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Thread: Legendary Book of Sun-Moon Swordplay - The Prequel

  1. #21
    Moderator Suet Seung's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Melanie View Post
    It's weird to be saying this, but I think I miss your whining and bawling over Bluey. Welcome back, charby. Where have you been?
    If you had to ask that question, you haven't been looking at your VM, Tweety's VM and the Random Chatting Group. Tsk Tsk~! What has your love for Wallace got you?
    I just love how you Captivate My Mind

    Self reminder - Update blog more often and continue editing/writing for TOV fanfic.

  2. #22
    Senior Member Melanie's Avatar
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    tweety - I'm a last minute packer, so not packing yet. I'm in Las Vegas right now actually for a conference. But I'm going to try to write a bit durng down time. I have a sweet romantic scene in mind.

    SS - Yea, I haven't been checking my messages lately. I just read the conversation on hong yen zhi zi. Did I spell that correctly? It's such an interesting topic! Maybe I'll say something on that topic when I get a chance. But the gist of what I'll be saying is that I don't think it's posible realistically to be completely platonic friends with your soulmate of the opposite sex.

  3. #23
    Senior Member Melanie's Avatar
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    Hey, tweety. Remember a few months back, I mentioned that I saw SFF and Wallace Chung at a promotion event for Rose Martial World, where SFF wore a white dress and had a simple but feminine hairstyle that I thought suited her very well? Well, I found that clip! The background noise was too loud for me to understand what they were saying, but I think at the very beginning of the clip, the interviewer asked Huo Si Yan and Sun Fei Fei if their onscreen animosity sometimes transferred to off screen rivalry, too. I couldn't hear SFF's response, but I think she and Huo Si Yan acted like they were going to punch each other but instead ganged up on Wallace and boxed him in the ears. I must say that Wallace looked extremely cute in this clip!!!

    http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XMzEwOTU0MjQ=.html

  4. #24
    Senior Member tweety365's Avatar
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    ^ LOL, Wallace looks so bored in the clip and his antics are so hilarious, but also just adorable! I want that stuff animal! No news on SFF, but I'm hoping that whatever she went through is over. Gosh, she looks so young and vibrant in the clip. I want to see her age gracefully like some of the veteran actresses. My poor SFF

  5. #25
    Senior Member Melanie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tweety365 View Post
    ^ LOL, Wallace looks so bored in the clip and his antics are so hilarious, but also just adorable! I want that stuff animal! No news on SFF, but I'm hoping that whatever she went through is over. Gosh, she looks so young and vibrant in the clip. I want to see her age gracefully like some of the veteran actresses. My poor SFF
    Hey, I'm back! I'm back! Miss me?

    Yes, Wallace does look pretty bored, now that you pointed it out! But I've also noticed that he tends to get bored at promotion events for his series, as he fidgets a lot at these events, just like how he starts to play with that stuffed animal he is holding. I find it rather cute, actually. He's like a little boy who can't sit still. I want that stuffed animal, too, not because it's extra cute, but because Wallace hugged it! I watched that clip of the Rose Martial World promotion again, and just can't believe how adorable Wallace was. Did you see the initial confused expression on his face when SFF handed a microphone to Huo Si Yan, since he didn't know what was going on? Then, when he realized they were going to "punch" him, he had this look on his face that said, "Whoa! I'm going to just lean back and get out of the line of fire!"

    Regarding SFF's recent weird look, I'm not sure what's going on. I don't know why she would want to get plastic surgery, if that's indeed what she got, since I think she looks great as is. In Rose Martial World, she looks mostly cute and adorable, despite her "evil" character. In certain scenes, I agree that she looks rather aged compared to Wallace Chung, but I think it's mainly due to her heavy, ghastly makeup job. I don't know what the makeup department is thinking of. It seems almost as if they are trying to make her look bad.

  6. #26
    Senior Member H.Ge-C.Liu's Avatar
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    I've read up to Chapter 3 so far, and the only word I can find to describe SCN so far is...霸道. He's definitely more arrogant and over-bearing (can't find the right words at the moment) than any other male lead in the Chinese fan fics I've read so far.
    I'm actually looking forward to the love story between Black Rose and SCN. I can clearly imagine Wallace as SCN, yet because of my limited knowledge of Sun Fei Fei (I've never seen any of her dramas), I'm just imagining Black Rose as a character on her own.
    The great choices of vocabulary also makes it more interesting to read, and makes the characters seem more alive.
    All in all, I'm enjoying it so far, Melanie!
    Biases: Hu Ge, Qiao Zhenyu, Liu Shi Shi
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  7. #27
    Senior Member Melanie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by H.Ge-C.Liu View Post
    I've read up to Chapter 3 so far, and the only word I can find to describe SCN so far is...霸道. He's definitely more arrogant and over-bearing (can't find the right words at the moment) than any other male lead in the Chinese fan fics I've read so far.
    I'm actually looking forward to the love story between Black Rose and SCN. I can clearly imagine Wallace as SCN, yet because of my limited knowledge of Sun Fei Fei (I've never seen any of her dramas), I'm just imagining Black Rose as a character on her own.
    The great choices of vocabulary also makes it more interesting to read, and makes the characters seem more alive.
    All in all, I'm enjoying it so far, Melanie!
    Oh my gosh! Hey! This is such a wonderful surprise finding a comment from you! To tell you the truth, I never expected you to actually find time to read. It's not that I don't believe you when you said you'll read, but so many people have promised to read the story and yet have not read it, probably due to time constraints. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!

    An interesting tidbit about the casting of SFF in the role of Black Rose.... About one year ago, I was crazy about LSS, because I loved her with Yuan Hong in LOCH 08. At that time, even though I had not started writing the prequel story yet, I was tinkering with the idea of writing such a story and very seriously thought about casting LSS as Black Rose. However, as time went on, my interest in Yuan Hong faded a bit, and hence so did my interest in LSS, since I tend to love actresses based on their association on with hot actors I like. I know, I'm shallow. I really should be liking the actresses for who they are rather than liking them only in association with actors. As my love for Yuan Hong shifted to Wallace Chung, I started liking the lovely Song Jia, who played Wallace Chung's wife in Ni Shui Han. I think these two look stunning together. Song Jia is so beautiful and would be a perfect Black Rose, who is suppose to be heavenly in my story. I nearly casted Song Jia as Black Rose, but tweety, who happened to be a very loyal reader and avid SFF fan, whined and whined about giving SFF the role of Black Rose instead. So I relented as a token of gratitude to tweety for her 8-9 years of support for my original story and now for my prequel story. I checked SFF out on the internet and found her quite beautiful, in a very dainty and ethereal way, which made her perfect for the role of the fairy-like Black Rose. So...the lesson to my long-winded explanation is that if you whine enough and give me enough comments and support, I will relent and cast whoever you want in the story. Seriously, the actual actors (other than a few key actors like Wallace Chung) casted in the roles don't matter that much to me as I tend to treat them as just characters in a story anyway. That's why I am willing to compromise on the casting decision.

    Regarding your comment about SCN being 霸道 (I had to look it up on Google Translate, hehe), I deliberately want to make him an alpha male type, as I find these types of males incredibly sexy, but only in stories. In real life, I'm sure they would be annoying and rude. One of my readers at the winglin story site even mentioned that if SCN's smooth and charming veneer were removed, then he would simply be nothing but an overbearing thug. I completely agree! If you are curious, the link below contains discussions about SCN and Black Rose, but really mostly about SCN, as I seem to have mostly female readers.

    http://www.winglin.net/fanfic/legendprequel/ Go to the Comment section by clicking on the "Comments" button at the bottom of the page.

    There was also a livid debate about SCN vs Ling Dong in my original story thread a while back, but I would have to rummage through the posts to find that discussion. If you're interested, let me know, and I'll find the time to find those posts for you.

    Ok, enough of my babbling! Again, thank you very much for reading and commenting! I realize you are a Hu Ge fan rather than a Wallace Chung fan and yet you are still reading my story, so I appreciate it very much.

  8. #28
    Senior Member H.Ge-C.Liu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Melanie View Post
    Oh my gosh! Hey! This is such a wonderful surprise finding a comment from you! To tell you the truth, I never expected you to actually find time to read. It's not that I don't believe you when you said you'll read, but so many people have promised to read the story and yet have not read it, probably due to time constraints. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!
    No problem.I can always find time to read good stories, such as this one.

    Quote Originally Posted by Melanie View Post
    An interesting tidbit about the casting of SFF in the role of Black Rose.... About one year ago, I was crazy about LSS, because I loved her with Yuan Hong in LOCH 08. At that time, even though I had not started writing the prequel story yet, I was tinkering with the idea of writing such a story and very seriously thought about casting LSS as Black Rose. However, as time went on, my interest in Yuan Hong faded a bit, and hence so did my interest in LSS, since I tend to love actresses based on their association on with hot actors I like. I know, I'm shallow. I really should be liking the actresses for who they are rather than liking them only in association with actors. As my love for Yuan Hong shifted to Wallace Chung, I started liking the lovely Song Jia, who played Wallace Chung's wife in Ni Shui Han. I think these two look stunning together. Song Jia is so beautiful and would be a perfect Black Rose, who is suppose to be heavenly in my story. I nearly casted Song Jia as Black Rose, but tweety, who happened to be a very loyal reader and avid SFF fan, whined and whined about giving SFF the role of Black Rose instead. So I relented as a token of gratitude to tweety for her 8-9 years of support for my original story and now for my prequel story. I checked SFF out on the internet and found her quite beautiful, in a very dainty and ethereal way, which made her perfect for the role of the fairy-like Black Rose. So...the lesson to my long-winded explanation is that if you whine enough and give me enough comments and support, I will relent and cast whoever you want in the story. Seriously, the actual actors (other than a few key actors like Wallace Chung) casted in the roles don't matter that much to me as I tend to treat them as just characters in a story anyway. That's why I am willing to compromise on the casting decision.
    I do believe I'm just as shallow. I didn't really take notice of LSS in LOCH08, probably because she was paired up with YH, whom I don't really fan girl. It was only when they started filming PAL3 that I started taking notice of LSS, because her character Long Kui had a sibling relationship with HG/Long Yang. Although now I'm a big fan of both of them, so I don't have to worry that my interest in them will fade depending on who they pair up with (I support LSS pairing with literally anyone, the exception being...Ming Dao. I can just tolerate him. ).
    I don't really mind who are cast as the supporting roles, because if a key role (e.g. SCN=Wallace C) is already taken up, then I don't bother imagining who I want in the story as the male lead. In my opinion, it's just too much trouble substituting another guy into a role that's already taken.

    Quote Originally Posted by Melanie View Post
    Regarding your comment about SCN being 霸道 (I had to look it up on Google Translate, hehe), I deliberately want to make him an alpha male type, as I find these types of males incredibly sexy, but only in stories. In real life, I'm sure they would be annoying and rude. One of my readers at the winglin story site even mentioned that if SCN's smooth and charming veneer were removed, then he would simply be nothing but an overbearing thug. I completely agree! If you are curious, the link below contains discussions about SCN and Black Rose, but really mostly about SCN, as I seem to have mostly female readers.
    Ok, enough of my babbling! Again, thank you very much for reading and commenting! I realize you are a Hu Ge fan rather than a Wallace Chung fan and yet you are still reading my story, so I appreciate it very much.
    Indeed! Alpha-males are only for stories. I would always have to be in tight control of my temper if I came across any such person with SCN's personality in real life! I'll probably have a look at the links later on, depending on how SCN goes along in the story. Thanks.
    I actually think reading a story is better if someone reads for the characters/story plot, rather than who acts as the characters. That being said though, I'm still looking forward to HG's character's participation in this story.

    EDIT: Excited for more chapters! I'm starting to warm up to SCN. He's not as arrogant/over-bearing anymore, especially to Black Rose. I actually find their pairing really sweet now.
    Last edited by H.Ge-C.Liu; 12-21-11 at 02:43 AM.
    Biases: Hu Ge, Qiao Zhenyu, Liu Shi Shi
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  9. #29
    Senior Member Melanie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by H.Ge-C.Liu View Post
    No problem.I can always find time to read good stories, such as this one.
    Thanks. Really appreciate that you're reading.


    I do believe I'm just as shallow. I didn't really take notice of LSS in LOCH08, probably because she was paired up with YH, whom I don't really fan girl. It was only when they started filming PAL3 that I started taking notice of LSS, because her character Long Kui had a sibling relationship with HG/Long Yang. Although now I'm a big fan of both of them, so I don't have to worry that my interest in them will fade depending on who they pair up with (I support LSS pairing with literally anyone, the exception being...Ming Dao. I can just tolerate him. ).
    I haven't seen CP3, but from all the fan MVs, I initially thought that LSS and HG were playing lovers. The MVs were very cleverly edited to make it seem that way.

    You must be reading tons of LSS-HG fanfics. Are most in Chinese? I'm quite envious that you can read Chinese fanfics, as I am sure fanfics, especially wuxia ones, are more enjoyable when written in Chinese than in English. I have this feeling that there are tons of fanfics on Wallace Chung, but they are probably in Chinese. Not many people want to read my fanfic since it's written in English and probably most fans prefer Chinese fanfics. You yourself even mentioned that you are spending most of your time reading Chinese LSS-HG fics rather than English LSS-HG stories.


    I don't really mind who are cast as the supporting roles, because if a key role (e.g. SCN=Wallace C) is already taken up, then I don't bother imagining who I want in the story as the male lead. In my opinion, it's just too much trouble substituting another guy into a role that's already taken.
    Yea, sorry, but the key role in my story has already been reserved for Wallace Chung. But it doesn't mean that HG won't have a good role, even as a supporting character. (In fact, in my original Legendary Book story, most readers like the supporting couples more than the main couple.) Given SCN's macho arrogance and tyrannical attitude, it would be interesting, and even funny, to see him in a bromance with another character.


    I actually think reading a story is better if someone reads for the characters/story plot, rather than who acts as the characters. That being said though, I'm still looking forward to HG's character's participation in this story.
    Thanks! I think the majority of my readers end up viewing the characters as simply characters anyway rather than attaching an actor's face to the character. However, sometimes it's probably easier to visualize an actor's face when reading about a certain character. That's why I casted actors into character roles, even though I initially tinkered with the idea of just having character names and no actor list.

    Since you've been so generous with your time and comments, I'll ask you if you have an actress you would like to see paired up with HG's character. I may or may not give him a love interest, but on the off chance that I do, I just wonder if you have a preference? I will try to accommodate your request, since I really don't care which actress I cast in the role. I only ask that she be age appropriate for him and not too mature standing next to him.

    EDIT: Excited for more chapters! I'm starting to warm up to SCN. He's not as arrogant/over-bearing anymore, especially to Black Rose. I actually find their pairing really sweet now.
    Glad to hear you're enjoying the story more! Other than tweety and two other readers at my winglin forum who are too blinded by SCN's handsomeness , most readers are like you, who take a while to warm up to SCN.

    Which chapter are you on now?

    I hope you don't read too quickly, because my chapter update frequency is very slow. It usually takes me a long time to write these chapters as writing does not come easily to me, so it's hard to keep up with the readers' reading speed.

  10. #30
    Senior Member H.Ge-C.Liu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Melanie View Post
    You must be reading tons of LSS-HG fanfics. Are most in Chinese? I'm quite envious that you can read Chinese fanfics, as I am sure fanfics, especially wuxia ones, are more enjoyable when written in Chinese than in English. I have this feeling that there are tons of fanfics on Wallace Chung, but they are probably in Chinese.
    Not many people want to read my fanfic since it's written in English and probably most fans prefer Chinese fanfics.
    You yourself even mentioned that you are spending most of your time reading Chinese LSS-HG fics rather than English LSS-HG stories.
    I was. From what I've read, there are only 6 ShiGe (shipping name for LSS and HG) fan fics I favour above the rest. There probably will be, especially if there are users that favourite one or more of his couple pairings from dramas, or users that want Wallace Chung paired up with an actress, that hasn't happened.
    That's not certain though. The popularity of Chinese fan fics probably has something to do with where the drama itself is produced (i.e. China) and the fans' backgrounds. I actually don't have a preference-I read fan fics from both languages and both have their unique qualities.
    Actually, the problem with ShiGe is that most of their fans are Chinese, who actually live in China. In my circle of friends, I belong to the minority that like Mainland dramas, and actually ship actors/actresses together. So from that, the chance of English ShiGe fanfics appearing on the net are seldom to none.

    Quote Originally Posted by Melanie View Post
    Yea, sorry, but the key role in my story has already been reserved for Wallace Chung. But it doesn't mean that HG won't have a good role, even as a supporting character. (In fact, in my original Legendary Book story, most readers like the supporting couples more than the main couple.) Given SCN's macho arrogance and tyrannical attitude, it would be interesting, and even funny, to see him in a bromance with another character.
    Since you've been so generous with your time and comments, I'll ask you if you have an actress you would like to see paired up with HG's character. I may or may not give him a love interest, but on the off chance that I do, I just wonder if you have a preference? I will try to accommodate your request, since I really don't care which actress I cast in the role. I only ask that she be age appropriate for him and not too mature standing next to him.
    I would only feel sorry for both Black Rose if SCN actually bromanced. He spent so much effort trying to win BR's heart, only to ignore her afterwards, because of a new lover. Black Rose would probably be a widow in name by then.
    Melanie! Everytime I see that suggestion, I'm filled with happiness. Preferences? If you decide to give HG's character a love interest, my number one choice is definitely Liu Shi Shi (being a ShiGe shipper, how could I not?). I may have to wait another few years for them to pair up in a drama, and this would probably be one of the scarce chances that I get to see them paired up in an English fan fic. Of course, if LSS doesn't suit your character, then I'm also open to Ariel Lin, Tang Yan or Ady An.


    Quote Originally Posted by Melanie View Post
    Which chapter are you on now?

    I hope you don't read too quickly, because my chapter update frequency is very slow. It usually takes me a long time to write these chapters as writing does not come easily to me, so it's hard to keep up with the readers' reading speed.
    I've finished all the chapters posted here. I don't mind how long you take to update your story. A good story is worth the waiting.
    Biases: Hu Ge, Qiao Zhenyu, Liu Shi Shi
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  11. #31
    Senior Member tweety365's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Melanie View Post
    Since you've been so generous with your time and comments, I'll ask you if you have an actress you would like to see paired up with HG's character. I may or may not give him a love interest, but on the off chance that I do, I just wonder if you have a preference? I will try to accommodate your request, since I really don't care which actress I cast in the role.
    Hey, how come you never asked me this nicely to pair up characters in your story? I always have to loudly complain and cry and voice my objections. Sometimes, to no avail! Such blatant favoritism !

    Anyway, when's the next ch up? Your #1 reader is getting restless

  12. #32
    Senior Member Melanie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by H.Ge-C.Liu View Post
    I was. From what I've read, there are only 6 ShiGe (shipping name for LSS and HG) fan fics I favour above the rest. There probably will be, especially if there are users that favourite one or more of his couple pairings from dramas, or users that want Wallace Chung paired up with an actress, that hasn't happened.
    That's not certain though. The popularity of Chinese fan fics probably has something to do with where the drama itself is produced (i.e. China) and the fans' backgrounds. I actually don't have a preference-I read fan fics from both languages and both have their unique qualities.
    Actually, the problem with ShiGe is that most of their fans are Chinese, who actually live in China. In my circle of friends, I belong to the minority that like Mainland dramas, and actually ship actors/actresses together. So from that, the chance of English ShiGe fanfics appearing on the net are seldom to none.
    I guess it makes sense that most fans would be only Chinese literate and hence would only read fanfics written in Chinese. However, there should more than a handful of English literate fans for LSS, Hu Ge, and Wallace Chung, right? There must be! I suppose English literate fans just don't like to read fanfics too much.



    I would only feel sorry for both Black Rose if SCN actually bromanced. He spent so much effort trying to win BR's heart, only to ignore her afterwards, because of a new lover. Black Rose would probably be a widow in name by then.
    No, I don't think Black Rose would ever be in danger of being ignored by SCN. I know this because I'm controlling the plot and the characters' feelings. When I mentioned bromance, I was thinking of a strong, solid, platonic relationship between two heterosexual men who are good friends. However, in the past few days, I have changed by mind about a bromance between SCN and HG's character. Bromance implies that the two men are friends. SCN simply doesn't have friends. He's too arrogant, ruthless, and overbearing to have any friends. Plus, he's mostly a loner, very serious and intimidating in front of his Floating Cloud Sect members. If you can imagine, this guy hasn't had a lot to be genuinely happy for his entire life until he met the feisty Black Rose. In my plot, HG's character and SCN won't like each other but will have a grudging respect for each other.

    Melanie! Everytime I see that suggestion, I'm filled with happiness. Preferences? If you decide to give HG's character a love interest, my number one choice is definitely Liu Shi Shi (being a ShiGe shipper, how could I not?). I may have to wait another few years for them to pair up in a drama, and this would probably be one of the scarce chances that I get to see them paired up in an English fan fic. Of course, if LSS doesn't suit your character, then I'm also open to Ariel Lin, Tang Yan or Ady An.
    LSS, it is then. I like her well enough. I initially thought of pairing her up with Yuan Hong's character, but since there are no YH supporters reading this story, well, it's poor YH's loss then.


    I've finished all the chapters posted here. I don't mind how long you take to update your story. A good story is worth the waiting.
    It took me 8-9 years to write my original Legendary Book story, and it's still not finished! So I hope you're VERY patient! But I thank you sincerely for saying that the story is worth waiting for.


    Quote Originally Posted by tweety365 View Post
    Hey, how come you never asked me this nicely to pair up characters in your story? I always have to loudly complain and cry and voice my objections. Sometimes, to no avail! Such blatant favoritism!

    Anyway, when's the next ch up? Your #1 reader is getting restless
    Ha! I've never asked you nicely to pair up characters in the story because I never got the chance to; you always manage to come screaming up and down the alleyway first, whining loudly.

    But I gave into your complaints this time, didn't I? I put both of your favorite men (Wallace Chung and Wallace Huo) in the same story! Also, don't forget Kevin Cheng is in my other story. So plenty of hotties to drool over. Happy now?

    I'm still working on the next chapter. I have 11 pages written already. I usually stop at around 18 pages. Chapters that are too long bore readers.

  13. #33
    Senior Member Melanie's Avatar
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    Happy New Year, everyone!

    Thank you to everyone who is reading and special thanks to those who have left me messages. Those comments really mean a lot to me.

    This chapter is more romantic than action-packed, but I hope you'll still enjoy it. The upcoming chapters will have more action as we move toward attacking the Thousand Snake Black Rose Clan.

    Since I'm writing two stories, I will try to alternate my updates between the two fanfics. The next update will most likely be on Legendary Book (not the Prequel).


    Author's note regarding Chapter 7 - Falling in Love: There is a hot kissing scene in this chapter. Don't worry, it's still pretty toned down and there is nothing vulgar or XXX. However, if such scenes offend your sensitivities, please simply skip over that paragraph and continue on with the rest of the story. (You'll know which paragraph it is when you get to that part. ) You won't miss anything other than the hot kiss.


    CHAPTER 7 --- FALLING IN LOVE

    Characters appearing in this chapter:
    Chen Guan Lin---Ng Pao 吳豹
    Wallace Chung Hon Leung---Sit Chung Nam 薛钟南
    Sun Fei Fei---Fa Heung Yan a.k.a. Black Rose 花香燕
    Hu Ge---Miu Jing Hung 苗靖雄

    EVENING
    TWIN DEMON PEAK
    TWIN DEMON CLAN
    NG PAO’S CHAMBER

    “Be careful! Are you trying to inflict more pain on me?” Ng Pao screamed at the young Twin Demon Clan member attempting to splint his broken left arm.

    Pushing his subordinate away hostilely, he clumsily tried to splint his own left arm single-handedly with his uninjured right hand. However, he only ended up tangling the bandages. Clenching his jaw in frustration, he glared at the youth standing quietly off to the side with his head lowered.

    “Well, what are you waiting for?” Ng Pao snarled at the clan member. “Drag yourself over here and help me!”

    As the clan member wrapped the bandage around his broken left arm, Ng Pao seethed with rage. “Sit Chung Nam, I’m going to kill you! I’m going to kill you! You’ll pay for murdering my elder brother and for breaking my arm!”

    As his temper continued to boil, his chamber door burst open. Furious, Ng Pao whipped around toward the doorway, ready to strike whoever dared to enter his chamber without permission.

    “What is it?!” Ng Pao bared his teeth. However, any further scolding words faded away as three Twin Demon Clan members toppled over each other like rag dolls, two already dead.

    The third one, near death’s door, crawled over to Ng Pao, smearing fresh blood across the stone floor. “Clan Leader...” The clan member croaked, as dark blood gushed out of his mouth. Choking on his own blood, he coughed and gagged, finally sputtering hoarsely, “Clan Leader, the Blood Shadow Palm...” Before he could finish his warning, his eyes rolled back and his world blackened. Sucking in a painful last breath, he collapsed to the floor, his mouth opened, blood continuing to pour like a mini river from his mouth due to the severe internal bleeding he had sustained.

    Horrified, Ng Pao rushed over to the dead clan members. Kneeling down next to them, he frantically scanned the bodies for any signs of injury. However, rather than the expected blood-red palm print on the chest he had seen in prior Blood Shadow Palm injuries from the Thousand Snake Black Rose Clan, the corpses seemed to be devoid of any signs of insult.

    “Do you really think we’re under attack from the Thousand Snake Black Rose Clan, Clan Leader?” The young clan member who had been trying to splint Ng Pao’s arm earlier whispered, his eyes wide and frightened.

    “Silence!” Ng Pao barked at the youth, his own heart racing from fear of the unknown. Having never seen such a lethal injury that did not even leave any mark, the Twin Demon Clan leader shook his head in confusion. “I don’t understand,” Ng Pao muttered to himself as he glanced over the dead bodies again. “The injuries lack the typical trademark palm print of the Blood Shadow Palm. This can’t be the Blood Shadow Palm. But why are the clan members dead when there is not even the slightest hint of injury on their bodies?”

    Suddenly, a series of grotesque cracking sounds, like the crunching of bones, drew Ng Pao’s attention back toward the corpses. As he stared at the deceased clan members’ chests, Ng Pao watched in horrified fascination as the men’s chests seemed to cave inward, as if their ribcages and internal organs were disintegrating. “Incredible!” He gasped. “Only superior internal energy can cause such damage by penetrating and dissolving flesh, bone, and internal organs without even leaving a single visible mark on the body! Has the Thousand Snake Black Rose Clan’s Blood Shadow Palm reached such a new level of power?”

    At that moment, four more clan members crashed through the wall of Ng Pao’s chamber. With their dying breaths, they sputtered, “Run, Clan Leader! It’s...it’s...Sit Chung Nam! He some...somehow...knows how to execute the Blood Shadow Palm!”

    “Sit Chung Nam!” Ng Pao shook his head in denial. “I don’t understand. How does Sit Chung Nam know the Blood Shadow Palm? No! This is impossible! Besides, the injuries are not consistent with the Thousand Snake Black Rose Clan’s Blood Shadow Palm!”

    Suddenly, a mahogany wood coffin flew through the air, crashing through the door frame of Ng Pao’s chamber before landing with an ominous thump right at Ng Pao’s feet. From the collapsed doorway of Ng Pao’s chamber, a low masculine chuckle reverberated. Recognizing the voice, Ng Pao jerked his head toward the direction of the sound to find Sit Chung Nam standing by the splintered door frame, his legs slightly braced apart, his arms crossed across his chest, his stance domineering and mocking.

    With his lips slightly curved, Sit Chung Nam glanced down at Ng Pao, his expression condescending. “You’re correct for once, Clan Leader Ng. Your clan members did not die by the hand of the Thousand Snake Black Rose Clan’s Blood Shadow Palm.” Admiring his own right palm, the very palm he had just used to kill nearly all Twin Demon Clan members, Sit Chung Nam chuckled. “Your clan members died by the hand of Sit Chung Nam’s version of the Blood Shadow Palm.”

    In the background, the young Twin Demon Clan member who had been helping splint Ng Pao’s arm earlier gulped, his entire body shaking from fear at the sight of Sit Chung Nam. To the boy, Sit Chung Nam was a legend, a terrifying one who killed maliciously. In his fantasy, he had dreamed of battling the Floating Cloud Sect leader and emerging as victor. Yet now, seeing Sit Chung Nam towering over him like an avenging demon, the boy can only think of running away as fast as he can. The youth’s eyes darted around the room erratically, his thoughts of escape clearly showing on his face. Without thinking rationally, he foolishly rushed toward Chung Nam, attempting to push the Floating Cloud Sect leader aside and run out the chamber. Unfortunately, no match for Sit Chung Nam, the young clan member found himself bodily lifted from the ground with Chung Nam’s fingers clenched tightly around his throat, choking the life from him.

    “How dare you try to shove me, boy!” Chung Nam snarled.

    “Help, Clan Leader! Help!” The youth squawked, imploring Ng Pao to come to his rescue.

    However, rather than coming to the young boy’s aid, Ng Pao backed away cowardly.

    At that moment, a soft feminine voice called out from the reception hall not far from Ng Pao’s chamber. “Let the boy go, Sect Leader Sit. He’s just a child.”

    Pausing, Chung Nam glared at the youth dangling in the air. “You’re quite fortunate today. It seems the lovely maiden wants to spare your life.” Loosening his grip on the boy, he dumped him unceremoniously onto the ground. “Go now before I change my mind and kill you for daring to attempt to push me!” Chung Nam gestured toward the doorway, dismissing the youth.

    Frightened beyond words, the young boy scrambled to his feet and half tripped and half ran from the chamber.

    With the boy gone, Chung Nam fully turned his attention toward Ng Pao as he advanced threateningly toward the other man.

    Quickly grabbing his sword from the nearby table, Ng Pao held the weapon defensively in front of himself. “Sit Chung Nam, don’t come another step closer!” He warned his opponent. Pointing the blade at the Floating Cloud Sect leader, Ng Pao threatened, “You dare to trespass on my territory?” He gestured angrily to the coffin next to him. “What is the meaning of this coffin?”

    Twisting his lips tauntingly, Sit Chung Nam spread his hands apart in a gesture of generosity. “Why, I don’t know why you’re so irritated, Clan Leader Ng. I bring you this coffin as a gift!” Gesturing toward the offending object, he explained, “That coffin is made from sturdy, excellent quality mahogany wood. I figure you would need a coffin very soon, so as your friend, I am bringing you one as a present.”

    “How dare you?” Ng Pao’s face turned beet red from fury. “I should have killed you and your little tramp earlier this morning!”

    In a flash, Sit Chung Nam’s affable expression metamorphosed into a look of pure rage as he lunged forward with lightening speed. Seeing Sit Chung Nam’s approach, Ng Pao thrust his sword forward in defense. However, before Ng Pao can blink, Sit Chung Nam sandwiched the tip of the blade between his fingers and easily snapped the metal. Flicking away the broken tip, Sit Chung Nam sent his opponent hurling across the room with one precise kick to the abdomen. As Ng Pao catapulted backward, his arms and legs flailed in the air helplessly, his grip on the broken sword loosening, causing the weapon to slip out of his hand. Sit Chung Nam somersaulted through the air and grabbed onto the hilt of the abandoned sword. As Ng Pao crashed to the ground, Sit Chung Nam landed right next to the fallen Twin Demon Clan leader, and with one swift movement, plunged the broken blade into the stone floor dangerously close to the side of Ng Pao’s neck, nearly causing Ng Pao to faint from fear. Viciously bringing his booted foot down onto Ng Pao’s throat, Chung Nam exerted just enough pressure to cause his opponent to gasp in pain but not enough to kill him...just yet.

    Leaning down, Sit Chung Nam brought his face close to Ng Pao’s and whispered threateningly. “Don’t call my woman a tramp.” When Ng Pao continued gasping helplessly, he pressed his foot down more firmly onto his suffocating victim’s throat. “Understand?”

    Nodding his head with apprehension clearly reflected in his eyes, Ng Pao squeaked, “Yes.”

    Smiling amicably again, Sit Chung Nam lifted his foot, allowing Ng Pao to crawl away from him. “Where are you going, Clan Leader Ng?” He questioned, his tone derisive.

    Shaking with fear, Ng Pao turned around on his hands and knees and crawled back to Sit Chung Nam. Tugging on the hem of Chung Nam’s gown while cradling his broken left arm, Ng Pao begged, “Sect Leader Sit, please forgive me for offending you earlier this morning. Please forgive me! Please forgive me! Please spare my worthless life! Please!”

    Staring coldly down at Ng Pao, Chung Nam kicked the pleading man dispassionately in the face, as if swatting away an annoying insect. “Oh, I wasn’t offended at all, Clan Leader Ng. After all, we are old friends who have known each other for years!” He voice dripped with sarcasm. “However, I do believe you owe the young maiden sitting over there an apology for daring to violate her.” With those words, Chung Nam leaned down and jerked Ng Pao up by the lapels of his gown. With an easy flick of his wrists, he threw Ng Pao across the room toward where Yan perched daintily on a black lacquer chair in the adjoining main reception hall, her image of perfect unspoiled beauty incongruous in a room filled with death.

    As Ng Pao landed in a heap of tangled limps at Yan’s feet, he gulped nervously as he surveyed the reception hall littered with the dead bodies of his Twin Demon Clan members. The few members still alive groaned and writhed on the floor in agony as their internal organs liquefied from the immense force of Sit Chung Nam’s palm energy. Stunned, Ng Pao freezed momentarily but snapped out of his horrified daze when Chung Nam’s tall shadow loomed over him.

    “Well, are you going to apologize to the fair maiden, or am I going to have to give you a little more encouragement?” Chung Nam raised his eyebrow menacingly.

    Jerking his gaze up at Sit Chung Nam, Ng Pao shook uncontrollably. “No...no need for more encouragement, Sect Leader Sit!” Hastily, he crawled over to Yan and repeatedly banged his forehead hard several times on the floor. “Clan Leader Black Rose, I apologize for my treatment of you earlier this morning! I’m sorry! I’m sorry! Please forgive me! Please forgive me!” He croaked repeatedly, his mouth dry from terror.

    As Ng Pao reached forward with his right hand, as if to tug pleadingly on Yan’s gown hem, Chung Nam’s chilly voice stopped him. “Don’t...touch...her.” Chung Nam warned Ng Pao, his voice so calm yet violent that it sent shivers down Ng Pao’s spine.

    “Of course! Of course!” Ng Pao sputtered, quickly withdrawing his hand from Yan’s gown hem. “Will you forgive me, Clan Leader Black Rose?” He stared up at Yan beseechingly.

    Averting her eyes in disgust, Yan sighed. “Forget it.” She muttered. “Just...get away from me...” She turned her head away from Ng Pao, dismissing him from her mind.

    “Thank...thank you, Clan Leader Black Rose! You’re not only the image of a fairy but you also have a merciful heart! Thank you!” Ng Pao continuously banged his head against the floor as he lavished his praises on Yan. “Clan Leader Black Rose, you’re...”

    “Enough!” Chung Nam barked, his irritated voice interrupting Ng Pao’s mumbling, startling the frightened man. “She told you to leave!”

    Shaking uncontrollably, Ng Pao slammed his mouth shut and started to crawl away from Chung Nam and Yan. Halfway across the reception hall, he finally mustered enough strength to scramble to his feet. Forcing his legs to move, he tripped and skidded across the floor in his haste to get away. Just as Ng Pao cleared the doorway of the reception hall, a white shadow streaked through the air and somersaulted three times over his head before landing in front of him, blocking his escape route. Before Ng Pao can utter a single word, Sit Chung Nam swept forward with his right palm, his actions imitating Poison Snake’s Blood Shadow Palm. In less than a second, his palm flashed forward and then retracted, barely contacting Ng Pao’s chest. Immediately, Ng Pao collapsed to the floor, screaming in agony as his internal organs began to liquefy from the force of Sit Chung Nam’s internal energy.

    Yan, who had rushed forward a few moments ago when Chung Nam chased after Ng Pao, narrowed her eyes at the scene in front of her. To the inexperienced eye, Chung Nam’s technique, so swift and intricate, appeared indistinguishable from the original palm sequence created by Poison Snake. However, Yan, who had witnessed the power of her elder sister’s palm sequence countless times, noticed that Chung Nam’s palm technique lacked the deadly poisonous effect of Poison Snake’s palm sequence. Yet, he was able to kill just as viciously as the original Blood Shadow Palm through the sheer force of his years of cultivated internal energy. Only a martial arts genius like Sit Chung Nam was able to imitate such an intricate sequence after witnessing the original technique executed only once and immediately create an equally lethal, if not deadlier, palm sequence in one day’s time.

    Giving Chung Nam a speculative glance, Yan wondered if the infamous bandit leader will become a much deadlier threat to the martial arts world than her elder sister. If he succeeded in eliminating Poison Snake, will the martial arts world be exchanging one evil for another much stronger, much more lethal one? Lost in her thoughts, Yan did not even notice Ng Pao’s horrified scream of agony. Only when she heard Chung Nam’s chilly yet calm chuckle did Yan emerge from her reverie and jerk her head toward the writhing Ng Pao a few feet away.

    Chung Nam calmly walked over to Ng Pao and loomed over his victim threateningly. As his chuckle faded away, he looked down unsympathetically at the Twin Demon Clan leader.

    Managing to pull himself to his knees, Ng Pao glanced up at Sit Chung Nam, while bracing himself with one hand on the floor. “Why? WHY?” He panted as his lungs filled with blood from the internal injury, drowning him in his own blood. He sent Sit Chung Nam an accusing glance. “You said you would let me go! WHY?”

    Without bothering to answer his victim, Chung Nam raised his right palm and delivered one final blow to the top of Ng Pao’s head, killing the man instantly. Watching Ng Pao dispassionately as a trail of blood trickled slowly down his opponent’s forehead before his body crumbled to the floor, Chung Nam replied coldly to the corpse, “Because nobody touches my woman and escapes alive.”

    “He was already a defeated man.” Yan’s quietly disapproving voice caused Chung Nam to turn toward her direction. “You could have just let him leave. He wouldn’t have survived long anyway with his injuries.” Giving Chung Nam a chastising look, Yan picked up her travel bundle and walked off in a huff out the main entrance of Twin Demon Clan and started down the mountain.

    Immediately chasing after her, Chung Nam smiled dashingly, his earlier chilly demeanor suddenly gone. “Sweetheart, are you angry at me for some reason?” Blocking Yan’s path, he grabbed her hand and kissed it. “I was only defending your honor.”

    Yanking her hand back, Yan rolled her eyes in exasperation. “So Ng Pao is a scoundrel and I suppose you’re a gentleman?” She scoffed. “If you really want to defend my honor, then you should also give yourself a few slaps, since you tried to force yourself on me, too!” Dismissing him, she turned around and carefully stepped over overgrown roots jutting out from the dirt path as she made her way down the mountain.

    Easily catching up to Yan, Chung Nam grabbed her hand again and tried to look repentant. “If you promise to forgive me, I’ll endure a thousand slaps from you, my little fairy.” Bringing her palm to his cheek, he tapped her palm against his cheek repeatedly. “Here, slap me, if you’ll promise to forgive me.”

    “Hey! What are you doing?!” Oddly embarrassed rather than annoyed, Yan jerked her hand free from his grasp and sent him a dirty look. Rubbing her hand where it contacted his slightly roughened, unshaven cheek, she tried unsuccessfully to control the deep pink blush coloring her cheeks. She should be frightened by him after witnessing his slaughter of the Twin Demon Clan members and Ng Pao, but strangely she knew that he will protect her. She peeked up at his grinning face, thinking how boyishly handsome he was with that humorous twinkle in his eyes. Sternly warning herself against developing affectionate feelings for a cold-blooded bandit wearing the face of a handsome charmer, she frowned fiercely at him, refusing to soften at his charming grin.

    Smiling teasingly, Chung Nam hooked an arm around Yan’s waist and brought her close to him. “I thought you wanted to hit me. Did you change your mind about slapping me?” When she only continued to glare at him indignantly, his grin widened. “I knew it!” He tightened embrace, holding her so close she can feel each thump of his heartbeat against his chest. “You don’t have the heart to hurt me, do you, sweetheart?”

    When he tried to nuzzle the side of her neck affectionately, Yan pushed him away. “I am not your sweetheart.” She muttered, but without vehemence. Wagging a finger in front of his nose, she declared haughtily, “And I am NOT your woman either, so stop calling me that in front of other people!” Sticking her nose up into the air, she walked past him, but only managed to take two steps before Chung Nam grabbed her arm and yanked her back into his embrace.

    His teasing grin suddenly gone and replaced by a darkly intense look, he leaned down so that his lips hovered over hers without touching. “All right,” he whispered, his breath hot against her lips, “If you don’t want to be my woman, then I’ll be your man.” Flashing her a seductive smile, he rubbed his lips gently against hers. "Do you like that, sweetheart? Hmmm?"  He mumbled against her lips.
     
    Initially mesmerized by his warmth and charm, Yan stood rooted to the ground, allowing him to kiss her. Slowly, she trailed her up eyes up to his handsome, tanned face for a brief second before unconsciously closing her eyes, savoring the deliciously ticklish sensation as his unshaven stubble rubbed against her tender skin.

    Then suddenly his light kisses turned into ravenous bites as he started to suck harder at her lips. Angling his head sideways, he pressed his lips firmly against hers, his tongue licking at the softness of her lower lip. He tightened his arms around her waist and roughly lifted her up so that her face was level with his. Shoving her against a large, wide tree trunk, he nuzzled the side of her neck, drowning in her light rose scent. Opening his mouth, he sucked at the soft skin of her neck, exerting just enough pressure to cause a slight bruise. As blood pumped to his head, roaring through his ears like turbulent waves during a stormy night, he dipped his head even lower toward her chest, pushing aside the collar of her gown with his nose and lips.

    Scared by his fervor, Yan whimpered and squirmed, pushing fiercely against his chest. “Don’t!”

    Hearing her muffled cry of distress, Chung Nam tried to calm her by moving his lips back up toward her cheek. “Shhh... Shhh...” He mumbled against her cheek, trying to quell the thundering of his heart even as he tried to quiet Yan down. He dragged his lips over to her ear and whispered, “It’s all right, sweetheart. I won’t hurt you. Shhh...”

    However, his voice, roughened by passion, failed to soothe her fear. “No, let go! Let go!” She cried frantically.

    As Yan panicked even more and struggled urgently against him, Chung Nam closed his eyes briefly and swore silently. Despite his first instinct to ignore her objections and force her into compliance, he did not wish to destroy the tenuous thread of affection she was starting to develop for him. A wise man, he decided to back off. Loosening his grip on her, he allowed her to slowly slide back down onto the ground.

    The minute her feet contacted the ground, Yan shoved Chung Nam away and ran blindly through the dark down the mountain path, heedless of the jagged rocks on the ground and the protruding branches blocking her path.

    Taking long strides, Chung Nam easily caught up to Yan and embraced her from behind. Burying his face in her hair at the side of her neck, he whispered, “Yan Yan, I’m sorry.” He apologized to her, surprised how easily the words slipped from his lips, considering that he had never cared enough to apologize to anyone before. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”

    More aghast at herself for starting to enjoy the handsome bandit’s affection than fearful of him, Yan whipped around and hammered at his chest. “Let go! Let go!” When his arms remained like iron locks around her waist, she stomped down hard on his foot. Grunting from her unexpected attack, Chung Nam’s grip loosened a bit, allowing Yan the chance to break away. With her light, petite frame, she ducked easily under his arm and dashed past him.

    “Wait, Yan Yan!” Chung Nam chased after her. “Slow down! You might trip in the dark!”

    Just as the warning left Chung Nam’s mouth, Yan predictably stumbled over a jutting tree root on the ground and keeled forward. Before she hit the dirt, a pair of arms looped around her waist, preventing her from falling.

    Bringing her close up against him, he turned her around in his arms and eyed her with concern. “Are you all right, sweetheart?”

    Ignoring his question, Yan tried to wiggle out of his arms but suddenly cried out as a shooting pain from her right ankle nearly brought her to her knees if Chung Nam weren’t supporting her weight.

    “What’s wrong, Yan Yan? Huh? What’s wrong?” Chung Nam asked urgently as Yan grimaced and clutched at her right ankle. “Did you sprain your ankle, sweetheart?” Without waiting for her response, he swung her up into his arms. Finding a relatively clean clearing by the side of the path, he settled her carefully down onto the ground. Kneeling down beside her, he gently coaxed her hands loose from around her ankle and took off her shoe to reveal a swollen, tender ankle. “Let me take a look.” He bent down to examine her ankle closely.

    Staring down at the top of his head, Yan quietly observed Chung Nam, touched at his sincere concern, her fear and anger at him just moments earlier gone. His concern acutely and painfully reminded her of Kuk Wai, another man who had once loved her very much. But even the man she thought she could trust had betrayed and left her. Suddenly, Yan felt a wave of self-pity over her homeless situation washed over, and tears started to well up in her eyes, clogging her throat.

    Unaware of Yan’s lamenting thoughts, Chung Nam probed lightly at the ankle with his fingers. When Yan sniffled, he glanced up, freezing at the single drop of tear making its way down her smooth cheek. “Is your ankle hurting that badly, sweetheart?” He hurriedly settled onto the ground beside her and wrapped his arm around her shoulders, tucking her head under his chin.

    Chung Nam’s sympathetic gesture released the floodgate to her tears and Yan started to sob quietly, hiding her face against Chung Nam’s chest. Several months of pent up anger at losing her martial arts and being betrayed by Kuk Wai and fear of being captured by her elder sister finally poured out as tears. Clutching onto Chung Nam, Yan burrowed herself even more firmly against him, ironically finding comfort in the strong arms of her kidnapper.

    Remaining silent, Chung Nam held her tightly in his embrace, patiently waiting for her to quiet down. Wisely choosing to abstain from asking any questions, he gently stroked her hair as he pressed his lips against the top of her head. “Shhh... Shhh...”

    Finally, Yan’s tears gradually stopped, her sobs trailing off into soft hiccups. Yet, she willingly stayed in his embrace, not wishing to move away from his warmth. Though Yan was still unsure what her feelings for Sit Chung Nam were, her instincts told her that she will be safest with him.

    Minutes passed and both remained still and silent. The chirping of crickets in the distance filled the night with musical notes. The moon, as if wishing to grant them some privacy, retreated its silvery beams behind a wispy curtain of clouds, throwing the mountain path in darkness.

    Slowly, Yan’s eyes fluttered close. Emotionally and physically fatigued, she began to drift off to sleep. Hazily, in a state of semi-sleep, she wondered why she had such conflicting emotions toward Sit Chung Nam, as one minute, she was afraid of him, and the next minute, she felt wonderfully safe by his side. Never had she felt this conflicted about Kuk Wai before. Too tired to rationalize this out tonight, she sighed softly as she sank into a deep slumber. Vaguely in the distant recesses of her mind, she felt Chung Nam’s hand cup her cheek, his thumb brushing across her cheeks, drying her tears. The last thing she registered before she lost consciousness was the strong, steady beat of Chung Nam’s heart against her ear...

    TWO HOURS LATER
    TWIN DEMON PEAK
    MOUNTAIN PATH

    A gentle wind brushed past, stirring the loose tendrils of her hair, tickling her cheek like a soft kiss. Rousing from her slumber, Yan fluttered her eyelids slowly, drowsy and disoriented. Finding herself curled up on the ground using her travel sack as a pillow and her cloak as a blanket, she darted her eyes around with confusion, sensing something missing by her side, but not quite sure what it was. Then, she finally figured out that Sit Chung Nam was no longer with her. Rather than relief, which was what she should logically be feeling, her heart plummeted as she assumed that he was tired of her and had left her behind, just like Kuk Wai had done so.

    Disgusted with herself for falling for the notorious bandit’s charms so easily, Yan took in a deep breath, determined to forget about the bandit leader and go on living her life as she had before she met him. With that firm resolve, she rolled over slowly. Only at that moment did she notice Sit Chung Nam sitting a few feet away from her in a meditation position, cultivating his internal energy. The moon had reemerged from behind the clouds, splashing its luminescent beams down onto Chung Nam. His chiseled features, bathed in a pale silvery pool of light, appeared serene and inexplicably handsome. An irrational sense of relief and...happiness...washed over Yan as she realized that he had not left. Telling herself that she was happy simply because she enjoyed having the company of another person as she had never been a solitary person, Yan bit her lower lip to keep from smiling.

    Unaware of Yan’s conflicting emotions, Chung Nam, with his eyes closed, brought his hands steadily upward. His motions seemed sluggish, yet in reality, his hands were moving so swiftly that his hands seemed like amorphous appendages, barely visible to the naked eye. Then, his left hand suddenly twirled rapidly in a wide figure eight, protecting the field in front of him, while his right hand swept forward at lightening speed and punched the air. A blast of internal energy surged forward, so powerful yet not even disturbing the surrounding air. In the distance, a series of large trees crumpled to dust.

    Staring ahead as dust particles ballooned outward like a mushroom cloud, Chung Nam curled his lips slightly, his eyes with a predatory gleam. For those few seconds, he seemed almost inhuman, his expression so cold, so vicious, and so pleased with his ability to destroy. Shivering, Yan watched him in silence, imagining what kind of destruction he could bring with that kind of martial arts skill. While she mulled over that thought, he suddenly turned toward her direction, as if sensing her eyes on him. Gasping softly, Yan quickly shut her eyes, pretending to be asleep.

    Narrowing his eyes at her sleeping form, Chung Nam smiled knowingly, well aware that she had been watching him just moments earlier. Getting up, he walked over to Yan, deliberately stomping around loudly to let her know his approach. Hovering over Yan, he stared down at her, observing her fake snoring and nearly laughing out loud at her very bad efforts at feigning sleep. He gave her a few seconds to “wake up.” However, when Yan continued to snore loudly and obnoxiously, Chung Nam curled the corners of his mouth.

    “Ah!” He intentionally spoke in a booming voice. “She’s asleep so deeply that she’s snoring! This is my golden opportunity to kiss her without having to wrestle with her!” With that warning, he plopped himself down next to Yan and threw his arm over her haphazardly, pursing his lips.

    “AHHHHH!” Yan shrieked, her eyes popping open.

    Bringing her hands to her mouth, she slapped her palms over her lips, trying to hide from Chung Nam’s kiss. Darting her eyes over to Chung Nam, whose face hovered a mere few inches above hers, Yan stared at him anxiously, her wide-eyed expression almost comical. After a few seconds, she calmed down enough to finally realize that Chung Nam was not attempting to kiss her but rather was staring down at her with laughing eyes.

    “Oh, you’re awake.” He sighed loudly with feigned disappointment. “I was hoping to take advantage of you while you were sleeping.” He remarked with a deadpan expression.

    When Yan’s already wide eyes enlarged even more, Chung Nam cannot hold in his amusement any longer. As his deep chuckle resonateed through the night, Yan sent him a withering look.

    “Did you know I was awake all this time?” Yan scowled at Chung Nam, feeling quite offended at being tricked.

    Rather than answer her, Chung Nam winked at her before pulling her up to a sitting position. “How is your ankle, sweetheart?” He poked at her injured ankle gently.

    Shifting her ankle away from him, Yan spoke in a barely audible voice. “I’m fine.” Embarrassed at her bout of tears earlier, she tried to hide her ankle with her hands.

    “Let me see your ankle.” Chung Nam reached forward, but she swatted his hands away.

    “No,” Yan objected defiantly, stubbornly keeping her hands over the swollen ankle.

    “Let me see.” He commanded, his expression just as stubborn as hers. His hands moved forward again, only to be pushed away by Yan.

    “No!” Yan frowned, shaking her head vehemently and straightening her back proudly. “I’m fine! I can take care of myself!” She had been taking care of herself well enough for the past few months, despite running like a fugitive, and she certainly had no intention of accepting help now from an overbearing bandit.

    “If you don’t let me look at your ankle, I’m going to kiss you again.” Chung Nam threatened her. “And this time, I won’t be so nice and stop when you ask me to.”

    Gasping indignantly at his warning, Yan glowered at him for a moment before finally deciding to let him look at her ankle in case he wasn’t joking about kissing her. Lifting her chin up proudly, she lifted her right foot up and purposefully dropped it heavily onto Chung Nam’s lap, intending to make him wince with pain. Unfortunately, the action only sent a sharp pain shooting up her leg from her swollen ankle, causing her to groan softly.

    Seeing the challenging gleam in her eyes despite her obvious discomfort, Chung Nam shook his head, wondering why he continued to put up with her defiance when he would normally just kill anyone who dared to defy him. He never would have guessed that such a delicate, beautiful angel would have such a stubborn temper. Suddenly he chuckled to himself softly as he realized that, although he was undeniably attracted to her incomparable beauty, he had foolishly and unexpectedly fallen in love with her feistiness and extreme stubbornness. He even found her volatile moods amusing.

    Hearing Chung Nam’s laughter, Yan narrowed her eyes at him suspiciously. “Are you laughing at me?” Peeved, she reached across and pulled his hair to show him how displeased she was at him.

    Catching hold of her hand, he brought it close to his heart and grinned at her. “No, I’m laughing at myself.”

    Confused, Yan paused, holding in the stream of indignant words she was about to blurt out. Then realizing that her hand was enveloped in his, she jerked her hand back and hid it behind her back, while still regarding him suspiciously.

    Inexplicably charmed by her suspicious attitude and finding her mulishness rather adorable and delightful, Chung Nam winked at Yan and gave her a lopsided boyish grin. He leaned over, and before she could object, gave her a peck on the cheek. As she squealed indignantly, he swiftly leaned back before she could whack him on the cheek.

    Ignoring her offended glance, he carefully removed her shoe. Noticing the extent of swelling on her ankle, he frowned with concern. “It seems you twisted your ankle badly. You won’t be able to walk on it for a few days.” He glanced up at Yan, giving her a reassuring smile as he slowly slipped her shoe back on. “You should get some more rest tonight. I’ll carry you back to Floating Cloud Summit tomorrow morning.”

    “I want to go home.” Yan whispered, referring to her home at the Thousand Snake Black Rose Clan. Suddenly homesick, she lowered her eyes sadly.

    “I know, sweetheart.” Chung Nam responded gently. Caressing her cheek tenderly, he said, “I promise to take you home after I kill your elder sister and it is safe for you to return.”

    At the mention of her elder sister Poison Snake, Yan recalled Chung Nam’s execution of a palm technique very similar to her sister’s Blood Shadow Palm earlier when she had just woken up. “Your palm technique that you were practicing when I just woke up somewhat resembles my elder sister’s Blood Shadow Palm.” Yan blurt out.

    Smiling, Chung Nam tapped his finger on the tip of Yan’s nose playfully, pleased that she had not shied away from his touch while he was caressing her cheek. “It’s a modified version of the Blood Shadow Palm, and I intend to perfect it so that it becomes the superior version.”

    “But how...?” Yan shook her head in confusion.

    “How did I learn the Blood Shadow Palm technique?” Chung Nam filled in the blank. Chuckling slyly, he raised his right palm and flexed his fingers. “It’s simple; I copied the technique from your elder sister when we exchanged stances yesterday evening.”

    “You can just imitate a martial arts technique that easily, from observing it only one time?” Yan gawked at him.

    “Don’t act so surprised, my little fairy.” Chung Nam laughed at her shocked look. He sat down next to Yan and reached a hand forward to play with her long tresses. “I am a martial arts fanatic and have been practicing martial arts for a long time. Hence, with my experience, it is not too difficult to imitate a technique. In addition, I learn very quickly.”

    “But my elder sister’s Blood Shadow Palm is not just any random martial arts technique.” Yan objected. “Thousands of people have watched her execute the palm sequence, and so far, nobody has managed to escape alive, let alone survive long enough to imitate the technique!”

    Raising his eyebrow with amusement, Chung Nam explained, “Your elder sister’s Blood Shadow Palm may be near invincible up to this point, but no martial arts in the world is completely invincible. The Blood Shadow Palm only SEEMS very complex because of its extreme swiftness, which sole purpose is to confuse the opponent, thus allowing your sister to punch him with her poisonous palm. However, a well-trained martial artist would realize that once the swiftness factor is removed, the technique is very simple, composed mainly of only three stances. In fact, if one is able to overcome the confusion caused by the palm’s quick movements, then he will realize that the Blood Shadow Palm technique is very vulnerable, for it only attacks from one direction, the practitioner’s right side. This leaves the attacker’s left side, top section, and lower section unguarded.”

    “That’s why I noticed you rapidly twirling your left hand while you were attacking with your right palm! You were protecting your left, top, and bottom fields! I have never seen my sister do that whenever she executes the Blood Shadow Palm. You have modified the palm technique so that an opponent cannot attack you while you are trying to execute the palm sequence with your right hand!” Yan exclaimed, his actions suddenly making sense.

    Shaking his head, Chung Nam sighed. “It’s not that simple. I may have devised a method to protect my combat field and I may have been able to imitate the three stances of your sister’s Blood Shadow Palm, but I cannot imitate the poison contained within her palm. The true strength of your sister’s palm technique lies in the palm’s deadly poison. My internal energy may be stronger than Poison Snake’s, but in combat with her, I cannot avoid contact with her palm indefinitely. Eventually, our palms must clash, which would inevitably allow her to transfer the Blood Shadow Palm’s poison over to me. I would then have to channel a portion of my internal energy toward preventing the Blood Shadow Palm’s poison from progressing through my body, which then affects my ability to defeat her.”

    “But you won in a match with my elder sister before!” Yan wrinkled her brow in confusion. “Surely, you would be able to do so again.”

    “I only succeeded in scaring your sister off with my much superior internal energy. In a brief confrontation such as the one with Poison Snake last evening, I was able to avoid contact with her palm for the most part.” Chung Nam explained. “If you recall, I eventually was forced to receive her palm, which caused the Blood Shadow Palm’s poison to immediately circulate through my blood stream. If your sister hadn’t left, she would have eventually gained the upper hand once she realized that I was poisoned. Therefore, to defeat the Blood Shadow Palm, I need to figure out a way to overcome the palm technique’s poison.” Sighing, he shook his head. “Unfortunately, the use of poison is not my forte.”

    Smiling confidently, Yan placed her travel bundle on her lap and stroked it like a lover. “Poison may not be your forte, but it is mine.”

    Raising his eyebrow, Chung Nam twisted his lips into a sardonic smile. “I thought you are an esteemed healer. Why would your forte be poison then?”

    “Sect Leader Sit, do not ridicule my status as a healer.” Yan shot Chung Nam an irritated look. “I certainly find greater satisfaction in healing, but a very fine line separates healing and killing, and I am certainly not above using my knowledge of the medicinal arts to kill.”

    Surprised by Yan’s unexpected dark side, Chung Nam gave her a speculative look for a long moment. Finally, he reached over and lifted her chin up with one finger so that her deep midnight blue eyes stared directly into his. Wondering what other surprises lay within the depths of those beautiful pools of sapphire, he allowed himself to drown in those pools, as if hoping to find answers in her eyes. “You’re certainly full of secrets, aren’t you, little fairy?”

    “If you’re referring to my ruthless side, then you haven’t tasted a fraction of it yet.” Yan smiled frostily, her classically beautiful features stunning and mesmerizing despite her chilly expression. “I could kill you in an instant with the contents of my travel sack, Sect Leader Sit.”

    “I’m sure you can,” Chung Nam drawled, “but you wouldn’t.”

    Responding with a challenging smile, Yan raised her eyebrow. “And why wouldn’t I, Sect Leader Sit?”

    Curling his lips ever so slightly, Chung Nam leaned forward so that his breath fanned across Yan’s face. “Because you find me darkly exciting like a forbidden fruit, and while you don’t like me, a part of you unconsciously wants a taste of that forbidden dark fruit. Am I correct?” He whispered in her ear. Before Yan could respond, he whispered again. “Don’t move, sweetheart.”

    Even before Yan could blink, Chung Nam reached for the fallen tree leaves scattered on the ground beside her and sent the nearly weightless leaves shooting through the air behind her. Suddenly, three men flipped out of the bushes and landed onto the ground, writing in pain as blood poured from their eye sockets, their eyeballs pierced by Chung Nam’s leaves. Swiveling around, Yan noticed the constable uniforms on the three injured men.

    “Constables?” Yan sent Chung Nam a questioning glance.

    Shrugging, Chung Nam looped Yan’s travel bundle across his chest. He then swung Yan up into his arms, mindful of her injured ankle, and started to walk away, ignoring the screams of the men on the ground a few feet away. “Yes, constables.” He answered nonchalantly. “I’m a bandit after all, so I’m not too popular with law enforcement. Let’s find somewhere else to rest for the night, my little fairy. I don’t wish to listen to these men scream all night.”

    As he walked by the constables, one of the men yelled blindly in Chung Nam’s direction. “Sit Chung Nam, even though we have failed to arrest you tonight, Brother Miu will find you! Brother Miu will arrest you and bring you to justice! He won’t fail us! He will capture you!”

    Chuckling arrogantly, Chung Nam continued walking past the constables without pausing. “Then I look forward to finally meeting the legendary Constable Miu!” With those words, Chung Nam streaked across the forest with Yan so swiftly that they vanished from sight in the blink of an eye.

    Behind, the three constables called out to the darkness, their frustration and anger evident. “Brother Miu! Brother Miu! You must bring this ruthless bandit to justice to avenge the deaths of so many innocents!”

  14. #34
    Senior Member H.Ge-C.Liu's Avatar
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    Oh yes! Action-packed indeed! The parts in the lead up to SCN's arrival in Ng Pao's chamber and his execution of the modified Blood Shadow Palm are exemplary. Who told me to be a wuxia fan? If only this was made into a drama....*slowly going off topic*

    The kiss is actually quite toned down, despite the wrong message I received from reading "You'll know which paragraph it is when you get to that part." Another interesting part I liked was when Black Rose pretended to be asleep when SCN finished cultivating his internal energy. (It seems to happen quite often in fanfics and dramas, where the practitioner's heightened senses can immediately tell if one person was really asleep or not.)

    Then comes the teasing SCN, who successfully exposed BR's pretense by threatening to kiss her. The few sentences describing that were quite humorous.

    Now, my favourite part-GeWa bromancing! I'm liking the way their 'relationship' starts off, as enemies. Mel, will you by any chance allow them to befriend each other after an epic fight scene? Although that still depends on the skill level you decide to make MJH's martial arts. Looking forward to the next chapter!
    Last edited by H.Ge-C.Liu; 01-05-12 at 01:40 AM.
    Biases: Hu Ge, Qiao Zhenyu, Liu Shi Shi
    Jiang Hu Fansubs - Recruiting members (especially translators).

  15. #35
    Senior Member Melanie's Avatar
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    I don't have time to respond to everyone right now, but thank you to H.Ge-C.Liu for the long comment! I also just found a long comment by another reader, Black Rose, at my winglin story site. I don't think she'll mind if I post her comment here, since I find it very entertaining and funny (esp the Hu Ge part and how she didn't "care much" for Wallace Chung before reading the story). I wonder how H.Ge-C.Liu will react to that. I'll be back to respond to the comments later!

    Posted by Black Rose at winglin

    OMG! Do you know that I check this site EVERY DAY and finally I find an update! I read it instantly and loved it! I LOVE YOU MELANIE! This chapter is not boring at all, even though you make it sound like it would be boring in your note at the beginning of the chapter! It has a nice blend of action and romance. If you take a step back and look at Sit Chung Nam's revenge on Ng Pao, it would seem rather harsh. But I cheered when Chung Nam stepped on Ng Pao's throat! There is something incredibly romantic about the way he is enraged that Ng Pao touched "his woman" and won't rest until he kills the bastard.
    *
    I thought the kissing scene WAS NOT HOT ENOUGH!!! From your warning at the beginning of the chapter, I was expecting some STEAMY stuff, but was quite disappointed at how tame the scene was. I know you tried to tone it down, but next time, I wouldn't mind some steamier stuff! I did love how Chung Nam whispered that he'll be Yan's man if she didn't want to be his woman. That was so sexy and sweet at the same time. I wish Wallace Chung/Sit Chung Nam would tell ME he would be my man. Wait! He DID tell me that since my screen name is Black Rose! LOL! I also thought it was incredibly sexy when Chung Nam shoved Yan up against the tree trunk. That was yummy! I was hoping he would not stop even though she asked him to. I know! I can't believe I'm saying that! I don't want him to be a rapist. I just want him to put more effort into persuading her to change her "NO" into a "YES". Am I being too unladylike for saying that? LOL.
    *
    *claps* I love the humor in this chapter! Chung Nam's threat to kiss Yan when he realized she was pretending to be asleep is priceless! I can just imagine that whole scene clearly! I LOVE IT! Despite all his arrogance and tendency to kill people, Chung Nam really has a romantic soul, at least toward Yan. The way he treats her after he decides to win not only her body but her heart is very touching. I'm very envious of Yan. I think you've set the bar for me when choosing a boyfriend, Melanie. I won't settle for anything less than a man like Sit Chung Nam (minus the killing tendency) - romantic, humorous, protective, handsome, macho in an appealing way.
    *
    Finally, nice ending to the chapter! This Constable Miu guy sounds intriguing! I've never been a fan of Hu Ge. I think he's a nice guy but not handsome enough in the way I like my guys. (Pardon me, Hu Ge fans.) I prefer the dark and dangerous sort like Wallace Chung/Sit Chung Nam while Hu Ge gives off a "friendly guy next door" vibe. Anyway, I wonder how you will play out this bandit-constable relationship. I didn't care much for Wallace Chung before reading your story, and now, look at me drooling over Wallace and his character! Maybe you'll convince me to love Hu Ge also!

  16. #36
    Senior Member H.Ge-C.Liu's Avatar
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    Like you, I find that quite humorous and entertaining! Especially the part where BlackRose says that she wished he wouldn't stop when she asked him to [scene: SCN had BR pressed to a tree], and the fact that the kiss "WAS NOT HOT ENOUGH" (Okay, I admit. A miniscule part of me thought it wasn't enough either).

    Mel, you can tell Black Rose she's pardoned. Yet I don't have any surprise (was it supposed to be anger?) left after reading her 3 comments above. He does actually give a next neighbour guy type of vibe. Everyone says that HG's quite a 'sunny guy'. Maybe because he hasn't played any totally evil characters before (Yuwen Tuo doesn't really count, I don't think).
    Biases: Hu Ge, Qiao Zhenyu, Liu Shi Shi
    Jiang Hu Fansubs - Recruiting members (especially translators).

  17. #37
    Senior Member Melanie's Avatar
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    Ok, I'm back to say more about the comments.

    First, I'm very touched by the warm reception for Chapter 7 from Black Rose an H.Ge-C.Liu. When I was writing this chapter and proofreading it, I thought it was very boring. I felt that there wasn't much action, as the entire chapter, aside from the Twin Demon Clan and Ng Pao parts, mainly consisted of relationship development between SCN and Black Rose. Therefore, I thought it was rather slow in pace, unless you love romantic scenes in a story. I decided to sacrifice action for romance in Chapter 7 because I felt it was important to show how Black Rose was slowly developing feelings for her kidnapper. As we all know from the Prologue, she will eventually give SCN two children and she will do so willingly. Therefore, I need to set the scene for that. I'm sure you're all thinking this already, but Black Rose has a bit of Stockholm Syndrome, where the abductee identifies and sympathizes with the abductor. SCN literally dragged her from the Forest of Shifting Echoes and imprisoned her in a room at Floating Cloud Summit. She couldn't stand his arrogance initially and was definitely not too fond of him. But as she spent more time with him, he became more human to her. SCN's kindness and sincerity towards her were welcoming and comforting, considering that Kuk Wai had just slept with her elder sister, hence betraying her (even if his betrayal was a setup). Ironically, SCN became her hero in her time of emotional need. Naturally, SCN's handsomeness made him easier to like, but Black Rose really started falling for him in the cave when he told her he would rather risk not recovering from the dagger's poison than risk her safety by having her suck the poison from his shoulder wound. It was then that she thought, "Hey, maybe this guy isn't that bad after all." And it was then that she realized that she CAN love again after Kuk Wai's betrayal.

    SCN's humorous side just sort of developed a life of its own, and now it's spiraling out of control (which is not necessarily a bad thing since most readers like it). I think SCN has the POTENTIAL to be a good person, but he simply grew up with bad influences. Old habits die hard and he is too set in his character and ways to change. Hence, there will always be a dominant part of him that is arrogant, overbearing, ruthless, and self-serving. But that doesn't mean Black Rose can't bring out the good side of him with her love. Love can absolutely change SCN, if not a lot, then a little. As Black Rose (the reader) has already pointed out, SCN has a romantic soul all along. It was just buried underneath a ruthless, tyrannical personality out of need to control a band of misfits, thieves, and murderers. Now with Yan's appearance, that romantic soul within SCN is awakening. Ah, the beauty of true love... If Prince Charming can bring Snow White back from the dead with true love's kiss, then Black Rose can awaken the good in SCN with her kisses, too.

    Ok, it looks like I worried too much about inappropriate content since it looks like SCN's kiss "WAS NOT HOT ENOUGH." So maybe next time, I'll have SCN do a strip tease and seduce Black Rose. That steamy enough for you gals?

    Black Rose's (the reader) comment about Hu Ge was funny, because I felt the same way about Hu Ge in the past. I thought he was a nice guy, but I never visited his thread until I found out how goofy he was. He has amazing chemistry with Wallace Chung. It's as if they feed off each other's statements, and as their conversation continues, they become quirkier and funnier. Because of that, Hu Ge has won himself a spot in my story. To answer H.Ge-C.Liu's question, Constable Miu will have very good martial arts skills. He's a renowned constable who never fails an assignment to arrest various nefarious individuals. The nature of their occupations won't allow SCN and MJH to be friends, but like I mentioned in a previous post, the two will eventually develop a grudging respect for each other. And yes, they will have a big fight in the next chapter when Constable Miu makes his debut appearance.

    Next update will be on Legendary Book, in case readers who prefer the original story are wondering.

  18. #38
    Senior Member Melanie's Avatar
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    Here's a Wallace Chung-SFF MV for tweety! I think SFF looks absolutely gorgeous and is the epitome of feminine elegance in the clip where she's playing the harp.

    http://www.tudou.com/programs/view/6glfCq6c5H8/

  19. #39
    Senior Member Melanie's Avatar
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    These people below want to get me banned from spcnet... What wound SCN say? He would be shocked at what you ladies want him to do.

    From winglin:

    Black Rose -- 5 January 2012 at 8:43 p.m.

    LOL! Mimi is being too prim and proper! I don't care about Sit Chung Nam showing Black Rose any respect! I wanted him to keep going! More kissy kissy kissy!
    AND WHAT?! What is Tweety saying??? There's ANOTHER version of this kiss floating around out there? Where can I read the uncensored version of the kiss scene?????????

    tweety -- 5 January 2012 at 9:55 p.m.

    @ Black Rose - yes, Mel is holding out on us readers. She told me she had originally wrote a much steamier kiss scene, but she was worried it was too racy for us readers, so she toned it down. Why she would think this, I have no clue. Based on our shameless comments, I assumed it is quite obvious that we want her to spice things up between the lovebirds. Alas, we now have this watered down kiss that she falsely advertised as "hot kissing scene".
    *
    @ Mel - I repeat: how do I get my little hands on the unedited version of the kiss scene? =)



    Tweety and Black Rose - I only reposted your comments here because I found them highly amusing and I want to share funny comments. I nearly choked on my water when I read the comments. Thanks for making me laugh so hard.

  20. #40
    Senior Member Melanie's Avatar
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    I know I said I would update Legendary Book next, but somehow, I ended up completing Chapter 8 for this story first. I'm two-thirds of the way done with the next chapter for Legendary Book. Next update will definitely be on the other story in a few days. Thanks for reading, everyone!


    CHAPTER 8 --- STRANGER IN THE BAMBOO HAT

    Characters appearing in this chapter:
    Wallace Chung Hon Leung---Sit Chung Nam 薛钟南
    Sun Fei Fei---Fa Heung Yan a.k.a. Black Rose 花香燕
    Hu Ge---Miu Jing Hung 苗靖雄

    MIDNIGHT
    NORTH STAR TOWN
    CHERRY BLOSSOM INN

    The quaint Cherry Blossom Inn in the small town of North Star sat proudly in its coveted location at the center of the market square, where travelers must pass through to reach the larger surrounding towns and villages. As the only inn in the town of North Star, Cherry Blossom Inn, named after the town’s breathtakingly beautiful cherry blossoms which flourish during the spring, was still bustling with activity even at the late hour of midnight. Inn guests crowded the inn’s downstairs diner, occupying every table, some hungrily devouring their simple meal of pork buns and noodles, while others leisurely sipped wine or tea.

    Finished with his meal, a heavyset man with a ruddy complexion signaled for the innkeeper. As the elderly innkeeper rushed over, the heavyset man dropped a few gold coins into the innkeeper’s hand as payment for his meal. As he stood up from his seat, the man heard the inn’s double doors swinging open. Curiously turning toward the commotion to see who the new inn guests were, the heavyset man nearly dropped back down into his seat, his mouth hanging open as his eyes quickly dismissed the male newcomer and instead rested on the heavenly vision in the newcomer’s arms.

    The newcomer entered, his stern features aristocratic, his carriage proud and commanding. Yet, despite this man’s authoritative presence, all attention seemed to be directed at the young maiden in his arms. So beautiful was she that even the few women seated at the tables could not help but stare at her. Possessing the face of an angel, the maiden appeared delicate and demure, yet she boldly stared back at the men gawking at her with her stunning deep blue eyes. As if used to the attention, she sighed and then turned away after a few seconds, giving her full attention to the elderly innkeeper who was rushing over to greet the new customers. Unlike the young maiden who had already dismissed the ogling men, her tall companion glowered at the male guests, his chilly look so threatening and violent that the other men quickly glanced away.

    Satisfied that he had scared off the other male inn guests, Sit Chung Nam grunted under his breath, still mildly annoyed. Turning to the breathless innkeeper, he stated, “We need one room for tonight.”

    “Two rooms,” Yan corrected Chung Nam, throwing him a chastising look.

    His earlier scowl disappearing at Yan’s reprimanding expression, Chung Nam grinned at his little fairy. “One room,” he repeated to the innkeeper while smiling teasingly at Yan, discovering that he immensely enjoyed provoking her.

    Initially apprehensive of the tall man’s stern coldness, the elderly innkeeper could not help but gape at the man’s sudden transformation as he winked charmingly at the maiden in his arms. Flabbergasted, the innkeeper stuttered a bit before regaining his composure.

    “I’m sorry, Young Master and Miss.” The innkeeper began apologetically. “We unfortunately have no vacancies this evening.” Spreading his arms apart, he gestured at the diner packed with guests. “As you can see, we are overflowing with guests.”

    “No available rooms?” Chung Nam’s charming grin disappeared as he narrowed his eyes at the innkeeper, who fidgeted nervously under his glare.

    “I...I apologize, Young Master.” The innkeeper gulped, his eyes darting anxiously around as Chung Nam’s icy stare sent shivers down his spine.

    As Chung Nam took a threatening step forward, Yan placed a restraining hand on his arm. “Sect Leader Sit...” Yan shook her head warningly. “Let’s just go find another inn.”

    Pressing his lips together, Chung Nam kept his temper in check out of consideration for Yan. “Fine,” he muttered. “Where is the nearest inn from here?” He asked the elderly man.

    “Umm...” The innkeeper began to stutter again, knowing what he was going to say next will anger the man. “Cherry Blossom Inn is the only inn in town, Young Master.”

    “What?” Chung Nam asked through clenched teeth. “Do you not see that she is injured?” He jerked his head toward Yan’s swollen ankle. “She needs a place to rest for the night. If you don’t have any rooms left, then ask one of the other patrons to leave.” He commanded the innkeeper briskly.

    The innkeeper backed away reflexively, his legs quivering. “Well, I... Well...”

    Before the elderly man could faint from fear, a tall young man wearing a bamboo hat sitting at the far end of the diner spoke, his voice, although quiet and low, carried clearly over the other diners’ chattering voices. “They can have my room.”

    After generously offering his room, the man grabbed his sword and swung his travel sack over his shoulder. Standing up, he adjusted his bamboo hat low over his eyes. Calmly, he walked toward the inn’s double doors. As he passed Chung Nam, he paused for the slightest second, and then he continued on his way out the inn.

    Narrowing his eyes suspiciously at the man wearing the bamboo hat, Chung Nam watched the man’s back as he passed by. Though the man appeared unfamiliar to him, his posture and the way he moved identify him as a formidable martial artist. Feeling an inexplicable sense of foreboding when the stranger had walked past him, Chung Nam swung Yan down so that her feet touched the ground. Keeping an arm firmly around her waist to support her against him, he reached into this gown pocket with his free hand and retrieved a gold ingot.

    “Brother, thank you for giving us your inn room!” Chung Nam called out to the stranger. “Please accept this ingot as a token of our gratitude.”

    Swiftly, without waiting for the man in the bamboo hat to respond, Chung Nam flicked the gold ingot across the room toward the stranger. As the gold piece shot through the air, the stranger swiveled around and snapped the ingot between his fingers.

    “No need to thank me.” The man replied calmly. “I was leaving anyway.” As he spoke, he flicked his fingers and sent the gold ingot spiraling in the air back toward Chung Nam.

    Smiling faintly though his eyes remained sharp and cold, Chung Nam swept his palm forward, delivering a blast of internal energy toward the ingot, launching it back toward the other man. In response, the stranger also moved his palm forward, thus trapping the gold ingot between his and Chung Nam’s opposing energy fields. Unable to withstand the tremendous force of the clashing energy fields, dishes on the tables began to quiver and then shattered violently, sending shards of ceramic and glass slicing through the air like sharp projectiles.

    In the background, the elderly innkeeper gnashed his teeth anxiously and flailed his arms wildly around. “Please! Please, Young Masters! Please stop! You’re scaring off my customers!”

    Even as the innkeeper fretted, chaos erupted as guests scrambled over each other, trying to hide from the shards of glass. Ignoring the screaming crowd in the background, the two men continued to focus on their battle of internal energy. Sandwiched between the two men’s opposing forces, the ingot quickly disintegrated into a cloud of gold dust, ballooning out like sparkling fairy powder.

    “How ungracious of you not to accept my token of gratitude, Brother.” Chung Nam smirked. “In that case, may I have the honor of knowing your name so that I may thank you should our paths cross in the future?” As Chung Nam asked this question, he punched forward with his palm, sending forth an invisible wave of energy that forced the man in the bamboo hat back two steps.

    As the stranger steadied himself, he twisted into the air, and unsheathing his sword, he used the blade to slice off beads from the beaded curtain hanging from the inn’s doorway. Catching the raining beads perfectly onto the belly of his blade, he flicked his weapon, propelling the beads toward Chung Nam. As the colorful curtain of beads flew toward him and Yan, Chung Nam tightened his arm around Yan’s waist and set her behind him out of harm’s way. Clasping his hands together, he unsheathed his shadowless swords. With a quick twirl of his energy swords, he sliced through the curtain of beads, causing the beads to crash to the floor.

    “Catching Ten-Thousand Raindrops on a Single Blade!” Chung Nam smirked, narrowing his eyes as he recognized the stance belonging to the renowned Dancing Blade technique unique to only one person in the martial arts world...

    In the background, the innkeeper ducked under a table to hide from the cascade of beads. “Oh, heavens!” He cried. “My poor expensive beaded curtain!” Even as those words left his mouth, the innkeeper gasped as his eyes darted toward Chung Nam, realizing what his guest was about to do. “Oh, no! Don’t break my furniture!” He panicked and gnashed his teeth harder.

    As the elderly innkeeper’s forehead wrinkled in disbelief and distress, Chung Nam somersaulted rapidly upward and landed near a table with a pair of wooden stools. With a flying kick, he sent the table reeling through the air, his execution of the kick with just enough strength to send the table flying and yet kept the teapot and two ceramic teacups on the tabletop undisturbed. Simultaneously, he thrust his palms forward, his palm energy lifting the two stools and propelling them through the air behind the table. As the table and the two stools landed in perfect unison in front of the stranger wearing the bamboo hat, Chung Nam flipped forward and landed effortlessly onto one of the stools.

    “Please have a seat, Brother.” Chung Nam gestured to the empty stool across the table from him. Calmly reaching over to the undisturbed teapot brimming with hot liquid, he poured two cups of tea. “If you won’t accept my gold ingot as a token of gratitude, then at least have a cup of tea with me.”

    “No, thank you.” The man in the bamboo hat replied, his tone just as cool as Chung Nam’s. “I have other matters to attend to.”

    “No?” Chung Nam’s tone chilled slightly by a few degrees, although his eyes remained calm and deceivingly amicable. “What if I insist?”

    Without waiting for a response from the other man, Chung Nam flicked his hand holding the teacup subtly, the action so swift that his hand barely moved, yet he was able to fling the teacup across the room toward the stranger without spilling a single drop of liquid. Chung Nam’s action forced the stranger to reach forward to pluck the cup from the air or risk having burning hot tea spill onto him. Quickly, Chung Nam kicked at the spare wooden stool, sending it flying at the other man.

    In response, the man in the bamboo hat twisted around and kicked back at the stool. As the stool skidded across the room back toward where Chung Nam was seated by the table, the man somersaulted twice and landed perfectly onto the stool, his cup of tea still in his hand. Smiling frostily at Chung Nam, the stranger kept the brim of his bamboo hat low over his eyes, shielding the expression in his eyes.

    Bringing the cup of tea slowly to his lips, the stranger sipped once, then twice. “Thank you for the tea.” Firmly, he set the tea cup back onto the table.

    Applauding, Chung Nam curled the corners of his lips as he remarked with grudging respect. “Excellent reflexes. Not many people are able to pluck a spinning teacup from the air and keep its liquid contents undisturbed.”

    “You are too complimentary of my skills, Brother. I am just a common man and my skills are far below yours.” The man in the bamboo hat answered modestly.

    “Really?” Chung Nam raised his eyebrow speculatively. Even though he already suspected the identity of the stranger based on the man’s display of martial arts skills earlier, Chung Nam decided to feign ignorance. “How would you know that your skills are far below mine? Do you know who I am, Brother?”

    “Why wouldn’t I know who you are, Brother?” The stranger replied cryptically. “Your fame, or should I say your notoriety, precedes you.”

    Chuckling, Chung Nam cocked his head slightly. “Then I am at a disadvantage, since you know who I am and yet I still do not know who you are.” Narrowing his eyes suspiciously at the man, Chung Nam suggested, “Perhaps you should remove your hat so that we can introduce ourselves properly?”

    “There is no need to remove my hat.” The man replied calmly.

    “And why not?” Chung Nam smirked. “Are you brave enough to track me but too cowardly to reveal your face when you finally encounter the prey, Constable Miu?”

    Smiling coolly, the man turned slightly toward Chung Nam at his taunting words. “Since you already know my identity and why I have come, then removing my hat is a moot point. Besides, I have no need to reveal my face to you, Sect Leader Sit, because I don’t believe in showing my face to a dead man. My orders are to capture you at all costs and bring you in, dead or alive.”

    At the constable’s bold words, Chung Nam threw his head back and laughed uproariously. “Very arrogant and daring words, Constable Miu! If you are so confident that you can bring me to justice, then why attempt to leave just a few moments ago?”

    “Because I do not want to risk injuring a room full of innocent bystanders.” Miu Jing Hung explained.

    “How very heroic of you.” Chung Nam’s voice dripped with contempt and mockery. “I despise heroes. However, since you have graciously given up your room tonight so that my little fairy can rest,” he stated, his eyes drifting toward Yan, who stood in the background, “I will agree to a temporary truce tonight to spare the innocent bystanders.”

    Nodding, Miu Jing Hung stood up and adjusted his bamboo hat low over his eyes. Without further words, he headed toward the inn’s entrance. As he disappeared out the door, his silhouette quickly blended into the night as he leapt into the air and somersaulted out of sight. “We will meet again, Sect Leader Sit, when there are less innocent bystanders around.” His voice echoed back. “When we do, be prepared to surrender to the law or die.”

    Unconcerned about Miu Jing Hung’s warning, Chung Nam sneered. Immediately dismissing the constable from his mind, he walked back to Yan, who had been observing the encounter between Chung Nam and Miu Jing Hung with wide eyes.

    Smiling at her, he lifted her into his arms. “Shall we retire for the evening, sweetheart?”

    Shaken out of her reverie, Yan stared up at Chung Nam blankly at first before his words registered on her mind. Blushing furiously, she peeked at the innkeeper to see if he had overheard Chung Nam’s words and their hidden meaning.

    Laughing at Yan’s embarrassed flush, Chung Nam slapped five gold ingots onto the table under which the fretful innkeeper was huddled. “This should more than adequately cover the cost for the damages I have caused tonight and for one night’s room fare. Now where is my room?”

    Lured by the gold ingots, the innkeeper swiftly crawled out from under the table. Focusing in on the gold pieces shining brightly on the table, he nearly salivated. Pasting on a cheerful grin and clasping his hands together gleefully, the old man turned toward Chung Nam, already forgetting his earlier anxiety and irritation at having his diner destroyed. “Of course, Young Master! You and your young maiden must be tired! Let me take you to your room!”

    As the innkeeper led the couple upstairs to the second floor, a slender young man with surprisingly feminine features observed Chung Nam and Yan closely from the far end of the diner. He absentmindedly brushed at the dried bread crumbs which had spilled onto his gown front moments earlier during the mayhem of flying dishes and panicked diners. As the other inn guests around him stared at Chung Nam with fear, the young man observed the bandit leader and his maiden with open curiosity. Flipping open his fan, he fanned himself, a bemused expression on his face, as he watched the couple ascend the stairs with the innkeeper leading the way...

    CHERRY BLOSSOM INN
    SECOND FLOOR

    Up on the second story, the innkeeper turned left down the hallway and flung open the door to the first room on the left, revealing a modest-sized room overlooking a magnificent lake. “This is one of our best rooms! It has a beautiful view of the lake. The room also has been newly refurbished. The bed is solid mahogany wood with satin sheets, guaranteed to feel so smooth against your skin that you’ll sleep very soundly.” The innkeeper touted proudly while Chung Nam gently deposited Yan onto the only bed in the room. Turning toward Chung Nam, the elderly man opened his mouth again, intending to babble on and on about the merits of the room.

    However, Chung Nam interrupted him curtly. “Fine. Thank you for the lovely room. We would like to rest now.” With his gaze boring into the elderly man, Chung Nam made his wish for the innkeeper to leave very clearly.

    “Umm... Yes, of course!” The innkeeper stuttered, surprised at his guest’s abruptness. Scurrying to the doorway, he stepped over the threshold and turned around to say one more thing. “Do not hesitate to call for me if you need anything, Young Master.” He added, eager to please a wealthy guest and hoping to gain more gold ingots for his efforts at hospitality.

    “Fine, I will call for you if I need anything.” Chung Nam cut him off rudely. Before the elderly innkeeper can say anything further, Chung Nam stuffed a gold ingot into the old man’s hand and then promptly slammed the door in his face. “Old man talks too much...” He muttered irately to himself.

    “Well, that was rather churlish of you.” Yan remarked from the bed.

    Turning toward Yan, Chung Nam raised an eyebrow and drawled. “I’m a churlish man.”

    “I have no doubt that you are.” Yan sniffed elegantly. Then, recalling the stranger in the bamboo hat who had given up his inn room, she asked curiously, “Do you know the man downstairs in the bamboo hat?”

    “No, I don’t know him, but I have heard of him.” Chung Nam walked over to Yan and sat down onto the bed next to her. Out of habit, he reached over and slid his fingers through her silky tresses.

    Swatting his hand away, Yan questioned him impatiently. “Well, who is he then? I heard you refer to him as a constable.”

    Undeterred, Chung Nam immediately reached forward and started to play with Yan’s hair again. “He’s Imperial Constable Miu Jing Hung.” Chung Nam smirked.

    “The legendary Miu Jing Hun?” Yan’s eyes widened at the name, forgetting to swat at Chung Nam’s hand. “His Majesty’s top Imperial Constable Miu Jing Hung? The constable who has thus far managed to capture and bring to justice all criminals he has ever chased after?”

    At her awed tone toward Miu Jing Hung, Chung Nam stopped running his fingers through Yan’s hair and scowled, feeling the ugly fangs of jealousy hissing. “Well, with all the accolades you have just piled onto this man, you might as well run off and marry the saint.”

    When Yan ignored him, her expression still thoughtful over Miu Jing Hung’s appearance, Chung Nam frowned fiercely. A confident man, he had never been envious of anyone before, and yet at this very moment, he envied Miu Jing Hung, a stranger he had barely met. With the unfamiliar bitter taste of jealousy lingering in his mouth and fueling his anger, Chung Nam suddenly lunged forward and jerked Yan into his arms.

    Surprised, she struggled against him. “What are you doing?!”

    The more Yan strained against him and shoved at his chest, the more he tightened his hold around her. Keeping her plastered against him, Chung Nam scowled. “You’re my woman. I don’t like it when my woman is interested in another man. I won’t allow it!” He gritted his teeth angrily.

    Wiggling one hand free, Yan pounded at Chung Nam’s chest. “Let go! I’m not your woman! How many times do I have to tell you that, you hardheaded ape?!”

    Incensed at her words, he swooped down and pressed his lips firmly against hers, his common sense clouded by jealousy. Her muffled objections only encouraged him to press her body more securely against his. Tilting his head slightly, he deepened the kiss, ignoring her squeals. When he attempted to force her mouth open with his tongue, she chomped down on his lower lip, drawing blood.

    Grunting from the pain, he lifted his head and stared at her with an amused expression. Licking the blood from the cut on his lip, he panted heavily from arousal. “Yes, you are indeed my woman.” He remarked with a quiet chuckle. “You’re feisty, just the way I like it.”

    Panting just as heavily as Chung Nam, but from exertion rather than from arousal, Yan threatened, “You like feistiness, huh? Well, I’ll show you how feisty I can be the next time you try to kiss me!”

    Narrowing his eyes at the challenge, Chung Nam smiled slowly, his less-than-gentlemanly intent clearly reflected in his eyes. “I don’t scare easily, sweetheart.” Without further words, he brought his lips down on hers again. To control her, he cupped the back of her head with one hand to keep her from turning away from him, while his other arm locked around her back like an iron vise.

    As Yan continued to strain against him, Chung Nam twisted his body and nailed her to the bed, keeping her trapped underneath him with his superior strength. Furious at him, Yan bit his lower lip again, causing him to pause long enough to allow her a chance to jerk her head away. Undeterred, Chung Nam cupped one palm over Yan’s cheek and roughly turned her face back toward him.

    With his eyes boring into hers, he demanded, “Say you’re my woman.”

    “No,” Yan pursed her lips together stubbornly.

    At her defiant answer, he leaned down and kissed her roughly, possessively, while she squealed indignantly and hammered at his shoulders. Ignoring her pummeling, Chung Nam sucked aggressively at her lower lip. Then after a long moment, he finally lifted his head and stared down at her intently again.

    “Say you’re my woman.” He commanded, determined to make her admit she belonged to him.

    “No!” Yan stared up at her captor mutinously.

    Narrowing his eyes at her blatant stubbornness, he swooped down and kissed her again. Then, as before, he lifted his head and ordered, “Say it! Say you belong to me only! If you refuse to say it, I’ll just keeping kissing you until you do!” He threatened her, his eyes brimming with fury, irrationally needing to assert his claim on her.

    Rebellious, she punched him in the shoulder, her ineffectual shove not even budging him one inch. “No, I will say no such thing! You are the most overbearing, insufferable ape I have ever had the misfortune of meeting!” Outraged, she jabbed at his chest again, even knowing that her whacks were not strong enough to hurt him. “To think that I was actually worried that you might be captured by Miu Jing Hung!”

    Just as he was about to lean down and deliver another punishing kiss, Chung Nam froze as Yan’s last statement registered on his mind. “You were worried about my safety?” He asked, awed as overwhelming joy replaced his jealous rage. Grinning boyishly, Chung Nam easily rolled over on the bed, so that his weight was no longer crushing down onto Yan. Hugging her tightly, he firmly yet gently trapped her flailing arms between their bodies. “You were worried about me....” He repeated to himself, still ecstatic and reeling from the revelation.

    Yan’s forceful whack on Chung Nam’s chest interrupted his thoughts. “Yes, I was actually concerned that you might be arrested by Miu Jing Hung when you told me who the constable downstairs was.” Delivering another jab at Chung Nam, she scowled, “I should not have wasted a single thought on you, you ungrateful ape!”

    His grin widening, Chung Nam rolled over, positioning Yan underneath him again but making sure he supported his own weight on his forearms. “You care about me.” He stated simply as he gazed at her, his eyes shining with a radiance that had been absent for over twenty years since his father’s death and his mother’s abandonment. Leaning down, he nuzzled the side of Yan’s neck, but she pushed him away, still miffed.

    “I’m sorry I acted like an overbearing, insufferable, ungrateful ape, Yan Yan.” His lips twisted wryly at her earlier description of him. “I was just...jealous.” He frowned at himself, uncomfortable and dismayed at the unfamiliar feeling. When she continued to keep her face turned away from him, her expression peeved, he nestled his face against the side of her neck, coaxing her. “Don’t be angry at me anymore, Yan Yan.”

    Slightly mollified after his apology and confession of jealousy, Yan nonetheless shoved him away from her and wiggled out from under him. “I want to rest now.” She declared coolly as she rolled over onto her side, turning her back on him. When he tried to hug her from behind, she shrugged him off. Turning around, she gave him a dirty look. “Hmph! I won’t share a bed with you! If you’re going to stay on the bed, then I’ll sleep somewhere else.”

    Yan climbed off the bed and hobbled a few steps, prepared to sleep in the alleyway outside the inn rather than share the bed with Chung Nam. However, before she was able to go far, Chung Nam plucked her off the floor and carried her back to bed.

    “Hey! What are you doing? Put me down!” She protested, obviously piqued at him. “Sit Chung Nam, I won’t share a bed with you! If you try to force me, I’ll bite you again!” To emphasize her words, she whacked him a few times on the shoulder.

    Disregarding her angry jabs at him, Chung Nam deposited Yan carefully onto the bed. When she opened her mouth to scream at him, he leaned down and quieted her with a quick kiss, surprising her into silence momentarily. “Shhh!” He hushed her, amused at her transient look of shock and confusion at being kissed. “Do you want to wake up the entire inn?” Before she could respond, he pushed her down onto the bed and covered her up with a blanket.

    Initially prepared to fight him to her last breath if he attempted to jump into bed with her, Yan paused when she realized that Chung Nam was blowing out the candle flame on the bedside table and was already starting to settle himself onto the floor next to the bed. Slightly puzzled, she sat up slowly and looked down at him as he lay down onto the cold stone floor.

    “What are you doing?” Yan blinked at the bandit leader, unsure if he was trying to trick her into letting her guard down.

    “I’m retiring for the night.” Chung Nam answered simply.

    “You’re going to sleep on the floor?” Yan blinked again at the sudden turn of events.

    “Well, there’s only one bed and you’ve already claimed it for the night. Unless...you want to share the bed with me?” His eyes twinkled mischievously as he winked at Yan.

    Offended at his suggestion, Yan huffed and plopped back down onto her back, pulling the blanket all the way over her head. Once under the blanket, she hesitated, waiting for Chung Nam to speak. However, the seconds ticked by and still he remained silent. Curious, she lifted the corner of her blanket and peeked out. When she heard only Chung Nam’s even breathing, she propped herself up on her elbows and peered over the edge of the bed to find him lying flat on his back on the stone floor. His lack of blanket or pillow did not appear to bother him as he breathed deeply, already fast asleep.

    “Hey! Hey!” Yan whispered at Chung Nam. However, he remained in deep slumber. Pouting slightly, she leaned further over the edge of the bed and poked lightly at Chung Nam’s chest. “Hey, Sit Chung Nam! Hey! I can’t fall asleep!”

    When Chung Nam continued to breathe evenly, oblivious to her poking, Yan puffed out her cheeks in frustration. Slightly envious and somewhat annoyed that he was able to fall asleep so quickly, Yan huffed softly and glared at his sleeping form. After a long moment, she finally shifted back onto her pillow and wrapped her blanket securely around herself. A frosty chill snaked in through the crack between the window shutters, causing Yan to shiver and draw the blankets more tightly around her shoulders.

    Closing her eyes, she tried to fall asleep. However, the persistent icy gust of wind from the lake outside kept her awake. Frowning, her thoughts drifted to Chung Nam, who was sleeping on the frigid stone floor. Her frown deepened as she wondered if he was cold. Even with the blanket and the warm bedsheets, she can still feel the nippy air. He must be freezing without a blanket or bed. Feeling a little guilty that he was probably chilled to the bone while she was toasty under the blanket, Yan started to lean over the edge of the bed again to check on Chung Nam. However, she stopped as a wave of indignation washed over her. Why should she care whether he was cold, she thought peevishly to herself. He was an insufferable ape and she shouldn’t feel any concern for him!

    Resolutely, Yan yanked the blanket over her head and hid under the covers, determined to dismiss Chung Nam from her mind. Closing her eyes, she again tried to fall asleep. Unfortunately, the harder she tried to ignore Chung Nam, the more her thoughts drifted toward the man lying on the floor next to her bed. Finally, after several minutes, she sighed and whipped the blanket off. Leaning over the edge of the bed, Yan dumped her blanket unceremoniously onto the slumbering Chung Nam, who continued to breathe evenly, seemingly unaware of Yan’s actions. Lying back down onto the bed, she curled into a ball, hugging her travel sack tightly to her chest for warmth. Her eyes fluttered close soon thereafter and gradually she drifted off to sleep.

    Below her on the floor, Chung Nam’s eyes opened as he glanced at the blanket covering his body. Slowly, his lips curled into a smile as his eyes drifted toward his sweet angel slumbering on the bed. Rising slowly to avoid disturbing Yan, he gently placed the blanket over her sleeping form, tucking the corners in securely.

    About to lie back down onto the floor, he suddenly paused, his instincts alerting him to something amiss. Too quiet... The inn was suddenly too quiet, so quiet that the silence was almost like a throbbing wall of pressure pressing down. Gone was the clamor of voices of the guests in the diner downstairs. Deliberately, he settled down onto the floor, closing his eyes, feigning sleep. In the background, he heard cautious footsteps outside the chamber. Slowly, the door creaked open and a shadow appeared stealthily behind the small crack. With swift reflexes, Chung Nam suddenly sat up and grabbed a teacup from the bedside table. Slamming the cup against the edge of the table, he shattered it, and using one of the ceramic shards, he flung it toward the doorway like a projectile. Backed by Chung Nam’s internal energy, the ceramic shard easily pierced through the thick wood of the door with lightening speed. The shadow outside the doorway screeched in agony as the ceramic shard embedded into the intruder’s neck. As the man’s carotid artery ruptured, a spray of blood splattered against the wooden door.

    Alarmed, Yan jerked awake and sat up in bed. “What’s going on?!”

    “Shh!” Chung Nam placed his finger against her lips. Listening closely, he shifted his attention to the roof right above their chamber as he detected light footsteps darting expertly across the roof tiles. Hunching downward, Chung Nam instructed, “Quickly! Climb onto my back!”

    Without questioning him, Yan looped her travel sack across her shoulders and swiftly climbed onto Chung Nam’s back, wrapping her arms around his shoulders tightly. At that moment, the roof suddenly crashed down onto them as ten men dressed in black descended upon them...

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