CHAPTER 70: SEPARATION AT ACRO
CHAPTER 70: SEPARATION AT ACRO
After a few weeks finally we have arrived in Aetherland.
We are here in the North of Aetherland. Our destination is Acro. The continent greatest city some people called it. They speak the common tongue.
Their architecture is top notch aided by the immigrants who brought with them their expertise. Its growth from a small village in a backwater region of the Kingdom owes it all to one family who have spent their money and effort on creating the city to what it was today.
‘Finally we arrived’ Zhengping remarked on the back. I looked and flashed her a grin.
‘Yes it seems so.’
These days when we stop at an inn, I usually sneak up to her room at night of course without Zhao Lu ever knowing.
Well, if he ever knew I don’t think I can keep my head. I know how steadfast Zhaou Lu about keeping his princess safe.
Thanks to my lightness technique I did not get caught. There is this one time when I forgot to leave in the morning and Zhao Lu suspicious barge in.
Thankfully I jumped to the ceiling and I had for about few moments stuck on the ceiling as he searched the Princess room.
Zhengping laughed at me that night when I came back to her room.
But I couldn’t keep up this for long. Our destination is reached. From now on, our path diverged. I gripped my knapsack tighter.
I intend to meet the young lord of Acro and relay him the content of this letter.
‘Liao Bao’ Zhao Lu called me
‘Yes, Zhao Lu what?’
‘I guess we will separate in Acro later.’ He said telling me first. This means like I suspected he has other objectives for going to Acro.
Even though I still don’t know what reason they come here from Chu to Aetherland I know they want to go to Acro for their business.
But I think it has to do with someone called Qi An Long. Whoever that is. I overheard Zhaou Lu talking with it the Princess.
So, we will stay together until Acro. Like we agree.
‘Then let us move now.’ I smile a bitter smile and gestured the horse to moves. I stroke it’s head while looking ahead as we are nearing our destination.
I look at the hill in front of us and I couldn’t help but feel excited now that I’m so close to finishing my mission.
IN FRONT OF THE CITY
‘The city is big’ Zhao Lu said as we look at the bastion in front of us.
‘Yes, I agree’ I nodded.
‘Me, three’ the Princess said as three of us looked at the large cities in front of us with building higher than three storeys filled the streets and large houses and large store.
People all over ,some were pale faces like Eastian ,some black who must came from the Land of Many Sands, and all kinds of races, from Ethrusk to Loth and Franks all over the city, trading and intermingle with each other.
Scholars fill the inn, talking about complicated stuff, reciting poems and discussing about the general affairs.
Culture, knowledge and all what we come to expect from civilization is here in this city. Nobles and common folk intermingle with each other.
It was a different culture than we have in Vern.
If nobles walk the street the common folk must give way but here, they treat themselves almost equally as long as they maintain respect with each other to their corresponding position they have in their society.
Zhengping is wide eyed. Then she saw this one store. I know she is interested in it, because she asked for gold from Zhao Lu. She looked at me.
‘What?’ I said.
She grabbed my arms as she pulled me to this accessory store. She began viewing the assortments of jewellery in the store.
‘Liao Bao look at this’ she take one earring and show it to me. It is green and carved in very intricate design
‘What do you think?’
‘What do I think about what?’
‘This on me’ And she twirled around like she is buying a dress.
‘It would look beautiful on you.’ I said as I looked around at the accessory store.
All the stuff in it is foreign and beautiful.
Outside the store, trade items from all over can be seen. There is some irons from foreign lands, spices from Ariundus, whales meat from Vorthy and beautiful intricate silk from Asteros.
Their standards of life seem to be different from the other region of the Kingdom.
I did stop in other region of the Kingdom and I have never seen a more prosperous city than this.
Maybe after I’m done sending this letter to the Demon Lord working here in this city wouldn’t be so bad.
‘Zhengping’ Zhao Lu called the Princess.
Here we do not use the term Princess. That would attract too much unwanted attention and we don’t want that.
Then Zhao Lu cupped his hand towards me.
‘Hero Zhang’ he said ‘this is where we part’
‘What!’ Zhengping said.
‘Couldn’t he stay with us?’ She pleads.
I cupped my hands back. I look at Zhengping and I gestured to her not to insist.
We know this will happens. They have their objective I have mine. Zhengping did persuade me to follow her but I have my duty.
I may not look much and there are certain laws I would bend to further my own interest but once I promised, I would try my best to fulfil the promise.
I like to lie, and I like to talk and boast, I like to sneak around and I like woman very much. I never see myself tied down with only one woman.
I have no honourable qualities in me but these two.
I do not like breaking promises and I hate it when a girl cries. And my promise towards the Princess is one that I determine to fulfil. And I have chosen.
‘So it seems’ I said.
Then we hugged each other.
‘Zhao Lu, I hope your endeavour will go well.’ I said.
‘I hope the same for you.’ Zhao Lu said as he broke the hug and an expression of gratitude can be seen.. Zhengping is looking at me with a sorrowful expression.
‘Senior Brother, can you go wait me at the inn?’
‘Why?’ Zhao Lu asked puzzled.
‘I need to talk in private with Liao Bao’ Zhao Lu nodded.
He went first. Zhengping and I moved our conversation under this one hill under a large tree that covers us from the sun heat.
‘So you’re leaving’ she said looking at me as she is doing her best trying to hold back her tears. And she is doing a good job at it.
‘For a while’ I said.
We understand that a long time ago. We never make any promises to each other. And we know this is our farewell for now.
One day we will meet again. And maybe then, I could promise her something.
‘I wish…..desperately I could stay. If you were mine, truly mine… I couldn’t leave you. But-‘ I said it to her. Because it is true. Because I do wish to stay. But she is not mine. She never is.
‘But you’re not mine. Not yet. And we both have our responsibilities. I don’t know what you and Zhao Lu are planning or what you are doing here in a land so far away from Chu but I know it is something important.’
‘If you’ll never leave me, I’ll never leave you’ she said
‘We both know that isn’t true. Whatever it is you are doing here, it is something important to your house. You couldn’t abandon it as much as I couldn’t abandon my quest. One day, maybe. One day. But for now….we are in different places.’
I come closer to her and caressed her cheeks and finally her tears flowed down.
‘Don’t cry. Didn’t I say once before I hate seeing girl cry? Leave your fears, Ping Mei, cast aside your tears.’
‘How could you bear it? How could you bear this?’
‘I can bear it now. But I know I’ll never forget you if that are what you are asking. There is no doubt I will never forget your fragrance, that may come to me, out of the blue, on a crowded road in a lazy afternoon, or our memories together in the lonely night and the pain that your absence will bring me and the smiles that accompanied it. And when that happens, I shed a tear for you absence and your lost smiles. But I’m confident that destiny will not be so cruel to us. We will meet again.’
And as I said that I recite a poem.
“I am like you,
Destined to play my part in this world
In the nature of my departure at least,
Some kind of sweet message left behind
In the fathomless pattern I make.”
Then I reached up and took a curl of her hair between my fingers as she blushed.
I was close enough I could feel the warmth of her body, smell her perfume, the smell that I smell countless of time during our lovemaking, and the feel of her skin and her silky hair flowing gracefully around my fingers. I look at her eyes as I closed our lips together.
I kissed her slowly. A sweet kiss. A kiss of farewell.
‘Not enough’ I said letting her hair slip through my finger.
This is not enough.
She nodded. She looks at me.
‘Close your eyes and let me kiss you, Liao Bao. Today, I’ll kiss you. Tomorrow I’ll miss you.’
And she kissed me, not a desperate one but one that is full of promise. And as she broke the kiss she whispered in my ears.
I closed my eyes and she knows what I meant. I never like seeing someone leaving me. I told her this once.
So, I always close my eyes before someone is leaving as I tell myself that they are lost, and not that they are leaving me.
“And by the way, Liao Bao, I believe that I was a little bit in love with you.” And I could hear her voice, so smooth that I….wanted to open my eyes.
And she waited and she knows that I have already decided. And still I closed my eyes as I hear her footsteps went away and when I open it, she is lost.
One day, I promised. One day I’ll meet her again. And when that day comes, I’m never letting her go.
I look at the crowd and after a while and then I turn my gaze away and began walking away.
After that I went to the city
‘Come , come’ I heard one man is asking people to follow him.
Is there something happening?
There is a ruckus in the middle of the street. A young man of dignified birth is standing on a rooftop with this another man who has scars in his left eye and has a pouch on his hand.
I know that the other young man must be a noble or someone along that rank because his clothes can only be afforded by the nobility.
‘What happen here?’ I said to one of the spectators.
Then a talkative young man stepped in and shakes my hand.
‘You see that?’ He pointed to the roof.
‘That young man wearing white cloth has his gold grabbed by that man that has scars in his eyes.’ He said enthusiastically
‘The Scarred Man thought he could escape but the young man flew as he chases him around. I have been following them since they jump out from my inn. Now they will fight.’
I concentrate my energy to my ears to hear what they are talking about on top of the roof.
‘Give me back my pouch and I will let you go!’ The young man said, his tone is stern, not at all fearing the Scarred man.
‘Dream on, kid.’
‘Then don’t blame me.’
Then they began battling in the top of the roof.
The young man has no weapon but the scarred man has a spear. But the young man has a clear face and he doesn’t seem to be unnerved by this disadvantages.
Could it be he is an expert? If he is not then surely he would die.
Then the Scarred Man and the tassel on his spear hook spins creating something that looks like a spiral attack movement.
The young man seems a bit surprised and praised.
‘Excellent, Snake Slithering from the Ground.’
He uses his body to move along with the spear and dodged to the right. His right palm spun around and came up to meet the spearhead in an attempt to grab it.
‘Lion Bite!’ he yelled and as quickly he grab it the Scarred Man realize he made a mistake and quickly feign his attack and at the last minute manage to keep his spear.
‘Songwu Sect?’ the young man said.
‘Long way from home.’ He snickered.
‘It seems I did not yet master this technique.’ As he looked at his hand and at the spear. The Scarred Man is angry to be so ignored as the young man look amused at the scarred man.
The Scarred man is two times the size of the young man but the young man seems to be perfectly relaxed.
He must have many experiences in battle to act so nonchalantly. Then the scarred man charged, his moves are swift and agile, changing and faking as they were an illusion.
But the young man body followed the spear around, easily dodging forward and back making him almost impossible to hit.
Then suddenly from nowhere another man a little bit older than the Scarred Man jumped into the fray.
‘What are you doing Zhiwu! You should have defeated him fast.’
‘So a two man operation’ the young man said realizing finally that the two men is accomplices. The older man has a halberd in his hand.
Still the young man looked fearless.
‘This isn’t fair!’ some shouted.
‘Let’s go’ as they try to flew from the scene.
I rarely help man but this is so unfair so using my Treading in the Wind technique I flew to the ledge of the roof and trip the old man.
He was shocked but I flew so fast and my moves were so agile that he couldn’t dodge it as his face kissed the rooftop tile.
‘Stealing money and going away, that is unhonorable especially for a martial artist.’
‘Who are you!’ the scarred man yelled mostly because of the shock seeing me suddenly on the roof.
‘Just a passer-by that wish to help.’
Then I cupped my hand to the young man
‘I hope you do not mind. My name is Zhang Liao Bao.’ I said introducing myself.
He looked at me amused.
‘People of the martial art world?’ I nodded. He cupped his hand towards me.
‘I appreciate your help, Mr Zhang. I’m Helia” he said
Then as both of those men get up we have surrounded their means of escape. They then looked at each other and decided to charge towards us.
I smile at the young man and he smiles at me. And then we both charge from opposite direction.