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PostPosted: Thu Jul 29, '10, 2:07 am
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This story is something of an experiment from the author. In the 18th century, a Chinese author named Pu Song-Li published a book called "Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio." One of the stories in the book was called "The Magnanimous Girl", which is about a scholar and the mysterious girl who lived next door to him. It was adapted into a film called "A Touch of Zen", which is considered to be one of the all-time classics of Chinese cinema. The film stripped away the story's supernatural elements in favor of a story about the scholar, the mysterious girl, and corrupt government agents. This fan fiction is my take on the story, using character from Phantasy Star IV.
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Scholar Ru-Ne sat down on the stool at his booth and immersed himself in his books about maoshan magic techniques for what must have been hours. His booth was much like the others ones that populated the main street of town, only that instead of selling food, toys, or handicrafts, Ru-Ne’s specialty was art, calligraphy, poetry, and books. It was the path that Ru-Ne had chosen for himself, not wanting for some reason to take the public exams in order to be an official. Ru-Ne preferred the simple life that his occupation afforded him, much to the chagrin of his mother.

Ru-Ne was so involved in his books, mumbling under his breath the numerous magic chants that they contained, that he was startled when his neighbor, a young candy seller named Cha-Zi, called out to him.

“Hey Ru-Ne!”, the odd-looking golden-haired youth called out to his scholar colleague. “If you like to read so much, why don’t you study to be a public official?”

Ru-Ne nearly fell out of his stool, but then regained his composure and laughed. “My good Cha-Zi, life as a bureaucrat is chaotic indeed. Besides, I’m too good natured to be able to attend to the public. The government likes officials who are cold and unmoving. That is definitely not me.”

Cha-Zi handed some sticky plums to a small child and placed a few coins in a small box near the stool he sat at. He glanced over at his blue-haired companion. “My friend, you could make a lot more money than you do drawing pictures and selling books. Then you could get yourself a beautiful wife and have lots of children.”

Ru-Ne set his book down and stood up to organize some of his artwork so that people passing by could get a better look at them. “True. But rich women are a bother to wed. They only think about spending your money and keeping up their appearance.”

Cha-Zi nodded and chuckled. “You’re probably right.” He paused to attend another customer, who purchased some caramel-covered peaches. “It’s probably for the best.” Cha-Zi stepped closer to Ru-Ne’s stall and spoke in a lower tone. “I hear that the government is beginning to fail the people.”

Ru-Ne wiped a long strand of his blue hair back, looked both ways and nodded. “It’s not surprising. It almost always a matter of time before a great empire enters into decadence. I’ve heard rumors that the Hunter’s Guild has been declared enemies of the government and are now being hunted by the Kin-sai assassins.”

“Hunter’s Guild?” asked Cha-Zi, his eyebrow raised.

Ru-Ne lowered his voice a few notches. “Yes. They were a professional escort company who ran lots of errands for the government and were known for employing some of the greatest fighters in the empire. They killed so many bandits that people all over the country started saying that they were more powerful than the emperor’s own guard. Just like the Fifth Autumn Classic, in which the great General Ru-dou is hunted by the king who was jealous of his exploits, the emperor supposedly became jealous of their popularity and now wants to get rid of them.”

Cha-Zi nodded and walked back to his stall to place the plum and peach candies in order. “It’s a shame, my friend, when things come to this.”

Ru-Ne, who now stared at a picture of a young merchant’s daughter he had drawn, simply nodded.

***

A few hours later, Ru-Ne packed up his pictures, books, and parchments and started off toward his house. He walked through the streets toward the outskirts of the town. The other street vendors continued to sell their fruits, steamed buns, and various meats. Ru-Ne visited a couple of vendors, friends of his, and picked up a peach for his mother and a few slices of pork for his mother to cook with their dinner that night.

The roads were already beginning to empty, as more and more people started retiring to their homes for the evening. Only a few restaurants and the local brothel seemed to have much life at this hour. Ru-Ne hurried along to his house, a small brick structure that was once the maid’s quarters in a much larger manor that had been abandoned decades earlier when the family that owned it died of a plague that had swept through the land.

As he stepped inside the house, he saw that the building across from them, which had hitherto fore been uninhabited, had a dim light shining in the window. Ru-Ne, interested in the prospect of a new neighbor, tried to get a closer look. He thought he saw the long brown hair of a woman inside, but it was getting dark, so he couldn’t be sure. He shrugged his shoulders and went into his own house.

“Good evening, mother,” said Ru-Ne curtly to the old woman in the house as he entered. “I brought a peach for you and some pork for us to eat tonight.”

His mother, a stout, but dignified woman, nodded in approval. “Very well, my son. It is just as well, since I have invited our new neighbor for dinner.”

Ru-Ne looked at his mother quite attentively. “I noticed that we are no longer alone here. Who is it that has moved in across from us?”

His mother smiled. “It is a young girl. I do not believe she is married. She came by today asking to use a little bit of soap. We talked briefly. She is from the capital, but now desires a simpler a life. She is quite pretty, but not at vain or immodest. You should try to marry her, my son.”

Ru-Ne laughed heartily at that. “Mother, girls from the capital tend to be too materialistic for me. I could not support such a girl by writing poetry and drawing pictures. Besides, materialistic girls do not offer me any intellectual match.”

His mother shook her head in hopelessness. “All the more reason you should study for the public exams, my son. I am getting older. Before I pass on to the next life, I would like to see my son married and give me a grandchild. If you wait around until you find a woman educated enough to suit your needs, I’m afraid that will never happen.”

Ru-Ne walked up to his mother and put his arm around her. “My dear mother, you will always have me around. Have I not been a filial son and always taken care of you? You need not—“

He was interrupted by a knock at the door. It was the neighbor. His mother motioned for him to answer the door, while she hurriedly tended to the food. Ru-Ne shook the dust off of his white robes and trousers and approached the door. He opened it and stepped back at the visitor.

His neighbor was a beautiful young girl, more so than any girl he had ever drawn in his days as an artist. Her skin was tanned lightly. Her large brown eyes showed hints of a fiery disposition, but humble enough that he could tell she was not one of those materialistic city girls he always complained about. She had long brown hair, with locks of it covering her forehead. Her dress was a bitodd, she wore white robes over a red silk blouse with white silk trousers; it reminded him of the swordswomen that he had read about in some of the novels he sold.

The two looked each other in the eye for a few moments, after which she bowed and said humbly, yet confidently, “Good scholar Ru-Ne. I am Li Si. Your mother invited me to dinner tonight.”

Ru-Ne stared at her for a few moments before remembering that he needed to let her in. She walked into the house; her stride was distinctly lady-like, but full of energy and attitude. Ru-Ne’s interest in the woman began to grow.

In a few moments, dinner was served. After the usual pleasantries exchanged between the three, Li Si began to inquire about Ru-Ne’s trade.

“Good scholar Ru-Ne, what is it that you do? A learned man should live in a place far more elegant than this humble abode.”

Ru-Ne coughed on his food and looked at his mother, who narrowed her eyes at him. “My dear Li Si, I employ my knowledge in the trade of writing calligraphy and poetry for people who need it, in addition to selling books and artwork to whomever might be interested as well.”

Li Si nodded and smiled. “Couldn’t you take the public exams and get a good job and a good wife to bear you children?”

Ru-Ne’s mother was taken aback by the woman’s frankness, but Ru-Ne grinned and answered her, “I could. But the government is beginning to become decadent. I would not want to be working for them should things began to fall apart. The simple life is better for me.”

For a brief moment, he thought he saw Li Si’s lips twist into a content smile, but he wasn’t sure. She continued to ask him questions. “Good scholar, so what sorts of books do you at your stall?”

“A little of everything. I sell some classics, anthologies of tales about the Hunter’s Guild, and even some books about magic.”

“And what do you personally prefer to read?” Li Si examined him with her eyes, giving Ru-Ne a warm feeling inside.

“I’ve read everything that I sell. I know the classic quite well, but to be perfectly honest, I enjoy reading about the famous maoshan techniques.”
His mother coughed. “My son is very intelligent, but he is like a big kid. He enjoys reading fantasy and stories best left for young children. Please forgive his naïveté.” His mother bowed her head.

“Nonsense,” said Li Si daringly. She looked over at Ru-Ne with a twinkle in her eye. “Do you believe in magic.”

Ru-Ne laughed aloud. “I suppose I don’t. But a part of me says that in another life, I was a magician or a priest who fought against ghosts.”

“My dear son,” his mother said disapprovingly. “You read too many books. They cloud your judgment. You should dedicate your time to reading the classics.”

Ru-Ne bowed his head toward his mother in respect and then lifted it and met the gaze of Li Si’s brown eyes. His hands began to tremble as he reached over for some more food.

The rest of the evening was spent talking about classic literature and poetry, which Li Si knew quite a bit about. They exchanged ideas on good government and efficient rule, quoting classic novels for examples of each other’s points. It was getting late when Li Si got up and asked to be excused back to her house. Ru-Ne arose and let her out, but stared at her intently for several minutes after he left. It was his mother who told him to close the door and get some rest.

***

It was the next day that Ru-Ne was sitting at his stall, dividing his attention between the image of the ethereal Li Si and reading his favorite maoshan manuals that he was approached by a customer he had never seen in town before. She was a beautiful woman, much like Li Si, but a different kind of a beautiful. She wore a long satin gown, as green as the greenest emerald, which sparkled in the noon sun. Her skin was as white as snow and her smile was like it had been carved out of the reddest fig. Her hair was as green as the ripest, most luscious lime. He could see a golden comb and golden hairpins sticking out of it.

He gazed at her for a few moments before bowing. “Good damsel, how may I, Scholar Ru-Ne be of service to you?”

The woman spoke with a soft, melodic voice. “Good scholar? From the looks of your stall, you must be a brilliant artist. I desire a picture of myself and a poem to accompany it.”
Ru-Ne grinned and bowed his head. “It would be an honor and milestone in my career to draw such an elegant beauty and write a poem describing her beauty. Please,” he said, pulling out another stool. “Be seated, that I may draw you.”

The young woman sat at the stool and looked toward the sky, so as to give Ru-Ne a pose to draw her in. Ru-Ne produced a piece of paper and some brushes and pens. He stared at her and scrutinized her features for a few moments, and then went to work. He took extra special care with each line, with each of her facial features, making sure that he did not make her look too old, or like a child. His hand moved gracefully across the paper. He occasionally would stare deep into her large honey-colored eyes, and then return to his work and draw some more. In about an hour, he had finished. He showed the young lady the picture, who smiled in approval.

“Young scholar, you have done justice to my beauty. I have some business to attend to, but I will return in an hour to pick up the drawing and the poem. I will pay you handsomely for it.”

Ru-Ne bowed in reverence as the young lady got up and left. He started writing his poem, comparing the woman’s beauty to young bamboo forest that brings beauty to the life of the man who has wandered through the desert. When he finished, he set his pen and paper down and went to a neighboring stall to buy a fruit for lunch. He noticed that Cha-Zi was not in his stall at the time. He looked around for his golden-haired colleague, but found him not.

The young woman in green returned and thanked him for his services, paying him ten times as much as he would charge for that sort of work. He accepted the raise graciously and bid farewell to the woman.
Before leaving, the woman turned and spoke softly, “Good scholar, I like your work so much that I shall recommend you to my four handmaids. They shall come one at a time, once a day, for the next four days. I trust that you shall produce the same quality of work for them that you did for me.”

“It will be an honor to do so,” Ru-Ne replied courteously.
The woman in green smiled and walked away.

That evening, Ru-Ne bought an entire chicken and brought it home to his mother, who had invited Li Si over for dinner again. Li Si, whom Ru-Ne called Ah Li, was very grateful for their kindness, as she said that she had not yet found work in the town. Nonetheless, she helped out Ru-Ne’s mother at home and at dinner, would discuss classic literature with Ru-Ne as if they had studied in the same class throughout all of his years of schooling. She spoke confidently of her views, but always with a warm smile that melted Ru-Ne’s heart so much that he began to rethink his previous stubbornness in not wanting to marry yet.

The next day at work, a beautiful woman in a baby blue gown showed up at Ru-Ne’s stall and identified herself as the lady in green’s handmaid. She too was very beautiful, but of a different sort. She wore a robe-like kimono, made of fine silk, that reminded Ru-Ne of the stories he had heard of the people who lived in the islands to the east. Her hair was as blue as her robes. Nonetheless, she lacked in the refined beauty of her master and the “confident sexiness” that ascribed to Ah Li. The handmaid wore her kimono open in such a way that her bosom was exposed, and a large slit in the kimono revealed her legs in a way that some might consider to be inappropriate. He drew her picture and wrote a poem about her beauty, comparing it to a clear blue river that a man finds after suffering much thirst. She approved of both projects and paid him the same amount that her master paid him the day before.

The next days were quite the same. He would go about his usual work, including one of the handmaids of the lady in green, and, arriving home, he would have his mother prepare an especially nice dinner for both of them and Ah Li, whom he never failed to invite. They would discuss various topics and he would retire to bed, love-struck, and sleep peacefully until the next day.

On the fourth day, the fourth handmaid showed up and requested, in a raspy feminine voice, her picture and poem dedicated to her beauty. Before he started drawing, he saw her disrobe in front of him. His heart began to race as he shrunk back at how a decent woman could do such a think. When she had removed her kimono, he saw that she was not naked, but wearing a suit of blue plate-mail armor. It was covered with golden flowers and other designs, but the dark blue color of the metal matched the woman’s hair. There was a sword in a scabbard that hung from her waist. He looked at the woman for a few seconds and thought to himself, “Oh my. This must be one of the famous Kinsai assassins. If so, than who is her master?”

He said nothing, but hid his surprise, and began to draw her portrait. Upon finishing, he wrote a brief poem comparing her to the man who desires to marry a princess, but being poor has nothing to give her. He then discovers in his field a sapphire of great beauty, which allows him to have that which he desires. The lady in blue approved of his works and paid him the same sum. Before leaving his stall, she turned to him and produced from a pocket inside her kimono, a few pieces of parchment.
Unrolling them, he saw that they were drawings of different persons. One of them he immediately recognized as Cha-Zi, his fellow vendor. He tried to hide his recognizing his friend, but the woman saw his eyes widen momentarily.

“Good scholar. Have you seen the man in this picture?”

Knowing that lying would get him nowhere at this point nodded. “Yes. He works in a stall next to me. But I haven’t seen him since the day your master came to call upon my services.”

The woman moved her head up to his ear, making him feel uncomfortable. She spoke softly and seductively, “If you see him, please let me or one of my sisters know.” She kissed him on the cheek; the kiss was a cold one that sent a shiver down his spine. She turned and walked away.
It was while he was walking home that he noticed the light on at Ah Li’s house. He stepped past her gate and looked around curiously. He saw two figures inside the house. Squinting his eyes, he made out the long-haired figure of Ah Li. The second one, a little more obscure, seemed to have short golden hair. Ru-Ne gasped and staggered back a few steps. It was Cha-Zi. “What exactly is their relationship?” he thought. Then it hit him. “One of them, or both of them, must be from the Hunter’s Guild.” Ru-Ne felt his blood run cold. For a brief moment, the idea that he may know the identities and whereabouts of two supposed criminals made him feel faint. He composed himself and hurried back to his house.

The next day, as Ru-Ne was closing up shop, he caught a glimpse of two of the blue-haired handmaids of the lady in green in front of them. They were taking a path that led to his house, or to Ah Li’s. His heart began to beat with great velocity. He thought about what it might mean, and quickly decided to help his neighbor, whose company he adored so much. He took another path through a poorer part of the town and was able to cut through a few fields before making it to the abandoned manor. He quickly ran to Ah Li’s house and opened the door without knocking. In front of him were both Ah Li and Cha-Zi, both of whom were startled by his intrusion.

Ah Li opened her mouth to speak, but Ru-Ne warned, “Quick! The Kin-Sai are on their way here. You must hide! I know who you are!”

Ah Li’s eyes widened in fear, and then narrowed again. She turned to Cha-Zi and nodded. Ru-Ne looked over at the table and saw two curved metal blades on atop it. He looked a little close, but Ah Li quickly scooped them up and hid them in her robes.

“Good scholar Ru-Ne, please, return home quickly. I don’t want you involved in this.”

Ru-Ne paused for a moment and nodded. “Quick. They shall be here any moment.” Ru-Ne stepped outside of the house. He heard footsteps along the path and quickly surmised that it was the Kin-Sai. Thinking quickly, he began to yell, “Ah Li! Ah Li! Are you home? Ah Li! Please answer me! Are you there?”

Just then, four Kin Sai showed up at the gate. He walked toward them and bowed. “Please excuse my loudness. My neighbor, the silly girl, borrowed some soap and has not returned it. I was hoping she’d be at home for me to ask for it back, but the house is empty.”

The Kin Sai looked at each other, and then the one he had drawn the day before spoke up. “Good scholar, when she returns, please inform us. We are old colleagues of hers and wish to be reunited. You shall find us in the bamboo forest.” She kissed him again on the cheek and led her three compatriots back down the path.

Ru-Ne walked to his house. As he opened the door, he saw Ah Li and Cha-Zi step out the gate and head in the direction of the Kin Sai. “Are they going to follow them?” he thought. Deciding that they were, Ru-Ne quickly entered his house, put his stuff down, picked up a couple of his maoshan technique manuals, and ran out of the house toward the forest.

***

The bamboo forest lay on the foot of a large hill on the east side of the village. A fog was beginning to settle in the forest, having come down from the top of the hill. The fog, which hung close to the ground, created a sort of dream-like atmosphere as Ru-Ne entered the forest. He decided to get off the beaten path and find his way to the others moving through the trees. He waded his way through the large, green bamboo stalks, which grew denser as he went farther into the forest. An eerie silence filled the air; the only sound Ru-Ne could here was his own footsteps. Moving further into the forest, he found that the endless stalks of green bamboo made him feel like he was getting absolutely nowhere.

At length he began to hear a number of female voices. He knelt down and crept carefully through the trees, until he was able to see a quintet of woman in a nearby clearing. The fog was his friend at this point, as it kept him well concealed from the women’s sight. Adjusting his eyes to the impending darkness, he saw the lady in green and her four handmaids, or rather the four Kin Sai assassins. The four blue-haired women no longer wore the silk kimonos, but were dressed in armor that the fourth one had worn when she went to visit Ru-Ne’s stall the day before. Each of them held their swords in their hands, as if they were ready for battle.

The lady in green surprised Ru-Ne, as she no longer looked like the elegant noblewoman that had visited him several days before. She wore an armor-plated midriff that was as green as her dress had been, plus green trousers and a pair of green steel shin guards. Her hair was no longer done up and filled with gold pins and combs, but was let free and flowed down past her shoulders. Observing the way she walked, he noticed the way she opened and closed her fists as she paced, her fingers often taking the form of claws. Then it struck Ru-Ne, this was Nühu, the famous Tigress.

He then heard more footsteps from the other end of the clearing. He looked over and saw Ah Li and Cha-Zi come into the clearing and confront the five warrior women. Ru-Ne crawled forward to be able to hear the conversation better. He was careful not to nudge too much against the bamboo, as it could easily give away his hiding spot. A fight was imminent, that was for sure.

Nühu gave the command for the Kin Sai to charge. The four blue women raised their swords and dashed toward the two Hunters. At this moment, Ah Li reached both hands into her robes and pulled the two curved blades that Ru-Ne had seen in her house. The Kin Sai stopped in their tracks with their eyes wide open.

“The dragon missiles!” one of them yelled, her voice cracking with fear.

“Get her! There is only one of her and four of you!” screamed the Tigress.

The Kin Sai ran again at Ah Li, who engaged them in personal combat with her dragon missiles. Cha-Zi stepped to the side and ran, sword in hand, toward Nühu. The battle began. Ah Li parried and blocked the numerous blows with her curved blades, swinging her arms in wide circles as she did so. Cha-Zi swung his sword wildly at the Tigress, who dodged every blow with an acute quickness and agility.

Ru-Ne quickly pulled out his books and read a few quick passages before stuffing them back into this robes. He got up and moved through the trees to get close to the conflict. Ah Li was doing a good job of defending herself and striking back at the same time, while Cha-Zi was beginning to take hits from the Tigress, who scratched at his body with her tiger-like claws. Ru-Ne decided to help; he lifted his hands began to mutter a bunch of words in another tongue, the tongue of the ancients. Just then, he felt a burst of power surge through his body and he projected a strong blast of wind from his hands. The blast struck Nühu and knocked her back several feet. Ru-Ne ran into the clearing to help Cha-Zi. Ah Li saw this all with a look of surprise, but she was too busy fighting the others to be able to do anything.

One of the Kin Sai saw Ru-Ne and broke off her attack to come after him. Cha-Zi quickly came to his senses and pushed Ru-Ne aside to engage the Kin Sai in a swordfight, leaving Ru-Ne to face a now-irate Tigress. He started to run as she came after him, swinging her leg in wide circles trying to kick him. A strong spin kick sent Ru-Ne flying to the ground and he before he could get up, he felt Nühu’s nails dig into his neck and lift him to his feet. He looked into the Tigress’ eyes.

“Foolish scholar. You’ve gotten yourself involved in something that is none of your business. You shouldn’t have stood up for these rebels.”

“Corrupt witch. It is more important to die doing what is right than to live doing that which is evil.” Thinking quickly, he muttered the words to the zan technique again. Once more, energy flowed through his body and out through his fingertips, creating a strong wind that knocked the Tigress several yards back. Her fingernails ripped through his neck when she went flying, causing streams of blood to run down his neck.

“The maoshan techniques? Wizard! Esper! You are no ordinary scholar, are you?”

“What good are your martial arts against the powers of the maoshan,” Ru-Ne said, taunting her with his mock arrogance.

Nühu kicked up and came out him again, jumping from side-to-side to be careful of further attacks. Ru-Ne started muttering the words to another technique, and soon bolts of lightning that looked like rotating blades shot out of his fingers, slicing through the bamboo and creating a barrier for him.

Ah Li continued to fight against the three Kin Sai, using her dragon missiles like twin knives. Dodging one swing, she ducked and swung her foot in a wide circle, knocking out one of the Kin Sai’s legs from under. She followed it up with another spin kick, which brought her heel across one of the other women’s faces, sending her twirling to the ground. She looked over and saw Ru-Ne using maoshan magic against the Tigress, which caused her to smile briefly. Looking at the third blue-haired fighter, she cocked her arm back and threw one of the dragon missiles at her. The Kin Sai ducked as the blade came spinning toward her, and then charged again at Ah Li. What she didn’t remember is that the dragon missile weapons return, and it did, slicing through her neck on its way back. The woman’s head fell cleanly from her shoulders.

Cha-Zi had his hands full with only one Kin Sai, who matched him move for move in sword-fighting ability. Sparks flew as their swords met, and the Kin Sai began to beat him backward with increasingly powerful blows with her weapon. Ru-Ne, who was keeping the Tigress at bay with his techniques, saw Cha-Zi in trouble and fired a ball of fire, known as foi, at the Kin Sai. He missed, but she was distracted enough that Cha-Zi was able to strike her in the head with the haft of his sword, knocking her over.

Ru-Ne saw Ah Li get sliced in her thigh by a well-placed slash from one of the Kin Sai. Ru-Ne quickly performed a gra technique, which shot out of his hands and flew toward the Kin Sai. She screamed aloud as the gra severed her arms at the elbows. Blood rushed from the stumps as she staggered around, screaming in pain. Ah Li quickly lurched forward with her dragon missiles and sliced through the Kin Sai’s knee, bringing her toppling over into Ah Li’s other slicer, which she used to stab the warrior in the chest. Ah Li than hurled both slicers, which gyrated in the air, finding their target in the woman that dueled with Cha-Zi. The dragon missiles cut through the woman’s torso, slicing her in half.

Ah Li caught the missiles on their return and stood up to take on the last Kin Sai. They struck at each other with full force and soon the dragon missiles were leaving large dents in the Kin Sai’s blade. Ah Li was finally able to parry one of her attacks with one of her slicers, and brought the other one across the warrior’s throat. The Kin Sai assassin clutched her throat with both hands as blood squirted from the severed arteries, mixing with blue hair to make it purple. She fell to her knees and then collapsed.

Ru-Ne, who had been watching, silently cheered for her. His celebration was cut short by a flying kick from the Tigress, which sent him flying against a large bamboo stalk. The green-haired beauty leapt over some of the felled trees and, picking up a piece of shredded bamboo, shoved it into Ru-Ne’s shoulder. He yelled in agony as his white robes became scarlet in color. Nühu pulled the shard out of his shoulder and held it up to his throat as she turned him around to face Cha-Zi and Ah Li, who were running to his rescue.

“One more move, and I’ll paint your garments red with his blood,” said the Tigress petulantly. “Foolish people, soon the government will know where his most hated enemies are hiding.” She pressed the shard closer to his throat.

Ru-Ne had an idea. He turned his palm discreetly so that it was facing Nühu’s leg. He began to move his lips as subtly as he could, muttering the words of one of the techniques. In a moment, a blast of energy struck the woman and set her legs on fire. Ru-Ne quickly dropped to the ground, as she was too distracted to finish him off at that moment. Now in the open, Ah Li threw one of the dragon missiles at the Tigress, which sliced the top of her head off before returning to its owner. Blood splattered all over the bamboo, and the Tigress fell sideways into the brush.

Ru-Ne lay on the ground in agony. Soon Ah Li and Cha-Zi were standing over him. Ah Li began to bark orders to her companion. “Cha-Zi, quickly get rid of the bodies. Nobody can know that there was a battle here, especially any friends that these witches may have had. Clean the place up and we’ll meet together tomorrow in the usual spot. I’m going to take care of Scholar Ru-Ne, who’s losing a lot of blood.”

Cha-Zi nodded and, before heading off to execute her orders, knelt down and said to Ru-Ne, “Thanks for saving our lives. We will always be indebted to your kindness.” He then ran off to collect the bodies of the fallen warriors.

Ah Li helped Ru-Ne to his feet, who was already feeling faint due to the pain and loss of blood. She threw his arm around neck and the two limped out of the forest and in the direction of the abandoned manor where they lived. It took twice as long as it would’ve taken had both of them not been wounded, but in due time, they arrived at her house. Ah Li quietly lit a candle and guided Ru-Ne to a small straw mat that she used to sleep on. She helped him lie down and went to the other side of the small structure and started going through her things.

She came back with a small vial full of ointment, known popularly as “dai mei”. Ru-Ne tried to speak, bust Ah Li simply smiled and put her finger against his lips to quiet him. She took the contents of the vial, a sweet smelling blue lotion, and rubbed them against his wounds. Ru-Ne felt an almost immediate relief from the pain he was feeling. Although callused from her much experience in battle, Ah Li’s light, thin fingers transmitted a warmth into his body that penetrated his very being as they gently rubbed the dai mei into his wounds. It took a half hour to dress all of his wounds, but she soon finished.

She rubbed the remainder of the dai mei on her thigh, which she seemed to have no problem in exposing to her guest. Afterward, she went to the corner of the house where she kept her things and produced a small harp. Her fingers began to pluck the strings, producing a sad, soulful melody that both soothed the agitated soul of Ru-Ne, and saddened him at the same time. He breathed slowly as he let the music linger in his ears. Ah Li sat on a stool and played for upwards of an hour, and the sweet music relaxed Ru-Ne’s soul until he felt no more pain.

Ah Li stood up and set the harp down on the table and knelt beside Ru-Ne, who was still lying on his back. She whispered softly into his ear, “Good Scholar Ru-Ne, thank you for saving our lives back in the forest. Also, thank you for the endless kindness that you and your mother have shown me here. I will make it up to you later. But for now you must rest. You fought valiantly in the forest, but you were not prepared for the rigors of battle. It’s okay, however. I know how to help you rest more easily.”

She then moved her face close to his, until their lips were less than an inch apart. She bowed her head forward and their lips met. She kissed with so much passion that Ru-Ne felt as if his body was being lifted and carried into celestial spheres. He forgot all about his wounds, his pains, his troubles. The warmth that her lips brought to his soul wiped away all of the memories of the violence and carnage he had witnessed just shortly before. At length she pulled her lips away from Ru-Ne and laid down beside him, placing her hand on his chest. Ru-Ne soon went to sleep and what a sweet sleep it was.

Ru-Ne woke up the next morning feeling like a new man. He was still in his bloody robes, but he could move his arm now. He pulled away some of the cloth and saw that the wound had nearly healed completely. He looked around, but did not see Ah Li in the house. He got up and took a look outside, but she was nowhere to be seen. Going back in the house, he saw a note written in an exquisite calligraphy on top of table. He picked it up and read it.

Good Scholar Ru-Ne,

Thank you for everything. In saving my life back in the forest, you united your soul to mine. And when I kissed you last night, I did so with all of the passion that burned within my soul, thus uniting my soul to yours. It pains me to say that I cannot, at this moment stay with you to fully consummate our love. I am a hunted person and marked for death by a corrupt government. I do not want to put your life at risk, so Cha-Zi and I have gone away. When things get better, you can be sure that I will come back to find you. Until then, please remember me in your thoughts every day, for I will be doing the same with you.
Li Si.






Author's Notes:

- In Chinese, Ru-Ne's name would be pronounced "Roo Nuh". Li Si would be pronounced "Lee Sih".

- The term "Ah" is often used before a person's given name to show intimacy or friendship with that person.

- The term maoshan refers to a type of Chinese magic, often seen in films. In movies, it can be portrayed as anything from voodoo to magic that can make a person invincible. In one film, maoshan magic allowed its user to fire lasers from his hands.

- The "dragon missile" is a reference to a Chinese film of the same name, in which the villain is armed with a metal boomerang with a dragon carved into it, that he uses to decapitate people. Here it's obviously a stand-in for the slicer.

- "Dai Mei", pronounced "die may", could be translated as "big" and "beautiful". Obviously, it's the author playing around with the word "dimate".

Last edited by H-Man on Thu Jul 29, '10, 2:07 am, edited 1 time in total.

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