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PostPosted: Tue Aug 17, '10, 6:16 pm
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This story doesn't draw from any Chinese story in particular, but doesn make reference a number of a genre conventions and the character of Ti'Er Kaire is based on a tomboyish demon hunter character in the 2008 film Painted Skin, played by Betty Sun Li. This story will be broken down into parts, unlike the previous three.

Part 1

A sudden, cold gust of wind sent a shiver down Ti’Er Kaire’s spine as she sat on the steps of courtyard at the temple. In the Wudan Mountains, where she lived, near-freezing blasts of air in the evenings were as common as heavy mountain fogs were during the daytime. Kaire felt goose pimples form on the pale white skin of her arms. Used to these cold breezes, she simply ignored them and stared at the ground.

It was late—almost midnight—and all of the other Wudan students had retired to their beds. Kaire, however, could not sleep. She, the only female student at the temple, could not sleep as early as the others and really didn’t need to. At this time, the only lights to be seen on Wudan Mountain were the faint flickers emanating from the numerous paper lamps filling each hallway and courtyard at the temple. The recent gust of wind threatened to extinguish the lights, but the flames burned on with the same low intensity that had been burning with since sundown.

Kaire wiped the large, spiky bangs of her blue hair aside and, looking around to make sure she was alone, reached into the sleeve of her billowy white robes. She pulled out two steel rods a little less than a cubit in length, both of which were sharpened at both ends. In the middle of each rod was a ring that fit Kaire’s middle finger like a glove, and allowed her to spin them with a slight flick of the wrist. These rods were known as emeici, or piercers, and were a rare item indeed among all practitioners of the martial arts.

At the Wudan Temple, Kaire had trained principally in swordsmanship, namely with the jian, or two-edged straight sword. Moreover, as the Wudan Temple was a Taoist sanctuary, teaching both protection from evil spirits as well as from mortal forces, the straight wooden sword was something of a standard-issue weapon for all Taoist priests and priestesses, as it was highly effective against ghosts and fox spirits. She had become very proficient in it, and yet, didn’t care for it as a weapon for her own personal defense. Always one to go against tradition, she decided that she’d pick the most obscure weapon she could think of to train in, which led to her learning how to fight with the piercers.

Kaire looked at the metal rods in her hand with a degree of scrutiny that her father, the head of the temple, often to referred to as a fetish of hers. Kaire rubbed the cold steel against her soft cheeks and ran her calloused fingers along the numerous etches in the steel. When Kaire had decided to train herself in this weapon, she had decided that such a weapon must be able to serve as a tool against evil spirits as well, so she had etched a number of characters, runes with magical properties, into each of the two rods. With the right incantations, the piercer could kill a fox as easily as it could kill a human being.

Another cold breeze caused Kaire to brace herself and shutter. Needing warmth, she got up and walked quietly to the center of the courtyard. Standing still for a few moments, she placed the two piercers under her belt and proceeded to tie a pair of cloth strips that hung from each of her sleeves in a knot, thus closing up her wide sleeves. She did the same with the wide, silk trousers she wore, which flared open near her feet and might cause her to trip should she leave them open.

Her limbs now free to move as she desired, she pulled out the twin rods and slid both of her middle fingers into the rings on each one. With a few slight twists of her wrists, the piercers began to spin quickly, producing a very faint WHOOSH sound. She turned her forearms so that the piercers spun vertically and kept on spinning them with her suave movements. After a few seconds, she began to extend her arms, one at a time, her wrists moving every so gracefully. Soon, she began to move them more rapidly, first back and forth, and then up and down. The piercers never stopped spinning as her arms moved in many different directions, bringing the whirling rods close to and far from her body.

Feeling confident with her movements, she began to do more daring things, swinging her arms close to her head, allowing her to feel the slight wind of the piercers in her face. She could hear the WHOOSH of the weapons as they dangerously neared her ear. But Kaire was already experienced, and always knew when to stop her arm before the piercers could cut a gash into her body.

With a quick movement of her middle and ring fingers, she caught the spinning rods. Kaire began to jab and slash the cool mountain air with their sharpened ends. She imagined herself surrounded by dozens of invisible enemies. Her movements became more elaborate; she twisted her body, swung her legs in high and low arcs, and plunged her piercers into the chests and hearts of any imaginary opponent who ventured to close to her. The calm, serene face that had, a few minutes before, stared blankly into space, quickly became red and contorted with emotion as she struck out towards oblivion, spinning the piercers occasionally to throw off and confuse any attacker near her.

She practiced like this for five minutes before stopping. She breathed erratically, each breath producing a fine mist of cold air in front of her face. A voice called from behind, startling Kaire and causing her to jump up.

“My dear, you’ll catch your death of cold if you keep practicing so late at night.” It was her father. Master Ti’Er stepped into the courtyard, his long white beard and sideburns contrasting in the light against his red robes. He stroked his beard contently as he looked at his daughter, still swinging the piercers in the palms of her hands.

“Father,” she said, trying to catch her breath. “Please don’t do that. You scared me.”

Master Ti’Er chuckled and patted Kaire on the shoulder. “I’m sorry my dear. I must say, though, that you put on quite a spectacle with those piercers of yours.”

Kaire always enjoyed hearing her father’s praises. “Anything I can do to one day glorify our Wudan martial arts.”

Master Ti’Er looked at the rods in Kaire’s hands. “Hm. But the essence of our martial arts is in our swordsmanship and our soft fighting styles, not in exotic weapons. You should be practicing more with your jian instead of these little toys.”

Kaire chuckled. “Oh father. You know me, always against tradition. Besides, I wouldn’t worry about my fencing abilities, they are quite honed if I say so myself.”

Master Ti’Er sighed gravely and nodded. “Yes. I heard about what you did to Xie A’Tou in practice today. Was it really necessary to almost cut the man’s ear off?” Master Ti’Er tried to sound like he was reprimanding his daughter, but Kaire sensed a bit of admiration in his tone.

Kaire rolled her eyes. “Xie A’Tou needed to be humbled. He and his friends, Li Fa-Gan and Gi Le-Fa, think their God’s gift to kung fu. They always pick on the newbies and less experienced students. I just wanted to show them that they do have their place at this temple.”

“Arrogance is a common trait among some of the upperclassman. Be patient with them, my daughter. It gives way to humility with time and experience.”

Kaire tried to suppress a laugh. “Oh, I agree. I was just giving them a bit of experience to speed up the process.”

“My dear Kaire,” said Master Ti’Er, placing his arm around the young girl and leading her indoors. “If you always keep up this attitude, how will you ever get married? Nobody will want a wife this harsh and headstrong.”

Kaire shook her head and sighed, wiping her bangs away. “Don’t fret about such things, Father. Besides, when I find the right one, he’ll love me for who I am, tomboy or no tomboy.”

Master Ti’Er rumpled his daughter’s hair for a moment. “If your mother were still alive, maybe you would be so harsh. But since I had to raise you since you were a toddler, I did the very best I could. It appears that my best parenting made you into a rough soul with a penchant for beating up your colleagues.” He faked a sigh of despair.

Kaire winced; she didn’t like her father describing her like that, even in gest. She put her arm around his shoulder. “Oh father, you talk as if you failed in raising me. To the contrary: You trust me in everything, you know my kung fu is quite good, and I know the in’s and out’s of the maoshan techniques quite well.”

Master Ti’Er shook his head. “Yes, my dear, although your maoshan skills are not as good as Zi-Ou’s.”

Kaire shuddered at that name. “Please, don’t compare me to him. That guy is so arrogant that he makes Li Fa-Gan look like a paragon of humility,” she whined.

“But he does have natural talent for magic, plus quite a bit of ambition. He might make a good husband for y—“

“For the love of God! No, Father! Never speak of such things!” Kaire nearly yelled. Her father placed his finger gently to his lips to remind her that others were sleeping. “Please, let’s cease all this talk of marriage and my behavior.” Her voice began to calm down. “Father, I’m happy with myself the way that I am. I know that I will bring honor not only to the Ti’Er family, but to the Wudan School on the whole.”

“I know you will, my dear. Come now, it’s time to get some sleep.” They had arrived at her room. She stepped inside and sat down on the mattress. Before closing the door, Master Ti’Er looked deep into the sparkling sapphires that were Kaire’s eyes. “One more thing. Try to take it easier on Xie A’Tou and the others. The thing about hard-style martial arts is that there will always be someone who fights harder than you. Better to use a soft style than a hard one.”

Kaire rolled her eyes; she had never been the biggest fan of the softer techniques used at the school. “Yes father,” she said, monotonously.
Master Ti’Er shook his head and walked away. Kaire let out a deep sigh as she hid her piercers under her pillow and got up to remove her robes and slip into a thicker gown. In a few moments, Kaire lay upon the straw mat she called her bed and pulled a large comforter full of goose feathers over her thin body.
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