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Thread: Tale of Phoenix Twins, Mystery of Hidden Treasure

  1. #1
    Senior Member Goofy's Avatar
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    Cool Tale of Phoenix Twins, Mystery of Hidden Treasure

    Finally, the third fanfic is here. <IMG SRC="smilies/sweating.gif" border="0"> <IMG SRC="smilies/coffee.gif" border="0"> <IMG SRC="smilies/catroar.gif" border="0">

    Tale of Phoenix Twins, Mystery of Hidden Treasure
    By Gigi

    Forewords
    This Fanfic is the third and last story in the Twins Trilogy. It was set during the Ching Dynasty under long reign of Emperor Kang Xi. The plot has been growing in my mind for some time since the day I wrote the first story, Legend of the Sword and Saber. I am actually exciting to be able to write three Fanfics and made a trilogy out of them. Thanks to all readers for constant supports and their constructive comments.

    My first and foremost dedication would be for my loving cat, Gigi, the pen name I use for writing fan fictions. Next, I owe my inspiration and my resources about Wuxia to my favorite authors, Jin Yong and Gu Long. I am also in debt to the dedicated pair of translators, Moinllieon and Lanny Lin, for showing me that it was possible to express the world of Wuxia in English. These past years, I have learned a lot from their works. Finally, I’d like to salute my fan fiction’s sifu, Tu Vi – the author of a great Fanfic, Destiny.

    As usual, the cast is mainly the stars from the 80s. Please imagine them in their younger days or as their roles dictated. Because of many characters, this tale is going to be quite long, comparing to the second story, the Quest of Heaven and Earth; therefore, I will divide the story into several parts.

    The plot dictates many flashbacks – the new experience that I will employ. Please inform me if the readers find the story too confusing.

    I apologize beforehand for any possible discrepancies in Chinese history, language, and geography. Any feedback will be fully appreciated.

    <font size="1">[ February 07, 2003: Message edited by: Goofy ]</font>
    "History's third dimension is always fiction."
    -- The Glass Bead Game, Hermann Hesse

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    Senior Member Goofy's Avatar
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    Thank you Tina from Adam Cheng forum for the nice poster. <IMG SRC="smilies/hatoff.gif" border="0">

    Prologue

    Sound of wedding melodies filled the silence of wooded area. Soon, a large group of merry people all decorated with red bow came to sight. Musicians led the parade then a middle-aged matchmaker dressed in a tight red satin dress that showed her voluminous figure all the more. Behind the matchmaker were several good-looking young men and women carrying the dowries and presents from the groom to the bride’s family. Next was a big palanquin carried by eight strong men. Finally, ten guards in red uniform trailed quietly at the end.

    Today, even the heaven seemed to bless the marriage couple for the weather was agreeable. The sky was cloudless, and the air was warm with occasional wind to relieve heat. Flowers were blooming, and grass looked greener and fresher than usual as if to celebrate this auspicious day.

    Suddenly, the music stopped. The whole caravan stood still. A bird screeched, then the matchmaker fell down. Blood gushed out of her throat where a knife was lodged. The rest wanted to scream and ran away but their voice would not come out and their legs would not obey them. Each could only stand there horrifyingly; watching colleagues being killed one by one in shocks. In short time, the ground was littered with corpses. Their red bows lay on top of grass as if they were red flowers blossomed on green field. Now, only eight men who still had the litter on their shoulders remained. Although they were big, muscle men, they had never met such frightful incident like this before. Some could not help wetting their pants and if one listened closely, one probably could hear their teeth shattering.

    Someone snickered, and out of nowhere, five figures clad in red material embroidered phoenix in gold thread appeared. The eight carriers’ wide eyes turned white and their already pallid face lost entire color. Foam fumed their mouths and they died instantly from fear.

    At the same time, the newcomers cast their red belts, catching the wedding palanquin and landed it on the ground neatly.

    Red was the color of auspicious occasion, but it was also the color of blood. A few minutes ago, the carrier covered with silken red curtain represented happiness, but now it looked conspicuous and uncanny among the numerous dead bodies.

    Red might present good luck, but those five strangers in red looked more like ambassadors of death. In their hands were red paper umbrellas with golden phoenix painting. Their faces were hidden underneath golden masks to cover their identities. After a quick scan, one of them who seemed to be a leader waved his hand, and the rest scattered to collect the wedding gifts from the ground.

    Out of the blue, they heard a sound of hunting horn. When they looked up, they were surrounded with an army of soldiers with bows ready to shoot. A young man in white outfit walked forward and laughingly spoke. “Red Phoenix, this place will be your grave.”

    The leader stared at the young man coldly. “Master Zhong is very commendable. You are willing to sacrifice many lives just to lure me to your trap. No doubt their families would thank you for this kindness.” His tone was sarcastic although the words were praising.

    The other was taken aback as his name was mentioned, but he recovered his poise quickly. He arrogantly replied. “To accomplish big job, one must not think too small. Those people who died will be acclaimed as the heroes who helped catching the notorious thief like you. Their families should be glad of this honor instead of feeling sad.”

    He lifted his hands, and arrows went off like rain toward the opposite. Just then, shower of pebbles flew up to meet the arrows and brought them down to the ground. Master Zhong was livid. He lifted his hand again to order another round of attack but he had no chance to do so as a golden ball hit squarely at his chest and he collapsed, died on the spot. The ball rolled down on the ground and became still as if it were only a harmless toy.

    His death caused chaos among his soldiers. Each man took a glance at the deaths on the field then threw away his weapon and started to flee. The five figures in red were about to run after them but a melodic voice called out from the palanquin. “Let them go. Someone is coming. We need to get out of here.”

    The group leader went to pick up the golden ball and went to the palanquin. “Princess, here it is.” A white hand reached out from behind the red curtain and received it. “We need to hurry.”

    The group leader nodded, and his four followers wrapped their red belts around the palanquin and flew away in high speed, taking the litter and the person inside it with them.

    Fifteen minutes later, a man approached the scene. He took a look and sighed heavily. “I am too late. I am too late.” He caught a sight of Master Zhong’s wound on his chest and went over to examine it minutely. He frowned then turned pale. “Is that possible? Could it be you?” He shouted loudly and the birds scattered away from fright.

    The man looked around but found no more clues, so he started collecting bodies then cremated them. He also dug a hole and buried all valuables that lay about on the ground. After that, he went away as quietly as he had come.

    Peace returned to the forest once again. Moments later, the sky grew darker, and the sun disappeared. Clouds gathered and pretty soon heavy rain poured down, washing away the blood – the last trace of the violence that had taken place.
    -----------------------
    Thank you for reading. I have rewritten it several times yet felt it is still lacking. any suggestion would be appreciated. <IMG SRC="smilies/biggrin.gif" border="0">
    "History's third dimension is always fiction."
    -- The Glass Bead Game, Hermann Hesse

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    Beautiful! Your writing gets better and better as you write. That chapter was excellent. I think however, you are beginning to catch a disease that affects many good writers- where you believe that your chapters are not as good as you would like them to be. Don't think like that.

    Personally, I think Tu Vi caught the disease. To me her chapters were as good as always, but she stopped writing because she thought that they were getting worse and worse. I don't want you to stop either. The chapter was really really really really really good.
    Read the Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud now. I swear that you won't regret meeting someone like Bartimaeus. Ever.

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    Senior Member Goofy's Avatar
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    Thanks Kara.

    I don't think I will stop writing for that reason. On the opposite, I probably would try to improve myself.

    Whenever I feel my stories are no longer appreciated, I might just consider not writing anymore. <IMG SRC="smilies/crying.gif" border="0">

    I have learned one thing from writing - it is sure easier imagining the scene on tv screens than putting words on paper... <IMG SRC="smilies/tongue.gif" border="0">
    "History's third dimension is always fiction."
    -- The Glass Bead Game, Hermann Hesse

  5. #5
    Senior Member Yak's Avatar
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    I love this site so much! There is so much great ancient fanfics to read! I'm so excited now! <IMG SRC="smilies/clap.gif" border="0"> <IMG SRC="smilies/clap.gif" border="0"> <IMG SRC="smilies/clap.gif" border="0">

    Anyway I want you to know that your story is really good and interesting so far. Too bad I'm not talented in writing ancient fanfic like you and many other writer in here. All of you are excellent! Now I just need more time to catch up with all the <IMG SRC="smilies/read.gif" border="0"> <IMG SRC="smilies/dizzy.gif" border="0">

    Can't wait till you update this fanfic soon, since this is the only one I'm on the same pace.

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    Senior Member Goofy's Avatar
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    Hi Yak,
    welcome to fanfic world. <IMG SRC="smilies/biggrin.gif" border="0">

    If you are interesting to read more of my works, here are they at winglin.

    Legend of the Sword and Saber

    The Quest of Heaven and Earth

    <IMG SRC="smilies/read.gif" border="0">

    and if you like to write but not want to embark on whole story yourself, there are two ancient roundrobin fanfics here that you can join in anytime. <IMG SRC="smilies/biggrin.gif" border="0">

    they are Legend of Kilin and Secret of the Sword.

    Enjoy...
    "History's third dimension is always fiction."
    -- The Glass Bead Game, Hermann Hesse

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    Thumbs up

    Wow! Another fanfic, Gigi? I'm looking forward to read the 1st chapter!! Adam Cheng and Gigi Chiu look awesome on the poster!

  8. #8
    Senior Member Yak's Avatar
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    Goofy, thanks for suggesting on Legend of Kilin. I almost finish two pages, and it really good. I'm going to be busy for a long while and my eyes will probably fall out afterward. <IMG SRC="smilies/biggrin.gif" border="0"> Anyway update yours soon!

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    Senior Member Goofy's Avatar
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    Let me know if the chapter is too detailed. I tend to do that at this stage. <IMG SRC="smilies/biggrin.gif" border="0">

    Book I
    The Youths

    Chapter 1
    Young Master Zhao

    Character List (not in any particular order):
    Zhao Mengnan (Adam Cheng Siu Chow)
    Zhao Zhong (Norman Chui Siu Keung)
    Madam Zhao nee Lian Xiaohua (Au Yeung Pui San)
    Meiying (Maggie Cheung Man Yuk)

    It was a night of full moon. In front of ‘Ten Thousand Fragrances Tower’ hung several lanterns to illuminate the whole area against the bright moonlight. Merry laughter and sound of music floated out of the building, and the air was intoxicated with alluring perfume and wine fragrance. At the doorway, a middle-aged woman with thick make-up was flirting with customers shamelessly.

    Inside, several tables scattered about the main hall area; they were packed with male customers eating and drinking with beautiful maidens on their laps. Long flight of stairs at the center of the main hall led to the second floor that was a bit quieter. Occasionally, giggles and delightful screams were heard from some rooms along passageway. At the moment, every room was occupied, and at least a dozen young dancers moved from one room to the other to entertain their special guests.

    At the end of the corridor, another stair was hidden in a dark corner. It led to the tower’s third level where silence reigned saved for soft music of zither drifting from the only room on that floor. Scent of burning flower potpourri pervaded the entire floor, mystifying the atmosphere. Inside the room, the most beautiful ‘flower’ of the Ten Thousand Fragrances Tower was playing a zither absentmindedly. Her eyes were on a pale young man who was lying lazily on a sofa.

    “Meiying, that’s a wrong note.” The man mentioned, smiling at the other, and she blushed.

    “Oh! At least, you are listening to my music.” The maiden pouted, pointing to the book in the other’s hands. “I began to think that my presence here is no longer appreciated. It seems that you prefer to fix your eyes on poetry than on me.” She smiled at him coyly, and the other inhaled deeply.

    “Even the king lost his kingdom because of a woman’s smile. How could I resist yours then?” He slowly got up and put the book on a table then went back to his sofa. “I was reading Li Bai’s poem, praising the beauty of Lady Yang and I came to conclusion that you are far more beautiful than she was.”

    Meiying threw him a demure glance and left her zither to hand him a small cup. “You must have drunk too much tonight to praise me so lavishly, so I forbid you to drink anything but wine from now on.”

    The young man chuckled and opened his mouth to accept sweet grapes from Meiying while his eyes gazed at her charmingly. At that moment, a door was thrown opened, and a man in servant garb rushed in. He grasped for air while stammering the news.

    “Young master, the senior master has come home. He…he is looking for you and…and is heading this way.”

    The young master immediately sprang up from the sofa and hurried to a closet. He opened it and took out a coil of rope. Then he tied one end to a hook on the windowsill and dropped the rest down to the below alley while ordering his servant to undress and get to the bed.

    “I will be back as soon as I can.” He assured her before climbing down the rope carefully.

    Meiying looked down with concern. “Be careful, Mengnan.” She winced as the young man bumped himself on the street pavement. The young master picked himself up quickly and disappeared into the dark alley. A few minutes later, a man stormed into the room and went straight to the bed. Then he jerked the cover away to discover a naked man lying next to a scanty dressed beautiful maiden.

    Quick as a flash, Meiying leaped up and wrapped her arms around the newcomer; her bare flesh rubbed against the other’s body meaningfully. “Handsome, what’s so hurry? If you want me, just let Mama know. Coming in like this, you will scare my other customers.” She whispered seductively while winking to the servant to leave.

    The stranger flushed and tried to untangle himself from her embrace. When he finally succeeded, the bird had already flown away. He awkwardly bowed to her then hurried out of the room.

    Left alone in the room, Meiying giggled with pleasure. “Hero Zhao is actually afraid of women.” Her eyes glinted curiously. “Wonder if he found me interest enough. Maybe after a more proper introduction, he might prove to be no less charming than his nephew is.”

    Zhao Zhong arrived at the Zhao mansion and went directly into his nephew’s bedroom. From there, he heard loud coughs and his sister-in-law’s voice. “Are you better now, Mengnan?”

    At first, Zhao Zhong meant to enter the room unannounced but because of his sister-in-law’s presence, he had to knock at the door and waited for her permission. “Come in.” Sweet voice called, and he went inside to find his nephew on the bed in white underclothes, coughing loudly.

    Madam Zhao looked up at her brother-in-law surprisingly. “I thought you had gone to bed already. Mengnan’s cough must have waken you up.” She patted her son’s back gently while holding a receptacle for his saliva.

    Zhao Zhong grunted and strode to the bed and yanked his nephew up. “You can only trick your mother but not me. You have just been to the Ten Thousand Fragrances Tower, haven’t you? I can smell that woman’s perfume on you.”

    Zhao Mengnan blinked his eyes innocently. “Uncle, I have not left home at all this evening for I felt unwell. Could that perfume come from your robe instead?” He ended with another round of long coughs.

    Zhao Zhong turned red. Only his sister-in-law’s anxious eyes kept him from slapping this naughty youth. He narrowed his eyes and asked the other coldly. “Then when I came to see you earlier, how come you were not in your room?”

    His nephew replied dauntlessly. “Oh! I was probably taking a walk with Ah Fu at the back garden. I read from a book once that night air is the purest.”

    Zhao Zhong glared at his nephew and unconsciously tightened his grip of the other’s shoulders. Zhao Mengnan immediately cried out with pain, and Madam Zhao hastily interposed. “It is very late, and Mengnan needs a rest. Can we talk things out tomorrow instead?”

    She pleaded softly, and Zhao Zhong reluctantly let his nephew go. “Sister-in-law, you are spoiling this boy too much.” He mumbled and strode out of the room.

    Madam Zhao sighed with relief and arranged a quilt over her son. “You might have a rough day tomorrow, so I will have Ah Fu bring you ginseng soup in the morning. Hopefully, your uncle would think of your deceased father and tries not to murder you during his kungfu training.” She patted her son’s head lovingly before blowing out the candle and departed.

    Zhao Mengnan frowned in the dark. His uncle seemed fiercer every year. His sick trick no longer worked with anyone but his mother. Suddenly, he got up and lit the candle again. Then he searched for some writing implements and sat down at the table to write one short message. After that, he put everything away and went to sleep.

    “Forgive me, Uncle. It is not very nice to do this, but I really don’t want to go to Shaolin.” He muttered to himself and closed his eyes.

    The next morning, Ah Fu brought in washing water, and his young master gave him the note he wrote last night. “Have it deliver to Uncle sometimes this afternoon and keep out of Uncle’s way. Otherwise, he might want to know how long you have been visiting that place.”

    Ah Fu needed no second warning as he stealthily moved about, in fear of his senior master. Zhao Mengnan hummed a tune as he got dressed and came out to a courtyard. His uncle had been waiting for him, and Madam Zhao was nearby, twisting her handkerchiefs nervously.

    Zhao Zhong surveyed his eldest nephew and nodded. “You look better today. How is your cough?” He asked.

    Zhao Mengnan cupped his hands and paid respect to his two elders. “Thank you, Uncle. Because of the night air I breathed last night, my coughs are gone for the time being.”

    His uncle smiled satisfactorily. He shouted for the other to watch out and punched his fists forward. Zhao Mengnan moved to the left then right and backed away clumsily. Suddenly, his feet stumbled on a rock and he immediately fell down, groaning with pain. Madam Zhao squealed and rushed to tend to her son, while Zhao Mengnan grunted disappointedly. He glared at his nephew disdainfully then strode away angrily.

    Ah Fu that had been hiding behind a bush ran out to assist his young master to the bedroom. There, Madam Zhao busily bandaged her son’s swollen ankle then went out to brew ginseng soup. Zhao Mengnan winked at Ah Fu and closed his eyes for a nap. At lunch, Ah Fu assisted him to the dining room where Zhao Zhong and Madam Zhao were waiting. Zhao Zhong seemed oddly in good mood; he did not even scold his nephew for being late as his wont. Instead, he talked miscellaneously about strange events in the martial realm.

    “I passed a forest the other day and came upon a massacre of the entire wedding caravan. The murderers have flown away, but I think they must be those from Winter Palace.” He sighed deeply. “For the last five years, this mysterious clan has unsettled the peace of our pugilist world. At times, it seems to support the government, but at times, it seems to turn against everyone else.”

    He turned to his nephew and spoke grimly. “Remember Mengnan, a person cannot be call a real man unless he stands for what he believes. Manchu people have entered our land for almost a hundred years now, and as Chinese citizens, you and I have a duty to chase them away from our forefathers’ land.”

    Zhao Mengnan stopped eating and responded guilelessly. “But what would become of the land after Manchu leaves?”

    Zhao Zhong frowned. “Of course, Ming will be restored.” He chanted. “Restore Ming, oppose Qing; all of loyalists know that.”

    His nephew smiled in the face. “But how many of Ming royalties are left nowadays? I’m afraid that this motto is just an excuse to open one’s way to power. In reality, everyone hopes to gain the throne for himself.”

    Zhao Zhong slapped the table forcefully. His face was cold like marble. “You are putting me down with your ignorant words, and you are also mocking my friends and colleagues. How could a playboy like you understand meaning of heroism and sacrifice for bigger cause?” He scolded contemptuously.

    Zhao Mengnan feigned an injured expression. He cupped his hands politely. He didn’t mean to annoy the other, but probably his sore ankle made him unconsciously argue further. “Please pardon my impoliteness and straightforwardness, Uncle. I only feel that it is rather ridiculous to bring back the dynasty that was cursed so much at its end. Had its last emperor been well loved and competent, there wouldn’t have been the rebel Li Zicheng, and the country would not have been weakened so that Manchu could invade it so easily. Who could guarantee that the last descendants of Ming would be as an accomplished ruler as the current Kangxi?”

    Zhao Zhong flushed with fury. He grabbed the young man from his chair and cuffed the other hard. Zhao Mengnan immediately was knocked to the floor. “This is from your father who was probably lying restlessly in the grave because of an ungrateful son like you. Our family has been well known for generations for our patriotism. Your great great grandfather was Hero Tian Fei who had led the pugilists to drive out the Manchu from our northern border. Your great grandparents were Di Yi and Tian Xiang-er who had defeated Black Devil of Tibet thus foiled his plan of harming the Ming emperor. Your grandparents were the heroes that died in an attempt to assassinate the Manchu’s high officials. We have long history of loyalty to our country and our Han emperors.” He lectured while picking his young nephew up roughly and dragging the youth to the Zhao ancestor altar. Then he ordered the other to kneel down and apologize in front of the tablets.

    Madam Zhao paled but dared not say a word. Her elder brother-in-law was a serious man, and he was rather sensitive when it came to this political topic. Inwardly, she admonished her eldest son for speaking out unnecessarily, and her heart lurched each time that he was punished or scolded. ‘It was the friends he met at the ‘bad place’ that brainwashed him.’ She couldn’t help giving her beloved son some excuses.

    Zhao Zhong paced the room with his hands at the back, keeping his eyes on the kneeling youth on the floor. “Your mother has just begged me to let you pursue a scholar career due to your ill health, and I have agreed. However, seeing now how your study has got worse aside from your bad habits with wine and women, the only cure left for you is Shaolin. Hard martial art practices will wash away all those silly ideas from your head and strengthen your body and spirit. Tomorrow, I will take you to Shaolin Temple myself.”

    Madam Zhao screamed faintly and reeled into her son’s arms. Zhao Mengnan immediately interjected. “But I don’t want to become my younger brother’s junior apprentice.”

    Zhao Zhong paid no attentions to the mother and son’s reactions. His face was grim. “This is the final decision. You’d better start packing now.”

    At that moment, a messenger arrived, and a note was handed to Zhao Zhong whose face changed color as soon as he read it. “Ah Xiang,” he murmured and almost rushed off when he suddenly remembered his nephew. He paced on thoughtfully, trying to find the best solution for both sides. After a while, he mentioned aloud.

    “I have an errand to run but I will ask Chief He of the Iron Tiger Escort Agency to take care of you for me. His usual route passes Shaolin Temple, and he knows the abbot well. I will give you an introducing letter and talk to Chief He on my way out of town.”

    He sat down and called for paper and brush. Then he wrote a short letter, sealed it, and left it on the table. After that, he went back to his room, packed, and took leave hurriedly. Zhao Mengnan watched him left with relief despite his bruised body. He chuckled inwardly and went to his room to start packing. Ah Fu followed him with confused expression.

    “Young master, why do you still have to pack when the senior master has left?”

    Zhao Mengnan laughed good-naturedly. “Ah Fu, although my uncle is gone, I still have to be taken to Shaolin Temple.” He paused and made a face. “I definitely won’t be a junior martial brother to my own younger brother. Besides, all they do there is kicking and punching – nothing interesting. That’s why I am going away for a time being. By the time that Uncle is back again, Mother will never let him take me away from her. Then I can come home as a free man.”

    He grinned widely as he tied a last knot, but his personal servant was horrified. “But young master has never been away from home. I heard that outside is very dangerous and young master has no martial arts…” Ah Fu protested, but Zhao Mengnan would not listen.

    “I will dress as a poor scholar so that I can be out of harm.” A smile remained at corners of his mouth. “It is going to be fun.” Then he gave certain instructions to Ah Fu. “Tomorrow, keep Mother from my room as long as you can.” He yawned and lay down for a nap.

    That night, he feigned headache and went to bed early. At midnight, he got up and tiptoed to the main hall and out of the house through servant exit in the back. Then he walked on without stopping until he has left the town’s gate. Looking up at the bright moon, he decided to head to the east.

    “Chief He would head up north, and I lured Uncle to go west, so I should go eastward to avoid them.” He hummed a tune and trekked on under the moonlight.
    -----------------------
    I can't remember the password of winglin site so for now, it will be posted here. <IMG SRC="smilies/bang.gif" border="0"> <IMG SRC="smilies/sweating.gif" border="0">

    <font size="1">[ February 11, 2003: Message edited by: Goofy ]</font>
    "History's third dimension is always fiction."
    -- The Glass Bead Game, Hermann Hesse

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    Well done! I don't think it's too detailed. Me waiting for another chp. soon!!

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    WOW! This is nice...but i'm kinda sad... no more Xiang Er and Xin Er, just their descendents...

    Oh well, it can't be pushed, i have a feeling this story is going to be great. Zhao Mengnan is cute and i like his opinion on the subject of restore ming oppose qing. It reminds me of Wei Xiao Bao's opinions!

    Anyways, keep it up - this story grows more interesting as i read it. I can't wait for Xin Er's descendants to appear...Ke Guo and Yang by now must be three different families.
    Read the Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud now. I swear that you won't regret meeting someone like Bartimaeus. Ever.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Goofy's Avatar
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    there are Guo and Yang in the story but Ke is only mentioned by referrences.

    the characters probably more or less connected through their forefathers but hopefully they can make up one individual story.
    "History's third dimension is always fiction."
    -- The Glass Bead Game, Hermann Hesse

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    Senior Member Bubeng's Avatar
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    Looking forward for the phoenix twins to appear <IMG SRC="smilies/smile.gif" border="0">
    There's a friend that sticks closer than a brother.

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    Hi
    I now regret having started to read this third story of yours because i've been forbidden to go on line for the next six months, which means that i'm gonna be kept in suspense for six months about what happens. Since i can't read and keep up with this story, i can't really comment. However, you will still have my undying support.

    Bye!
    Read the Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud now. I swear that you won't regret meeting someone like Bartimaeus. Ever.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Goofy's Avatar
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    Kara, I will be thinking of you when I write chapters. Hopefully when you are back to the net again with success, you will find handful of readings waiting. <IMG SRC="smilies/biggrin.gif" border="0"> <IMG SRC="smilies/catroar.gif" border="0">

    wish you the best...

    Book I
    The Youths

    Chapter 2
    The Beggar and the Reluctant Bridegroom

    Character List (not in any particular order):
    Yang Lianyan (Vivian Leung Siu Bing)
    Ah Liu (Tony Leung Chiu Wai)
    Madam Guo (Carol Dodo Cheng Yu Ling)
    Guo Ming (Terry Fan Siu Wong)
    Yang Ling-ling (Ho Mei Sie)

    “Hey! Wake up.” Noise drummed in Yang Lianyan’s ears, and she forced her eyes to open. To her astonishment, she found herself in a half-ruined temple. Opposite her was the owner of the voice that woke her up. He was a young man about her age with dirty face and ragged clothes. “Who are you?” He asked curiously, and she replied, “Yang Lianyan.”

    Her starry eyes looked around questioningly, and the youth reassured her gently. “Don’t worry. This is my house, and you will be safe. My name is Ah Liu.”

    “How did I get here?” She asked.

    Ah Liu scratched his head. “I saw servants carried you out of ‘House of Spring Flowers’ and left you here. At first, you didn’t look like breathing, but after a while, your fingers moved and I can feel your pulse.”

    Yang Lianyan immediately understood. “I must have fainted then, and they must have thought that I was dead.” She smiled at him brilliantly. “At least, this time my illness becomes useful.”

    Ah Liu’s heart beat like a drum. “Are you sick?” He asked.

    She nodded. “Hmm, since my birth. I often faints, so don’t be panic if it happens again.”

    Ah Liu nodded. “Well, how did you happen to be at that brothel in the first place?”

    Yang Lianyan cocked her head puzzlingly. “What is a brothel?” She asked innocently, and Ah Liu laughed. He moved closer and explained softly. “It is a place where men seek entertainment from women.”

    The other listened with interest. “Oh, I never know there is such a place. Is there a place where men entertain women too?” She asked guilelessly.

    Ah Liu scratched his head. This girl must be either dumb or had never been away from home. He shook his head and decided that he might as well rest the subject. Instead, he questioned her minutely and in bits and pieces, he learned of her short adventure.

    “My sister has left home, and I stole a raft from Mother to go after her. On the way, there was a big storm, and I was thrown into sea. Next, I woke up in a gaudy room with an old woman reeked with strange perfumes staring at me. She brought me some food then went out. After that, she was back with a very fat man whose look I don’t like at all. So, I tried to leave the room, but it was guarded, and the fat man was approaching me when I suddenly couldn’t breath. I must have fainted out of fright.”

    Ah Liu shook his fist after he heard her story. “I think the brothel owner must have found you unconscious on a beach and just simply kidnapped you to be her new girl. What a villain! I will go burning the whole place down this minute.” He started to get up, but the other held him back.

    Yang Lianyan shook her head. “Never mind. At least, she has saved my life.” She smiled again, and Ah Liu’s heart lurched once more without reason. He smiled back then heard a groan from the other’s stomach. Yang Lianyan blushed embarrassingly as she rubbed her belly. “I am usually very hungry after the faint.” She confessed, and Ah Liu quietly handed her some buns that she immediately devoured with relish.

    “Hmm, they are really good.” She wiped her lips daintily after the meal and thanked her new friend gratefully.

    “Where is your home?” Ah Liu made a query.

    The other replied truthfully. “I live on an island with my family.” She heaved a sigh. “My mother is probably very worried and angry at me now.”

    “Is she very strict then?” He asked.

    Yang Lianyan shook her head. “Not to me. In fact, she loves me very much, but I’m afraid that she will punish my sister instead of me. Mother is rather harsh with my other siblings.” She explained.

    “Maybe because your health is not good.” He surmised, and the other nodded.

    “Yes, that is right. Mother was very ill when she had me; that’s why I became so sickly.” She sighed again. “Sometimes, I would rather be like Qiu-er who is yelled at everyday but can practice martial arts.”

    Ah Liu’s eyes were alert. “Do your parents know kungfu?”

    “Yes, especially my father is very good. He can jump very high and move very fast. Every year, he would come to Mainland for trading and will return home with a lot of exciting tales about the pugilist world.” Her eyes were bright like stars.

    Ah Liu held his breath as he proposed that she stayed with him. “Then why don’t you travel with me for a while before going home? If you are going to be scolded, then might as well have some fun first.” He hesitated then confessed. “I ran away from home myself.” He said proudly as the other looked at him with admiration.

    “Don’t you like your home?” Yang Lianyan wondered.

    Ah Liu shook his head slowly while his hands fed sticks into campfire. “It is not that. My foster parents are very nice to me, and I also have an aunt who teaches me kungfu, but I want to be a hero. I want to join the secret society against the government. I want to help restoring Ming.” He eyed the other grimly. “But don’t tell anyone though because we can get arrested easily.” He warned.

    Yang Lianyan was thrilled. “So, are you a member of the Heaven and Earth Society? Father told me a lot about them. That sounds very awesome.”

    Ah Liu knitted his eyebrows but admitted bravely that he was still working on it. “You can’t join such great society without some accomplishment. That’s why I am disguising myself as a beggar in order to pick up some valuable news as my introduction to the group.” He lowered his voice.

    Yang Lianyan giggled. “That is very bad disguise.” She criticized. “Although your clothes are torn, they are good quality kind. Then your face is dirty, but your hair is combed neatly.”

    Ah Liu was a bit offended. “Can you do better than I can?” He challenged and was surprised to see the other’s confidence.

    “Of course! It is just a child’s play for me.” She said. “Because I am not strong enough to practice kungfu, my mother taught me all the disguising tricks. She said it is for my protection in case of an emergency. I’ll show you.” She turned her back at him for a moment. When she faced him again, Ah Liu had to exclaim astonishingly. “How did you do that?”

    The young maiden in front of him had somehow transferred into an old hag. If it had not been for her black lustrous hair and her colorful skirt, he could have sworn that she was a totally different person. Yang Lianyan was pleased. She grinned sweetly and took off a mask from her face. “Luckily, my mask was not taken away from me, but even without it, I can put a good make-up on you so you can look like an old man.” She boasted confidently, and Ah Liu felt as if luck had fallen into his lap.

    “That is perfect! So, let’s help each other. I have some kungfu, and I will take care of you while you are here, and you can help me with the disguise.” He suggested and she approved of his idea.

    “I will look for my sister too. I heard Mother told her to come to Central Plains to kill somebody, so she might need my help.” She rolled her starry eyes. “Father was not home, and if I meet him on the way, he can help with Qiu-er’s task then talks to Mother so that we won’t get punished.”

    Ah Liu sighed contentedly. This must be his happiest day since he had left home. He did not feel lonely anymore. “I’m glad that you are here.” He said shyly, and Yang Lianyan’s color deepened. “Hmm, I am too.”

    The next day, the two youths decided to search for the news of Yang Lianyan’s sister, Qiu-er, along seacoasts, so they left Yangzhou and traveled southward. On the way, Yang Lianyan, who was eager to show her disguise skill, dressed herself up as an old woman as Ah Liu had told her that she looked too petite to be a man. Ah Liu adjusted his beggar image according to his new friend’s advice and found that he could blend in with the locals better.

    However, after some days of fruitless quest, Yang Lianyan came to conclusion that her sister must have left the east and had gone to find her victims. “I only know that she is going to the Li family.”

    Ah Liu couldn’t help laughing at her. “There are hundreds of families named Li. How can you find out the right one?”

    Yang Lianyan shook her head, realizing the immense task ahead. “I don’t know. I had no idea that China will be this big.” She sighed hopelessly, and Ah Liu had to cheer her up.

    “Well, we can narrow down the area if you think very hard of what your mother said about her enemy.”

    “Hmm, three months ago, Mother called me to her room and made me pay a respect to a plague with no name. Then she shut herself in for several days. When she came out, she immediately had me fetch Qiu-er. That’s when I heard her tell Qiu-er to kill someone with the name Li. I didn’t dare to listen in very long for my mother has very good ears. The next day, Qiu-er left, and I followed her with curiosity. You know the rest.” She recounted the events.

    “But that doesn’t tell us where does this Li person live?” Ah Liu threw his arms desperately.

    “Well, there is one more clue – Qiu-er took her favorite medicine bag with her.”

    Ah Liu frowned. “What does that mean?”

    Yang Lianyan smiled and explained to him. “That means she expects to find some rare herbs and possibly the ice lily.” She pondered carefully. “Hmm, the book said that the ice lotus can only be found at high peaks. In the past, only one was found so far at Tai Bai Shan.” Her eyes lit eagerly. “Maybe Qiu-er is heading to that mountain.”

    Ah Liu knitted his eyebrows. “Tai Bai Shan is the highest mountain in Shaanxi Province. It is going to be hard to look for a single person there, but if we hurry, we might be able to catch up with her on the way.”

    Yang Lianyan clapped her hands. “I agree.” She got up and had to sit down again, catching her breath. When Ah Liu looked at her with concern, she forced a smile at him. “Just an old symptom. You will get used to seeing it soon. I just need a rest and I will be fine.” She took deep breath and tried to hide the throbbing of her heart.

    Ah Liu sat quietly, watching over her anxiously. He noticed beads of sweat on her pale forehead and realized that the other must be enduring some pain. Without thinking, he reached for her hands and said tenderly. “I promise that I will find a cure for you.” Then he released her hands and turned pink.

    Yang Lianyan looked at him gratefully. “Thank you, but you also have your own agenda. I really don’t want to delay you from joining the rebels.”

    Ah Liu stood up tall. He looked up at the evening sun and swore sincerely. “I swear to the heaven that I will not abandon you until I can discover a way to heal you.” He turned to the young maiden, and his courage suddenly turned into shyness. “I spoke from my heart, really.”

    Yang Lianyan flashed her white teeth. “You are the first friend I have ever had.” Her eyes were trusting, and Ah Liu felt as if he had grown taller another two inches.

    Meanwhile, in a town of Hangzhou, it was raining cat and dog. The sky was black, and the streets were empty. At that moment, two shadows appeared amid the downpour. One was a small-frame figure, and another was a masked man. The latter led the former through dark alleys expertly; his movement was nimble, indicating a good level of his lightness kungfu. Except for these two’s inaudible footsteps and rainfall, the gloomy area was void of other sounds.

    The two shadows passed the town gate without being disturbed. They went on toward wooded area nearby. There, the leading man searched for a cave then motioned the other to enter it for their temporary shelter. Quickly and silently, he built a small fire, using materials he could gather from around the cave. Only then that he sighed with relief and took off black cloth that covered his face. Next, he cupped his hand to the other politely.

    “I am sorry to cause Miss trouble. Please forgive my mother’s impulsiveness. She is a kind woman and loving mother, but she tends to be careless at times.”

    In the dim firelight, the small-frame figure was a young maiden about sixteen of age. She had bright large eyes and dimples on her cheeks. At that moment, she was staring at the young man opposite with interest.

    “So, you are young master Guo – the son that I was supposed to marry to.” She made a statement, and the young man blushed. “My name is Guo Ming of Shaolin. I came home this time because my mother wrote to me that she was ill. Who would have thought that she meant to find me a bride, and when she couldn’t find any that is willing, she tried to force you…” He bowed to her repeatedly. “I am so sorry.”

    The young maiden tossed her long braids. “That is all right since your mother has actually rescued me from those street tugs.” She cocked her head and regarded him curiously. “Why no other maiden around here will marry you?”

    Guo Ming turned totally red. He coughed and replied embarrassingly. “It is really a shame. When I was young, a fortuneteller had predicted that I am destined to be a widower. Therefore, every girl that learns of my fortune refuses to be my wife. My mother, on the other hand, is eager to see grandchildren because I am the only heir of the family, but I never want to have a family at the moment.” He quickly concluded.

    The other nodded thoughtfully. “Hmm, Confucius said that a filial son needs to continue family line, so your mother really can’t be blamed in this matter.” Her voice was gentle. “However, I don’t want to marry yet either.” She smiled reassuring at him and introduced herself. “My name is Yang Ling-ling.”

    Guo Ming was mesmerized with the other’s lively smile. He almost felt regretted for running away from this arranged marriage, but at the same time, he was glad that she would not be the victim of his unlucky fortune. “Mother probably is raising the roof for us.” He mused then decided that he would write her an apology letter as soon as he was back at Shaolin.

    ‘But I have to escort this lady to her home first.’ He thought inwardly and instantly heard a sneeze from the other. Immediately, he hunted for fuel materials but found only bits of dry sticks and handfuls of grass. The rain outside had not let down yet, and everything that could burn was wet. By now, they were fairly dry, but they couldn’t help feeling a bit cold.

    He regarded the shivering maiden caringly and mumbled an excuse before taking off his damped outer shirt. Then he handed over his dryer undershirt to her and put back on the outer one. Yang Ling Ling shyly received his tribute and wrapped it around her shoulders. The warmth of his body seemed to spread from the clothes, and her cold seemed to vanish. She stole a glance at the other then sat down next to the fire shyly. Guo Ming missed her reaction, however, as he busily arranged a sleeping area for her. When he was done, he looked up at her and grinned in the dark.

    “We have to stay here until dawn, but don’t worry because this place is my special childhood hideout. Nobody is going to find us here.” He patted the bed and invited his guest to take a rest. He himself sat by the cave entrance, keeping guard all night.

    The next morning, the sky was bright, and everything looked fresher. A bird’s singing woke Yang Ling-ling up and she found the cave empty. Just when she was about to go outside, looking for Guo Ming, he arrived with wild berries. They then breakfasted together and left the cave. Guo Ming suggested for them to go further inland to avoid his mother.

    “Since you are from the East Sea, she will think that you might try to get back home. I think we should make a detour into the Central Plains then back to seacoast in Yangzhou. This way, we can look for your siblings at the same time.” Yang Ling-ling agreed and they started out toward Henan.

    Unknown to these youths, Madam Guo had dispatched her henchmen to old friends of her deceased husband for help searching for the runaway bride. She stubbornly determined to have this girl as her daughter-in-law. “She is pretty, sweet, and meek – good qualities for being a daughter-in-law. Also, she looks strong enough to bear a lot of sons for Ah Ming. Besides, she said that she had separated from her brother at sea, so even if she is dead all of a sudden, we won’t have to explain to her family.” She calculated acutely.

    Madam Guo was a middle-aged widow with majestic personality. She was a sole daughter of a master of an escort agency that her husband had inherited upon her father’s death. She loved children and always dreamed to have many sons. Unfortunately, Master Guo passed away just when their only son was only 5 years old. For these last 20 years, she had to manage the agency herself, accepting only jobs with low risk as a mode of living. Her only hope was to see her son settle down and bring back glory to their escor agency. To her disappointment, Guo Ming seemed to be interested only in learning kungfu and joining secret society. Madam Guo could only blame her dead husband for taking her son to Shaolin at a very young age.

    For many months now, she had tried to find a right bride for her son, but as soon as matchmakers heard of her name, they all shook their heads. News traveled fast, especially bad gossips. In this case, it seemed as if every household had Guo’s name written on the altar since Guo Ming’s birth to remind each mother not to let her daughter match with him.

    Madam Guo never took the prediction seriously and was now sorry for not thinking ahead. At the present, she was reading her son’s note, telling her that he didn’t want to get married and decided to go back to Shaolin. She frowned annoyingly but had to let him go for the time being. “If I have his bride here, he will have to come home sooner or later. Otherwise, I will take her to Shaolin and drag him home regardless of those bald monks.” She resolved and put all her energy into catching the missing daughter-in-law.
    --------------------------------
    I would love to know from my readers which story you like the most - Legend or Quest???

    <font size="1">[ February 11, 2003: Message edited by: Goofy ]</font>
    "History's third dimension is always fiction."
    -- The Glass Bead Game, Hermann Hesse

  16. #16
    Senior Member Goofy's Avatar
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    Cool

    Book I
    The Youths

    Chapter 3
    Fast Sword, Fragrant Flowers (1)

    The lady (Angie Chiu Ngar Chi), who sat at a table, sipping tea alone, was not in a good mood. Her boat met a storm and was thrown away off course. Instead of landing at Yangzhou, she found herself so many lis southward from it. As she was planning her next move inwardly, a man had come to her table and asked politely for a seat. She nodded unconcernedly and thought on, not aware that a group of local bullies had just arrived and upon noticing her, immediately walked straight to her.

    They scattered around the table, and one thin man with ape-like look who seemed to be a leader greeted her with leering tone while his eyes ogled at her slim body. “This place has only leftover tea and stale bun, not fit for a gorgeous lady like Miss. How about coming along with me to my mansion for a nice dinner?”

    His hairy hand reached forward, and the man that sat at the same table who was about to pour tea accidentally spilt hot liquid on the other’s arm. The latter instantly yelled with pain, and the clumsy man quickly made an apology. The man with ape face snorted and motioned his followers to deal with his offender, while he dried his arm and resumed his courting to the maiden that sipped her tea calmly and unconcernedly.

    The young man that spilt tea licked his lips nervously as one of the bullies grabbed his collar and pulled him away from the table. Just then, his money pouch fell off his belt, and a few gold coins rolled out of the bag. Quick as a flash, the young man’s foot kicked it toward the far corner of the diner, and the bullies all drove for it. In that second, the young man rushed to the maiden, warning her hurriedly. “Miss, let’s get out of here quick!” He intended to grab her hand and take a flight when his right shoulder was gripped tightly by the gang leader.

    “Full of tricks, ain’t you?” The gangster sneered and lifted his fist to teach this weakling a lesson when out of a blue, a teacup flew from the maiden’s hand at his fist, numbing his entire arm at one hit. Simultaneously, she tossed two chopsticks with incredible speed, and they poked right at the other’s two eyes. The bully howled, and the maiden stood up, leaving a few cents on the table for the tea, and walked out of the diner as if nothing had happened.

    Amid of their leader’s cursing, the rest of the gangsters could only stand there with open mouth, not daring to go after her. They had never seen such fast throw before in their lives and were not in a hurry to be the next victim.

    Seeing an opportunity to escape, the young man also left the area without delay. He instinctively trailed after the young maiden, and after a while, she turned around to face him. “What do you want?” She asked with cold stare.

    The young man instantly covered his eyes and commented her meekly. “I just think your kungfu is very impressive, but don’t you think it’s rather too fierce to blind him like that?”

    The young maiden made no reply and resumed her journey. The young man stepped after her lively while calling her to stop. “Miss, you can’t leave me alone like this after what I have sacrificed for you.”

    The other glanced at him annoyingly. “I didn’t ask you for help. As a matter of fact, I am the one who rescued you.”

    The young man would not give up. “But I have lost my money bag to divert their attentions. Now that I have no money left and it is possible that those bullies might try to find me to pick on instead of you, Miss should at least let me go along and protect me out of harm.”

    The young maiden examined the other cautiously then stated with grave tone. “You cannot go with me because you are a handsome man. Mother warns me everyday that men especially the good-looking ones are very dangerous.”

    Zhao Mengnan (Adam Cheng Siu Chow) would have fallen down laughing if the other had not looked so serious. He swallowed his amusement and replied to her with a charming smile. “What does Miss have to fear me for? I am but a weak scholar with no martial skills, and Miss can kill me as easy as blinking an eye. All I ask from Miss is to be allowed to accompany you wherever it might be, heaven or hell. Besides, if Miss doesn’t wish to see my face, then I will cover it with this cloth.” He looked so sincere that the young maiden hesitated.

    “Is your name Li?” She asked, unable to make up her mind.

    Zhao Mengnan shook his head. “No, my surname is Zhao, and I am called Mengnan – Zhao Mengnan.”

    The maiden seemed satisfied with his answer. She didn’t say anything further but hastened her footsteps. Zhao Mengnan took her silence as her permission, so he strode after her while humming soft tunes. In this manner, both youths marched through a village and entered a forest. In the middle of the wooded area, the young lady suddenly stopped. She cocked her ears and listened carefully. Then, she flicked tiny needles toward thick bushes ahead. Instantly, someone yelled, and couples of men staggered out from behind the bushes and fell down dead with those needles on the middle of their foreheads. Zhao Mengnan recognized them as the thugs he had met back at the diner. By then, the rest of the gang had come out of their hidings and surrounded the two youngsters. One middle-aged man stepped forward. He was a tall, big bone man with dark complexion and a scar mark running from his left eyebrow to the top of his nose. The air was rather chilly, yet he wore no shirt, showing ample and strong loins of muscles and hairy chest. He had bushy mustache that added to his fearsome look. Standing opposite the small-frame maiden, he looked almost like a giant towering above her. At that moment, he regarded her curiously.

    “Are you the one who blinded my third brother?” He asked softly, but his voice boomed across the forest, indicating that his inner power was high.

    The young maiden returned his stare. “Today, I have blinded one barking dog. I didn’t know that he related to you.”

    The other’s face turned fierce. He grunted. “Your kungfu must be quite impressive then, but too bad that you may have to leave your life here at this place. Seeing that you are still young and probably acted on impulsiveness, I will let you go if you poke your eyes, cut your ears, and leave your right arm with me.”

    The maiden took no notice of his threatening voice. “What if I won’t do it?” She asked coolly.

    “Then one beautiful flower will become the withered one.” He said and attacked.

    His right hand came up with an iron club, while his left hand held a short spear. One weapon was heavy and blunt whereas another was light and sharp, taking turns striking at their opponent. However, the young maiden was dauntless. She danced about, evading the two deadly weapons while casting her projectiles around. Everywhere that her needles launched, more thugs would fall down either dead or injured. Meanwhile, Zhao Mengnan tried his best to keep alive. Although he did not know any kungfu, but from observing his uncle during practice since young, he had a good understanding of its basic principle. Those belligerent men’s martial skills were only average, so he could more or less predict their moves and by using his utmost agility, he managed to dodge the coming blows. In addition, although sometimes he was about to be hit, the young maiden’s needles would miraculously save him in time.

    In a short time, the hefty man was left to face his opponent alone. He was sweating profusely at the moment, wondering why his weapons could not seem to touch this mere girl. He roared and increased his aggressiveness in the following stances. But the more violent he was, the milder the maiden’s moves became. In fact, Zhao Mengnan realized that she was having an upper hand, using gentleness against fierceness, borrowing an opponent’s strength against himself. If the flight continued in this manner, the young maiden would surely come out as the winner. The big man seemed to foresee his defeat too, so he changed his strategy and turned to attack the defenseless young man instead. By doing this, he hoped to divert the girl’s attention and slower down her speed. Yet, he inevitably became the victim of his own plan. Up to now, the young maiden had been only on defensive side. When she saw her opponent covered Zhao Mengnan with his club, she brought out a short sword and sprang up. Before the other could hear the sound of her sword, it had already lodged through his skull. He died instantly, as his club was about to come down at Zhao Mengnan.

    Zhao Mengnan hurriedly stepped aside and pushed his attacker slightly, and the former’s dead body thudded down to the ground. Its eyes widened with surprise. The young maiden paid no more attention to the corpse. She neatly wiped the blood from her weapon and returned it to her waist. Then she resumed her journey nonchalantly.

    Zhao Mengnan took a last look at the dead man and hastened to catch up with the young maiden. After a while, he broke the silence. “The man you have just killed was one of three Wu brothers. They are known as the fiercest bandits in the south. I think he must be ‘Thundering Club Wu Hang, the second brother, and the man that you blinded must be the third brother, known as ‘Devil Claws Wu Sun.”

    The other made no comment, and he carried on the conversation. “Surely, the first Wu brother now will come after us. He has the best martial arts among the three and was the cleverest one too. I don’t know what he looks like, but he must look more horrible than his two other brothers, don’t you think?”

    The young maiden was silent. She strode with even pace, taking no notice of her other companion. Zhao Mengnan sighed inwardly but would not give up. “Miss should at least be very careful for I don’t want to see Miss come to any harm.” He chatted in tender tone.

    The other paused and turned to face him with expressionless eyes. “You really talk more than my two sisters combined. If you don’t want to lose your tongue, then just be quiet.” She said and walked on.

    Zhao Mengnan unconsciously covered his mouth. He flushed slightly and stopped talking. Silence reigned as the dusk began. The night was falling, and stars soon appeared, gleaming high in the sky. Not until it was totally too dark to see the trail that the maiden decided to stop. She made a fire and ate the buns that she bought this morning. Zhao Mengnan hesitated then went to the other side of the fire and sat down gingerly. He secretly swallowed saliva as his stomach was groaning hungrily but didn’t dare to utter a word asking for food. Suddenly, the maiden got up and leaped onto a big tree branch, leaving an uneaten bun on a rock. Zhao Mengnan waited for a while then assumed that it was for him. He looked up above and saw his mysterious accompany closed her eyes, asleep. So, he just bowed toward her tree politely and gobbled down the bun in a few mouthfuls. After that, he gathered more firewood to feed the fire and eventually slumbered next to it.

    The next day, the young maiden rose at dawn. She alighted from the tree gracefully and silently. Yet, when she walked past the sleeping young man, her feet ‘accidentally’ jabbed at his legs. Zhao Mengnan opened his eyes, yawning drowsily but instantly was fully awake as he saw that the other was walking away leisurely. He got up quickly and rushed after her who seemed to be aware his presence although she never looked back at him. Thus, these two youths continued their quaint journey in silence.

    Some hours later, they stopped at a wayside teashop. The young maiden quietly ordered two sets of breakfast with some meatless buns to take away. When the food came, she ate it without a word and paid the bill before walking on. Zhao Mengnan uncertainly sat next to her and after a hesitation, started eating the food on the table too. When the other got up, he immediately laid down his chopsticks, took a last sip of the tea, and hurried behind her. All the time, the young maiden acted as if he did not exist, yet she suddenly would sit down and take a rest just when the other was about to lag behind.

    When noon came, the young maiden stopped at a stream. She placed two buns on a rock and turned away to wash her face. There, she spotted a cluster of reeds near the bank, so she plucked one up and began to play a soft melody. Standing under a willow tree on the bank of a small stream, she looked like a river fairy for Zhao Mengnan. He could not take his eyes off her as he was munching his lunch not far away. He felt content just to be able to follow her like this and wished the journey would last forever.

    At that moment, the young maiden’s mind was far away. She looked at the gentle water in the stream and compared it to the pond at her home. She thought of her mother and the task she had been given. “You are to go to Huashan and kill Li Wei’s daughter with your own hands.” Her mother then gave her a short sword with a grave face. “This is a very important matter. If you fail, then don’t come back home again.” That was her mother’s last word as her boat moved further from the beach.

    The young maiden paused and dropped the temporary musical instrument to the water. She sighed and continued the trip. It was a long way to Huashan and she was already homesick. She longed to see Lianyan’s sweet smile, to hear Ling-ling’s cheerful voice, and even to endure Ah Biao’s naughty tricks. However, her mother was very strict, and unless she succeeded, she would have no face to meet her family again. She thought of her father and wished that he would appear in front of her. Throughout childhood, he had been her savior. He was the one who consoled her when she was punished by her mother. He fed her, instructed her lessons of kungfu, and taught her how to play music from different natural objects. The harsher her mother was with her, the more tender and gentle he was. Despite his physical appearance, he was the most loving father any daughter could have. She let out another sigh. If only her mother loved her even as half as her father did, she would be so happy.

    Music of flute floated into her ears, and she listened attentively. It responded to her tune, telling her that she would never be lonely ever again. The young maiden blinked with surprise that someone could actually understand her inner thought. She turned around, and her eyes met Zhao Mengnan’s. They gazed at each other for a minute but it seemed like a century as thoughts and emotions ran through them.

    Zhao Mengnan’s soul had already flown toward the other along with his heart. If Zhao Mengnan had only been smitten by the other’s beauty before, he was now head over heels in love with this unknown lady. For a second, her inner soul was revealed in a serene pool of her cold eyes, and he yearned to fulfill her wish and bring happiness to her as long as he lived.

    The time seemed to stop for the two youngsters. The wind blew past autumn scent – fragrances of fresh hay, ripen fruits, fall flowers, and golden pumpkins. Birds cooed a song not far away, and crickets harmonically played their orchestral numbers around the stunned couple. Abruptly, the young maiden turned away; her cheeks were burning hot. After a while, she took deep breath and turned to face him again. Then she spoke to him directly. “I don’t want you to follow me again. Otherwise, I will have to kill you.” After that, she bounded forth and disappeared with her lightness kungfu.

    Zhao Mengnan was left with a dark world. The sun seemed to disappear, and he felt as if he had lost one of his limbs. “Without her, it is useless to live. So, to die by her hands is a lot better than to live alone in misery.” He murmured and sped after her as fast as he could, but he had no inner power, so in time he completely lost her tracks.

    Not a person to give up easily, he marched on with all determination when at a crossroads, a middle-aged merchant with portly belly and jolly expression accosted him with a friendly smile. “Little brother, can you tell me where to find a nice restaurant to eat?”

    Zhao Mengnan returned the other’s greeting courteously. “I am a stranger in this area too, but there is a town ahead, so you might find what you want there.”

    The stranger laughed good-naturedly. He patted his large stomach jokingly. “I can always tell time by my groaning belly. Little brother, if you don’t mind, I’d like to buy you a meal. We merchants always consider every stranger our friend and potential customer, eh?” He winked and linked his arm with his new friend’s and headed toward town.

    At the biggest restaurant in town, he magnanimously ordered several dishes with expensive ingredients and the first quality of wine, chatting all the while about food and drink. During the meal, he ventured a question teasingly. “Little brother, although you dress poorly, you still can’t hide your charm. I’d bet that every woman that lays her eyes on you won’t hesitate to follow you till the end of the earth, eh?” He laughed joyously; his cheeks were red from consuming calabashes of Bamboo Wine.

    Zhao Mengnan smiled bitterly at the other’s comment. “It’s too bad that I have just lost the woman I want to be with the most.”

    The merchant patted the youth’s back consolingly. “So, a young lady has just run away from you, eh? Not to worry because I bet that she will be back soon enough. How long have you known her, eh?” He asked with twinkling eyes, and Zhao Mengnan felt he found a right person to pour his heart out. Therefore, he recounted the whole story to his new friend who was listening with sympathetic face.

    “Well, she is probably gone for good now, so you’d better forget her. Take an advice from this old man, little brother – women are like clothes; we can always find a replacement.” He finally suggested and slapped a palm on the younger man’s shoulder and poured more wine into the other’s cup.

    Zhao Mengnan kept on drinking and in due course fell asleep on a table. When he woke up, he found himself dangling high in the air; his body was bound tightly with thick robe that tied to a tall tree. Below him was a bright campfire with the jovial merchant munching roasted chicken next to it. The fat man looked up and cheerfully waved at the surprising young man.

    “Sorry for the inconvenience, little brother. I am a merchant by heart and can never pass an opportunity to make some good profits. I’m waiting to sell you to the murderer of my two brothers for a price of her life. But if she doesn’t come, then I know a few widows in the foreign land that would love to own a handsome slave like you, eh?” He chuckled, but his eyes did not smile. They were cold and vicious, and even his jovial voice had lost its warmth. Zhao Mengnan’s heart lurched then turned cold. So, this man was the eldest Wu brother, known in the martial realm as the ‘Poisoning Palms Wu Mai’. Zhao Mengnan wanted to kick himself for naively falling for such childish trick, but now it was too late for his pressure points had been sealed. And although he wished to commit suicide in order not to be used as a bait, he was unable to even move his teeth to bite his own tongue. All he could do was to glare at the older man below and thought up all the curses he had ever known. It was ironic that the moment ago, he was praying to heaven for the return of his beloved maiden. Yet, now he wished fervently that she had no second thought of him and had gone far from here.

    The eldest Wu brother took no more notice of his captive. He finished the last morsel of meat and leaned against a boulder to sleep. A moment later, he snored loudly enough to wake everyone else in the 10 li radius. The night in the forest was chilly and full of strange noises. An owl was screeching afar as it successfully got its prey, and wolves were calling one another for a group hunt; small shadows lurked between bushes – their footsteps lightly patted carpet of leaves and across mossy tree roots. Time passed slowly. The night seemed endless for Zhao Mengnan. On one hand, he wished the dawn would never come so that his captor might not wake up. On the other hand, he found that the waiting for the unknown destiny was almost unbearable, not to say that being hung so high from the ground can hardly be considered a comfortable pose.

    The night was fading, and the sky gradually turned from gray to pink then red and gold. Night animals vanished into their dens, and day birds flew out of their nests to find food. Cycle of life started again, and Zhao Mengnan expected the worst for his coming day. Just then, a knife flew over him, cutting the rope that suspended him from the tree. His body was immediately plunged to the ground and midway was caught by a piece of cloth. Then it pulled him to a nearby tree where his rescuer was hiding. A hand reached out to grab his waist while another hand accurately unsealed his pressure points. Soft voice whispered into his ears hurriedly. “After I put you to the ground, run away quickly and don’t look back.”

    Zhao Mengnan could smell the other’s fragrant hair and feel the other’s soft body against his as he was floated down to the ground in his rescuer’s arms. White hands quickly untied his robe and pushed him away. “Go!” The voice hissed, but Zhao Mengnan did not move.

    “What happened? Are you hurt somewhere?” The voice asked with concerned, and Zhao Mengnan grabbed its owner’s hands. “I will never leave Miss to face the danger alone.” He whispered, and the other froze with surprise. “Suit yourself, but you can only be my obstacle.” The other grumbled but the tone was tender as she roughly withdrew her hands from his.

    At that moment, someone clapped his hands, and in the early light of dawn, the merchant Wu was standing in front of them. He appraised the young maiden with gleaming eyes and bowed to her graciously.

    “An excellent performance and a clever strategy – Miss managed to rescue your friend without falling into my traps. Miss is also very beautiful and has impressive lightness kungfu. It is not very often to find such qualities in one lady. By right, I should kill Miss to revenge for my two brothers, but I am a merchant by heart, and I won’t do anything without profits. Come to think of it, my third brother is a rough guy without manner, so he deserves to be taught a lesson by Miss. My second brother was a hot-tempered man and he died in a fair fight with Miss. We actually need not be enemies. Instead, I would like to be Miss’ friend and beyond that. I might not have a handsome face, but I am very rich and influential in this area. Miss will never regret being Madam Wu then, eh?”

    His eyes stared at the young woman with unconcealed desire, and Zhao Mengnan stepped forward daringly. “Only a baby would believe your sly words. Everyone knows that you can even sell your mother for a price whenever she eats too much food then buy her back cheaply later by force. You are a scum and the lowest turtle…”

    He did not have a chance to finish his rebuff as the other’s palm hit forth. Immediately, the short sword from the maiden’s hand struck, and the eldest Wu brother had to spring back hastily to avoid the stab. Simultaneously, he reached out and caught the shining needles between his pudgy fingers. “Any more toys?” He mocked. His friendliness was gone; only cruelty remained in his eyes.

    The maiden frowned and followed with another fast stab, and her opponent countered with his palms, releasing icy toxin with them. The other twisted her head and flipped back, dodging the opponent’s poison. At the same time, she cast out more projectiles and flew forward, her weapon aiming at the merchant’s chest. Suddenly, she flicked her wrist and another sword hidden inside the original sword appeared in another hand. In a flash, the new sword stabbed toward the other’s belly, while the old sword turned upward at its opponent’s throat. The move was so sudden that the older man was almost at a lost. He instinctively grabbed one blade with his left hand while warded off another with his right hand. Luckily, he managed to stop the swords just when one of them was only an inch from his Adam’s apple.

    Wu Mai grinned, showing his yellow crooked teeth then blew out a nail from his mouth. Not only his breath was stink, but the nail was also poisonous. The young maiden’s first reaction was to turn away from the other’s bad breath. She retreated in a hurry and in the process was hit by the nail. She instantly felt dizzy and collapsed to the ground. The other roared victoriously and started untying his trouser belt.

    “It is not very often for an old fox like me to come across such a gorgeous girl. I think I will taste you first then sell you to a brothel later. What’s a good bargain!”

    At that point, his back was hit by a rock. He turned around annoyingly and faced Zhao Mengnan, who was throwing stones at him nonstop. The older man smirked and leaped forth, disregarding the shower of rocks that flew at him. With one bound, he caught the young man and hit at the other’s chest.

    “Ignorant boy, I thought I would let you live a while longer, but you really ask for this.” He was about to hit again when the young maiden picked one of her swords and threw it at his back with all her might. The blade went through his back to the front, and the villain died instantly.

    Zhao Mengnan struggled out of the dead man’s clutch and ran to the young maiden that fell back to the ground again from exhaustion. “How are you doing?” He felt like fire burning inside him but was more concerned of the other.

    The young maiden looked at his pale face and sighed. “I am all right, but you should have run away when I told you so.”

    Zhao Mengnan lifted his shirtsleeve and gently dried her sweat. “Although I am not a hero like my uncle, I know a little about being a gentleman. Miss has come back to help me, so how could I selfishly leave Miss alone?” He sighed as he thought regrettably of the time he wasted in not learning martial arts from his uncle. Then he reminded himself that even he had known kungfu, he still could not have won.

    Just then, he felt pain spread through his body and he could not breathe. ‘I must be dying.’ He told himself and passed out. When he came to again, he was moving on someone’s back. From the smell, he realized then that the young maiden was carrying him. He groaned, and the other immediately stopped. She lowered him to the ground gently and examined his pulse. After that, she quietly put a pill in his hand and told him to swallow it. He hazily obeyed and after a while blacked out again.

    For the next two nights and days, he slipped in and out of consciousness. Sometimes, he woke up sweating in the dark, and his nurse would feed him a pill. Sometimes, he felt the warmth of the sun on his eyelids on the other’s back as she was marching through forest.

    On the second evening, he felt his body being placed next to a large root, and a few minutes later, he heard sounds of fighting. “Miss!” He called, panic.

    He gritted his teeth and gathered his strength to get up. Leaning against a big tree, he saw his companion was surrounded by a group of masked strangers with red paper umbrellas. At that moment, the young maiden was having difficult time holding against her attackers. Her projectiles had been used up since the last battle, and she had lost a lot of strength between purging the poison from her system and tending the sick man these last few days. Zhao Mengnan stumbled forward only to fall down. The last thing he saw was a sight of red umbrellas overwhelming his friend.
    ------------------------------------------
    Thank you for reading.

    <font size="1">[ February 11, 2003: Message edited by: Goofy ]</font>
    "History's third dimension is always fiction."
    -- The Glass Bead Game, Hermann Hesse

  17. #17
    Senior Member Goofy's Avatar
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    Book I
    The Youths

    Chapter 4
    Fast Sword, Fragrant Flowers (2)

    Character List (not in any particular order):
    Zhao Mengnan (Adam Cheng Siu Chow)
    Meiying (Maggie Cheung Man Yuk)

    A familiar voice entered Zhao Mengnan’s confusing dream, and he woke up to see Meiying. She smiled gladly. “How are you feeling?” She asked and handed him a bowl of dark medicine. “Drink this, and I will bring in hot porridge for you.”

    Zhao Mengnan coughed and asked her about his friend. “Where is the lady who was with me?”

    Meiying threw him a cross look. “You have left home for less than a month and now have another woman by your side already.” She sighed. “It is really easier to catch a moon from the sky than to tie down a man’s heart.”

    Zhao Mengnan smiled grimly. “She saves my life several times, and I saw her being captured by the Red Phoenixes. I have to find her.” He attempted to get up but was held down by Meiying.

    She admonished him teasingly. “I have never seen you look this excited before. She must be a very special girl.” Her eyes dimmed for a second then they danced again amusingly. “Either you have dreamed of her or she must be dead by now. I heard that Red Phoenixes never leave their victims alive.”

    Zhao Mengnan was shocked to hear what had been lurking in his mind. Nonetheless, he still had hope. “But I am still alive here, so they might not kill her either.” He abruptly changed the topic. “Where am I? How did you happen to be here?”

    Meiying smiled at him coyly. “I shall thank you for sending Ah Fu over with the money to buy myself off. Actually, after I had learned of your departure, I decided to look for you. Knowing that you have always said that you wanted to see the sea, I chose this route. Who would have thought that I would accidentally find you lying on the road this morning? Surely, our fates match.”

    Zhao Mengnan frowned. “Then are you sure that you did not see anyone else besides me there?” He asked, and the other shook her head. “No.”

    Zhao Mengnan groaned with despair. “Something bad must be happening to her. I really have to go.” He got up again but discovered that he had no strength.

    Meiying regarded him with concern. “You are very sick. The doctor said that you have been severely injured by a martial art expert.” She opened his shirt and pointed at the palm mark on his chest. “Not only this one, but you also have the same marks on your back and shoulder.

    “These marks are black, signifying a trace of poison. The doctor said that each mark alone was not enough to kill you, but together they are very fatal. Whoever did this to you must be very cruel indeed.”

    Zhao Mengnan remembered now that the fat merchant had patted him twice, at his back and shoulder. So, he had been poisoned unknowingly from the start. He sighed and coughed a couple times. “I am only sorry that I will die without knowing her name.” He murmured.

    Meiying pretended not to hear his last sentence. “Don’t worry though because I am taking you to see Madam Li at Huashan. In this martial realm, she is the well-known healer, and some even calls her the divine doctor. If only we can get you there, you will be saved for sure.”

    She would not hear his protests. “As for your female friend, we cannot do anything about it until you get well again. How are you going to go about fighting the Red Phoenixes in this condition?” She asked, and Zhao Mengnan had to concede to her point.

    “Hmm, I can write to my uncle, asking him for help. He is the only one who can save her, and as long as she is safe, I won’t mind being killed by him afterward.” He got an idea and asked Meiying to help him find ink and paper.

    Meiying walked away and came back with what he asked. She could not help feeling jealous. “You must love her very much to let your pride down to appeal to your uncle like this.” He had once told her that he never wanted to learn martial arts because he did not wish to be like his uncle.

    Zhao Mengnan grimaced. “What is pride? A playboy like me is useless. My uncle on the other hand is a hero, so it is his duty anyway to rescue other people. My fake note led him to Sichuan, so hopefully he will stop at Emei on the way to visit his friends.” He finished writing a letter and sealed its envelope. Then he asked Meiying to have it delivered to Emei Sect as soon as possible.

    Meiying nodded and went out with the letter. When she came back, he had gone asleep out of weariness. She checked his pulse and wrapped a quilt around him gently. Then she left the room noiselessly.

    The next day, she started out with Zhao Mengnan in a hired carriage. After they had settled comfortably inside the coach, she brought out a flute and asked the other what song he would like to hear. Without thinking, Zhao Mengnan replied to her that he wanted to hear the one that praised the beauty of the two Qiao sisters of the kingdom of Wu.

    Meiying glanced at him and could not help asking. “Which sister am I then? Who do you think is prettier, I or she?”

    Zhao Mengnan wisely replied. “Age-wise, you are probably the eldest one, but as for look, you are equally beautiful.”

    Meiying mumbled, “liars!” She sighed and looked down at her lap, speaking softly. “I know that all these years, you have considered me only as a friend. But I want you to know that I feel honored to know you and was grateful for what you have done to me.” She fingered her flute absentmindedly. “And I can only repay you with music.”

    Zhao Mengnan smiled gently, and her heart beat faster as usual. “You are in fact my rescuer. I get more study done in your room than at home. Mother can be unbearable at times with her endless soups and medicines. Besides, I prefer to be fussed over by a younger lady.”

    Meiying smiled sweetly at him although her heart was crying. Zhao Mengnan had never thought of her other than his acquaintance despite their playful flirts in front of other people. He intentionally portrayed himself as a playboy to ire his uncle at first. Then when he met Meiying who had just been bought to the brothel at the time, he hit on an idea to employ her on regular basis so that she did not have to serve another customers. Meiying mourned inwardly for her one-sided love and lifted the flute to her lips. She then played the tune softly and gently, while Zhao Mengnan closed his eyes, inhaling the other’s sweet perfume and drinking in the beautiful melody.

    On top of a nearby hill, there was a small cottage. A family lived there, but now everyone was dead. They were killed with one fast stab by a sharp object. The murderer was still there, holding a black hairpin that was dripping blood. The thin body was of a woman clad in silken dress with a veil over her face. She laughed shrilly and sat down as a figure in dark outfit with golden mask appeared. The newcomer knelt down respectfully and started to report.

    “Zhao Mengnan has been poisoned with the first Wu brother’s ‘Three Poisonous Palms’, and he should have been dead by now, but someone has been given him several Snow Lotus pills that prolonged his life for the time being. At the moment, he is being taken toward Huashan to see Madam Li.”

    The other nodded. “Snow Lotus pills are very rare. I have only seen it once. Well, keep an eye on him and report directly to me. How about the girl?”

    “She has not spoken anything yet except asking for Zhao Mengnan. She wanted to give him these pills.” The masked figure presented the bottle, and his master sniffed the content inside it. “Snow Lotus,” she murmured. “Maybe she is the key to the treasure.” Her eyes glistened in the dark room.

    “What shall we do with her, Mistress?”

    The lady paced the floor thoughtfully then finally gave an order. “She seems to trust only Zhao Mengnan, so let them be together and keep a close watch on them. He might not live that long, so we should use him to find out the girl’s secret. What else?”

    “He has written a letter to his uncle for help. Here it is.”

    The lady looked at the envelope, and a smile curved on her lips. “Give it to Princess Xue-xiang and told her not to worry about Zhao Mengnan. How about Ah Liu? Did she find him yet?”

    “No, but the other day, someone sighted him with an old woman. She is probably wearing a disguise. Shall I tell the Princess…?”

    “Not yet. Young people like freedom, so let him have fun for a while. Besides, he needs to gain some experience. Tell her that he is doing fine and not to bother him for the time being. You may go now.”

    The masked figure bowed down lowly and sprinted out of the hut with lightning speed.

    Left alone, the mysterious lady walked slowly outside and looked around at the surrounding. “Beautiful scenic but not colorful enough.” She murmured and threw a torch at the lonely cottage. Fire caught the wood quickly, and with the help of night wind, the whole cottage was soon consumed under the bright flame. She inhaled gleefully the stench of burning flesh mixed with fire smoke.

    “Ha-ha. This is indeed better, definitely not so dull anymore.” She then turned her back and disappeared into the dark.

    Zhao Mengnan was restless inside the carriage. He kept watching out of the window aimlessly. It was too early yet for his uncle to receive the letter, and he did not expect the unknown maiden to appear right in front of him. Meiying noticed his edginess and ordered the driver to stop. She then helped him out of the coach to a shadowy tree. Then she left to find fresh water, but pretty soon, she was back with an unconscious woman. “I found her on a river bank.” She explained and laid the other on the ground.

    Zhao Mengnan took a glance and suddenly exclaimed excitedly. “That’s she! That’s she!” He was too weak to walk by himself, but he did not wait for Meiying’s assistance as he crept slowly along the dirt ground. “How is she? Is she alive?” He asked Meiying worriedly upon arriving.

    Meiying’s heart bled as she detected concern in his tone. She replied dryly. “She is a bit pale but still living. She probably needs food and drink when she wakes up. I’ll go get more water.” She grabbed a flask and stumbled away to hide her sadness.

    Zhao Mengnan nodded and used his shirtsleeve to fan the senseless maiden. After some minutes, she opened her eyes and smiled upon seeing him. “You are all right.” She said faintly.

    Zhao Mengnan’s heart skipped. “You smile so prettily, so you should do it more often. May I know Miss’ name?”

    The young maiden’s pale cheeks turned light pink. She felt strangely self-conscious. “Qiu-er. I am Yang Qiu-er.” She replied and lowered her eyes shyly.

    Zhao Mengnan smiled half-gladly, half-sadly. “At least, I get to say your name at my deathbed.” He uttered softly to himself and handed her a bun. “Please eat something, and Meiying should be back with water soon.” He invited, and Yang Qiu-er (Angie Chiu Ngar Chi) eagerly took the bun from his hand. “Thank you.”

    Zhao Mengnan forgot to eat himself as he gave her one after another buns until she was full. “You should eat something too.” She said, and he bit the last bun in his hand automatically. “This is the most delicious meal I have ever had.”

    Meiying’s voice interjected. “One bun can hardly be considered a good meal for the sick man.” She handed him the flask, but he gave it to Yang Qiu-er. “You must be very thirsty.” He smiled at her, and she smiled back without knowing.

    Meiying’s eyes narrowed, but she said nothing further. Instead, she helped others into the coach and ordered the driver to hurry on. Inside, she told the newcomer that they were going to Mt. Huashan in Shaanxi. “Mengnan’s injury has to be treated by Madam Li of Huashan School. She has a great knowledge of medicine; her ancestor Tian Bao was the last disciple of the legendary Medicine Man.”

    Yang Qiu-er’s body was rigid. “Who is Madam Li? What is her connection with Li Wei?” She asked coldly.

    Meiying replied. “She is his wife, of course. Master Li is the master of Huashan and also a prominent figure of the martial world about the same rank as the abbot of Shaolin.”

    Yang Qiu-er bit her lips thoughtfully. “Can this Madam Li really help Mengnan?”

    Meiying winced inwardly as the other called Zhao Mengnan so intimately. “She is called the divine doctor, so if she can’t, then nobody else can.”

    Zhao Mengnan laughed lightly. “Life is just a shadow of time. As long as I can spend my last minutes with my good friends here, I shall not regret.”

    Yang Qiu-er shook her head slightly. Her eyes held a determination. “No, you will not die. I will make sure that you live.” She took out a pill from her bottle and gave it to him. “This is Snow Lotus pill, and it is an antidote for many types of poison. Even if it can’t cure you right away, each pill shall give you more strength to endure pain.”

    Zhao Mengnan looked at her and took the pill obediently. “Actually, you should not waste this good pill on me. Even if I survive, then my uncle probably will kill me after he learns what I have done.”

    Yang Qiu-er interjected guilelessly. “Then I will kill him first.”

    Zhao Mengnan chuckled. “My uncle has very good martial arts, so it won’t be easy to defeat him. Anyway, I deserve to die more than he does because he is a hero who likes to help a lot of people, and I am only a nobody.”

    Yang Qiu-er stared at him with surprise. “You have a name and family. How could you be a nobody? Anyway, you have helped me, so you are my hero too.” She concluded innocently, and Zhao Mengnan blushed.

    “Miss Yang, I won’t mind dying a thousand times just to hear your praise of me.”

    Yang Qiu-er laughed for the first time, and her voice was like songbird. “Then, won’t I have to go through ten thousand perils to have you save me?”

    Zhao Mengnan flashed his white teeth. He felt so much better already. “Then I guess we have a long road ahead to be with each other yet.”

    He looked around and commented jokingly. “All we need now is the fourth member to complete a team for the journey to the west.”

    Meiying could not help smiling. “And I presume that you want to be the Tang Monk then? But I refuse to be the greedy pig.”

    Zhao Mengnan smiled at her cheerfully. His eyes shone humorously. “No, I don’t want to be the monk. I would rather be the pig because he resembled human the most. Meiying, you can be the monk if you like, but I think Miss Yang should be the monkey because her lightness kungfu is very good.” He noticed Yang Qiu-er’s puzzled face and launched into an explanation of his pretend game. Pretty soon, he started telling her the entire tale of Journey to the West.

    Meiying looked away as she understood his underlined meaning – he had just hinted that he was in love. She listened absentmindedly as he was recounted to Yang Qiu-er various adventures of the four crusaders on their quest for Buddha’s Sutras. She was tempted to leave the painful sight but a sense of duty told her to stay. ‘Mengnan needs someone to care for him.’ She thought.

    That night, they stopped at an inn and resumed the trip early next morning. Zhao Mengnan could hardly talk today from too much exerting himself the day before. He slept most of the day, and Meiying played the flute quietly to accompany his dream. Yang Qiu-er observed the other interestedly and finally asked for a music lesson. She was a quick student, and by the end of the day, she could play a few simple songs and Zhao Mengnan was delighted to hear her.

    “When I am better, I will play zither; Miss Yang can play flute, and Meiying plays pipa. We three then will travel on a boat, admiring beautiful landscapes and tasting good food from each town.” He said dreamily, and both maidens’ faces lit up with different anticipation. Meiying was glad that he included her in his future, while Yang Qiu-er was relieved that he had quitted talking about death.

    In truth, Zhao Mengnan had given up hope of surviving this trip. The pain had increased and he suffered more everyday although he concealed it well from his two companions. Just this morning, he discovered that the blood he coughed out had turned black, and the marks on his body began to fester. However, he felt happiest just being with a good friend like Meiying and able to listen to Yang Qiu-er’s voice during his last days. Frankly, he would not wish to live any other way.

    The trio was at halfway of their journey when one day, Yang Qiu-er brought out her medicine bottle and discovered that it was empty. Color immediately drained from her face, and she was close to panic. Every few days, Zhao Mengnan had to take the Snow Lotus pill to stop further spread of poison. But without it, he might not live beyond this week. She called Meiying, and they decided to examine the palm marks on Zhao Mengnan, who tried to dissuade them.

    “I haven’t taken a bath these days, so I am really stinky. Besides, the marks are not very pretty to look at. You have seen them once and that should be enough, not to say that it is not very proper for me to take my shirt off in front of ladies.”

    His sudden self-consciousness caused Meiying to smell a rat. Without ado, she thrown his shirt opened and cried out with horror. “Mengnan, why didn’t you say anything to us?”

    Then she turned angry and grieved upon realizing the other’s present condition. Unless there was a miracle, Zhao Mengnan would never reach Huashan alive. Yang Qiu-er took one look at the marks and immediately went out to search for herbs to brew as a temporary antidote. Both women were grim, but Zhao Mengnan remained cheerful.

    “I have known quite a while now that even the Snow Lotus pill no longer worked, but I didn’t want you two to worry over me. Today’s weather is really fine, so why do we need to think of sad future? Since I was born, I have not accomplished anything worth mentioning, but I am still lucky enough to know two good women. If the heaven is kind, it will allow me to live a day more. But if it is my fate to die today or tomorrow, then there is no point to mope around. I’d rather depart from this world amid laughter than tears.” He consoled them, and they had to give him weak smiles.

    That night, a report was sent to the lady with the veil. She read the message thoughtfully and instantly left her residence. Toward dawn, she entered Zhao Mengnan’s room at a local inn and checked his pulse carefully. “Hmm, it is a pity that there is no cure for Three Poisonous Palms; otherwise, it might worth a try on this boy.” Suddenly, she had an idea and brought out a pack of needles. Then she put about a dozen of them at various acupuncture points. After that, she left as quietly as she had come.

    Outside the room, she called out softly. “Shadow, are you there?”

    A figure with gold mask then stepped out from a dark corner. “Mistress, I am here.”

    The lady with the veil nodded. “I have just put ‘Hundred Flowers Needles on him. Make sure that they stay there for at least three hours.”

    Her servant could not help crying out with surprise. “But the Hundred Flowers Needles are poisonous…”

    The other shrugged indifferently. “That is right, but I can’t find the antidote for Three Poisonous Palms, so the only way left is to use poison cure poison. If luck is still on his side, he might be cured. But if not, then it will worth my experiment.”

    The masked figure lowered her voice fearfully. “But Hundred Flowers poison is very strong. Even if it can cancel out the other poison, the result might still be fatal.”

    The lady lifted her hands. “That is not to worry for the Snow Lotus pill is a natural antidote for Hundred Flowers Needles. Zhao Mengnan has consumed enough Snow Lotus to be immune to my poison. Shadow, are you questioning my conduct?” Her voice showed irritation, and the other trembled. “I don’t dare, Mistress. Please forgive thy servant.”

    The lady humphed and soared away gracefully. The masked figure waited until his master was out of sight then moved quietly to the trio’s rooms. Then, he blew sleeping smoke from a pipe into each room. When he was done, he stepped into the courtyard to be followed by Yang Qiu-er.

    “Why are you trying to put me to sleep?” The latter asked, and the masked person looked at her astonishingly.

    “How did you manage to evade my smoke?” The voice undoubtedly belonged to a female.

    Yang Qiu-er stared at the other hard. “I have sensitive nose and ears, so I can detect your presence in time.” She then repeated the question.

    The stranger only saucily replied. “If you can catch me, then I might give you an answer.” She then somersaulted into the sky and bounded away, and Yang Qiu-er went after her with no delay. Followed her master’s order, the masked woman intentionally lured the other afar from Zhao Mengnan’s room as much as possible. Her lightness kungfu was not extraordinary, but her purpose was to keep the chaser with her anyway, so she sped fully at the beginning and slowed down when they were out of town.

    Yang Qiu-er relentlessly pursued the other and finally caught up with the masked woman at a wooded area outside the town. All of a sudden, the stranger cast several metallic star-shaped projectiles at the other. Yang Qiu-er flipped backward and pulled out her sword to deflect them. Then she launched forth a strike. The masked stranger stepped backward to dodge the coming blade and retaliated with an ivory flute. Each moved nimbly and gracefully, and without the fury of the fight, one could have imagined it to be a dance of two fairies. Yang Qiu-er’s sword skill was actually very good, but her opponent was more experienced at the fighting field and knew many more tricks than she did. On the other hand, the masked stranger had to be very cautious for she could not defeat the other so easily either.

    The two exchanged several stances. Yang Qiu-er’s short sword reflected the early sunshine against the smooth surface of the other’s ivory flute. Birds were singing noisily around them, and the day was getting brighter. Without warning, the masked stranger swirled back and leaped away, but in doing so, she left an opening, and Yang Qiu-er quickly stabbed forth. The masked stranger twisted her torso and escaped the blade by fraction of an inch, but at that moment, Yang Qiu-er released the second hidden blade, and the inner sword came out and cut at the other’s shoulder blade. The masked stranger winced with pain and instantaneously retaliated with her utmost inner force. Yang Qiu-er was thrown back, and her opponent took the chance to get away. Left alone, Yang Qiu-er suddenly remembered Zhao Mengnan.

    “Oh, no! It’s luring tiger out of its den trick.” She cried and immediately returned to the inn.

    As she rushed into Zhao Mengnan’s room, she saw that Meiying was using a small pincers to pull out needles from his body. Meiying looked up with white face. She was sweating and her hands were shaky. “These needles look poisonous, so I took precaution by using this pincers.” She explained, almost sobbing.

    Yang Qiu-er gently took the pincers from her hand. “You look very tired, so I will do it for you. Go take a rest.”

    Meiying took a look at the unconscious Zhao Mengnan and uttered devastatingly. “Who could have done such cruel thing to the dying man? His pulse is almost undetectable, and…”

    Yang Qiu-er put her fingers at his wrist and reassured the other. “He is still breathing although weakly, but that could be from the effect of sleeping smoke someone blew into his room. I’ll examine the needles later, and I will give you a call if I find anything.”

    Meiying hesitated then finally sighed and left the room.

    Yang Qiu-er continued the other’s work carefully. She sighed with relief when all needles were extracted out of Zhao Mengnan’s body. Suddenly, her brows puckered as she smelled fragrance of flowers from the needles. To make certain, she brought one needle close to her nose and sniffed it. Just as she expected, it had the scent of mixed flowers. She immediately checked Zhao Mengnan’s pulse again and found that it was still weak. She then looked for a sign of a new poison but failed to find anything except that Zhao Mengnan remained senseless.

    Yang Qiu-er was puzzled. She looked at the needles then at Zhao Mengnan and pondered the problem meticulously. Eventually, she formed a theory that led to a smile. “The Snow Lotus is the antidote of Hundred Flowers poison, but the latter might work as the antidote for Three Poisonous Palms. If so, then that masked stranger cannot be a bad person.”

    Then she knitted her eyebrows. “But these needles were buried very deep, showing that their owners must have high internal power. However, the person I fought with only has mediocre kungfu. Therefore, they cannot be the same people. Besides, these needles are placed at all critical acupuncture points expertly. That person must have good medial skills. I wonder who they are?”

    She tucked the quilt around the sick man and sat down on a chair, thinking about her past adventures. ‘Father once told me that Red Phoenix is a mysterious person, going and coming without trace. Nobody has even seen his real face. His behavior is also strange, sometimes kind, and sometimes cruel. Last month, I was captured by Red Phoenix’s followers but was released without reason. Then this morning, I fought with the masked stranger, while someone else was curing Mengnan with Hundred Flowers Needles. The sleeping smoke is to keep Meiying and me from Mengnan’s room for a while until the needles release their full effect. Could that mean Red Phoenix is helping Mengnan? If so, then I will be able to go to Huashan with better conscience. I will not have to disobey my mother’s order, and at the same time, Mengnan is saved.’

    Yang Qiu-er sighed. “I wish I were back at the island with my family. The outside world is so confusing.” She glanced at the sleeping man and smiled unwittingly. “But if I didn’t come here, I would not have known him.” She argued then realized what she was thinking. “Mother is right. I should be more careful with good-looking men.” She tried to remind herself the purpose of coming to the Central Plains.

    Nonetheless, shadow of the smile remained on her lips as she crossed her legs and started to meditate.
    ------------------------------------
    I can't seem to stop <IMG SRC="smilies/typin.gif" border="0"> <IMG SRC="smilies/biggrin.gif" border="0">

    thank you for reading and please feedback.... <IMG SRC="smilies/bow.gif" border="0">

    &lt;font size="1"&gt;[ February 11, 2003: Message edited by: Goofy ]&lt;/font&gt;

    <font size="1">[ February 11, 2003: Message edited by: Goofy ]</font>
    "History's third dimension is always fiction."
    -- The Glass Bead Game, Hermann Hesse

  18. #18
    Senior Member Goofy's Avatar
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    Book I
    The Youths

    Chapter 5
    Shaolin’s Disciples

    Character List (not in any particular order):
    Zhao Erlang (Miu Kiu Wei)
    Hu Miao (Marco Ngai Chun Kit)

    A fair youth in white outfit strolled leisurely toward the gate of Shaolin Temple. There, he was stopped by two monks. “Young master, may we help you?”

    The youth cupped his hands and bowed politely. “I have come here to visit a friend. He is a young disciple of Shaolin and has a surname Zhao. Do you know him?”

    One of the monks nodded. “You must mean brother Zhao of Chenzhou.”

    The youth looked suddenly tensed. “Yes, that’s the one. Is he here? Can I see him?”

    The same monk shook his head. “Young master’s just come at the wrong time. Brother Zhao has left for home since yesterday, but if you hurry, you might be able to catch him on the way. He’s…”

    He had no chance to finish his sentence, as the youth was already gone.

    Zhao Erlang was sitting with his friends at a restaurant, waiting for food to be served. “This meal is going to be the last one we sit together. Then each of us will return to our home.” He sighed, thinking of his closest friend. “I hope Guo Ming’s mother is all right.”

    A young man at his left laughed. “In my opinion, it’s only her trick to lure him home. Everyone knows that Guo Ming’s mother wants him to marry and carry on the agency business, but our Guo Ming wants to be a monk and join the rebel.”

    Zhao Erlang shook his head. “Without a nation, how come can one have a happy home? I think Ah Ming is making a right decision.”

    His friend smiled. “That is because you are Hero Zhao’s nephew and because your mother still has another son to carry on the name. Otherwise, you might find a bride waiting for you at home.”

    Zhao Erlang laughed. “My mother is different from Madam Guo. She is very understanding and patient. She doesn’t even make my brother study or practice martial arts.” He looked at chopsticks in his hand dreamily. “Besides, my uncle has promised to let me travel with him, so of course, I can’t think about marriage yet.”

    His friend slapped his back playfully. “You are a lucky guy to have a renowned hero as an uncle. Well, have fun killing the dog Manchus.”

    Zhao Erlang nodded grimly. “I will definitely think of Shaolin everywhere I go. I will try my best to help restoring the glory of Ming as an honor to our master.”

    The other young men clapped their hands. “Well said! Let’s drink to that.” They lifted their cups and drowned the wine. Then they toasted another round merrily. “Here to Guo Ming – hope he can evade the net of marriage successfully, ha-ha. Ha-ha.”

    The season was autumn, and the maple tree in the courtyard was at its most beautiful stage. Its leaves were in different tints of red. When wind blew by, its leaves would twirl slowly from the tree to the ground below. An old waiter watched falling leaves and sighed, reminiscing of his younger days, while the group of young men saw them as a sign for their new beginning.

    When one was young, one tended to embrace at everything with positive attitude. Anything was possible, and challenge was a part of one’s life. Some years passed, and one’s hair would turn gray; teeth would fall; bones would weaken. Then one would prefer certainty and safer lifestyle. One would mature through life lessons. Some of them would be bitter, but some would be sweet and memorable.

    This maple tree had stood against weather for many years. Each spring, new leaves came out. Each autumn, they gradually changed color and eventually left its home to be buried under the first snow of winter. Each ending was a new beginning like old leaves became fertilizer for its tree in order to produce new leaves. Regardless of the old waiter or these young men’s standpoints, the leaves still fell down each year, and the tree would be there at the courtyard, watching people passing by days after days.

    After the meal, each youth said farewell to one another and took leave. In the end, only Zhao Erlang was left with a friend named Hu Miao. They lived in neighborhood towns, so they decided to travel together. At a crossroads, they stopped to take a drink. Then they marched on unhurriedly. That evening, they arrived at a small river and made a camp there. In the morning, they took a bath in the cool river, and Zhao Erlang managed to catch a large fish for their breakfast. As he climbed up the bank, a jade pendant slipped off from his clothes pile to the water. “Hey! Can you get the pendant for me?” He called out to his friend as he was struggling with the fish.

    Hu Miao, who was about to get dressed, nodded, and waded after the pendant that was washed along the current. Finally, it was trapped between two rocks, and he eagerly reached out for it. At that moment, a stick dipped down, caught the pendant’s string, and pulled it out of the water. A white hand then grabbed the jade from the stick and held it up to the light.

    Hu Miao looked up and saw a youth in white robe examining the item in his hand with interest, so he asked for it politely. “May I have that pendant, please?”

    The other stared at him hard. “Is this yours?” He questioned and flashed a smile. “Well, since I have picked it up, it is now mine.”

    ‘What a shameless claim!’ Hu Miao thought, but he was taught to act courteously to strangers, so he stepped out of the water and cupped his hands, forgetting that he was wearing only underpants. The other took one look, screamed, and ran away. Realized a little too late that he was not properly dressed, he did not dare to follow the fellow, so he shouted for his friend.

    Zhao Erlang was cleaning the fish when he heard the scream. Few seconds later, his friend called, so he rushed toward the noise. When he arrived, Hu Miao pointed toward the east. “A fellow just took your pendant and ran that way.”

    Zhao Erlang nodded and sped after the thief. As he drew near, he leaped up and somersaulted twice in the air then landed in front of the jade robber. He cupped his hands and asked for the return of the jade. The other glanced at him and instantly turned red. He quickly turned away and covered his face. “Don’t you guys ever put clothes on?” He mumbled.

    Zhao Erlang looked at his trousers and bare chest and scratched his head puzzlingly. “What’s wrong with this? At Shaolin, we always take off our shirts for martial art practices. Little brother, you talk as if you have never shown your chest to other men.”

    The other turned redder then angrily stomped his feet. “How dare you suggest…? I…you both are dirty swine!” He was almost lost for words.

    Zhao Erlang frowned. “Little brother, you first took the jade pendant from my friend, and now you are insulting us. What do you want from us?”

    The youth in white robe inhaled deeply. He almost sobbed out of frustration. “I…I don’t want to see you again. Go away!”

    Zhao Erlang could not comprehend the other’s rudeness but would not give up. “I will only leave if you return the pendant to me.” He walked toward the other with his right hand reaching out to receive the pendant, but his manner was mistaken. The other suddenly wielded out a sword and stabbed forward. Zhao Erlang quickly dodged the blade and seized it with his left hand, while his right hand gripped the other’s lower arm, using a Shaolin’s stance called ‘Tiger Claws Grab a Prey’.

    The youth in white robe winced as his arm felt numb. Concurrently, he circulated his inner power into his sword and twisted it slightly. At the same time, he kicked out and used a move called ‘Fish Escapes from the Net’, nimbly got out of the other’s clutch.

    Zhao Erlang stared at his opponent surprisingly. “Are you from Huashan?”

    The other did not reply. He followed with a move ‘Seven Stars Covers the Sky’ then ‘Piercing Devil’s Soul’. Zhao Erlang realized that those stances were among the top martial skills of Huashan School, and his curiosity increased. Not wishing to cause misunderstanding between Shaolin and Huashan, he only kept his guard and not defended back. Alas, his lenience was taken to be condescension to the other; consequently, the latter assailed even fiercer than before.

    At one point, Zhao Erlang was a bit careless and was stabbed right at his left shoulder. The wound was not very big for he had jumped back in time. However, the sight of blood oozing down his arm changed his mind. He leaped up and kicked down. His opponent pierced the sword upward, and his feet touched lightly on its blade. Instantaneously, he flipped and clasped the sword between his two feet then pulled it away from the other’s hand. Then he twisted his torso a little and landed gently on the ground with his opponent’s weapon in his hand.

    “Little brother, please give back the pendant so that you can leave here safely. Huashan and Shaolin have good relationships with each other, and I don’t want to spoil it because of our petty quarrel.”

    The fair youth was pale with rage. He stomped his feet. “Who want to be your friend? We Huashan people despise stinky bald-headed monks the most.” He shouted.

    Zhao Erlang was displeased. He grimaced at the insult. “Little brother, you are being very unreasonable and rude. All right, if you insist, then please pardon me.”

    He threw the sword away and punched out with great speed, and the other, who was without weapon, was now at a disadvantage. Huashan School was known best for its sword skill, whereas one of the top martial arts of Shaolin Temple focused entirely on palms and fists.

    Although the small youth in white was agile, he could not compete with Zhao Erlang in strength area for the latter had a taller and more powerful stature. Coupled with the fact that now Zhao Erlang was not holding back his force anymore, within ten moves, he knocked the other to the ground. Seeing that the other youth was almost near tear, he approached the loser and offered his hand. Unexpectedly, the latter grabbed a rock from the ground and threw at him. It hit his wound on the shoulder, and blood came out again. The youth from the ground immediately sprang up and stumbled away.

    Zhao Erlang winced. He felt rather angry by now, so regardless of his pain, he somersaulted forward, his palms reaching for the runaway offender. ‘Quack,’ a piece of the other’s sleeve was torn when Zhao Erlang’s fingers forcefully clutched at the other’s shoulder and the latter tried to use the same move to free himself. Zhao Erlang flipped and alit on the ground with a piece of white cloth, somewhat surprised at the outcome. The youth with torn sleeve turned crimson; his face was burning with humiliation and wrath, so he took out the jade pendant from his pocket and threw it on the ground. Then he stamped his foot on it furiously. “Who wants this fake jade anyway? Tell your friend that I won’t forget this matter in a hurry.” After that, he fled.

    Zhao Erlang was too stunned to go after the other. At that moment, Hu Miao had arrived, fully clothed. He noticed the broken jade on the ground and picked it up to hand it back to his friend. “I’m sorry about that, Erlang. I know this is your father’s last gift to you.” He said sympathetically and questioned the other of the offender’s identity.

    Zhao Erlang shook his head, staring at two broken pieces of jade pendant in his hand sadly. “He seems to know you, Hu Miao. Could he have some beef with you or your family?”

    Hu Miao scratched his head. “My father is just a middle-class merchant. Nobody in the family but me knows kungfu, so how could we have an enemy from martial realm? I myself have never seen this guy before in my life, not to say that he doesn’t look the type of our customers. You know that my family’s business is selling antiques, and most people we deal with are elderly rich men. Erlang, could he be an enemy of Shaolin?”

    Zhao Erlang shook his head once more. He put his broken treasure back into his pocket and sighed. “That youth is from Huashan School, so I think this must be personal affair between him and you.”

    Hu Miao knitted his eyebrows. “If that is true, then it is really my fault that you pendant get broken. I am sorry.”

    Zhao Erlang patted his friend’s shoulder consolingly. “Nevermind. It is probably fate – maybe my father in heaven wants to tell me that it’s time to give this jade to my brother.”

    His arm movement caused the wound to bleed further, and the discussion on the unknown youth was temporarily dropped as Hu Miao turned his intention to his friend’s wound. After this incident, the two pals traveled on southward. After some weeks, they separated at a junction not far from Chenzhou. From there, Hu Miao went west, and Zhao Erlang continued east into town.

    That night, Zhao Erlang stopped at a small inn in a village, happy that he would be home and see his mother tomorrow. He went to bed early in order to leave at first dawn. As he was about to drift off, he detected a presence of a stranger in his bedroom. Wondering whom that might be, he controlled his breath and pretended to snore. All the while, he was lying still in the dark, listening attentively. Suddenly soft footsteps approached his bed, and a shadow bent forward; his hand reached toward Zhao Erlang’s pressure points. Instantaneously, Zhao Erlang seized the hand and grabbed its owner on shoulders. The other cried out with surprise and struggled to get away. He bit down at Zhao Erlang’s hand hard, and the latter yelped but would not let go. Instead, Zhao Erlang tossed the stranger to the bed in a manner of wrestling and used his knees to pin the latter down. The night visitor kicked with all his might, and Zhao Erlang reached down to clutch the other’s throat. However, the stranger was wriggling, so Zhao Erlang’s hand landed at the other’s chest instead. Immediately, both of them cried out.

    The stranger yelled half-fearfully, half-angrily. “You freak turtle Zhao! Get your hand off me!” The voice was undoubtedly that of the youth that had taken Zhao Erlang’s jade pendant weeks ago. However, the feature that Zhao Erlang had just touched was of a woman’s.

    Zhao Erlang exclaimed with surprise. “You are a woman!” He immediately sprang away from bed and quickly lit a candle. On his bed, a young maiden with upheaval clothes was lying with furious expression. Her male hat was knocked off, and her hair that had been untied during the struggle spread along her shoulders, framing her heart-shape face with big fiery eyes and pretty red lips. In the dim candlelight, Zhao Erlang recognized the other as the same youth who had broken his jade pendant, and the other stared at him startlingly. “You are not the son of Zhao Kang!” She said somewhat disappointedly.

    Zhao Erlang did not understand what she meant. He cupped his head and introduced himself. “I am Zhao Erlang, the second son of Zhao Kang.”

    The young maiden shouted loudly. “No, you are not because Zhao Erlang is the man who owns the jade pendant.”

    Zhao Erlang was confused, but he firmly maintained his identity. “But that pendant is mine. My name is Zhao Erlang of Chenzhou. The man you met at the river is my friend from neighboring town named Hu Miao.”

    The young woman on the bed got up and took a deep breath. “You are really the young master Zhao – a son of Zhao Kang. She whispered weakly but a sigh of relief began to spread on her face. Suddenly, both youngsters felt awkward. Zhao Erlang turned away politely, and the other hurriedly tidied up her outfit. While looking away, Zhao Erlang gave a thought to this incident. He heaved a sigh but could see no way out other than acted out gentlemanly.

    He heard the other cough and slowly turned around. There, standing in front of him was a girl about nineteen years old clad in dark male clothes, but her black hair was loosely braided in girl’s traditional hairdo. Her eyes were bright like stars against thick eyelashes and bow-like thin eyebrows. Her lips were like rose petal, and her teeth were pearly white. At the moment, she was blushing, and her cheeks glowed in pink hue. Zhao Erlang could not help gawking at her intensively until she had to look down at her feet shyly.

    Zhao Erlang coughed clumsily a few times then took out one half of his jade pendant and placed it on a table. “Miss, er, I am very sorry for what happened between us. I did not know that you are a girl, so I have been too rough on you. Please forgive me.” He bowed and paused his breath. Then he inhaled deeply. “I, hmm, I should take responsibility and protect Miss’ good name, so to prove of my sincerity in this matter, please accept half of my jade. It is the only heirloom I have from my father.”

    The young maiden could not find a word to describe her feeling at the moment. She stole a glance at the young man about three years her senior with compelling eyes and charming smile and looked down again thoughtfully. She smiled hesitatingly then widened it as she looked up and her eyes were held magnetically by his. Her face turned redder, and as if in trance, she stepped forward and picked up the broken piece of jade from the table. “I am sorry about your pendant.” She said softly.

    Zhao Erlang smiled, showing his white teeth, and the other’s heart lurched uncontrollably. “That’s all right. Er, what shall I call Miss?”

    The other was silent for a moment then uttered. “Everyone at Huashan School calls me Ah Mei. I am a personal maid of Madam Li’s.”

    Zhao Erlang bowed to her courteously. “Miss has impressive Huashan’s top sword arts, so you must also receive good training from your mistress.”

    Ah Mei swung her braids cheerfully; her eyes were laughing. “I grew up in Huashan from childhood, and my mistress loves me very much as if I were her own daughter. So, since she has no kungfu, my master taught me some martial arts to protect her.”

    Zhao Erlang’s heart quickened. He felt sudden warmth inside. “Er, I have to go home and tell my mother about you. Then I have some business to do with my uncle, but after that, I promise to go to Huashan for you – of course, if Miss doesn’t mind waiting for a few years.”

    The other smiled shyly. “A few years sound all right. I can spend time learning about housework – I mean to get better at it.” She mumbled and dashed out of the room.

    “Ah Mei!” Zhao Erlang called to the empty space in front. He blinked and would have called the whole thing a dream if he had not felt the other half of jade pendant in his pocket. He did not return to bed right away but sat down, drawing Ah Mei’s image that had left him everlasting impression. He felt like a new man, and his old outlook on marriage somehow wavered.
    -----------------------------------------
    thank you for reading...

    everything is basically the introduction, so please bear with boring parts.

    <font size="1">[ February 11, 2003: Message edited by: Goofy ]</font>
    "History's third dimension is always fiction."
    -- The Glass Bead Game, Hermann Hesse

  19. #19
    Member Zhen Yu Cao's Avatar
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    WHOHOO! When did all this get posted?? Hah lots of catching up to do (I'm on chapter 3 right now). As for which story I like better, I'd have to say that I liked Legend. Quest is great, but Legend seems to be alot darker and hope is quite small. Tragedy and hope came and went... Ok so there was that in Quest to <IMG SRC="smilies/smile.gif" border="0">. I'm biased towards Legend (probably because it was the first wuxia fanfic i had ever read) so sue me <IMG SRC="smilies/cool.gif" border="0">
    Wandering the world,
    Sword in hand,
    Searching for a challenge,
    Begging for a loss...

  20. #20
    Member Acidbeastonfire's Avatar
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    Fantastic!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Goofy is BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    "Man is his own star; and the soul that can
    Render an honest and a perfect man,
    Commands all light, all influence, all fate;
    Nothing to him falls early or too late.
    Our acts our angels are, or good or ill,
    Our fatal shadows that walk by us still."

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