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PostPosted: Wed Nov 17, '10, 12:47 pm
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Zi-Ou watched calmly as the Young scholarly man violently hacked and slashed his way through the guards that stood in his way. The black-clad magician was intrigued to some extent by the martial prowess of the man, who looked rather innocuous. However, it was the fact that the brown-haired youth seemed to move in a beeline toward Zi-Ou as soon as the conflict erupted that really caught his attention. Who was this man and what business did he have to settle with Zi-Ou?

In a few moments, the knife-wielding scholar stood face to face with the Taoist magician. Zi-Ou could see fire in the man’s eyes; he obviously had some score to settle. The scholar said nothing, but wiped the blood on the blade of his knife on his sleeve and smiled in a sinister manner at Zi-Ou.

Zi-Ou, overcome with curiosity, decided to speak. “It would appear that you have some business with me, my friend.”

For a moment, the scholar remained silent. Then he nodded. “Your deduction is correct.”
“Might I ask at least who you are, as I honestly have no idea what I might have done to offend you.”

“I am Lung Han of the Imperial Library,” came the response, spoken quite dryly.

Zi-Ou narrowed his eyes and nodded, wiping his long black hair out of his face. “Hm
. That would explain why the court would have business to settle with you. But that doesn’t explain what you want from me.”

At that moment, the scholar reached into his white robe and pulled out something that he kept hidden in his fist. Extending his fist, he slowly opened it, going finger by finger. Zi-Ou caught a glimpse of something blue in the palm of Han’s hand, but he wasn’t quite sure what it was. When Lung Han had finally opened his fist completely, Zi-Ou could see the crumpled blue petal of a bellflower.

The magician opened his mouth in disbelief. His lips then formed an arrogant sneer. “So, you were the nymph’s husband. I guess I should apologize to you, then.”
“That will not bring her back.”

“I suppose that telling you that I killed her for the greater good of the empire will also not be of any consolation.”

“Many of the worst acts ever committed were done for the so-called ‘greater good of the kingdom’. You can’t deceive me with that silly rhetoric.”

Zi-Ou nodded and said in calm, dispassionate tone, “I suppose then it our destiny to fight.” Zi-Ou pointed to the inn. “Let us resolve our differences in there, away from the heat of battle, where the others might disturb us.”

Lung Han nodded in agreement. Both men walked side by side toward the entrance of the inn. They entered the building, which at first glance was empty. Then Zi-Ou could hear the faint sound of notes being played from a harp. Looking up, he saw a lone harpist, dressed quite raggedly, sitting in the corner. The harpist, whose face was covered by a large conical hat, apparently didn’t notice the two men entering, much less that a duel to the death was about to take place. Zi-Ou shook his head and dismissed the musician as a harmless spectator, a wandering bard who, in years to come, may tell the story of the victory of Lau Shek over the rebels.

Most of the tables had already been pushed to one side of the restaurant before the Zi-Ou entered the establishment, leaving a nice open space for the men to duel. Lung Han stood still, his feet close together, his arm extended with the point of his blade pointed precisely at Zi-Ou’s throat. Zi-Ou saw a look of anticipation in the scholar’s eyes, as if he had thought of nothing during the past several months but to slay him. Zi-Ou, standing several feet away, stood tall with his hands behind his back.

Tauntingly, Zi-Ou said to the scholar, “If you wish to kill me so much, then you’d better do it quickly.”

Lung Han let out a yell and ran toward the Taoist magician. He thrust his dagger at Zi-Ou’s heart. Zi-Ou remained motionless as the blade cut through his black silk robes but stopped at his skin. Han’s eyes widened. He quickly retracted his arm and slashed at his enemy’s throat and face. The blade did not even penetrate Zi-Ou’s skin in the slightest, but ran against as if the knife had been dull for centuries. Furiously, Lung Han slashed even more at Zi-Ou’s torso, but his knife failed to produce any wound. Zi-Ou simply responded by yawning.

“Really, Scholar Han. Is that the best you can do?”

Han thrust his knife out again, this time aiming for Zi-Ou’s groin. This time the magician reacted, slamming the palm of his hand into the Han’s face before Han could complete his attack. The blow sent Han doubling back. The scholar looked up at the magician and wiped away a trickle of blood from his nose.

Watching the scholar run at him once more, the magician decided to defend himself a little more vigorously. Swinging his arms in small, circular patterns, Zi-Ou parried and deflected all of Lung Han’s attempts to stab him. Once in a while, Zi-Ou would do so with only one arm, yawning so as to mock his zealous opponent. At length, the Taoist grew tired of his opponent’s attacks and grabbed Lung Han by his wrist and shoulder. With a strong heave, Zi-Ou launched Han into the air. The scholar fell on top of a table, reducing it to splinters with a loud CRASH!

Lung Han was soon on his hands and knees, struggling to push himself back up to his feet. Zi-Ou took a few steps toward the wounded man.

With a cocky laugh, Zi-Ou said, “Let me show you a little of the power of Maoshan magic. Zan!”
A strong blast of wind emanated from the magician’s palms and carried the scholar into the air, dropping him onto another table and breaking it. Lung Han groaned as he rolled over and tried to get up again. Zi-Ou performed the magic technique again, which lifted Han up once more and tossed him across the room like a straw doll, slamming his body into the counter of the bar.

Zi-Ou looked down at the reeling Han and shook his head in contempt. “Now we need to finish you off in some amusing way. Should I slice you in have with gra? Should I burn you to a cinder with foi? Or should I reduce you to a pulp with tsu? Decisions, decisions.”

Lung Han looked up at his tormentor, blood running from his lips and from numerous cuts on his forehead. “Don’t kill me…at least not before I deliver you a message.”

Zi-Ou raised an eyebrow. “Oh?”

Lung Han nodded weakly. “Yes, Kaire asked me to deliver a message to you.” His trembling hand reached once more into his robes and produced a piece of paper folded into a perfect square. Zi-Ou stooped down and snatched the paper from Lung Han’s hands.

Zi-Ou was filled with anticipation as he opened the supposed letter from Kaire, whom was both his love and his enemy. He knew that she would probably not survive her encounter with the Eunuch Lau Shek, but at least was pleased that her last words would be directed to him, whatever they may be.

Opening the letter, the look on his face changed from that of morbid curiosity to complete and utter astonishment. Before his eyes, drawn in what appeared to be absolute perfect deal, was the naked body of Ti’er Kaire, the woman whom he had once loved. He stared at every contour, every line, and every feature that her robes and tomboyish attire had always covered. His heart began to pound furiously, and yet he felt a slight, very faint weakness inside of him.
Suddenly, Zi-Ou felt a searing pain in his stomach. He looked down and saw Lung Han’s knife embedded in his belly. Zi-Ou bit down on his lips in pain. Lung Han, who stood in front of him, pulled the knife out of the wound and proceeded to ferociously stab him two more times in the gut. Zi-Ou’s black garb was now glistening as it became soaked with blood.

Zi-Ou growled and screamed, “Zan!” once more. The gust of wind pushed Lung Han back several feet into the counter again, almost knocking the wind out of him.

“You aren’t so strong without your God’s Armor, are you?” said Lung Han, this time his voice being peppered with arrogance.

“Very clever, Scholar. But I’m afraid that, whatever happens to me, you will not be around to witness.” Zi-Ou raised his arms to perform one last magic technique.

At that moment, a powerful force, not unlike a heavy metal weight, struck Zi-Ou in the back, causing him to nearly fall forward. Zi-Ou regained his balance and twirled around to see who had struck him. There was nobody behind him, but looking him, Zi-Ou could see that the harpist was no longer sitting at the table. The musician now stood at the railing of the balcony. Zi-Ou watched as the harpist plucked two of the strings. To his horror, two large, watery fists flew from the strings toward Zi-Ou. It was the tsu technique!

One of the fists struck Zi-Ou in the chest, the other in the belly where he had been stabbed. Blood splattered from the wound and painted the wooden floor with little red droplets. Angrily, Zi-Ou started yelling out different spells, principally foi. Falls of fire flew from the magician’s hands at the balcony, but the harpist was able to sidestep them and avoid being burnt alive. The harpist quickly plucked another string, sending a lightning-like blade from the instrument at Zi-Ou, which sliced through his bicep.

Zi-Ou screamed in agony as he clutched his bleeding arm and fired a zan spell at his opponent. The harpist was struck by some pieces of wood that had been flung by the powerful wind, but kept his ground. Playing his instrument once more, the delightful notes produced more watery fists that struck both Zi-Ou and a table nearby, reducing the wooden structure to splinters. Zi-Ou tried ducking for cover beneath another table, but a pluck of a string on the stranger’s harp sent a ball of fire—foi—at the table, quickly transforming it into ash and leaving the sorcerer vulnerable once more.

The harpist’s playing grew more feverish as dozens of blue, fist-like balls of water were flung from the strings at the weakened magician, most of which found their target. Blood now ran down most of Zi-Ou’s face and the stab wounds in his stomach were now even larger. Zi-Ou could barely concentrate enough to perform any counter-attack against the endless barrage of techniques from the stranger who stood above him.

Zi-Ou’s vision soon began to grow hazy and everything around became something of a blur. His belly was hurting beyond measure and Zi-Ou soon abandoned any hope of fighting back. The harpist’s music soon ceased, and the only thing that Zi-Ou could hear was his own ragged breathing. He looked up and saw the harpist staring at him, but was otherwise motionless.

Then a large blur appeared before him. Zi-Ou deduced that it was Lung Han, from the way the figure trembled and swayed. Zi-Ou saw what appeared to be Han’s arm extend from his side and that there was something shiny in it. It was Han’s knife. The Taoist magician braced himself for what was coming. The last thing that he saw was Lung Han’s arm moving in towards his throat.
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