Results 1 to 3 of 3

Thread: Rescuing the Republic

  1. #1
    Senior Member Mandred Skavenslayer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Posts
    817

    Default Heroes of the Last Dynasty

    Rescuing the Republic




    Yat-sen staggered as he was shoved forward, the blindfold and ropes adding to his discomfort. Roughly he was forced into a chair and the binds around his wrists loosened, but his relief was short-lived as his limbs were soon retied to the chair. Suddenly his queue was painfully yanked forcing his head back and a voice in Mandarin whispered into his ear:


    “Did you really think you could so easily escape the justice of the Son of Heaven? Your death will serve as a warning to all traitors to his Majesty.”

    Barely had the man finished speaking then another voice was heard, further away and in English:

    “Get away from him.”

    The man let go of Yat-sen and replied in heavily accent English:

    “This traitor deserves the death of a thousand cuts.”

    “Maybe so, but before you hand over the promised gold he is my merchandise and I will not suffer anyone damaging my goods.”

    There was a long pause then footsteps could be heard walking away. Yat-sen strained his ears to try to catch any other sounds, but all he could hear were the gradually fading steps of his kidnappers until they too disappeared and he was left alone with his mounting fears.

    ####

    Bill watched the passengers disembark from the ship, marvelling at how diverse they were. It seemed that every nation on earth was represented. He could see an Arab family talking to a dock worker, trying unsuccessfully to ask for directions, while a group of American men, talking in their colonial accents flirted with a pair of French ladies. Hundreds of voices in as many languages talked amongst the pier and Bill was fascinated by it all.

    He saw a group of three people walking towards his carriage. Two of them were Chinamen with the front of their heads shaved and the back tied back into tight ponytails. They wore the long robes that were native to their people and were steadily moving through the crowd. One of them had a pair of spectacles and was bucktoothed giving of a very comical appearance, but the other one had a boyishly handsome face. Both looked to be in the late twenties and were flanking a woman as they made their to his carriage.

    At first Bill thought the woman was a European as she wore western travelling clothes, but as she drew closer he saw that she was also Chinese and very pretty. With porcelain white skin and large doe like eyes she would have attracted the gaze of any red-blooded man. As the trio reached the carriage the woman spoke:

    “Please take us to the train station”

    Bill was shocked, not only had she spoken English but her accent was as posh as a noble. His surprise must have shown in his face for the woman's lips curled into a tiny smile which made her look all the lovelier. Snapping out of his trance Bill replied:

    “Of course ma’am, please come abroad.”

    As his passengers loaded their luggage Bill smiled to himself, amused at how surprising life could be.

    ####

    Fei-hung sat down to tea and dim sim with Siu-kwan's father. The selection of food was rather limited due to the difficulty of obtaining the ingredients, but he was glad to have some of his native dishes after so many weeks of travelling. He and Siu-kwan had made the journey from China to Britain in order to ask Mok Xing for his permission to wed, but his future father-in-law's revelation had driven all thoughts of marriage from his mind:

    “Doctor Sun has been kidnapped?” asked Fei-hung

    “Yes about a week ago.” replied Mok Xing

    “Have you told the police?” asked Siu-kwan

    “We don't dare. The kidnappers just want money. Me and some of the other Chinese merchants have already raised the ransom.”

    “But can we trust the kidnappers to keep their word?” asked Fei-hung

    “We have no choice. Doctor Sun is to important to the rebellion to risk.”

    For a moment everyone was silent then Fei-hung turned to Mok Xing:

    “When is the exchange to take place?”

    “Tomorrow night, we will get the location tonight.”

    “How?”

    “The kidnappers will pass them to me at a dinner party I am attending.”

    “Then we must go with you.” declared Siu-kwan in a voice that left no room for argument.

    Mok Xing smiled at his daughter, truly he had missed her boldness.

    “Should I come as well Shifu?” asked Ah So.

    “Best not, to many people might complicate things.” replied Fei-hung to his bucktoothed apprentice.

    With the matter settled the rest of the afternoon was spent preparing for the upcoming party.

    ####

    Arthur was really enjoying himself. The man he was fighting certainly deserved his reputation was a prized fighter. Strong, fast and skilled the ugly former warehouse worker fought as if born knowing the craft. Yet as good as the man was Arthur could have beaten him in the first round, but had allowed the fight to go on for three rings of the bells as entertainment for the audience and his own amusement.

    He spared a glance at the spectators. They were all of the new wealthy middling class, men and women who had made their money through trade and industry. Arthur knew that these people viewed him like some kind of exotic animal, a member of the old aristocracy fighting for their pleasure. Although in his heart he knew that the future belonged to their kind, that didn't mean that he had to like it.

    His opponent had retreated to a safe distance having just received a series of power punches to the torso and Arthur took the opportunity to reminisce on his past. Born to the noble Bourchier family he had enjoyed a privileged upbringing in the best military schools of the country where he had excelled in all forms of combat. However his father had lost the dwindling family fortune on a series of bad investments in the Australian colonies, resulting in his death and Arthur's destitution.

    At the age of eighteen Arthur found himself alone in the world and so turned to his sole talent, hurting people. He soon built up a name for himself amongst the illegal bare-knuckle fighters and before long had come to the attention of his current employer, David Conner the wealthy shipping merchant. David took him on first as a guard, then later as his enforcer and finally his junior partner. However he still couldn't resist showing of his pet noble to his friends when the opportunity presented itself.

    Arthur snapped his attention back to the present as his opponent went on the attack. He was very fast and the right hook he sent would have landed on most people, but Arthur was not most people. To Arthur the man seemed to be moving through water and he ducked under the blow then smashed his left fist into his ribs. As the man reeled back from the punch Arthur slammed the back of his left forearm into his temple knocking him of his feet.

    The spectators cheered and Arthur raised his arms accepting their adulation. As he surveyed the crowd he saw Mok Xing arriving. The Chinese merchant was a business associate of David Conner and Arthur had recently helped him deal with the unwanted attention of some local gangs. Tonight Mok Xing had brought two companions with him, one was a Chinese woman in her mid to late twenties wearing a fashionable European dress and although she was quite beautiful, Arthur found his attention drawn to the other companion.

    He was a Chinese man of about Arthur's age and although he had the small unassuming build typical to his people, there was something in the way he studied Arthur's fight that made him uneasy. He had the steady, knowing gaze Arthur had seen in the best instructors he had known in his youth. Arthur's distraction nearly cost him the fight as his opponent got to his feet and sent an uppercut into the right side of his jaw. Arthur spun with the blow then brought his left foot down hard on the man's knee, shattering the joint. As the man fell Arthur slammed his open hand into his face breaking his nose.

    The man fell as if poleaxed, his face a flattened bloodied mess. There was a moment of appalled silence then a pair of servants carried the unconscious man away. Arthur wiped his hands on a towel offered by a servant then buttoning his collar and sleeves walked to where David Conner was greeting the new arrivals. Seeing Arthur, David made the introductions:

    “Arthur this is Mr Mok's daughter Diana and Doctor Wong Fei-hung. Both of them have just arrived from China.”

    Arthur kissed Diana's hand then turned to Wong Fei-hung and shook his. The man's grip appeared light but Arthur detected hidden strength within him and doubted that he was an ordinary doctor.

    Fei-hung studied Arthur while they shook hands. The man was a head taller than him, ruggedly handsome with brown hair and blue eyes. He was clean shaven and his face unlined, but his eyes held a hardness to them that contradicted his otherwise youthful appearance. His handshake was as strong as Fei-hung had expected but there was a suppleness in his wrist that indicated his strength was complemented with great skill.

    As the men released their grip Mok Xing addressed Arthur:

    “Mr Bourchier, I would like to thank you for your help in recent events. Please accept this as a small token of my gratitude.”

    Mok Xing signalled for a servant to come forward and presented Arthur with a polished wooden box. Opening the box Arthur's face lit up with delight for inside was a magnificently crafted sword. About two and a half feet in length it was made in the Chinese style, the pommel was a single black pearl with the hilt being made of silver bound in golden silk. The guard was circular, resembling a teacup without a handle and made of tempered steel. The sheath of made of wood stained black and polished to a mirror shine. Unsheathing the blade Arthur tested its weight.

    Despite its delicate appearance the sword was quite weighty, but the balance was perfect allowing a skilled swordsman to manipulate it with both brutality and subtlety. Arthur noticed that Wong Fei-hung was looking at the sword with the same expert eye as he had the fight and decided to test his opinion of the man:

    “Doctor Wong, do you have an interest in swordsmanship?” asked Arthur

    “A little.” replied Fei-hung slowly, taking care to pronounce the unfamiliar words.

    “Perhaps the good doctor will give us a demonstration of Chinese swordsmanship?”

    “I am afraid my humble talents would just embarrass me.”

    “You are to modest Doctor Wong. It would be the greatest of pleasure to witness this sword being used as it was meant to be.”

    Fei-hung knew that it would be rude to continue refusing and if he was honest he was also excited at the prospects of testing such an exquisite blade, so when Arthur offered him the sword he accepted with both hands.


    Siu-kwan stared at Fei-hung as he rolled up his sleeves in preparation for his display, her heart was a flutter with the usual mixture of emotions at times like this. While she deplored violence and was also terrified when Fei-hung fought, she was also excited. There was something about the fact that he could perform physical feats beyond what normal people were capable of that set her heart beating louder and her breath coming faster. At times like this she felt an almost primal sense of attraction towards him. As Fei-hung took his starting stance Siu-kwan's heart was beating so loud she was surprised nobody else could hear it.


    Arthur studied the man as he took his fighting stance. The unsheathed sword was held in his right hand and pointed to the ground, while his left hand pointed upwards with all the fingers except for the middle and index held in a loose fist. His knees were slightly bent and he stood as still as a statue. Some of the party guests sniggered at this strange posture whispering that he resembled the dancing pose of a girl.


    The sniggering stopped the moment he moved. Wong Fei-hung's opening move was so fast that most of them missed it. One moment the sword was pointed to the ground and the next it was thrust in front of him at chest height. Wong Fei-hung continued with a series of lightning fast thrusts and parries, leading with his feet he was always in perfect balance his entire body moving as a fluid whole. Arthur smiled as he saw his suspicions about the man proved correct and had to fight the urge to tear down one of the swords hanging from the wall in order to test himself against such a man.


    Twirling his wrist Fei-hung held the sword in a reverse grip with the blade resting against the back of his right arm while his left hand was held horizontal above his head middle and index fingers thrusting out. The watching crowd erupted into thunderous applause and Fei-hung nodded his head humbly before returning the blade to Arthur.


    ####


    Fei-hung stepped through the door with Ah So following a step behind. The apprentice looked around nervously in the dimly lit warehouse, apprehension written on his face as his grip tightened on the sack he carried. A servant had passed a note to Mok Xing during last night's party naming this place as the location for the exchange. Fei-hung had volunteered to bring the ransom and Ah So had insisted on accompanying him.


    As their eyes got used to the poor light they could make out four figures in front of them. The figure standing furthest back and hidden in shadows spoke:


    “Have you got the gold?”


    “Right here” replied Fei-hung as he gestured for Ah So to come forwards.


    “Doctor Wong is that you?” asked one of the men.


    Fei-hung recognized Sun Yat-sen's voice immediately:


    “Yes it is Doctor Sun, I am here to rescue you.”


    “Not unless you hand over the gold?” said the same man who had first spoken.


    Fei-hung took the sack from Ah So and held it in front of him:


    “I will send my apprentice to retrieve Doctor Sun while you send one of your men for the gold.” he declared.


    As one of the kidnappers came forward Ah So started walking, his heart pounding with every step. The kidnapper reached Fei-hung at the same time Ah So reached Yat-sen:


    “How is Doctor Sun?” shouted Fei-hung.


    “He's alright Shifu.” replied Ah So


    Fei-hung opened the sacks to show the gold coins within. The kidnapper took one of the coins and bit into it:


    “Its good boss.” the man shouted as he waved the coin over his head, then taking the sack he started walking back to his companions at the same time as Ah So and Yat-sen started walking towards Fei-hung.


    When they were about to pass each other the kidnapper made a lunge for Yat-sen. Fei-hung had been expecting this and reached into his left sleeve. Something metallic flew across the warehouse and hit the kidnapper who crumbled onto the ground:


    “Run!” shouted Ah So as he grabbed Yat-sen and ran for the door.


    Fei-hung turned around to see a dozen men all armed with clubs and knives blocking the doorway. He hit them like a storm, his iron hard fists and feet laying into them with deadly efficiency. Within heart beats the doorway was clear and the trio made their escape. The sound of a gun being fired echoed across the warehouse but remarkably none of them were hit. Not wanting to push their luck the three of them continued their escape.


    ####


    “What the hell are you doing!?” shouted David Conner as Arthur knocked the gun out of his hand.


    “Don't worry, I'll get them. My way.” replied Arthur as he turned and walked towards the back door.


    “You had better, otherwise I'll have your guts. You hear me!” Arthur ignored the torrent of curses David shouted at his back and walked out of the warehouse.


    ####


    Fei-hung and Ah So supported Yat-sen by his arms as they fled. Three times they had ran into ambushing men and Fei-hung had left three piles of broken bodies in his wake. The thugs were no threat to him but they had slowed their flight and Fei-hung knew that every delay increased their chances of being caught. Finally they saw the road leading out of the warehouse district and picked up their pace.


    Someone stepped from the shadows and stood in the middle of the road. Fei-hung was shocked when he saw the familiar features of Arthur come into view. The man held a sheathed sword in each hand and he stood in a relaxed pose as they came towards him. Fei-hung waved his companions back and continued walking alone until he was only a few yards away from Arthur. Arthur tossed one of the swords to Fei-hung who caught it easily. Fei-hung was a little surprised to see that it was the same sword that Mok Xing had given Arthur last night.


    Arthur drew his own sword, a straight sword with a Gothic hilt favoured by infantry officers. Although some people thought the curved cavalry swords a more noble weapon, Arthur preferred the versatility of the straight sword. Fei-hung also unsheathed his sword and the two of them face each other, stances wide, knees bent and swords held in a relaxed guard. Arthur struck first his long strides eating up the space between them in the blink of as eye.


    The barrage of blows he unleashed was staggering, swift, strong and deadly with murderous intent in his every move. Fei-hung weathered the attack expertly, deflecting rather than blocking the ferocious onslaught, thus avoiding the need to meet the strength of his powerful opponent head on. Occasionally he went on the attack with short controlled stabs testing the man's defences, but on the whole he seemed content to let his opponent do most of the work.


    After the initial furious exchange both men backed away having taken the measure of their foe. Arthur was impressed, he had expected Fei-hung to be fast but not so strong. When he had parried the few attacks Fei-hung had made he could detect the hints of hidden strength within the blows that seemed impossible for a man of such small stature. However Arthur victor of countless duels and street fights was not ready to admit defeat.


    Using his greater height and reach he started raining down heavy blows on Fei-hung's head and shoulders, trying to intimidate the smaller man. Fei-hung however had nerves of steel and slipped under the powerful blows. Getting in close Fei-hung used his opponent's size against him and launched a series of fast slashes at his underside forcing Arthur to use some elaborate footwork in order to avoid having his stomach split open.

    Realizing that he could not rely on physical advantages alone to win this duel, Arthur decided to change tactics. He saw that fighting in the open streets gave his opponent the advantage as he had space to manoeuvre and so avoid Arthur's powerful blows, so Arthur started trying to herd the man into more restrictive surroundings. Slowly but surely Arthur drove Fei-hung back with wide but controlled sweeps, as he tried to pin him into small alleyways or against walls.


    Fei-hung however was too canny to be trapped so easily and kept himself constantly on the move, his feet so light that they seemed to be gliding on clouds. Finally after several gruelling minutes Arthur succeeded in containing Fei-hung between himself and a brick wall. Steadily Arthur pushed Fei-hung back knowing that with every step he came closer to victory. When Fei-hung was only a couple of feet from the wall he leapt backwards into the air tucking his feet behind him as he went. Using the wall as a springboard he launched himself at Arthur with the speed on an arrow causing the latter to through himself to the side in order to avoid being impaled.


    Rolling to his feet Fei-hung saw Arthur looming over him with his sword raised, it was the chance Fei-hung had been waiting for. His sword snaked out aiming for the tendons in Arthur's hand. Arthur saw what he intended just in time and managed to turn his wrist and save his tendons, but Fei-hung's blade bit deep into the back of his hand sending the sword flying from his hand. Shooting to his feet Fei-hung lunged at his now unarmed opponent and was amazed to see Arthur do an 180 degree turn and catch the spinning blade in his left hand. Arthur continued his turn and Fei-hung stared in horror as the tip of Arthur's sword came towards him.


    Arthur sensed victory as he caught his sword, few people knew that he was ambidextrous and it was a secret move that had saved his life on more than one occasion. Now as he swung his sword around he knew that Fei-hung would not have time to get out of the way, however in his excitement Arthur had made a slight misjudgement. Not used to fighting someone of Fei-hung's small stature he had aimed his slash too high and his sword caught Fei-hung just above the left eye and not the neck where he had intended. The wound would have killed Fei-hung had it ran across his throat, but instead he was given a nasty gash on his head.


    Stopping his swing mid flow Arthur stabbed quickly hoping to catch his opponent while he was still surprised. Fei-hung seemed to crumble onto the ground and Arthur thought he might have been lucky and knocked him out with the blow. Redirecting his lunge he aimed to run Fei-hung through when something hit the back of his ankles and knocked him of his feet. Tucking his chin into his chest Arthur avoided having his head smash against the ground as he fell heavily. As he moved to rise he felt a sharp pain in the side of his neck and then his body refused to obey him. He was just able to turn his eyes to see the tip of Fei-hung's sword embedded in his neck and then he saw no more.


    ####


    David Conner was sitting at his desk when the hooded and cloaked man entered his office. Looking up as he removed his hood David stared into the face of a man well into middle age, his complexion was healthy and his goatee beard well groomed giving him an air of sophistication. His eyes however had the sharpness of a bird of prey lending an edge of savagery to his otherwise civilised appearance.


    Not wasting time on greetings the man dropped a heavy sack onto the desk:


    “Here's your gold, now where's the merchandise?” He asked in English. His voice was clear and easily understandable, but the strong Chinese accent was obvious.


    David's right hand drifted towards the sack then suddenly darted into his open draw. As his fingers closed around the gun the desk lurched forward and crushed him against the wall. The man jumped onto the desk and grabbed David by the throat, his strong fingers choking the life out of him:


    “Did you think I didn't know that Wong Fei-hung has already rescued Sun Yat-sen when you tried to double cross him. Now you shall pay for your failure.”


    There was a loud snap and David's head flopped lifelessly to the side. The last thing he saw with his dying eyes was the man picking up the sack and walking calmly away.


    ####


    Fei-hung and Siu-kwan waved as Yat-sen's ship pulled out of the harbour. It had only been three days since his rescue but the doctor had insisted on boarding the earliest ship sailing for China in order to continue his crusade for a new stronger country. As Fei-hung saw him leave his heart was filled with admiration and a sense of insignificance when he compared himself to the great man.


    Turning to his side he saw Siu-kwan looking at him, her eyes drawn to the healing scar above his left eye. Fei-hung had tried to make light of the wound but could not belay her concerns. Siu-kwan gave him a forced smile:


    “Shall we go home?” she asked.


    “You go first. There's somewhere I need to visit.”


    ####


    Fei-hung entered the cemetery in sombre silence and headed to Arthur's grave. He had asked Mok Xing to recover the body and give it proper burial as a sign of respect for a master swordsman. As he approached the grave he was surprised to find someone else already there. The man had his back to him, but the queue running down his back showed his ethnicity. As if detecting him the man turned and Fei-hung had to fight to keep the shock of his face. He greeted he man with a deep bow:


    “Lord Nap-lan” said Fei-hung


    “Shifu Wong.” replied Nap-lan Shi Jian with a nod.


    “I was not aware that your Lordship was acquainted with the late Mr Bourchier”


    “We were merely casual acquaintances and I had come to pay my respect to a skilled warrior.”


    Nap-lan Shi Jian gave a final bow to Arthur's grave and then started walking away. As he passed Fei-hung his hand shot out. Instinctively Fei-hung caught the blow on a tiger palm. The force of the blow ran down his entire body, but Fei-hung sank into his stance and drew strength from the earth, making himself as steady as a marble statue. Nap-lan Shi Jian withdrew his fist and continued walking away as if nothing had happened.


    Fei-hung kept his awareness on Nap-lan Shi Jian until he was sure the man had left the cemetery then turned back towards Arthur's grave to pay his respects.


    Last edited by Mandred Skavenslayer; 04-26-15 at 04:10 PM.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Mandred Skavenslayer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Posts
    817

    Default

    Hi all.

    Have decided to try my hand at short stories for a while. I am planning on making a series of stories set during the Qing dynasty.

    Comments and suggestions are welcomed.

    Here is the latest story. Enjoy:





    The Southern Masters




    Yuan Ping waited nervously at the pier as the junks carrying the performers of the famous Hua family opera troupe approached. Although his own family's opera troupe was equally as prestigious as the one arriving, Yuan ping had long been a secret admirer of the Hua's, whose portrayal of the Dan characters were second to none. Finally the junks moored and the performers started disembarking. Yuan ping spotted Hua Hu, director of the troupe and went to greet him:

    “Brother Hua, I hope you had a pleasant journey?” asked Yuan Ping with a bow. Hua Hu returned the greeting and Yuan Ping took the opportunity to study his counterpart. Like himself Hua Hu was well into middle age, but while Yuan Ping had the soft plump look of someone who had enjoyed a comfortable urban life, Hua Hu was slim and tanned, typical of those constantly on the move.

    With the greetings respectfully made Yuan Ping led his guests to the waiting carts and carriages. They travelled into the heart of the city where Yuan Ping's family opera house was situated and his people greeted the Hua performers warmly. Yuan Ping had shared his carriage with Hua Hu and his star performer. Now as they arrived at their destination Yuan Ping was happy to see his own star actor greeting them:

    “Ah-Choi these are our guests, director Hua and the famous actor Leung Yee-tai. Gentlemen may I introduce our leading man Luk Ah-Choi.”

    ####

    The noodle stall owner thought that the two of them made for strange companions. Luk Ah-Choi was one of his regulars and he had grown quite fond of the stocky youth. Luk Ah-Choi's broad shoulders and well developed arms made him look more like a coolie than an opera performer, but he also had a quick smile which coupled with his kind eyes made him someone who was easily liked.

    The man sitting with him was a stranger to the owner and he spent a bit of time studying him as he placed their order on the table. Like Luk Ah-Choi the man was in his mid to late twenties, but was as thin as the other was stocky. Yet for all his slimness his complexion was healthy and the knotted muscles on his forearms hinted at a hidden strength under his appearance of fragility. Ah-Choi nodded as the food was served:

    “Uncle Zhang, let me introduce you to Leung Yee-tai, the star performer of the Hua family opera troupe.”

    “Uncle Zhang” greeted Leung Yee-tai with a nod that Zhang returned.

    Pouring the wine Luk Ah-Choi toasted to the health of his companion. He had left Yuan opera house for a late night stroll when he had come across Leung Yee-tai, who had had the same idea. Offering to show the new arrival around the city the two of them had made their way to Zhang's noodle stall for a quick bite. Before long the men were talking as if they were life long friends as they discussed their ideas of opera. As expected of men in their profession both of them loved their art and took great delight in finding a kindred spirit to share their thoughts with.

    Suddenly Leung Yee-tai's expression took on a serious look as he peered over Luk Ah-Choi's shoulder. Turning around Luk Ah-Choi saw a young woman come running towards them, her clothes in disarray and her pretty face streaked with tears. Without thinking Luk Ah-Choi got up:

    “Lady are you all right?” he asked in his kindest voice.

    The woman nearly collided into him in her rush but was able to stop in time:

    “Don't let her get away!” shouted someone from behind the woman.

    She shrieked as she heard the voice and tried to walk around Luk Ah-Choi, but he stepped into her path:

    “Lady if you are in distress then please allow me to help.”

    Before she could answer a dozen heavy set men came into view and started surrounding the woman in a loose circle. An ugly pocked-faced man stepped forward and made a grab for her, but before he could reach her he found a handkerchief draped over his wrist and strong fingers holding him firm:

    “Now sir, that is no way to treat a lady.” said Leung Yee-tai in a squeaky voice. Luk Ah-Choi suppressed a chuckle as he recognized the tone was one used in portraying female characters.

    The pocked-faced man cringed at the effeminate voice and lifted his free hand to brush Leung Yee-tai aside. Leung Yee-tai struck so fast that the man didn't know he was hit until his throat contracted and he couldn't draw breath. Luk Ah-Choi leapt into the other men like a tiger upon a pack of wild dogs. One man was sent flying through the air by a double tiger palm strike to the chest, while the man standing next to him was clubbed to the ground by a heavy back hand.

    Two men grabbed Luk Ah-Choi's arms trying to pin him down but he sunk into his stance and rooted himself to the spot. Punching upwards he slammed his fists into the men's belly lifting them of their feet and knocking the wind out of them. Seeing how dangerous Luk Ah-Choi was some of the men went for the frail looking Leung Yee-tai instead. That was to prove a mistake.

    If Luk Ah-Choi was a tiger then Leung Yee-tai was a viper, his fists and fingers snaked out at blinding speed targeting the vital points of his assailants with surgical precision. In the space of a few heartbeats the only people that remained standing were the two opera performers with the ground littered with unconscious or groaning men.

    The woman who had caused the commotion stared in wide-eyed amazement at her saviours, her surprise overwhelming the terror in her heart. The men smiled reassuringly at her and she felt something she had thought lost forever. She felt Hope.

    ####

    Arigun tapping his well tended fingernails on the desk was the only indication of his anger as the men reported their failure. The fact that all of them had been injured in the course of their duty meant nothing to him, they could have died for all he cared so long as he got his prize back. Finally as the kneeling men finished their report their Lord spoke:

    “Yet you dare return?”

    “We beg you Lordship to be merciful” cried the pocked-faced Lu Ding.

    “Very well.” Arigun turned to the man standing to his right. “Doubin have these useless dogs killed and their families thrown out into the streets.”

    “Mercy My Lord!” cried the kneeling men in unison

    “One more word from you lot and your families will join you in death.”

    For a moment Lu Ding thought about attacking Arigun, but whatever courage he had fled the moment he saw the fierce gaze of Doubin. Even if he had twice the numbers he had now he knew he would still not have a chance against such a warrior. So as Doubin summoned the guards to carry out his Lord's command Lu Ding and his men walked meekly to their deaths.

    Now alone Arigun turned to his bodyguard. Almost everything about Doubin was unremarkable. Whether height, weight or facial features absolutely everything about him was average, with the singular exception being his eyes. Those keen eyes had a stone cold harshness to them that would have intimidated all but the very bravest. In contrast to his loyal guard Arigun appeared soft and pampered, his plump body dressed in the finest silks and decked in the most expensive jewellery:

    “I give you three days.” said Arigun

    Doubin nodded his head sharply, acknowledging the curt order.

    ####

    Hong Ling clutched the warm teacup with both hands as she fought back her sobs and told her rescuers her story:

    “My papa was a tea merchant from Fujan who had come here to find new markets for our family's 'Silver needle' tea and I had pleaded with him to take me along. At first papa refused claiming it was improper for a lady to travel so far. But I desperately wanted to see the wider world and pestered him until he relented.

    We arrived yesterday to be greeted by Magistrate Zhao, a local official and friend of papa's. He invited us to dine with him tonight and when we arrived at his residence he introduced us as Lord Arigun another one of his guests. At first everything was fine with Lord Arigun being perfectly charming and respectful. However as the night went on I noticed him staring at me like a hungry wolf would a sheep.

    Not liking the way he was looking at me I excused myself and went to the garden to get away from him. I found a quiet spot by a pond and tried to compose myself, but he had followed me. I tried to get away but he grabbed me and kept on saying that I had been leading him on all night. I screamed at him to let me go but he just laughed and then started tearing at my clothes.

    Papa must have heard my screams for he and Magistrate Zhao soon arrived and threw Arigun of me. While papa asked if I was hurt Arigun pulled a knife from his sleeve and stabbed him in the back. Papa's face...it...was...” Hong Ling dropped the cup and buried her face in her hands, her shoulders shaking as she wept.

    Luk Ah-Choi put his arm around her and she clutched onto him like a child. Leung Yee-tai watched the suffering of the poor girl with a heart full of sympathy and anger. The sympathy was for her plight and the anger was for the fact that something like this could happen. Finally Hong Ling's sobs subsided and she continued her tale:

    “Magistrate Zhao grabbed Arigun and shouted at me to run. I was so scared that I forgot all about papa and...” fresh tears appeared as the shame of her flight overwhelmed her. Luk Ah-Choi gently stroked her hair:

    “You did the right thing. There was nothing you could have done for your papa.” he whispered soothing.

    “So should we go to the authorities?” asked Leung Yee-tai

    Luk Ah-Choi shook his head “Lord Arigun is well known as a prominent member of the Yellow Banner-men. Even if we found a Magistrate brave enough to arrest him his clan would have him freed within the hour.”

    Leung Yee-tai nodded, then spoke:

    “Seeking justice can wait for another day, our first priority is to see to Lady Hong's safety.”

    Hong Ling looked into Leung Yee-tai's kind face and instinctively knew that he would carry out his promise.

    ####

    Rehearsals for 'The Conqueror bids his concubine farewell' started early that morning. Luk Ah-Choi sang the words of Xiang Yu with a booming voice that befitted the All Conquering Overlord of Western Chu, yet to a trained ear the hints of sorrow and weariness in the performance added depth to the character.

    Leung Yee-tai danced before the sitting Luk Ah-Choi, his graceful steps invoking the very spirit of Concubine Yu as he sang her heartfelt response. However as Leung Yee-tai sang the final words Hua Hu called a halt:

    “Yee-tai your voice sounds a little of. Are you feeling well?” asked the concerned director.

    “I didn't get much sleep last night and my voice is a bit dry.”

    “You better be careful not to bring on one of your asthma attacks. This will do for today, everyone can have the rest of the day of.”

    As the performers started leaving the stage Leung Yee-tai spoke quietly to Luk Ah-Choi:

    “How are things going?”

    “A boat is ready to leave tomorrow morning.” Luk Ah-Choi whispered back.

    “I'll take her some food and tell her the news.”

    “You better get some rest. I'll do it.”

    Leung Yee-tai cleared his throat, feeling a slight tingling in the back of it. Although concerned for Hong Ling he knew that Luk Ah-Choi was right and nodded his agreement. With a warm smile to his new friend Luk Ah-Choi left.

    ####

    Carrying a food basket and bamboo flask of tea Luk Ah-Choi went towards the empty storeroom at the back of the opera house. The place was used to keep props and costumes that were not being used. As it had few visitors Luk Ah-Choi knew that Hong Ling would be safe there until they could get her out of the city. Approaching the closed doors he suddenly stopped and turned around to see Doubin:

    “Douban” said the bodyguard with a nod.

    “I don't go by that name any more” replied Luk Ah-Choi meeting the man's piercing gaze.

    “Have you no shame? How could you abandon our noble heritage and live as one of these Han dogs.” roared Doubin

    “These dogs have treated me better than any of my so called people ever have.” said Luk Ah-Choi, an edge of anger creeping into his voice.

    Doubin took a deep breath mastering his temper:

    “You may have forsaken your ancestry, but for the sake our our shared paternal grandfather I have come to give you a warning.” Seeing that Luk Ah-Choi was not going to reply he continued:

    “Hand over the girl.”

    “What girl?”

    “Don't play the fool with me. I saw Lu Ding's men. I doubt there is anyone else in this city apart from you who is capable of inflicting such injuries.”

    “So now you are a pimp as well as I loyal dog!”

    “Last chance, you have until tomorrow night to give her up. Otherwise do not blame me for not considering our kinship.” With those words Doubin spun around and stalked away.

    When he was sure Doubin had left Luk Ah-Choi spoke without turning around:

    “Please go back inside Lady Hong. I promise no one will disturb you.”

    Hong Ling scurried from her hiding place behind the door and fled back inside. Luk Ah-Choi let out a heavy sigh and walked outside knowing that she would not want to see him.

    ####

    Sitting cross-legged on his bed Luk Ah-Choi practised the mental exercises his Shifu, Hung Hei-gun had taught him. But although it calmed his mind and relaxed his body it could not soothe the turmoil within his soul. Seeing his cousin again had opened up wounds best left untouched and the reaction of Hong Ling, not matter how understandable was still a blow to his pride.

    There was a knock at the door and as Leung Yee-tai entered Luk Ah-Choi braced himself:

    “I guess Hong Ling has told you what happened?”

    Leung Yee-tai nodded:

    “Then I suppose our friendship is over?” stated Luk Ah-Choi, who try as he may could not hide the resentment in his voice.

    To his surprise Leung Yee-tai smiled and revealed a bottle of wine along with a pair of cups he had been hiding behind his back:

    “I think you can do with this and a friend to talk to.” Leung Yee-tai said with a grin. The smile was infectious and Luk Ah-Choi soon joined him. Before long the pair of them were drinking and laughing deep into the night.

    ####'

    Leung Yee-tai shook his head as he walked along the pier, trying to shake of some of the grogginess. Lack of sleep for the last couple of nights was starting to take its toll and he wished he could have given the task of escorting Hong Ling to Luk Ah-Choi, but the girl had refused to let him anywhere near her claiming that she would rather go alone than with him.

    Right now Leung Yee-tai wished he had let her do so. He dismissed the unworthy thought as he helped her board the junk where the wrinkly old boatman waited. Luk Ah-Choi had said the man was called Ah Sheng whose junk was sometimes used to smuggle goods along the coast. Luk Ah-Choi had already paid the man and as the passengers boarded he slid a door open for them to go below deck.

    Normally the space was used to carry goods and was lit by a single candle, but even so the outline of a man sitting by a small table could be clearly seen. Leung Yee-tai didn't recognize the man, but Hong Ling gave a cry of fear and clutched at his arm:

    “We have to go, this man works for Arigun. That barbaric Manchu must have betrayed us.” cried Hong Ling.

    “Typical of you Hans to always blame others for your short comings. It was that Han dog behind you that sold you out, not my cousin.” declared Doubin.

    Leung Yee-tai spun around to see Ah Sheng slam the door behind them. Turning back to Doubin he met his fierce stare unflinchingly. Doubin saw the total lack of fear in his eyes and was impressed:

    “I don't know who you are, but you can go free if you leave the girl.”

    “I would be happy to, if you could promise to see her safely home.”

    “Don't be a fool. Just turn around and go. No one will ever know what happened here.”

    “Heaven would know, the earth would know and most importantly I would know.” replied Leung Yee-tai.

    Doubin shot to his feet and lunged his right palm towards Leung Yee-tai, his strides eating up the space between them in a matter of heartbeats. Shoving Hong Ling aside, Leung Yee-tai sent a punch at Doubin intending to cut across his attack and hit him in the neck. Amazingly Doubin changed the direction of his blow at the last possible second and came at Leung Yee-tai from the side instead of the front.

    Reacting instinctively Leung Yee-tai twisted his body and deflected the blow before returning a finger strike to Doubin's eyes. Doubin spun on his heels avoiding the strike and brought the side of his palm towards the back of Leung Yee-tai's head. Leung Yee-tai intercepted the attack with another subtle twist and sent an under arm punch at Doubin's ribs, but again found only air as he danced away.

    And so the fight went on with Leung Yee-tai being the still centre to Doubin's unrelenting storm. Doubin was always on the move, his feet and hands making intricate circles which expanded or contracted depending on whether he was attacking or evading. It dawned on Leung Yee-tai that he was fighting a Master in the Bugua Palm. Keeping his head Leung Yee-tai used the bridging hand technique followed with sticking hand to keep himself close to his opponent, determined not to let him slip away.

    Doubin backed away steadily trying to regain the distance he needed to bring his superior foot-work to bare. His retreat was not in a straight line but weaved and ducked from side to side trying desperately to shake of his opponent. But Leung Yee-tai seemed to be able to read his mind, reacting to his smallest movement his hands never lost contact. Finally Doubin found his back against the wall and knew he was in trouble. Summoning all his strength he prepared to launch a last all or nothing attack.

    But just as Leung Yee-tai seemed to be on the brink of victory he suddenly stopped, then staggered unsteady backwards. Doubin looked on in surprise as his opponent started struggling to breathe despite having received no serious injuries. Leung Yee-tai fell to his knees, chest heaving and the air coming out in painful wheezes. For a moment Doubin was tempted to strike him down, but his sense of honour stayed his hand. Ignoring the helpless man he started walking towards the cowering Hong Ling.

    Something crashed through the door and landed at the feet of Doubin. Staring down he saw the dead body of Ah Sheng. Someone stepped in front of the doorway and looking up Doubin recognized his cousin:

    “Stay out of this Douban. She's not worth it.”

    “The name is Luk Ah-Choi and she is.”

    With no more need for words the men hurled themselves at each other. Clashing in a flurry of blows they attacked ferociously both of them determined to overwhelm the other. Fists, palms and kicks were exchange faster than the eye could follow yet neither of them backed away. Luk Ah-Choi brushed aside a strike to the face and sent his fist crashing down onto Doubin's chest. As soon as the punch landed Luk Ah-Choi felt a heavy blow on his own chest and realized that Doubin had lashed out with his palm the same time he had made his attack.

    Leaping backwards the combatants took defensive stances having gain the measure of each other. Although Luk Ah-Choi despaired at his cousin's morals he had to admit that he was a brilliant Martial Artist and knew that he was in for the fight of his life. Doubin for his part discovered a new found respect for this rebellious kinsman. His blows felt like those from an iron bar and his speed had to be seen to be believed. Doubin knew that the only advantage he had was his mobility and was determined to make the most of it.

    Like his earlier fight with Leung Yee-tai he constantly circled Luk Ah-Choi darting in and out with taunting attacks hoping to provoke his opponent into making a mistake. Luk Ah-Choi fended of the swift attacks but lacked Leung Yee-tai's amazing sensitivity and was unable to close the distance with Doubin. The two of them fought for over two hundred moves yet victory remained elusive for both of them. Once Luk Ah-Choi almost caught Doubin when his cousin had been a fraction of second too slow in retreating and he has able to land a glancing blow on his jaw.

    Luk Ah-Choi leapt forwards as Doubin staggered back, but suddenly he spun 360 degrees and slammed his arm into Luk Ah-Choi's back. Luk Ah-Choi recovered quickly but Doubin had been able to regain his distance and the opportunity had passed. Luk Ah-Choi realized that there was only one way to end this. When Doubin sent his next wave of lightning fast attacks Luk Ah-Choi made a huge backhanded sweep with his left arm. As expected Doubin evaded the blow and spotted that Luk Ah-Choi had overreached himself leaving his chest open. It was too tempting a target and Doubin lunged forwards slamming both his palms into his chest.

    Luk Ah-Choi grunted in pain but quickly trapped the palms against his chest with his right arm. Doubin looked on in horror as Luk Ah-Choi's left arm came crashing down onto his elbows and shattered the joints. His screams of pain was cut short as Luk Ah-Choi sent both his fists into his chest. The blow contained all of Luk Ah-Choi's strength and Doubin felt his ribs crack as he was hurled across the floor. Landing badly he tried to rise but could find no strength. Blood started bubbling up his throat and he knew Luk Ah-Choi and ruptured his internal organs. Lying down he waited for the death he knew was soon coming.

    Staggering backwards Luk Ah-Choi leaned against the wooden wall to steady himself and coughed up a mouthful of blood. His gamble had paid of but he knew he would need at least a month to recover. Walking with great care he went to see how Leung Yee-tai was. Hong Ling had helped him into a sitting position and his breathing had become steadier even if it was still weak. Hearing the painful groans of Doubin, Luk Ah-Choi trudged wearily to his cousin.

    Looking up Doubin managed to speak in a whisper:

    “Why...do you choose...them over us?”

    “I choose right over wrong.”

    Doubin tried to speak on but he had no more breath. Luk Ah-Choi knelt besides him and took his hand:

    “Go loyal warrior. You have served your Master well.”

    The faintest of smiles played on Doubin lips at his cousins words and he closed his eyes letting the darkness take him.

    ####

    Arigun admired the ruby ring on his right ring-finger while his left hand groped the warm flesh of a courtesan sitting on his lap. All around him scantily clad courtesans danced or played musical instruments for his pleasure as he waited for Doubin to bring Hong Ling to him. He had decided to receive the girl here at the 'House of a Hundred Lingering Fragrances' as he intended to to have the girls here teach her his tastes.

    He had reserved the entire brothel for the night, determined that this time nothing would interrupt his pleasure. The courtesan on his lap lifted a wine cup to his lips and he stared lustfully at her as he took a sip, then suddenly something flew through the air and crashed into the table he was sitting at. Looking down he saw that it was one of his guards that was guarding the front door.

    The girls screamed and scattered around the room as a lone figure stalked into view. Arigun did not recognize the man, but was furious at the intrusion:

    “I don't know if you are drunk or mad. But if you want to live then leave. Now.”

    If the man heard him he gave no sign but continued walking into the room. Fuming at being ignored Arigun got to his feet and walked up to the stranger:

    “Do you know who I am, you peasant?!” he roared.

    Without a word the man punched him across the face sending him spinning to the floor. Picking himself up Arigun brought his hand to his face and felt the blood from his broken nose. Shocked at being struck for the first time in his life, fear and anger started filling his heart. He reached into his sleeve and pulled up a bundle of bank notes holding them in front of the advancing man like a shield:

    “Here, if its money you want take it all. Just don't hurt me.” Arigun's voice sounded like a child pleading with an elder not to punish him.

    The man knocked the notes from his hand and punched him in the jaw. Arigun staggered backwards into a wooden pillar. Seeing a courtesan cowering there he grabbed her and held her in front of himself:

    “Look you can have this woman and every other woman here. Its my treat, just don't hurt me.” begged Arigun.

    The man's expression didn't changed as he kept on walking slowly forwards. Arigun shoved the courtesan at the man then turned to flee. Something heavy struck him in the back and he was swept of his feet. Feeling as his back had been shattered Arigun struggled to his feet when suddenly he was lifted up by his collar to come face to face with his attacker:

    “I am Lord Arigun. I don't care how much you were paid to do this, I am doubling it now.” he screamed.

    Remaining silent the man wrapped his strong fingers around Arigun's neck and started squeezing. For a few moments Arigun grabbed feebly at the hand choking the life out of him, but soon he went limp. Letting the dead body drop to the floor the assassin removed the ruby ring from its finger then calmly left.

    ####

    Taking her seat on the carriage Hong Ling turned to thank her rescuers:

    “Master Luk and Master Leung, I don't know how I can ever thank you for all you have done?” she said with a smile and tears tugging at the corner of her eyes.

    “You just did.” replied Leung Yee-tai's
    Turning to Luk Ah-Choi Hong Ling's eyes dropped in shame:

    “Master Luk, I...”

    “I understand. By the way I have one last gift for you.” reaching into his chest to took out a ruby ring and handed it to her. Hong Ling recognized the ring immediately and looked at Luk Ah-Choi with eyes of gratitude:

    “Time to go!” cried the carriage driver. Hong Ling managed a final wave of goodbye before the driver cracked his whip and the carriage took her away.


    When the carriage was out of sight Luk Ah-Choi picked up the travelling bag at his feet and slung it over his shoulder:

    “I better be going as well.”

    “Where will you go?” asked Leung Yee-tai

    “Don't know. But Arigun's clan we soon be after me so I better disappear. I hear Foshan is an interesting place.”

    Leung Yee-tai offered his hand and Luk Ah-Choi took it in a warrior's grip, then turned and walked away.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Mandred Skavenslayer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Posts
    817

    Default

    Fox Amongst Four Peaks




    The monk was the first to arrive, the light tapping of his wooden staff echoing on the empty summit. Despite the biting winds his thin frame was covered only by a threadbare tattered robe which once vibrant yellow had faded into a muted dung colour. The monk wrapped by the simple robe looked little better, his skin was wrinkled and tanned, his snow white brow ragged as was his unkempt beard.

    However if someone was to study him in detail the image of a vagabond monk would have been instantly dispelled for he walked with the vitality of a man half his age, his chapped lips smiled gently and his kindly eyes shone with wisdom. Taking a deep breath he savoured the fresh mountain air. But even as he filled his lungs with the invigorating air he detected a slight foulness in the atmosphere.

    Looking around he saw a strange object lying amongst the rocks. The thing was about the size of a man and covered with hair. There was a powerful stink like that of a recently dead animal coming from it and it was this that the monk had detected. Thinking that this might the dead carcass of some unfortunate beast, the monk walked towards it intending on burying it. Suddenly a bamboo stick sprouted from the thing and flew straight at the face of the monk.

    The monk was just able to fend away the attack with his staff when the entire creature lurched forwards, forcing him to leap away. Instinctively the monk landed in the White Crane posture, his feet barely touching the ground and it was a good thing that he did, for his mysterious attacker was not finished. Staggering towards him the thing revealed itself to by be a filth encrusted man wearing disgustingly soiled rags. But despite his appearances his speed was tremendous and the fists he hurled at the monk were attached to muscular arms.

    The filthy man moved as if sleepwalking, his foot work unsteady and his blows seemingly random. In fact his movements were regularly punctuated with great yawns and stretches further adding to the appearance of a sleepwalker. However the monk's expert eyes saw through the deception and noticed how deadly the man really was. No matter how unsteady his footwork was his core was always in balance giving him total control of himself, and his seemingly random blows were driven by great power.

    Using the evasive steps of the White Crane the monk was able to dance just ahead of the man, while fending away the probing bamboo stick with his staff. After retreating a few dozen paces the monk went on the offensive. Taking his staff in a two handed grip he attacked with the Fifth Brother Octagonal Staff. The powerful sweeps he sent were strong enough to fell a dozen oxen, yet the filthy man either parried them with his stick or staggered out of reach, never breaking out of this sleepy daze.

    Taking a great leap the monk brought his staff down so swiftly there was no way the filthy man could avoid it. As the staff was blocked by the stick the monk saw his opponent's eyes snap open and the filthy man hurled a palm at his chest. The monk met the attack with the Great Vajra Palm and the blows met with a loud thunderclap that rang across the summit. To his surprise it was the monk that was hurled back.

    Landing lightly about twenty feet away the monk stood in a defensive stance for a few moments, then bowed his head:

    “Humble monk Ji Zhi pays his respects to Chief Guang of the Beggar's Guild”

    Guang Feng smiled:

    “I must beg the Holy One for his forgiveness, but I could not resist the opportunity to experience the peerless Martial Arts of Shaolin for myself. Please accept by apologies.”

    “Chief Guang is too kind. I should thank you for broadening my horizon. Your Sleeping Buddha Fist and Dog Beating Staff are truly remarkable.”

    Their conversation was interrupted by the sound of steel clashing against steel that drifted up to the summit. Rushing to the edge they stared down to see a pair of duelling swordsmen. The skill and intensity of this battle was the equal to the one between the monk and the beggar. One of the duellist was a Taoist priest of about the same age as Ji Zhi. Wearing a simple brown robe his long white hair was held in place by a plain wooden pin. The image of austerity extended to the weapon he carried, an unadorned straight steel sword with a simple wooden hilt and guard.

    In contrast his opponent could not have been more ornately dressed, wearing a silver silk robe trimmed with golden fur, it reflected the strong morning Sun to a dazzling degree. His sword was equally impressive, the circular steel guard shaped to resemble floating clouds, with the ivory hilt and pommel studded with precious gems. As expected the wielder of the weapon processed striking features. In his late twenties to early thirties, his hair had been groomed into a well tended ponytail. His classically handsome face held a perfectly tended moustache giving the impression of a scholar warrior.

    The fighting styles of the two matched their appearances, the priest's moves were direct, simple and spartan with every single strike or parry achieving its aim with the greatest of efficiency. Although his strokes did not appear fast, they flowed into one another continuously, like rivers into the sea leaving no space for his opponent to exploit. The gaudy swordsman fought to impress as much as to kill, his strokes big and elaborate. However the skill and sophistication in the technique was flawless, as was the man's execution of them. The speed with which he fought was blindingly fast to the point that he appeared as a blur.

    Quickly they fought their way up to the summit, their steps as agile and balanced as those of the mountain goats. Flying over the heads of the monk and the beggar they landed behind them with a loud clang as their swords met in a shower of sparks. The release of energy was so great that both men were thrown backwards leaving a gap of twenty feet between them. Steady clapping from Guang Feng caused the duellists to turn in his direction:

    “Well this is a surprise. What on earth could possible have brought Master Tse and Reverend Sun to this desolate place?” asked the beggar with a knowing smile.

    “Not that its any of you concern, but I am here to meet someone and just happened to run into this old priest, so I decided to give him a lesson in swordplay.” replied Tse Ao

    “As if the Tse family could teach me anything!” retorted Sun Daoling with a sneer.

    Ji Zhi shook his head, but smiled at their folly. The two often had a long standing feud ever since Sun Daoling defeated Tse Ao's father five years ago in a duel. Although the priest had not killed the man, Tse Ao's father had passed away less than a month after his defeat from an illness brought on by the shame of losing. From that moment onwards Tse Ao had taken ever possible opportunity to oppose Sun Daoling and had fought him to three inconclusive duels.

    As Tse Ao made to attack Sun Daoling, Ji Zhi knew he had best try to defuse the situation:

    “Gentlemen please put you swords down. Master Tse, you mentioned that you were here to meet someone. I to have an appointment here.”

    “So do I and I am starting to suspect it is with the same person.” said Guang Feng

    “Surely no one could possible be that foolish?” mused Sun Daoling even as he shared the beggar's suspicions.

    A strong wind from the North drew everyone's attention and as they turned to face it they saw a wall of snow come billowing towards them. However their eyes were not focussed on the freak weather but to a point just above it. Incredible it seemed that someone was riding the snow storm, their long strides so light that they didn't disturb the delicate snowflakes. Landing with his back to the four of them, the newcomer stood still for a moment before turning around.

    He was a man of about Tse Ao's age, but that was their only similarity. Where Tse Ao was the very image of a Southern gentleman, this man had the chiselled looks of those who lived in extreme North. However there was a rugged handsomeness to his features. The stubble on his strong square jaw coupled with his steady gaze gave him a heroic air, while his strong build was evident even under the thick furs he wore and at his side was a sheathed heavy curved blade.

    Ji Zhi took an instant liking to the man and involuntary spoke:

    “Truly Sir Hu is the descendent of the 'Fox Who Soars Amongst the Sky'.”

    Hu Yidao bowed to the monk in thanks for the complement, but before he could speak Tse Ao stepped forwards:

    “Hu Yidao, I thought we had agreed to duel?”

    “That we did Master Tse.” replied Hu Yidao his voice as level as Tse Ao's was aggressive.

    All at once the other three men protested that they the same agreement with Hu Yidao. Holding up his hands for silence Hu Yidao spoke:

    “Gentlemen, all of you have agreed to duel with me today. However, rather than waste time fighting each of you individually I propose to fight you all at once.”

    Ji Zhi turned to Guang Feng and they shared a look that showed their amusement at man's audacity. Sun Daoling looked shocked while Tse Ao's face went red with anger. Hu Yidao leapt amongst them in a single bound drawing his blade in the same movement. The steel sang as it was drawn and a wave of sword Qi flew towards the men. All of them leapt into the air to avoid the murderous wave except for Ji Zhi who stamped his staff into the ground.

    The Qi wave hit an invisible barrier that radiated about a foot from the monk and flowed around it like water around a rock. Ji Zhi was surprised at how powerful the wave was and thought maybe this man really was capable of fighting all four of them. He was brought out of his musing by Hu Yidao pouncing upon him. Despite the weight of his weapon Hu Yidao handled it with the same speed and ease that Guang Feng had with his stick.

    Ji Zhi backed away steadily parrying the side of the blade with his staff whenever it got to close and riding out the initial momentum of Hu Yidao's attack. While the two of them fought the other Martial Artists stood back, not wishing to dishonour themselves by attacking Hu Yidao from behind. With a massive sweep Hu Yidao forced Ji Zhi to leap back then spun around and charged Sun Daoling.

    The curved sword came down in a glistening arch and the priest stepped back to avoid it, but in a display of incredible strength Hu Yidao stopped the blade in mid swing and lunged for Sun Daoling's neck. The priest met the attack with his own blade but had to bend over backwards as the curved sword brushed his guard aside. As Hu Yidao's attack swept passed Sun Daoling stabbed at his feet. Hu Yidao jump over the attack and used the leap to bring him to Guang Feng.

    Jumping into the air the beggar met Hu Yidao in mid air, their left palms colliding in a massive thunderclap. For a moment they hung there, their Qi energy allowing them to temporarily defy gravity. Guang Feng blinked in surprise, for although his mastery of the 'Eighteen Dragon Taming Palm' was but a pale shadow of his illustrious ancestors, he had always thought of himself as unmatched in the art. So he was shocked when Hu Yidao was not hurled back by the strike.

    His lapse in concentration was to cost him dear as Hu Yidao's blade came crashing down to his neck. Even as he moved his stick to block it Guang Feng knew he was to slow. However the beggar was to keep his head as Hu Yidao turned his blade at the last moment, hitting him with the flat of it. Guang Feng was flung threw the air by the blow but landed on his feet. Although injured he was still capable of fighting, but bowed his head in acknowledgement of his defeat.

    Landing lightly Hu Yidao got his blade up just in time to block a deadly thrust to the neck from Tse Ao. Barely had the blades touched then Tse Ao rolled his wrist, sending the point of his sword at the other side of Hu Yidao's throat. In all Tse Ao launched seven of these rapid attacks each on getting closer and closer to breaching Hu Yidao's guard. On the seventh attack however Hu Yidao leapt straight up to shoulder height, then stepping lightly on Tse Ao's sword flipped over his head.

    Rolling to his feet Hu Yidao sliced deep into the ground sending a spray of snow and ice at his opponents. Ji Zhi made a wide sweep with his staff and a counter gust of wind at the spray. The explosion from the collision of the two forces obscured the monk's vision and too late he saw Hu Yidao come flying through the wall of white. Flipping over Ji Zhi's head Hu Yidao sliced down with his blade, leaving a thin trail of blood across the monk's neck. Like Guang Feng, Ji Zhi accepted his defeat graciously and also bowed his had.

    As his feet touched the ground Hu Yidao hurled his sword in the direction of the priest. The blade flew faster than an arrow and Sun Daoling knew he would never avoid it in time. The blade however flew passed the priest's shoulder and Sun Daoling spun around to see Tse Ao leaping back as it plunged into the ground where he had been standing. Sun Daoling realised that Hu Yidao had just saved him from being stabbed in the back and glared at Tse Ao:

    “Have you no shame?!” demanded the priest.

    “My agreement for a fair duel was with Hu Yidao and not you.” replied Tse Ao defiantly.

    Keeping his eyes on Tse Ao, Sun Daoling walked towards Hu Yidao's blade and yanked it free. Still watching Tse Ao the priest walked backwards until he stood next to Hu Yidao. While returning the blade the priest whispered into his ear:

    “Do me a favour. Give him a good hiding for me.”

    Accepting the sword with a smile Hu Yidao nodded, then turned to face Tse Ao. The two of them charged each other and a hurricane of steel sprang up around them. Tse Ao's fought with a grace and skill he had never before achieved, the precious blade seeming to come alive in his hand with every elegant stroke being as beautiful as they were deadly. Hu Yidao matched his skill, the curved blade spinning in his hand as if it weighed nothing.

    They battled at a pace that would have been impossible for anyone relying on physical strength alone and both had to draw heavily on their Qi reserves. After two hundred moves Hu Yidao started to falter, his Qi having already been depleted in fighting the other Martial Artists. Sensing victory Tse Ao redoubled his effort, his attacks coming ever closer to breaking Hu Yidao's defence. Summoning the last of his strength Hu Yidao leapt towards Tse Ao, performing the Blade Hidden in all Directions technique.

    His attack was akin to that of a wounded animal, all thoughts of defence being abandoned to deliver a series of lightning fast strokes that ensured the defeat of his enemy even as he exposed himself to certain death. Tse Ao was taken aback by such a reckless move and had a split second to decide whether to attack and risk exposing himself or retreat. His sense of self preservation won out and he backed away, which was exactly the wrong thing to do, as he was too close to Hu Yidao to escape in time.

    The curved sword tore the front of Tse Ao's robe to shreds and only Hu Yidao's great skill prevented the same being done to his chest. Staggering back Tse Ao looked at his ruined clothes and then at Hu Yidao. Although Tse Ao knew that if the fight continued he would be able to overcome the near exhausted Hu Yidao, such an action would bring shame onto his family. Had he been alone with Hu Yidao then he may have done so, but the presence of the others meant that such a disgraceful act would surely become known.

    With as much dignity as he could muster Tse Ao bowed in defeat. Sheathing his sword Hu Yidao gave a final salute to his opponents and leapt into the air, leaving as suddenly as he had appeared.

    “Truly he deserves to be called Hero of the North.” spoke Sun Daoling in admiration. The sentiment was shared by all but one of his companions.

    ####

    She was sitting in the carriage, sewing with a delicate smile on her lips. Hu Yidao's exhaustion vanished the moment he set his eyes on her and he quickened his step. Looking up her smile broadened at the approach of her husband. Laying down the baby clothes she had been making she reached into the carriage and brought out a bottle of wine. Leaping into the seat next to his wife he took the bottle and drained it in a single draught.

    As he tossed the empty bottle away his wife reached into the carriage and handed him another one. This time he slowly sipped his drink as he took the reins and drove the carriage:

    “So you are not going to ask me how it went?” asked Hu Yidao

    “I never doubted you.” she replied

    He took a long look at her. Her beauty had dazzled him from the moment they had met. Her delicate and noble features had captured his heart from the very beginning. But it was her intelligence and wit that he truly loved. Secretly he wished their unborn child would inherit their intelligence from her. As he smiled back she noticed a shadow of doubt in his eyes:

    “Is something wrong?” she asked, the concern in her voice melting his heart.

    “It took to long. If I am to face 'him' then a must do better.”

    No other words needed to be said. She touched her swelling belly feeling the heartbeat of her child and silently prayed that her husband would live to see it born.
    Last edited by Mandred Skavenslayer; 05-12-15 at 02:39 PM.

Similar Threads

  1. Replies: 5
    Last Post: 09-19-09, 04:03 AM
  2. rescuing xiao zhao
    By wkeej in forum Wuxia Fiction
    Replies: 28
    Last Post: 04-10-06, 02:45 AM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •