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Legend of the Sword and Saber (Book of Destiny)
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Thread: Legend of the Sword and Saber (Book of Destiny)

  1. #1
    Senior Member Goofy's Avatar
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    Cool Legend of the Sword and Saber (Book of Destiny)

    As SC requested, this is the continuous from the other post. This is the part III, the last part of the story.

    Thank you to WhiteKrane and NiteDream for a new poster.

    The following cast list can be used for part III too. I decide not to make the other cast list for this last book b/c it will be too much of a spoiler. <IMG SRC="smilies/biggrin.gif" border="0">


    Character List (Part II. Book of Saber)

    Sword South School:
    Sword God (teacher) .................................................. ........ Bau Fong
    Tian Fei (2nd apprentice) ……………………………….... Adam Cheng Siu Chow
    Liu Tong (3rd apprentice) .................................................. . Ray Lui Leung Wai
    Li Renying (Tian Fei’s apprentice) ……....................…….Tony Leung Chiu Wai
    Tian Xing-xing (Tian Fei’s goddaughter) ………….....…. Kitty Lai Mei Han
    Huang Yitao (Liu Tong’s 1st godson) .......…...........…....…Felix Wong Yat Wah
    Huang Jiwen (Liu Tong’s 2nd godson) ............................… Howie Wong Man Ho
    Ah Yan (Li Renying’s Maid) .........………………….....… Margie Tsang Wah Sin

    Emei Sect:
    Xun Ci Shi Tai (master of Emei) .................…….....…..... Lui Yau Wai
    Ah Ju (4th disciple) .................................................. ..…..... Idy Chan Yuk Lin
    Gu Xiaofei (15th disciple) ....................…................…........Kath y Chow Hoi Mei
    Chu Lianhua (16th disciple) .......................................…..... Jamie Chic Mei Chun
    Zhan Zhiying (17th disciple) ...................................…........ Sheren Tang Siu Mun
    Mrs. Zhan (Zhiying’s mother) ………………………….... Carol Dodo Cheng Yu Ling

    Wu Dang Sect:
    De Pang (1st martial brother) ………………………….…. Liu Kai Chi
    Duan Hui (2nd martial brother) …………….….…………. Alex Man Chi Leung
    Man He (3rd martial brother) …………...…..……………..Simon Yam Tat Wah
    Mu Zhen (4th martial brother) ………………………….....Lau Ching Wan
    Xian Yuo (5th martial brother) ………………………...….Eddie Kwan Lai Kit
    Ah Zhu (3rd disciple of Emei, Man He’s wife) ...................Yeung Pan Pan

    Love Palace Sect:
    Zhang Tin (Wang Shan’s 3rd apprentice) .......................….Eddie Cheng Siu Fai
    Zhang Xinlang (Zhang Tin’s eldest son) ……...………… Miu Kiu Wei
    Zhang Xi-nan (Zhang Tin’s second son) ......................…. Kent Tong Chun Yip
    Wang Shan ……………...............................………….…..Wong Wai
    Lu Peng (Wang Shan’s 1st apprentice) ........................…....Kong Wah
    Lu Tingli (Lu Peng’s adopted daughter) ………....……….Barbara Yung Mei Ling
    Leader Yu.…....................................………....... ..........…..Cheung Lui
    Leader Wu.…....................................………....... ..........…..Lo Chan Shun

    Medicine Forest:
    Present
    Medicine Man (husband) .....................................…......…. Chun Wong
    Dragon Lady (wife) .....................................……..........… ...Helena Law Lan
    Ruyu (granddaughter) ...............................…..…..........…...R ain Lau Yuk Chui
    Di Bao (apprentice) .....................................…............ ..….. Roger Kwok Chun On
    Lulu (apprentice) ................................................…… ...…...Gigi Chiu Ngar Chi

    Past
    Ah Xi (Ruyu’s mother) ................................................…… Lee See Kei
    Lao Fu (Dragon Lady’s servant) ..........................................Yeung Jak Lam
    Lao Ma (Medicine Man’s maid) ...........................................Seung Yee

    Other Characters:
    Yong Butong .....................................……….......... ..……...Vivian Leung Siu Bing
    Lin Xin-er .....................................……….......... ..........…....Vivian Leung Siu Bing
    Ah Yi .....................................……….......... ................….…Andy Lau Tak Wah
    Eunuch Xu…………….….………………………….……..Lee Sing Cheung
    Eunuch Cao…………….….………………………….…….Kwan Hoi San
    Black Devil.…....................................……….... .............…..Luo Le Lin
    Dr. Ma .…....................................………......... ........………Yeung Quan
    "History's third dimension is always fiction."
    -- The Glass Bead Game, Hermann Hesse

  2. #2
    Senior Member Goofy's Avatar
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    Cool

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

  3. #3
    Senior Member Goofy's Avatar
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    Cool

    The Legend of the Sword and Saber
    Written by Gigi

    Part III: Book of Destiny

    Chapter 33
    My Father, My Daughter (1)

    Characters list (not in particular order):
    Ruyu ...............................………...............… ...……………Rain Lau Yuk Chui
    Black Devil........................…………………………………Luo Le Lin
    Lu/Lin Tingli ………..………………………………….….Barbara Yung Mei Ling
    Huang Yitao .....................................……….........… ……....Felix Wong Yat Wah
    Lin Xin-er …………...................…......………………...….Vivian Leung Siu Bing
    Tian Fei .................................................. ...............................Adam Cheng Siu Chow
    Ah Yi …………..................................……………………...A ndy Lau Tak Wah
    Dr. Ma .…....................................………......... ........……….Yeung Quan

    Ruyu was traveling on top of her kidnapper’s shoulders with speed of whirlwind. Her motion and speech’s pressure points had been sealed, and she could do nothing but hoped fervently that someone from the inn did witness this abduction and accordingly informed Huang Jiwen of her sudden absence.

    After three hours of continuous running, her captor stopped at an abandoned shrine atop a remote hill. He walked inside and dumped her on dusty floor then went out to gather firewood. Soon, he came back with dry twigs and a pheasant. Next, he made a fire and prepared the prey with expert air. In no time, the roasting meat sent appetizing aroma to Ruyu’s nose, and she couldn’t help swallowing her saliva with hunger. When he saw her hankering look at the food, he grinned pleasantly. “Nobody could ever resist Black Devil’s special recipe of grilled chicken. Little girl, if you are hungry, I’ll let you eat. But you have to behave. If you promise not to run away, I’ll unseal your pressure points. Wink twice if you are willing.”

    Ruyu quickly winked twice at him, and he released her pressure points. She didn’t wait for him to invite again but helped herself freely with a huge portion of the cooked bird and some more. Not until more than half of the bird was gone did she feel full. She sat back and announced contentedly. “Yummy! That was sure a tasty meal. You may be an old ugly man, but you sure are a good cook.”

    Black Devil smiled widely at the young girl’s table manner. He leaned back on the main column of the building and scrutinized his hostage keenly awhile. Then he made a statement. “You must be a granddaughter of Dragon Lady because you copy her exact rambunctious. I also see that you have your grandfather’s smile, but your eyes were keen and lively just like those of your father’s.

    Ruyu instantly forgot the plan of running away at the first chance. She asked the old man excitedly. “Do you know my father then? Who is he? Where is he now?”

    Black Devil only grunted as if he did not hear her. Ruyu impatiently repeated her questions, but received total silence. When she about to open her mouth again, the old man annoyingly sent his inner energy to seal her pressure points once more.

    “I am going to fight with Xun Ci Shi Tai of Emei tomorrow, no time to chit-chat with you.” He laid Ruyu down on the ground and threw a coarse blanket over her before pressing her sleeping point. “Good night.” He went to a far corner of the shrine and sat cross-legs, closing his eyes for meditation.

    When Ruyu woke up in the morning, the old man was gone. All morning, she had to lay there hungry, unable to move. Just when she started thinking that she would be left there, starving to death, Black Devil came back. Without a word, he unsealed her pressure points and put down a bamboo basket in front of her. Ruyu eagerly opened the container and inhaled the smell of food with joy. Then she started eating ravenously while the old man paced back and forth; his eyebrows knitted in deep thought.

    Suddenly, he turned to face Ruyu who was finishing the last bowl of rice and proposed to her. “I can tell you everything about your father for an exchange of a map into the Medicine Forest.”

    Ruyu halted her chopsticks half way and looked defiantly at the old man with long white hair and intimidated eyes. “Old turtle, what do you take me for? Would I tell you that easily if I know the way to the Medicine Forest? I can tell that you don’t mean well with my grandparents.” Then she jeered at him. “On the other hand, I just might do that provided that you let me go free first so that I don’t have to rot here while you die out there under my grandpa’s and grandma’s hands.” Even with a full stomach, she was still moody from being left inert all morning. Staying still for hours was never one of her strong points.

    Black Devil scowled. He was evidently unimpressed with her scornful words, so he gave her a hard slap. At the same time, he told her not to be too insolent. Then he took out a heavy metal chain and clasped it on Ruyu’s two feet on one end and hammered the other end on a big pillar and went out to hunt for the evening meal.

    Ruyu bit her lips till they hurt. She had never been slapped on the face by anyone before. How dared him? She walked out of the shrine but could go only as far as the door because that was the end of chain’s length. Frustrated, she sat down and grabbed a nearby rock and hit it forcefully at her manacles. After a while, she gave up since it seemed fruitless. She hugged her knees and frowned, thinking hard of a better way to escape. Then she heard a set of approaching footsteps.

    Without thinking, she brought out three needles and flung them accurately toward the appearing figure. Three needles went straight to their target but bounced back to their thrower when met with strong inner force from their opponent.

    Taken aback, Ruyu ducked down thus avoided her own projectiles in time. Chain on her feet rattled noisily when she rolled herself on the ground ready to cast another set of needles again. Suddenly, she went numb. Turned out she was immobilized by a tiny piece of wood that was flung at her with strong inner force.

    “Devil girl, you won’t free yourself by killing me. I don’t have the key. I only have this dagger.” Black Devil chuckled in good mood. He took out a sharp knife and hurled it away with force. It stuck deep in a tree trunk about 5 chi (meter) from the door. He pointed that out to Ruyu. “Look there at the knife. It is the only thing that can cut the chain aside from my inner strength. So, now even you kill me on the spot, you will have to die here too from starvation. There hardly anyone ever came by this area.” He raised his eyebrows when he saw the incredulous look on her. “You thought I am tricking you, didn’t you? Do you want me to strip myself to show that there is no key on me?” He quizzed her mischievously.

    Upon which, Ruyu cried out hurriedly. “No, no. That’s not necessary. I believe you.” She turned red.

    Black Devil snickered. He turned to tend to his prey, this time it was big rabbit. When the meat was done, he released Ruyu and let her eat her fill before speaking. “Have you reconsidered over my proposal? A mere piece of paper for a story of your father. Don’t you want to know who and where he is? I’ll take you to him too if you like.” He persuaded her in soft voice.

    Ruyu wavered. She was not sure which would be the best course she should go. She couldn’t betray her grandparents by giving secrets of the Medicine Forest away to this strange old man, but at the same time, she didn't want to pass this golden opportunity since he seemed to be the only clue to her father’s identity at the moment. She examined the other cautiously. “What do you want from my grandparents? How would I know that you don’t just make up a story to trick me? Even my grandparents don’t even know about my father. How could you?” She probed him with doubt.

    Black Devil smiled a little and grimly commented on her shrew observation. “Humph, you seem to receive Medicine Man’s intelligence. For your information, such a childish trick is beneath my status and my reputation. If I lie to you, may the lightning strike me now.” He announced haughtily. “I’ll give you more proof. I saw you drop a piece of circular jade back at the inn. That jade was my wedding present to your parents. There are tiny carvings of sun, moon, and stars around the disc, leaving an empty space in the middle for your name. Am I right?”

    Ruyu’s heart almost stopped beating. “Yes, that’s right. That jade was with me since my birth. When I was five years old, Grandpa had my name carved on it.” She admitted. Finally, the truth will be revealed.

    Black Devil smiled triumphantly. He paused dramatically. “Well, do we have a deal then? A story of your parents in exchange to the entrance of the Medicine Forest.”

    As Ruyu nodded absentmindedly, Black Devil inwardly sighed with relief. From both encounters with Eight-Array Maze, which he believed to be built by some disciples of Dragon Lady, he realized that unless someone would guide him through the Medicine Forest, he had no chance against his old enemy couple. ‘The map is necessary in case they lure me into the Forest, but the most important thing is this young woman here. She will be a good bait for her grandparents to come out and fight with me.’

    He turned to tend the fire as he reminisced the past. “I first met your parents in Tibet. Ah Xi (Lee See Kei) was your mother’s name. At the time, your father wanted to regain a favor from his master. So, he sought me out and attempted to take my life but was severely injured by me instead. Your mother came across us fighting, and she rescued him with her wits. When I found them a few days later, instead of finishing them off, I ended up being a witness for their wedding due to your mother’s clever three-inch tongue. I gave them the jade disc as a present, and we made truce with one another.

    We lived in peace for a while. Then one day, your parents went away, and I haven’t met your mother since then. However, I knew what happened to your father though. He had returned to the Central Plain to continue with his evil plan. I ran into him six months ago and heard from him all the account he did to his wife, your mother. Twenty-four years ago, when he found out that your mother was a daughter of Medicine Man and Dragon Lady, he seduced her into marrying him because he wanted to gain access to your grandmother’s poisonous collection. Your father was not a young man, but he had a charismatic personality. His deep voice was like magnetic that drew a young girl like your mother to his charming snare. Nevertheless, she was a strong character. When she found out her husband’s true intention, she decided to leave him for good. She was pregnant at the time. Nonetheless, she unwittingly became part of his plan at the end. He poisoned her before she could have left and dropped her near the Medicine Forest. His goal was to induce his parents-in-law into rescuing their only daughter thus opened wide a chance for him to steal what he wanted. He was too late, however, as someone else had been there before him.

    Your father told me all this of course because he knew how I admire your mother’s courage. He wanted to invoke me so that I’d kill him. But seeing how much he was in misery, I let him live instead. Ha-ha.”

    In a space of time, Ruyu’s word spun around. Since childhood, she had often wondered about her parents’ love life. But for the life of hers, she could never have imagined that her father was the responsible one for her mother’s death. Not only he had harmed his wife, but he also almost killed his only daughter whether intentionally or not. The poison that Ruyu had received from her mother’s womb lay dormant for five years before attacking its host.

    She recalled her grandparents’ attempt at extracting poison for her body and could not help shedding tears. It was a long and painful process, and it took the two experts over three years to bring Ruyu back to the living world. They had never thought of giving up, and when the child Ruyu cried out of misery, the aged hearts of the old couples were doubly hurt and more distressing.

    Her lips parched. She could think of nothing to say for once. Finally she uttered in croak voice, “What is his name? Where is he now?”

    Black Devil shrugged. He spoke no more. He pointed to her the corner that was to be her sleeping place. Then he lost himself in meditation.

    Ruyu obediently walked to her straw bed and lay down wistfully. She turned the story she heard over and over in her mind and didn’t want to believe that her father could be that bad person. Then she thought of her mother’s death and her agony from his poisoning and felt bitter toward him. Then she thought of her name – it was her mother’s wish before her last breath to name a baby girl Ruyu. “It was the name that we have chosen together if we were to have a daughter someday. He always said that I was like rain that revived the love in his heart again.” Those were her mother’s last words, according to Grandpa. She sighed. How could one love and hate one’s father at the same time?

    She had restless slumber that night. She dreamed of a faceless man who kept running after her, forcing her to drink poison from a bowl.

    In the morning, Black Devil woke her up and told her that he would be gone for a couple days. He gave her a bag of food and the left over meat from last night and pointed to a pile of firewood. “Just behave yourself here. I’ll take you to see your father as soon as I take care of my business. Meanwhile, write out a map of the Medicine Forest as part of your bargain.” He dropped a package of writing implements on her lap and added dryly. “You’d better pray for my safety too, little girl, for you won’t live long if I can’t come back.” He was gone in a blink of an eye.

    The three days that Black Devil was away gave Ruyu time to ponder her situation from different aspects. At the end, she decided that all she wanted is her father, the only parent she had left now – whoever he might be, whatever he might have done.

    To meet him, she would have to give the map of the Medicine Forest to Black Devil. She thought of her aged grandparents and felt apprehensive. Was her father worth a risk lives of her two closest relatives? She shook her head vigorously. No, she overrated Black Devil too much. Her grandparents were the most powerful martial artists beside Sword God; therefore, they could not be defeated by anyone. Her confidence came back, and she brought out paper and ink and started drawing a diagram of traps in the Medicine Forest.

    When she was done, she folded the map carefully and put it in her undershirt. Then she waited for the return of Black Devil.

    Meanwhile, Huang Yitao and Lin Tingli arrived at Dr. Ma’s house in city of Guilin. They found Dr. Ma in an agitating state. When he saw the elder brother Huang, he seemed to relieve a little but soon looked worried again. Upon the inquiry about Huang Jiwen, Dr. Ma assured Huang Yitao that his younger brother was in good health, aside from gaining a very ‘dear’ friend. When asked who that friend was, Dr. Ma replied wryly that the person in question was no one else but Huang Jiwen’s supposed enemy, Miss Ruyu of Medicine Forest. Unfortunately, she had been kidnapped by an unknown person, and Huang Jiwen had gone to Sword South School for help.

    Upon which, Huang Yitao informed Dr. Ma that he had been searching for Tian Xing-xing, who had left the house to follow Li Renying. However, Dr. Ma told him that although Li Renying had been here with Ah Yan, they immediately departed during Dr. Ma’s absence. On the other hand, Tian Xing-xing had not yet arrived. Seemed that the best things to do was to wait for Huang Jiwen, who would undoubtedly returned to Dr. Ma’s as soon as he heard the goings-on at Sword South School.

    More surprises were in store, however. Soon after the two guests sat down, a servant entered to report that Hero Tian had just arrived at the gate. At the news, Dr. Ma excitedly led Huang Yitao and Lin Tingli to greet the new comer. It had been a while since the two friends had visited each other.

    Tian Fei was walking in with two youths. One of them was a stranger, but the other was a handsome young man who Huang Yitao had met outside of Guiyang. “Yong Butong,” Huang Yitao exclaimed. He had thought that this pretty boy was with Li Renying at Sword South School. ‘How come he was here with Uncle Tian?’ He was puzzled then reasoned it out. ‘Probably he was released upon Renying’s learning of Jiwen’s safety.’ The boy didn’t seem to recognize him, however. So, he said no more, not wanting to let Tian Fei know of their adventure. Tian Fei did not approve of his juniors staging frivolous fight with strangers without a good cause.

    Lin Xin-er pretended not to hear the name call from a burly young man as she had no idea who he was. She sighed inwardly, acting as someone else became more complicated than she had thought. She glanced uncertainly at new faces opposite and received a warm smile from the only other girl in the room, so she smiled back amiably. Huang Yitao saw the friendly exchange between the two and was not pleased. His distrust in Yong Butong increased as he recalled the martial art that this pretty lad displayed when they first met. It looked similar to Tian Fei’s renowned ‘Heavenly Fingers Technique’. However, just before he could have mentioned this to his uncle, Dr. Ma had invited Hero Tian to an inner chamber for a private conversation.

    After Tian Fei and Dr. Ma left the room, Huang Yitao accosted the fake Yong Butong and reminisced about the event outside the gate of Guiyang. In reality, he intended to find out the origin of this strange boy, but Lin Xin-er misunderstood that he saw through her pretense and, consequently, tried to expose her in front of his friends. So, she mumbled some excuse and walked outside by way of avoiding him, which, to Huang Yitao, was an evidence of guilt that she had indeed stolen Kung Fu from Sword South School.

    With this idea in mind, he jumped in front of her and playfully demanded a friendly duel for he intended to make certain his theory before fully accused this young master Yong. Lin Xin-er, of course, turned down his challenge, but Huang Yitao was relentless. He praised Yong Butong’s martial art in sarcastic tone to invoke him into a fight. “Master Yong is too humble. I remember that you used ‘Heavenly Fingers Technique’ to stop a sword from my martial brother, Li Renying, that day outside a cave. Today, I’d love to witness once again that Kung Fu of yours although my martial arts are nothing compared with Renying’s. Beware!”

    At the end of his sentence, he thrust his sword toward Lin Xin-er in a stance called ‘Leading toward the End’. This was a simple move that aimed at an upper body of its opponent. Its strength was flexibility at the tip of the sword for the sword end would follow its target everywhere, no matter how the opponent tried to evade it.

    With little Kung Fu that Tian Fei had taught her, Lin Xin-er dodged the sword swiftly left and right but ended up facing its tip again. Suddenly, a hand reached out and caught the sword in the same manner as Tian Fei’s ‘Heavenly Fingers Technique’. It was the third person who came with Tian Fei and Lin Xin-er. The stranger smiled indulgently at Huang Yitao and made a joking comment. “Humph, I think you overrate this sword catching trick a bit since everyone on the street seems to know it.” He released the sword with sudden force, and it broke in half.

    Huang Yitao staggered back with one half of his sword. He turned red with anger. It was all right to lose to this young stranger, but he could not accept the arrogant statement that implied that one of Sword South School’s greatest martial arts was merely a ‘street trick’.

    Trying to suppress his fury, he coldly asked the stranger of his name and his clan. “My name is Ah Yi, and I am just a wanderer, roaming on the street,” was the calm answer.

    Two days ago, after Ah Yi (Andy Lau Tak Wah) lost tracks of Huang Jiwen and his friends, he came straight to Guilin as he recalled the conversation he overheard between Yong Butong and Huang Jiwen about stopping at Dr. Ma’s on the way. Just inside the city, he happened to see Lin Xin-er walking along the road, accompanied by a tall middle-aged gentleman with heroic look. Without thinking, he approached her excitedly. At first, Yong Butong ignored him, but when Tian Fei turned around and greeted him with friendly gesture, Yong Butong reluctantly admitted that they were friends though still acted coldly toward him.

    In fact, Lin Xin-er was in a mist of ignorance. She didn’t dare to reject Ah Yi because she was not sure about his relationship with Yong Butong. As a solution, she acted indifference, keeping aloof for the time being. She determined to find a chance to escape from this group of people before she could get caught as an impostor.

    Ah Yi interpreted her cold attitude as that his friend was still mad at him. So, he humbly followed her and Tian Fei to Dr. Ma’s in hope of finding a way to patch things up with Yong Butong later on. As for Tian Fei, he took Ah Yi as a friend of Lin Xin-er; therefore, he didn’t object to Ah Yi’s trailing after them.

    Huang Yitao said to Ah Yi with contempt. “That trick of yours was nothing compared to that of my uncle Tian Fei’s. You have looked down at his martial skill, and I shall show you the true Sword South School’s martial arts.” With that, he attacked Ah Yi in three consecutive moves with his broken sword. Ah Yi jumped back to evade those moves and called out a question in surprise. “So you are from Sword South School? What is your name, and who is that tall gentleman then?”

    Huang Yitao stabbed forward in three more moves while answering scornfully. “So, you are just an ignorant street rat who didn’t even know the great Gentleman Sword of the South, Tian Fei. Did you learn that move from your friend Yong or did he learn it from you? Either way, you both are thieves. By the way, my name is Huang Yitao, the eldest godson of Hero Liu Tong, the junior martial brother of Hero Tian.” He announced his name challengingly.

    Ah Yi had by now regretted his rude statement. He originally wanted to tease this rugged young man a little after witnessing his belligerence toward Yong Butong. He heard Huang Yitao mentioning about breaking a sword with fingers and understood that this Huang youth tried to accuse Yong Butong of stealing his school’s Kung Fu, so he instantly used what he had learned from Sword God to curve the other man’s pride. However, now that he realized that his attacker was from Sword God’s school, he was ready to make an apology. Then he became annoyed at being called ‘street rat’ and ‘thief’. So, he decided to use Yong Yi sword to defeat this haughty student of Sword South School. ‘Butong will certainly be delighted to see our sword display.’ He happily hit on an idea to pacify his dear friend. So, he picked up the other half of the sword and began his defense with stances from the Yong Yi sword.

    Huang Yitao was taken aback by strange yet familiar moves of Ah Yi. Although he had better martial arts than Huang Jiwen, he suffered the same fate as his younger brother in fifteen moves. Ah Yi, of course, had an advantage of knowing Sword South School’s sword arts inside out; therefore, he could foretell Huang Yitao’s next move and its weakness, whereas Huang Yitao could not predict any moves from his opponent’s sword series at all. As a result, the fight ended with Huang Yitao lying on the ground with the broken sword tip resting on his neck.

    Ah Yi tossed away the weapon and offered his hand to his defeated opponent, who grabbed Ah Yi’s wrist with strong force while swinging himself up. Huang Yitao stood up and smiled at Ah Yi with admiration. “You have incredible inner energy for your age, young brother. I apologized to you for calling you names earlier. Whoever your master is, he must be a close friend to our grand-teacher, Sword God; therefore, you deserve our courtesy. I have eyes but without sight. Please forgive me for my rudeness.”

    In return, Ah Yi bowed to the other civilly and said he was sorry for being too arrogant at first too. Then the both men laughed and became friends. It was indeed true that a fight created friendship and could turn strangers into close pals.

    At that moment, Tian Fei stepped out from behind a shadow and leaped toward Ah Yi. With light speed, he clasped the young man’s shoulders with a move called ‘Fisherman catches Fish with Bare Hands’. With quick reflex, Ah Yi sent his inner energy up from his middle to his shoulders and pushed off Tian Fei’s hands, at the same time, he reached out in ‘Eagle Claws’ move and gripped the older man’s left shoulder tightly.

    Tian Fei felt that his body was pressed down with strong force, so he used ‘Shifting a Boulder, Repositioning a Rock’ stance to transfer the force from his left shoulder down to his palm and finally out of his body. The energy that he released from his left palm struck right at a palm tree that planted in a garden; uprooting it instantly.

    Dr. Ma heard the noise of the falling tree and ran out of his private chamber to see his friend Tian Fei speaking to a young beggar. At that moment, Hero Tian was commenting on Ah Yi’s inner strength. “You have very refined inner force. In this martial art world, only three other people could have reached that level – Sword God, Medicine Man, and Dragon Lady. Since you are using our school’s Maiden Sword together with Emei Sect’s Butterfly Sword, you must have been very close to my teacher, Sword God, and received martial art instructions from him. Hence, he must have sent you to me for something. Please tell me. How is he? Is he all right? I miss him so and wish that he would allow us to see him soon.”

    Ah Yi sighed at the mention of Sword God. He greeted the aged gentleman respectfully and brought forth the Sword God’s ring on a piece of string he tied around his neck. As soon as Tian Fei saw the treasure of Sword God, he quickly pulled the young man into the writing room he and Dr. Ma had just had a conversation ten minutes.

    When the door was closed, Tian Fei asked the youth in front anxiously. “What happened with my teacher? Is he in grave danger?” He touched the ring fondly and explained. “This ring never leaves my teacher’s finger as long as I can remember. Young brother, please tell me if he is all right.”

    Ah Yi quickly reassured Tian Fei that Sword God only sent the ring along as his introduction. “He was sick when I left him, but I’m sure that he would be all right.” He said by way of comforting himself as well as Tian Fei. Then he introduced himself and related to the other his mission and his relationship with Sword God.

    “Teacher!” Tian Fei cried at the news of Sword God. He thumped down sadly on a chair then he stood up straight. “If Teacher wanted you to leave him like that, he must have had his own reasons. I am certain that he is fine.” It was his turn to console them both. He continued thoughtfully, “Even if he didn’t order me to help you find your brother, I would have done that any way. I’ve always held a high regard for your parents, Di An and Ah Lan. They were good people. You can be proud of that fact.” He patted the youth’s shoulder and sighed heavily. “A lot of things have happened these past few days. Dr. Ma just told me that there was a rumor that my junior martial brother Liu Tong was killed by Love Palace, which I hope to be only an idle gossip. I also received news of my long lost sister-in-law, Yue Ling. In addition, I heard that a mysterious high-skilled martial artist had appeared in the Central Plains. I don’t know whether this has to do with recent criminal deeds from Love Palace or not. To make the matter worse, last month, Hua Shan’s leader just passed away, and I strongly suspect a foul play in his death. Turbulence is in the air, and evil wind is abode. I fear that something will erupt soon.” He looked out of a window toward the west, sending his love to the person that had been sitting in his heart the last twenty years. Seemed that he would not get to go to the Medicine Forest for the time being. Duty came before love. A hero had to put others before his personal matters.

    He thought of his loved ones – Yue Ling, Liu Tong, and his teacher – for the last time. Then he opened the door and asked for everyone’s audience. When everyone entered the room, he started a meeting without delay. He introduced Ah Yi and Yong Butong to his host and his nephew, and Huang Yitao in turn presented his friend named Lin Tingli to his uncle.

    Tian Fei bowed to the young lady politely but didn’t ask further of her business with him, much to Lu Tingli’s relief. She had been practicing telling a story but was not confident that she could go through with it for she never had to lie to anyone before. All that Huang Yitao knew was that she had a personal business with Tian Fei.

    Tian Fei spoke in clear and unwavering voice. “Dr. Ma has some possible bad news concerning Liu Tong and Emei Sect. It was unconfirmed yet of Liu Tong’s fate at the moment, and I ardently pray for his safety. However, for certain, Emei Sect seems to be in some kind of danger right now. Dr. Ma said that many villagers who lived near Emei Mountain saw thick smoke coming from the sect’s location and that anyone who went up there to investigate never returned. I decided to go to Emei as soon as possible to see for myself what’s really happening, but I have some other things I also need to tend to. On a way, I have captured a division leader of Love Palace who can be a good lead to the sect’s headquarters. So far, I was unable to make him speak yet.” He turned to Dr. Ma. “That’s why I brought him here. You might be able to induce him to talk by way of your medicinal skills, but I don’t want him killed. As soon as we know of Love Palace’s secret location, we will send out letters to other righteous groups to invite them for a permanent elimination of this evil sect. In the past, Love Palace people have kidnapped many noble girls from their home and sold them to Persian merchants in the west. Some of them ended up in brothels, and others became slaves in rich families. Now, commoners also loss their daughters to Love Palace. It’s high time for Sword South School to rid these villains off this world.” He announced, and Lin Xin-er watched him with fascination.

    Dr. Ma nodded his head solemnly in agreement. He promised that he would try his best to obtain the information from their prisoner. He went outside and called for his servants to take care of the man on a cart that Hero Tian had left at the stable.

    Inside the room, Huang Yitao was volunteering himself to go find his godfather, Liu Tong. Tian Fei thought the idea over and approved it. “The last time I heard, brother Tong went toward Mount Heng-Shan as an escort of Medicine Man’s apprentice. We can travel together till Sichuan. Then you can go northward, and I to Emei.”

    He then suggested to Ah Yi to remain with Dr. Ma. “I’ll write to friends of mine in this area to keep their eyes out for a mute man.” However, Ah Yi didn’t want to be left out of action, so he asked to accompany both men. When Tian Fei pointed out to him that this could be a dangerous trip, he reasoned that his brother’s matter could be put on hold for now but saving life of others was an emergency. He claimed that Sword God taught him martial arts to help others rather than for his personal purpose. Tian Fei admired the young man’s unselfish attitude and allowed Ah Yi to go with him.

    Lin Xin-er who had been quiet throughout the whole meeting suddenly stirred. She wanted to go to Emei as well. When Tian Fei informed her that he had decided to leave her under Dr. Ma’s care and send a letter to Master Yong to come and fetch his daughter himself instead, she tried to persuade him otherwise without a success. Tian Fei wanted only to keep this boy safe till the day he handed him over to the father.

    At last, Lin Xin-er had to bring out Xin Ci Shi Tai’s metal ring and showed it to Tian Fei. Then she explained to him the real reason she needed to be at Emei. “The priestess wanted me to find a person called Ah Ju and give this ring to her personally, and I have to keep that promise.” She opted not to mention about the Book of Four and the letter not out of distrust but more so from not wanting to involve others too much.

    For that reason, Tian Fei had to concede reluctantly. Then he turned to tend the last audience, Lu Tingli. He smiled at her encouragingly and inquired of her business. “Miss Lin, please forgive me for not tending to you earlier. Yitao said that you have a personal matter to discuss with me. If you would…” He was about to ask her to follow him to another room when Dr. Ma entered with a tall young man with pale face and thin lips. “Master Tian, this young man demands to see you immediately. He says his sister is here.”

    “Xi-nan!” Lu Tingli cried with delight. She ran to stand by his side. ‘Everything will be all right now that he is here. Xi-nan will take care of me.’ She looked up at him trustingly.

    Tian Fei raised his eyebrows in question but genially greeted the new comer. In somber manner, the young man said that his name was Lin Xi-nan, an older brother of Lin Tingli. “I’ve just found the package that Tingli supposed to give to you at home. She is such a forgetful child sometimes.” He teased ‘his sister’ fondly while she turned pink from embarrassment and from guilt. Then he presented a small package to Tian Fei who opened it slowly. In it, he found small pieces of jewelry items, mostly hairpins. With shaky hand, he picked up one hairpin, which studded with small white pearls. “Yue Feng!” He whispered. Did Heaven want to return his family to him finally?
    --------------------------------
    Whew! <IMG SRC="smilies/sweating.gif" border="0"> <IMG SRC="smilies/tired.gif" border="0"> <IMG SRC="smilies/coffee.gif" border="0"> This is a longest chapter I have ever written, but I sense longer one might be in coming. <IMG SRC="smilies/biggrin.gif" border="0">

    Thank you for reading this far. Please give some feedback. <IMG SRC="smilies/bow.gif" border="0">
    "History's third dimension is always fiction."
    -- The Glass Bead Game, Hermann Hesse

  4. #4
    Moderator Suet Seung's Avatar
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    Whoa! Goofy! You've must've worked very hard these past few days to get the chapters done. So how many chapters do you have up your sleeve, that you've yet to post? Eight pages! <IMG SRC="smilies/shocked.gif" border="0"> I'm impressed. Looks like I'll have to look up to you now. You even invented all those martial arts and kung fu moves. I just skim a little well this one part caught my eye, "Leading to the End" wow! It's very descriptive. How do you come up with these moves and stances? It's very impressive.

    I haven't had time to continue reading your fanfic and I know I'm missing a whole lot! <IMG SRC="smilies/crying.gif" border="0"> <IMG SRC="smilies/bawling.gif" border="0"> <IMG SRC="smilies/bawling.gif" border="0">
    I just love how you Captivate My Mind

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

  5. #5
    Senior Member Goofy's Avatar
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    constant practicing with gigi (aka xiaobai) the cat. <IMG SRC="smilies/wink.gif" border="0"> <IMG SRC="smilies/tongue.gif" border="0">

    Just pure imagination to compensate my ignorance of real martial arts. <IMG SRC="smilies/biggrin.gif" border="0">
    "History's third dimension is always fiction."
    -- The Glass Bead Game, Hermann Hesse

  6. #6
    Senior Member Goofy's Avatar
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    Part III: Book of Destiny

    Chapter 34
    Good and Bad Tidings

    Characters list (not in particular order):
    Tian Fei .................................................. ...............................Adam Cheng Siu Chow
    Lu/Lin Tingli ………..………………………………….….Barbara Yung Mei Ling
    Zhang/Lin Xi-nan..................………………………………Kent Tong Chun Yip
    Huang Yitao .....................................……….........… ……....Felix Wong Yat Wah
    Lin Xin-er …………...................…......………………...….Vivian Leung Siu Bing
    Ah Yi …………..................................……………………..An dy Lau Tak Wah
    Mu Zhen …………………………………….……………...Lau Ching Wan
    Dr. Ma .…....................................………......... ........……….Yeung Quan

    Tian Fei clutched the pearl hairpin till its sharp end pierced at his palm. Blood trickled down from his hand, but he paid no attention. He stared at Lin Xi-nan and fired questions at him. “How did you come by this hairpin? Where is its owner? How is she?” He almost stopped breathing, waiting for the answer.

    Lin Xi-nan’s eyes turned red. He replied gravely. “My mother, Lin Feng, is the owner of this jewelry bag. She passed away last year from illness. Before she died, she told us to take this package to Gentleman Sword Tian Fei of Sword South School and we will be provided for. She said to tell you to forgive her and take good care of ‘our twins’. Are you my father?” The young man asked the handsome middle-aged gentleman in front uncertainly.

    Tian Fei looked at the hairpin again and reminisced the happy past. He bought this hairpin himself as a gift to Yue Feng when she announced her pregnancy. He recalled his excitement and his father-in-law’s joyous laugh upon this good news. The both men did even joke about the hugeness of Yue Feng’s stomach. Master Yue once made a laughing comment. “Maybe she will have twins. After all, I remember that twins do run in my wife’s family.”

    “Yue Feng had a twin. I’ve found my children.” Tian Fei could only mutter these words over and over again. Then he thought mournfully of his other daughter, the baby that Yue Feng had thrown into the cliff, and his three children’s mothers. He sighed. Life was full of irony, and nothing was perfect. He had just discovered Yue Ling’s whereabouts, and now he met his children only to learn that Yue Feng was no longer in this world.

    So, Yue Feng had been hiding from him all these years, raising their children alone. She wanted him to forgive her, but there was nothing to forgive. ‘Feng-er, I should be the one who asked for your pardon. I failed my duties as a good husband and a father. You had probably suffered a great deal since that day. If you would have only come to me…’ His eyes were in film of tears, and he promised inwardly to the soul of his deceased wife that he would be everything to their children.

    He put the jewelry bag on the table and gave the tall young man a long hug. “Yes, I am your father. I and your mother separated eighteen years ago, and I have been trying to find her ever since. Your mother’s real name is Yue Feng, the eldest daughter of ‘Mountain Saber’ Master Yue Gao. There is so much to talk about! I’ll tell you all by and by. Now, let me meet my daughter first.” He turned to Lu Tingli who had stepped behind Xi-nan. Lin Xi-nan pushed ‘his sister’ forward to meet Tian Fei, who grabbed her hands with joy and called her his dear daughter repeatedly.

    Lu Tingli did not know what to say. She looked up at Zhang Xi-nan uncomfortably, and he motioned to her to call Tian Fei ‘father’. “Father,” she called uneasily. She didn’t feel right lying to this kind gentleman.

    Tian Fei only thought that she was shy. ‘Just like Yue Ling,’ he thought. Joy flooded through his heart till he almost choked from delight. He had never been this happy since the day he had lost both Yue Feng and Yue Ling.

    Excitingly, he called in his friends and his nephew who had left the room quietly when Dr. Ma brought in Lin Xi-nan. After a round of new introduction, Dr. Ma congratulated his long-time friend. “I’m glad for you, Master Tian. Part of your wish is fulfilled. I hope you will find the youngest Miss Yue soon too.” Then he invited everyone to a meal before a journey. “It’s the occasion to celebrate, and you need to fill your stomachs before a long walk. Also, we don’t know when we will all meet again like today.” Dr. Ma showed his hospitality as he ordered his servants to prepare food for his guests. “My house is small, and the dishes may not be anything special, but I hope everyone will give me an honor to entertain all of you.”

    After a big dinner, Tian Fei set off with lighter heart, accompanied by Lin Xin-er, Ah Yi, Huang Yitao, and his twin children. Having so much to catch up with his son and daughter, along the way, he chatted cheerfully with Lin Xi-nan, who seemed to adapt to his new situation very well. On the other hand, Lu Tingli was rather quiet, almost gloomy as a matter of fact. She had not yet found time to talk to Zhang Xi-nan in private and was in an irresolute position. Originally, she had agreed to infiltrate into the Sword South School to steal a martial art manual for the sake of Xi-nan. However, she didn’t expect to go this far, pretending to be a daughter of a stranger. Nonetheless, she didn’t dare to upset Xi-nan’s plan and jeopardize his life. Although Huang Yitao was a nice gentleman and everyone else seemed kind, she couldn’t help feeling afraid of their martial arts prowess. ‘They could kill each other with those sharp swords they carry.’ She reminded herself of the fight between Huang Yitao and Ah Yi.

    Huang Yitao had been observing Lu Tingli in silence and sensed that she was upset about something. So he approached her gently and pointed out beautiful scenic to her. At first, she was rather reserved but soon lost herself in the magnificent vista ahead. They just arrived at a vast sunflower field. The yellow color of flowers glowed in the afternoon sun, in contrast with clear blue sky. At that moment, hundred of sunflowers were facing the opposite direction to the sun – like beautiful maidens turned their backs at their lovers – waiting for the next coming morning so that they could greet the rising sun in the east again.

    Tian Fei called for a halt, and he went off with Lin Xi-nan to find water, while everyone else sat down to take a rest. Lu Tingli sent a lingering look at Xi-nan’s back and sighed. She touched a tiny sunflower absentmindedly, thinking of her home and her life in Guilin. Just then, a bouquet of colorful flowers was presented to her. She looked up and saw an honest face of Huang Yitao’s. He gave her a big grin and said, “I found these flowers among rows of sunflower plants. They’re just blossoms of unwanted weeds, but I think they are as beautiful as the majestic yellow flowers and not totally useless. I am a stupid man and might not be able to do much, but I hope that I can lend my hands to you somehow. You didn’t look happy despite finding your own father. Are you afraid of our roughness?” He smiled at her warmly and said soothingly. “You haven’t said much since I fought with Master Di and Master Yong. So, I presume that you don’t like violence. But please believe me that it was just a friendly duel. I would not hurt any guests of my martial uncle, and his friends would not harm me either. Unlike me, martial uncle Tian is an educated gentleman with high martial art skills. He is a kind man and the well-known hero of China. You should be glad to have a father like him. He has a goddaughter named Xing-xing. She is a lady, and I’m sure you both will get along very well.” He guessed that she was not used to the martial art world.

    She looked away at the golden ray of the sun and uttered a question. “I don’t understand why there must be fighting and killing. From Master Tian, er, Father said, Love Palace was evil people and they have harmed many innocent lives. However, they might have some necessities. They might not even be bad intentionally. Why can’t we talk to them in peaceful manner? Either we die or they die, the loved ones are the people who get hurt.”

    Huang Yitao considered for a moment before replying in tender voice. “You have a kind-heart, and you are too innocent in this chaotic world. Love Palace is in fact only a small problem compared to the foreign enemy our country is facing now. But small matter often leads to destruction of the nation. Therefore, we need to control the internal affairs before dealing with the external troubles. That’s why martial uncle Tian wanted to do away with Love Palace as soon as possible so that he and other patriot sects can concentrate on protecting our country from foreign invaders.” He waved his hands at the picture in front. “Look at this splendid view. It is so peaceful, isn’t it? But to live in harmony or to sustain a life, a person has to fight against Mother Nature, against corrupting officers, against thieves, and against any other evil people like Love Palace. It will be simple indeed to just change people’s hearts from black to white, from bad to good. Alas, that’s not to be so. Many became bandits from certain circumstances, but some turned murderers from sheer greed of power. The only way to deal with these villains is to force some sense into them or to rid off them for good. Of course, deaths and injuries are inevitable when fights take place, but I wouldn’t mind dying for a good cause. One’s life span is so short that it is only worthwhile to live in order to do some good deeds.” He glanced at his martial uncle’s daughter and realized that he spoke too much. “I don’t mean to shock you like this. I’m sorry.” He stammered, looking at her helplessly. He could have slapped himself for being too insensitive and too candid in his speech.

    Lu Tingli turned pale as the harsh truth of the outside world was revealed to her. She had grown up in a sheltered world and never once imagined that such evilness existed. She instantly thought of Zhang Xinlang. ‘Is he one of those people that will kill for no reason and needs to be punished by death? Will Xi-nan be safe from him?’

    At that point, she was brought back to the hazy memory of her childhood. She always regarded it as a dream, a nightmare in fact. In that dream, she was chained on the legs with another girl, who was slightly older than she. They were walking on a grass plain. The other girl was not very nice because she kept cursing at the two adults and crying a lot. She also pinched Lu Tingli very hard to vent out her frustrations. In the dream, Lu Tingli cried out, and someone with a mask came to release her from the chains and kindly comforted her. She then remembered playing with two boys, who gave her flowers and said that she was pretty. Then they started fighting because of her, and the same man with a mask came and separated the boys. After that, she never saw any of them again. Instead, she was brought to a woman who became her nurse later on. A few years later, the masked man who told her to call him ‘Father’ bought a big house in Guilin for her and the nurse. From that day on, Father, a servant, and an old nurse were the only people in her world. The nurse left the house when she turned thirteen years old, leaving only an aged servant and some new maids that came and go every year.

    Her ‘father’ called himself Lu Peng and named her Tingli – white jasmine. He planted jasmine trees around the house and often sent jewelry and new clothes to her although he hardly ever came to visit her in person. They communicated regularly through letters, and she had grown to love her godfather and looked up to him as her hero.

    A music teacher was sent to teach her to play various instruments and dances when she was twelve years old. She was also taught to read and write by her nurse and her servant. All the books she had read only mentioned about love and prosperity but said nothing about evilness of the world.

    She did not want to believe Master Huang, but his words made sense. They explained why she was here – to protect Xi-nan from the vice of his older brother, Zhang Xinlang. ‘I cannot let Xi-nan be harmed by Xinlang.’ She whispered softly to the wind. Aloud, she mentioned to herself, “so, this beautiful world can be so cruel. I’ve lived all these years and I know next to nothing.” She touched the bouquet absentmindedly, and tears of innocence dropped on bright flower petals. A young girl had matured today.

    With new knowledge, she turned to thank Huang Yitao. “I was so stupid thinking that the world was all loving and no hatred. I was so naïve!” She chided herself and smiled at him prettily. “I see that I have a lot to learn, and I would appreciate very much if you would tell me more. I want to have a worthwhile life too.” She dried her eyes and would not accept his apology at making her cry. “You didn’t make me cry. I only missed my home. A child has to grow up sometimes, and it’s better to know about real world from your narration now than to learn about it the hard way later. Surely, you don’t want me to be ignorant all my life?” She teased him to ease his worry. Finally, he was able to smile and she gave him a friendly grin.

    While Lu Tingi was talking to Huang Yitao, Ah Yi was puzzling over his friend’s behavior. First, he made an apology to Yong Butong for teasing him the other day. Then he told his friend how he knew the Yong Yi Sword. He suggested to Yong Butong that they incorporated the saber dance with it too and was surprised that his friend who had always loved to learn new moves said that he was no longer interesting in the frivolous martial art. At first, Ah Yi thought that Yong Butong was still mad at him. Then he understood. ‘Probably he has that other guy to help him with the Yong Yi Sword. The ‘Yi’ might not mean me, after all.’ He recalled how close Yong Butong and Di Bao seemed to be with each other and felt rather dejected. But then, Yong Butong suddenly became lively and talkative. Except the topic of martial arts, he chatted with Ah Yi about almost everything under the sun. Ah Yi felt that his friend’s personality had changed but could not fathom the cause. This new Yong Butong was friendlier, wittier with less naïve point of view, and more down to earth. How could Ah Yi suspect that this was not his friend, Yong Butong? Who could have thought that there were two different people, who apparently did not know each other, with exact same face in this world?

    Lin Xin-er was much impressed at Ah Yi’s martial arts when he rescued her from Huang Yitao. She realized that the real Yong Butong must have high Kung Fu, hence the challenge from Huang Yitao at Dr. Ma’s. Therefore, she tried to avoid the subject of martial arts to cover her ignorance in this area.

    When she learned that he was orphan and had been raised by an old monk, she felt one more step closer to him, having been an orphan and had to fence for herself too. Furthermore, she felt more comfortable being with Ah Yi for all his funny ideas and cheerful attitude unlike the serious Huang Yitao who was rather a bore at times.

    After Huang Yitao was defeated by Ah Yi, he had changed attitude toward Lin Xin-er as well. Since Ah Yi turned out a special student of Sword God and was a friend of Yong Butong, he naturally assumed that Yong Butong knew his school’s techniques from Ah Yi thus both entitled to due respect same as his other martial brothers at Sword South School.

    As a result, the three youths befriended with one another back at Dr. Ma’s. For Lin Xin-er’s part, she was relieved that foe turned friend, and Ah Yi felt honor to have a godson of Hero Liu as his chum. As for Huang Yitao, although he was rather annoyed at seeing Lu Tingli with this pretty boy at first, he soon got over the petty jealousy with his simplicity and open-mind. Since childhood, he had been instilled by Liu Tong to regard brotherhood and friendships the most important quality a man should have. Now that all misunderstandings were cleared, he was more than glad to gain two new friends. In fact, he was rather taken up with Ah Yi for this lad reminded him a lot of Li Renying (Tony Leung Chiu Wai), not to say his strong inner power that even exceeded that of Tian Fei’s.

    Both Ah Yi and Li Renying had leadership quality and high humor. They were fun to be with because they were always full of good ideas for adventures. They were also smart, loyal, and considerate with unbiased outlook. However, under the tutelage of Tian Fei, Li Renying had better education than Ah Yi thus was a scholar and bound by society rules. In short, Li Renying was a restrained gentleman, and Ah Yi was a carefree wanderer.

    At a stream not far from the sunflower field, Tian Fei was surveying his son with pride. ‘He grew up to be such a tall and handsome man. And he has a gentle smile.’ Nonetheless, he felt that Lin Xi-nan reminded him of someone outside the Yue family. ‘Maybe some Yue ancestor whose portrait I saw at Father-in-law’s house.’ He concluded finally and soon forgot about it.

    Xi-nan was inquiring his ‘father’ about the young man named Yong Butong. “How did you meet him?” So, Tian Fei told him how he had rescued the boy from the hands of Love Palace. “Yong Butong was the one who witnessed the death of Xun Ci Shi Tai, and he has her metal ring, the symbol of Emei’s master, with him. He is traveling with us to present this ring to the next master of Emei, Ah Ju. Then I’ll escort him to his father in Xiangyang.”

    Zhang Xi-nan digested the information thoughtfully and began to form a new plan. He could kill two birds with one stone with this idea of his. When he saw Lin Xin-er, he instantly recognized her as the girl who knocked him out at a brothel ‘House of Red Plums’ last month. Now, it’s high time to get even with this beautiful witch. ‘This Yong Butong fits the description of the youth in white robe, whom our people have been hunting for this past week. Together with the fact that she has Xun Ci Shi Tai’s metal ring, there is no doubt that she must have the Book of Four with her. Hmm, she is as pretty as I have remembered her though a bit skinny. If I can’t have her this time, my name won’t be the second young master Zhang of Love Palace. Not only I can avenge my humiliation that night, but I will also stand on good side with Father and Uncle Lu by giving them the Book of Four that they have long wanted.’ He laughed inwardly.

    He then asked Tian Fei how he could be sure that this young master Yong was not a spy from Love Palace. To which, Tian Fei laughingly answered, “Because I have his portrait from his father, so I am certain that I got a right person. As for his mixing with Love Palace, it would never have happened if he hadn’t run into the dying priestess of Emei. I hope that we can get the Emei business clear up as soon as possible so that Butong can return to his father soon.”

    “Oh! I see.” Zhang Xi-nan murmured. He would have no chance with the girl as long as she was under Tian Fei’s protection, not to say that there were Huang Yitao and a beggar boy named Ah Yi, who was constantly at her side. Somehow, he had to separate them.

    Tian Fei finished filling water pouches and called his son to hurry back for they have a long way to go before nightfall. Somehow, he felt a need of urgency. Now that Xun Ci Shi Tai had passed away, he sensed that something must have gone wrong with Emei Sect. Sword God had always told his students to look out for the priestess and her disciples regardless of their rudeness to Sword South School. “This is the best I could do for my friend, Lord of Saber, for he was a brother of Xun Ci Shi Tai.” He explained the reason to Tian Fei and Liu Tong.

    Tian Fei recalled his last words with Dr. Ma. “I don’t want Jiwen to come after me. Instead, I’d rather have him remain at your house, taking care of our captive and looking out for Xing-xing and Renying. If they happen to come by your place, please detain Xing-xing at the house and send Renying to me. Jiwen is hotheaded and if a rumor about Liu Tong’s death is true, he might do something stupid on the way. Renying is more levelheaded, and he will be a good helper to me. As for Xing-xing, I only heard from Yitao that she had left home because of Renying. She has enough Kung Fu to take care of herself, so I’m not worried about her safety. I am more concerned of her behavior. Something must have happened for she would never have gone away from home without an accompaniment of either any of Huang brothers or Renying. Anyhow, I’ll talk to her later when I get back.”

    He heaved a sigh when he thought of his goddaughter. ‘Maybe she is too lonely being an only girl among us men. Now that I have Tingli, Xing-xing won’t be lonely any more. Tingli seems a sweet, good-tempered girl, and Xing-xing is quiet and gentle. I think they will get along fine.’

    While they were trekking back to the sunflower field, he made an observation about his son. “Xi-nan, I see that you have quite good light Kung Fu. You must have quite talent in learning martial arts. Wait till this business is over, and I’ll teach you our school’s sword arts to you. Your mother probably taught you a few things herself. I’ve taught her some martial skills, and she knew your grandfather Yue’s saber techniques quite well. When we have more time, I want to test your skills.” He didn’t notice the sweats on Xi-nan’s face. The younger man at that moment was thinking that Tian Fei was sharper than he had thought, and he needed to be careful of this old man in the future. He didn’t expect Tian Fei to know that he had martial arts. Outwardly, he only mumbled that he only learned enough to protect himself and his sister.

    Tian Fei liked his son’s humble attitude and consoled Xi-nan that he would be the one to take care of them now. “I’ll compensate not being with you all these eighteen years.” He patted his son’s back with love.

    When they arrived at the field, he and Xi-nan were in time to witness Lu Tingli laughing merrily with Huang Yitao and Lin Xin-er was explaining intensely about her latest invented maze to Ah Yi. Tian Fei smiled pleasantly when he saw that his martial nephew seemed to be attracted to his new daughter. ‘I am blessed with a new son and new daughter. Soon, I might gain a son-in-law too. Yitao is a good kid. I’m glad he likes Tingli.’

    However, Xi-nan was not amused. On the other hand, he discovered a solution to his problem. ‘Tingli, you will have to help me again. It’s fortunate that Huang guy infatuates with you.’ Nonetheless, he glowered at Huang Yitao unpleasantly out of jealousy. He was probably the only one that was not very happy throughout the afternoon.

    Alas, happiness for others did not last long. Toward the end of the day, the group reached an inn where Tian Fei said that they could get horses for tomorrow’s journey. Tian Fei requested for the lodging and was told that there were only four rooms left.

    “Hmm, four is probably enough for us. Tingli and Butong can each have her and his own room, and I can stay with Xi-nan, while brother Yi here shares a room with Yitao.” Tian Fei divided the room; he unconsciously pampered young master Yong.

    At that moment, a new customer turned up at the entrance. Tian Fei looked around idly then exclaimed in surprise, “Fourth Hero Mu Zhen of Wu Dang Sect!” He went over to greet the new comer who was indeed Master Mu Zhen of Wu Dang.

    Mu Zhen seemed glad to find Tian Fei here. He immediately requested a private conversation with the Gentleman Sword of the South. Puzzled, Tian Fei led Mu Zhen to his room, while others dispersed to their respective quarters.

    Zhang Xi-nan walked his ‘twin sister’ to her room and told her that he needed to talk with her. So, Lu Tingli invited him in and before he could say anything, she began the conversation. “Xi-nan, I am not comfortable deceiving these people. Everyone has been kind to us. Can’t we just ask them politely for the martial art manual that you said your father lost to them years ago? I’m sure Master Tian will be reasonable enough to give it back if Uncle Zhang wants it that much. Also, I don’t want him to disappoint later on when he finds out that we are not his real children. I feel bad misleading him like this.” She looked up at him beseechingly.

    Zhang Xi-nan was all smiles, contrary to his inner feeling. He suavely replied to her, “I wouldn’t mind talking to them about the martial art manual, but I’m afraid that it is no use. They will kill us for sure. Tingli, I just realized now that I put your life at risk with this group of people. They might seem noble and kind, but I believe that they are in reality spies of Manchu, working against China. They are hypocrites who pretend to be good but harbor evil intentions behind their gentle smiles. Love Palace might be an unorthodox sect, but it is loyal to the Imperial Court. Because of that, it’s accused of many atrocious crimes it has never committed. Sword South School wants to find an excuse to eliminate Love Palace so that the Emperor would loss the supporter of the throne. You have lived too sheltered life; therefore, you did not recognize the lies they are feeding to you.” This was the second time on that day that Lu Tingli was told that she was too naïve. Could this be a real truth? She looked uncertain.

    Zhang Xi-nan saw that and acted angry. He scoffed. “I see that Huang Yitao has brainwashed you already. The next thing I know, you will give our real identities away. I’m not afraid of falling in their hands, but I don’t want you to suffer with me. You’d better leave here as soon as possible then.” He gave her a letter. “Oh! Here is a letter from Uncle Lu. He knew that you are with the Sword South School, so he gave me this letter to explain to you their evilness. If you don’t believe me, you will probably listen to your father. He is very worried about you, and he gave me a lot of scolding for making you leave your only home. You’re right about one thing though. We should not have lied to these people, however wicked they are. Tonight, I will challenge Tian Fei for a duel like a gentleman. If I win, we will get the martial art manual, but if I am defeated, I don’t want you to be here to witness my death.” He tried to say farewell but could not. His face was pale, and he put her hands on his lips before walking away.

    Who would not fall for this trick? Lu Tingli immediately grabbed his shirtsleeves, pulling him back to the room. She sobbed, “Xi-nan, don’t do anything stupid. Master Tian’s martial arts are very powerful. I saw him uproot a tree without even touching it. I don’t want you to get killed. I believe you and will do everything you say if you promise not to fight with Master Tian.”

    Zhang Xi-nan hesitated, but when she begged him again, he reluctantly conceded. Then he told her to open Lu Peng’s letter. Lu Tingli obeyed and she read aloud her godfather’s message. “Dear Tingli, I am not pleased that you are pulled into this ugly business by Zhang Xi-nan, but it is probably fate. I ask Xi-nan to take care of you while you are away from home, and you have to listen to him. I know that you won’t like lying and pretending as someone else’s daughter, but it is necessary. Tian Fei is our major enemy. I have to wear a mask all the time because my face was once mutilated. That was because of him. You became an orphan also because of him. I am not asking you much, just act as his loving daughter for now as a distraction to him from us. Xi-nan will do the rest of work. I hope you could do that for your aging and tormented father. Love you always, Lu Peng.”
    --------------------
    not the end of chapter yet. <IMG SRC="smilies/biggrin.gif" border="0">
    "History's third dimension is always fiction."
    -- The Glass Bead Game, Hermann Hesse

  7. #7
    Senior Member Goofy's Avatar
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    Lu Tingli’s last doubt vanished. How could she refuse the wish of her godfather? And how could she let Xi-nan get hurt by Tian Fei? “I won’t disappoint both of you.” She promised, tried to be strong.

    Zhang Xi-nan put his arms around her gently and thanked her gratefully. Then he sighed. When she asked what was wrong, he told her that he needed to separate Tian Fei from the other members. “He is traveling too fast with too many people. We need to delay him a bit so that we have time to learn about the hiding place of that manual.”

    Lu Tingli thought hard and finally suggested, “I could act sick. I can do that.” She confessed with red face. “I did that sometimes when I didn’t want to study. Master Tian seems to care for me a lot. He will surely stay here a couple more days because of me.”

    Zhang Xi-nan smiled fondly at her but shook his head. “It’s no good. Tian Fei is very smart. He won’t fall for this simple trick.”

    Lu Tingli paced restlessly around the room. She murmured, “if only I can get sick for real now.” She tried to think a way to make herself ill. Then she heard Xi-nan whisper. “I have a plan, but…” He paused then continued, “forget it. I don’t want to harm you.” However, she talked him into revealing his idea. “Didn’t I tell you that I’ll be brave and do everything for you?”

    At last, Zhang Xi-nan brought out a small bottle from his shirt. Then he said. “This bottle has pills that can make you sick. You need to take only one pill at a time. It will make you feel very ill for a few days, and you will be well again.” He put the bottle in her hands then changed his mind. “I don’t want to give you pain. This pill is rather strong, and you might suffer from it.”

    Lu Tingli swallowed hard, but she was determined. She clutched the bottle tightly, not letting Xi-nan to take it back. “I have decided that I’ll do it. After all, it will be over after a couple days.” She trusted his words and was eager to help out.

    After some cajoling, Zhang Xi-nan eventually agreed, and Lu Tingli opened the bottle and took out a pale pink pill. Then she put it in her mouth and swallowed it with a cup of tea. After that, she went to the bed and lay down drowsily. According to Xi-nan, the pill should take effect after fifteen minutes although it had already made her sleepy. Zhang Xi-nan gently tucked her in and left the room quietly.

    In Tian Fei’s room, Mu Zhen just finished relating the death of Liu Tong and about Yue Ling. Tian Fei felt as if someone had struck him with an arrow. Tears formed in his eyes. “Liu Tong is really dead.” He uttered hoarsely. The joy of hearing a confirmation of Yue Ling’s whereabouts was eclipsed by the sorrow of losing his beloved junior martial brother. He and Liu Tong were like real brothers. They grew up and practice martial arts together. Tian Fei reminisced that he always helped Liu Tong out with his study, while Liu Tong would sneak out some food from kitchen for him whenever he had to stay up late reading. Tian Fei originally was to take official examination but changed his mind at the end. He was disgusted at the whole system of the decaying government and lost interest in becoming a part of it. He decided that he could help people better as a free agent instead of an officer restricted by laws and ranks amid jealousy of fellow colleagues.

    He gritted his teeth and clenched his fists with rage. “For the good of other people and for revenge on my part, I have to get rid of Love Palace. I have to kill Lu Peng and Zhang Tin with my own hands.” Then he grew calmer. Looking out of window at the dusky sky, he rebuked the Heaven silently. ‘Why are you cruel to me like this? You give me back Yue Ling just to take away Liu Tong. You returned my children but robbed Yue Feng from me. What did I do in my past lives that would make my happiness such short life?’ He lamented bitterly.

    Mu Zhen glanced at the other man sympathetically. He knew that only time could heal this grief. No words were adequate enough to express the lost of a loved one. He sighed at the thought of Ah Ju and informed Tian Fei that he had gone to Sword South School but didn’t find him there, so he left a letter explaining his errands with servants. To which, Tian Fei said that it was probably waiting for him in the library since nobody in the house knew where he was at that point. When he found that Mu Zhen’s destination was Emei for the same reason as his, he promptly asked Mu Zhen to travel with his group. Then, with a good host’s manner, he invited Mu Zhen to have a supper with his party. Mu Zhen accepted both invitations and the two men came out of the room, more somber and more resolute.

    At the table, everyone was there except Lu Tingli. Upon inquiry, Zhang Xi-nan reported that his sister did not feel well and, accordingly, retired to bed early. Tian Fei was concerned and wanted to know if she required a doctor, upon which his son said that she was only too exhausted from the journey and needed a good sleep to refresh herself. Relieved, Tian Fei silently continued with his evening meal. He did not have a heart to tell Huang Yitao yet of Liu Tong’s demise, and Mu Zhen did not wish to interfere with the family’s affairs. He had delivered the message and now he only wanted to see Ah Ju again, as he was quite worried about her safety.

    As there was no room available for Mu Zhen, Tian Fei proposed to share a room with him. Xi-nan then would room with Huang Yitao, and Ah Yi would move into Yong Butong’s room. Lin Xin-er tried to protest the new rearrangment but had no other alternative, especially when Lin Xi-nan smilingly offered to stay with her instead. At least, she trusted Ah Yi more than that pointed face of Uncle Tian’s son. It was not a right time to reveal herself as a girl either. So, she went to her room and sat down uneasily on the bed.

    When Ah Yi came in, she became tense, preparing to scream if he made an advance at her. However, nothing happened, and she recalled the fact that everyone thought that she was a man. Ah Yi took a pillow and a blanket from the bed and bade her a good night before lying down on the floor. Surprised and rather guilty at usurping the bed to herself, she offered to sleep on the floor instead, but Ah Yi merely smiled and said that he was used to the hard ground. Besides, he added jokingly, he was too smelly for the bed. Lin Xin-er did not understand his meaning but felt less anxious. She relaxed and soon fell asleep.

    In the morning, Ah Yi woke her up with bad news. “Miss Tingli is very sick. A doctor has come and left a drug prescription for her. Huang Yitao has just gone to town for the herbal ingredients, and Master Tian would like to talk to you. He is now in his daughter’s room, waiting for you.”

    He brought her a bowl of water and waited on her patiently. When she was done with her toilet, he led her into a room next door. Inside, Master Tian was pacing the floor nervously. From time to time, he would stop to check on the sick girl, who went back to sleep again from the doctor’s acupuncture treatment. Lin Xi-nan and Mu Zhen were also there, waiting to hear what would be the next step.

    Tian Fei heard the footsteps and gladly called out for Yong Butong. “I’ve been thinking and could not decide either you want to go ahead with me or stay here with Tingli till she gets better.” He explained that they needed to leave for Emei right away, but Tingli was currently indisposed and had to remain at the inn for a couple days. “The reason that we stopped here for the night is because the innkeeper promised fresh horses in the morning. We couldn’t afford to waste more time, and we couldn’t take her with us like this. I will ask Yitao to stay here with her, and Xi-nan said that he would be here too. How about you two? Which do you want to do? I and Hero Mu will travel non-stop from now on, and the trip might be rough. Therefore, we are not sure if you should go with us, especially Butong. I know that you need to see Ah Ju in person, but we don’t know for sure where she is at the moment. Emei is in danger for certain, but Ah Ju might not be there, after all.” He looked across the room at Mu Zhen who was impatient to set out.

    Lin Xin-er looked at Lu Tingli’s ashen face and felt pity. She looked around the room and realized that she should be here to help nursing Tingli. ‘She needs a good care. Her brother doesn’t look as if he can be much help, and Master Huang is just so awkward and slow.’ So, she announced her decision, and Ah Yi said that he would not leave his friend’s side. That meant only Tian Fei and Mu Zhen would go to Emei. Secretly, Zhang Xi-nan congratulated himself. Everything fell in with his plan, after all.

    At that moment, Huang Yitao arrived back with Tingli’s medicine. He then was called in the room, and Tian Fei brought up his idea of having Yitao at the inn to protect his twin children.

    “But how about my father?” Huang Yitao was between two minds. He was worried about his father and concerned over Lu Tingli’s condition at the same time.

    Tian Fei closed his eyes painfully before slowly replied. “Your father would not need you any more. Hero Mu informed me last night that he had been killed by Love Palace.”

    Huang Yitao dropped the herbal package that he had bought in town and collapsed on the floor. “Father!” He cried and shouted for revenge.

    Tian Fei stepped toward him and pulled him up. “I know how you feel. But duty comes before personal matter. Now, I’ll go and rescue Emei Sect with Hero Mu. You are to stay here for another day. Tingli should be able to travel by then. As soon as she could get up, I want you to escort her back to Dr. Ma’s. She is better off being there than on the road. I shall blame myself for this shortsightedness. Then I want you to work with Dr. Ma to get our prisoner to talk. That was our only link to Love Palace. When you get the information, come to Emei as fast as you can. Bring Jiwen along too.” He knew that it was no use to detain the rash Huang Jiwen at Guilin once the news of Liu Tong’s death came out.

    He warned his martial nephew. “Don’t be too hasty. Our enemy is in the shadow, and we are in the light. We don’t know where they are or what they are doing. So, be careful. I entrust the safety of my children to you, especially Tingli’s. I don’t want to meet them just to see them depart from me again. Will you do that for me, please?” He asked Huang Yitao, who slowly regained his composure. The young man nodded red-eyed but was ready to face anything. Tian Fei patted his martial nephew’s shoulder and the two men understood the heavy task lying ahead of them. Huang Yitao bowed to his martial uncle and Mu Zhen and walked them to the stable. After they were gone on horsebacks, he walked back slowly to the patient’s room.

    There, he found the medicine package had been picked up. Lin Xi-nan was nowhere to be seen, but Ah Yi and his friend were in kitchen, brewing medicine for Lu Tingli. Huang Yitao went to the kitchen and offered to help but was told to prepare hot water to bath the patient later. When the medicine was done, Lin Xin-er poured it in a bowl and told him to take it to the sick girl. She could tell that he liked Lu Tingli but was too reticent about it. So, she planned to be his matchmaker.

    When she told Ah Yi about her idea, he laughed at her and called her ‘an old maid’. However, after a moment of reflection, he said softly that he wouldn’t mind being ‘an old maid’ with her too. The comment left a deep impression in her. She felt warm and fuzzy inside and was happy that she found another kindred friend like Di Bao. She smiled at Ah Yi radiantly.

    Ah Yi was stunned at his friend’s vibrancy, who at that moment was leaning against a birch tree. The sunlight showered through green leaves and rested briefly on Lin xin-er’s shiny black hair before reflecting on the silvery tree trunk. The slim figure was like a god standing under a portal of light, or was it a goddess?

    ‘Do I become a man who likes the same gender?’ He questioned himself confusingly. How could he? Then he shook his head. No, this was just a sign of kindred spirit that Yong Butong described to him yesterday’s afternoon. His mind wandered to a man his friend kept talking about, Ah Bao. ‘Was he the one he saw that day?’ Ah Yi wondered and felt a dislike for ‘Ah Bao’ already.
    --------------------
    Is this long enough? <IMG SRC="smilies/laugh.gif" border="0"> <IMG SRC="smilies/coffee.gif" border="0"> <IMG SRC="smilies/sweating.gif" border="0">

    Do you like wordy chapters like this or just a short summary?
    "History's third dimension is always fiction."
    -- The Glass Bead Game, Hermann Hesse

  8. #8
    Moderator Suet Seung's Avatar
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    Wow! Another 8 pages that's pretty long. <IMG SRC="smilies/clap.gif" border="0">
    I just love how you Captivate My Mind

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

  9. #9
    Senior Member Goofy's Avatar
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    actually 9 pages, he-he. <IMG SRC="smilies/biggrin.gif" border="0">
    "History's third dimension is always fiction."
    -- The Glass Bead Game, Hermann Hesse

  10. #10
    Senior Member Floo..'s Avatar
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    Goof: I'm embarassed to say that I'm still in Ch. 22. Lots of outta-town-assignments, watching too much of Meteor Graden, and preparing for my 'new life' has made me run out of time... sorreeee...

    But I've skimmed and...

    I'm UR FAN!!!!

    Bwahahahaha...
    back w/ a vengeance ^_^

  11. #11
    Senior Member Goofy's Avatar
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    Floo... Thank you. <IMG SRC="smilies/touched.gif" border="0">

    I have edited the part II at winglin, so it is probably a lot better than the posts here. <IMG SRC="smilies/tongue.gif" border="0"> <IMG SRC="smilies/rolleyes.gif" border="0">
    http://www.winglin.net/fanfic/swordandsaber/
    "History's third dimension is always fiction."
    -- The Glass Bead Game, Hermann Hesse

  12. #12
    Senior Member Floo..'s Avatar
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    Actually, I read it on winglin <IMG SRC="smilies/biggrin.gif" border="0">

    End of Ch. 25 is so sad.... well written!!! <IMG SRC="smilies/thumbsup.gif" border="0">
    back w/ a vengeance ^_^

  13. #13
    Senior Member Goofy's Avatar
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    Floo..., I cried <IMG SRC="smilies/bawling.gif" border="0"> too for Liu Tong.

    Part III: Book of Destiny

    Chapter 35
    Divide and Conquer

    Characters list (not in particular order):
    Lu/Lin Tingli ………..………………………………….….Barbara Yung Mei Ling
    Zhang/Lin Xi-nan..................………………………………Kent Tong Chun Yip
    Huang Yitao .....................................……….........… ……....Felix Wong Yat Wah
    Lin Xin-er …………...................…......………………...….Vivian Leung Siu Bing
    Ah Yi …………..................................……………………..An dy Lau Tak Wah

    Huang Yitao brought a bowl of steamed herbal medicine to Lu Tingli, who just woke up. He encouraged her to drink it while it was still warm, and she obeyed. After finishing the medicine, she went back to sleep again. Huang Yitao quietly arranged a quilt on her and left the room.

    As soon as he was gone, Zhang Xi-nan entered the room. He looked down at Lu Tingli’s pale face and apologized inaudibly. “I’m sorry, Tingli, but I have no choice.” He opened the quilt and lifted her left hand. Then he took out a needle from his belt and pricked her thumb. Red blood came out, and he quickly dried that small wound. Then he covered her with the quilt again before departing.

    Toward midday, Lu Tingli woke up with horrible stomach pain. It was as if something was eating away her internal organs. She writhed agonizingly on the bed till the tears streamed down her face. “Xi-nan, where are you? Xi-nan, help me!” She cried before fainting.

    Even in her unconsciousness, the pain came to haunt her. It nagged her back to her sense, and she had to endure another round of ordeal. She had no more strength left to utter a word. At the time, Huang Yitao was in front of her room, a tray of food in his hand. Then he sensed that something was wrong. Anxiously, he knocked at the door before entering the room.

    There, he saw Tingli was tossing back and forth on the bed, her hands clutched at her stomach. He immediately put the tray on the table and went to help her. Noticing how agony she looked, he sealed her acupuncture points on her neck to relieve her pain. Then he laid her down among the disordered bedding and went out to find Ah Yi and Yong Butong. He found them not far from Tingli’s room as they were coming to visit her too. Quickly, he explained that Miss Tingli was very sick and he was going to fetch a doctor in town. Without further ado, he ran to the stable, jumped on a horse, and galloped off.

    Ah Yi and Lin Xin-er rushed in the room and found the patient’s ‘twin brother’ was there, feeding her hot porridge from the bowl that Huang Yitao had left on the table. She seemed to be better as she slowly swallowed the food. Some color returned to her white cheeks, and she was able to sit up and talk.

    When the doctor came, he checked her pulse and diagnosed her with ordinary stomachache. He wrote another prescription for her and left. Lu Tingli went back to bed with her hands clasped on Xi-nan’s wrist. Huang Yitao was standing not far away, observing the two siblings quietly, while Ah Yi and Lin Xin-er went out to brew another bowl of medicine.

    Half an hour later, they woke Lu Tingli up to drink the medicine. But before she could have brought the bowl to her lips, the same pain attacked her again. She dropped the bowl involuntarily and gripped her stomach before rolling down from the bed. At once, Zhang Xi-nan reached out and caught her in time. He carried her to the bed and called Huang Yitao to go for the doctor again.

    Lu Tingli was barely conscious when the doctor arrived. However, he could not tell what was wrong with her. He said that her illness was too strange for his knowledge and sadly took his leave. In the end, Huang Yitao had to seal her acupuncture points again to ease her suffering.

    Near her bed, the four youths pondered the way to help the poor girl for it was evident that her weak body would not be able to stand the pain for long. Ah Yi suggested that they all went back to Dr. Ma’s house, and everyone agreed. Accordingly, they hired a carriage and some horses from the inn and retraced the road that they were on yesterday. They traveled steadily awhile, but then had to stop for Lu Tingli could no longer stand the bumping ride. Her stomachache attack came back, and despite Huang Yitao’s treatment, her pain did not lessen this time. Finally, she passed out. So, they transported her to a shaded tree and Ah Yi went off to fetch water for the patient. While she was insensible, Zhang Xi-nan suggested that he would ride ahead to fetch Dr. Ma since they were not very far from the city of Guilin. Huang Yitao approved of the plan, and he anxiously watched after the receding figure of Tian Fei’s son.

    At that moment, Lu Tingli moaned out from pain, and Huang Yitao felt so helpless, unable to do anything for her. Lin Xin-er brought out a handkerchief and tried to wipe away sweat on Lu Tingli’s face. Then she got an idea. “Didn’t you say that you redirected her inner energy to ease the pain by way of sealing her acupuncture points? Maybe she doesn’t have enough her own force to fight with the pain. Why don’t you give her some of your energy? Xun Ci Shi Tai transferred her energy into me before she died, and I felt much stronger after that.”

    Huang Yitao’s face lit up. He said excitingly. “That is right! How come I am so stupid? All right, I will begin the process now.” With the help of Lin Xin-er, he propped Lu Tingli opposite of him and after opening the four main points (Tian-gu, Hua-chi, Yu-jiang, and Jin-liang), he brought his palms against her palms while mumbled an apology. “Miss Tingli, this is an emergency. Please forgive me for taking liberty of holding your hands.” Then he warned Lin Xin-er not to disturb him and started transferring his inner energy into Lu Tingli’s body.

    At that point, Ah Yi was on his way back with cool water from a rivulet when a figure clad in dark purple outfit appeared in front of him. Without any word, that figure started the attack. Unprepared, Ah Yi was almost hit by strong force coming out from the other’s palms. Luckily, he evaded the blow in time. Then he defended back with series of sword stances he had learned from Sword God. As they fought, he found that his opponent was more powerful and more aggressive than both Huang brothers were. This stranger at close up turned out a fair female with cold eyes of a killer. She had a sharp dagger in one hand, while used the other hand to hurl numerous projectiles at him. The dagger worked in coordination with the projectiles as it simultaneously followed the flying weapons so that their target had no chance to escape from either.

    Ah Yi was secretly glad that he had decided to select a sword from Dr. Ma’s weapon collections before leaving Guilin. With bare hand, he would not have had any chance against this ferocious killer. He warded off the coming projectiles back to their thrower with a stance called ‘Maiden scatters Showers of Petals’ and borrowed his attacker’s tactic by immediately sending his sword after those projectiles at her. Swiftly, the killer stepped aside, dodging the sword and parleyed back with ‘Death Lord plucks the Soul’, a fast and vicious move that aimed at a life of its opponent.

    Ah Yi twirled his body to the left to avoid the stab and somersaulted back. At the same time, he kicked out at the attacker’s hand, disarming her. Roaring out with rage, the killer untied her belt and lashed it out at him. The belt was a braided rope with claw shaped metal pieces attached at one end.

    With his excellent light Kung Fu, he jumped over the belt and thrust the sword to intercept the new weapon. The rope instantly coiled itself around the sword securely with its claw ends. Then the attacker started pulling back her rope, but Ah Yi twisted the sword and with his high inner force, he freed his weapon by slicing through the wrapping belt. The killer had to let go her rope to protect her hand from being cut. Left without any weapons, she leaped back and flung to the air a handful of purple powder, which turned into poisonous cloud concealing her escape. Ah Yi hurried after her but was held back by the purple vapor. He could not breathe and started to choke. Right away, he realized that the smoke was toxic, so he stepped out of the foggy area and sat down, using his inner energy to purge out the poison from his system. Just then he heard a piercing scream.

    Lin Xin-er paced back and forth restlessly as she watched Huang Yitao sending his energy stream into Lu Tingli’s body. Suddenly, she heard a shout. “Ah Yi, you are severely wounded now. This cliff will be your grave.” Sound of hacking and sword thrust could be heard in the same direction. Lin Xin-er’s heart dropped and without the second thought, she ran toward the voice. She remembered that there was a nearby valley with a rocky cliff and concluded that Ah Yi must have been fighting with someone there.

    However, when she reached the cliff site, she found only a tall figure of Lin Xi-nan. With great concern, she rushed out and asked him anxiously, “Where is Ah Yi? Did you see him at all? I heard the sound of fighting from this area.”

    But he only snickered and his sinister laugh roused her suspicious. She gasped and unconsciously stepped backward. “It was your trick, wasn’t it? This is not funny at all. Where is Ah Yi? What do you want?” She began to panic under his leering gaze. She shifted back another step.

    Zhang Xi-nan walked slowly toward her like a tiger moved for his prey. He said pleasantly. “I just want to have a talk with you alone. There are always too many people around us. Ah Yi is not here and definitely will not return. So, why don’t you forget your beggar boy and be my girl instead.” He chuckled at seeing her turned pale. “You probably didn’t remember me, heaven’s will. But I did recognize you from the brothel, so I know that you’re a girl.” He stepped forward, and Lin Xin-er stepped backward. Behind her was a deep gorge with a foaming river passing through.

    “I have to admit that I was too careless last time, but I’ve asked Master Tian about your Kung Fu, and he said that you didn’t know martial arts. It was probably your lucky day back at ‘House of Red Plums’, but today you won’t escape from me.” Zhang Xi-nan was in his best mood. He surveyed the frightened girl in front with satisfaction and comforted her with soft voice. “Don’t worry. I was not mad at you at all. I love girls who fight. Too bad that we won’t have a lot of time for some fun game, but I probably can give you a few lashes to make things more enjoyable. Do you know that I like to see blood and hear moaning from women?” At his last words, he pulled out a whip and thrashed at Lin Xin-er’s shoulders. She couldn’t help shrieking when the whip cut down her flesh under a thin white robe.

    Zhang Xi-nan listened to the scream blissfully. Then he pulled back the whip and said somberly. “I see that we will get along fine, but business comes before pleasure. Give me the Book of Four.” When Lin Xin-er, who was too stunned to speak, shook her head bravely, he snorted impatiently. “Oh, come on! I know you have it since you were the last person with that old hag of Emei.” He changed his voice and suavely persuaded her. “What possible use could that rotten piece of old book be to you? If you give it up to me willingly, I’ll spare your life. Otherwise, I’ll just dig it out from your corpse after I enjoy your body.” By letting her live, he meant that he would sell the girl to a brothel so that he could visit her more in the future. When she blushed at his indecent talk, he just shook his head slightly. “You can’t tell me that you and that beggar boy didn’t do anything last night. Who could restrain himself from a gorgeous girl like you? Though I’m not your first man, I’ll honor you for being your last one. Give it now!” He demanded and moved one more step toward her.

    Lin Xin-er had no other way to go. Her feet were at the cliff edge. She knew that she was lost. Then a crazy idea came up out of sheer desperation. She took deep breath and reached inside her shirt and brought out a small book. Then she held it out and tried to smile as sweetly as she could manage. “If I give you this book, will you promise me to let me go UNHARMED?” She still had her last little hope, but it died when she saw his ogling eyes.

    Zhang Xi-nan’s face lit up when he saw an object in her hand. Finally, the throne of Love Palace was only at his hand’s reach. His eyes traveled from the book to the beautiful face of Lin Xin-er and he nodded. He promised without intending to keep it. “Sure, why not? After all, you are not the only woman I have.” In his mind, he had Lin Xin-er in one hand while the other hand held the Book of Four. ‘Which fox would let the chicken out of its mouth?’ He laughed inwardly at his so near success.

    She prayed inwardly as Zhang Xi-nan stepped closer. When he was about an inch away, he put forth his hand for the book. Right at that moment, Lin Xin-er dropped the book in the ravine and kicked out at Zhang Xi-nan with force. However, it was not as easy as she had imagined. With quick reflex, Zhang Xi-nan leaped back, and at the same time, struck out a palm and pushed Lin Xin-er down the cliff into the river below. Her body was tossed among the big waves and was lost from the sight in the next minute.

    Zhang Xi-nan looked down from the cliff and laughed madly. “Yong Butong, serve you right to deceive me! In fact, you deserved to be cut in hundred pieces for throwing away the Book of Four.” He grunted with disappointment then smiled. “Come to think of it, if I don’t have it, Xinlang won’t have it either.” He shrugged and turned around and met Ah Yi.

    Ah Yi clutched at his sword till his knuckles turned white. He asked the other man. “Who just fell from the cliff? Was it Butong? Did you kill him?”

    Zhang Xi-nan was surprised at seeing him. ‘Did Black Snow Bird fail?’ Aloud, he sneered at the beggar boy. “So, the husband came to rescue his wife, eh? It’s too late, I’m afraid. Your lover has already drowned. I must admit that a beggar like you does have a good taste in women. This Yong Butong was very beautiful woman and very handsome when she dressed up as a man. At least, you had her for a night…” He didn’t finish the sentence as a sword from Ah Yi flashed at him. Before he knew, he was stabbed at the right left arm. He yelled with pain and lashed out the whip at his attacker. Ah Yi didn’t even evade the coming weapon. Using all of his strength, he leaped up and slashed down at Zhang Xi-nan. In three moves, he struck at the other’s hand, sending the whip down the cliff. In other five moves, he gave Zhang Xi-nan two more wounds, at shoulder and chest. He was blind with rage, and in his normal condition, Zhang Xi-nan would have died by now. However, the purple poison had only been partially purged out because Ah Yi stopped the procedure as soon as he heard the scream. He had run back to the carriage but saw only Huang Yitao healing Lu Tingli under a tree. There were no sign of Lu Tingli’s ‘twin brother’ or his dear friend. At that moment, Huang Yitao opened his eyes and told him to go to the cliff. He heard Zhang Xi-nan’s fake call too but was unable to move as he was in a middle of energy transferring process. As it was, after Ah Yi had gone, he suffered fire deviation and coughed out blood, but he determined to help Lu Tingli by all means, so he suppressed his pain and focused on sending his energy into her, regardless of the danger that could happen to him.

    Suddenly, Ah Yi faltered. The poison started to take an effect again. Zhang Xi-nan took this opportunity to run away speedily. Ah Yi tried to run after him but had no strength left. He had exerted too much energy into the fight. With no other choice, he sat down heavily on the ground and started his meditation again. Tears rolled down silently from his eyes. ‘At last, my dream has come true. Butong is a girl, but now she’s dead.’ He sobbed aloud.

    Zhang Xi-nan didn’t dare to stop. Ah Yi’s sword skills were higher than he had expected. ‘No wonder that Black Snow Bird could not defeat him.’ He thought regretfully. He totally overlooked this beggar boy. All of a sudden, his knees gave out and he toppled down on the ground. Turned out that the gash on his chest was pretty big, and a lot of blood came out along the way. In addition, he used up a lot of his energy to flee from Ah Yi. As a result, he felt weak, unable to get up. At that moment, someone came and kneeled next to him. A cool hand raised his head. “Help me,” he begged, blinking at a face above him before fainting.

    Lin Xin-er’s last thought was the faces of Ah Yi and Di Bao. “Ah Yi, Ah Bao.” Then darkness engulfed her, and she felt no more.
    ------------------------
    Thank you for <IMG SRC="smilies/read.gif" border="0">
    "History's third dimension is always fiction."
    -- The Glass Bead Game, Hermann Hesse

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    Hei Goofy I just finished read your story.It's a very good and interesting story <IMG SRC="smilies/rockband.gif" border="0"> <IMG SRC="smilies/smile.gif" border="0"> <IMG SRC="smilies/clap.gif" border="0"> <IMG SRC="smilies/clap.gif" border="0">

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    Senior Member Goofy's Avatar
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    thank you for stopping by, andrea...

    Here is the update, not so good, I'm afraid...

    <IMG SRC="smilies/redface.gif" border="0"> <IMG SRC="smilies/blush.gif" border="0"> <IMG SRC="smilies/redface.gif" border="0"> <IMG SRC="smilies/blush.gif" border="0"> <IMG SRC="smilies/redface.gif" border="0">
    Make me feel so evil... I shall prescribe myself hot peppermint tea to prevent fire deviation in me.
    Charbydis, shall I dedicate this chapter to you? <IMG SRC="smilies/tongue.gif" border="0"> <IMG SRC="smilies/wink.gif" border="0">
    BTW, is Five Venom Palm or Five-venom Palm better? Which is more correct grammartically?

    Part III: Book of Destiny

    Chapter 36
    Five-venom Palm

    Characters list (not in particular order):
    Lu/Lin Tingli ………..………………………………….….Barbara Yung Mei Ling
    Huang Yitao .....................................……….........… ……....Felix Wong Yat Wah
    Ah Yi …………..................................……………………..An dy Lau Tak Wah
    Chu Lianhua .....................………………………............…Jamie Chic Mei Chun
    Master Yang/Zhang Xinlang ………....………...………….Miu Kiu Wei
    Gu Xiaofei ....................................…………………………Kath y Chow Hoi Mei

    Huang Yitao opened his eyes and at once uttered, “Miss Tingli, are you all right?” He looked around and spotted Lu Tingli lying still on the ground. He stood up shakily and staggered toward her. Then he kneeled down and checked her pulse. To his relief, her pulsation was back to normal. Her face also regained its rosy color.

    Then he heard Ah Yi’s voice. “She is all right. She was somehow poisoned, but your inner power had purged out the poison from her body. She had vomited black blood and now is sleeping off her exhaustion. You should get some rest too before continue on to Dr. Ma’s house.”

    He just noticed Ah Yi, who was leaning against a magnolia tree, and recalled the last moment before he had lost consciousness. Just when he could go on no longer, a new stream of warm energy passed through him into Lu Tingli’s palms. It must have been Ah Yi who got him through the last process and rid the fire-deviation from his internal system. “Thank you. You have saved both of our lives.” He spoke to his friend gratefully then asked what had happened to Yong Butong.

    Ah Yi’s hands came up and punched forcefully at the tree next to him. Blood oozed from his fists, but he didn’t seem to notice it. He cried with remorse. “Lin Xi-nan killed her. Lin Xi-nan killed my Butong! He…he sent someone to kill me on my way back from fetching water and he himself lured Butong to the cliff and pushed her into the ravine below.” His voice shook, and tears ran down his cheeks.

    “That is not true. It cannot be true. You’re mistaken. Xi-nan would never kill anyone.” Soft, sweet voice rang out. Lu Tingli just woke up in time to hear Ah Yi’s accusation of her beloved Xi-nan. “It’s just some misunderstanding.” She repeated with confidence when met with stony glare from Ah Yi.

    Ah Yi ignored her intentionally. He turned to explain to Huang Yitao. “He told me himself that he killed off Butong. For all we know, he probably was the one who poisoned his own sister to separate us from Hero Tian and Hero Mu. There must be more sinister plot underneath all this. We should warn them about him. I fear that they might become his next victims.”

    Huang Yitao was stunned at Ah Yi’s revelation, but he wanted to give Lin Xi-nan a benefit of a doubt. “But Xi-nan is martial uncle Tian’s son. He wouldn’t harm his own father, surely.” He protested, glancing at Lu Tingli who turned pale upon hearing Xi-nan’s confession.

    Ah Yi grunted. “Who could be sure that he is a real son of Master Tian? Only a piece of jewelry is not enough proof. I thought he was rather suspicious from the beginning.” He didn’t want to believe that a son of the honest hero like Tian Fei could be such a villain. As soon as he succeeded in ridding of the purple poison from his system, he went back to the carriage to check on Huang Yitao.

    He was in time to rescue Huang Yitao from death. Originally, he only wanted to cure Huang Yitao from fire deviation but when he saw the ashen face of Lu Tingli’s, his anger temporarily vanished. After all, the criminal was Lin Xi-nan, not his twin sister. Consequently, Ah Yi sent more force through Huang Yitao’s back to Lu Tingli. With two streams of energy, she spewed out blood along with the poison she had taken for Zhang Xi-nan. After that, she and Huang Yitao passed out from fatigue. Ah Yi had been guarding over them till they woke up again.

    Both Huang Yitao and Lu Tingli also understood Ah Yi’s implication. If Lin Xi-nan was not really a son of Tian Fei, his sister could not be Tian Fei’s daughter either. Huang Yitao automatically stepped in front of Lu Tingli, intending to protect her against Ah Yi’s wrath in spite of his weak condition at the moment. He sensed that Ah Yi might be unreasonable enough to redirect his hatred of Lin Xi-nan to Lu Tingli instead. He declared. “Miss Tingli is innocent.” His eyes informed Ah Yi that he could not and did not want to fight with his friend and his life savior, but he would not let Lu Tingli be harmed at all cost.

    Ah Yi understood that and sighed softly. He said by way of farewell. “You’d better take her to Dr. Ma’s as soon as possible and take care of yourself. I’ll go hunt for that murderer and take him to Master Tian for a proper punishment, however much I want to kill him myself. He deserves that much of courtesy if he’s a son of Tian Fei.” He jumped on one horse and flew away with high speed.

    Lu Tingli dashed after him. She didn’t want her Xi-nan to be hurt but hadn’t gone far before she tripped herself over a stone, and Huang Yitao rushed forward to help her up. Tearfully, she begged him. “Please help Xi-nan. Don’t let Master Ah Yi kill him.” She tried to get up and walked, but Huang Yitao could not bear to see her suffer like this, so he sealed her sleeping pressure point and carried her to the carriage. Next, he hitched up the remaining horses to the coach and rode it hurriedly toward Guilin.

    Meanwhile, Ah Yi galloped the horse following the blood trail of Zhang Xi-nan, but had to halt when he reached an orchard. The trace of blood ended here, and he could not find any further clue. Therefore, he concluded that someone must have rescued Zhang Xi-nan and was clever enough to eliminate all the tracks. So, he gave up the chase and turned his horse toward the west, heading to Emei instead.

    In a town on the bank of the Yangzi River, a couple was strolling along the main boulevard. A woman was in lovely light pink dress, while a man was clad in elegant blue outfit. Both were good-looking and so well dressed that everyone on the street had to look back at this pair for the second time. The two came to stop in front of a big restaurant and after considering awhile, entered inside. They were led to a private room on the second floor. After getting seated, the handsome man ordered several dishes, including famous grilled trout of that area. The woman looked around at the interior and happily rested her eyes at her companion who sat at the opposite seat. She fingered her new dress fondly and shyly said, “You have spent so much money on me, this dress and jewelry.” She touched her new hairpin exquisitely carved on a piece of jade and looked at her accessories, rings and bracelets with pride. She smiled dotingly at him and blushed when he reached for her hands and brought them to his lips. He replied with charming voice. “My lady should get the best of everything. How can I bear to let my wife live poorly? By the way, I think it’s time we go on with the practice again. I want to reach the seventh step as quickly as possible.” He changed the subject smoothly and gave her another loving smile when she turned pale. “I know that it is an ordeal for you to help me with this martial technique, but otherwise, we wouldn’t have any protection against the Emei and Wu Dang sects. You know that your master is very fierce. She would never forgive us. Then there is your fiancee, Hero Xian of Wu Dang. I don’t want to see us ended up like your two senior martial sisters, being killed by Xun Ci Shi Tai for forsaking the sect for their loved ones.”

    “But their lovers belonged to the evil sect, and you don’t. Your family is known as a patriot, and your martial is no less than that of Master Xian.” The woman protested. “I used to think that I liked him, but I’m glad that I’d met you before my wedding. Now you’re the only man in my life.” She confessed demurely. She no longer felt guilty of leaving everything behind just to spend the life with the man she loved.

    The woman was Gu Xiaofei, the fifteenth disciple of Emei Sect, and the man was Zhang Xinlang or as known to her as Yang Xinlang. She had been with him since that passionate night in a small cave. At first, in the following morning, she was so confused and shameful of her behavior, but when Master Yang admitted that he fell in love with her at first sight and was ready to take responsibility for his action, she could not resist his charms and refuse his love. What else could a woman in her situation do? However, Master Yang mentioned that they needed to make sure of their safety first before settling down. As things were at the moment, he said, the two prominent sects would surely hunt them down once they found out that Gu Xiaofei chose to elope with him. When she asked him terrifyingly what they should do, he took out a manuscript to show to her and explained that he came across it fortuitously. Its content described one of the most powerful palm techniques, the Five-venom Palm. There were not many practitioners of this Kung Fu since it required two persons of the opposite genders with comparable martial skills and inner energy to practice during their intimate relationship. A female would represent the yin force and was the one to absorb venom from five different animals – toad, centipede, spider, snake, and scorpion. A male then would be the yang, who changed the venom from yin source into palm energy then transferred that neutralized energy back to his partner. One complication in training this palm style was the pain from the venom that the female would have to go through when she was in contact with each of five poisonous creatures.

    At first, Gu Xiaofei was against this unorthodox approach but with Zhang Xinlang’s guarantee of her safety and his promise to marry her once they could shake away their pursuers, she consented at the end. Unbeknown to Gu Xiaofei, however, the pursuers supposedly from Wu Dang and Emei were in reality the Love Palace disciples under Leader Yu (Cheung Lui)’s division in disguise.

    In the martial art realm, there were only two other people who knew this art, Evil Sword Wang Shan, who was its creator, and his third martial disciple, Zhang Tin. Wang Shan (Wong Wai) once had a wife who was skillful in poisoning subject. She helped him developed this palm without any complication because she was used to all kinds of poison. However, she refused to continue further once they had reached the fourth step for a personal reason. Wang Shan at last forced her to assist him to the sixth step, and that was as far as he could go. Without finishing the last process, his Five-venom Palm was not very effective; therefore, he hardly ever used it.

    By chance, his third disciple, Zhang Tin (Eddie Cheng Siu Fai) got hold of this manuscript and desired to use it to further his martial art career. Since he could not find a female counterpart with the required qualification and was willing to risk her life for him, he resorted to force any women, skilled and non-skilled alike, to absorb the poison first so that he could alter it into powerful palm energy for himself. However, he completed only to the third step when he met his deceased wife, Ah Mei. Although he had a chance of perfecting this martial skill with her, he did not do so from his genuine love for her. Nonetheless, after her death, he took it up again and used his former way of attaining the energy. Hundred of women died from this cruel process before he could achieve up to the sixth step. However, he was unable to understand the seventh step’s method and had to stop reluctantly.

    Since this was a rather rare martial skill, Zhang Tin kept the knowledge to himself although he was found out later on by his senior martial brother, Lu Peng (Kong Wah).

    Lu Peng, having been castrated by Yue Feng, could not practice this technique, so with malice, he ‘accidentally’ gave away the secret of this manual to the eldest son of Zhang Tin, Zhang Xinlang. From that day on, Zhang Xinlang was always on the lookout for skilled female martial artist so that he could lure her to practice this skill with him.

    When Zhang Xinlang met Chu Lianhua, he planned to seduce her for this purpose. However, he found that he had actually formed a real feeling for her, and accordingly, had no heart to hurt her. Gu Xiaofei, therefore, became his next choice and the victim of his deception. Once he had her body, he succeeded in talking her into aiding him through this immoral process. With her love to Zhang Xinlang and from fear of her master, Gu Xiaofei succumbed to her lover’s request and had suffered the agony from venomous animals for almost a month now. So far, they almost finished the fifth step.

    Tonight, Gu Xiaofei was waiting for Zhang Xinlang nervously. She was not looking forward to the torment that awaited her. She tried to sum up courage to call off the coming event but knew that she was not strong enough. The last time after she was in bed for two days with high fever from snake bites, she told him that she would not continue with this evil art any longer. As a result, he totally ignored her for three whole days, and finally she had to beg him to forgive her, literally throwing herself at his feet. She realized then that she could not live without him. He gave her such passionate love that she had never knew existed in this world and wealth that she had always been deprived of back at Emei Sect.

    Just then, Zhang Xinlang entered the room. They were staying at a large house near a forest. All servants had gone back to their home already. Zhang Xinlang walked over to the bed and placed a closed box on its side table. Then he embraced her gently and started to give her a massage to relax her body. All the while, he flattered her with his praise of her beauty and with his love declaration to her. Slowly, she became less tense, and he tenderly took off her clothes. After some passionate kisses, he laid her on the bed and followed her…

    In the middle of their amorous exchange, he reached for the box, opened it quietly, and suddenly dropped a large black scorpion on her chest. The creature had been shut up in a confined space for a long time, so it vented out its anger at the first thing it saw, the white skin it landed on.

    Gu Xiaofei’s body shook, and she screamed with pain as the scorpion stung her. Her muscles went numb, and she was half-paralyzed from the poison. Zhang Xinlang waited till her skin turned green, which was the sign that her body had absorbed the full load of the venom. Then he threw a needle at the scorpion and killed it on the spot. Next, he took out a knife and slit a tiny cut on each of her shoulders and did the same on his two palms. After that, he put his palms on tops of the cuts on her shoulders, letting her poisonous blood and her energy mixed with his own blood and meditated to refine the venom into powerful palm energy.

    After five long hours, he eventually accomplished the fifth step at dawn of the next morning. With joy, he got up and wiped his foreheads with relief. Then he took out a bottle containing all-purpose antidotes and poured two pills into Gu Xiaofei’s mouth. He didn’t wait to see the result but went straight to the inner chamber for a bath.

    After a moment or two, the numbness was gone, and Gu Xiaofei was able to move. Her skin turned pale and the pain in her chest during the last five hours lessened. She staggered to the window, threw it open, and spewed out black blood. Then she staggered back to the bed and fell into an uneasy slumber.

    Zhang Xinlang woke her up at the midday to give her two more antidotes since this time’s scorpion carried more venom than usual. Then he carried her to a steamed bath to help purge out the poison. After that, he told her to get dress and brought out a present for her.

    Still feeling lingering pain, she opened an oblong box uninterestedly at first but turned pink with excitement. She took out a long mother-of-pearl necklace and acclaimed admiringly at the quality of each pearl. Zhang Xinlang beamed at her affectionately but inwardly was so bored at seeing her greedy eyes. He could not help thinking of Lu Tingli who didn’t care much of any ‘hard stones’ and missing the delightful face of Chu Lianhua, whose love of jewelry never irritated him like Gu Xiaofei did.

    Aloud, he excused himself on pretext of wanting her to have more rest and left the room. ‘Two more steps and I’ll become the greatest martial artist in China.’ He took out a much-read manuscript and mumbled, “I’ve to find out the meaning of the last process. Father didn’t understand it. But I will because I’m much smarter than he is. Too bad that the crippled man Wang wouldn’t tell despite my promise to free him. He was too afraid of Uncle and Father. Maybe, I should pay him another visit since this might be his last.” He made a decision. “It’s time to go dig for ginseng for my beloved Xiaofei.” He laughed to himself.

    Chu Lianhua was strolling leisurely in a park outside the mansion, thinking of Master Yang. She missed him terribly. He had sent her a beautifully written letter, describing how much he missed her and wanted to see her face again. He said in the letter that he was detained from the urgent mission his family had received from the Emperor but promised that he would be back in a few weeks. She also received a letter from her master, Xun Ci Shi Tai. It ordered her to stay in Xiangyang with Master Yang till the further notice. At first, she thought that it was rather odd of the priestess to entrust her with an unknown man then reminded herself that her master probably knew the Yang family very well thus was not alarmed upon learning that Chu Lianhua was with young Master Yang.

    At that moment, she heard her name. Someone was calling her excitedly. She turned around and faced the third hero of Wu Dang, Poet Scholar Man He. He seemed very glad to find her there and began to ask after her well being. Puzzled, she told him of her errand and was stunned when she heard that Zhan Zhiying was with him. “How come? Master Yang said that he had her sent to Emei last month.” Then she thought that something must have happened to Zhiying and her escorts on the way. However, Man He tore down that theory of hers by relating his meeting with Di Bao and Zhan Zhiying in Guangxi Province. He further warned her about her new friend. “Miss Zhan was right about this Master Yang. I think he has a sinister plan behind all this kidnapping of yours. I know the Yang family of Kaifeng and cannot remember any family member with the physical description of Master Yang under the name Xinlang. Anyway, I think it’s best to leave this city as soon as possible. We have an appointment to meet my brothers and Miss Zhan at Emei.” He started walking then stopped when she did not move.

    Chu Lianhua was certain that there were some misunderstandings. Why would Xinlang lie to her? She wanted to talk to him right then, to hear his side of story. When Man He asked her to follow him again politely though in authorizing voice, she had to comply with a heavy heart. She didn’t dare to disobey her senior martial brother-in-law, especially when he informed her that Emei could possible be in danger.

    They didn’t go very far when a group of swordsmen blocked their path. One of them shouted that Chu Lianhua was not to leave Xiangyang. Man He stared calmly at him and stated that he was a new escort of Miss Chu and asked the group to give face to Wu Dang by letting them pass.

    When the swordsmen heard the name Wu Dang, they all went pale. But they were more afraid of their master than this scholar man. So, they all leaped toward Man He with their swords piercing out. Unhurriedly, Man He brought out his hook and with a move ‘The Great River runs into the Sea’ he caught the attackers’ swords in one swoop. Then he sent the weapons back to their owners with a sequel move ‘Seven Seas flow to the Ocean’. The swords flown by Man He’s internal strength came down forcefully at the swordsmen, who were too slow to evade the slashes. As a result, majority of the group was wounded to the ground while the fortunate ones took to their heels swiftly without looking back. Man He stepped over to one injured swordsman and tore off his left shirtsleeve. He grunted when he saw an arrow inside a triangle tattoo. “They belong to Love Palace.” He said softly. Instantly, the man’s eyes bulged and his face changed color. The next second, he was dead from poison. Seemed like he committed suicide for letting his identity be known. The other men were terrified at the death of their colleague. They cried out, begging for mercy. Realizing that these people were just minor members of Love Palace, not worth to capture for questioning, Man He heaved a sigh and led Chu Lianhua out of the park in the direction of city gate.

    The wounded swordsmen looked at one another with relief and started to get up. All of a sudden, each fell down again and breathed no more. Turned out all of them were struck with black needles. The thrower was a woman clad in dark purple outfit. She looked down at the corpses and commented unemotionally. “We really have no use for cowards.” She then went after the running away ones like a lioness on a hunt.
    ----------------------
    thank you for reading... <IMG SRC="smilies/bow.gif" border="0">
    "History's third dimension is always fiction."
    -- The Glass Bead Game, Hermann Hesse

  16. #16
    Senior Member charbydis's Avatar
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    Thank you Goofy. You have some wild imagination, which is very interesting to read. Poor Gu Xiao Fei, ro should I say stupid Gu Xiao Fei. But I know that is just the method you use to make all the others look so sweet adn good upon comparison. Keep going on with your fine work! <IMG SRC="smilies/wink.gif" border="0">
    "Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self."
    Cyril Connolly

  17. #17
    Senior Member Goofy's Avatar
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    <IMG SRC="smilies/catroar.gif" border="0">
    An apology to Kathy Chow's fans.. <IMG SRC="smilies/evillaugh.gif" border="0"> <IMG SRC="smilies/twirl.gif" border="0"> <IMG SRC="smilies/bang.gif" border="0">

    Someone got to sacrify here. <IMG SRC="smilies/tongue.gif" border="0">
    "History's third dimension is always fiction."
    -- The Glass Bead Game, Hermann Hesse

  18. #18
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    <IMG SRC="smilies/catroar.gif" border="0">
    Part III: Book of Destiny

    Chapter 37
    My Father, My Daughter (2)

    Characters list (not in particular order):
    Ruyu ...............................………...............… ...……………Rain Lau Yuk Chui
    Black Devil........................…………………………………Luo Le Lin
    Yong Butong …………...................…......………………...Vivian Leung Siu Bing
    Di Bao ………….......................…..………….…………….Roger Kwok Chun On
    Ah Yi …………..................................……………………..An dy Lau Tak Wah
    Huang Jiwen .....................................……….......... .…..…...Howie Wong Man Ho
    Wang Shan………….......................…..………….………...Wong Wai

    Three days had passed, and Ruyu was looking out of the abandoned shrine impatiently for Black Devil. Toward the dusk, he appeared, walking unsteadily into the shrine. He was apparently injured from a fight as he clutched his chest painfully. Ruyu was about to speak, but he hushed her with a hand wave. He dropped himself on the floor wearily and sat cross-leg, beginning a meditation process to heal himself.

    Three hours later, he opened his eyes then moved his hands from his lap and stretched them outward at a looming shadow ahead and let the energy stream out through his palms and blew up that dark object, which was in fact a tree. Then he got up and went to fetch the dagger from where it had been stuck and advanced in the direction of the sleeping Ruyu.

    Ruyu got up because of the noise. Then she saw Black Devil swaying toward her with a sharp knife glinted in the dark held high in his hand. He stopped in front of her and hacked down.

    “Shrank,” the chain broke and Ruyu was free again. Black Devil tossed away the dagger and silently brought forth his hands for the map. Ruyu hastily gave it to him and watched him light a torch to examine maze diagrams minutely. She was secretly glad that she did not yield to the temptation of writing a fake map for him. Given Black Devil’s knowledge and intelligence, he would have guessed right away if the map were not genuine aside from the fact that she didn’t know enough of mazes to make the false one look convincing enough.

    As he grunted with satisfaction and put the map away in his sleeve, Ruyu, who could not wait any longer, asked him when he would take her to see her father. As an answer, Black Devil put her on his shoulders and bounded off with amazing light Kung Fu. He ran continuously all night and reached his destination at dawn. Then he put her down and pointed at a hut not far away. “Your father is in there.” He warned her, “it might not be a pretty sight, and for all I know, he may be dead already.”

    Ruyu did not hear the old man’s last sentence as she stepped dreamily toward the hut. At its entrance, she opened the door gingerly and stepped inside. The hut was composed of one big room whose interior was void of furniture except one large cage. An old man with matted gray hair and tangled white beard huddled in one corner of the cage. He was in dirty and ragged clothes, and his face was bathed in grimes and dirt. His skin was full of whip cuts and at some places blood oozed out from old scars that he had been scratching. From time to time, his face contorted and his body writhed as if he had unbearable pain. In all, he looked a pathetic creature, more like an abused animal than a human being.

    Ruyu couldn’t help feeling nauseated at the filth in the hut. The whole place reeked with human waste, rotten flesh, sweat, and blood. She took a deep breath before skipping over the refuse to the old man’s corner. She looked at him piteously. So, this is the father she had always wanted to meet. “Dad,” she called him softly.

    The old man looked up dully and turned horrified when he saw Ruyu. “Is that you, Ah Xi? Don’t come for me yet. I don’t want to die. I still have a lot of things to do – a whole martial art realm to conquer and a throne of China to take over.” He yelled madly. He reached for an empty food bowl and with difficulty adjusted it on his head delicately as if it were a real crown. “Yes, I am going to be the emperor of the new dynasty. Ha-ha. Ah Xi, you are going to be my empress, and our child will be the heir.” He rambled on wildly, cowering further into the corner. Ruyu’s appearance must have triggered his mind to the image of his dead wife, Ah Xi (Lee See Kei).

    Ruyu had to cry at his condition. She seized his arm and tried to calm him down. “Dad, I am Ruyu, your daughter. I’m here to help you out of here.”

    As soon as the old man heard of the word ‘out’, his eyes suddenly gleamed with hope. “I’m saved. I’ll be freed.” He feebly shook her hands to hurry her. “Quickly let me out of here. I have the world to conquer yet.” His eyes were misty with haunted dreams.

    Ruyu heaved a sigh but decided to get her father away from here first. She looked around and saw a crowbar on the earth floor. She picked it up and struck it at the cage’s lock vigorously several times. The lock was not very strong, and after being battered for a while, finally gave out. After that, she shakily removed the lock and flung the cage door open, expecting her father to rush out. When he didn’t move, she entered the cage and discovered that the sinew on his limbs was cut, making him unable to walk.

    With sinking heart, she tried to heave him up on her shoulder but he was too heavy. So she called for help from Black Devil who grumbled incessantly but consented at the end through Ruyu’s pleas. He came in the hut and brusquely dragged the old man out of the cage onto the fresh grass lawn outside the hut. Then after a good look at Ruyu’s father, he had to shake his head at the other’s dirtiness. “He needs a bath.” And before Ruyu could say anything, he proceeded to throw the old man into a narrow brook that flowed past the hut. The old man spluttered and tried to swim but could not use his legs or arms. Just when he was about to drown, Black Devil fished him up, gave him a rough scrub, and sent him back into the water again. Ruyu tried to interfere but was pushed away by Black Devil’s high inner force, so she could only wring her hands nervously, praying that her father would be all right.

    At long last, Black Devil decided that the other man was clean enough, so he lifted him out of the brook and laid him on the green grass as Ruyu hastened forward to take care of her father. It was near noon, and the sun was high up in the sky, sending scorching ray to dry the wet man in no time. Black Devil was now in the brook, fishing for their midday meal. He seemed to lose interest in either Ruyu or her father.

    A bath revived her father besides cleansing him. He looked a new man. His craziness was gone, and he somehow returned to his normal self although was still weak physically. He scrutinized Ruyu awhile and questioned her in clear voice. “Are you Ruyu, my daughter between me and Ah Xi, a granddaughter of Medicine Man and Dragon Lady?” When she nodded, he lifted up his face and laughed with joy to the lofty cloud. “Ha-ha. Ha-ha. Evil Sword Wang Shan has an heir at last. After a long wait, I get to see my own daughter.” Tears of happiness streamed down his face.

    Then he called her to his side and whispered to her faintly, afraid to let anyone hear it. “I want to confess my sin to you so that your mother won’t come to haunt me any more. This is what really happened twenty-four years ago. Your mother was an expert in both healing and poisoning. When she met me in Tibet, she was on a hunt for some black orchid. She said that she wanted to take it back to her forest as a gift to her parents. I discovered that she was a daughter of the famous couple of the Medicine Forest, so I wooed her into marriage because I want to use the son-in-law position as a stepladder to go back to Sword South School again. Medicine Man and Dragon Lady are good friends of my father, Sword God. So if my in-laws put in good words for me, surely my father will have to give face to them by accepting me back.

    However, I happened to stumble on some parts of a strange martial art manual belonged to a tribal family. I recognized its power potential, so I killed those people and took the incomplete manuscript. Then I lied to your mother that it was my heirloom. She believed me and helped me developed it. Then we called it Five-venom Palm, a formidable martial art once its practitioner completed all seven steps. Since the manual only recorded roughly on the general idea with a clue for the seventh step, we thought of using five poisonous creatures integrating with our yin and yang energy to create a new type of invincible palm force. We practiced this technique up to the fourth step when your mother wanted to stop for fear of harming a baby in her womb. She had just found out about her pregnancy. But I was too engrossed in this fascinating martial skill, so I wouldn’t give up. Instead, I forced her to help me accomplish to the sixth step, but I got stuck on the last process since I couldn’t understand the meaning in the manual. Finally, I understood, but by that time, your mother did too. To preserve her child, she left me to go back to her parents. However, I found out about her plan so I went after her, in time to test my new poisoned palm. She managed to escape and eventually reached her home. I didn’t know the way into the forest, so I had to give up the chase. I didn’t go back to Tibet but went on to live with my three apprentices. Then I began a plan to conquer the world. I encouraged my second apprentice, Di An, to be a scholar since he was weak and too kind-hearted. Five years later, I sent Lu Peng, my first apprentice to the Mountain Saber Yue Gao’s household. He was to gain confident and trust of Yue Gao to find out about a saber manual originally belonged to Saber Lord, the master of Yue Gao.

    Then I set up the Love Palace Sect for my third apprentice, Zhang Tin, who was like me the most either in terms of evilness or thirst of power. He had a duty of making money to finance my future army. Lastly, I directed Di An to study for government examination. I want him to attain a high rank official position so that he could gain an access and become influential within the Imperial Court. However, this stupid apprentice of mine pretended to fail the exams times after times. One day, he ran away with the second disciple of Emei Sect, while my third apprentice managed to seduce Emei’s first disciple into eloping with him. I knew of that, of course. My goal was to use her as an entry to Emei’s the Book of Four, which was a copy of inner energy training manuscript that my father-teacher, Sword God, co-written with Saber Lord. At first, the old priestess was too stubborn to forgive her favorite disciple, but later she relented a little and sent a letter to Ah Mei, her first disciple, stating that she wanted to meet the children.

    It was unfortunately that Zhang Tin’s wife learned of our plan, so she ran away to the house of her second martial sister, Ah Lan. Zhang Tin followed her there and killed Ah Lan and Ah Mei. I killed my second apprentice, Di An, with my own hands because he somehow got hold of Saber Lord’s saber art manual but refused to tell me its whereabouts.

    You see, Lu Peng managed to become an only student of Yue Gao and was working his way into being the eldest son-in-law. Then Tian Fei, my junior martial brother, the second student of Sword God, appeared in the picture and ruined our plan by making the eldest daughter fell in love with him. Moreover, Lu Peng made a wrong move and ended up having mutilated face and been castrated. To my regret, I helped put him back to good health and ordered him to go back to the Yue’s house for the manual as an amendment of his failure. He got some kind of manual and instead of giving it to me, he kept it for his own use and went in hiding. So, I killed Yue Gao for nothing at all. At least, I’m glad that the manual he had was not the ‘one’ we were looking for. Ha-ha. Dear daughter, don’t you think it was irony?

    Anyhow, your grandfather Sword God caught up with me and decided to put me out of killing business by destroying my martial arts. He was the one who cut the tendon off my limbs and responsible for all my troubles up till today. After that, I was saved by Lu Peng and Zhang Tin. They didn’t help me out of compassion but they wanted the sword manual that I have in my possession. They kept me alive because I was useful to them in explaining particular stances or pointing out some moves that they didn’t understand. They were afraid that I would lie to them out of malice, so they always used a servant to practice the stance first before killing him. They also resorted to poison me and torture me in every way so that I had no will left of my own. I have lived like a dog for these last ten years, and it was like hell.”

    Wang Shan glanced at his daughter’s shocking face and smiled cynically. “Ruyu, I have dreamed of Ah Xi often. She told me to atone for my sin and give up my ambition to become a new ruler of China. But surely, you won’t be like her, will you? I can see myself in you, intelligence and cunning. Together, we, the father and daughter, can and will rule the world together. Too bad that the Five-venom Palm was only for male, otherwise I’d tell you its secret.”

    He stopped talking when he heard footsteps approaching. He quickly adopted a mad man expression and lay inert on the ground. Black Devil stopped in front of Ruyu and said, “I didn’t mean to interrupt your reunion, but the food is ready. Then we need to leave after the meal.” Smell of grilled fish wafted to the noses of Ruyu and her father.

    Wang Shan stirred at the mention of food and crawled hungrily toward the fire. Then he grabbed the fish from its stakes and devoured it noisily. Black Devil looked on impassively and told Ruyu to eat something before all was gone. After lunch, he was about to put Ruyu on his shoulders again when she questioned him how to take her father along with them. Upon which, he replied coldly that he didn’t plan on adding a crippled man to his load. He further informed her that he only promised to bring her to see the father, not to rescue him. When Ruyu refused to leave without her father, Black Devil gave her two options – to leave her father behind to fend for himself or to have him killed on the spot by Black Devil. Wang Shan, at this point, caught Ruyu’s ankles and begged her not to make him go back to the hell again. He cried so wretchedly that she had to console him that she would definitely not let anyone harm him. However, she knew that she was no match for Black Devil but intended to protect her father’s life from him at all cost.

    Just then, two people came into sight. As soon as they saw Ruyu, they gave a shout and ran to greet her happily. They were Huang Jiwen and Yong Butong. After Huang Jiwen succeeded in shaking Ah Yi off his track, he went to join Yong Butong and Di Bao who were waiting for him at a wayside tea place. Then the trio set off for the Medicine Forest.

    However, out of stroke of luck, Yong Butong happened to see Black Devil running past him rapidly with Ruyu on his shoulders. So, he called his two friends and pursued after the two instantly. He and Huang Jiwen had good light Kung Fu but still could not draw near Black Devil, and Di Bao, who had no martial skill at all, lagged far behind. Toward the dawn at one point, Black Devil and Ruyu suddenly vanished from their sights, and only by persistent and meticulous search in the area that they found her in front of an isolated hut. Di Bao, meanwhile, was trekking steadily along the way under the guidance of his white eagle, who seemed to know the whereabouts of its master’s friends.

    Ruyu was relieved to see Huang Jiwen and although she was puzzled at seeing him accompany Yong Butong, she didn’t hesitate to appeal help from them. She pointed at Black Devil and told her friends. “He kidnapped me from the inn and wanted to hold me as a hostage against my grandparents. And now, he plans to murder my father that I have just met too.”

    Black Devil was not pleased at the additional strangers. He scowled at the two youths and advised them to stay away from his business if they valued their lives. “You two must have been the ones who trailed me earlier. Your light Kung Fu was quite all right, but you won’t beat me in a fight. If you heed me as good children, I’ll let you leave in one piece today.”

    Huang Jiwen was a quick-tempered person, so at once he shouted a challenge. “Then I, Huang Jiwen of Sword South School would like to ask pointers from Elder.” And he charged at Black Devil with powerful sword thrust. To his astonishment, his blade stabbed into empty energy sphere. When he was about to pull the sword back, all of a sudden, that vacant force field came to life; it encased his weapon and blasted the sharp steel into pieces. The explosion numbed Huang Jiwen’s entire arm and sent him backward into the brook.

    Huang Jiwen would have gone into water if Yong Butong had not reached out and seized his shoulder in time. Yong Butong steadied his friend on the firm ground then turned to Black Devil. “That looks like fun. I’d like to play too.” While he was observing Black Devil’s maneuver, he recalled playing with his uncle in this similar stance at White Pearl Island. Uncle Yuan had demonstrated to him how to defeat this technique. “Use void against void and redirect your opponent’s strong force against himself.”

    Instantaneously, he gathered all his energy into the center of his body and lifted a palm to meet Black Devil’s strong force. Black Devil felt that his energy was being absorbed continuously into this youth’s hand, so he quickly pulled back his force. At that moment, the lost energy flooded back to him rapidly and fiercely like water gushed out from a busted dam. The coming force overwhelmed its original source and pressed forward into his internal system; it then scattered to enclose all important acupuncture points on his body. Black Devil’s whole body shook, and he reeled backward a few steps. Then, out of nowhere, someone whistled shrilly to an eagle who soared mightily into the sun. Its white wings spread majestically against the blueness of the sky. Its hunting cry pierced through a heart of every listener.

    “Sword God!” Black Devil’s mouth formed the word, and he retreated in a hurry. He hadn’t completely cured himself yet from the injury he had received from the duel with the head abbot of Shaolin. Now, his internal organs were further damaged by this young boy with pretty face. Therefore, if he were to fight face to face with Sword God, he would not be able to withstand his old enemy in this condition, and he could not afford to lose since it would defeat his purpose of coming to China this time. “Sword God, why bother saving an ungrateful son of yours? I only tried to help the world rid off Evil Sword Wang Shan. Today is not the right time yet for us to meet. I’ll come to you when I’m ready.” He spoke in ordinary tone, but in spite of his injuries, the voice was so powerful that leaves fell down from trees in the radius of fifteen chi (roughly 15 meters – Author). If the real Sword God were there, he would have undoubtedly praised Black Devil’s high inner power.

    Actually, Di Bao was the one who called on his eagle to make an appearance. He had just arrived at the scene and witnessed Huang Yitao being thrown away by Black Devil’s strong force. When Yong Butong went up against the old man, Di Bao couldn’t help feeling fearful for his friend. Then he remembered that his white eagle did scare off Yong Butong’s attacker once, so he gave it a try again in hope that the trick would work. After Black Devil was gone, Di Bao emerged from a foliage shrub he had been hiding and joined his friends. He called the eagle softly, and it alighted smoothly on his shoulder.

    He was happy to find Ruyu again and congratulated her through his eyes for meeting her father at last. However, she could not look fully at the eyes of her junior apprentice brother. Di Bao once told her the names of his parents, and she realized now that her father was the one who responded for their demise. ‘What would he say if he knows the truth?’ She felt guilty and ashamed for her own father’s past deeds.

    But she forgot about one person. At that point, Yong Butong was preventing Huang Jiwen from killing Wang Shan. Ruyu heard the quarrel and turned to investigate. She frowned irritatingly when Huang Jiwen argued that this cripple old man was the traitor of Sword South School and the master of Zhang Tin, Lord of Love Palace, so he had to be destroyed. On the other hand, Yong Butong, who could care less of any logical reasons, saw only an aged elder, who looked very sick. He thought of his missing mother and could not let Ruyu loss her father just when they had united with each other. Ruyu sided with Yong Butong and accused Huang Jiwen of being so narrow-minded and blindly followed the commands of his father and his uncle at all time. She also told him that Wang Shan was Sword God’s own son, therefore his elder in Sword South School. Then she reproached him for not being respectful to his future father-in-law. Upon which, Huang Jiwen angrily retorted that he would rather die than having to connect with such evil person. Ruyu was very disappointed and ordered him to leave and not to see her ever again. When Huang Jiwen, who felt that he was behaving too harshly, tried to take back his words, she immediately grabbed the hands of Yong Butong’s intimately, which infuriated him a great deal. It was as if oil was poured into an already raging flame. His furious mood went uncontrolled, and he launched at Wang Shan with all his strength. Yong Butong blocked him with his fists, and in a few moves, he used Ah Yi’s ‘Eagle clutches Its Prey’ stance to throw Huang Jiwen into the brook. “You need to cool down a little.” Then he paid no more attention to the defeated who waded out of the water and stomped off, feeling humiliated and upset that his girl renounced him.

    Ruyu cried tearfully upon seeing the disappearing figure of Huang Jiwen. She genuinely loved him and deep down she knew that his allegation about her father was right. She wanted to call him back but refrained from doing so out of pride and obstinacy. So, she turned to tend her father instead with bitterness in her heart. After consulting with Di Bao and Yong Butong, the three agreed to build a cart as a mean of transportation for Ruyu’s father. Then they set off for a safe place to heal Wang Shan.

    Once again, the green field was back to peace, only trampled grass remained to tell the story. Right then, a young man stepped out from behind the hut. He had a pigeon in his hands and after tying its leg with a short note, he released it to the air. Then he tracked after the group unhurriedly.

    In the evening of the same day, Ah Yi came upon a body lying face down in a middle of wilderness. The shape looked so familiar that Ah Yi at first thought that it was Yong Butong. However, after closer inspection, the senseless figure belonged to an older person with a disfigured face. He was clad in white cloak, and he had elegant air despite his ugly look. He was alive though his breath was almost undetectable, and his face was pallid. Effortlessly, Ah Yi heaved the unconscious person onto his horse and rode off, looking for a sheltered place to stay for the night.

    Fifteen minutes later, he found a hunter hut, a simple building that hunters used during their hunting trip. Just when he had brought the sick person into the hut, rainstorm came. The rain raged throughout the night and half the following day, during which Ah Yi healed his patient with his strong internal energy. He diagnosed that this person fainted from too much poisonous substances in his body, so he proceeded to extract the poisons from the internal system one by one. It seemed as if this person had been collecting large number of noxious objects in his body for a long time since some toxin had already been infused into his blood and some had only been received just recently. Patiently and painstakingly, Ah Yi managed to either purge or neutralize all the venom. Medicine Man himself would have applauded Ah Yi’s thoroughness. However, by doing so with good intention, Ah Yi also destroyed the other’s martial art in the process. This person had been practicing a type of Kung Fu that used poison to help create inner strength. This method was painful and dangerous, and only a desperate one would attempt such approach. What could possibly motivate this sophisticated looking person to stoop to this underhand technique?

    Ah Yi found the answer soon enough when his patient came to. As soon as the latter realized that his inner energy was gone, he went berserk. “How dare you did that to me? I didn’t ask you to help me. For all I care, I’d rather die if I can’t kill my number one enemy. What am I going to use against him now that my inner force is gone? All these years of agony are down the drain because of a little boy like you.” He was fuming then he became depressed. “If only I have Butong with me…” He mumbled in low voice, but Ah Yi caught the name and immediately asked, “are you her relative? Is it true that she is a girl?” Out of curiosity, he just wanted a confirmation on Yong Butong’s real gender.

    The other glared at Ah Yi ferociously awhile then fired out a series of questions concerning the younger man’s relationship with Yong Butong. When he learned that Ah Yi was a close friend with his child, for his name was Master Yong – the one who had rescued Tian Fei months ago, he appeared pacified. He studied Ah Yi scrupulously, much to the youth’s discomfort, for a long time and finally grunted approvingly. He half talked to himself half though aloud. “Well, he has very high inner power and he seems intelligent and quite good-looking. With a nice bath and some good clothes, he will be a good match for Tong-er.” Then he looked searchingly at Ah Yi. “Young man, I’ll forgive you for ruining my Kung Fu. Butong is my daughter, and if you don’t treat her right, I swear I’ll kill you with my own hands. But before you could marry her, I want you to kill off our enemy first.” He planned to use this boy’s martial skills for the tool of his vengeance.

    Ah Yi’s heart inflated with joy upon hearing that his Butong was indeed a female. Then it deflated as he dismally remembered that Yong Butong was dead. He looked gloomily at the elder in front, trying to find the best way to inform him of his daughter’s demise. He didn’t have a heart to tell bad news, so he decided to wait a bit until the other was back to good health. Accordingly, he consented that he would take of Butong all his life and only told the latter that he was on the way to see Tian Fei at Emei.

    The word ‘Tian Fei’ also brought instant reaction from Yong Butong’s parent. He was all for going to Emei with Ah Yi and could hardly wait for the rain to let down enough for them to travel on. Somehow, he misunderstood that his daughter was with Tian Fei, and Ah Yi didn’t try to rectify him. ‘There would be time enough for truth and grief.’ Ah Yi thought sadly. As soon as the sun came out again and the downpour turned to light shower, the two left their shelter and continued the journey without delay.

    Despite of haste, Master Yong insisted on stopping at the first town they came to and bought several sets of clothing for Ah Yi along with other expensive accessories. He spent freely, using numerous pearls he had with him. He also ordered Ah Yi to take a bath before putting on new clothes. ‘Like father, like daughter.’ Ah Yi thought of Yong Butong’s love of cleanliness and complied the other’s wishes out of compassion. He was not looking forward to telling this elder the tragedy that befell their loved one, Yong Butong.
    --------------------------
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    "History's third dimension is always fiction."
    -- The Glass Bead Game, Hermann Hesse

  19. #19
    Senior Member Goofy's Avatar
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    This chapter if for Vivian Leung Siu Bing's fans... <IMG SRC="smilies/love.gif" border="0"> <IMG SRC="smilies/love.gif" border="0">

    Part III: Book of Destiny

    Chapter 38
    Mirrored Images

    Characters list (not in particular order):
    Ruyu ...............................………...............… ...……………Rain Lau Yuk Chui
    Yong Butong …………...................…......………………...Vivian Leung Siu Bing
    Di Bao ………….......................…..………….…………….Roger Kwok Chun On
    Ah Yi …………..................................……………………..An dy Lau Tak Wah
    Huang Jiwen .....................................……….......... .…..…...Howie Wong Man Ho
    Wang Shan………….......................…..………….………...Wong Wai

    Ruyu and her companions arrived at a small town and happened to see an empty house with a sign for rent. She instantly thought that it would be an excellent place for her father to recuperate. Along the way, she and Di Bao had checked the health of the elderly Wang Shan and diagnosed that his poisons were not lethal kinds, could easily be cured by means of various herbal medicines and plenty of rest. After that, she confessed to Di Bao that she had given a diagram of traps and mazes in the Medicine Forest to Black Devil and asked her junior apprentice brother for an advice. As much as she was concerned over her two grandparents’ safety, she did not want to go back to them just yet. She knew that her grandparents would kill Wang Shan for sure for he had cause the death of Ah Xi, their dearest daughter. At the same time, she couldn’t bear to leave her father alone outside for Wang Shan told her that his apprentices, namely Lu Peng and Zhang Tin, would certainly come after him. After all, he still held on some secrets that they both wanted from him. At first Di Bao volunteered to go to the Medicine Forest to warn his mentors, but Ruyu protested strongly since she needed him to help with her father. She also wanted Yong Butong around to protect them from any disciples of Love Palace. Finally, after a long thought, Di Bao proposed to send his white eagle to inform the old couple of the coming of Black Devil. He explained to Ruyu that Lulu used her little bird a lot of time to communicate with him during her herb gathering trips. Therefore, there was no reason why this king of bird could not accomplish this small task. Ruyu was rather doubtful, but Yong Butong supported his idea wholeheartedly. Consequently, Di Bao wrote a note, summarized the grit of their adventures, and tied the paper on the bird’s leg. Then he cooed to it gently, assigning its duty through his mind. The eagle seemed to understand his wish as it flew off, heading in the western direction.

    Yong Butong and Di Bao agreed with Ruyu about the house, but neither of them had much money. Di Bao only had little of his traveling money left, barely enough to buy food for all of them. Yong Butong recalled Ah Yi’s scheme of getting money and told Di Bao to wait at a temple they had just passed with Wang Shan while he and Ruyu would go ‘sell themselves’.

    Then he and Ruyu went to a next town and successfully sold themselves to a brothel. Ruyu was against the plan at first, but Yong Butong assured her that it was foolproof. “Just don’t fall asleep.” He warned her. With an expert air, he asked Ruyu to comb his hair in a maiden’s style to add to the effect. “Ah Yi is very clever, and he is never wrong about anything. Since he is not here to advertise us, I should make myself more girlish looking.” He was confident and proceeded to lead the reluctant Ruyu to the only entertainment house in town.

    Surprisingly, everything worked out perfectly without a hitch. With light Kung Fu, the two friends escaped from the brothel without anyone the wiser. With money in their hands, they went back to meet Di Bao and went to a real estate agent to negotiate with renting. Ruyu’s shrewdness did come into use, and before long, the house key was in their hands.

    The four lives then settled down in a house with a small garden. To prevent Yong Butong and Ruyu from selling themselved in any brothel again, however much they said that it was absolutely safe, Di Bao worked as a doctor in a market with Ruyu acted as interpreter while Yong Butong stayed home with Wang Shan. Outskirt of the town was a natural forest with a small hill where Di Bao accidentally discovered various medicinal herbs. He often went there with Yong Butong to gather medicine for Wang Shan, who got better every day due to Ruyu’s loving care and Di Bao’s excellent doctoring.

    In the beginning, Ruyu felt awkward when she was with Yong Butong. Unbeknown to him, she had understood that he was a girl. She was no longer mad at him for deceiving her but could not understand why he still kept on pretending to be a male. However, she was grateful to him for protecting her father from Huang Jiwen and Black Devil that she did not bring up the issue of gender in fear of embarrassing Yong Butong. Instead, she acted very friendly to him although that made him think that she wanted to become his wife now that Huang Jiwen was gone.

    One day, Yong Butong approached her on the subject of Huang Jiwen. Upon learning that she still would like to be Huang Jiwen’s wife, he appeared relieved. Then he gently told her that although he liked her very much, he had found someone else whom he preferred to spend his whole life with. Ruyu thought that his wording was very funny and asked him teasingly whether that person was ‘Ah Yi’, whom he mentioned about a lot of times, or not. Yong Butong’s color heightened and nodded. He also added that he wished to stay with Di Bao too. Ruyu scratched her head confusingly upon hearing this innocent remark then understood that Yong Butong really had no concept of relationships between men and women. She couldn’t help giggling but finally advised Yong Butong to choose only one man so that nobody would end up with heartache later on.

    Yong Butong didn’t quite comprehend her meaning but said that he would think over the matter carefully. Then he went off with Di Bao to gather some herbs. Di Bao looked pale this morning. He told Yong Butong that he had a nightmare about Lin Xin-er again. “I dreamed that she was drowning.” He wrote. He was nervous about the well being of this kindred spirit friend of his.

    Yong Butong read the message absentmindedly. Usually, he would pay attention to everything about Lin Xin-er just because Di Bao stated that they both shared the same face. Today, he felt apprehensive as he and Di Bao approached a rivulet that branched from a big river. He was the one who found a body half out of the creek. A log was held on tightly in one hand, indicating that this person must have grasped the nearest object before losing all senses. Di Bao signaled to his friend that this piece of wood must haved work as a bouy and carried this body from torrent of a wide river into this small watercourse.

    Yong Butong turned the body over and saw his own face on a girl’s figure in a man’s clothes. He recognized it as his white robe that was stolen at the waterfall. “Lin Xin-er.” It seemed so natural that he would know who she was. He quickly checked her pulse and found that she was still alive. Together with Di Bao, they lifted her out of the water and laid her down on a dry bank. Her body was very cold. So, Di Bao signed to Yong Butong to get her out of the wet clothes and wrap a blanket they had brought with them around her while he went to gather some firewood.

    Yong Butong obeyed and started to strip off the unconscious girl. Unprepared, he was shocked upon seeing that her naked body was the same as his, even a minute birthmark on their right shoulders. He paused and stared unbelievably at the lying girl. Did this mean that he was a girl too? He was confused and recalled his father’s words. “You are my son. You are a man. If anyone ever question that, kill them.” Could his father lie to him? Or was he mistaken too? Would he be disappointed that his son turned out a daughter after all? Or was he himself…? He bit his lips uncertainly.

    Di Bao came back with a bunch of sticks and started to make fire. Then he signed to Yong Butong to hurry on with his task. Mechanically, Yong Butong went on with his work. Soon, the senseless girl wrapped in a coarse blanket was propped against his shoulder in front of a pile of red amber. He looked at Lin Xin-er’s white face and suddenly felt protective toward her. He put an arm around her shoulder gently and looked across the fire at his friend, Di Bao.

    “Ah Bao, tell me who am I? What am I? When I undressed Lin Xin-er, I found that I am just like her inside. Am I a girl then? I’m so confused!”

    Di Bao smiled at his friend tenderly and came to sit next to two figures with the same face. Then he reached for Yong Butong’s free hand and formed words on his palm. “Yes, you’re a girl like Xin-er.”

    Yong Butong inhaled deeply and exhaled with lighter heart. “Does this mean that I’m like Ruyu and different from you and Ah Yi and that I am to be a wife, not a husband?” Di Bao nodded wisely.

    He used a stick to write on the earth. “There are two different relationships, friendship and love. Friendship is caring and all about kindred spirits like I and you or I and Xin-er, and love is about the same but with more intense feeling we have toward the opposite gender like I love Zhan Zhiying or Ruyu loves Huang Jiwen. I’m sure that you will find a kindred spirit in Xin-er and she in you. As for love, both of you will find some good men by and by.” He explained simply and eyed his two friends proudly. He was happy that they were both with him. Then he frowned. Lin Xin-er didn’t look so good. She should have regained her conscious by now after he had pumped out water from her lung. He touched her skin and found that it got colder every second. “Quick! Hug her. Give her some warmth from your body.” He signed to Yong Butong who immediately enveloped Lin Xin-er in her arms affectionately.

    “You can’t die yet, Lin Xin-er. We are destined to be friends, kindred spirits like Di Bao predicted.” Yong Butong whispered into the other girl’s ears. For hours, they remained like that, only occasionally Di Bao would add more sticks into the fire or felt the pulse of the insensible girl.

    As if Lin Xin-er (Vivian Leung Siu Bing) could sense the aura of loves radiated from Di Bao and Yong Butong, she slowly opened her eyes and coughed dryly. “Am I in heaven or hell?” She thought then saw her own face looking down at her. She screamed and spoke fast, confessing all her past sins. “Oh, Goddess of Mercy protects me from the ghost! I’m really not a bad girl, I swear. I stole money sometimes from people I worked for, but they were cruel and were stinky rich. Then I clubbed Ah Bao’s head once and I stole his money pouch, but I did give it back to him, except that he didn’t want it. I also knocked out the owner of the brothel in Guiyang and took her dress, but I had no choice. I didn’t want to be a prostitute. Oh, and I stole a bag full of pearls and a white robe from someone at the waterfall too. But I helped an old priestess from Emei Sect and stayed with her till she died. I even buried her. Surely, that can compensate on what I did. Ah, or does the god punish me for impersonating a boy named Yong Butong? I’m so sorry about that.” Then she thought of something. “If you have my face, then I must be faceless!” She exclaimed and instantly touched her face and was relieved to know that it did not disappear. “If I still have my own face, then why are you using it to haunt me? I don’t think it’s that ugly enough to scare anyone.” She gathered courageous and asked ‘the ghost’ who was beaming with joy.

    “Ah Bao, she is conscious now.” Yong Butong called Di Bao who was gathering more wood nearby.

    Whereupon, he ran back excitingly and checked Lin Xin-er’s pulse before sighing happily. “She is all right now. Her clothes are also dry. Let us redress her and take her back to the house.” He communicated with Yong Butong and turned to Lin Xin-er. ‘I’m glad you are alive. I thought of you a lot.’ His eyes told her everything, and she calmed down. Nothing could go wrong with Di Bao here with her. She yawned sleepily and dozed off from exhaustion. This slumber was peaceful and without nightmare unlike the black world she had been trapped in earlier.

    When she woke up again, she was in a small room, plain but clean. She looked around and saw a girl asleep on a table. She got up noiselessly and wobbly advanced to the latter. Then she softly touched the other’s face, the same as hers. The other girl opened her eyes upon the contact from Lin Xin-er, and the two girls stared at each other, at their mirrored images as if they were looking into a looking glass.

    “Who are you?” Lin Xin-er whispered with awe.

    “My name is Yong Butong, and you are Lin Xin-er, Ah Bao’s friend.” Yong Butong answered. She had a girl outfit on now. Ruyu insisted on that after hearing the whole story, finding it was quite amusing.

    Lin Xin-er’s heart skipped. So, this was the person she had been impersonating and the one that Tian Fei and Ah Yi were looking for. She suddenly had an unexplainable sadness. Yong Butong was the one that Ah Yi truly cared, not her. She sobbed, and crystal like tears rolled down on her cheeks.

    Yong Butong felt an urge to shield her new friend from all harms. She hugged Lin Xin-er motherly and comforted her in gentle voice. “All is well now. I wouldn’t let anyone hurt you ever. Wait till you’re stronger, I’ll teach you the Yong Yi Sword. I know saber dances too, but Ah Yi likes to say that they are not dances but martial arts. You’ll like Ah Yi too if you meet him. He is rather smelly but he is as nice as Di Bao.” She thought of the thugs she met in Guiyang and smiled mischievously. “By the way, I ran into your enemies in Guiyang last month. They thought that I were you and started to attack me, but I and Master Li beat them all, especially the fat guy.” She proceeded to relate the incident to Lin Xin-er who was wide eyed at the prowess of her friend.

    “Wow! You must be a great fighter then. No one in Guiyang has ever beaten the gang of Master Wei yet.” She murmured. “That’s probably why Ah Yi likes you so much.”

    Yong Butong’s face lit up. She fired out a question. “So, you do know him? How is he? Was he mad at me?” Then she understood. “He must have thought that you were me.” She laughed like a bell as she imagined Ah Yi’s face when he learned of the truth.

    Lin Xin-er was touched by Yong Butong’s loving attitude and her innocence. Di Bao was only her other friend in this world. ‘I wouldn’t let you get hurt either. You and Ah Yi deserve one another.’ She promised silently to herself that she would only regard Ah Yi as a friend.

    “Can I be your sister?” Yong Butong asked. “I’m an only child, and sometimes I was so lonely. Not anymore now since I have you and Di Bao here.”

    Lin Xin-er was more than willing. “I don’t have any family either. You and Ah Bao can be my sister and brother.” Both girls felt as if they had known each other all their lives. Before long, they chatted noisily with each other on anything under the sun. Lin Xin-er explained to her new ‘sister’ about men and women, and Yong Butong talked to her about White Pearl Island. “Father won’t mind having you stay with us since we look so much alike just like real sisters. He’s rather strict, but he’s really kind and gentle. He sings to me every night.” Yong Butong started to hum a song when Di Bao came in the room.

    He knitted his eyebrows when he heard the familiar tune. ‘It’s like the melody that Lulu loves to sing.’ He checked on Lin Xin-er again and smiled satisfactorily. “You will live to be a hundred years old.” He wrote jokingly on a piece of paper, and the three laughed merrily. Happiness was so easy to find if one only looked for it.

    Yong Butong still had a question for Di Bao. “How are you so sure that I am a woman? You seem to know that from the beginning?”

    Di Bao wrote on the paper. “That’s because I saw Lulu’s spirit in your eyes. You reminded me of her.” It was not a logical explanation, but the two girls accepted it without doubt.

    “Not only Ah Bao is a great doctor, he is also a wonderful fortune teller.” Lin Xin-er teased her friend, and Yong Butong added. “Yes, and a loving husband for someone named Zhiying too.” The girls giggled when Di Bao turned red from ear to ear.

    Then Lin Xin-er proposed to Yong Butong a change of name. “Butong sounds so depressing despite its meaning – ‘no sorrow’. Since we are like sisters now and you just discovered that you are a girl, why don’t we find a new name for you that is similar to mine?”

    Di Bao wondered which name should they choose, and Yong Butong suddenly spoke, “Xiangxiang. When I was at one brothel, the old owner named me Xiangxiang.” She explained to the others.

    Lin Xin-er clapped her hand and said, “I got it now. We shall call you Xiang-er from now on. Xin-er and Xiang-er, sound very nice indeed.” She was still weak; nevertheless, she caught Di Bao’s and Yong Butong’s hands and danced merrily around the room.

    Yong Xiang-er, formerly Yong Butong, felt that today was the happiness day in her life. It would have been more perfect if Ah Yi were here. But for now, she had a new family to take care of.

    As days passed, the two new sisters found more amazing facts about each other. They were both the same age, eighteen. They liked the same piece of accessory and liked to wear the same style of dress. They both could understand what Di Bao had in mind and they both thought that Ah Yi was the most pleasant man, aside from Di Bao, of course.

    However, they had some differences too. Xin-er was outgoing and impulsive, while Xiang-er or Butong was rather reserved and more careful. Xin-er was wise in the way of the world from spending her childhood with other urchins, having to fend for herself, while Xiang-er was naïve and knew so little about the nature of men. Xin-er had no martial art although she had Xun Ci Shi Tai’s inner energy, which she didn’t know how to put it into use. On the other hand, Xiang-er was an expert on both saber and sword skills aside from her high internal power although she never wanted to use them to fight anyone.

    Not only the three friends were the happy ones, Ruyu and her father were also glad for this new family. Ruyu was pleased because both Di Bao and Yong Butong were her loved ones, and Wang Shan had his own secret reason. He was cured completely from poisons and was now on the road of recovery from his disabilities. Di Bao had been using acupuncture needles on him every day, and he was now able to pick light objects up by himself. “He won’t be completely cured because of the lost of his tendon, but at least he can take care of himself somewhat. I’ll find a way to make him walk soon.” Di Bao informed Ruyu who felt grateful beyond words. It was too late now to tell him the truth about his parents’ death. At first she didn’t want to upset him then later on, she didn’t dare to out of a selfish reason. Her junior apprentice brother was the only one aside from Medicine Man who could make her father walk again; therefore, she couldn’t afford having Di Bao walk away from her. She was not worried that her father would come to harm from Di Bao’s anger, knowing well of his passive temperament and forgivable nature, but she couldn’t bear to see her father remain a cripple the rest of his life.

    She had matured a lot these days because of her father. Whatever the image of Evil Sword Wang Shan might have seemed in the others’ eyes, he was still her father – the man who created her. It was no use to blame him for his deed toward her mother; he had paid for it for ten years, being tortured constantly by his own apprentices and living in a dirty cage like an animal instead of a human. The water that had been poured into the earth could not return into a cup. On the same token, a dead person would not come alive. Her mother died twenty-three years ago, and however much Ruyu heard about her through her grandparents, she was no longer there. But her father was living at present. He was real and tangible. Ruyu could feel his love and could hear his deep voice talking about his wife. For Ruyu, her mother’s presence had never been so vibrant and so clear like this time before. She saw her mother through Wang Shan’s eyes and realized that he was really in love with her at one time. That was enough for Ruyu. She never had a mother, but she now had a father and she would fight to keep him with her as long as possible.

    At times, she would think of Huang Jiwen. She missed him. If only he would understand that she could not forsake her father for him… She could only sigh and pray that he would return to her one day.

    Huang Jiwen was also long for Ruyu’s lively eyes and her energetic personality. He was reminded of her everywhere he went. When he saw children skipping ropes, he would think how much she would enjoy competing with him. When he was in a restaurant, he would order her favorite food without thinking. When he walked past a perfume stall, he would look for the scent that she liked. He sighed in regret. He really messed up the chance to be with the girl he cared. Come to think of it rationally, Wang Shan was indeed an old crippled man who posed no treat to anyone. If his grand-master, Sword Gord, didn’t deem that Evil Sword Wang Shan had to be killed, what authority he had to do otherwise? What was Ruyu doing now? Was she happy with that pretty boy, Yong Butong? He decided to see her one more time, not to ask for her forgiveness but to make sure that she was managing all right. If she was content, he should be content too, shouldn’t he? Huang Jiwen’s heart was heavy as he trudged miserably in rainfall.
    ----------------------
    Thank you for reading... <IMG SRC="smilies/love.gif" border="0"> <IMG SRC="smilies/love.gif" border="0">
    "History's third dimension is always fiction."
    -- The Glass Bead Game, Hermann Hesse

  20. #20
    Senior Member Goofy's Avatar
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    Cool

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    Seem nobody reads this story anymore. <IMG SRC="smilies/tongue.gif" border="0"> <IMG SRC="smilies/sigh.gif" border="0">

    Part III: Book of Destiny

    Chapter 39
    Love and Duty

    Characters list (not in particular order):
    Lu/Lin Tingli ………..………………………………….…Barbara Yung Mei Ling
    Huang Yitao .....................................……….........… ……...Felix Wong Yat Wah
    Tian Xing-xing ………………………….………….....…...Kitty Lai Mei Han
    Zhang Xi-nan..................……………………………..……Kent Tong Chun Yip
    Tian Fei .................................................. ..............................Adam Cheng Siu Chow
    De Pang.............................................. . .................................Liu Kai Chi
    Duan Hui …………….….………………………….……. .Alex Man Chi Leung
    Mu Zhen …………………………………….……………..Lau Ching Wan
    Xian Yuo…………………………………………………...Eddie Kwan Lai Kit
    Ah Ju .........................................……………..…… ………..Idy Chan Yuk Lin
    Zhan Zhiying. ........................……………………………...Sheren Tang Siu Mun
    Zhan Feiyan/Black Snow Bird…………………….........….Margie Tsang Wah Sin

    Lu Tingli jolted up from her nightmare. “Xi-nan,” she called and realized that he was not there. She got up and dressed quietly and left her room discretely. When she was at Dr. Ma’s gate, however, Huang Yitao was there, waiting for her with a carriage.

    “I think that you might want to leave as soon as you are well.” He said somberly and motioned her to get inside the coach. Then he sat at the rider seat and called the horses to move.

    Lu Tingli blinked with astonishment but obeyed without a question. She refused to talk to him a few days ago when he brought her here by force, but she couldn’t get mad for long. She realized that he genuinely concerned over her health, besides he was the one who purged out poison from her body till he was sick himself. She heard all that from Dr. Ma and was impressed in Huang Yitao’s brave heart.

    They rode along the road for a while before Huang Yitao halted the cart. “It’s better that we traveled when there is light. We’re now out of Guilin. Tomorrow, if you can stand the rough journey, we should reach the inn we stayed three days ago. Lin Xi-nan was wounded, according to Ah Yi, so he probably didn’t go very far. We’ll start from there.” He explained to Lu Tingli, understood that she made this trip for her brother. He promised his martial art uncle that he would take care of her, and his heart refused to let her go off his sight. So, by duty and by heart, he went along with her on this fruitless search. He had just read a letter from his younger brother to Dr. Ma informed that Ruyu had been found, now safe and sound with her friends. Huang Jiwen didn’t state his plan but asked Dr. Ma to let his family know that he was well.

    Huang Yitao thought that his younger brother sounded sober. ‘He’s probably learned a lot from traveling alone.’ He knitted his eyebrows when he thought of Tian Xing-xing. ‘I hope she is all right. She has never traveled alone before. At least she knows some martial arts.’

    They stopped at a deserted temple, and Huang Yitao went inside to arrange sleeping area for Lu Tingli then went our to gather some wood to build a fire. Trustingly, Lu Tingli asked him drowsily. “Will Xi-nan be all right?” And he answered, “Of course, he’ll be fine. Ah Yi was not that unreasonable. It’s probably just some misunderstanding.” He comforted her with tenderness he didn’t know existed in him and hoped fervently that his words were true for the sakes of Tian Fei and Lu Tingli who finally went to sleep nearly dawn. The whole time, Huang Yitao faithfully guarded outside the temple amid the chilly wind.

    Late morning, they took off again. Lu Tingli kept an eye open for her Xi-nan. She still refused to believe Ah Yi’s version of the story, but deep down in her heart, she felt apprehensive. ‘I have to hear from his own mouth what really happened.’ Most of all, she prayed for his safety. She thought that although Xi-nan said that no one in Sword South School was good, at least Huang Yitao was an exception. This was the first time that she didn’t agree with Xi-nan’s opinion.

    Somehow, her viewpoint had broadened. Before, she saw the world through the eyes of her godfather, Lu Peng, and Xi-nan. Now, she started to judge things by herself. As a matter of fact, she did not care what the Sword South School’s role in the political game or what was behind the enmity between Lu Peng and Tian Fei. She only knew that she had to follow her godfather’s order as a filial daughter, and at the same time repaid Huang Yitao’s kindness as a good friend. She chose not to believe neither Huang Yitao’s nor Zhang Xi-nan’s allegation over Love Palace and Sword South School because she could not decide which was right. Only time would reveal the truth. Besides, she had no connection with either group though fate might prove otherwise in a course to come.

    Meanwhile, a man who appeared in Lu Tingli dream got up from a bamboo bed then winced as he felt the pain on his chest. He was in a small cottage with earth floor. A maiden who was tending fire turned around at the voice and smiled with relief. “Good! You woke up at last. I was beginning to fear that death was claiming you.” She was a few years older than Lu Tingli with a pretty face and a developed figure.

    Zhang Xi-nan stared at the girl unblinkingly and questioned her croakily, “How long have I been sleeping?”

    The girl looked away from her patient’s intense gaze. Her color heightened. She replied quietly. “You have been unconscious for two days and two nights with raging fever. I think you will be all right now. This is an orchard of a kind old man. He helped me taking care of you. I’d better go.” She got up and was about to leave when the sick man called her. He stepped forward shakily and lurched to the ground again.

    Kindly, she went to assist him up, and he grasped her hands tightly. “Miss, may I know the name of my savior?” His voice was lulling.

    Tian Xing-xing’s eyes were locked into his mesmeric glance. She muttered, “my name is Xing-xing.”

    Zhang Xi-nan smiled alluringly to the girl. “I like the name, very pretty like its owner. Thank you for saving my life, Miss Xing-xing.” He requested her to stay a little longer. “I’d like to ask another favor from you. Here is a signal rocket. Could you shoot them to the air in the northwestern direction? I was being hunted by an enemy and I need to let my servants know where I am.” He gave her a color rocket, and Tian Xing-xing nodded. She thought to herself. “Dad always says that we need to help out. This gentleman is still unable to protect himself. He won’t live long if his enemy appears. The wounds show that he must have had a terrible fight with a person or persons with formidable martial arts.”

    So she promised to be with him for a few more days and strode off to the highest point in that area to shoot off the rocket. Zhang Xi-nan surveyed her receding body and felt desire arose in him. His failure in claiming Lin Xin-er and his separation from Lu Tingli added to his male need.

    ‘She is not as gorgeous as Yong Butong or as sweet looking as Tingli, but she is beautiful enough. Since she saved my life, I won’t sell her but will keep her with me in the palace. She can be a good change from Tingli for time to time.’ He couldn’t believe his luck, losing one girl to have another one in his hands.

    Two days later, he executed his evil plan. As usual, he pretended to be sick and weak. At the sound of Xing-xing’s approach, he cried aloud and reeled forward. Tian Xing-xing caught him in time, and he held on to her closely. She was alarmed and tried to push him off, but he was unexpectedly strong. He put his lips on her cheeks and spoke throatily. “Miss Xing-xing, I like you. I want to spend my life with you.” He enjoyed seeing her squirming.

    She shouted for help and at the same time reached out for his pressure point, but he quickly countered her fingers with his free palm. In a manner of Leader Wu’s (Lo Chan Shun) Iron Pincer technique, he gripped her hand forcefully till she cried from pain. He beamed blissfully. “So you know some Kung Fu, eh? That should make things more fun.” He sealed her mobility pressure points and started to undress her.

    “I usually have fun with my victims first before sleeping with them, but I can’t wait any longer. I’m not entirely healed yet, so it’s better not to take chance with a beautiful martial artist like you. After we go back to the palace, we will have all the fun we want.” His gentlemanly manner was gone, and a rapist was in his stead. Piece by piece, he lustily peeled off her clothes. Just then, an old man rushed in with a gardening tool. He was an owner of the orchard who had been hosting the two youths these past days. He was bringing the food to the sick man and found the young maiden in distress.

    He yelled, “Beast, how dare you be so ungrateful!” He launched at Zhang Xi-nan who dodged the weapon adeptly and with one move disarmed him and pushed him to the ground. “See that you fed me, I will let you go this time.” He grunted, but the old man would not give up. He picked up his weapon and attacked again. Zhang Xi-nan scowled. Some people never learned. He reached for his metal flute and with a sweep of his hand, killed his host with poisonous needles coming from the instrument.

    Then he turned to the girl who cried out fearfully. “You are…you are from Love Palace.” She remembered that her father once praised the Iron Pincer technique. “Too bad that the user belonged to the evil sect.” He also described to her how Love Palace disciples liked to use poison.

    Chill ran down her spines when Zhang Xi-nan did not deny it. She attempted to threaten him with Tian Fei’s name. “My father is Gentleman Sword of Sword South School. If you don’t let me go, you will die without dirt on top of you.” She was pale. Love Palace’s bad deeds concerning females were known throughout the martial arts realm. “Help! Help!” She shouted although it was useless.

    Zhang Xi-nan smiled smugly. “Ha, it is my honor to make an acquaintance with the beautiful goddaughter of Hero Tian. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind connecting with the Love Palace. After all, I’m the second son of Zhang Tin, Lord of Love Palace. Now that I know you’re the young mistress of Sword South School, I’ll honor you with my second madam position. My wife is a nice girl, she’ll get along with you fine.” He fingered her white skin, and she cringed from his touch.

    Out of nowhere, an apple flew toward him in high speed. Instinctively, he jumped aside and evaded it in time. He caught Tian Xing-xing’s throat and put her body in front of him for protection and called out shrilly. “Who is the coward? Appear yourself immediately.”

    “The coward is you, using a girl as your shield.” The angry voice retorted and Li Renying appeared. In succession, he flicked clumps of earth toward the pair. One clump touched Tian Xing-xing’s pressure point and unsealed it. Like a flash, she stepped on her assailant’s foot and grasped a chance to escape while he was busily dodging Li Renying’s missiles.

    Zhang Xi-nan’s wrist was hit by the second clump of earth. Instantly, he released the throat of his victim. He realized that he was coming against someone with high martial arts and planned to retreat while trying to invade tiny earth clumps that turned dangerous from Li Renying’s inner force. His wounds were somewhat healed but he was not yet strong enough to fight with this stranger. He looked regretfully at Tian Xing-xing who was shakily covering herself. “I’ll see you next time, Miss Tian.” With that, he threw purple dust similar to what Black Snow Bird had used to the cottage floor and gone away.

    “Careful, it’s poisonous!” Li Renying grabbed his martial sister and leaped out of the cottage through its thin wall. Tian Xing-xing was still in his embrace and he quickly dropped his arms. Then he stepped backward awkwardly and took off his robe for her to wear, trying not to look directly at her.

    Tian Xing-xing mumbled thank you and covered her bare shoulders with his robe. She felt the warmth of his body from the cloth and treasured this moment in her heart.

    After a while, Li Renying deemed that it was safe enough to go back in the cottage. He went in first and picked up Xing-xing clothes for her and went outside to let her get dressed. Then they buried the dead man. Tian Xing-xing kowtowed to his grave tearfully. ‘I am the cause of your death. If I hadn’t asked you to house me and that rapist…’

    Then Li Renying approached her. He offered to accompany her to Sword South School. Tian Xing-xing’s eyes lit up. “Are you going back home with me?” Then her hope died down as Li Renying looked uncomfortable.

    “Hmm, not really. After I escort you home, I have to leave again. You see, Ah Yan…”

    Tian Xing-xing burst out crying. She was shocked and upset. She was exposed indecently in front of two men and almost raped by the man she had rescued. A moment ago, when she was in Li Renying’s arms, she could almost forget any bad things that were about to happen to her, but to her disappointment, Li Renying behaved as if he was the one who assaulted her instead. She missed their closeness and their intimate gestures before Ah Yan had stepped into their lives.

    Didn’t she peel a juicy pear for him one day, and he used his sleeve to wipe her sticky hands? Didn’t he once put his arm around her while they were watching a full moon together? Didn’t he catch fireflies for her every summer night a year ago? He had changed and turned into a stranger. She felt suddenly bitter and lashed out the first time in her life.

    “Ah Yan, Ah Yan, Ah Yan! All you can think is her. You don’t even care about me. I wouldn’t have been in this situation in the first place if you hadn’t forsaken me for a mere servant girl. I don’t want to see you again.” She was surprised herself at her emotion eruption. She blushed at the sadness and guilt in her martial brother’s eyes. She hurt him and hurt herself in the process. She wanted to be alone without a man named Li Renying or a woman named Ah Yan. She needed to think. She bit her lips and ran away blindly.

    Li Renying watched after her helplessly. His smart tongue and his quick brain were not in function today. He knew he was a changed man since that day in the cave. He had been traveling around in search for Ah Yan but never got a glimpse of her shadow. He could not bring himself to forget her despite realizing her real identity. He had spent sleepless nights trying to convert his heart to Xing-xing from Ah Yan. “There is no future between you and her, you idiot! She is a cold-blooded killer of Love Palace, the enemy of every righteous clan. Xing-xing loved you, and you liked her a lot. You spent childhood with her and grew up with her. She is the right woman for you.” He reproached himself and argued with himself, but nothing changed. Love could not be forced or altered at will. His heart told him to look for Ah Yan while his obligation and disciplinary dictated him to forget her. He was torn between his forbidden love and his upbringing to believe in right and wrong. And up till now, love had won.

    Nonetheless, as Tian Xing-xing disappeared from his sight, he was filled with guilt. She was right that it was his fault. She had become like this because of him. As her martial brother, he should protect her and take care of her. If she came to harm again, how would he be able to face his teacher, Tian Fei?

    Duty won this time, and he went after Tian Xing-xing.

    A figure in dark outfit emerged from behind a bush and looked coolly in the direction that Li Renying was gone. She shrugged. It was really better this way. Her job was to kill, and she would kill as told even that victim was the only man she loved.

    She sped to the opposite direction, kept looking for her young master, Zhang Xi-nan. She knew too well of his personality and his strength, so it was not long before she found him in a cave. She went to kneel before him. “Please pardon my tardiness, second young master.” She did not attempt to explain that she had just finished her work at Xiangyang and traveled nights and days to get back here to meet him according to the issue coming from the signal rocket.

    Zhang Xi-nan slapped her face as an outlet for his anger. He lost two beautiful women in a row, and his plan to present the Book of Four proudly to his father was gone astray. He kicked her again vilely. He roared crossly. “You deliberately came late. There was a rumor that you were infatuated with Sword South School’s student, and it seemed true. If you fail me again, I will report it to Father. You know that he listens to me about everything.” He assaulted her physically and Ah Yan knew better to protest. She foresaw what would follow and disconnected her inner self from her bruised body.

    Finally, Zhang Xi-nan felt better, and his desire returned. He pushed Ah Yan roughly on the ground and ripped her clothes off. Then he laughed like a beast and hugged her. Ah Yan felt nothing. Her eyes were without emotion and moved along with him as part of her duty. An image of Li Renying appeared in her mind, and she pretended that she was with him instead. ‘At least they cannot rob my heart.’ She wrapped her arms around Zhang Xi-nan and moaned.

    Half an hour later, Zhang Xi-nan stood up and got dressed. He commanded, “get me a fast horse. I need to catch up with Tian Fei. You’re to follow me. I have a task for you.” Ah Yan was not that fun to be with as she never cried or begged for mercy, but it was better that nothing. She was at least strong and sensual and, yes, experienced. He smiled at his servant who was slowly getting dressed. He was looking forward for this cozy journey.

    In the meantime, Tian Fei and Mu Zhen were being delayed from several ambushes along the way to Emei. These incidents further confirmed that some disaster had indeed befallen upon the sect. They lost their horses at the last ambush and now had to rely on their lightness Kung Fu. Mu Zhen was so anxious over Ah Ju that he did not want to waste the time to stop for food, but Tian Fei was more composed. He was probing over a possible real reason behind these countless attacks. So far, these attempts were not targeted at their lives for all attackers were non-skillful disciples of Love Palace. Seemed as if instead of stopping these two men, they achieved the opposite result, which could have been their true purpose from Tian Fei’s logical thinking.

    Accordingly, to test his theory, he stopped at a wayside eatery and ordered food and refreshment then waited for another ambush calmly. Mu Zhen, on the other hand, was unable to sit still for long. He was about to announce to Tian Fei that he would go on ahead when a woman on a red horse galloping by. She had on light orange dress and familiar hairdo. Instantaneously, he shouted, “Ah Ju,” and chased after her without delay. Tian Fei called him back, but it was too late. Mu Zhen had already disappeared in a cloud of hoof dust.

    Mu Zhen asserted all his energy to catch up with Ah Ju. Suddenly, the red horse reared and ran back to him. Eagerly, he called out, “Ah Ju.” Then his voice trailed off as he realized that it was a trick. A woman jumped down from her horse and advanced toward him. She still had on orange dress with Ah Ju’s hairdo, but he could see at close up that she was younger than the fourth disciple of Emei. Her eyes betrayed nothing, and her face was void of emotion. She whistled and thirty men emerged from their hiding places. Each of them was bare chest, showing the symbol of Love Palace on their left arms. Too late now to retreat, he brandished his sword and chose to be the first to attack.

    With his martial skills, he should be able to defeat these men. However, the trap had been set ahead, and while he was fighting furiously with the surrounding men, the only woman in the group leaped over him with a net in her hand and let it fall over him. He was trapped inside the mesh, and two of Love Palace disciples quickly closed the opening, rendering him helpless. Mu Zhen tried to hack his way out but with no avail. This net was especially made of golden thread, fragile looking but indestructible.

    Then the rest of the group advanced with their weapons in hand. Just when he was about to be stabbed, a female stranger clad in light orange attire flew in and veered the coming weapons with her pair of swords. She somersaulted over the men and with lightning speed, wounded the attackers with elegant but deadly moves. The woman with the net stepped forward to assist her comrades and was face to face with the new comer. The two women recognized each other instantly.

    Ah Ju recalled cold eyes of her assailant back at Emei and remembered the corpses she had buried. She gritted her teeth and doubled her force. This was time to revenge for her fellow disciples. She changed the stance and brought forward the blades. But Black Snow Bird had learned her lesson. She cleverly kept distance from Ah Ju, using her gang to exhaust the opponent first before moving in. She was not in the best of shape today. Otherwise, she would not have to use these lackeys. Zhang Xi-nan’s brutal love proved to be too much thus caused her present condition.

    Right then, a strong force blasted from nowhere and killed five men instantly. At the same time, a pair of maces swung left and right, bashing the heads of the villains. Black Snow Bird turned to face the new comers and saw two men and one young woman in a thick veil. The young woman called out to her senior martial sister, “Fourth senior sister, I’m bringing Wu Dang heroes to help you.” Just then, she bounded toward the woman who seemed to be the leader and pierced at her abdomen. The attack turned to be a distraction for the real target, the opponent’s heart. Ah Ju remembered the stance as Xun Ci Shi Tai’s ‘the Net of No Way Out’. However, halfway through, the move changed and turned into ‘Fairies pick Heaven Peaches’ and followed with ‘Dragon sends Shower’. These were basic skills of Emei and seemed to pose little treat to their opponent. Yet, they were coupled with sudden energy and would have gone straight through Black Snow Bird’s chest when Zhan Zhiying saw a flicker of sadness in those cold eyes. The face of the woman in front reminded her of someone, and she paused without thinking. At that moment, Black Snow Bird moved forward, and the sword tip embedded in her chest. Zhan Zhiying let go of her sword and stepped backward uncertainly. She called faintly, “Feiyan”. At the same time, Ah Ju shouted, “Zhiying, be careful.” Black Snow Bird’s eyes opened wide and in that minute, something like hope kindled in her unfeeling eyes. She reached for her smoke bomb.

    Sudden black cloud gave her a chance to escape, but all her comrades perished under the hands of the two eldest brothers of Wu Dang, De Pang and Duan Hui. De Pang, the first brother of Wu Dang, was known as ‘Child Face Hero’. He was a man of 45 years old with a youthful face and smiling eyes. He was known as a benevolent man and somewhat a recluse. For the past five years, he let his third brother Man He (Simon Yam Tat Wah) administrated internal affairs of the sect together with his fourth brother Mu Zhen. His second brother Duan Hui and his fifth brother Xian Yuo were the martial arts trainers of the disciples of Wu Dang while he concentrated in developing new martial skills and reconstructing the sect’s lost techniques. The force that he blasted the first five men with was called, ‘Heaven moves the Earth’, one of the Buddha Palm series that he invented, using yin and yang to create high inner power.

    The two Wu Dang brothers and Zhan Zhiying went over to inspect the net that was still capturing Mu Zhen. Ah Ju had been trying to cut the net with her swords but it proved to be too strong. Duan Hui studied this strange apparatus for a while and asked everyone to step aside. Then he put down his maces and assembled all his energy upon his hands then reached for the mesh and tore it with his extraordinary strength.

    Ah Ju quickly helped Mu Zhen up and asked with concern, “Are you all right?”

    Mu Zhen nodded, happy beyond words. He felt that he would be glad to undergo more danger than this if only Ah Ju would be there to ask after his health with that look. Ah Ju saw affection in his eyes and suddenly let go of his arms. She flushed and looked away shyly.

    Zhan Zhiying commented on Hero Duan’s power admiringly, but he glowered at her. ‘What’s wrong with this girl? First, she has a friend with dubious background. Now, she couldn’t even bring herself to kill her enemy. Xun Ci Shi Tai’s disciples were such disappointment!’ He was refrained from saying anything, however, from the warning glance of De Pang.

    De Pang smiled at the young woman and praised her sword style. “You will go far in the future.”

    Zhan Zhiying reddened. She realized that she was wrong not to kill her enemy at the first chance. She bowed respectfully to him and thanked him. “This was due to your pointers on my Kung Fu and Wu Dang’s excellent Red Lotus pill. I feel that my internal energy has increased since taking it.”

    De Pang motioned that it was nothing. “If your basic was not sound, you would not have the benefit from my words and the pill. The merit should belong to Xun Ci Shi Tai for training you well.”

    Zhan Zhiying turned to Ah Ju and suddenly kneeled down, “Fourth senior martial sister, please punish me.” Ah Ju kindly pulled her up. “Let’s talk, shall we? There are so many things to catch up between us.” The Wu Dang brothers walked away good mannerly. They had a lot to talk with one another too.

    After Mu Zhen related the death of Xun Ci Shi Tai to his brothers, De Pang turned to lecture his second martial brother. “I knew what you were going to say, but I don’t want to hear it. You can be too judgmental at times. Our personal pasts should not be used against the younger generation’s affairs. I’ve listened to both Man He and you, and I don’t think that the boy Di Bao would be a treat to us. Time will reveal his real heart. Till then, I don’t want you to hurt him senselessly. Same goes for Miss Zhan too. Didn’t you see her using the priestess’ most formidable stance? She could become a new master of Emei in the future. We should build good relation with her from now.”

    Duan Hui mumbled, “is that why you gave the Red Lotus pill to her?”

    De Pang nodded, “We have no need for it, but she has. Now that her master died, she will need all strength she could get to fend off the enemy.”

    Mu Zhen couldn’t help supporting his loved one. “First brother, somehow, you don’t seem to favor Ah Ju for the next leader.”

    De Pang grinned teasingly. “Well, if she isn’t the next Emei’s master, she won’t have to enter the priesthood. Then you’ll still have your chance with her. Isn’t that better though?”

    Mu Zhen blushed and said no more. He did not want to bring up Yong Butong’s errand to Ah Ju just yet.

    At the same time, Zhan Zhiying begged her senior martial sister for punishment again for breaking Emei’s rule, learning the ‘Net of No Way Out’ without permission. “I and Lianhua saw you practice the stance one day and just try it for fun. We thought that it was harmless because we had not enough inner energy to complete it anyway.” Actually, Chu Lianhua was the one who started it, and Zhan Zhiying though refused to practice it instinctively remembered it thus the use of it today.

    Ah Ju sighed. She waved to her junior martial sister. “This petty rule is no matter today because there is no longer Emei.” Tears dropped from her eyes, and she related the condition of their beloved sect, their only home. “I’m afraid that something bad must have happened to Master.”

    Zhan Zhiying felt weak. “Master! Mom!” One look at Ah Ju and she knew what happened to her mother. “I should have killed that Love Palace fiend.” She gritted her teeth. She had to be mistaken for taking that killer for her elder sister, Feiyan. ‘Feiyan died ten years ago.’ She reminded herself.

    Ah Ju watched her junior martial sister with understanding. “You are too kind-hearted, and it’s not a bad thing.” She wanted to know where Chu Lianhua was, and it was Zhan Zhiying’s turn to give her bad news.

    At that moment, Mu Zhen coughed for their attentions and invited them to join his group. He didn’t know how best to start. However, there is no decent way to avoid the hurt. “A young fellow found Xun Ci Shi Tai gravely injured few weeks ago. She gave him a letter and a metal ring and asked him to deliver them to your hand in person. Then she passed away. Please receive our condolences.”

    Both martial sisters turned ashen. They kneeled down in the direction of Emei Mountain and kowtowed several times. “Master,” they lamented. Xun Ci Shi Tai was like their mothers, and Emei Sect was like their home. No home, no parent, what should the children do?

    De Pang gently consoled the two women. “There is a heavy task before us. Aside from Love Palace, now we also have so called Black Devil character too. We should start thinking of how best to retaliate them. Actually, we are on the way to Emei to offer any help we can. Also, third brother Man has gone to Xiangyang to find Miss Chu again, and I trust that he will succeed. I’m now more concerned of Miss Gu.” He narrated to Ah Ju the detail of Xun Ci Shi Tai’s letter and the non-arrival of Gu Xiaofei.

    Ah Ju in turn told him about the destruction of Emei, and Mu Zhen immediately cried out. “Hero Tian!” He turned to Ah Ju and explained to everyone. “I was with Master Tian Fei when I saw someone in your favorite outfit riding by. Hero Tian did mention about we might find a trap at Emei.” Ah Ju’s cheeks colored when she realized that Mu Zhen was in danger because of her. Should she be glad or sad at his unwavering love?

    “Hero Tian could be in an ambush then.” De Pang spoke and hurriedly led his party back to the wayside place. They found no Tian Fei, but a waiter came to greet Mu Zhen. He gave the Wu Dang hero a note. “The gentleman who was with you asked me to deliver this to you.” After some reward, he saw fit to inform the group further. “After you were gone, a young master came. I heard him addressed your friend ‘Father’. They talked awhile. Then they left together but not before the older gentleman writing this note.”

    Mu Zhen thanked him and gave him more taels then opened Tian Fei’s note. It said, “I have to go ahead. Emei. Be careful.” Then smaller words were added next to ‘Emei’, “trap, go to Wu Dang quickly”.

    The three Wu Dang heroes looked at one another. De Pang then concluded that Tian Fei was warning Mu Zhen against some trap at Emei and that he must have had his own reason for Mu Zhen to go back to Wu Dang. The first Wu Dang brother was deep in thought before continued. “Hero Tian is intelligent and considerate. If he advises Mu Zhen to go back to Wu Dang, then we should do that. Besides, now that Emei was destroyed, there is nothing we could do there aside from savaging the ruins.” He then added. “We came across a Shaolin monk, and he told us he heard that the head abbot of Shaolin passed away. I wonder if this has anything to do with Love Palace or Black Devil?”

    He turned to Ah Ju and Zhan Zhiying and invited them to join his group, but they turned him down politely. Ah Ju said, “I’m worried about Xiaofei and Lianhua. Since Hero Man is taking care of Lianhua, we’ll look for Xiaofei then. Then there is a matter of that young boy named Yong Butong. I need to talk to him for he probably has my master’s last words. Where would he be now?” She turned to ask Mu Zhen who recounted the illness of Lu Tingli at the inn. “Well, Hero Tian’s daughter should be back at Dr. Ma with the first master Huang. I’d presume that Yong Butong and his friend, Ah Yi were there too.”

    “Then we’ll go to Dr. Ma’s after we look along the road for Xiaofei.” Ah Ju decided, but De Pang had a better idea. “Actually, since Miss Gu was on her way to Wu Dang, she probably took this main road. Since you didn’t see her on your way, and we didn’t see her on our way, we could assume that either she went to Wu Dang by the other road or she suffered the same fate as Miss Chu. I’d like to humbly suggest that you and Miss Zhan go straight to Dr. Ma to meet this boy and keep alert for any news about Love Palace. We’ll do the same too. I fear that unless we could find out the location of the Love Palace’s headquarters, we would not know the whereabouts of Miss Gu, providing that she was kidnapped by them of course. I understand that you are concerned about her safety, but there is not much we can do now. Better go for the big fish for the smaller ones will follow.”

    Ah Ju considered his advise over and found it a sound one. She thanked him and took off with Zhiying to Guilin, while De Pang and his martial brothers returned to Wu Dang. Mu Zhen sighed inwardly and sent a longing glance at Ah Ju for the last time then followed his two senior brothers sadly. He met her in order to depart from her so soon. Fate could be so cruel. Would the destiny allow him to see her again?
    ----------------------
    thanks for reading
    "History's third dimension is always fiction."
    -- The Glass Bead Game, Hermann Hesse

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