of her predicament. She gave up and left her room after pinning her hair in simple bun and left the rest hanging down her back.
There was not a person in sight.Her residence was in a small building kept isolated from the other buildings of the Palace of Prolonged Radiance by a crude stone wall lined with tall trees that added to the feeling of abandonment. The eunuchs that escorted her here had said it was a special place that Lau Gan had personally requested her to reside. But what did this mean?
Where did everyone else? Surely she could not be the only woman living in this large palace. There was a narrow entrance to the stone enclosure, giving access to the rest of the Palace of Prolonged Radiance. She strolled leisurely around the building and courtyards looking for another human being, but all she could find were bushes and trees.
There were no birds in the small garden they must have all been attracted to the more colourful and vibrant Imperial Gardens that were full of sweet flowers and ripe fruits. Just like humans, the birds also flocked to where something could be gained. But no weeds grew amongst the plants which were carefully pruned.
There was a humming coming from behind a bush and Kuk Yuen Yau walked over to see which other unfortunate soul was confined to this lonely palace. An old maid was crouched on the ground, humming a slow melancholic tune as she trimmed the bush with a pair of small shears. She must have been the one that had been keeping this place in shape.
Hello! said Kuk Yuen Yau. Her words startled the old maid who had been so absorbed in her own humming that she did not realise that someone was standing behind her.
As the maid turned around, Kuk Yuen Yau could not help but let out a gasp of horror at the sight that met her eyes. The maid quickly covered her face with a scarf around her neck but Kuk Yuen Yau had already seen it. Half of the flesh of her face had been melted together in deformation that it stuck out and drooped. Her left eye opened smaller than her right eye, as the lid was heavily thickened by flame scars. Her hands were wrapped tightly in strips of cloth that only the fingers showed.
Kuk Yuen Yau's heart pained at the sight of the scars. Kuk Yuen Yau gently touched her own forehead. The small aching bruise was nothing compared to the horrific injuries of the maid before her. What had happened to this woman many years ago in this dreaded prison called the Forbidden City? How much physcial pain and emotional suffering she must have endured to still survive today? She could not imagine the strength and will for survival in the character before her.
Kuk Yuen Yau had tried to restrain her expression of shock as soon as she realised but the old maid had noticed the all too familiar reaction.
The old maid covered the deformed part of her face with her hand which was also marked with scars. She bowed low and said in a low voice, My apologies to you, my Lady! I did not mean to frighten you with my face!
Kuk Yuen Yau felt sorry for reaction and held out a hand to calm her. You did not frighten me. I was just shocked to find someone else in this garden besides me. My name is Kuk Yuen Yau. What is your name?
The old maid bowed humbly as muttered, I am Yuk Ngor! I am one of the three maids that have been assigned to the Palace of Prologed Radiance.
Are you the one who prepared the water for me today? she asked in a friendly manner.
Yuk Ngor nodded.
Thank you very much! she added which at once the maid shook her head earnestly.
Your humble servant dares not accept thanks from you. It is my duty to serve you, my Lady!
Nonsense! I have already been demoted to a commoner rank. I have to thank you for looking after me in the upcoming days. Looking around casually, Kuk Yuen Yau asked, Where is everyone else? Are there other demoted imperial concubines like me around here?
Yes, my lady. At this hour, the other ladies should be gathered in the West Wing. explained Yuk Ngor as she pointed over some trees. They gather together every day from sunrise to midnight for companionship. Dinner will be served there in two or three hours. Shall I lead you there, my lady?
With a smile, Kuk Yuen Yau replied No, I can go myself. Continue with your tasks, Yuk Ngor! Thank you for offering though!
She could feel that Yuk Ngor was staring at her with a strange look in her eyes as if trying to recognise an old friend. Do I know you from somewhere, Yuk Ngor?
No, my Lady. said Yuk Ngor, lowering her gaze shiftily, We have not met previously but you remind me of someone I used to know. And her mind travelled back to the time she saw her dance before the Emperor. Her face and her manner were familiar - so familiar.
Kuk Yuen Yau didnt totally believe her but it seemed improper to badger the old maid over such a simple matter so she bade Yuk Ngor farewell and strolled towards the west direction.
Even though the Palace of Prolonged Radiance was small compared to the other palaces she had been in, Kuk Yuen Yau still got lost in the winding paths and corridors. And before she knew it, the sky was dark again and owls were hooting hauntingly at each other. Luckily, she found a lamp in one of the empty rooms and quickly brightened the scary atmosphere around her.
Suddenly, she heard something shuffle behind her and she immediately turned around. There was no one there. Hello? Anybody there? she called out. Maybe there was someone hiding and afraid to come out.
Hello? she called out again, stepping forward warily to explore.
Then it came. A very faint whisper echoed after her, Hello
Kuk Yuen Yau immediately spun around and shone the lamp at where the voice came from. There was nothing there either except for a pile of rags and leaves.
Anybody there? She was certain that the noise had originated from this direction. This time, she watched carefully for where it came from.
Then she jumped with fright as the pile of rags and leaves shifted slightly as it emitted a faint Anybody there
Squinting her eyes to focus, she finally realised that it was not a pile of leaves and rags on the floor, but a very dirty person cuddled up against the wall. A pair of dirty bound feet was just showing beneath the grubby clothes and a pair of frightened eyes stared at her from behind a curtain of dishevelled hair littered with broken leaves. Anybody there she muttered again.
Kuk Yuen Yau studied the figure hesitantly. Who was this woman? Her bound feet meant that she was from a good upbringing. Could she be one of the previous Emperors concubines who had descended into madness? Her heart pained as she watched the wretched woman shiver with fright against the wall.
Crouching down, she moved closer and said in the gentlest voice she could muster, My name is Kuk Yuen Yau. What is your name?
But as she moved closer, the woman gave a loud shriek and recoiled from her, screaming Dont hit me! Dont hit me! and she beat her arms around her head wildly.
Kuk Yuen Yau leaned backwards to avoid her blows and spoke in a soft tone, Dont be afraid! I wont hurt you! Give me your hand, I wont hurt you! I promise!
The woman stopped waving her arms and peered out at her with apprehension at her words. You promise? she asked warily in a frightened voice. It was as if she was a terrified child, not knowing when to trust a strangers words.
I promise! replied Kuk Yuen Yau promptly and she held out her palm to the woman.
Warily, the petrified woman stretched a dirty hand, and then quickly shrunk back before any contact was made. Seeing that no harm was done, she reached out again and this time, she let her hand sit in the warmth of Kuk Yuen Yaus palm.
Kuk Yuen Yau saw that the fingernails of the woman were grimy and lined with black. There was dried mud all over the fingers as if she has been digging in the garden. Then with one hand, Kuk Yuen Yau parted the long matted hair to reveal the face within. Her face was caked with mud and dirt and her eyes were widened with fear.
Both women breathed heavily as their eyes explored each other's features. Then all of a sudden, the madwoman started screaming at the top of her voice. Kuk Yuen Yau fell back startled by her response as she got up and staggered away in alarm.
It is you! It is you! screamed the madwoman in a wild panic as she tottered away on her small bound feet, Her ghost has come back! Help me!
Bewildered by her reaction as well as concerned about her welfare, Kuk Yuen Yau gave chase. It was very easy for her to catch up for the poor woman could hardly balance properly on her deformed bound feet let alone sprint away. She screamed continuously when she realised that Kuk Yuen Yau had followed after her and fell onto the hard stone ground with a loud thump.
Are you hurt? cried Kuk Yuen Yau as she rushed forward to help her up. She had hit her head on the ground and a thin trail of red blood flowed down the side of her head. But she beat away the hands of assistance and scampered across the ground like a wounded animal on all fours, crying out, Ghost! Ghost! Ghost!
Wait! called Kuk Yuen Yau after her, but the woman darted away as fast as she could towards another courtyard of houses. You must be mistaken! Im not a ghost! Im a human! My name is Kuk Yuen Yau! I was sent here only last night!
The woman ran screaming into one of the lit rooms shouting, Ghost! Ghost! Help me! Help me!
Kuk Yuen Yau quickly followed as saw her dived towards the feet of a middle-aged woman sitting at a table. The madwoman cowered with her face on the thigh of the woman, released a muffled scream as she directed a shaking finger at Kuk Yuen Yau, Look at her! She is back! Lady Yuens spirit is back! Help! Ghost!
Nothing really to comment on.
Chapter Forty -One:
Cast of Appearing Characters:
Yeung Ming Ho - Ruco Chan Chin Pang
Hooded Man - Sexy mysterious guy
In the woods just outside the city walls of Beijing, there stood a lonely temple. The Temple of Lord Kwan had stood there for many decades. It was filled with worshippers and incense smoke when the Northern Frontier used to break out in war several times a year. But now that the Northern Frontier was secured by the Yeung Army, there was no need to pray for the safe return of loved ones. The bronze statue of Kwan Yu and his large halberd were now giving off a green tinge with the gathering moss and rust on its body. It did not even gleam in the light from the fire that was lit in its large hall.
Although the temple no longer had worshippers, it was packed with weary travellers who needed shelter especially on rainy days. Such was a night. Rainwater dripped through the broken tiles onto the floor of the temple. The travellers had all cleverly avoided the wet spots and had dry hay strewn all over the floor as a makeshift bed. There were at least ten men in the temple, all waiting for the rain to stop before continuing on their journey. Many people headed to Beijing at all times of the year, all with their own goals and reasons.
All of a sudden, the frail wooden doors of the temple were kicked open and a rush of men in light-grey uniforms rushed in. We order you all to vacate these premises immediately! Get out now! Their eyes flared with ferocity as they glared at each of the ten travellers as if daring for them to protest.
There was a man seated in a dark corner of the temple. He had a long hooded cloak over him. His face was hidden but the thin black beard growing from his chin was still visible in the folds of the cloak. There were a few middle-aged merchants carrying their merchandise in little bundles spread around them. There was also a pair of farming peasant brothers who were heading into Beijing to shop for supplies. And last but not least, a young swordsman dressed in a green gown with handsome features was seated beside the glowing fire.
One of the peasant brothers spoke up angrily, You are welcome to share the space but we are not going anywhere! It is raining heavily outside and I want to stay where it is dry and warm!
One of the merchants echoed his feelings, We arrived before you! What gives you the right to order use to leave?
All of the intruders immediately withdrew from their belts a shiny silver tablet and flashed it at the merchant. The surfaces of the tablets were lit up by the bright light from the fire revealing the engraved words Western Faction.
Immediately, there was silence.
One of the guards sniggered at their frightened expressions. Now scram!
The merchants and the peasant brothers all gathered their belonging and rushed passed the malicious guards out into the rain without a thought. The hooded man walked slowly to the exit, but the young man remained where he was beside the fire.
There were more guards outside at least thirty of them. They were entering the temple one after the other. Five of them heaved a large cage on wheels into the safety of the temple. It was a prisoner cart.
There was a dishevelled man seated in the caged cart. It was an uncomfortable position to be in the top of the cage where the neck was secured was too high for one to sit and too low for one to stand. He could only kneel. His arms and bare feet were in shackles. The once white undergarment he was wearing was now stained with grime and dirt. His dirty matted hair hung over his face like a filthy curtain.
Then one of the guards noticed that the hooded man had dropped a scroll and was slowly bending over to pick it up.
Get out of the way, you old maggot! bellowed the short-tempered guard, but the man did not respond as he reached his hand into a crack on the temple floor to retrieve his scroll. This made the guard even more impatient and irritated.
Watch out, old man! shouted the young swordsman as he spotted the guard raising his sword behind the man. The mans back was to the guard. He did not move. Maybe he didnt hear. The young swordsman immediately dived between the man and the guard just in time to block the attack.
Are you mad? Thats a human life! shouted the young swordsman furiously at the guard.
All at once, the guards pointed their unsheathed weapons at him. How dare you strike back at a Western Faction guard? Say your farewells for we are sending you to the Underworld!
The Western Faction was still young but its terrible reputation grew fast. If it was dangerous to interfere with the Eastern Faction, then it was twice as perilous to interfere with the Western Faction.
But the young swordsman laughed arrogantly and replied, I have tried several times to go there but they just wouldnt accept me. But they might just accept you! And pushing the man to safety, he lunged himself into the air and kicked down ten guards in the chest.
A flurry of silver filled the temple as the young swordsman battled the numerous guards single-handedly. The guards dared not approach too close for he was nimble and speedy with his sword, attacking three people at the same time without trouble. Within the time it takes to burn half a stick of incense, half of the guards had already been victim to his sword.
As for the remaining half, they all spaced out to the walls of the temple and without a word; they tossed a thick metal chain at each other. It formed a complex pattern of metal chains across the floor as if a giant spider had just finished weaving a new web to catch its prey.
At first, the young swordsman scoffed at their action, but only after did he release that were small needles protruding from the chains at certain intervals. He quickly jumped up just as the guards moved the chains which met where his feet were just a moment ago. He landed on top of the slippery chains with his toes when the guards who were not controlling the chains leapt up to join him. But he lost his balance as soon as the chains moved again and his feet slid down into the openings of the chain web.
Irate at the trap, he swung his sword repeatedly at the chains but it would not break. The guards snort with laughter at his attempt. Lets see you dance, you little menace! sneered the guards as they moved the chains around continuously.
The young swordsman quickly stepped around the floor rapidly as if treading on hot coals. It looked ridiculous but it was to good effect for he could not afford to stand still. He had no problem dealing with either the attacking guards or the web of chains; but when the two combined together, he could not tackle one when being distracted by the other.
Ah! There were cries of pain as some of the attacking guards did not move fast enough to avoid the moving chains. The needles punctured their skin and they fell to the ground frothing at the mouth. The needles had been laced with a deadly poison!
The rest of the attacking guards quickly stepped out of the web to the frustration of the controllers. Get back in there! they screamed at their counterparts. But they would not listen.
Why dont you go in there and be poisoned while well control the chains? You think we are all stupid? they protested with good reason. For within the Western Faction, there was no one else would look out for your welfare other than oneself.
You bunch of idiots! taunted the young swordsman as he took the chance when the guards were distracted and leapt out from the web. With one smooth circular swipe, he slew five of the guards controlling the chains. With another upwards swipe, he flicked up the loose ends of the poisonous web into the air and sent it flying towards the Western Faction guards on the other end of the temple. The lethal web folded over itself in half and landed on top of the guards who died immediately from the poison.
The young swordsman leapt up and landed beside the caged prisoner who did not look up. The brow of the young man furrowed at the sight of the prisoner. Dont worry, Uncle! Ming Ho is here to save you! And Yeung Ming Ho broke the lock of the cage with one clean blow.
But there was a loud shout from behind him. Watch out, young man!
But before he could turn back and look, the prisoner broke out of his metal prison and swiped a pair of sharp claws at him. Yeung Ming Ho bent back just in time as the clawed fingers passed over him. Those were not the hands of his uncle!
He quickly returned a blow at the imposter who shot out the shackles from his wrist to block it. The heavy shackles wrapped themselves around his sword and weighed it down out of his hand. Then the imposter kicked at Yeung Ming Ho to which he leapt away but the long shackles from his ankles stretched out and aimed at his chest.
Then all of a sudden, a blinding flash of silver filled the empty temple and Yeung Ming Ho involuntarily closed his eyes from the glare. When he opened them again almost immediately, the imposter was pinned to the ground by a long silver sword, still vibrating from the energy that had shattered all the shackles into tiny shards. There was a large snake that curled around the hilt with its vicious head sticking out with open jaws.
Yeung Ming Ho turned around and saw the hooded man glide speedily across the temple like a spectre and retrieve his sword. The weapon gave a lingering ring as it was pulled out of the imposters body and pressed against his neck.
The powerful strong male voice came from under the hood, Tell me where Yeung Yat Ching is. Now!
How could Yeung Ming Ho have not realised that he was in the same room as such a powerful martial arts expert? His uncle once told him that the higher the martial arts ability, the less obvious they would appear to the common people. Unless one was trained in listening of breathing or footsteps, it was impossible to detect their hidden capability. Even though the hooded man only made one quick move, Yeung Ming Ho could sense that he was no less powerful than his own uncle.
The peerless blade gave off a pearly blue lustre in the moonlight as if mist was being released from its silver body. The weapon had been through many heated battles yet there were no dents or chips to impede its perfection. No blood from the attack dared stain the flawless blade; it had all simply slid off without a mark. The gleaming silver blade and its dark hooded owner made a striking contrast in the moonlight.
The imposter glared up at his defeater with loathing as bubbles of blood formed at the corners of his mouth. How did you know that I was not the real Yeung Yat Ching? he said weakly.
The tall figure of the hooded man cast a shadow over the wounded imposter. You made one very fatal mistake. You dont smell.
What? cried the surprised imposter. He and his colleagues had taken all the precautions they could think of to make their act as realistic as possible. How could his lack of smell have given him away?
The hooded man answered him quickly. What sort of prisoner after spending days encased in a cage would not reek? Yet you smell like the roast meat from your previous meal! Now tell me, where is the real Yeung Yat Ching! and the blade pressed harder against his neck.
Lord Kwan refers to Kwan Yu (關羽) or Kwan Wan Cheung (關雲長), a general of the Shu Kingdom that existed during the late Eastern Han Dynasty. Apart from his military prowess upon the battlefields, Lord Kwan is also well known for his brotherhood with Lau Bei and Cheung Fei.. He is seen as a guardian and protector of men, escpecially soldiers. Nowadays, Lord Kwan is worshipped by both the police and triads in Hong Kong, hoping to uphold his values of honour, brotherhood and righetousness.
The worshipping of Lord Kwan probably started by people close to him as a memorial, which gradually spread to common practice for soldiers and generals to pray to him before battle, hoping to gain his blessings and strengthen morale. Temples and shrines for Lord Kwan were erected in many places around China, but it was until the reign of Emperor Man Lik (Wan Li) in the Ming Dynasty that he was offically named as a God and promoted as "Emperor Kwan (聖帝)". This was probably a political move to appease the common people as Lord Kwan was a popular diety. This move was also repeated in the early Qing Dynasty during Emperor Shunzhi's reign as well as by Yuan Shi Kai when he became Emperor.
Just a continuation of the Lord Kwan facts:
The most popular statues on sale now are of Lord Kwan in armour with a green robe and red shoes, holding his halberd (Green Dragon Moon Reclining Blade 青龙偃月刀) in his right hand. This is assumed to be the traditional image of Kwan Yu, and adopted for worship by the police or servicemen for his values of bravery and loyalty.
However, there is another less common version (depending on where you shop ) where Lord Kwan is in armour but wearing green shoes, and holding either his large halberd or a long sword in his left hand. This is the version adopted by the triads over the years, having separate characteristics to differentiate them from the police. There is a term amongst the HK triads, "Red Shoes", used to refer to undercover cops amongst them, hinting at the red shoes that the police version of Lord Kwan wears.
Both are just artists' depictions, for the halberd or kwan dao is too heavy and bulky of a weapon to be used in actual battle.
According to "Romance of the Three Kingdoms", Kwan Yu's steel blade weighed 82 jin which is over 40kgs!!! So even if Lord Kwan a hulk who could lift very heavy objects, it is still impossible for him to jump on his horse with his armour and halberd, then go smoothly into battle. It just won't because firstly, the horse would die; and secondly, how fast and how long could a man be brandishing a 40kg weapon on horseback for because his opponents kill him as he moves too slow? Thirdly, either he held onto his reins and wielded the 40kg weapon singlehandedly, or he had to hold onto the halberd with both hands (correct technique) and grip the horse between his knees whilst galloping on a body-strewen battlefield? As formidible as he would have looked to his enemies gripping an oversized weapon, Lord Kwan and halberd in battle is a nono!
So most likely, he used a long spear or a long sword which was much more energy preserving. The halberd was most likely a weapon used for training purposes, to build up muscles and train stamina; or in military exams to test a candidate's technique and strength.
A few years back in Tsuen Wan, HK, I attempted the computerised version of the Military Scholar exam in an old manor (used to house one of the miltary scholars from the Qing Dynasty). I got around 90% for the literary questions but failed the physique part. The kwan dao is really a heavy heavy weapon! Not sure if the game is still there, but check out the Sam Tung Uk Museum if you have time in Hong Kong!
Last edited by charbydis; 02-03-13 at 09:14 AM.
Cast of Appearing Characters:
Duen Mo Ngai - Lawrence Yan Chi Keung
Yeung Ming Ho - Ruco Chan Chin Pang
Yeung Ming Hung - Kenneth Ma Kwok Ming
Yeung Yat Ching - Michael Miu Kiu Wai
Suen Nga Yin - Natalie Tong Sze Wing
Ning Fung - Jackie Lui Chung Yin
Siu Kei Chi - Sammul Chan Kin Fung
The imposter gave a long bitter laugh. You have come too late! There were nineteen other decoy prisoners sent out to lure out all of you rebels! Unless they were lucky like you, all your other friends would be waiting for you in the Underworld!
Yeung Ming Ho rushed forwards. You monster!
As soon as he had escaped from Gansu, he had set about contacting all his uncles contacts in the wulin world to help rescue him. It was his fault if they had fallen into the traps by the Western Faction.
But before he could get his hands on him, the loud sound of a flare could be heard. The wounded imposter seemed unfazed, and shouted, The real Yeung Yat Ching should be entering the city gates of Beijing this very moment and there is nothing you can do to stop it!
And with one last laugh, he cocked his head towards the sharp weapon and ended his own life. There was no other way out. To die with honour during a mission was more desirable than to return to Headquarters as a failure and face the dreadful consequences. Lau Gan did not like failures.
The hooded figure lifted his head towards the sound of the flare. Yeung Ming Ho could see the greying bits in his long thin beard.
The sound is coming from the city walls of Beijing. He said calmly, It must a signal by the eunuchs to indicate that Yeung Yat Ching has arrived! We must hurry there!
Yeung Ming Ho cupped his hands in respect and exclaimed, Thank you for your help, senior! It is our honour to have you here to help my uncle, Yeung Yat Ching! My horse is outside, let us rush there immediately! and he made a move to go outside.
But the hooded man reached out a long hand and gripped him by the arm. Although there was no pain, Yeung Ming Ho felt as if a hand of iron was grasping tightly around his arm he could not move or break free under the pressure.
There is no time! Lets go by my way! the hooded man suggested and without waiting for his consent, he dragged Yeung Ming Ho off into night.
The two men moved unhindered through the trees as they sped towards the city walls of Beijing. Yeung Ming Ho stared at the ground below him in awe as they moved with great momentum. They were travelling at such a great speed that the blurry scenery below them was gone before he could focus.
May I know your name please, senior? asked Yeung Ming Ho at the top of his voice to not be drowned out by the rushing wind against his face.
The hooded man did not answer him. Instead, he pointed into the distance with his sword. Look! And it did not take Yeung Ming Ho long to see what he was indicating at.
The ramparts of the fortified city walls were overflowing with anxious soldiers running along its length to prepare for battle. The bright torches fastened onto the brick wall illuminated the area to the west of Beijing city and revealed a terrible sight.
The area was crammed with a mass of people in a chaotic fight. It was difficult to differentiate between who was who in the mess but all could see that the action was centred around a single prisoner cart that was moving slowly towards the city. There was a force of maybe a hundred men who were fighting to get to the cart. But the only trouble was the hundreds of West Faction guards standing in their way.
Yeung Ming Hung and his soldiers fought valiantly for their general as they ploughed down through the barrier of guards and the reinforcements that were rushing out from all directions to replace the fallen. The prisoner cart fought against the rush of people in the opposite direction and slowly approached the city wall.
A long white sash shot out from within the crowd and attached itself to the side of the prisoner cart, stopping it in its tracks. Yeung Ming Hung skidded along its length, slaughtering all enemies he passed. He leapt onto the cart and dispatched the eunuchs around it. But the guards around them rushed at him like ants upon honey to tear him apart.
Blood splattered around Yeung Yat Ching as he was pushed through the hordes of people. Still bound by the strong fibres of the Indestructible Golden Silk, Yeung Yat Ching shouted out against the loud cries of fighting, It is no use, Ming Hung! Take the men and leave now!
Yeung Ming Hung slew the guards closest to him with one swipe and forced the others back as he bellowed back in response, No, Uncle! Either we leave together or we all die together!
Clear your mind of emotions, Ming Hung! he hollered, Have all the years I spend coaching you war tactics been a waste? You are a general, not a mad bull! Can you not see that you are fighting a losing battle? A battle is won by brains, not by brawn! Lau Gan would have set many traps along the way knowing that you are anxious to save me. How can you detect the danger around you if your eyes are clouded with emotion? Our blood is to be spilt for our country on the battlefield, not for consequences of a hasty decision!
But... Yeung Ming Hung stopped mid-sentence. Yeung Yat Chings words sobered him up at once. The faint outlines of archers lined the city walls, ready to aim and shoot out multitudes of deadly arrows when they approached. They were surrounded by at least a hundred Western Faction guards. There was no way that they will get out of here alive with a bulky prisoner cart.
In his minute of hesitation, one enemy took him by surprise and kicked him in the chest. Yeung Ming Hung tumbled off the prisoner cart and the guards around him pointed their swords at him. He could not believe his eyes when he saw his attacker. You again!
Ning Fung smiled deviously at him as he stood on the bars of the prisoner cart which he freed from Suen Nga Yins sash with one clean slice.
One of the guards sneered as he raised his weapon to bring down on their captive.
But he did not smile for long as another figure dropped down upon him and wrestled him onto the ground.
Get away from my brother, you vermin! cried the figure as he tackled the guard with great ferocity.
Ming Ho! shouted Yeung Ming Hung with surprise as his brother took out the guard with one punch and joined him by his side as they battled Ning Fung who held back the prisoner cart.
The hooded man descended upon the crowd of guards like a ghostly spectre with his cloak flapping in the wind. The Western Faction guards initially hesitated to attack mysterious figure, but then charged at him all at once.
With a flash of silver, the cloak was sliced in half as the deadly blade emerged from within in its folds. It was a fascinating sight to see. None of the guards who saw their one reflection in the silvery blade lived long before it sliced through their bodies. The long sword slashed into everything it came into contact with whether rock, sword or human flesh, none could withstand its double-edged blade and the energy it emitted.
Ning Fung was slowly losing the battle to the brothers now that the attention of the guards was all focussed on the lethal swordsman. Normally, it was a difficult task to fight an opponent whilst taking care not to injure your ally. But the pair of brothers had been trained together since young and the two moved as one to complement each other with every attack. As soon as Ning Fung found one weakness, the other brother would automatically compensate by filling in the void.
There came a cry as a young woman in a pink dress somersaulted through the air and landed beside them. You monster! shouted Suen Nga Yin enraged at her friends supposed death, and she joined in the attack. Ning Fung was an efficient assassin whose first instinct was to run when faced with such obstacles, but his mission was to escort Yeung Yat Ching safely into Beijing. He could not leave.
Let me help you! shouted a young eunuch who palmed Suen Nga Yin in the back as he leapt to Ning Fungs aid.
Lady Suen! cried Yeung Ming Hung as he immediately left his post rushed to hold her up. There was a tinge of embarrassment as they eyes met and he quickly let go. Left alone to fend against two strong opponents, Yeung Ming Ho was quickly defeated.
Siu Kei Chi pointed to the swordsman and called out loudly to his colleagues, That is the Wandering Swordsman, Duen Mo Ngai! Let us all retreat! There was a loud explosion as both Ning Fung and Siu Kei Chi grabbed hold of the prisoner cart and clouds of smoke and dust occluded the visibility.
Uncle! shouted both brothers as the smoke enveloped their view of the prisoner cart.
Out from the smoke, Yeung Yat Ching shouted out one last piece of advice, Ming Hung! Through your veins flows the blood of the Yeungs! It will tell you what to do! Remember, you are a Yeung! Remember!
Duen Mo Ngai leapt fearlessly into the smoke and cries of pain emitted from the haze. With a burst of internal energy, he forced the smoke to disperse, revealing only his tall stature standing over a new addition of lifeless corpses. Siu Kei Chi, Ning Fung and the prisoner cart had disappeared as if they had been swallowed up by the earth with no trace.
Uncle! cried Yeung Ming Ho with concern as he ran to the spot where he last saw him. He spun around confused and dazed, searching for any sign of them in the distance. There were not even tracks of the cart on the ground. How could they have just disappeared just like that?
Duen Mo Ngai reached out a hand and grabbed by the clothes at his chest. Your uncle is fine. He went with them willingly! His voice was both calm and comforting.
Now that all the smoke had cleared, Yeung Ming Ho could see that he was middle-aged, but he was in no way old. He had a tall and commanding stature and his greying long hair swayed gently behind his back. His eyes were kind as they shone out of a face marked by age and experience but had not yet lost its good looks.
Suen Nga Yin stared at him apprehensively without a word.
How do you know? asked Yeung Ming Hung bewildered.
Duen Mo Ngai gave a confident laugh. Because Yeung Yat Ching is Yeung Yat Ching! No shackles in the world can hold Yeung Yat Ching against his will!
Senior! pleaded Yeung Ming Ho with widened eyes, What shall we do now? Uncle must be within Beijing! Shall we break through the city walls? The men behind him shouted loudly in consent.
No! bellowed Yeung Ming Hung remembering his uncles words, As far as we know, Beijing could be littered with traps, not to mention the numerous city and imperial guards stationed within. We are outnumbered and it would be foolish to advance without a plan.
Eyeing the archers on standby on the fortifications, he said quietly, There are more friends in the wulin realm that are on their way. It would be wise to wait three more days til their arrival before we take any action. The men again shouted in consent.
Duen Mo Ngai smiled cooly. You sure learn fast, young nephew.
And turning to Yeung Ming Ho, he continued, I saw you fight. If you were using a long spear, then the distance between you and your enemy is your advantage. But since your chosen weapon is a sword, you need to maintain the distance with your sword energy. Each stroke must be accurate and fast as not to fast valuable energy in repeated blows at the same assailant that will last you against a few more opponents. Practise hard until we meet again!
Are you not going to join us, Senior? asked Yeung Ming Ho.
The smile faded from his face as he answered. I have some personal matters to attend to. But I will return when the time is right. You need not contact me. I will know when it is time. Farewell for now! and he somersaulted away.
Wait! shouted Suen Nga Yin after him, but he was long gone by then.
I have no historical facts to discuss regarding this chapter, but I do have to express my extreme disatisfaction at the underpromotion of Lawrence Yan by both ATV and TVB over the years. Lawrence is not only good-looking, has a nice body, has great smile, has good versatile acting and has a attractive expressive voice. Why on earth did he get regulated to supporting roles? (There is only one series where he became male lead which was not a great movie at all.)
At least he got major supporting roles back in ATV during the 1990's, which was probabaly the highlight of his career with memorable roles like Jeen Chiu, Chor Kong Nam, 14th Prince, and Chan Tin Sheung. But then ATV management went crazy and Lawrence got all the pervert roles. Lawrence ran as soon as his contract ended and jumped ship to TVB, hoping that he would have a brighter future, but it was just the same. He was locked into small insignificant roles like an ex-BF, lawyers, rich playboys, etc...
As to why I like Lawrence was treated like this, I think it was his bad luck to start with peers like Nick Cheung, Jackie Lui and Kong Wah. By the time he got to TVB, he was too "old" to compete with the youthful stars like Raymond, Ron, Bosco and Sammul and not well-known enough to fight for main roles with the super popular male leads like Gallen Lo, Louis Koo, Julian Cheung, etc... I don't think his so-called scandal with a rich woman helped his popularity with the housewives audience either, so TVB further downgraded him to a guest star.
Despite this, the effort that Lawrence puts into portraying these insignifcant small roles is very evident on screen. There is not one scene that I have ever seen that would make me feel that Lawrence's acting is subpar. Whether it was the useless playboy Phillip Lee in "Best Selling Scerets", the righteous lawyer Richard Lee in "Off Pedder", the weak yet not useless Emperor in "Strike at Heart; Lawrence's professionalism as an actor makes me feel even more sorry for me.
Lawrence has now left TVB and doing business ventures in China while becoming a part-time golf coach. I do wish the best of him whatever he does and will support him if he decides to return to acting. I don't care if he bloats in his middle-age and loses his good looks, Lawrence's acting skills and professional attitude as an actor will always be remembered by me.
Whenever I think of Lawrence, the image of the kind, tragic, rugged yet handsome swordsman called Chan Tin Sheung fills my mind. I have constructed the idea of the Wandering Swordsman Duen Mo Ngai from bits of the honourable Chan Tin Sheung, yet added bits of the ambitious Chor Kong Nam. Lawrence may never act again so casting him in this fanfic is like fulfilling my dream of seeing him on screen again and I hope to remind any readers that Lawrence Yan Chi Keung once existed on screen.
Sorry for the rant.
Happy Chinese New Year!
Last edited by charbydis; 02-10-13 at 09:39 AM.
Chapter Forty Three:
Cast of Appearing Characters:
Kuk Yuen Yau - Leila Tong Ning
Grand Empress Dowager Ng - Rebecca Chan Sau Chu
Grand Empress Dowager Wong - Mary Hon Ma Lei
Empress Dowager Cheung/Cheung Sin - Akina Hong Wah
Lee Yuk Ngor - not revealed
Madwoman - Rosanna Lui San
The Enclosed Palace was completely oblivious to the intense battle that just took place outside the city walls. Yuk Ngor brought in dinner and all four of them sat at the same table. The three women sitting at the table, all plainly dressed yet all three gave off a defined and regal appearance. All three had bound feet as well. Two were older women maybe in their late fifties and the remaining woman was no more than forty years old. Despite the inevitable signs of age on their faces, Kuk Yuen Yau could tell that once upon a time, they had all been great beauties.
Unlike the madwoman, these three women maintained calm and collected poise despite the fear that showed in their eyes as they stared intently at Kuk Yuen Yaus familiar facial features whilst they ate. Kuk Yuen Yau did not know how to react so she avoided the fixed gazes by lowering her head and concentrated on eating.
One of the older women smiled at the puzzled expression on Kuk Yuen Yaus face. You must be very puzzled by our reactions!"
Kuk Yuen Yau nodded shyly.
"You just happen to remind us of a dear friend of ours that passed away a long time ago. Pointing at the mad woman behind her, she continued, You must forgive Lady Shun here! She had lost her mind many years ago and cannot differentiate facts from her imagination.
Kuk Yuen Yau lifted her eyes and saw that Lady Shun was rocking a pillow wrapped in blankets as if it was a small child. She was humming a soothing lullaby and engrossed in her own peaceful world as Yuk Ngor washed her face and combed her tangled hair.
You say that your name is Kuk Yuen Yau? asked the woman suspiciously.
Kuk Yuen Yau nodded. Since I am the newest here, why dont you all just call me Yuen Yau from now on?
Very well, Yuen Yau! said the woman, Do you know who we are?
She shook head and answered, No, we have not yet been introduced.
I am Grand Empress Dowager Wang! she announced unexpectedly.
Kuk Yuen Yau nearly choked at the news. How could a Grand Empress Dowager be confined to the Cold Palace and be dressed in plain clothing?
Grand Empress Dowager Wang indicated to the other older woman and introduced, This is Grand Empress Dowager Ng!
Before Kuk Yuen Yau could react, the youngest woman also spoke up, I am Empress Dowager Cheung! You would have been an imperial concubine of my son, Emperor Ching Dak!
Kuk Yuen Yau immediately got onto her knees and bowed till her forehead reached the floor. Yuen Yau offers her apologies to the Grand Empress Dowager and the Empress Dowager for not offering my respects earlier!
The three women laughed and told her to get up. Grand Empress Dowager Wang explained, There is no need for formalities inside the Cold Palace. We are treated the same in here, no matter what status we were. Get up you silly girl!
Kuk Yuen Yau got back onto her seat even more confused than before. Does the Emperor know that you are here?
Empress Dowager Cheung scoffed bitterly. My son would not care even if he knew! All he cares about now is that eunuch Lau Gan and enjoying himself!
Kuk Yuen Yaus eyes widened as she stared at all three of them in turn. You mean Lau Gan put you all in here? Why?
Empress Dowager Cheung nodded her head sadly. He wants me confined here under guard so that I cannot us my position as Empress Dowager to interfere with his crimes!
Grand Empress Dowager Ng slammed her fist down on the table in fury and cried, That castrated dog! He is probably afraid that we will take revenge on him for what happened when that witch was still alive, so he locked all of us in here! There was a lot of anger and resentment in her words.
Calm down, Elder sister! comforted Grand Empress Dowager Wang, He who commits evil will be punished in due time! And that evil concubine is probably been tortured in the depths of hell now!
Which evil concubine? interrupted Kuk Yuen Yau with curiosity.
That good-for-nothing, evil witch Man Jing Yee! blurted out Grand Empress Dowager Ng, I still do not understand why the previous Emperor was so infatuated by her!
The moment that the name Man Jing Yee was mentioned, Kuk Yuen Yau immediately knew what she was talking about. She had heard it as stories from her grandmother. Lady Man was the most beloved concubine of Emperor Shing Fa, who was the current Emperors grandfather. He was obsessed with Lady Man even after her death despite her being nineteen years his elder. Ruling the Enclosed Palace with defacto power from the puppet Empress, Lady Man was a jealous and cruel woman who made life for the Imperial Harem worse than death.
Grand Empress Dowager Wang shook her head sadly. It is not up to us to decide what the Emperor should like or dislike. It is our own sad fate that we were not cherished by the previous Emperor during his living days. We can only lament our assigned fate from the Heavens.
Empress Dowager Cheung face was filled with sorrow. I was fortunate to have earned all of the late Emperors affection dying the short time we spent together and never had to share him with any concubines. I have the prodigious title of Empress Dowager but yet my own biological son treats me like a stranger and I am kept a prisoner in my own home. What have I gained in this lifetime?
Emperor Wang Chi was a virtuous and upright man who believed that concubinage was detrimental to a mans self-control. So as a result, he made a controversial decision that no other Emperor dared to make. He only ever married one woman in his lifetime and spent the last of his days in the company of his devoted wife. But who would have guessed that such an industrious Emperor would have fathered such an incompetent son?
But Grand Empress Dowager Ng chucked at a private thought. I have not achieved much in my life but at least I have done one thing I am proud of. During my three months as Empress, I ordered that sadistic witch to be caned twenty times when no one else would dare do it!
Even if it led to your deposition? asked Grand Empress Dowager Wang.
Grand Empress Dowager Ngs eyes sparkled as she thought of it. I have no regrets in my life! That was the most brilliant moment of my life and I enjoyed the satisfaction when that overconfident witch howled with pain with each stroke! Serves her right for seducing the previous Emperor! If only I had caned that dreaded Lau Gan as well, then my life would be perfect!
What did Lau Gan have to do with it? asked Kuk Yuen Yau.
The older woman gritted her teeth as she spoke. He was only a minor eunuch at the time but I knew that it was him who was behind my deposition! That witch would never have the brains to suggest that to the previous Emperor! He was a like a lowly dog back then, trying all tricks to gain the favour of that witch. In fact, he was behind all of the atrocities that the Imperial Harem suffered back then! Thats probably why he has us all locked in here in fear that we use our contacts and influences to expel him from Imperial Court!
Grand Empress Dowager Wang said in a quiet voice, her eyes darting towards the closed door with fear and uneasiness. Hush, Elder Sister! Even walls have ears!
Empress Dowager Cheung sighed deeply and exclaimed. It is all too late now. Lau Gan has gained control of the Imperial Court and the fate of the nation lies in his hands. We are powerless to stop him and we can only pray to the Heavens for his punishment.
Kuk Yuen Yau lowered her head to eat as she continued to listen to the conversation of the three women sharing the same table. All three had distinctive personalities Grand Empress Dowager Ng was bold and determined, Grand Empress Dowager Wang passive and timid, and Empress Dowager Cheung was gentle yet firm. All of them had held once the most highly esteemed postion for a woman within the Imperial Palace, yet, none of them were blessed with a good ending. Were all women within the Forbidden City condemned to such a fate? What type of woman would it take to outrun such a cursed destiny?
Then suddenly, Lady Shun who had been sitting quietly stood up and pointed at Kuk Yuen Yau. Lady Yuen! Why have you gone away to for so long? Take me with you! But Yuk Ngor quickly pacified her by pinching the pillow as if it was a small child. This amused Lady Shun.
Kuk Yuen Yau then found Grand Empress Dowager Wang staring at her again, and she leaned back uncomfortably.
The older woman smiled at her and asked, Dont be shocked, my dear! Lady Yuen served the previous Emperor Shing Fa during our time but has left us many years ago. Lady Shun just misses her!
I miss her too! added Grand Empress Dowager Ng, Lady Yuen was the only Imperial Consort brave enough to stand up against that evil witch! She was the one who persuaded me to cane her in the first place! It is a tragedy that that she died in her prime! and she gave a long sigh regretfully.
Grand Empress Dowager Wang stared intently at her. At first glance, you do remind me heavily of Lady Yuen but on closer inspection, the differences between you are obvious! Strangely, the room you are now residng in is the exact room Lady Yuen was kept in when she was here! You are the second person to have ever reside in the stone enclosure apart from her. Such a strange coincidence! Kuk Yuen Yau lowered her head in uneasiness. She did not reveal why.
Lady Shun broke free from Yuk Ngors hold to sit down next to Kuk Yuen Yau. Kuk Yuen Yau leaned back perturbed but Lady Shun leaned in close to her face. Now that the mud and dirt had been washed off, Kuk Yuen Yau could clearly see the wrinkles around her mouth and eyes. No matter how beautiful a woman, she could not escape the cruel markings of time.
Lady Shun looked at her suspiciously. Are you sure you are not Lady Yuen?
Kuk Yuen Yau shook her head and repeated, I am Kuk Yuen Yau, not Lady Yuen!
Lady Shun suddenly broke into a smile and announced, Good. That means you are not a ghost because Lady Yuen is dead! You can stay here forever to keep me company forever and ever!
Kuk Yuen Yau did not know what to say as Lady Shun quickly recovered her serious expression. Lady Shun widened her eyes and after giving a short crazed laugh, asked Did you know that the spirit Lady Yuen still roams the Forbidden City at night? Every now and then, she will play her qin to express her loneliness!
And at that exact moment, a distant melody could be heard coming from the western grounds. The slow haunting melody from the strings of the qin lingered to all corners of the Forbidden City, conveying its inner sorrow to all who heard it.
Emperor Shing Fa (Cheng Hua) of the Ming Dynasty reigned China from 1464-1487 AD. He grew up with a troubled childhood. He is most famous for being infactuated by an older woman, Lady Man. Both these points will be further discussed when we get to events in Book Two.
Emperor Shing Fa had two Empresses in his lifetime, who neither was the love of his life. Empress Ng was his original and official wife chosen by his father on his deathbed. However, Empress Ng was shortly deposed of her title a month after becoming the Empress due to disgruntlement from Lady Man. It was rumoured that Lady Man was jealous and disrespectful to the young Empress and was caned as a punishment, a move which greatly angered the lovesick Emperor. Empress Ng was demoted to a commoner and locked up in the Cold Palace.
But Lady Man did not ascend to the position of Empress due to opposition targeting her lowly origin. Instead, another Imperial Consort from a prestigious family was elected to succeed the title of the Empress. Empress Wang was of a timid and passive nature, and did not follow the steps of her predecessor to discipline Lady Man and instead let her do what she wished.
Because of her attitude, the unfavoured Empress Wang remained steadily upon her phoenix throne, outliving both Lady Man and her husband, to become the Empress Dowager when Emperor Wang Chi (Hong Zhi) came to the throne.
Historically, Empress Ng was released from confinement after her husband died, but for the plot. I am locking everyone in the Cold Palace. I will talk more about Empress Cheung later on when the story focusses on her.
Cast of Appearing Characters:
Yeung Yat Ching - Michael Miu Kiu Wai
Ning Fung - Jackie Lui Chung Yin
Ha Hau Mo - Ken Lo Wai Kwong
The dark narrow corridor lit only by widely-spaced candles was empty, except for the four figures walking along its length. Yeung Yat Ching trudged slowly as his wrists and ankles were heavily manacled to a large weight that dragged behind him clumsily. The yellow cord around his wrists had been replaced with shackles but it still bound his body and arms as a precaution.
Hurry up! yelled one of the two Western Faction guards crossly, irritated at the slowness of their movement caused by the prisoner. I dont have all day! and he aimed a kick at the back of the knees.
A quick kick to his shin gave him enough pain to make him forget about the attempt.
Ning Fung! Have you gone crazy? Hes just a prisoner! We can treat him however we like! he shouted in agony as he hopped around on one foot.
The other guard immediately drew his sword and pointed it at the aggressor, which was kicked aside effortlessly followed with another kick to his chest that sent him smashing into the wall.
Prisoners are also human beings. asserted Ning Fung who stepped between Yeung Yat Ching and the guards. If you are in so much of a hurry, then get out of here! I will take him to Headquarters myself!
The two guards were furious. How dare you want to claim all the merit for yourself? You are only an exterior agent whereas we eunuchs are closely connected with Supreme Commander Lau! What makes you think that you have the authority to order us around?
A quick flash of silver proved their inferiority as Ning Fung produced his blade quicker than any of them could respond. Their belts dropped to the ground in shreds just as Ning Fung resheathed his sword again.
Ning Fung crossed his arms calmly as he warned, Leave now or next time it would be your intestines that would be on the ground. The two guards quickly scampered out of his sight. Ning Fung and Yeung Yat Ching moved slowly through the corridor.
Yeung Yat Ching looked at Ning Fung and nodded. Thank you!
No need to thank me! It is my job to take you to the prison. replied the assassin casually.
Yeung Yat Ching managed to form a smile across his dirty face. You know what I am talking about.
Just keep moving. said Ning Fung as if he did not hear, Take your time. I have all day!
What a waste of such a righteous young man! sighed Yeung Yat Ching aloud. I could have done well with a man like you by my side in battle! Such an upright character retains its purity even being submerged in the ruthless mud of sin and wickedness.
I have no idea what you are blabbering about! cried Ning Fung indignantly, But if you keep talking like that, I might just have to gag you! And he got out a piece of cloth from his belt as a warning.
Yeung Yat Ching laughed heartily. He had not laughed like that for many days. After he was taken into captivity, the guards insulted him as much as they could; knowing that he could not break out of the Indestructible Golden Silk. But he did not react to them no matter how hard they tried. In some situations, it was better to take in a deep breath than to fight back.
Thank you for not trying your best when fighting with my nephew! said Yeung Yat Ching quietly, It was not obvious but I knew. When Ming Hung got distracted, you could have injured Ming Ho in his vital points, but instead you chose to kick him away. I owe you my gratitude!
You are delusional! rebutted Ning Fung, his eyes shifting anxiously to both sides to check for any eavesdroppers. All walls have ears. You can never be too careful with your words.
Yeung Yat Ching smiled wryly. Maybe I am! To the rest of the world, I am a delusional lunatic for refusing to compromise with the ways of the world. But my conscience is clear because I know I am doing what is right even though everyone else things I am wrong.
Ning Fung waved his hands irritability at the older man. I dont care about right and wrong! My job is to follow orders! Not my conscience!
Yeung Yat Ching stopped in his steps and placed a hand on Ning Fungs shoulder. If to do your job means to bury your conscience under layers of lies and masks, then a hundred years of lifespan is no more than a hundred years of torture! Is this the life you wish to lead?
Ning Fung stared at him thoughtfully in silence. His heart had long been numbed since the time his blade first drew blood. Taking a human life came as natural to him as if taking a step. But deep in the back of his mind, there was a small voice that questioned his actions whenever he looked into the grey lifeless eyes of his victims. The same voice tortured him in his dreams.
Yeung Yat Ching shifted his shackled feet across the floor as he commenced walking again. You are a bright young man. I have said all I can. You know what you have to do.
Ning Fung did not say a word and slowly followed after him.
Yeung Yat Ching yawned sleepily. Now take me to the cell! I am getting tired!
Not so fast! and a group of eunuchs marched hurriedly towards them. Ning Fung quickly put aside all doubts and stepped up to meet the men stone-faced.
What do you want? he asked coldy.
Ha Hau Mo reached out and roughly dragged Yeung Yat Ching forwards by the chains on his wrists. From now on, the prisoner Yeung Yat Ching will be in custody of the Eastern Faction! We will take over now! Scramble back to your Western Faction at once!
He is mine! shouted Ning Fung as he dived between them and yanked the chians out of Ha Hau Mos grasp. Yeung Yat Ching was quickly pushed out of the way by Ning Fung as the two rivals lunged attacks at each other.
Ning Fung did not even have the chance to draw his weapon as Ha Hau Mo launched a whirlwind of lightning kicks at him. He could not even see the body of his opponent, only the blurred images of multiple legs before his face. Ning Fung could avoid the first and second kick, but the following blows all kicked him consecutively in the head and chest. He stepped back shaking his head to clear his blurred vision from his head trauma as the hazy outline of Ha Hau Mo sneered at him.
Ha Hau Mo sniggered triumphantly as Ning Fung somersaulted away from a kick that narrowly missed him and smashed through the brick wall behind him. Ning Fung tried to unsheathe his sword but it was forced back in its scabbard by a foot on his hand. He quickly grasped hold of the foot trying to flip his opponent off balance but it was if Ha Mau Mos legs had a life of their own, being able to twist around in all directions to reach their target.
Ning Fung stepped backwards quickly to avoid the kicks but Ha Hau Mo was faster and his foot soon pressed against his chest, trapping him and the chained man behind him against the solid wall. Ning Fung felt a suffocating and nauseating sensation as the foot was like a giant mountain that had landed upon his chest, slowly compressing his internal organs with its weight. He could feel the air being squashed out of his lungs, and his hand would have instinctively swung his sword at his oppressor had it not been trapped behind his back.
The other guards laughed at him from the sides. Is this not the invincible assassin Ning Fung who is the pride of the Western Faction special agents? Why is he defenceless against our Whirlwind Kick Ha Hau Mo?
Ning Fungs thumb found the hilt of his sword and flicked it upwards with all his might; the sword flew out of its sheath from behind his back and high into the air. All he had to do now was to catch it as it fell. But he could not move his body from the weight on his chest. What was he to do?
Suddenly, Ning Fung felt something blunt pressed against his lower spine that emitted a warm feeling. He heard the deep breathing from behind him and immediately knew what had happened. The warm feeling travelled all around his body as rivers of sunlight moving through his veins and it empowered him with the strength and confidence to push back against Ha Hau Mo.
A burst of internal energy erupted from his chest and Ha Hau Mo flew back several yards into his men. Ning Fung caught his sword with one hand and charged at the Eastern Faction guards. As soon as the guards saw the icy face before their eyes, his equally icy blade was already beside each of their necks.
The four men were trapped against the wall in a straight line and Ning Fung pressed upon Ha Hau Mos neck with the forearm of the hand that held the sword. The tip of the blade dug into the grey bricks.
Ning Fung glared right into Ha Hau Mos eyes. Is this not the renowned Whirlwind Kick Ha Hau Mo that is the pride of the Eastern Faction castrated hounds? Why is he defenceless against the bad-tempered assassin Ning Fung who is very irritated at the moment?
There was no fear in Ha Hau Mos eyes, only loathing. Ha Hau Mo scoffed indignantly, You have a lot of courage to say castrated hounds in a place where thousands of eunuchs live. Have you forgotten that the master you serve is also one of us castrated hounds?
Ning Fung grinned confidently. My superiors only care whether I am able to complete my mission. Everything else is insignificant. All I know that you are the only obstacle in my mission of bringing the prisoner Yeung Yat Ching to the Western Faction Headquarters!
Ha Hau Mo gave a self-assured laugh. I would very much like to see whether you and your superiors find that this is insignificant! and from his clothing, he withdrew a small scroll that unrolled as he held up before Ning Fings face.
The short note read: The traitorous prisoner Yeung Yat Ching is to be handed over to the authority of the Eastern Faction as of immediate effect. Any delay caused will result in the death penalty. And there was the unmistakable red square stamp of authority at the bottom of it.
Ha Hau Mo shook the note before Ning Fung menacingly. Do you not recognise the stamp of Supreme Commander Lau? Step away immediately!
Ning Fung was reluctant but there was no alternative. He pulled his sword out from the wall in a blink of an eye and took special care to leave the smallest cut on the skin of their necks that was not serious enough to be classified as an injury, but painful enough for them to complain.
You did it on purpose, you rat! How dare you? Dont you dare deny it? they shouted.
Ning Fung re-sheathed his sword carefully and crossed his arms. I have all the time in world to stay and argue with you my intent but unfortunately, you do not have the same luxury. Any delay caused will result in the death penalty! I bet Supreme Commander Lau is wondering where you all are now and whether he should wake up the executioner!
Ning Fung then let out a peal of mocking laughter at the men. Yeung Yat Ching smiled secretly underneath his dishevelled hair as he held out the ends of his chains to the men. The four men realised their situation and putting aside all anger, they grabbed their prisoner by his chains and hurried him off amidst the echoes of Ning Fungs laughter.
I have a strange affection for Ken Lo ever since I saw him those Jackie Chan movies back in the late 80's. To me he has sort of handsome with a sly look on his face. He was forever a sidekick smirking the background who got bashed by Jackie Chan and co before the ending fight. The role which Ken Lo really shone out was in "Drunken Master 2" (1994), as the big boss, John. (I actually wanted to marry him when I was 10, back in the times where I had a crush Billy Chow, Collin Chou, Yasuaki Kurata, Hwang Jang Lee, Yu Rong Guang etc.. )
He actually looked quite refined in his suit and vest but when he started kicking, oh.... You had to see it to believe the agility of his legs and feet. It as like he could swivel his legs 360 degreess all around with unbeliveable flexibility. It was maybe Jackie Chan who did the choreography, but the execution was perfect! To me, he ever outshone the "hero" Jackie Chan with his fantastic lightning fast kicks and balance. Other than John, I don't think Ken Lo ever had an outstanding role again.
Funny thing is that the role initially belonged the Pak Sung Hon, the Korean Taekwando kicker who got injured practising those superhuman moves, and got regulated to the second villian, Henry. JC and his team were in a dilemma on how to fill that role when Ken Lo stepped in.
For those who don't know, Ken Lo was originally a nightclub bouncer who got employed as Jackie Chan's bodyguard as well as stuntman. Born in Laos, and growing up in Cambodia and Thailand, Ken is skilled in lower body flexibility from practising Muay Thai and Taekwando at a young age. He had a brief career as a tour guide and a Muay Thai champion. His ex-wife is Bonnie Ngai Suk Yin (ex-ATV actress who played Yu Ung Far in "The Snow is Red" and paired with Lawrence Yan), who he met during his brief time filming series with ATV. His second most known role would probably be Reverend Kok Sang from "The Snow is Red" as the father of the main villian, Nip Siu Fung.
Though he has appeared in many films with or without Jackie Chan, not many people are really aware of Ken Lo, other then being one of the bad guys in JC movies othe ultimate bum-kicking villian in some cheap budget kickfest. I feel it is pity that he never got any good leading roles despite his unremarkable skills. He was briefly unemplyed when JC disbanded his stunt team and paid Ken a measly dismissal fee of HK $100,000 for 30 years of service. There was big fallout between Yuen Biao and JC over Ken, but everyone is happy now after a sercet settlement. I am happy to see Ken still active in HK movies though his martial art peak has already passed, but still way more formidable than those self-precious new leads who can't enough kick without a wire attached.
I was originally going to kill of Ha Hau Mo quite early in the story but after casting Ken Lo, I feel that I want to give him a larger role than some regular eunuch lackey. I will see how it goes.
Anyhow, for those who are interested, here is the incredible end fight between Ken and JC in "Drunken Master 2". Enjoy!
Last edited by charbydis; 02-28-13 at 07:40 AM.
Cast of Appearing Characters:
Lau Gan - Gilbert Lam Wai Sun
Yeung Yat Ching - Michael Miu Kiu Wai
Tse Chin - Law Lok Lum
Lau Geen - Kenneth Tsang Kong
Ma Wing Shing - Lee Kar Ding
Guk Dai Yung - Waisee Lee Chi Hung
Ning Fung - Jackie Lui Chung Yin
The old metal gates of the prison creaked open. The cell was so ill-lit that one could hardly see the fingers held before the face. Any normal person would be terrified and tense but Yeung Yat Ching was not a normal person. He had been through many battles in many rough terrains. Once, he led his army blindfolded in an ambush during the desert night in the midst of a sandstorm. Relying on his other senses to gain familiarity with his surroundings, not having visual input to help was nothing new to him as he sat down cross-legged on the straw.
There was at least twenty other prisoners in each of the cells beside him. He could hear their breathing and smell the sweat off their skin. He was the only prisoner that was allowed the comfort of a solitary cell. He could hear the sound of chains being dragged across the floor as several of them crept closer to the bars of his cell.
Is that you, General Yeung? called out a deep voice.
Yeung Yat Ching opened up his eyes at once. He knew that voice. Creeping close to the direction of the voice, he asked in a clear voice, Head Minister Tse?
A hand reached out and grasped him tightly. I am afraid so! replied Tse Chin.
I am also here! cried another bitter voice. It was Lau Geen. His hand too clasped on top of his.
As more and more voices called out to him, Yeung Yat Ching was stunned at the number of ministers of the Imperial Court and their family members that were imprisoned here in the Eastern Faction Headquarters. Nearly half of the Imperial Court was here in this prison.
What are you all doing here, Ministers? he cried out in astonishment. Where are Brother Dong Yeung and Brother Him Yu? He had noticed that two of the ministers Lee Dong Yeung and Kuk Him Yu that usually affiliated with this party were absent.
Lau Geen gave a bitter laugh. We were foolish enough to think that in the Emperors eyes, fifty-three of us loyal ministers would be able to be outweigh one treacherous eunuch. But we were wrong! And this is our punishment! Extreme disappointment and despair could be heard in his laughter.
Tse Chin continued in his deep voice, Since we got news that you were forcibly arrested, we decided to jointly petition the Emperor. But he chose to believe the false accusations of Lau Gan instead. And then we we His voice trailed off as he was too distressed to carry on.
Lau Geen took over. We then all threatened to resign together unless you were released and Lau Gan removed from Imperial Court. We had thought the Emperor would be moved our willpower but Lau Gan took the opportunity to smear us with an accusation of treason in trying to coerce the decision of the Emperor. We have been banished permanently from Imperial Court and along with our family members, and now await our exile to the Northern Frontiers for hard labour. Luckily we persuaded Dong Yeung not to participate just in case we failed and now he is the only one left to fend for himself in the Imperial Court against Lau Gan and his cronies. As for Him Yu, we have not seen or heard from him since we were arrested!
Yeung Yat Ching clutched the hands of the two ministers firmly and bowed his head in deep guilt. In a loud voice, he called out to all who could hear. Yat Ching is not worthy for all of your sacrifices. How can I ever repay you all?
Tse Chin laid a comforting hand on his shoulder. After all our years of friendship, you are worth every effort. Repay us by serving the Great Ming Empire to your very best ability!
But how? exclaimed Yeung Yat Ching, I am too awaiting my sentence.
Lau Geen and Tse Chin leaned close to him through the bars and said in a low voice, Escape! With your abilities you should be able to escape from this compound and continue to save our nation!
Yeung Yat Ching looked into the direction of the two ministers. After a short hesitation, he asserted, If I am to escape, then we will all escape together. I will take all of you and your family members and break out from this prison! And with that he grabbed the chains from their wrists and broke them into halves with his bare hands.
Dont be an emotional fool! scolded Tse Chin, We are a group of the old and frail. We will only hinder you in your business!
I cannot let you all suffer because of me! cried Yeung Yat Ching. Too many innocents had died because of him. It should be between Lau Gan and him. And no one else.
To his surprise, Lau Geen slapped him hard. We are not you! We do not possess the martial arts ability and contacts that you have in the wulin realm to continue the vendetta against Lau Gan ! What good would we be outside? We would only be branded as fugitives and traitors to the nation! But if we willingly go to exile, maybe one day the Emperor would be moved by our sincerity. We would rather die than escape!
Tse Chin whispered quietly to him, There are many groups forming all over the empire that detest the practices of Lau Gan but lack a strong leader to unite them to make a deep impact. You are that leader, General Yeung!
Yeung Yat Ching shook his head. I cannot leave. I have lasted thus far, I cannot abandon my efforts now But they never go to hear the rest of his sentence as they were interrupted by a patter of strong footsteps approaching.
The light from the lantern nearly blinded the eyes of the prisoners who were accustomed to the extreme darkness. It is time for you traitors to head on your way to exile! and several rough guards herded the ministers and their families out of their cells.
Yeung Yat Ching clutched at the bars of his cell as his friends disappeared from his line of vision. A pair of feet appeared before him. He looked up at an old and wrinkled face that had not lost the fierce complexion of its youth. There was a distinctive scar across his left cheek that confirmed his identity.
Ma Wing Shing! muttered Yeung Yat Ching through his gritted teeth, Congratulations for stealing me away from the Western Faction!
As Ma Wing Shing smiled, his disfiguration seemed to multiple in the dim light. Yeung Yat Ching! The Eastern Faction is honoured to have you as our guest!
Too bad his stay is about to end! came an approaching voice.
Another tall man was now standing beside his cell, with a young man by his side. Ning Fung nodded at Yeung Yat Ching who nodded back. No one else noticed their communication as all eyes were focussed to the heads of the two Eunuch Factions sizing up against each other.
One does all the hard work yet another reaps all the rewards. What a pity! Yeung Yat Ching sat back calmly to see how the conflict would unfold.
How dare you enter my Headquarters without my consent? Dont think that because you have been gaining Masters attention lately mean that you can stomp all over the Eastern Faction! We have deeper roots that you can imagine! Master gave direct orders for the Eastern Faction to take over custody of Yeung Yat Ching, not your Western Faction! The veins on Ma Wing Shings face pulsed rapidly as he yelled at his counterpart.
Guk Dai Yung chucked casually. Your Eastern Faction has been established since the time of Emperor Wing Lok and yet you are still a smaller organisation than my Western Faction which has been established for just over one month. What does that say who Master trust more? Shall we take this matter to Master?
There is no need! came a cold voice from above them all.
Lau Gan stood upon the wooden bridge built over the cells. He was surrounded by armed guards at all sides. He was quickly greeted by his subordinates. He was a hundred paces away.
Yeung Yat Ching peered up through the bars of his cell at Lau Gan who was climbing down the wooden stairs. It was the first time that he had ever laid eyes on his nemesis and he was not disappointed. Lau Gan emitted a regal air of authority with each step he took. His eyes showed an unmatched determination and iciness that was equally inspiring as chilling; one stare seemed to penetrate all barriers to sift through your deepest and darkest thoughts. If all the rumours about his martial arts prowess and ruthless tactics were true, then it was no wonder he was able to maintain control over so many influential people for so long.
Guk Dai Yung cupped his hands and bowed in obeisance. Master, how is it fair that my agents have risked their lives and resources to bring Yeung Yat Ching to Beijing for the Eastern Faction to take all the merit without a sweat?
Lau Gan glared at him. Are you questioning my judgement, Guk Dai Yung?
He quickly shook his head in terror and avoided his gaze. No, Master. I dare not! he quickly denied.
Lau Gan looked right at Yeung Yat Ching and smiled. Anyone else would have been petrified at the unfathomable thoughts behind that smile, but Yeung Yat Ching merely smiled back.
Lau Gan did not withdraw his piercing stare as he called out to the two eunuchs. It seems that both of you have just fallen for General Yeungs divisionary tactics!
Yeung Yat Ching laughed out loud to confirm the suspicion. His enemy was now thirty paces away.
The two eunuchs wanted to protest when Lau Gan held out his right hand to silence them. The Eastern Faction and the Western Faction are equal to me and I do not place any bias towards either one. If you want my trust, the only way to earn it is through results and not bickering. Do you two not understand me?
Yes Master! cried the two leaders without any objection.
Lau Gan took a few steps forwards. He now was twenty paces away, still surrounded by his entourage. So, General Yeung, we meet for the first time! I am not disappointed.
Yeung Yat Ching slowly channelled his internal energy through his body without displaying any obvious signs. I would just have to say the same to you, Lau Gan! I just love it how you are able to twist the right and wrong to your own advantage.
As Lau Gan moved forward, the light caught his eyes and they glistened brightly. In a bitter voice, he replied, There is no right or wrong in the world. Only the strong and the weak. He was now fifteen paces away.
Yeung Yat Ching gave a weak laugh. But the tides of life will turn and the strong will soon find themselves as the weak. The internal energy was building up in his palms.
So one must strive to fight against the tide and stay on the top as the strongest Lau Gan took another two steps forward.
You really think that one is able to fight against the tide? cried Yeung Yat Ching trying to distract his enemy from detecting his preparation for attack.
Lau Gan stared in the distance thoughtfully, and then looked at him again. If one has the determination, one is able to overcome even the most arduous challenges of life. Is that not right, Yeung Yat Ching? Are you not fighting
against the tide of my domination with your naïve ways of loyalty and patriotism?
As I said, the tides of life will turn. Evil can never overcome good. I am waiting for that time to come.
Yeung Yat Ching was waiting patiently. Though his body had been restricted, he could still release fatal palms of energy. He had taken into account the martial arts ability of both himself and his target, and estimated that his palm range was thirty paces away to cause serious injury. But to guarantee death at full force the target needed to be within ten paces of him. He may not have a second chance if he failed.
Lau Gan was now thirteen paces away.
To his disappointment, Lau Gan took a few steps backwards. Very well. Then I will let you wait in peace. We shall meet again.
No one knew that he had lost his martial arts. But he had to take the necessary precautions. Since the attack, he did not go anywhere without his bodyguards and he kept a distance from the others in case they detected his secret. One could ever be too careful.
Yeung Yat Ching watched helplessly as Lau Gan walked further and further out of his range of attack as he dispersed his build up of internal energy.
He said to himself, Next time, Lau Gan. Next time!
Exile (流放) has been a common form of punishment in the Chinese Penal System for thousands of years, ranging back to the late Shang dynasty to nowadays in modern China.
The Ancient Chinese Penal System mainly consists of five major punishments in increasing order of severity: caning(笞), panelling (杖), imprisonment (徒), exile (流) and death (死).
The most common sentence for severe crimes is death. In extreme crimes such as treason or rebellion, death is usually not limited to one individual but extended to acquaintances within the nine familial connections (株連九族) as well as political allies. In cases of treason, it is not uncommon for hundreds of people to be beheaded for one crime.
However, the ancient Chinese community was formed upon Buddhist foundations. Bloodshed is seen as a sin, that will taint one's merits in the afterlife while affecting peace and prosperity in the current life. Exile was seen as a way for the ruler to show mercy and yet enforce discipline in his subjects. It was also a way for the criminal to severe all ties and communication with his family or allies to defuse any future plans to repeat treason.
But exile was not an easy way out. The distance of exile is also correlative to the severity of the crime, ranging from 2000 miles to 3000 miles from the Capital. Criminals are often sent to the outermost frontiers or secluded islands by a long journey on foot, bound in chains or even worse, a cangue. Many did not survive the journey to the place of exile, dying from disease, hunger, exposure and fatigue, not to mention the emotional trauma of being separated from one's family.
For those who reach the place of exile, they are constantly under guard in labour camps away from the local community where they are made slaves to the Empire. Common tasks are to building or maintenance of the Great Wall, building structures in new towns, mining, digging wells, etc. For those of poor health, old age, female gender or young age, they may be allocated to menial tasks such as overlooking the daily needs of soldiers - food, water and cleaning. Some women can be sold as prostitutes as well. criminals of noble descent can be placed in house arrest in far away areas under guard but they do not need to participate in any chores. However, the labour camps are often located near the outer frontiers plagued by raids from ethnic tribes and exiled criminals can also be conscripted into the defence.
Exile may not be a permanent sentence. There is often a length of time imposed and the criminal can return home after serving their sentence. There are also criminals with a life sentence but they too have a chance of returning home when there is a royal pardon granted as an act of mercy, usually when a new ruler is crowned of if a major battle has been won.
There are other methods of punishment reserved for special extreme crimes, which would be covered later on in the story.
Last edited by charbydis; 03-18-13 at 07:20 AM.
Cast of Appearing Characters:
Ning Fung - Jackie Lui Chung Yin
So Yee Ha - Sharon Chan Man Chi
Clank! Clank! Clank! The loud and dull thumps of metal bumping against a hard surface could be heard as Ning Fung removed his belt and placed it on a long wooden table. There were various weapons attached to the belt daggers, darts, needles and his old friend, the sword. Clank. A short dagger joined the collection as he took off his boots and socks. He also had to remove a wrist belt of darts from his right hand before he could take off his clothing and drape it over the clothing rack.
The steam from the hot bathtub of water encased his muscular body as he got in, but even the translucent swirls of moisture rising up around him were unable to conceal the numerous old and new scars all over his torso and limbs. In the hot steam, the flower-like mark on his right shoulder seemed to glow bright red. The relaxing effects of hot water were extremely enticing to his tired muscles and mind and he sunk his body within its warm embrace.
Ning Fung closed his eyes and travelled deep into his thoughts to escape from the aching pain in his chest. A large fresh red-purple bruise lay across his chest like a branded mark.
Somehow, a question lingered in his thoughts. If to do your job means to bury your conscience under layers of lies and masks, then a hundred years of lifespan is no more than a hundred years of torture! Is this the life you wish to lead? The words of Yeung Yat Ching replayed over and over again in his mind.
Ever since he could remember, his sole purpose of life was to survive despite all odds. In his class of aspiring trainee assassins, the rules of survival were long imprinted into their young minds. Failure meant death. Conscience was only a burden on the mission. He had never taken a wrong step according to these rules and it guaranteed his success in his field. But deep at night when there were no more distractions, he had to face the silence reprimand of his conscience.
There was a small creak as the door to his hut opened. His ears prickled at the slight movement but he did not show any detection to lure the silent intruder closer. He had always strewn a few dried peas about five paces from the doorway each time he entered. The instant he heard the cracking, he knew that the exact position of the intruder and immediately shot out a hand for his sword.
Ning Fung was quick but the intruder was quicker for all his hand could grasp was empty air. There was a loud crash and Ning Fung opened his eyes to his collapsed side table. The clever intruder had tied a thin rope to the table and sawn the wooden legs beforehand. One slight pull and the legs would fall off and the whole table and its contents went sliding towards the door.
You vermin! Today you shall die by my hands!
Ning Fung let out a quick laugh and lent back casually and rested both arms on the side of the bathtub. Very clever, wild cat! I see that you have put a lot of though and planning into this! So you must have been busy spying on me bathing all these days? Did you enjoy it?
Shut your mouth! shouted So Yee Ha as she held his weapons close to her chest. The whole set was very heavy especially the sword. She could not understand how these swordsmen could wave them around effortlessly as if they were mere twigs.
What are you going to do to me when you have no weapons out?
So Yee Ha quickly fumbled around to get out one of the weapons. But there were so many. Which one should she choose? As she tried to get out the sword, Ning Fung took the chance and started to move out of the tub.
She immediately jumped back and pointed the unsheathed sword at him. Dont you dare stand up! she shrieked.
What? You expect me to sit in this tub of water and let you stare at me all day? he said casually. Even assassins get bashful!
And then his jaw dropped. Look! A cockroach! he shouted, pointed to the window sill beside her where indeed, was a large cockroach.
But So Yee Ha did not scream and jump around like maiden in distress. After the days she spent here, she was already accustomed to their presence. With a determined blow, she crushed the unfortunate insect with the hilt of the sword. Even Ning Fung was stunned.
So Yee Ha was getting more confident by the minute as she gripped the sword with both hands and pointed at his throat. She took care to stand the furthest away she could. First the cockroach, then you!
Ning Fung tilted his head backwards and exposed his neck to her, as if daring her to stab. At least a hundred men die by my hands each year. Do you really think that I will be scared of a weak maiden who shrieks when I try to stand up in my bathtub?
You try and stand up and you will be the first assassin to die naked!
Good luck trying!
Glad to do so!
Well, why do you want to kill me dead? he asked out of the blue, easing back into the tub, If you had came come across any other of my group that night, you would now be rubbing the dirt off the feet belonging to the King of the Underworld instead of having the luxury of watching a handsome assassin bathe!"
Unknowst to So Yee Ha, his hands were fumbling across the both of the tub, searching for his secret weapon.
The question struck her mind like ton of brick. Why did she want to kill him? At first, killing him was the only thing on her mind! If it hadnt been for him and the other assassins, she would not have sustained as serious injuries to lead to her miscarriage. But as she slowly recovered from her manic episodes, she started to question the validity of her motive. Her abdominal cramps had begun long before the assassins appeared. Maybe even if they had never met, her miscarriage was still imminent. In fact, had it not been for him and Old Man Po, she would have lost her life as well.
But she needed someone to hate. In times of hardship, sometimes hate is the only things that will motivate a person, even if it meant being clouded by denial. Hatred breeds a will a will to keep living!
A splash of water hit her squarely in the face and So Yee Ha staggered backwards in surprise with her eyes closed. Furiously wiping the water out of her eyes with her sleeve, she swung the heavy sword at Ning Fung who leapt up as the blade dug into the wooden tub and got stuck; letting splashes of water droplets fly everywhere. Ning Fung grabbed his clothes of the rack as he spun around rapidly in air and by the time he landed before her eyes, he was roughly dressed.
With a few easy moves, Ning Fung distanced the feisty woman from the wedged sword and wrapped his arm around her struggling in a headlock. Ill take those back! he said as he snatched the belt of weapons out of her hands.
But So Yee Ha was persistent and he had to lift her off the ground to restrict her movement. But instead, she sank her teeth into his arm. He did not cry out in pain. Assassins were used to pain and injury but his headlock instinctively loosened at her sudden move and she darted away to the corner of the room.
Get away from me! she cried as she shrunk her body against the corner. Then she realised that she still had a weapon in her hand - it was a leather wrist belt that shot out deadly darts. She saw one of the assassins use it. It wrapped around the wrist and a simple twist would set off the trigger line which shot out the darts. She had not time to put it on but she knew that pressing down on the string also had the same effect.
Immediately, she held it out before her but Ning Fung continued in his steps fearlessly. What? Have you gotten sick of biting now?
Get away from me now or I will shoot! she repeated with heavy breathing. She had never killed a man before. What if she really killed him? But he was edging closer.
So Yee Ha closed her eyes with fear as her fingers pressed down on the string. Instantly, three small darts shot out but Ning Fung merely avoided them with a slight tilt of his head. So Yee Ha opened her eyes trembling with fright as the man towered over her. He lifted a hand in the air and she winced, waiting for him to strike.
Instead, Ning Fung snatched the wrist belt out of her hands. You are welcome to watch me bathe anytime but dont touch my weapons again! And he turned his back on her to get the embedded darts out from the wall.
So Yee Ha dreaded thoughts of her situation. Her hands suddenly found a broken table leg and seeing that the assassin had his back turned, she crept up behind him attempting to knock him out with one blow. One blow was all it would take that was what she thought.
Then all of a sudden, he turned around and the table leg cracked into two when it came down on his head. Ning Fungs eyes followed the remnants wooden leg in its descent from her hands and then looked back at her with curiosity.
So Yee Ha stepped warily back as he smiled at her. What do you want? she snapped hastily, both scared and worried at his reaction. She had expected to see blood gushing out of his head but Ning Fung merely rubbed the side of his head which had a new slightly raised lump.
Give me your hand! he said calmly, extending out his right hand to her.
But So Yee Ha shrunk away from him and tried to make a run for it. She screamed as Ning Fung grabbed her from behind and grasped her hand tight. She was helplessly trying to extract her hand from him but he was too strong for her to resist.
Too her surprise, Ning Fung buckled the wrist belt around her wrist and carefully hooked the trigger line across her middle finger. He carefully replaced the three darts in their empty slots and then let go of her hand gently. Keep this on at all times. Next time, open your eyes when you shoot. And wait til your target gets closer. You will have a higher rate of success without your terrible aim!
So Yee Ha retracted her hand suspiciously and then looked at the wrist belt. Why did he give her a weapon when he knew that she hated him? Are you not afraid that I will try to kill you again? She asked after taking a deep breath.
Ning Fung looked at her with a smile. With your rate of success, I think I should be pretty safe. Beijing will be in chaos in the next few days. You would be better off using that to protect yourself. Anything can happen.
So Yee Ha narrowed her eyes at his words. Why am I getting a vibe that you care for me? She had always been straightforward with her words. Her parents had warned her against it, boldness was not a virtue of a woman, but it was ingrained into her personality.
Ning Fung smiled. What makes you think I care for you?
Then why did you save my life? Though he was rough and sarcastic, she felt this cold-blooded assassin was more human than her heartless husband. At least, he valued her life and existence.
Old Man Po helped too! cried Ning Fung, trying to divert the direction of conversation.
I am not asking about Old Man Po, I am asking you! Why did you save my life? So Yee Ha was not blind to the efforts of Old Man Po but right now, she wanted to know his answer. The faintest hint of care from this man was probably a weakness that she just uncovered, a weakness that she could exploit for her revenge.
It was question that even he did not know the answer to. I just felt like it! he replied casually.
In a way, it was the truth. He did what he thought was right instead of what he was told to do. It was a feeling more than a carefully thought out plan. Maybe if he was put in the same situation again, he would have reacted differently.
Will you feel like it again if you see that I am in danger? She bravely inched her body closer to his, staring him in the face confidently, waiting for his response. He stared back at her, not knowing what to answer. When the time was right, she would reach for the dagger attached to his clothes. And she will never have to look into his eyes again. His eyes seemed to glisten and smile at the same time, as if staring into two precious jewels.
Keep it down, you two! shouted an irritated voice from Old Man Pos hut.
Ning Fung leaned in even closer so she could feel his warm breath on her lips. Youd really want to know?
So Yee Ha suddenly felt her whole face feel warm, as pulsation of her capillaries under her skin slowly hastened with each pulse. Her fingers were merely inches away from the hilt of the dagger, yet did not reach for the weapon.
Ning Fung smiled slyly at her reaction and whispered gently, Ill tell you next time! and moved away back to his hut.
As soon as he left, So Yee Ha immediately inhaled a breath of fresh night air to calm herself and clear her head. He is the enemy, not a friend. She should not be feeling like this. All of a sudden, something cold and wet landed over her face.
Ning Fungs voice came from within his hut. A souvenir for you just in case you miss me later on because I am not taking anymore baths tonight!
Ahh! she screamed as she pulled the damp cloth off her face and flung it to the ground in disgust. It was the bath cloth he used to clean himself - everywhere. You infidel! You scoundrel!
Ning Fungs cocky laugher echoed through the air, quickly joined by an extremely frustrated voice, Would you two just keep it down? Some people prefer to sleep in the middle of the night than ask stupid questions!
Wrist Darts or Sleeve Arrows are mechanical projectile weapons fired from a metal tube that strongly resembles a gun barrel. They date back unofficially back to the Warring States but are first recorded in books from the Yuan Dynasty.
Only one projectile can be loaded at one time into a barrel, and the weapon is engaged by locking the pointed arrowhead with a gadget called the butterfly lock. The projectile is then released with an internal spring contraption by means of a trigger which is where wrist darts and sleeve arrows differ.
Sleeve Arrows are longer tubes around twenty centimetres long that are kept kidden in the long sleeves of ancient Chinese people. They tend to be individual tubes that slide out into the palm when the aim is straightened, allowing the arrow to be released by pushing a metal release button with a finger.
Wrist Darts are slightly different, usually consisting of two or three individual tubes attached to a leather wrist belt. As darts are smaller than arrows, so the barrels are around ten to fifteen centimetres long, and all tubes are triggered by the tightening of the same metal wire or leather strap. The trigger strap is usually wrapped around ones wrist and hooked between the index finger and the thumb, so a slight twist of the wrist is enough to cause enough tension to the strap to release the darts, one after the other.
Although both weapons are different in design, their basic mechanics are similar and are classified under the same Chinese name - 袖箭. All tubes need to be manually reloaded to fire a second shot. It was not until the mid-Ming Dynasty during the reign of Emperor Wan Li (Man Lik) that a general named Liu Yan (劉延) designed a semi-automatic contraption called the Plum-Patterned Sleeve Arrow (梅花袖箭) was designed to fire six projectiles at once with the same trigger, forming a plum-patterned wound. But its weight and rebound power did not allow it be attached to the wrist so it was held like a gun instead.
Happy Easter 2013!!!
Last edited by charbydis; 03-30-13 at 07:46 AM.
Cast of Appearing Characters:
Yeung Ming Hung - Kenneth Ma Kwok Ming
Yeung Ming Ho - Ruco Chan Chin Pang
Suen Nga Yin - Natalie Tong Sze Wing
Lung Tin Kwun - Felix Wong Yat Wah
Chan Hong - Derek Kwok Ching Hung
Lau Gan - Gilbert Lam Wai Sun
A strange thing happened in Beijing. There were many disgruntled travellers who had no place to board. For the first time ever, there were no vacant rooms in all inns within the capital city. All vacant or abandoned properties were instantly taken, no matter how worn down or isolated they were. All temples had to lock their gates from sunset onwards until daybreak. There were no questions asked and no answers were given. All were satisfied with money or pacified with threats of violence. Another strange thing happened after that. All the disgruntled travellers left without a trace. No one knew where to.
There was an old tofu jelly seller called Tofu Shing that had been working the streets of Beijing for nearly two decades. He had a small shop that was closed for three days due to a cold that he caught when he returned from visiting his relative outside the city. Tofu Shing and his wife lived in a small flat above their shop on Cheung Wong Street, enclosed at three sides by a thin brick wall. The houses were so close together that you could hear what was going on next door if you kept your ear close to the thin walls.
It was dark and Tofu Shing and his wife were seated in the candlelight, waiting for their guests to arrive. A few old men hobbled down the stairs and knocked on their door. There all well-known faces in Beijing. There were poor tailors that struggled to make a living and lived all together in a small flat close to Tofu Shing. Tofu Shing opened the door for them to enter.
It is time! said one of the tailors in a deep voice that seemed out of place with his frail appearance. And the elderly couple joined the hoard of residents that were heading down onto Cheung Wong Street which lead right to the North Gate of the Forbidden City.
The guards at the gate could not believe their eyes as hundreds of defenceless and elderly citizens marched towards them as one. There was even one elderly monk in his religious robes amongst them. The guards laughed at the sight, but little did he know that the horde of ordinary peasants were all martial arts experts in disguise who had gathered here from all over the country. They all had one aim to rescue Yeung Yat Ching.
Lau Gan had ordered both Eunuch Factions to have all new visitors tailed he minute they entered Beijing and to occupy all vacant accommodation to constrict the area of surveillance. True visitors to Beijing will either live with family or friends to even leave the city out of frustration. Only the suspicious few will linger around in the city unwilling to leave. But he would have never guessed that Yeung Yat Chings rescuers would kidnap and subdue ordinary Beijing residents and replace their identity within the city. They managed to replace all residents of one large building along the busy Cheung Wong Street so that there would be no nosy neighbours suspicious of their charade.
Disguised as Tofu Shing and his wife, Suen Nga Yin and Yeung Ming Hung caught each others eye and nodded. The two had reached an agreement for them to never reveal her identity as the Emperors concubine. Even Yeung Ming Ho only knew her as a new friend that his brother had met on his travels. To their surprise, Suen Nga Yin was not only a martial artist, but an expert in disguise.
Nearly everyone had responded and arrived except for Duen Mo Ngai and the Brotherhood of Heavenly Dragons. But they could not wait anymore. Tonight had to be the night. Yeung Ming Ho had received a message from Yiu So Sum that Lau Gan had not shown his face for days, most likely gone into seclusion to advance his martial arts. Once he entered his martial arts chamber, he would not re-emerge for at least two days. Tonight was the second night. With Lau Gan out of the way, breaking into the Headquarters of the two Eunuch Factions would be much easier. Tonight had to be the night!
It was a widely believed rumour that the Headquarters of the two Eunuch Factions were somewhere within the Forbidden City. It was confirmed so by guards that they had captured alive. The Headquarters were located underground beneath the Eunuch Administrative Bureau deep within the Forbidden City. To get there, one had to penetrate its defence forces consisting of thousands of Imperial Guards and Faction guards. If it had not been for Suen Nga Yin and So Yee Ha who acted as hostages to help his escape, Yeung Ming Hung would have not gotten out alive. The security must have multiplied since his escape. But with hundreds of the top martial arts experts, the plan would run much smoother.
Are you all ready? shouted Yeung Ming Hung to the rest while raising the long broom in his hand. The crowd behind him roared in agreement as they charged at the North Gate.
The Imperial Guards on the second storey of the North Gate froze with astonishment as the man they knew as Tofu Shing ran vertically up the gate and leapt up it in the air before them. With a quick swing of the broom in his hand, the fragile twigs quickly fell apart and revealed the gleaming golden spear which sliced through their throats effortlessly.
A red flare was released into the dark sky with its trailing tail of light. At the signal, more Imperial Guards rushed out of the gates and were met with a group of elderly wrinkly women. In a flash of red and orange, the old women transformed into a group of young and beautiful women and that was the last sight they ever saw. Yeung Ming Ho tore off his fake bald head and threw it at the horrified guard before him. More and more strange transformations occurred as the martial arts experts ripped off their disguises and revealed their true self.
The red doors of the North Gate closed and reinforcements of guards came from other stations and soon, the North Gate was surrounded by a mass of fighters and dead bodies. The Yeung brothers fought valiantly on the second story of the gate, taking down crossbow guards and archers that were raining down arrows and darts. Barely half an hour had passed and the North Gate was just about taken as the reinforcements seemed to stop coming. It had been an easy task with minimum casualties.
Yeung Ming Hung stood on the fortified walls of the gate and Yeung Ming Ho opened the doors wide for his friends to enter. Let us enter and rescue my uncle! he shouted as the martial art experts all moved towards the entrance into the Forbidden City.
Watch out! bellowed a strong deep voice that travelled over the loud noises of fighting.
A pack of horses charged onto Cheung Wong Street, adding to the confusion. The fierce leader rode ahead of the others and leapt off his steed to make his way across the street by stepping on the shoulders of the mass.
Brandishing his weapon, he swung one powerful blow at the door of the great mansion adjacent to the North Gate, which split in half immediately along with the men hidden behind. With another swipe, the force from his blade took down the thirty guards with crossbows that were hidden in its tiled roof.
Yeung Ming Hung watched the events with great confusion. All these guards were there all this time yet they had taken no action and watched as the North Gate was invaded. Things were getting very suspicious. Their mission to break through the North Gate seemed too effortless.
The fierce leader stood triumphantly on the top steps of the great mansion. Righteous Outlaw Lung Tin Kwun! they all gasped with surprise at recognised his characteristic Wild Dragon Sabre.
The Brotherhood of Heavenly Dragons had finally arrived! Dashing along the streets on horsebacks, they lined the streets of Beijing with gunpowder from their saddlebags as if preparing for their escape.
Dont be misled everybody! Lung Tin Kwun roared Lau Gan has traps and even more guards waiting for you inside the Forbidden City! Dont go in! The Headquarters of the two Eunuch Factions are not within!
Yeung Ming Hung quickly turned his head to inside the Forbidden City and saw the horde of Imperial Guards rushing
through corridors of the tall red walls. Quickly shut the doors so they cant get out! he shouted anxiously to his brother.
Yeung Ming Ho hurriedly pushed the heavy doors to the North Gate shut. A tall man leapt down from the second storey with a fire torch in his hand and helped him lock it with the heavy wooden beam.
Brother Chan! What are you doing here? he exclaimed with surprise as he saw the familiar face of Chan Hong in the torchlight.
Despite one being a loyal Ming official and one a famous bandit leader, Yeung Yat Ching and Lung Tin Kwun had remained close friends for many years and they both lived the same region. Chan Hong was no stranger to him.
Hurry up, Ming Ho! shouted Chan Hong as he emptied his bag of gunpowder in a semicircle around the locked doors and got out another. The two quickly ran up the stairs to the second storey and merely avoided the quick rain of darts from the oncoming Imperial Guards.
Chan Hong winked at Yeung Ming Ho as he threw the torch onto the trail of black powder that they had left along the stairs. A little something extra added inside out of the goodness of my heart! he shouted cheerfully as there was a loud bang and tall red walls of flames sudden arose as it spread down the stone steps, creating a barrier of licking flames between the Imperial Guards and the large doors.
Good job, Brother Chan! cried Yeung Ming Ho as they leapt down off the second story. There is no way anyone would be able to get through the North Gate today!
Ha! replied Chan Hong, They would have to run a quarter of the length of the whole Forbidden City to get to the next gate and run all the way around outside to get to us! By the time they get here, they wont be even able to fight! The two men chuckled at the frustrated cries from within.
Lung Tin Kwun pointed at the great mansion and hollered, Here is the true entrance of the Eastern Faction Headquarters! Follow Chan Hong if you want the Western Faction! and he kicked down the remaining planks in the doorway and strode through.
Deep within the Forbidden City, the loud cries from the North Gate could still be heard. Nestled in the security of his secluded stone chamber, Lau Gan could still hear the alarm. But he could not move. Sitting cross-legged on the stone floor, beads of cold sweat rolled down his face as he forced his internal energy up from his meridian to absorb the poison from his bones. No matter how excruciatingly painful, he could not move a muscle or make a sound. Once the process of expelling the poison started, it could not be interrupted.
It had been too long since the Energy Dissipating Poison entered his body. The longer it stayed within its system, the harder it was to expel. He could not hide his lack of martial arts forever. There were endless enemies waiting for him to falter. The only way to remain at the top was to be at the top. He needed to regain his prowess as soon as possible.
Sorry, nothing historical to comment on for this chapter. Have been quite busy lately with my personal and work. Will try to update when I can. Am currently writing Chapter 99. Will celebrate when I get to Chapter 100!
Cast of Appearing Characters:
Kuk Yuen Yau - Lelia Tong Ning
Duen Mo Ngai - Lawrence Yan Chi Keung
In the Cold Palace, Kuk Yuen Yau also heard the alarms of intrusion but dismissed it as nothing. Whatever happened outside was no longer of her concern. Her world now consisted of the quiet life where there were no more competition and jealousy. Since the failed attempt to escape, neither Yiu So Sum nor Cheung Wan Sheung came to visit her. At first, she had thought that they had come to harm but he had reassured her that they were safe.
Siu Kei Chi had shown up the day before in the Palace of Prolonged Radiance. They did not say much to each other and he left shortly after handing her the scroll. They were no longer friends but not yet deadly enemies. What more could they say to each other?
She sat on the bed with the scroll on her lap and head against the hard wooden bed boards, staring at the old poem roughly engraved into the side of the bed. A few days within moving into the room, she had found it by chance, hidden behind the old drapes at the side of the bed.
Fighting back cries of separation by death, I endure the lingering agony of separation in life.
From the putrid swamplands of the south, I heareth no word from thee in exile.
Thy appeareth in my dreams, old friend, as if knoweth my longing for thee.
Entrapped in this snare, how can thou have hopes of escape?
The poem was roughly engraved by the rooms previously occupant with a sharp object. The person who engraved the poem must have stared at it every night as she lay awake at night, just as Kuk Yuen Yau now did every night, wondering how long her sentence of isolation would last and the hopeless future that lay waiting for her.
The soft blue fabric felt very soft and comforting in her hands as she mindlessly stroked the embroidered designs and played with the folded letter in her hands. Kuk Yuen Yaus mind went back to the day where she discovered this scroll. It was just after her eighth birthday and she was playing hide-and-seek with her numerous cousins in their ancestral home in Yangzhou. She had been caught two times in a row already and she wanted to find the most secluded hiding place ever so no one would ever find her. That was why she ventured into the forbidden room.
The spacious room was located in the East Chambers of the mansion before a small courtyard of roses. But no one lived there. From as early as she could remember, her grandfather allowed no one to enter the room except for the maids who dusted it. One of her cousins was caught in the room once and was caned twenty times by her grandfather. No one knew why the room was forbidden. Either that or those who knew did not want to reveal the answer. But she had been confident that it was the most ideal hiding place.
She carefully opened the doors which creaked with the movement. The room was tidy and spacious. There were bedcovers neatly laid even though no one would lie on it. There was not a speck of dust on the tabletops or the desk. As a curious child, she went around exploring the room and soon found a basketful of scrolls. She had never been very interested in paintings but the pale blue fabric made it stand out to her. She had always loved dancing as a child and she immediately took interest in the dance choreography instructions. But it all seemed too difficult for her to comprehend at that age so she took it back to her room. No one ever knew that she had entered the room.
At a later date, she once asked her grandfather who the room belonged to and why they were all prohibited to enter. She had always been her grandfathers favourite and he gave in to her every whim. But this time, he suddenly lost his temper at her and slapped her hard on the cheek. He had such a frightening intense expression on his face that she ran screaming out of the room in fright. Her grandmother later came to comfort her and told her the answer.
The room had once belonged to her aunt, who was her mothers elder sister. She was the Emperors dearly loved concubine but passed away many years ago. Her grandfather was much grieved by her death and thus wanted her room to be maintained in the same condition in her remembrance.
Kuk Yuen Yau was not really satisfied with that answer but after seeing the intense expression on her grandfathers face, she never mentioned the topic again. She secretly took the scroll with her back to Beijing and he never found out that it was missing. Their relationship continued as if the incident never happened and she never went near her aunts room again.
Just before she entered the Forbidden City, Kuk Yuen Yau found out that her aunt was no other the powerful Noble Consort Yuen of the Emperor Shing Fa. The Emperors undisputed favourite was Imperial Noble Consort Man, but Lady Yuen was able to maintain his affection and her own power within the Enclosed Palace.
Many riches and honour were bestowed upon the Yuen family during her lifetime and helped the male members rise to powerful positions in the Imperial Court. She served Emperor Shing Fa for thirteen years before passing away childless due to illness. She was buried in the Royal Mausoleum along with Emperor Shing Fa which was one of the highest honours for an imperial consort.
Kuk Yuen Yau took another look at the date of the letter. 8th March, 1st Year of Shing Fa. That was nearly forty years ago. Who was this mysterious author? Since the scroll was found in her aunts room, then there was high possibility that it belonged to her.
She quickly shook her head defiantly to convince herself otherwise. No. It was not possible. The father of the author was a hard-hearted man. Her grandfather was no such person. He was not the sort of the despicable man mentioned in the letter. No. It could not be him. If it was him, why was he so distressed when her aunt passed away and still emotional when asked about her so many years later?
Furthermore, the author was bitter regarding her marriage to Emperor Shing Fa yet her aunt served the Emperor for thirteen years until her death. How can you stay married to a person with no love for thirteen years? She herself knew. She now had no love for the Emperor and would rather die than let him to touch her again. It was impossible. There was no way that the ill-fated author was her aunt.
Yangzhou was a large city and Emperor Shing Fa had many concubines. It must be all a coincidence and her aunt had
somehow found the scroll and took it home. Whoever it was, Kuk Yuen Yau felt a deep respect for the mysterious author and her sacrifice for her lover. She quickly inserted the letter back into the scroll and rolled it up neatly. She vowed to keep the scroll well-protected so the intention of the author could be forever maintained.
Ever since young, she had been told by people around her how much she resembled her late aunt. Even in the Palace of Prolonged Radiance, she was still reminded of that every day. The older consorts always whispered about her behind her back. More cultured ladies like the two Grand Empress Dowagers and Empress Dowager Cheung did not say anything and acted normal, but even at times they could not control the involuntarily habit of exploring her facial features for familiarity as they recounted stories from their youth. Lady Shun seemed the only one open about this as she now straightforwardly addressed her Lady Yuens reincarnation.
She had kept her relationship with Lady Yuen a secret from the other consorts. The constant comparison irritated her. She was her own individual. She had not even seen a painting of her aunt. There was no imitation or influence since her aunt had passed away long before she was born. How similar could two different people be if they had never met?
The massive Royal Mausoleum stood like a ghost palace in a secluded place north of Beijing. It had stood there since the time of Emperor Wing Lok, chosen to forever serve as a haven for royal ancestors of the Ming Dynasty. Stone sculptures of mythical beasts that were seated upon large pillars lined all the archways and pathways along the entrance to the complex which is known as the Spirit Way, as if daring anyone to venture within and disturb the souls of the previous Emperors. The Royal Family were keen believers of geomancy and divination. They believed that any disturbances to their ancestors resting place would result in disastrous consequences for the empire.
The guards of the Royal Mausoleum shut their eyes as they braved the strong howling winds and passed below the Great Red Gate on their routine patrol. There was a strong haunting presence around the Royal Mausoleum; the guards could feel it even more so in the last half a month. Every night from midnight to daybreak, strange howls of pain and cursing filled the ghostly necropolis. It would stop for a while and then restart shortly afterwards, sending blood-curdling shivers to all those who heard it.
Each night, the guards huddled together in their troops of twenty to investigate the origins of the screams; praying with each step they took that they would not find anything that night. And they never did.
But tonight was an exception. One of the guards gave a loud scream and tried to run backwards but was caught by his companions. What are you doing screaming so loud? they scolded him in a low voice, Do you want to awaken the royal ancestors and see them in their zombie forms?
The terrified guard pointed at one of the tombs with a shaking finger and stammered, The the the doorway is open! and he quickly hid his face behind his hands.
The guards quickly spun around to face the tomb he pointed at. The doorways were sealed shut with a large stone slab from the point of burial onwards, never to be open so the resident could rest in peace. But tonight, the doorway was indeed open.
The rest of the guards all shrunk away from but one brave guard gathered all his courage and lit up the red characters engraved on the side of the tomb. It read, Tomb of Noble Consort Yuen - Beloved consort of Emperor Shing Fa. Passed away in the 13th Year of Shing Fa.
Lady Yuens ghost! cried the terrified guards.
There had long been rumours that she had been poisoned by the Emperors most beloved Lady Man out of jealousy, and her vengeful ghost would wander the Forbidden City at night. Maids and eunuchs that had interrupted her whilst she played her qin within her residence were found dead without any obvious wounds on them all of them dead and as cold as ice. Had she now grown tired of the routine and now come to the Royal Mausoleum to seek more victims?
But the brave guard snorted at their fearful expressions and let out a distress flare into the sky to notify other troops of the disturbance. There are no such things as ghosts! I bet you it is a grave robber! We will all be beheaded if any of the Feng Shui designs within are damaged! I order you all to follow me in now at once!
No one wanted to but they could not disobey. The brave guard was their captain. So each grabbing their lanterns tight in their hands, they trudged unwillingly one behind the other into the dark interior of the tomb.
The smell of freshly burnt incense wafted out from within the Lady Yuens tomb and a faint candlelight flicked at them as they reach the end of the corridor.
See! I told you it was no ghost! whispered the captain to his men, Ghosts do not need candlelight! We will all charge in at the count of three! With their courage multiplied at the realisation that they were up against a man and not a vengeful ghost, the guards counted to three and rushed in to encircle the intruder.
A tall cloaked man was standing over the stone sarcophagus. His long greyish hair was neatly tied behind his back with twine and his head was lowered, gazing silently at the surface of the sarcophagus. Three sticks of sweet-smelling incense were placed before the stone coffin as an offering to the dead.
Who are you and how dare you break into the Royal Mausoleum? shouted the brave captain with his sword upraised. The twenty men all raised their weapons and lanterns. To their horror, there were several white skeletal remains upon the floor, covered with cobwebs and dust. There was no flesh left in the bones but the deteriorated black material of what used to be their clothes could still be recognizable. These men were not killed here recently.
The cloaked man gave a wry laugh without looking up. Ignoring the twenty guards as if they were invisible, he said gently to the sarcophagus, Forty years have passed. I have searched for you all these years and you must have been waiting for me. How ironic is it that I am now here yet you are gone? Will you not let me look upon your face once more? And with a swift thrust of his palm, the lid of the sarcophagus flew off.
Dad coming thru the door now. Can't let him know about this. Will write author notes later. Cheers.
Last edited by charbydis; 04-24-13 at 09:12 AM.