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Thread: Tale Of A Falling City (Qing Cheng Ji)

  1. #21
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    CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE: Love and Revenge
    Hearing that Wan Qiu Ning was the reason for their plight, Miao Shi Zhong, Ou Yang Hua, Qiao Kong Chao and Qu Wan Quan all turned to look at Yang Ji Fan, as Han Qing Feng finished the rest of his story. Yang Ji Fan was looking down at his clasped hands, his face and eyes void of emotions. For a moment, he looked up and stared at the man who never talked. The two exchanged glances and went back to looking at their hands in deep thought.

    Qi Qian Yu seemed worried as they recalled the event and Hong Zheng Tian put his arm around her shoulder in comfort. Qi Qian Yu felt uneasy at this but did not recoil. She felt the same thing when Han Qing Feng did it to her and she did not recoil then, so why should she now? The a wave of jealousy came over Han Qing Feng when he saw it, paused for a minute or two, then dismissed the feeling and continued with the story.

    After the story finished, Yang Ji Fan proposed, “Then you will stay with us until it is safe. Jian Cheng, lead some men and scout for any signs of the Immortal Exterminating Clan! Do not attack them but come straight back immediately! We will be waiting back in the ship” Zhuang Jian Cheng immediately got onto his feet and went off to carry out his orders.

    The rest walked back to the ship when suddenly, they smelt a faint fragrance blowing with the inward sea breezes. Then one by one, they collapse onto the pale yellow sands of the beach. They felt the strength draining form their limbs and were gradually weakening. Then thirty figures dropped from the skies and landed metres in front of them. Among them, Han Qing Feng and Qi Qian Yu immediately recognized a middle-aged man as the cold assassin leader that were chasing after them. He saw her and grabbed her by the arm and lifted her out of the pile. She did not retaliate, not because she didn’t want to, but because she couldn’t.

    Then a woman, dressed in a series of reds, stepped out. Her age was hard to tell from the distance; sometimes she seemed twenty, sometimes thirty, and sometimes even forty. But she was beautiful and seemed very kind. Yet, her face carried an angry expression that sometimes became sorrow, but then back to anger.

    “Zhao Yin! Who was it? Where are they? Who had killed my beloved Bing Xin?” the woman screamed at Zhao Yin, who was the leader that Han Qing Feng and Qi Qian Yu had seen before. Her face was pale and flushed with emotions. In her eyes was such sorrow, yet so much hate, as she transferred her gaze to them, one to one.

    “It was him!” he responded and pointed to Han Qing Feng. “The other girl we have caught!” He smiled evilly as his plan was slowly working.

    “What do you want?” Han Qing Feng shouted in both anger and fear at the half-crazed woman that was approaching him. His hand behind him, gripped tight the hilt of the Green Silk Sword, but yet he did not have the strength to lift it.

    “What I want? What do you think I want?” she screamed crazily, “You life, of course! You killed my Bing Xin, now I will kill you,” and then her eye shifted to Lian Le Yi next to him, and continued, “Unless you can provide me with a substitute.” Lian Le Yi panicked and tried to scramble away. She did not like the way this woman was looking at her; it made her feel uncomfortable. Where was her mentor? Why wasn’t he here to save her?

    Then a voice came from behind her and said, “Hua Bi Rong, you should keep your weird habits to yourself, and leave other girls alone!” Lian Le Yi turned her head and saw Yang Ji Fan too, poisoned and lying weak and frail on the soft sand. <IMG SRC="smilies/scold.gif" border="0">
    "Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self."
    Cyril Connolly

  2. #22
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    CHAPTER TWENTY TWO: True Love or Obsession
    Hua Bi Rong’s interest was suddenly diverted, and a flood of questions flooded her mind. Was it him? Was it really him? If he was here, where was she? Now that he was here, what would she do? Kill him? Kiss him? Hug him? Or mutilate him?

    Yang Ji Fan and Hua Bi Rong exchanged their first word soon after he and Wan Neng parted ways. It was at night that she first came to him. Yang Ji Fan was preparing for sleep when he heard the roof tiles softy tapping against each other. Rolling a small round metal bead out form his sleeve, he flicked it up at where the sound was concentrated and the figure leapt of the roof. Yang Ji Fan himself then jumped out of the open window and joined the mysterious figure outside. Despite all the action, all was nearly silent and no one else woke up.

    The woman attacked him straight away as he came out, but he quickly defended himself with the Golden Snake Hand, and after a series of exchanging stances, he managed to injure her with a palm on her shoulder. The force of the palm made her retreat backwards, and in the soft moonlight, he saw her face.

    He had never seen that woman before in his life. Her face was beautiful, but not as pure as the beauty he had seen before. Her facial features were deep and delicate, but her eyes betrayed her soft appearance. She spoke up first, “City Master Yang, you are indeed skillful in the martial arts! I humbly admit defeat.”

    But Yang Ji Fan saw her eyes and suggested, “But I presume to compare martial arts was not your reason for coming here tonight. Please reveal you intention or I will go back inside to sleep!”

    The woman quickly blurted out, “I love you! I fell in love with you the first time I saw you and I hope you feel the same way!” and reached forward for his hands.

    Yang Ji Fan slid backwards out of her reach and replied with bewilderment, “What on earth are you talking about? I have never even seen you before, how can you fall in love with me? Miss, please mind your actions and be aware that you are a lady.”

    The woman explained, ‘ I am Hua Bi Rong, the Tidal Phoenix that you saw at Luo Yang! If I was not in love with you, why would I reveal my real face to you?” Hua Bi Rong had fallen in love with Yang Ji Fan’s air of authority and confidence that had surrounded him as he fought with her and Chen Xu. Chen Xu was nothing compared to him. He was just a business deal, but Yang Ji Fan was different.

    Yang Ji Fan seemed shocked at this. He was absolutely not attracted to her; neither her face nor her actions would interest him. Hua Bi Rong was known as a ruthless killer, who not only killed for money, but for entertainment as well. Once, she had mutilated a whole innocent family of fifteen just because she was bored. Yang Ji fan shivered at the thought of having such a woman share his bed.

    But yet, he politely declined, “Miss Hua, I am honoured to be admired by you, but I can’t accept your love. You and I are enemies, now that you have allied with Chen Xo to attack my city.”

    But she cut in and asserted, “If you accept, I am willing to give up this business deal and go through thick and thin with you! Together, my Immortal Exterminating Network and you Smoke Gathering City will dominate the Wu Lin World!”

    Still, Yang Ji Fan refused. He was not an ambitious person and it was the ambition in Chen Xu that had killed his father. “Miss Hua, I am not worthy of your love. You and I have different dreams and goals, you should find someone with the same dreams as you and give your love to him!”

    “If our ambitions are different, then I can change to suit you!”

    “Why endure the pain of hiding your inner self? But I loved you because of that; then it is not you I love but someone else. Farewell!” and he walked back into his room despite of her protest. After that night, she constantly came to bother him, but later, the times she came lessened and later, she did not come at all.

    But all those years, Hua Bi Rong had not forgotten him. She now walked towards the defenseless figure on the beach and exclaimed with tears in her eyes, “Yang Ji Fan, I loved you, but you did not love me, and told me to find someone else to love. But then did you have to steal her away when I finally found her? If not for you, Qiu Ning would still have loved me. Did you know how much pain you two, the two people who I love the most and love me the most, have caused me all these years?”

    To this, Yang Ji Fan calmly and coldly responded, “It was you brought the pain on yourself all these years. I never loved you, neither did Qiu Ning, and I would say neither did that Bing Xin you are talking about. Nobody loves you!” <IMG SRC="smilies/bawling.gif" border="0">
    "Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self."
    Cyril Connolly

  3. #23
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    CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE: Unregretful Choices
    Most of the people on the beach were stunned at these words. Wasn’t Hua Bi Rong a woman? Qiu Ning seemed like a female name, and Yang Ji Fan was certainly a man. So why did Hua Bi Rong claim she loved Qiu Ning? Does she love women or is Qiu Ning a man? But would that make Yang Ji Fan a man who was interested in men? It was all too confusing and exhausting for the poisoned people on the beach.

    “You lie!” Hua Bi Rong screamed, “You may not have loved me, but Qiu Ning did! She risked her life just to carry out the assassinations for my sake! She loved me!”

    “But you are wrong!” The voice was not of Yang Ji Fan, but of the silent man whose leg rested under Yang Ji Fan, the one who traveled along with him from Black Demon Peak.

    “Wan Neng!’ she exclaimed in surprise. He had disappeared for many years, and many had thought he was dead. She had too. But right here, was he, now older, but alive.

    “You are very wrong. Qiu Ning never loved you, or even liked you. She is normal, unlike you. She always went out on assassinations just because she didn’t want to be anywhere near you. You had always tried to summon her but she never came and I lied to say that she was ill. I tried everything to keep her away from you, and when you sent me out on a mission, she even braved the risk of being killed and followed me out than to stay with you. You see, she is afraid of you!”

    Back in Wan Neng’s mind, he could distinctly hear Wan Qiu Ning’s small and innocent voice begging him, “Please, take me with you! I don’t want to stay here. Master is scary, and she always looks at me in this way that I feel uncomfortable. I don’t want to stay here!”

    And then the voice matured and a blurry image formed, and gradually becoming clear. It was a half a month after they had parted with Yang Ji Fan. They were up in the north, trying to carry out their mission.

    “I don’t want to kill him. He is a good man, and he did nothing to hurt us. I don’t want to kill him, or betray him. I don’t want to!” Wan Qiu Ning protested at the request made by him.

    “But you must. He is the target of our mission. You are a killer, and killers must carry out their missions. You have killed without a thought before, why hesitate now? I already let you refuse on the day we purposely got close to him, but not today.” he retorted.

    But still, she insisted, “All I killed before were evil men, but Yang Ji Fan is not one of them. I would rather die than hurt him!”

    Using her weakness, Wan Neng exclaimed, “But if you don’t kill him, then it means that we would have failed. If we have failed, then Master will call you back and kill me. But if you manage to get close to him, you will buy more time to be away from the headquarters. Think about it!” Wan Qiu Ning thought a moment, but still, refused to change her choice.

    Wan Neng walked behind her and looked at her back. It was no fault of hers to maintain her innocence and kind heart, but it was not a good trait in this situation. Somehow in the recent days, Hua Bi Rong had urgently asked for Yang Ji Fan’s head, pressuring him with death. Now, he had to make a choice, a choice that will affect their future. His mind was set and he was ready to carry out the action.

    “Ahhhh!” cried Wan Qiu Ning as a strong force hit her back and she was sent sprawled to the ground. A mouthful of fresh warm red blood ejected from her mouth and her internal organs were injured. Weak and frail, her eyelids gradually fell and darkened her vision.

    “Sorry, Young Mistress. I am doing this for the welfare of both you and I!” and saying so, he carried her out of the small in they were staying in and galloped away into the dark night. After putting her gently to the ground, he went and scaled a tall tree and hid in its branches as the galloping of horse hooves became louder and louder. Then as planned, Yang Ji Fan found her and took her with him. And thus, a spy had successfully slid into the lives of her target, ready to strike at the right time. At first, Wan Neng regretted his decision, but later thanked himself for it, as those were the happiest days of Wan Qiu Ning’s life. <IMG SRC="smilies/fallinlove.gif" border="0">
    "Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self."
    Cyril Connolly

  4. #24
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    CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR: Love Is A Weapon

    Wan Neng continued, “You are too aggressive and oppressive for anyone to love you. You yourself are unable to love. You try to make everyone see you as a goddess but those who don’t; you try to force them into doing so. If that is what you call loving someone, you are wrong. True love cannot be substituted. If you had really loved Qiu Ning, why have you found substitutes for her in all these years of her disappearance? Look at Cult Master Yang, he has waited fro her everyday and hasn’t even looked another woman ever since the moment she left! How dare you compare yourself to him?”

    Hua Bi Rong went into a craze at those words. In a matter of seconds, she was screaming and ramming herself into her followers, and killing them in a fit of blind anger. The assassins ran and dispersed, trying to avoid the fast and deadly palms of their master. In this moment of confusion, everybody forgot about the people on the ground.

    Wan Neng smiled at Yang Ji Fan as they saw that their strategy had worked. Wan Neng immediately realized the aim of Yang Ji Fan’s words, and continued from there. All the time he was talking, Yang Ji Fan put his hand under his back and slowly fumbling to remove a small bottle from the band tied around Wan Neng’s ankle. When he finally achieved it, he took advantage of the moment that Hua Bi Rong’s attention was diverted and hid the bottle in his palm. He raised his fist to his nose and removed the stopper with the least of movements. He could slowly feel the power running back into his limbs and now that Hua Bi Ring was creating a chaotic scene, he immediately leapt up and gave the bottle to everybody to smell.

    Then at the same time, a group of men joined them on the beach. It was Zhuang Jian Cheng and the men he had taken with him. They had followed the advice of Yang Ji Fan and refrained from attacking the enemy. But then some of the enemy came and they hid among the rocks, and followed them stealthily as they left.

    Zhuang Jian Cheng saw Qi Qian Yu still being held captive by Zhao Yin and leapt to her rescue, but he was no match for Zhao Yin and had his pressure points sealed. Zhao Yin ordered his own men to take the captives aboard their own ship, while he enjoyed the fight on the beach.

    Yang Ji Fan and Wan Neng battled against Hua Bi Rong as they other all ran away to their ship. Normally, Hua Bi Rong would have been no threat to Yang Ji Fan under normal condition, but now, all that filled her mind were anger and confusion, that blinded all rationality. But it was also this that had increased her power. Without thinking about the consequences, Hua Bi Rong just used all the stances she could think of, and with the optimal power.

    Wan Neng was quickly immobilized after enduring several powerful God Defeating Palms, but Yang Ji Fan was still there. Without Wan Neng in the way, he could now display his newly invented stances, Black Demon Yin Yang Sutra. With one Black Demon Unregretful Palm, Hua Bi Rong was sent flying several metres backwards. Suddenly, she was released from her blindness and immediately knew she was in trouble. Never in her life had she encountered such a powerful stance. Sa Yang Ji fan approached to end her life, she extended both palms and locked him with her internal energy.

    It was now a battle of internal energy, and Hua Bi Rong could feel that she was not going to last much longer. With one desperate yell, “Fang Qiu!” and immediately, a young sturdy follower came to her aid. Fang Qiu ran behind her and pressed his palm on her back, and adding his internal energy to hers.

    Suddenly, a multitude of small darts shot at them and forced them separate. This sudden separation caused all three of them to be internally injured, as well as poisoned. Laughing evilly and loudly, Zhao Yin walked towards them. Everything had gone to plan. Hua Bi Rong and Yang Ji Fan were both injured and the leadership position was now his to claim. Even better, Fang Qiu was injured too, better still, will soon be dead.

    Fan Qiu lay motionless on his back on the soft sand layer covering the once peaceful beach. With the least internal energy, he was more close to death than the other two, but he was still conscious and his heartbeat increased as he saw the sly figure coming closer to him. And with one quick stab to the heart, the heir to the position was now dead.

    “Qiu Er!” screamed Hua Bi Rong as she saw the yellow sand next to his body slowly being dyed red. She could have done nothing to save him and could do nothing when Zhao Yin lifted her onto his arm. He didn’t want to kill her yet.

    He turned and faced the injured Yang Ji Fan on the ground. Wan Neng had crawled next to him. He too had been hit with the dart. Meanwhile, Miao Shi Zhong and Qiao Kong Chao were running with all their might across the soft sand to their Cult Master.

    “Ha! Ha! Ha! Yang Ji Fan, I had always dreamed of you like this, lying defenseless below me. You are poisoned with the unique poison of my organization, Intestine Breaking Bone Revealing, and you only have three months to live. I could kill you right now, but I still need you!” <IMG SRC="smilies/deal.gif" border="0">
    "Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self."
    Cyril Connolly

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    CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE: Hidden Feelings

    A male follower from the ship approached him and handed a piece of paper to him. Zhao Yin laughed and dropped the paper onto Yang Ji Fan.

    “Yang Ji Fan, here is a map of where that girl said her Grandmother would be. Go there and bring her back to me. I will be waiting on the cliffs over there in three months’ time. If you don’t want to die, then bring her to me! If you want that girl and your student back, give me the old woman. I will be waiting!” and saying so, he carried Hua Bi Rong away and they left.

    Yang Ji Fan had fainted from his injuries and was carried back to the ship to nurse his wounds. But he was still unconscious, and so was Wan Neng. Miao Shi Zhong, Ou Yang Hua, Qiao Kong Chao and Qu Wan Quan did not know what to do, but decided to travel to the island anyway to save some time.

    Lian Le Yi sat sobbing next to her mentor. What was she to do? She could not help him, but felt saddened at his dying health. In the adjacent room, Han Qing Feng and Hong Zheng Tian were in a heated argument with the four in charge.

    “We should go and save Miss Qi first. That Zhao Yin is crazy, who knows what he will do to her? The two protested. But the other four refused and they even got into a fight. Being seniors, the four did not use their full might so no one was hurt. But their relationship was hurt.

    Han Qing Feng couldn’t sleep. He tossed and turned in his bed and his sheets became crumpled. Whenever he tried to close his eyes, the sad face of Qi Qian Yu would be there, calling for him to save her. But what could he do? He could not go alone and did not know where they had taken her. Finally, he could not stand it and walked out to the deck for some fresh night air. Hopefully, the cool breezes will help drop his eyelids.

    The night sky was very dark. The moon was not there and there were no stars to make up for the light. However, something else lit up the deck, for standing near the side of the ship, was a man facing the ocean and in his held was a lantern. The man turned around with a smile on his face. “Brother Han, you can’t sleep as well?”

    Han Qing Feng nodded with a weak smile and walked up to his friend. “Brother Hong, you know as well as I, what the reason for that is. We still do not know whether Miss Qi is alive or not, but I am afraid that in the three months’ time, she might have been tortured to death.”

    Hong Zheng Tian sighed, “I know! But what can we do about it?” He pointed the light still on in Yang Ji Fan’s room and exclaimed, “Today is indeed a restless night. Maybe it is just too much energy has been building inside us. How about if we have a friendly fight and use it up? Maybe that will enable us to sleep!”

    Han Qing Feng was very dampened by Qi Qian Yu’s situation but when he saw the friendly smile on Hong Zheng Tian’s face, he saw it as no harm and agreed. Firstly, it was just soft punches, but as time passed, suddenly, Hong Zheng Tian’s stances became more vicious and his strength became more powerful.

    “Brother Hong, what are you doing? It is just a game!” screamed Han Qing Feng as he tried his best to avoid the upcoming attacks, and at the same time not hurt his friend.

    But Hong Zheng Tian seemed not to hear and just repeated, ‘ I want to kill you! I want to kill you! Qian Yu is mine! You have to die!” and increased the speed and power of his attacks. Finally, Han Qing Feng could not withstand these continuous bombardments and got injured on the shoulder. Pain spread through his whole chest as he fell to the deck, astounded at the sudden change in his friend.

    With desperation, he made on final cry as a Hong Zheng Tian’s deadly palm came towards him, “Brother Hong, Nooooooooooo!”

    But Hong Zheng Tian did not heed, as only one voice filled his head, “Kill Han Qing Feng! Kill Han Qing Feng!”
    <IMG SRC="smilies/curse.gif" border="0">
    "Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self."
    Cyril Connolly

  6. #26
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    CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX: Spider Releasing Golden Silk

    Suddenly, a window flew open and something small and white flew out. Han Qing Feng focused his eyes towards it and identified it as a cup. But in normal focus, the cup appeared only to be a blur of white as it had been thrown with so much force and speed, that it seemed all in its way would be shattered. Hong Zheng Tian lifted his hand to stop the cup but the force of the cup broke his fingers and it continued to hit his chest, injuring his internal organs, and at the same time, forcing him overboard.

    “Brother Hong!” cried Han Qing Feng as he immediately forgot his injury and dashed to lean over the side of the ship, only to see his friend’s body disappeared under the submerging waters of the deep ocean. “Brother Hong!” he cried again in agony. Suddenly, hands from behind him help him up and he turned to face everyone.

    It seemed that the noise from the fight had awoken nearly everyone on the ship and they had all ran out to see what was going on. Lain Le Yi quickly ran to the side of the ship and cried in despair, as Hong Zheng Tian’s body was not seen. Han Qing Feng looked to the open window saw the painful face of Yang Ji Fan, who was leaning on the table inside the room.

    Yang Ji Fan had unexpectedly woken up and saw what was happening. But he still had his injuries and the use of his inner force to throw the cup had deepened his wounds. Miao Shi Zhong and Ou Yang Hua quickly jumped in to support him, while Qu Wan Quan and Qiao Kong Chao took Han Qing Feng’s pulse. But at the same time, a dark figure appeared on the roof of the ship and started laughing.

    “Ha! Ha! Ha! Hong Zheng Tian, Hong Zheng Tian, it seems that I have not raised you in vain! Even with your death, you could help me hasten the death of my worst enemy! Good boy! Ha! Ha! Ha!” As the night was dark, the face of this mysterious man could not be seen, but upon hearing his voice, Yang Ji Fan immediately knew who it was.

    Shouting up to the roof in difficulty, Yang Ji Fan yelled, “Chen Xu, you are indeed despicable! You would sacrifice your student’s life just to kill me?”

    “Ha! Ha! Ha!” came the reply, “Yang Hen Tian! I will sacrifice anything just to kill you! His life meant nothing to me, but yours does! We could have been friends had not Li Shan had always preferred you! I have had to put up with her for so many years and tonight, you will pay for this insult!” And saying so, he lifted a gleaming red sword and plunged blade first into the tiling. Han Qing Feng gasped as in his hand, was the no Name Sword.

    But Yang Ji Fan was prepared. Pushing away his two supporters, he extended his arm straight down to the floor and a small wooden pipe slid into his hand. Outside, no one could see what was going on inside but no one dared to go in and see. Suddenly, the dark figure of Chen Xu leapt out of the window and landed in front of Lian Le Yi. But then he quickly jumped over the railings, and onto a smaller ship adjacent that sailed away very quickly. In the light from the lanterns, one could see that his entire right arm was imbedded with a multitude of golden needles that glittered brightly in the light. It was the secret weapon, Spider Releasing Golden Silk, designed by the Immortal Exterminating Network.

    Suddenly, Lian Le Yi collapsed and shortly after, so did Yang Ji Fan inside. Lian Le Yi was still breathing, but small spots were appearing on her fair skin. No one spared the time to see what had infected her but carried her into the room where Yang Ji Fan was laid on his bed. He was panting heavily and sweat poured down his face. The pipe that he had been holding rolled out of his loosened hand and went under the bed.

    The four faithful followers leaned by his bedside to heed to any orders. “Go… go and find that old woman on the island. Protect her with your lives, don’t hand her to Zhao Yin. Don’t worry! Jian Cheng will escape. I know it! But pity I won’t live to see him come back safely! Ask the old woman where … where Wan Qiu Ning is. Find her! Promise me! Promise me! Prom…” and without finishing his sentence, he fell unconscious and his relaxed hand dropped over the side of the bed.

    “Cult Master! Cult Master!” the four called repeatedly, shaking the body of Yang Ji Fan, and as expected, they received no reply.
    <IMG SRC="smilies/asleep.gif" border="0">
    "Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self."
    Cyril Connolly

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    CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN: Escape To Death

    Qi Qian Yu opened her eyes and found herself staring at the ceiling of a bed, covered with pink material. Her head hurt when she tried to remember what happened before her sleeping pressure point was sealed. It had seemed that in a blurry moment, she was drawing a map to her home but yet, it seemed like she didn’t. Then, she remembered she had been captured by the enemy; she had to get out of here!

    She turned her body to sit up in the tight ropes she was bound it, but, “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” she screamed when she found herself lying next to a young man.

    Zhuang Jian Cheng immediately woke up from the loud sound piercing his ear and saw Qi Qian Yu next to him. “Hey! Be quiet!” he warned, “Or the killers will come to kill us!” And he to sat up to examine where they were.

    Not only their bodies, but their hands and even their feet, ha been bound tightly behind their backs. An oil lamp was shining brightly on the table and a cup of tea was sitting beside it. Steam was still coming out of it. The person who had been drinking it, must have just poured it and gone away.

    Deducing that the absent person was their guard for tonight, they quickly tried to untie themselves before he came back. At first, Qi Qian Yu rubbed her head against the side of the and shortly, her hairpin successfully dropped onto the bed. Zhuang Jian Cheng and her both tried to make a grab at the hairpin to cut through the ropes, but at each attempt to grasp it, it just went further and further away.

    “Oh no! It dropped into the gap in the bed! What shall we do?” she exclaimed in panic as their last hope of escape was gone, but Zhuang Jian Cheng’s mouth was busy and couldn’t answer her. He had dropped behind her back, and she could see what he wsa doing.

    “What are you doing? Ow!” she exclaimed in pain as one of his teeth accidentally sank into her hand.

    He mumbled a bit which sounded like coarse language and then went back to his business. Qi Qian Yu did not understand the instant eh talked, but later, she realized he was saying, “I am trying to bite loose the ropes. Now be quiet!” And in less than two minutes, her hands were free and she quickly turned around to untie his. They threw the ropes off themselves and headed for the door. Then came some heavy footsteps, which became louder and louder as they approached the room they were in. The two gasped as the door slowly opened.

    “Heh? Where are the captives?” exclaimed the guard when he saw the empty ropes lying on the floor. He had just been to relieve himself and thought that it wouldn’t harm to leave the captives alone for a little while. But he was wrong. And he knew it too. “Oh no! Am I in trouble” he thought to himself, and quickly screamed, “Help! Help! The prisoners have escaped!” And he quickly ran outside to spread the alarm.

    And it was fortunate that he did, and the minute he left the room, Qi Qian Yu dropped something out of her bag and fell of the beam she had been hiding on when trying to grab it.

    “Quickly, Miss Qi, this way or we can’t escape!” and they ran out of the room. Twenty men of the Immortal Exterminating Network dashed passed them on their way out but luckily, they did not notice them hiding in the shadows. As soon as they all passed with their brands of fire, the two thought it was safe and quickly dashed to a small boat resting on the side of the ship. Once they could get there, they would lower themselves into the water and row away to safety. If only it was that easy.

    But just as they were to reach to side of the ship, they were spotted by one lazy killer that did not like running and their location was announced loudly.

    “Hurry up!’ Zhuang Zhan Cheng yelled to Qi Qian Yu as he got into the boat. After releasing one of the shrinking wire nets at the pursuing crowd, she leapt in to join him. But the Immortal Exterminating Network were not that stupid to let them get away that easily. After all, they were the number one killer organization in the whole of the Central Plains.

    As son as the rope holding the boat out of water was cut, two closely knitted nets enclosed over their heads, locking them in the boat. Four large spears flew at them, but missed their heads. However, it wasn’t aimed at their heads, but at the boat to puncture holes in it. The two struggled to break open the net but they couldn’t. It was the same material that her net was made of.

    The boat was lowered into the water and the cold seawater was slowly gushing through the holes. Zhao Yin was standing at the side of the ship, laughing madly.

    “Zhao Yin!” Qi Qian Yu cried angrily, “What do you want? Let us go! We never did you any harm!”

    “Ha! Ha! Ha!” he replied, “I want you to die! No reasons at all but I just like seeing people die. I have no use for you. Whether you two live or not, Yang Ji Fan will still deliver me that Grandmother of yours and then … Ha! Ha! Ha!”

    She could not hear anymore as the water closed over her eyes, but when hope for them seemed to have disappeared, the net flew open and the two leapt out of the sinking boat and into the freedom of water. Zhuang Jian Cheng finally realized that the net was impossible to break bare handed but the boat was not. He had kicked and kicked at the timber until it all splintered away.

    Zhao Yin was furious. “Shoot at them! Shoot at them!” And the assassins shot long arrows into the water. Soon under the light of the firebrands, a pool of red gradually spread in the waters and Zhao Yin called off his men, leaving satisfied with the words, “Fish their bodies out!” <IMG SRC="smilies/disgust.gif" border="0">
    "Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self."
    Cyril Connolly

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    CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT: Deadly Glances

    It was snowing heavily all the way back to Smoke Gathering City, and Yang Ji Fan remembered it well despite the years. Wan Qiu Ning’s internal organs had been injured by the intensity of a powerful palm stroke and remained unconscious for seven days. Yang Ji Fan immediately identified it as the God Defeating Palm, which when used to full power, can shatter all bones and organs. Fortunately, her attacker only used eighty percent of his power or else she would have immediately died.

    Wan Qiu Ning was unfit to ride a horse, so a carriage was prepared and in there, she rested for most of the days. Sometimes when the wind was blowing hard on the curtain of the carriage, Yang Ji Fan would ride up next to it and slightly tilt his head, hoping to catch a glimpse of the sleeping beauty. When she slept, she kept a peaceful expression on her face, which led to seem that she had been stripped of all troubles in the world, and only her innocence and her pureness remained. He did not understand why someone would use such a cruel method to treat such an innocent being, and when he asked her, she just shook her head and replied that she didn’t know.

    On day, when the snow was falling lightly on the terrain of men heading home, they stopped to rest for the night. A few wild rabbits were caught to satisfy the hunger of these men, and soon, the smell of roasted rabbits filled the cold air. Dinner was ready. But there was no sign of Wan Qiu Ning anywhere, so Yang Ji Fan went to look for her. And sitting on the hill on a bare rock, overlooking a snow filled valley, was she.

    Wan Qiu Ning somehow sensed him and turned around, allowing her long black hair to slide from her shoulders like silk sliding off a table.

    “Its dinnertime, Miss Wan. Let’s go back!” he announced after several deep breaths. But she just merely shook her head and refused to go with a sad expression on her face.

    “I don’t want to eat. Those rabbits did nothing wrong, they were just going on with their carefree lives, without limits, without restrictions; and now they are killed. I don’t want to eat them. I’d rather sit here and look at the falling snow. See how beautiful it is! Thank you Cult Master Yang, please go back and eat your dinner. Just tell me when you are ready to continue the journey.” and saying that she turned her head back to the falling snow.

    Yang Ji Fan did not know whether to laugh or scold her for this innocence. But he decided if she was eating, then he wouldn’t either and took his place next to her on the rock. Wan Qiu Ning said nothing and just lowered her head, and kept her eyes away from him.

    It was always this way. Every time Yang Ji Fan took up the courage to talk to her; she would just lower her head and say a few words. Sometimes, she would even walk in the opposite direction to avoid him. Sensing that maybe she did not appreciated his company, he got up and turned to go, when suddenly, her gentle voice called out, “Where are you going?”

    A bit surprised that she could start a conversation, he replied, “Since Miss Wan dislikes me, then I should not be so inconsiderate as to stay and make you feel uncomfortable.”

    In a meek voice, Wan Qiu Ning timidly replied, “Cult Master Yang, please do misunderstand. The only reason that I don’t look at you is … is because…”

    Yang Ji Fan crouched down in front of her face and waited for her to continue. But she did not, and her fair face was gradually coloured and he could just hear her heavy breathing. “And it is because?” he instigated, settling down in a sitting position.

    Wan Qiu Ning did not lift her eyes, but answered, “Because I am afraid that I will die if I look at you looking at me!” blushing as red as one could possible ever blush.

    “What?” he exclaimed confused and lowered his body so his gaze was directly at her eyes and hers in his. Wan Qiu Ning did not move her gaze and staring tenderly at him, her breathing rate increased so suddenly that her eyes closed, and her body instantly wavered, falling into his arms.

    He would never forget that moment. It was the first time that he had actually held a woman in his arms, although his stepsister Yang Li Shan was always trying to get close to him. But Wan Qiu Ning was different. The faint fragrance of a young maiden filled his nostrils as she fell into his arms, and the soft touch of her leaning on his chest was just unbelievable. She opened her eyes and then lowering them quickly, she stated, “I told you. I might die if we look at each other at the same time!” and she quickly

    Was this a confession of love? Yang Ji Fan felt ecstatic at the time yet he could not move from the shock of her words. It was like a dream come true, and yet so unbelievable. Unaware, he replied, “Then maybe try closing your eyes!” Oh no! What had he said? But unsuspectingly, Wan Qiu Ning obediently closed her eyes.

    It was like a live fairy maiden sitting in front of him. And no one was around. It was all so tempting. And taking a deep breath, he did what any other man would have done in the same situation. Placing both his hands on her shoulder, he moved his head forward and placed his lips firmly upon hers. <IMG SRC="smilies/smooch.gif" border="0">
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    Cyril Connolly

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    CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE: Miracles Do Happen

    Like magic, a current traveled through him as their lips met, making him thrilled and afraid at the same time. Wan Qiu Ning immediately opened her eyes and stared right at him. But she did not move away. It seemed that she had felt the same current flowing through her.

    Then came the voice, “Cult Master, Miss Wan, the food is … argh!” Both had been gone for quite a while so Ou Yang Hua came looking for them. But what he never expected to find was the two involved in a kiss. Embarrassed and eager to spread the gossip, he ran back to the rest and informed them of the sight.

    Wan Qiu Ning heard his voice and immediately tore away from Yang Ji Fan. She jumped up saying, “Ummmm. Cult Master Yang. I am going back to the carriage now. Goodnight!” and she turned to run from this embarrassment.

    But Yang Ji Fan was quicker than her and grabbed her hand, exclaiming, “Qiu Ning! Don’t call me Cult Master Yang anymore, call me Brother Yang!”

    With a shy yet sweet smile on her face, she quietly corrected herself, “Then goodnight Yang Da-ge!” and off she ran.

    Back at the fire, Yang Ji Fan was greeted by giggles and teasing from his men. To avoid it, he curled up beside the fire and went to sleep with a smile on his face, dreaming of what had happened. Ou Yang Hua, Miao Shi Zhong, Qu Wan Quan and Qiao Kong Chao did not fear any punishment from him the next day. Although Yang Ji Fan was ten years older than them, their friendship surpassed all differences in age and status, and mere teasing would not get them into trouble.

    Yang Ji Fan seemed much more happy with the presence of Wan Qiu Ning, but it ended when a group of assassins from Immortal Exterminating Network appeared. During the fight, Wan Qiu Ning accidentally revealed her practice of the martial arts that were only unique to the Immortal Exterminating Network. Thus, her identity as an assassin was exposed and they parted.

    Ou Yang Hua never would have suspected that an innocent, polite girl such as Wan Qiu Ning could be a cold-blooded killer, and neither did the clever Yang Ji Fan. Ou Yang Hua had watched his friend instantly become more silent, less active, less sociable, while at the same time, trying to keep up a carefree appearance.

    And now, Yang Ji Fan was dead, and as a friend, he would try his best to fulfill his dying wish, to find Wan Qiu Ning. He looked at his friend’s body, filled with depression and melancholy. But what was this? He bent closer to look at the body and he could just see Yang Ji Fan’s chest moving very slightly and slowly, up and down, up and down. He quickly put a finger under his nose, and felt a weak force of warm air on his finger.

    “Alive! He’s … he’ s still alive!” he shouted in joy and held on to Yang Ji Fan’s hand. The others all crowded all around him to see whether this news was true or not. And when it was confirmed, they all left him in peace, knowing that he will survive until the poison takes effects three months later.

    But in another room, Han Qing Feng was pondering on how to revive the poisoned Lian Le Yi. Chen Xu had used a strange poison called Revealing The Toad Demon, which transferred all the poison up to the surface of the skin, forming warts. Eventually, the warts will pop and the poison will spread through the bloodstream, but before the poison reaches the heart, the victim will suffer the tremendous pain of rotting skin.

    Han Qing Feng flipped through all the pages in the Ten Thousand Poison Manual, again and again and again. He found the cure for many poisons, even poison palms, but under Intestine Breaking Bone Revealing, Bai Shi Yue had written unknown. But under Revealing the Toad Demon, there were only the words, “Accelerate the death of the victim using ice, and victim will be cured.”

    What did that mean? Surely it did mean that there was no cure and he would have to kill Lian Le Yi to save her from pain? But how could accelerating death cure someone? He couldn’t so it. She was just a young girl. He couldn’t just give up. But ice? Where was ice? Where could he find ice in the middle of the ocean?

    Suddenly, the cup of tea he was drinking slipped out of his hand and emptied onto his trousers. Reacting to the heat and pain, he immediately jumped out, and then the clanking sound of metal hit the floor. The Green Silk Sword was lying silently on the floor.

    Yes! That’s it! Han Qing Feng quickly grabbed the sword, and jumped onto bed with Lian Le Yi. How could he forget the cold property of the Green Silk Sword? He finally understood the meaning. It was to use icy energy to cause the poison causing organisms to die from the cold. All he had to do know was to activate the icy beam in the sword, Bu then, he stopped and remembered that the men who came within the cold wave all became ice cubes. What happened if he killed Lian Le Yi as well? But that was the only chance. He had to try. But not on Lian Le Yi; he would try it on the curtain of the bed.

    He summoned up his internal energy and passed it through the sword. A bright beam shot from the tip of the sword, and a thin layer of ice immediately froze the curtain. Worried, he moved the tip to a pillar and reduced the flow of energy to the sword. This time, the pillar miraculously did not freeze, and dimmed in colour, the green beam safety shone on the pillar and no ice was formed. He did it! He had finally found the cure. And in a matter of hours, the warts on Lian Le Yi ceased to swell and started to shrink and wrinkle. <IMG SRC="smilies/barf.gif" border="0">
    "Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self."
    Cyril Connolly

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    CHAPTER THIRTY: No Way Out

    “Cai Yi!” A loud scream came from Wan Neng’s room that everybody went to see. He was still unconscious but not looking any better than before. But in the adjacent room, Lian Le Yi woke up and rubbed her eyes from her long sleep.

    “Ahhhhhhh!” she screamed as she saw the scarred hands rubbing her eyes. They were hers! What had happened to her beautiful snow-white hands? She jumped out of bed to find an answer but instead, the answer came to her.

    “Miss Lian, don’t be scared!” Han Qing Feng comforted, “You were previously covered with poisonous warts ……”

    “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!”

    “… But I have cleared you off the poison. The scars you are seeing will eventually go away.”

    “But how long until then?” she sobbed, “Ten years later? Twenty year later? Am I to stay as ugly as a toad for the rest of my life?”

    “No!” he reassured, “The maximum period for them to peel off is estimated to be ten days.”

    Lian Le Yi looked up at him with her teary eyes and sobbed, “But what if you are wrong? No one will want to marry me!’ and she started weeping.

    Han Qing Feng grabbed her hands and looking her in the eye, she promised, “If no one wants to marry you, then I will. I promise.” At that moment, he totally forgot about Qi Qian Yu. He only knew that this girl needed comfort and those words would fulfill the task.

    Lian Le Yi was so moved that she lunged forward and put her arms around him. “I know I am annoying. But I only do that to get other people’s attention and care. My parents were killed during the fall of Smoke Gathering City, and ever since, I was very lonely. Only by being annoying, could I get Mentor and my martial brothers to care about me. Now even Zhuang Shi Xiong and Hong Da-ge have forsaken me. You won’t do that would you?” Han Qing Feng patted her gently on the hand and put her to sleep. As he headed back to his room after a tiring night, he thought to himself, would he?

    “Don’t leave me! Qiu Ning! Stop!” murmured Yang Ji Fan. Sweat was pouring from his brows and soon, he was condensed with perspiration. His body was in the bed but his mind was far away in a bloody battle of revenge and hatred. Bai Shi Yue had received warning that Yang Ji Fan was coming for him, and left hurriedly up north to avoid this disaster. But nevertheless, spies from the Smoke Gathering City were already waiting for him, ready to spread the news of his location. One particular spy, Song Yang, had successfully entered the Green Medicine School, and had gained the trust of his new mentor. Through Song Yang, Yang Ji Fan quickly found his location and activated his revenge.

    “No! Spare my life!” cried Bai Shi Yue as he was confronted with a long silver sword at his neck, “I didn’t know your father was going to be poisoned! Believe me! Spare my life! Spare my life!”

    “Be quiet and accept your fate! Today is your death day!” and he contracted his muscles to slide the blade across his neck, when suddenly, something hit his wrist and pushed his sword away. Suddenly, the flutter of bird wings could be heard amongst the trees above and before he knew it, Bai Shi Yue had rolled away to safety behind a group of black clad people that had appeared before him in the shadows.

    From the dark shadows, a lovely voice called out, “Yang Lang, Yang Lang, we meet again!”

    But a lower, rougher voice also called out “Younger Martial Brother Yang, why do you not greet your senior? No wonder you are a failure! Ha! Ha! Ha!” It was Chen Xu and Hua Bi Rong.

    Turning to Bai Shi Yue, he exclaimed, “Brother Bai, quickly escape. Take my horse and get out of here. We will take care of Yang Ji Fan!” And Bai Shi Yue quickly thanked him and rode off.

    Seeing his goal of revenge to close to be accomplished and only to be spoilt, Yang Ji Fan did not hesitate to draw his sword and attack. But since Hua Bi Rong was here, traps and formation had been set up around the area, confusing him and his men so much that the ones with lesser martial arts perished. And accompanied with the cruel and aggressive attacks by the Holy Snake Clan, it was a slim chance that they could ever live to see the next rise of dawn.

    Slash! Slash! Suddenly in a swift flash of silver, one of the position in the many formations had been slain and Yang Ji Fan frantically fended the others off, as well the replacements that were approaching.

    “Go!” he shouted, “Better one die than all of us die! Even if I did, it would be worth just to avenge my father!”

    “City Master!” they cried, hoping that he will change his mind, but knowing that his power was limited; they stopped their hesitant behaviour and escaped into safety, leaving him alone to defend himself. His ten opponents eventually pushed Yang Ji Fan away from the exit, and soon, the missing position in the formation was replaced, and there was no longer any way out.
    <IMG SRC="smilies/starwars.gif" border="0">
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    Cyril Connolly

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    CHAPTER THRITY-ONE: Hope in Hopelessness

    Chen Xu and Hua Bi Rong had patiently waited until Yang Ji Fan had been tired by all the fighting, then decided to intercept. With fast lightning strokes, they lunged at Yang Ji Fan, who had now been slashed several times on the arms and body, and quickly changed stances to battle his new opponents.

    “Yang Ji Fan,” called Chen Xu, “You are only still alive because of your sword. It may serve you well now, but soon in the future, it will serve me faithfully in my aim to destroy you. I promise!”

    “No!” interrupted Hua Bi Rong while still swiping her blades at Yang Ji Fan, “I want him alive! He is my lover!” and between sword strokes, she gave him a sheepish look. Chen Xu quickly gave him another slash on the arm, forcing him backwards. The cut was deep and fresh red blood gushed from the opening. Yang Ji Fan ignored the pain to continue fighting but he was too weak and tired to break through the surrounding obstacles.

    Suddenly, a flutter of golden leaves appeared and flew towards the crowd, which stopped all fighting. Chen Xu and Hua Bi Rong waved their swords quickly to avoid the deadly leaves, but as they did, they failed to ignore the small, thin, silver needles that had been released along with the wave of golden leaves. Suddenly, a hand grabbed Yang Ji Fan’s hand and pulled him out of the confusion.

    “Qiu Ning! Is it really you?” he exclaimed with both surprise and joy. She was really there, and she had come to save him. Wan Qiu Ning cast him a sad glance, but silently lead him to a horse tied outside the forest.

    “We must hurry!” she cried as they both mounted the horse, looking back in fright. “My Mysteries of the Leaves won’t last long and they will quickly break out. What ever you have to say, say it to me when we get to safety!” And they quickly galloped off, just as Chen Xu rose from the tops of the trees, with a threatening bow in his hands.

    And on they kept riding, and they did not stop until it started to rain and the sky became even darker. They were surrounded by vegetation everywhere, with no sign of civilization to be found. The rain droplets were getting heavier and it was getting even harder to see. The horse that had been running all day, fell down from fatigue, and both of them fell to the ground. Yang Ji Fan put his hand around Wan Qiu Ning’s shoulders to help her up, to which she winced in pain. Yang Ji Fan retracted his hand and found it to be covered in blood.

    Wan Qiu Ning collapsed from the pain, for impaled in her back, was a long wooden arrow. Blood was still gushing out from the wound and her face was becoming paler still. Finally, he understood. The arrow had already hit her when they were escaping from Chen Xu.

    “Qiu Ning! Why didn’t you tell me you had been hit? We could have stopped at the earlier village and you would have been saved from all this pain?” he exclaimed as he balanced her on his arm.

    Large rain droplets fell on her face and she opened her eyes slightly and replied, “I would have been saved from the pain, but we wouldn’t have been saved from the cruel hands of Chen Xu.” And she collapsed again.

    Holding the halter of the horse in one hand and with the outer supporting the dying Wan Qiu Ning, he lead them both around blindly for a long time, to which he didn’t know himself. But finally, a glimmer of hope sparkled in him as the frail roof a building could bee seen. It was old and the bricks were crumbling. It was an abandoned temple. It was shelter.

    Leading the horse inside, the glimmer of hope was replaced with a spark of hatred. For sitting beside a warm crackling fire inside, was a drenched Bai Shi Yue. Bai Shi Yue immediately jumped up when he saw Yang Ji Fan and tried to run, but was no match for Yang Ji Fan’s agility. Bai Shi Yue’s pressure points were sealed and Yang Ji Fan pushed him aside, while he laid the injured Wan Qiu Ning gently on the floor beside the warm fire.

    Making sure that Bai Shi Yue could not see, he apologized to the half-dead body in front of him and ripped apart a small part of the clothing on her back. The arrow was not lodged deeply, but deep enough to take away her life. With one quick pull, the arrow was pulled out. Upon examination, Yang Ji Fan found two curved hooks on the end of the arrow; it was the Snake Fang Arrow. But this time it was different. On the tip of the hooks was a clump of blue solid. It was poisoned. <IMG SRC="smilies/shocked.gif" border="0">
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    Cyril Connolly

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    CHAPTER THIRTY- TWO: Bittersweet

    Wan Qiu Ning was slowly dying. Her pulse was weakening and her breathing rate increased. She was not yet unconscious, but could not move. Yang Ji Fan panicked. What was he going to do? Was he going to watch his most beloved die right in front of him in his arms? No. He had to do something. Or find someone.

    Laying Wan Qiu Ning on the floor, he picked up the arrow and went over to the paralyzed Bai Shi Yue.

    “Please!” he pleaded, “Please spare my life! I didn’t even know how Chen Xu was going to use the poison. Please!”

    Yang Ji ignored him and held the hooks right in front of him. “Look and identify the poison used! Tell me where I can find the antidote or I will ensure you the most painful death!” and he released Bai Shi Yue’s pressure points.

    Trembling, Bai Shi Yue took the arrow in his hand and immediately identified it. ‘It is the Meeting with Death. If the victim is not treated within a day of the infliction, the person will die of rotting internal organs. The antidote is a combination of wild herbs, which can be found in this area.”

    Swiftly, Yang Ji Fan pushed several points on his chest and ordered, “Then go and find the herbs and bring it to me! Now! Don’t even think of running away! I have sealed the pressure points near your arteries. They will automatically unseal in three hours time, and due to the sudden increase in pressure, your arteries will burst. If you can bring me the made-up antidote, then I will save you as well as forgive you fro my father’s death. Go!”

    Bai Shi Yue stumbled out of the room, and hurried out into the rain. Yang Ji Fan returned to wan Qiu Ning and hugged her in his arms. For a while they said nothing, but the fire embers were beginning to burn out and Bai Shi Yue was not yet back.

    Wan Qiu Ning reached her small white hand and clasped upon Yang Ji Fan’s, saying softly, “Yang Da-ge, I don’t think I will make it to when he comes back. Take care of yourself!”

    Yang Ji Fan squeezed her hand tightly in support and assured, “You will not die. If you die, who will share Smoke Gathering City with me?”

    A tear droplet fell out of her left eye, as she exclaimed, “Then I will make sure I will not die!” and she lowered her eyes.

    Yang Ji Fan shook her and asked, “Why, are you still afraid of looking at me in the eye?” to which, Wan Qiu Ning nodded shyly. He lifted her face to look at him and stared her in the eye. “You must stare at me more then, and get used to it because I intend to continue looking you in the eye for a very long time.”

    Wan Qiu Ning smiled and looked him straight in the eye, and such love, such gentleness exchanged silently between their trapped gaze. But this silence broke when her facial expression suddenly changed and turning away, she exclaimed, “No. I won’t marry you!”

    Startled, he frantically asked “Why? What have I done wrong?” His dreams were shattered. He stared right into her eyes, hoping for a reasonable answer.

    Upon seeing his astounded expression, Wan Qiu Ning looked up at him and asked softly, “Do you still miss the dancing girl from Luo Yang’s Drunken Stars House? Don’t you feel the slightest guilt in proposing to me?”

    His jaw dropped open at her words. How did she know about her? Even though he had loved Wan Qiu Ning with all his heart, the girl who he had only seen once had remained deep in his memory with her grace and elegance. He would have never informed Wan Qiu Ning that there was such a person, but since she already knew, there was no point in keeping it from her. He silently nodded. <IMG SRC="smilies/confused.gif" border="0">
    "Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self."
    Cyril Connolly

  13. #33
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    CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE: Promises For Life

    To this, she giggled and returned to her former gentle look. “I am happy that you still do! I won’t marry anyone who won’t keep their promises!” which made him even more bewildered. “Open up my baggage and see what you find at the bottom!” and he quickly did so.

    Inside the luggage, was a smaller bag of unknown contents, some female clothes, but right under all of them was a familiar black cloak! It was his cloak. The cloak he gave to the dancer at Luo Yang. The dancer he never saw again.

    Wan Qiu Ning smiled and explained, “The skill of Face Alteration is unique to the Immortal Exterminating Network. That night in Luo Yang, Master Hua had ordered me to stay by her side for protection. I disguised myself as one of the dancers but had never guessed that I would meet you. See, you promised to get me a dress and still you haven’t. And I won’t until you get me one!”

    What good news! The grace of the dancer and the gentleness of Wan Qiu Ning have merged into one for him to love, and to love him back. But then he remembered that night. “Then why did you disappear that night?” Yang Ji Fan asked with curiosity.

    “After you were gone, a young man called Chen Ming Jun arrived and tried to kidnap me for his perverted use. I fought with him for a long time and finally defeated him. But I had to go away as my organization was waiting for me. But at least I have come back!” A smile appeared on her face that would drive all dark clouds away.

    Yang Ji Fan smiled back at her and told, “I am glad that you have escaped, for that Chen Ming Jun has a bad reputation with women. He is the favourite pupil of Chen Xu, but in fact, he is his illegitimate son with a clan member. My sister, who is now his wife, found about it and killed her own eldest son in revenge. Chen Ming Jun is famous for being a rapist, and has abducted many innocent girls from their homes and all that were found of them were their corpses. Chen Xu once even forced good, talented young girls to wed his son, which often ended in suicides or massacres!” And his face suddenly deepened into a face of sorrow and regret.

    Wan Qiu Ning was immediately saddened by this and rested her head on his shoulder. She reached to her belt and took out a pair of jade pendants. Both were carved delicately, one in the shape of the sun, and one in the shape of the moon. In the bright light of the fire, they gleamed and glowed due to the rich material they were made off.

    Wan Qiu Ning pushed the sun pendant into his hand and exclaimed with a weak smile on her face, “A token of my love and an early wedding present to you! But what will you give me?”

    “A song.” he replied, quietly humming a tune in her ear as he hugged her close, his partner for life, holding her hands tight.

    The night was silent except for the call of cicadas and their heavy breathing. Their Then at the exact same moment, Bai Shi Yue came running in with a red flushed face. He was breathing heavily. His pressure points had begun to automatically unseal. Seeing that in his hands he held a cluster of herbs, Yang Ji Fan put down his fiance and leapt over to him. Bai Shi Yue breathed a sigh of relief, as his pressure points were unsealed manually and not burst open, but he was being dragged along to the fire. He knew what he had to do. He had to prepare the antidote.

    The scene in Yang Ji Fan’s mind flickered and dimmed as he heard Qiao Kong Chao’s voice inform, “Cult Master, we have arrived on the island.” He felt his body being moved from the bed and being carried elsewhere. However, he still had his eyes closed and no matter how he tried, he could not open them and expose his pupils to the bright light. However, he felt the soft sea breeze blow across his face as he was lowered onto a small boat and slowly rowed towards the shore.

    Li Le Yi had fully recovered by now and the pockmarks on her body have disappeared without a trace. It had seemed that she had grown more beautiful after the illness, as the peeling of the scabs have also taken away the old skin, leaving smoother, whiter skin left. Her personality also changed dramatically after the ordeal; she said “Thank you!” after being helped and began to spend more time sitting down than moving around non-stop. She had indeed matured; mature enough to be someone’s wife.

    Meanwhile, Han Qing Feng did not know what he should do. He was worried about Qi Qian Yu every single night; yet, he was constantly bothered by the promise he made to Lian Le Yi. He did not know why he did it, and felt very guilty and cheap right after, knowing he could not keep marry her as Qi Qian Yu still occupied a special place in his heart. But yet after thinking, Lian Le Yi was an innocent, sweet girl, although she could be annoying sometimes, she had her lovable side, especially after her transformation.

    The island was in peaceful tranquility, with the tops of the tall forest swaying to the gentle wind in rhythm to the breaking of waves upon the sandy shore. The company walked relaxed in this atmosphere, up the slope to the forest, and looked back to see a flock of sea birds in the distance, flying low at sea for feeding, flying among the some brown clouds near the horizon.

    “Wait a minute.” thought Qu Wan Quan, as he looked closer, “Brown clouds? That’s not natural!” and he was right. There were not clouds, but sails upon an approaching ship.
    <IMG SRC="smilies/yikes.gif" border="0">
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    Cyril Connolly

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    CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR: Sacrifice

    “A ship! A ship!” he cried, “And it bears the symbol of the Holy Snake Clan!” pointing to the curled shape of a cobra on the large sails of the ship.

    “They must have followed us here,” continued Qiao Kong Chao, “They must have secretly followed us ever since that night.”

    “Without Cult Master Yang, we won’t even have a chance if Chen Xu is aboard that ship. Quickly let’s hide ourselves.” Shouted Ou Yang Hua, “Come on!” waving for people to follow him to the dense forest.

    “No!” interrupted Miao Shi Zhong, holding his arm straight out to block the rest of the people, “Let’s separate in pairs so even if two are found, others will still have a chance. The smaller the groups, the lower the chance of being discovered. Those who are safe will try to find the Elder on the island for help.” And quickly before the newcomers landed, they quickly dispersed into different parts of the island. And soon by the assistance of the strengthening winds, the ship was carried close to shore and one by one, the Holy Snake Clan members landed.

    “Aw!” screamed Lian Le Yi, as her foot struck an old stone tablet inserted into the ground, covered with years of moss and weeds. A hand quickly cupped over her mouth to stop the sound, but it was too late. A middle-aged man from the crowd suddenly picked up her scream and immediately separated from the rest and leapt towards them using Lightness Skills, which could not have been attained without certain internal energy.

    The man landed several metres from them, walking in the area carefully looking for tracks, failing to notice that they have squeezed themselves inside a fallen log among the shrub layer. Suddenly, a rustle of leaves was heard from somewhere else in the forest and the man swiftly leapt to the source of the sound.

    The two breathed a breath of relief as they saw the man leave. They looked around in terror, fearing that their enemies may soon find them, saw some rocky caves just outside the forest and sped silently to hide inside. The cave was damp and dark, and the ground was covered with holes of all sizes, that one careless step could land you either in the sea or in a deep hole. It was not large at all, but with jagged walls, it was not that simple to find someone hidden inside.

    Crouching behind a protruding parts of the cave wall, Lian Le Yi and Han Qing rested with a heavy heart with the fear that they would be found. The jut of rock was not long, and a large hole, deep enough to hid a person, was right by the side of the cave. Lian Le Yi had to huddle up close to Han Qing Feng to hidden, so close that she could feel his breath upon her neck and he her quickened heartbeats.

    Lian Le Yi looked straight at him, without any blushing or embarrassment, knowing that if they were caught, she would never have a chance to look at him again. And taking a deep breath, she released the question that had been disturbing her peace of mind ever since she had recovered from her brief illness.

    “Han Da-ge!” she asked, “Maybe after this day we may never live to see the daylight again so you must answer me this truthfully. When you promised to marry me when no one else would, was it because you really have feelings for me or just out of sympathy? All these days, were you really aware of my true feelings for you?”

    “Miss Lian,’ he replied shocked, staring into her deep sparkling eyes, “I…I…I am sorry. In that situation, anyone would have said what I did. But Miss Lian, you are truly a good person, but I cannot accept as in my heart, there is only Qi Qian Yu.” He himself was not sure of this as every time he was with this new Lian Le Yi, he felt happy and actually enjoyed her company. “Miss Lian, I am very sorry, but I am sure that your feelings would be better appreciated upon someone else more worthy of you.”

    A single teardrop fell from Lian Le Yi’s left eye and she quickly wiped it off with her sleeve. Forcing a smile upon her face, she exclaimed, “I may be stubborn and headstrong outside love, but in love, I am even more stubborn and even more headstrong. My feelings for you will never change, even though they cannot be returned and soon you will see, that my love for you is stronger than any mountain and deeper than any ocean.” And she turned away from him, not wanting him to see the tears flowing from her eyes.

    Han Qing Feng froze. What should he do? He wanted to put his arm around her but retracted it just before contact with her shoulder, not wanting to create a misunderstanding before his feelings were set clear. But the sound of their conversation and her weeping betrayed them, and the man who had nearly discovered them in the forest, was drawn here and was now, standing in the opening of the cave.

    “Don’t bother hiding! I know you are in here, and will find you anyway. I am skilled in poisons, Lightness Skills and all sorts of other martial arts; you cannot defeat me. If you come out now, I, Chen Ming Jun, will promise you a quick death, whereas if you wait till I catch you, you will regret ever being born.”

    Lian Le Yi quickly cupped her hand over Han Qing Feng’s mouth, and quickly sealed his pressure point, immobilizing him. She leaned close to him and right beside his ear, she whispered, “The pressure points will unseal after some time. I will distract him while you take the chance and run away. You may not love me, but there is nothing that can change my feelings for you. I will now prove it to you. Promise me that whatever may happen to be after this moment, you will not care and concentrate on running away. If you don’t, I will hate you forever!” And saying so she kissed him lightly on the lips and gently pushed him into the hole.

    As he was lowered into the hole, he saw the tears in her eyes. With his eyes, he pleaded to her not to do this, but she blinked twice, and then ran out with her sword.

    “Chen Ming Jun, today I, Lian Le Yi, ask to exchange stances with you! See my sword!” and she leapt at him with all the swords stances she knew of. But Chen Ming Jun merely laughed and blocked all of her attacks with his unsheathed sword, and in a matter of minutes, she was defeated. She was shocked by his speed and the time taken for her to lose was much less than what she had estimated to be.

    He held her in his arms and laughing, he exclaimed, “Miss Lian, you are Yang Ji Fan’s student so we must be from the same school. Why must we fight? Let’s get to know each other by a more intimate way!” and he reached into her clothes and ripped it off.

    “Tell me where the rest of your companions are or else… Ha! Ha! Ha!”

    Lian Le Yi screamed as one by one, her clothes were cruelly torn off, and as she was rudely pushed to the ground. But still, she did nto betray Han Qing Feng. Inside the hole, Han Qing Feng panicked as he heard her screams. He tried to shout but no sound came out of his mouth. He tried to move his arm but it would not budge. He could do nothing except hear of the beastlike behaviour that was about to take place. <IMG SRC="smilies/evillaugh.gif" border="0">
    "Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self."
    Cyril Connolly

  15. #35
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    CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE: Danger In Danger

    “Come on, little beauty! Don’t be shy! What are you afraid of?” Chen Xu teased as he ran his fingers over her tear-stained faced.

    “Ahhhhhh! If my mentor found out, he will never let you go alive! And when I die, my ghost will haunt you forever!” threatened Lian Le Yi, beating him with whatever she had.

    Chen Ming Jun gave a cold laugh and continued to strip off her clothes like peeling the stalks off corn. Why should he be scared? He was the elite of the Holy Snake Clan, had the best martial arts of his generation and the most favour from Chen Xu. Chen Xu was his father, and would he let him be hurt by Yang Ji Fan? No. He had already been informed of Yang Ji Fan’s common stances and with the luck that he is half-dead by now, he would certainly defeat him with ease. And ghosts? If there had been ghosts, all the ghosts of the girls he had enjoyed all these years would have come for him by now. He did not have a single thought in his head except the lust that was overriding him by this half-naked maiden before him; free to do what ever he wanted.

    In the hole, Han Qing Feng concentrated to unseal the frozen pressure points by his own circulation of qi but nevertheless, he failed. The skill used on him was the Black Demon Pressure Point Skill, devised by Yang Ji Fan, and could not been unsealed unless after the intended time limit or by the same way of qi circulation used to seal the pressure point. He was helpless to her screams for help and despair, defenseless to save a powerless woman. It was all his fault. If he had been cleverer to bring ashore the Green Silk Sword, Lian Le Yi would be in such danger. Maybe if he had hugged her tight instead of rejecting her, she would not have to but herself in such peril just to prove her true feelings. How could he be so stupid to reject a woman with such strong a love? Was he a man? If he could move now, he would certainly have rammed his head into the side of the hole in shame.

    As he thought of the action, his head suddenly listened to his thoughts and started moving forwards to wards the wall of the cavity. The time limit has passed, he was free to move, free to save Lian Le Yi. But suddenly, the winds resonating through the cave produced a low whistling sound, but accompanied with it was a slow melody of a stringed instrument, flowing freely in harmony with the once peaceful surroundings.

    The music began with the slow plucking of the strings, then progress to the slow playing of the instrument, emitting a high-pitched melody that was calm and soothing to both the hearts and ears. Lian Le Yi felt as if all the fear in her was gone, and that the man climbing on top of her would soon disperse with the wind like smoke. Chen Ming Jun immediately delayed his commencement of the amorous acts and raised his head to determine where the music was coming from. Surely, a person who could play such beautiful music would have a face that is not lesser than the beauty of the piece. But suddenly, the pace of the music hastened dramatically and the rhythm became denser. Chen Ming Jun clutched his head in his hands and started to scream fearfully. He could he feel his head swell and shrink to his rapid pulse, and if the music did not stop soon, his head will explode. Throwing his lust aside, he raced out of the cave at the fastest speed, not even caring that he was half-naked, and followed the music to its source.

    But not only Chen Ming Jun was affected with the serious migraines. As calm and safe as the music had made her feel before, the change in mood of the music now made Lian Le Yi roll around the ground, screaming with pain. It was as if someone had made her feel very angry, so angry that she would stop at nothing to kill the person. But this sudden anger also made her lose control and rationality, as her pulse beat rapidly against the inside of her bare chest, so fast that her lungs were running out of breath and all of her body was heated up.

    Han Qing Feng too, was traumatized by the mysterious music but in his head, he concentrated on thinking, “I must save Lian Le Yi! I must save Lian Le Yi!” that throwing aside his terrible pain, he managed to jump out of the hole and crawl next to her. Suddenly, as mysterious as the music came, it now completely stopped. Both Han Qing and Lian Le Yi lay relieved on the floor of the cave, dripping in sweat from the sudden surge of emotions.

    As soon as he recovered, Han Qing Feng rolled over frantically and asked in a concerned tone, “Miss Lian, are you hurt? Are you okay? Talk to me, talk to me!”

    Lian Le Yi looked sideways and realizing that her exposed body was in the view of Han Qing Feng, she quickly recoiled and ran behind some rocks, looking for her clothes. As a gentleman would, Han Qing Feng quickly faced the empty wall away from her, apologizing, “Sorry, Miss Lian. I didn’t see anything. I didn’t mean to!”

    Lian Le Yi cowered shaking behind the rocks, putting her clothes on as fast as she possibly could. She was full of shame. She had been touched, beaten and exposed to a man that she despised, and nearly dirtied by the pervert. Purple bruises and red cuts had been made all over her body, making her wince with pain every time she touched her skin while dressing herself. But what had hurt her even more was that the man she loved most had witnessed all of her shame and the moment would haunt her forever. What would he think of her? Would he think she was dirty and keep away from her? Soon, tear droplets fell to the ground, bringing with them a portion of her anguish and pain.
    <IMG SRC="smilies/crying.gif" border="0">
    "Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self."
    Cyril Connolly

  16. #36
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    CHAPTER THIRTY-SIX: True Love Is Hard To Find

    “Miss Lian!” he cried, walking over to her and putting his arms on her shoulder for support, “I promise you I will never to let the same thing happen to you again as today. Not until my last breath would I ever stop protecting you!”

    But Lian Le Yi recoiled from him, and brushing his hands away from her, screaming “Get away! Don’t touch me! I don’t need your pity! You are only doing this because you saw me being … Go and find your Qi Qian Yu. Leave me alone!” and she started sobbing. She moved further away from him, but as her tears blurred her vision she tripped over some stones on the ground, and cried out in pain.

    Han Qing Feng quickly ran over to her and helped her sit up. She tried desperately to push him away but he tried even harder to keep her tight in his arms. Lian Le Yi saw that she was too weak to fight so she gave up.

    “I don’t need your pity! This only because I nearly got raped trying to save you. Your love for me is only a burst of emotions. It is not true and long lasting. If want the best for me, let me go!”

    But he did not heed, but only held her even closer. “No, I will not let you go. It is true that what had just happened here did affect me to say these words, but what I say now are both true and sincere. I do not need any more proof of your love. True love is hard to find, and so is a woman who is willing to sacrifice her most precious chasity for the man she loves is indeed a rare treasure. I am not a fool who easily parts with his money, let alone a precious treasure like you. I love you, not because I am grateful, but because you love me.”

    Lian Le Yi looked him right in the eyes. His eyes were wet, dampened by sincere tears and reddened by true emotions. Was he telling the truth? Is this true? He is willing to love me? But as these questions flooded her mind, her face did not betray her and laughing coldly, she exclaimed, “I gave you proof of my love, but where is yours?”

    Han Qing Feng took hold of her hands, then kissed her gently on the forehead and in a tender tone, and maintaining the deepest eye contact, he assured, “My proof will be revealed by time. You will see!” and he lifted her up and walked out of the cave. Unknown to them, a dark shadow had just left before them, as mysteriously and as stealthily as it had appeared.

    Nor far from the cave, Ou Yang Hua and Qu Wan Quan had to stop immediately. They had heard the music too, and in result of the strong anger and frustration ignited, they accidentally dropped the unconscious Yang Ji Fan and he landed upon some rocks. They went to check on him immediately as soon as they were freed from the spell of the strange music.

    Yang Ji Fan was still breathing but his pulse had rapidly increased. It had seemed that he too, although of his unconsciousness, had been affected by the music. But just at this moment, they heard loud screams from another side of the forest, and in a matter of seconds, a half-naked man came running out, obviously too, a victim of the music.

    But the man did not see them and instead, stood blindly amongst the trees, turning around in circles, screamed, “Where are you? Where you, you coward! I dare you too appear before me! Do you dare to attack us in the dark and dare not attack me in the light? Come out you coward!” And in his fit of madness, he used his palms against the surrounding trees, trying to rid the frustration in his mind before the pressure burst his arteries.

    Then suddenly, a female voice echoed through the forest. “Chen Ming Jun. I do not care what you do in the Central Plains, but here on my No Dust Island, you must obey my rules. If you dare to repeat your previous beastlike conduct here, don’t blame me for sending you to see the King of Hell! My island and my people do not welcome you here. Please leave! ” And immediately, hundreds of ragged people appeared, holding spears in hands and a fierce expression on their faces.

    Chen Ming Jun fell to ground in fatigue, but turned his hateful eyes towards these savages. He could not tell whether they were women or men, but they wore nothing but fur skins and leaves, their faces dirtied with soil and their hair tangled and messed. Suddenly, a group of red clad men had arrived. But only half of the original number of men was left. As they moved across the island, they encountered numerous traps that in a blink of an eye disappeared along with the captives.

    They had heard their leader’s screams and followed them to their source. Chen Ming Jun signaled to them to attack, and so did the savages. Just before the two forces met on impact, suddenly, the Holy Snake Clan members stopped unexpectedly, and crashed into each other. Unknown to them, a nearly invisible web of silk had been wound around the line of trees for yards, obstructing any entry into deeper parts of the forest. They tugged and pulled at the strands of silk, but to no avail. One hasty member cut the web in half to escape but as soon as the silk strands broke, small needles emitted from the holes in the tree bark and flew at the men. Within seconds, a second web dropped, replacing the broken one who had served its best. The savages stopped and laughed at their disorganization, dancing around as if in celebration.

    The Holy Snake Clan members nearly exploded with rage as they tried to get through the net and stop their ridiculing, and it was at that instant, that the increasing numbers of people in the forest caught their eye. Not only Han Qing Feng and Lian Le Yi, but also Qiao Kong Chao, Miao Shi Zhong and the other men ran to protect their Cult Master. At the same time, the savages raised their bows, ready to shoot at their safe distance.

    Noticing the unconscious Yang Ji Fan, Chen Ming Jun exclaimed in laughter, “So Yang Ji Fan is indeed half dead! Ha! Yang Ji Fan, you and your men have deliberately opposed my clan for years, today, we will end all of this Wu Lin rivalry. To have all of you Xuan Yuan Sect martial experts to accompany me in our trip to Hell, I, Chen Ming Jun, have truly fulfilled my duty as a filial son. Men! Run amongst them!” and they charged toward the group, hoping to die together. Seeing that their captives were taking action, the leader amongst the saves gave a signal, and all together, they released a curtain of arrows, each targeting the merge of the two organizations, giving them a final farewell. <IMG SRC="smilies/wave.gif" border="0">
    "Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self."
    Cyril Connolly

  17. #37
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    CHAPTER THIRTY-SEVEN: Forest of Severing Worldly Matters

    As the dense curtain of arrows approached, the two groups were helpless to escape, as at that moment, they were too busy fighting to their last breaths, too busy to dodge the arrows. Suddenly, two figures flew out from nowhere and appeared in between the arrows and the crowd. Leaping high into the air, they caught as many arrows in their hands and mouth as possible, and with the others, deflected as much as they were able to with their feet. But still, their power was limited and even with the two hundred arrows they managed to stop, there were still the second wave of arrows coming.

    The fingers moved over the strings and a calm, soothing piece of music emitted from the instrument. But that did not help the two mysterious figures were had tried their best to save the crowd. But a gust of sudden strong wind blew across the forest floor and the leaf litter on the floor rose high into the air. A black figure leapt up into the air and with his internal energy, pushed the leaves towards the arrows with such force that the arrows broke into two and fell useless onto the ground. Between the intensity of fighting, Qu Wan Quan kicked aside an enemy and took this moment to look closely at their saviour. He gasped with surprise as he recognized the body shape of the man. It was Yang Ji Fan!”

    Yang Ji Fan released another gush of force and pushed the remaining arrows back to where they came from. The savages screamed with pain and fear as their front line fell instantly, and they dispersed into the deeper parts of the forest.

    Yang Ji Fan was about to drive some other projectiles at the fleeing men when the mysterious voice came again. “Stop it! Yang Ji Fan. let my men go! Chen Ming Jun, Yang Ji Fan, I would not permit any Wu Lin struggles or bloodshed to persist inside my Forest of Severing Worldly Matters, please leave now. Or else…”

    Chen Ming Jun arrogantly shouted, “Or else what?” Although displeased to see him up and well, he knew that as long as he and his men struck with Yang Ji Fan, they would be safe. But as soon as he retorted, the fast and rapid tune came again, and all of them clutched their heads in fear and pain.

    “Retreat!” cried Chen Ming Jun, as they ran out of the forest like a pack of wolves that had just came across a tiger.

    But even as they left, the owners of the fingers did not stop and continued to play the same time, ordering, “You too, Yang Ji Fan. Take your men and leave now!” Even Hong Zheng Tian and the girl that had appeared with him, were vulnerable to the music, no matter how hard they tried to block their eyes.

    They all rolled around in pain, unable to get up and run. All except Yang Ji Fan. Yang Ji Fan stared longingly at the direction of the source of music, and calmly took out a long bamboo flute form his sleeve and held it to his lips. A clear tune emitted out of the flute that could be distinctly heard over the playing of strings. Although experiencing the near bursting of his blood vessels, Hong Zheng Tian was still able to feel surprised at the tune, It was the tune that Qi Qian Yu had played on Black Demon Peak, the tune that had made Yang Ji Fan’s face drain of colour.

    Then a string broke and the music stopped. Suddenly, the leaves on the tree branches rustled and in the distance, the outline of a dark figure could be seen flying through the trees. “I have some important business to finish and have to leave the island immediately. If you want to stay, then stay, but I will not be entertaining you! Farewell!”

    Yang Ji Fan immediately leapt up in the air and followed her path through the trees. “Elder, please stay! I have some very important questions to which only you know the answer.” As he followed behind her, he saw in a blur that she had the outline of an old woman, but her speed displayed her deep and swift Lightness Skills. She was moving at such a speed that only a blur of her could be seen and the force she exerted around her made sure that no twig seemed to touch her.

    Yang Ji Fan could feel that her internal energy was not above his, but not less sophisticated as well. He had been immobile for so long that his bones seemed stiff but he was slowly regaining his strength as well as his speed. Then as he was just about to catch up with the mysterious woman, something came flying at him in the wind that he just only detected by his sharp ears. He quickly spun aside to avoid the invisible projectile and landed beside a thick tree on the border of the forest, and beside it, laid three thin silver needles on the ground that could only just be seen by the naked eye, and next to that, lay a note.

    Yang J Fan looked around for any sight of the woman. There was nothing special about the surroundings except the ship sailing away in the horizon with gulls circling its sails; their own ship that remained motionless, anchored into the deep waters of the ocean; and the three lonely stone tablets standing on the outskirts of the forest, as if none of the commotion inside the forest had mattered at all.
    <IMG SRC="smilies/noevil.gif" border="0">
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    Cyril Connolly

  18. #38
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    CHAPTER THIRTY-EIGHT: Killing Two Birds With One Stone

    “Cult Master! Cult Master!” cried his followers as they exited the forest. They saw Yang Ji Fan standing motionless beside the tree, and a note in his hand. They had been so surprised and overjoyed at his sudden recovery to notice the presence of Hong Zheng Tian and his female acquaintance.

    “Hong Zheng Tian? What are you doing here?” Han Qing Feng was shocked to find his once good friend that was dead, standing right in front of him.

    Others heard him and turned around. Han Qing Feng ‘s face flushed with colour as he screamed, “Hong Zheng Tian, you traitor. You called me your friend but tried to kill me just over a girl. But even worse, Cult Master Yang nearly died trying to stop you from killing me. Cult Master Yang had accept you with open arms into his sect and has never mistreated you, how could you bear to betray him with a false face when in fact you are still obeying your Mentor?” And breaking off a twig as a weapon, he pointed it at Hong Zheng Tian’s chest ready to attack.

    Hong Zheng Tian did not recoil and seeing the hatred and hurt in Han Qing Feng’s eyes, he calmly tried to explain, “Brother Han, please. Listen to me. I did not betray Cult Master Yang. It wasn’t under my control. I …”

    But Han Qing Feng cut him off, “Be quiet. I don’t want to listen to your false words and explanations. Qian Yu and I treated you with true friendship but what did you give us in return? Not under your control? How come I didn’t see anyone pointing a knife at your neck, forcing you to kill me?” It had already happened to him twice before with Bai Fang Lian and Qi Qian Yu, he was not going to believe Hong Zheng Tian again to experience that feeling of betrayal again.

    But a young girl all dressed in black suddenly appeared at his side and knocked his twig away with another, threatening, “Han Qing Feng. Don’t you dare hurt one hair on his head? If he had really wanted to harm you and Yang Ji Fan, why would he and I risk our lives to block the arrows just then? If you want to hurt him, you would have to deal with me first?”

    Han Qing Feng gasped, as this girl was exactly identical to the one who had ambushed Qi Qian Yu and him four month ago on the cliff. It was she, Immortal Exterminating Network’s Li Bing Xin.

    “You? Hong Zheng Tian, if you are not planning to do harm to the Xuan Yuan Sect, what are you doing with people from the Immortal Exterminating Network?” Li Bing Xin arrogantly turned her head while Hong Zheng Tian put his hand upon her shoulder for support.

    Hong Zheng Tian replied, “The meeting between Bing Xin and I was due to fate, not because of any other reasons. Cult Master Yang gave me refuge at the time when I needed it most, I swear to the heavens that I had never come across the thought of causing him or his sect any harm. As for Qi Qian Yu, I admit I have been jealous to see you two being so close, but never to the extent of intending to kill you or her yet.”

    “But what if Qian Yu and I get married later on? Are you going to kill me then? I will kill you now!” Suddenly, a great slap came across Han Qing Feng’s face and Lian Le Yi ran away next to her mentor.

    “Han Qing Feng. If you would not believe my side of the story, then at most I will only lose my life. But what if you are wrong, you will regret for the rest of your life.” cried Hong Zheng Tian standing feet firm before his accuser.

    “Shut up! Be quiet! I need to rest!” muttered Wan Neng in a weak voice, who had now been awoken by the noise from the argument, but no one seemed to have noticed, until someone else spoke up.

    “Shut up all of you!” shouted Yang Ji Fan. Holding up the note, he said, “This proves Hong Zheng Tian ‘s innocence. The elder on the island had verified that she found Hong Zheng Tian had been drugged.”

    And he read:

    “Hong Zheng Tian was found unconscious on the beach of my island one month ago and remained unconscious for days. I took him in and examined him, only to find that he was covered with cuts by rocks and his skin wrinkled by the salt water. But most strangely, from the contents in his teeth, I found traces of a drug called Soul Hooking Losing Heart Powder (Gou Yun Shi Xin San), which I believe to be used only by the Holy Snake Clan. So whatever Hong Zheng Tian did under the drug influence, I can guarantee that it was not of his own free will. I have said what is needed so farewell.

    By the pen of the Island Master of No Dust Island.”

    And it was true. When Qi Qian Yu and Han Qing Feng reunited with him, a strange jealously ignited in Hong Zheng Tian as he saw Han Qing Feng’s concern for Qi Qian Yu. No one was allowed to care for who he cared for! He had been taught from a little boy, to get what he wanted and not let anyone stop you! Those were Chen Xu’s exact words. Only ambition and merciless would bring happiness, not kindness and loyalty.

    Then suddenly after drinking some tea from his room, a voice began to repeat over and over in his mind. Qi Qian Yu was his, and his only. No one was else. Han Qing Feng had to die! It was the right moment! Yang Ji Fan was unconscious and the other four had just had a fight with him. They would surely not lift a hand to help him. All he had to do was to kill him, then unload his corpse into the sea, and nobody would ever find out. But just in case, he would go into Yang Ji Fan’s room and kill him, then every other person. Then he and Qi Qian Yu will forever be together, with no one to stop him.

    Chen Xu had snuck onto the ship and put the drug in his drink, guaranteeing that someone else would do his dirty work for him. He had had his eyes on the Green Silk Sword after hearing about it and the only way to get it was by killing Han Qing Feng. But with Yang Ji Fan and the other martial arts experts on the ship, it would be extremely difficult to complete the tasks without alerting the others. So this was the best way devised to kill two birds with one stone, gaining himself a new weapon while also ridding himself of his nemesis and his wife’s supposed adulterer. <IMG SRC="smilies/genius.gif" border="0">
    "Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self."
    Cyril Connolly

  19. #39
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    CHAPTER THIRTY-NINE: Xuan Yuan Lin

    Han Qing Feng pulled his friend close and embraced him like a brother. A friend regained is a treasure indeed. “Sorry I have wronged you brother, please forgive me!” But then he turned to Li Bing Xin. “Then what about you? How did you get here? And how did you meet my Brother Hong?”

    Li Bing Xin received one assuring look from Hong Zheng Tian, then explained, “Yes, I am the killer who attacked you at the forest, and who you made fall down the cliff.” Her eyes were now burning with hate. “But fate was kind to me and did not let me die. I was unconscious from the fall and drifted in the great ocean for days, that I don’t’ even know the number of. Then the waves carried me to this island. I was tired, injured and hungry when I was washed up on the beach, and crabs were crawling up to me, taking bits of me as if I was a corpse and I fainted from the pain.”

    “When I woke up, the first thing I saw was a wrinkled, small face looking at me. She was the Island Master of this island, which was named No Dust Island. She saw was an old, humpbacked woman, plump and short, who needed a walking stick for mobility. But her medicinal skills were superb and in less than a month, my broken legs healed and I could move around at free will. However, she kept me on the island, not willing to let me go back to be a killer and spend a life of torment from conscience and danger. Her whole island is filled with traps that even I, trap expert of the Immortal Exterminating Network, am unable to break free.”

    “Apart from Elder, only savages lived on the island. They speak no Chinese but are terribly afraid of Elder, and cower with fear every time she plays her qin. Our emotions are controlled by her music so there was no way I could escape from the island. And thus I was stuck on the island for months. Then one day, Elder brought Zheng Tian to the hut I stayed in and also forced him to remain until he fully recovered. Therefore Zheng Tian and I only met due to fate, and not of any wicked plan to destroy you. I, Li Bing Xin, although am cold-blooded in killing, but am not totally void of feelings such as friendship. If you give Zheng Tian one slash, then I will repay you with ten slashes.”

    “And I will do the same!” added Hong Zheng Tian. The two looked at each other for a brief moment and exchanged a smile. There was a part of her story that was missing, that only the two of them knew. The Island Master had kept both of them together for company, while she herself went off to play her qin for most of the day, leaving them to lean upon each other for support. The two of them planned to escape the island together, and failed together. And this happened many times, and each time, the mutual dependence between them grew stronger, until finally, they became like the fish and the water – inseparable.

    “I will never go back to the Immortal Exterminating Network, so you don’t have to mind me. Wherever Zheng Tian goes, I will go. As long as you treat him well, I swear to never do harm to your sect.”

    Yang Ji Fan looked at both of them and immediately knew what was going on. “All right. Both of you can stay. But we need to find that Elder soon or else three people’s lives are at stake here. Wan Neng is seriously injured as well as poisoned by Intestine Breaking Bone Revealing, while Jian Cheng and Miss Qi’s location and welfare are still unknown. If she is found by Zhao Yin or Chen Xu first, then all three of them will die!”

    “But Cult Master,” exclaimed Qu Wan Quan, “What about yourself? You did not mention yourself being poisoned as well!”

    “If I live, I live. If I die, I die. It does not matter to me anymore. At least the other three have something to live for.” He replied calmly, with a hint of sorrow in his voice. Turning to Hong Zheng Tian and Li Bing Xin, “Do you know where the Elder went? This island is surrounded by water and it would be impossible to leave without the aid of a boat or a ship. She would not have boarded the Holy Snake Clan’s ship, and our ship is still here. Would she have possessed a vessel that would have carried her away?”

    The two shook their heads in earnest and chorused that they did not know. But there might be a clue back in the huts.” And so they all took off to the centre of the forest, the only place of civilisation on the island.

    The settlement consisted of several wooden huts, with a vegetable patch at the front. The area was silent except for the chirping of birds and the cry of the cicadas that were preparing for the night. Inside the rooms, everything was immaculately arranged, and not a speck of dust could be found on the furniture. However, the empty settlement gave a sense of coldness and distance, as if the builder had wanted to be isolated from the rest of the world, never to hear of worldly matters again.

    “Hey! Where is her qin? Did she take her qin with her? But why is her walking stick still here?” cried Li Bing Xin as she noticed the empty table in the bamboo pagoda, and the heavy thick wooden crutch lying on the floor.

    “Ahhh!” screamed Lian Le Yi as a dark silhouette quickly moved away from the window after noticing their actions in the house for quite some time. Qiao Kong Chao quickly jumped out to catch the intruder while Han Qing Feng ran to Lian Le Yi.

    “Are you okay? Are you hurt? What did it do to you?” he asked concerned, holding her in his arms, checking for any injuries.

    But she pushed him away and pouted, “What does it have to do with you? Go and be concerned about your Qi Qian Yu!” She turned her back upon him.

    He was just about to explain when Yang Ji Fan and the others came in, inquiring for the reason of the alert. But Qiao Kong Chao dragged in a native. He was trembling with fear, and immediately fell to the ground in front of Yang Ji Fan, as if he was worshiping him like a god.

    Hong Zheng Tian explained, “The natives are always like that. They do that every time they see the Elder.”

    Yang Ji Fan bent down and asked the native gently, “Do you know where the old woman has gone?” The native looked him straight in the eye and started to say something in a language that none of them understood. Then suddenly, in the middle of the sentence, came the words, “Xuan Yuan Lin.”

    “What?” Yang Ji Fan asked in confusion. The native repeated the same thing.

    “Cult Master Yang,” explained Li Bing Xin, “Xuan Yuan Lin is the Elder’s name.” The name struck Yang Ji Fan like a huge hammer to which he immediately ordered all of them to return to the ship.

    On the way, nine words repeated over and over in his mind, “Xuan Yuan Lin, Xuan Yuan Sect, Xuan Yuan Temple!” <IMG SRC="smilies/noidea.gif" border="0">
    "Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self."
    Cyril Connolly

  20. #40
    Senior Member charbydis's Avatar
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    Angry

    CHAPTER FORTY: Grumpy Old Woman

    Seeing the two couples before him, made Yang Ji Fan sigh with distress. How long had it been since he had last been like the four people in front of him? After applying the antidote that stormy night, Wan Qiu Ning healed quickly and Yang Ji Fan forgave Bai Shi Yue, under the condition that he was never to set foot in the Central Plains again. And Bai Shi Yue went away a redeemed man, and kept his promise. Meanwhile, Yang Ji Fan and Wan Qiu Ning met up with Miao Shi Zhong, Ou Yang Hua, Qiao Kong Chao and Qu Wan Quan, and they traveled back to Smoke Gathering City, in preparation for a wedding.

    Finally, they had arrived back at Smoke Gathering City. With waving flags and smiling faces, the citizens welcomed their City Master’s return. Wan Neng and Wan Qiu Ning met again, but they did not exchange many words as Yang Ji Fan had led her away to her temporary room until the wedding.

    He pushed the doors open and led her inside. The room was newly furnished and the smell of fresh flowers could be smelt. But what caught Wan Qiu Ning’s attention were many boxes, large and small, lying on the table. Yang Ji Fan smiled and took the largest of the boxes and opened it. Inside was beautifully embroidered wedding gown, with golden phoenixes on rich soft red silk, and a golden wedding headdress, encrusted with mother-of-pearls and small delicate beads.

    “Qiu Ning, I had once promised to give you a dress and here it is.” Wan Qiu Ning blushed and began running her finger along the outline of the embroidered phoenix, that looked so alive.

    Seeing her do this, Yang Ji Fan exclaimed, “I too, have a wedding costume in my room, but only embroidered with dragons. In three days, your phoenix will meet my dragon, and you too, will meet your dragon!” Wan Qiu Ning looked tenderly up at him and tucked herself comfortably into the security of his arms.

    After making sure that Wan Qiu Ning had settled comfortably in the new surroundings, Yang Ji Fan headed towards the darkest part of the whole city where he kept a living nightmare. As he walked towards the secluded section in his house, he heard loud bangs and clangs, as if a large amount of plates and bowls had been deliberately thrown to the ground.

    Three young maids ran out crying as a loud annoying voice shouted, “Get lost you stupid wretches! And get some real maids who know how to serve! And tell that bastard master of yours to come and see me”

    Taking care not to step on broken pieces of bowls lying shattered on the floor, Yang Ji Fan pushed open the half opened doors and calmly announced, “Are you wanting to see me?”

    A crooked woman sat at a small table with her back to him. She turned around and revealed her grumpy annoyed face.

    “What are you doing back here? Aren’t you dead yet?” she snapped rudely.

    Yang Ji Fan smiled and replied, “No, thank you. After you. If I die first, then no one will be there to celebrate at your death.”

    Fan Jing Ping snorted at his words and turned to sip her tea when something caught her eye. She dashed to pull the jade pendant off of Yang Ji Fan and held it against the light. Yang Ji Fan snatched it back and stormed out of the room. Anger filled his mind whenever he thought of that woman. Who did she think she was anyway? Just because he was his father’s wife doesn’t mean he has to treat him as a mother. It was already very kind of him to let her stay despite all the distress and pain she had caused to his mother and himself. <IMG SRC="smilies/sigh.gif" border="0">
    "Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self."
    Cyril Connolly

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