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PostPosted: Fri Nov 12, '10, 5:46 pm
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The sound of the wind blowing through the trees of the mountain was soon joined by that of marching feet and trotting horses. In front of the inn, Ti’er Kaire, Li Si, Cha-Zi, Ri-Ge, and Lung Han stood defiantly, waiting for the arrival of the Eunuch Lau Shek and his men. The five warriors kept their weapons hidden in their clothing, but were ready use them at the faintest sign of conflict. Their hearts beat powerfully within them and they awaited their fates with the utmost of anticipation.

More than a hundred feet away, where the mountain path began to dip downward, the heads of horses and guards begin to appear on the horizon. They moved slowly, but surely, as riding quickly through the mountain path could result in one accidentally falling down the steep, rocky slope. Leading the march were the three generals, Chufa, Kuxing, and Zhu. Chufa wore a suit of golden armor that matched his hair color, which contrasted with the thick blue clothing he wore beneath it. Kuxing wore a combination of green clothing with pink armor, which also matched his hair, much like that of his colleague. Finally, Zhu was girded in the same gold armor that Chufa used, but wore dark grey clothes beneath it. The faces of all three of the generals were sculpted into permanent scowls, which struck fear into the hearts of Lung Han and Ri-Ge.

They led the procession of soldiers, most of whom were wearing light armor and brandishing spears, behind them, in the middle of which was a large elaborately-crafted cedar sedan carried by a few burly foot soldiers. Li Si knew that Lau Shek was inside the Sedan. Beside it rode a mysterious figure dressed in black. As they came closer to the inn, Kaire recognized the rider: it was Zi-Ou, her colleague-turned enemy. Zi-Ou’s eyes met with Kaire’s, but his haughty expression did not change when he saw her.

At length the procession came with thirty feet of the inn and stopped. Zhu rode forward a several feet and produced a scroll with gold trimmings from one of the saddle bags on his horse. Unrolling the parchment, he declared with a booming voice, “By order of the Emperor, we command you rebels to cease all activities and turn yourselves in. Moreover, if whoever is responsible for the theft of the Sacred Volumes from the Imperial Library is present, he must return said articles, under threat of execution.”

Li Si stepped forward and reached into her white jacket. She pulled out the two manuals and waved them tauntingly at Zhu. If your lordship, the Eunuch Lau Shek, wants these books, tell him that he has to get them himself. We will not do business with the middle man.”

“Insolent—“Zhu began.

He was interrupted by a series of small explosions that erupted within the ranks of the guards. Soon the entire area transformed into a smoky chaos as soldiers ran in every direction trying to avoid the explosions and figure out who was throwing bombs at them. Soon, dozens of armed hunters and fox spirits poured from the trees and fell upon the confused soldiers.
At the same time, Li Si and Kaire ran up the trail that led further up the mountain. Their flight was met by the explosion of the sedan that carried Lau Shek that sent huge splinters of wood in all directions. A lone figure, dressed in dark blue royal robes and a blue mitre, leapt high into the air and landed on the path that Li Si and Kaire were taking. He soon pursued them up the mountain.

The three generals turned their attention to the hunters that were fighting with the soldiers. Ri-Ge quickly reacted and threw both ends of her claw weapon at the horses. The two talons dug into the flesh of the Chufa’s and Kuxing’s horses’ necks and brought the animals down. The two generals jumped off their horses, as did Zhu. A cloud of dust rose from the earth as their heavy feet landed on the ground. They turned to the feisty female fox spirit and walked toward her. Cha-Zi, sensing that conflict was afoot, stepped forward, finding his way with his cane until he stood next to his companion.

Chufa screamed with a piercing voice, “Identify yourselves, rebels!”

“I am Cha-Zi of the Hunter’s Guild,” the blind swordsman said quietly.

“I am Ri-Ge of the Sun Moon Sect,” said the fox spirit defiantly.

“Traitors! All of you!” roared Kuxing. “We have a way of dealing with your type.”

The three generals simultaneously reached behind their backs and pulled out their weapon of a choice: a large bullwhip. Ri-Ge whispered something into Cha-Zi’s ear and he nodded, side-stepping a few feet so that he was face to face with Zhu. Ri Ge held her claws with both hands, one at each end.


***

For a several moments, General Zhu stepped quietly towards Cha-Zi, who showed no reaction to Zhu’s movements. Once in a while, Cha-Zi would tilt his head, but otherwise, he remained motionless. Cautiously, the general sidestepped back and forth, testing Cha-Zi’s senses and trying to throw him off. At one moment, the picked up a small stone and threw it near the blind hunter, who directed his attention to the ground near his foot. At this moment, Zhu made his move.

Zhu snapped his whip at Cha-Zi, who stood still and reacted only by holding his cane up to block the weapon. The general snapped the weapon again, which Cha-Zi also parried. Cha-Zi, who was unable to see, used his hearing to detect any sudden movements from his opponent. Zhu screamed and ran towards the hunter. The general leapt into the air to deliver a flying kick to Cha-Zi. The hunter quickly dropped to the ground and rolled under the general, thrusting his cane up as the general passed above him, striking his attacker’s thigh and causing him to land on his knees.

Cha-Zi kicked up to his feet and turned slowly to Zhu, who was still getting up. As soon as the maddened general rose to his feet, he started angrily lashing his weapon at the swordsman, who calmly deflected every blow with his cane, without so much as a single flinch. Angered, Zhu directed his next attack not at Cha-Zi, but at his cane. He swung his whip at it, which wrapped around it, and began to pull with all his might. Cha-Zi began to be pulled forward and dragged towards Zhu.

Zhu gave a great tug to the whip, which nearly lifted Cha-Zi off his feet as he was brought closer to Zhu. Reacting quickly, Cha-Zi used the forward momentum to jump into the air and plant both of his feet into Zhu’s chest. Zhu hit the ground with a dull thud, nearly getting the wind knocked out of him. General Zhu moved rapidly, though, and before Cha-Zi could regain his ground from his flying drop kick, Zhu moved behind him and wrapped his whip around Cha-Zi’s throat. Zhu’s teeth gnashed together in an evil smile as he tightened the leather cord around the blind man’s neck. Cha-Zi wildly threw his elbows back, smashing them violently against the general’s ribs, but the general continued to pull harder. The hunter swung his cane back, but only managed to strike the general’s metal shin guards.

Cha-Zi struggled for breath and gasped for air, but was soon felt weak and faint. Knowing that it was his last option, the blonde-haired hunter grabbed the top of his cane and pulled out the sword that he kept inside it. Cha-Zi thrust the blade behind him, burying it Zhu’s stomach. The general howled in pain and loosened his grip on his whip. Cha-Zi threw his head back, smashing it into Zhu’s face, breaking his nose and covering his face in blood. With a quick jerk, Cha-Zi yanked the sword from Zhu’s belly and spun around. Tuning his ears to Zhu’s groans, Cha-Zi lifted his sword and brought it down on the general’s face.

For a few moments there was silence as Cha-Zi stood still, holding his cane sword in a defensive posture. Then, he heard the sound of a body dropping to the ground. With the scabbard of his cane sword, Cha-Zi felt his way over to Zhu’s body, which appeared to be motionless. He then plunged his sword into the man’s torso. At that moment, his strength failed him and he fell to his knees, gasping for air and breathing raggedly.


***


Ri-Ge struggled mightily to catch the whips with her claws, but ultimately was unsuccessful. She yelped in pain as Chufa’s and Kuxing’s whips repeatedly struck her arms, leaving bloody cuts on them. The light blue sleeves of her robes soon turned a dark purple color. The two generals cackled loudly as they saw their opponent desperately trying to defend herself to no avail. Looking at one another, they nodded and changed tactics: Chufa started cracking his whip at Ri-Ge’s upper body while Kuxing when for her legs. Ri-Ge leapt and skipped as Kuxing started tearing pieces of skin out of her ill-protected thighs.

Ri-Ge finally jumped back a few feet in order to open a large gap between her and the generals and to reconsider her strategy. Ri-Ge and the generals began to walk in a wide circle. The fox spirit’s mind raced to find a solution to her problem. Every few seconds, one of the generals would crack his whip at her, causing her to stumble back in order to avoid taking another blow. Then Ri-Ge had an idea.

The red-haired spirit dropped to the ground and tumbled forward toward the two. Ri-Ge felt her arms and legs burn as her cuts rubbed against the hard ground, mixing dust into her wounds. She could also feel sharp pain of the generals’ whips against her back. As soon as she landed near the two men, she gripped both claws and swung them wildly at Chufa’s and Kuxing’s legs. While she missed the latter, who stumbled backward out of her reach, she was able to dig into Kuxing’s unprotected calves with the sharp talons, ripping through his trousers tearing out a hung of skin and flesh. Kuxing collapsed immediately, screaming obscenities at Ri-Ge and her kind.

Ri-Ge quickly kicked up and closed the distance between her and Chufa before the latter could take another crack at her. She hacked at him with the talons, scratching through the sleeves of his garb and into his biceps. Like Ri-Ge, Chufa’s blood mixed with the blood fabric of his shirt to form a deep purple.

“How do you like that!?” the female fox spirit screamed.

Chufa tried to fight her close quarters, but was unable to block her onslaught of blows. Holding his whip with one hand at the handle and the other at about a cubit away, the general tried to both parry her blows and wrap the leather cord around Ri-Ge’s wrists. Ri-Ge dropped to the ground and wrapped her legs around Chufa’s. Confused by her change in tactics, Chufa was unable to block when Ri-Ge swung her arms in wide, inward-curving arc and dug her claws into Chufa’s kidneys. Chufa dropped his whip and clutched his wounds as Ri-Ge pulled her weapons out of his sides.

Ri-Ge was quickly on her feet and read to rip Chufa’s head to pieces she felt a sharp pain and a tug at her ankle, almost pulling her off her feet. It was Kuxing, whose whip had wrapped around her foot. Ri-Ge fought to maintain balance. Chufa, seeing this, launched himself at her, throwing a barrage of punches at her face. Ri-Ge parried the blows with her claws, which struck against Chufa’s metal gauntlets, preventing further damage to his arms. Kuxing continued pulling, which furthered Ri-Ge’s confusion, ending with her taking a blow to the jaw and almost knocking her unconscious.

Thinking quickly, Ri-Ge took one end of her claw and through it out at Kuxing, who was still on the ground. The claw sailed through the air and found its target in Kuxing’s throat. Blood spurted through the four holes that the metal talons had dug into it, soaking his green clothing and covering his pink armor. In a few moments, Kuxing was dead, lying on the ground and clutching his throat.

As Ri-Ge whirled around to face Chufa for the last time, a lightning-fast lash of his whip struck her on the cheek, leaving a crimson-red bloody gash on it. Ri-Ge staggered backward, wiping the wound with her light-blue sleeves, trying to get the blood off. She saw Chufa raise his whip for another powerful lash. Ri-Ge quickly through the cord that joined the two claws out. The cord wrapped around the whip just as Chufa was about to crack it, causing him to lose momentum and aim. With a powerful grip, Ri-Ge yanked the whip out of Chufa’s hand, leaving him unarmed.

Chufa let out a scream of dismay and dashed at Ri-Ge, jumping in the air and thrusting his leg out at her head. Ri-Ge quickly stepped aside and threw out her claw again. The claw tore into Chufa’s crotch. Landing on the ground with a high-pitched shriek, Chufa turned to face his female opponent just as Ri-Ge pulled the cord so hard that the claw flew back to its owner. With a blood-curdling scream, Chufa fell to his knees, and then face first to the ground. His scream soon became a low whimper, and then silence.
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