CHAPTER 60: CHANCE ENCOUNTER
ZHANG LIAO BAO
IN A FOREST
OUTSIDE THE FORBIDDEN CITY
I have successfully escaped the imperial city with the letter hidden under my clothes. An important letter and I need to keep it safe. I pat the letter again, checking it again, just in case.
With the money I got working as a scribe in the Palace I have about enough to buy a horse outside in a recluse village around the outside of the Capital.
I’m around Xinjiang, just outside the cities. I heard around here lies the Yellow Waterfall. It is said that the yellow waters pour down like tea from a giant teapot.
It is famous as a spectacular waterfall among the nobles, and the only famous yellow waterfall in the continent.
‘Vern’ I sighed.
It is vast and I don’t know how many is instructed to capture me but surely there is a lot. Wait! I suddenly stops myself to think of another possibilities. One that gives me hope.
If the Emperor want rumours to spread that he is amassing such force to capture only one person, and that person is a scribe surely such moves will attract suspicion. People might be asking, why the interest and his despicable acts might be revealed.
He might choose a unit to chase me, believing I’m an unimportant and will be caught easily. Wel, that will prove a mistake soon enough.
I doubt everyone in the palace would support the Emperor acts if they are known.
My horse moves in a uniform pace in the bamboo forest. To think that the Emperor is such of a……lecherous Emperor.
He might have the blood of Georg the Wise, but he must surely inherit William the Lecherous personality more than the wise Emperor.
I look at the wide forest in front of me.
Maybe I will stop in one of the waterfalls. To rest a little while before resuming my journey. I shakes my head.
No, I must stop delaying. This must be sent fast.
If the Dark Lord believes that his fiancé is imprisoned, or worse death, maybe a calamity will happen.
I heard the story when I was little from my mother and the storytellers in the tavern about the demon Lords. They are cruel and evil and they eat human for breakfast.
But the waterfalls…..I guess this is not the time.
Vern has a lot of beautiful waterfalls, mountains, hills and beautiful scenery owing to Alexander the Divider descendant who move their capital from Vangua to Vern when the revolt happens.
They build many things, villas and summer retreat castles all around the Empire..
I must go to the dark lands, or someone who have sympathy to the Princess and then I will entrust the letter to them.
I know little about the country in the continent but since becoming a scribe I have many gossip and stories from the handmaiden.
I know of the dragon that lives in Alan, that guarded the high wall to the Dark Lands,and the region around the bridge repairing the Bleeding Wall, enforcing security and stability around their region, a strong ruler some say.
Maybe I could persuade him.
After all, if the dark Lands started to move wouldn’t it be disastrous for the very family that is in the closest proximity with the dark lands.
I smell the refreshing scent of the forest. Better check my inventory. There is the Enochian steel I stolen from that man.
There is also the mechanical invention by the Prince Articon, that hide the dagger under my sleeve connected with the dagger, so that when I throw a punch and release some of my internal energy to the device, the dagger will pierce the enemy for a split second but to the uninitiated view it seems that the resulting result is from my strength.
I always like this dagger.
It is a handy weapon, can be concealed easily and deadly. And I really like the way it sometimes glimmers.
I also steal some armor from the passage when I was running out of the palace. There is also the poisons that I concocted and the other inventions from Prince Articon I believe will be important for me.
For days I roam the forest. Usually in the night I will camp.
It is an uneventful.
After Xinjiang I will go to Changjing and then Yuan, and then surely I would pass Jiang then Tai and then I will reach Shanhai Pass defended by House of Austen, the great commander of the Pass, Archibald Austen.
Today I Ride Against Another Forest.
Yellow Mountains and Fresh Air,
My Feeling Unrestricted and Free,
Bamboo Tress Stands Like Soldier Guarding the Forest,
The Sound of Chirping Birds and the Breeze of the Wind,
Beautiful Scenery Wherever I Look.
I sing a poem I remembered as I look around the beautiful forest with its leaves in variety of colours and the refreshing breeze.
The water, the valley, I see them as I ride slowly in the forest, enjoying life because maybe tomorrow won’t come.
Then suddenly my horse neigh.
Why the sudden aggressiveness? I pat the horse head, while scanning the forest looking for suspicious activity.
Then I hear it.
The sound of swords and shields can be heard. I approached the sound and I can see something. A lone man is fighting 30 people all dressed in black and purple..
The swords clanging against each other each one trying to pierce the man. Alright this is not my problem.
I was about to get out of this scuffle. After all this seems to be a martial arts world matters. I should not interfere.
I have already begun to move away.
‘Senior Brother. Help me!’ said a girl.
That is a girl voice. And my head turned back. I look at the direction of the girl.
She is beautiful but she seems naive. A few men is trying to attack her but at least she seems to have learn a few martial arts but she doesn’t look proficient in it.
The man keeps slashing.
Defending himself is hard enough but to also help the girl? He is not an expert and from the looks of it, not a very good swordsman either.
‘PRINCESS ZHENGPING! PLEASE SAVE YOURSELVES. I WILL TRY TO HOLD THEM OFF!’ he yelled.
I look at the man. Judging by his abilities, he could not hold them off. Should I leave…? I look at the woman and my feet begun to feel heavy.
I jump from my horse and quickly flew to enter the battle. I landed to the centre of the battle. Some of them quickly try to slash me, amidst their confusion.
I slither around them like wind, avoiding their slash as they look in bewilderment at me suddenly leaping out and joining the battle.
Some were caught off guard as I attack their veins rendering them incapable. Lightning Finger. It supposed to be used with Treading the Wind
A combination attack.
And like lightning I arrived at the side of the woman.
And I grab her and quickly I brought her far away from the main battle. As for the man, I couldn’t care less. Let him fend of the others.
One man tries to strike me with his sword, with striking precision instead I use Treading in the Wind moves to quickly positioned myself behind him. But I had to let the girl go for a while.
‘Wha-‘ he gasped as he see I slip away from his attacks. Then quickly I used the technique that I just learned, sucking his internal energy.
‘WHAT ARE YOU DOING!’ he yelled as he realize his energy drained away, but he could not release himself from my grasp. Looks of fear flashed in his face.
Baffled and confused probably seeing this technique.
I felt a warm energy enter from my hand then spread evenly to all parts of my body, strengthening every part of my body.
Then a man tries to slash at the woman and I release my internal energy with one of my hand and quickly grabbed the girl to my side. The man was thrown a way to my left.
I still hold the woman even when I’m sucking the energy from this man.
He must not know that he has to push the energy back to release himself from me. Maybe because he is taken in surprised, that is why he couldn’t response.
I feel her skin.
Smooth and her hair smell nice.
She blushed at me. Then in a few moment, he has turn tired and the others begin realizing that I pose a threat as some of them begun targeting me.
I pushed the man away. And he flew to the nearby bamboo.
And quickly enter a defensive position.
‘STOP FIGHTING!’ I yelled at them. They are surprised more than fearful, so they stopped suddenly. Then they look at their men writhing in pain in the ground because of me.
They began feeling wary and one of them comes forward, breaking the silence.
‘I am Zhu Li Mu from Lishan Sect. You are?’ He cupped his fist and bowed slightly, believing me to be one of those who roam the martial art world.
There is someone behind him that looks like the leader.
‘My name is Zhang Liao Bao.’ I said and I too cupped my fist together and bowed slightly.
‘Why does young hero Zhang want to interfere in our matters?’ One of them said.
The girl grabs at the edge of my clothes and tugged it.
I look at the man who were fighting with these men before, now exhausted and also stopped fighting now that all the men is waiting, but wariness still hangs in the air.
I whisper to her.
‘Who’s that?’ I said gesturing to the man.
‘My Senior Brother, Zhao Lu.’
Zhu Li Mu then said
‘Young hero Zhang, this is the matter between Lishan Sect and the Chu residence. If you may leave.’ They said with a warning tone.
‘I’m a passer-by. Looking at you, bullying a girl, I couldn’t sit still.’
‘Then don’t blame me, hero Zhang. I’m offering you another chance. PLEASE LEAVE!’
‘DO YOU SEE MY FEET MOVING!’
‘SO BE IT!’
The man yelled
One of them leaped in the air with a sudden cry employing internal energy in his strike. This I know because the presence of internal energy can be felt. It even can be felt in the air.
I may not learn many attack technique but Treading The wind technique can also be used in an unexpected attacking technique.
I extended both arms to block and sweep in defense and the sound resulted from this clash sounds like thunder, and the nearby bamboo explodes and at the same time I release my internal energy at him and he evade it with quick movements.
‘HMPH,WHICH SECT ARE YOU FROM! ‘ he asked while his eyes is trying to look and detect any of my blind spots.
‘I come from no sect.’
‘HAHAHA..Say what you want!’
‘YAHHHH’ he looked incensed while his face is full with rage
He stuck a fist towards me with great killing intent and I hooked my right hand backward and grabbed his wrist and throw him away.
He fell to the ground and I heard some of his bones broke.
They look at me. One of the men, distinguished from the rest is ordering all of them to focus on me.
I’m already exhausted. Using internal energy is taxing. I may use other people internal energy to strengthen me but I am not yet a master in the technique.
I rarely used internal energy and my internal energy is not profound. Then another man sneaks a stealthy fist at the lady. I of course realized it
I blocked it using my body as a sacrifice and took the full brunt of the attack. I was thrown on the side near some bamboo trees.
‘Young hero Zhang!’ she said alarmed, and quickly she run to me.
I coughed some blood.
Because of the internal energy is running mad in my meridian line, all over because I did not yet assimilate it with my internal energy and also because of the sneak attack that disrupt the assimilation of the energy..
‘Uhuk, Uhuk. I’m alright my lady. Can you fight?’ I asked all the while scanning at my environment.
I did not kill anyone but I incapacitated about 5 people when I entered the battle. I did not want this to turn bloody.
I looked at the girl.
‘A little’ she said.
I could not defeat all of them. Not in my condition. Unprepared and unready. This I knew.
I rarely fight so in experience alone, I could not surpass them…but in one thing I can beat them and it is bluffing.
Now that is my expertise.
‘Wait!’ I yelled as I stand up appearing like I stand with great ease, when in fact the pain is unbearable.
‘Can I know your name?’ I gestured to the man that seems to be leading the attacks while cupping my hand
He must be sect leader or at least the leader of these men. Seeing him giving the orders and these men follow his order, there is no doubt in my mind that he is their leader.
And it seems they also seem relieved that we stopped fighting for a while. He spoke with a reassuring tone and an imposing appearance.
‘I am Bai Daliang, and I’m the disciple of Li Guilin, Sect Leader of Lishan.’
‘It is an honour’ I said.
‘No, it is mine’
‘May I offer some advice, hero Bai?’
He looked at me, and then he nodded.
‘I implore that we fight one on one for the fate of this two people’ I said suddenly while gesturing at the lady and her companion.
The lady looked worried but I wink at her, and her worries seem to be dispelled.
‘You can send people to attack me, because your numbers are high but I must warn you if I fight all of you alone, I might not win but I can spread your dishonourable conduct to the martial arts world. Dozens of people fighting two persons. This cannot stand. Have you no shame?’
They began to whisper.
Surely, they must think if they kill these two or capture them that will be the end of it but they did not expect me to be here passing around here.
‘But fight me in fist to fist attack.” I said
‘If I die both of these will become yours to do what you will. If I win, I will not spread what happen here in the mountain but I will take these two with me. And I will spare your life. I swear it on my honour’
Which does not mean much..Hehehe
‘Are you an expert saying such arrogant things!’ One yelled at me.
‘One of your people has already fight me and looked at him.’ They looked at the collapsed man, like he almost at deaths door.
‘I spare of his life because I think it is very unhonorable of me to take the life of people beneath me, and not to mention you might be some junior in martial art world, then people in the martial art world will accuse me of bullying.’
I said this, pretending I’m some great master of martial arts. He looked at me. Then he looked at his people.
They all seemed unsure. What to believe? Am I an expert opponent? Or am I just bluffing? But even though I might be exposed that doesn’t mean that I will lose. I have another plan prepared.
The girl approached me.
‘Are you alright?’
‘Ah I’m fine my lady. Look at your Senior Brother. See if he is wounded’
‘But this blood?’
I stroke her hair. So cute.
She blushed and she looked so demure.
‘You worries are unfounded. I am fine. Look at your Senior Brother. He looks like he is suffering.’
She alternates her glances and then she nodded. One of them approached Bai Daliang who is situated around a safe distance from me.
I use my internal energy and direct it to my ear to listen to their conversation.
‘Senior Brother, I think he is an expert exponent. When I touched him, I felt my body lost energy suddenly and his internal energy is no laughing matter.’
Of course my internal energy is no laughing matter. It’s his. I convert his internal energy to send him away.
‘Then why does he cough blood after being landed a strike.’
‘Wouldn’t that be because he is protecting the woman and didn’t have time to strengthen his body?’
Bai Daliang nodded.
‘His words make sense. Surely he is an expert exponent and he does not want to lower himself fighting with us and thus he asked you to fight with him.’ one of them speaks
‘No, he looks like a greenhorn.’ Another chimed in
‘Maybe he is hiding his technique. What if he is really a master from some sect and what if he is really a great master? Wouldn’t we be an idiot to ask for death? His offer seems reasonable. Surely he is a great expert, and he did not want to be scoffed and insulted as bullying in the martial arts world that is why he offers such terms. If he is a greenhorn why would he be so generous and so confident?’
‘So should we accept?’ Bai Daliang asked his men
‘If we don’t accept and he is really an exponent then wouldn’t that make us his prey?’
‘We can kill him. But he swore he wouldn’t kill you. Even if he win, he will not spread what we did today in the forest but if you win than we lost one witness and get two prisoners. It is an advantageous position.’
He nodded again. Then after discussing with great detail he agrees.
‘Young hero Zhang, I accept your offer. How will be our fight?’
‘We will punch each other in every turns, alternately until one of us is unable to continue or die.’ I said. He nodded
‘Would you like to attack first?’ I said
He looked confused. Seeing that I without objection give him the first strike
‘You mean I can punch you?’
‘Yes. You can, then I will punch you’.
‘What if you die after I punch you?’
‘That wouldn’t happen. And I wouldn’t want people to say I bully you, that I win because I take advantage of your deficiency. Please use your internal energy if you want to hurt me. Make at least, that I hurt’ I said arrogantly and mockingly
‘Fine.’ His face is red with embarrassment but he accepts the offer.
Then he rushed forward surely he is concentrating his internal energy in his fist, determine to end this in one round but I have a secret.
If he just attacks me with normal attack then surely I will get hurt if not severely injured but if it’s an internal energy even though he attack, I will just absorbs it.
And it also helps to establish my reputation in front of these men. If they see that their leaders attacks do nothing to me, then surely they would believe me to be an exponent.
I stand like stone waiting for the fist to come and the moment his fist encountered my internal energy barrier it sucked the power Bai Daliang center of energy rendering his strength useless and my body strengthen.
The fist reached my stomach but instead of me blown away, Bai Daliang finger bones seems to be broken.
Seeing this, his men, whispered against each other, distancing themselves against me. Some of them rushed to Bai Daliang holding him up from his fall.
An exponent they whispered.
‘Bai Daliang, the world is vast, surely just because I am young you underestimate me. But I have learned vast array of martial art and my internal energy is peerless and unmatched’ I boast.
I know sometimes reputation is important in helping me.
The man distance themselves more while the young lady smiles this time and giving me encouragement from afar.
Now it is my turn. I approached him slowly and calmly. His face is pale and full of fear.
‘Do not worry I will do no harm to you’ I swing my fist and it hit but it felt almost like wind to him, this I know.
He looked and sees
‘WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS YOUNG HERO ZHANG!’
His men also gasped. They must see that my swing is no more than a smooth push. I spoke to him with respect.
‘I have no intention of harming you, Hero Bai Daliang. We are of the martial arts world must not divide ourselves like this and killing each other. Such sins! Such sins!’
His men nodded.
‘I would be grateful if Hero Bai could let us go and be in our way.’ I said pleading, but I know he could not refuse.
Not when I show him a great deal of respect when I can end him with one punch. Forbearance is a virtue in the martial arts world.
Not when he has not only lost but I also spare him his life.
But truth be told, why should I kill him and involve myself in more problems? He said he is the disciple of a sect leader.
If I kill him wouldn’t that be like a blood feud? They will hunt me for killing their young master and my mission will only get harder.
Why should I torment myself like that? Better to let him go and gain some respect in Lishan Sect.
I heard that in the martial arts world, everything must be pay. He owes me his life, so someday if he met me again, he would surely remember the deeds I have done him.
It is not enforced but it is implied. Why should I make enemies when I can make him a friend?
‘BUT OUR BUSINESS WITH THEM IS NOT YET SETTLED,’ one of them yelled.
Hero Bai held his hand up.
‘Enough.’ He said reverently and he cupped his fist and bowed lower.
‘My eyes must be blind not to recognize an exponent. This hero has spared my life when he can end it. The least I could do is showing him the respect and gratitude he deserved.’ He looked at the girl and the man.
‘I will let them go because of you, Hero Zhang.’
‘Your kind deeds will not be forgotten’ I said.
‘But…..if I meet them again, I will not be merciful.’ Stubborn. I smiles.
‘Then, let’s hope that they never will meet you again.’
‘Hahaha..You are right, hero Zhang. Let us hope that. Let’s go home.’ He gestured to his men.
‘And Hero Zhang, will you keep what happen here a secret?
‘Of course.’ I nodded.
“I will honour my promise.’
‘Thank you.’ He said and he and his men all withdraw and begin moving.
The young lady runs towards me.
‘Thank you hero Zhang’ the girl approached me after seeing the men of Lishan sect began clearing out from the forest.
‘We’re grateful that you have come to our rescue.’
So beautiful and innocent. The man yelled princess before. This girl is a Princess. Which one? Then the man introduced himself to me.
‘My name Zhao Lu. Thank you for rescuing us, Hero Zhang.’
‘Do not mention it. Are you alright my lady?’ I said holding her hand and checking if she get hurts.
‘I’m fine’ she said, blushing again. I smile at her.
‘Where are you from?’
‘We are from Chuguo.’
Chu? Then this is Princess Chu Zhengping?
‘Ah, Chuguo. Long journey from home.’ I said.
‘Yes, we are going to Alan to discuss something with one of the families there.’
‘Yes. Where are you heading Hero Zhang?’
‘I too, am heading to Alan.’
‘For what?’ The man said suspiciously
‘On a personal matter. The Kingdom of Alan has been tolerant now that they have established a King, welcoming any talented people to come to make his kingdom a prosperous one. Even now, Anglais, Raxons, Loth, Ethrusk, all have migrated to the Jewel of the Continent, the great city of Acro, a hub for trade and knowledge. I wish to find me some luck and wish to go there. If luck favours me, maybe I will get a job there’ I said lying.
‘Then we can go together!’ the princess said excitedly
‘PRINCESS!’ The man said nervously. They are hiding something.
‘It seems my presence annoy you’ I said looking at the man.
‘No ,no’ the princes said.
‘Let us go together, Senior Brother Zhao’ she said pleading his Senior Brother.
I returned back to my horse and they followed me from behind.
‘We are near Chun so we can rest there’ I said.
The Princess nodded.
‘That is a brilliant idea.’ The man said trying to placate the feeling of his mistress. The Princess smile at Zhao Lu and Zhao Lu seems to enjoy it
And that is how I am accompanied with one girl and one man in my journey.