30 PUREMOON 1501 AFTERFIRE, 33 YEAR OF CLOVIAN ERA.
NEARBY MT ETNA
The leaves of the forest rustle slowly. A group of bandit was surrounding an old man and a young girl.
The old man was bleeding on his mouth and there is some mark of sword slashes on his back. Blood dripping down from his black robe.
His white flowing beard was red because of the blood splashed from the blood of his fallen enemies.
His right hand was trembling as he holds his blade.
The bandit group looked at the old man with wariness. What supposed to be a simple kidnapping has now turns into a battle that has already claimed many of the bandits companion.
They did not know that this old man was proficient in martial arts and his skills with the blade while not in expert realm is enough to contend with Captain of the Royal Family.
Out of thirteen bandits, only three are left.
The other bandits corpse is sprawled around all across the forest, their bodies were full of blade marks as they tried to kidnap the young girl.
The bandit leader was incensed with anger but he was also not rushing forward to meet the old man.
The bandit leader was middle aged considering the way he carried himself. Even though he wears a mask, the old man could sense this.
Yuhuan, do not fall’ The Old man said. The Old man was Diviner Du. The reason why he came here so far from Aeropa is to help wash the Karma that was formed and to erase the Destiny that will come, Diviner Sage Du wanted to make use of the Imperial Energy of Mt Etna which is teeming with life and expel the karma and erase the destiny.
Who would have thought that he and his granddaughter would be attacked by bandits?
The bandit leader donned black tight clothes and then he laughed. Even when he laughed, his eyes maintained an icy-cold look.
Old Man, you are tired and exhausted. Leave the girl to us and we will kill you quick.’
Hmph the Old man snorted in disdain as he regulates his internal energy and energy ws forcefully redirected all over his body.
He is panting and the blood could not stop dripping but even if its last act of his life, he would not let these bandits get their hands on her granddaughter.
He could not help but think of his Teacher warning ‘That beauty attracts calamity.’
The bandit leader snickered. He also didn’t have full confidence of defeating the Old man with only three people.
He is stalling until his reinforcement arrives.
He was actually in the employ of Count Norbert of Sherfolk, a city in Plainsblood.
That old count was touring the brothels when at his way home he saw the young girl playing around a bun stall with his grandfather and wanted to play with the young girl.
But as his image of a Count he could not do something like that so he sent him to do his dirty work and kidnap the girl.
The Count is known to have a weird taste in that he likes to deflowered young girls.
The bandit leader set up an ambush after knowing that the old man and his granddaughter is heading to the temple on top of Mt Etna.
It was not their first time doing this kind of deed.
Who would have thought ten bandits that was as powerful as the Royal Guard could be killed by the old man?
It comes as a shock and know that he had kick a hard board.
The Old man closes his eyes and takes a deep breath as he takes all the surrounding in. He remembered where the trees are and where the bushes.
Where to take cover and where to sprang up an attack.
.As he was only a martial artist at the Body Freeing realm this is the best he can do. Du Long did not train his martial arts, he trains his heart and his mind.
His will is strong and it is because it is strong, it is rebellious. Rebellious against destiny, Rebellious against Heaven
A firm will is something that his teacher has always told him to strive to have but a rebellious heart could doom someone.
Yet, someone who have a firm heart will surely have rebellious nature. Du Long have never understood how to reconcile this contradictory teachings of his Master.
Then opening his eyes, he decided the course best to save his granddaughter life.
‘Yuhuan, run!’ He shouted to Yuhuan who was behind him and Yuhuan cried, tears overflow her eyes.
‘Grandpa! No, don’t leave Yuhuan.’
‘Run!’ Du Long shouted again and shocked by the scream, Yuhuan steel her resolve, look at her grandfather back and remind herself she was a young lady from a martial artist family and she must not be afraid.
Then nodding at the back of his grandfather, she wipes her tears and turns towards the bushes before breaking into a run.
‘Do not let that girl go’ the bandit leader shouted as he rushes forward to chases the girl.
But he was immediately blocked by Du Long, with is blade outstretched, bringing with the sound of metal clashing with the wind.
The blade is already unsheathed and now as he drew his sword in a horizontal slashing arc, a shrilling sound come out from the sword as it slices the wind and nearly chopped that bandit leader hand.
The bandit leader moved backward, employing a beautiful footwork that resembles a fish avoiding a hunter trident as the blade edge misses his hand by just a few inches.
He then employed a palm attack to the open area of Du Long body which is his shoulder, aiming to broke Du Long bones which Du Long neutralize by kicking the bandit leader knee forcing the bandit leader to retreat five step backward.
‘Tch’ the Bandit leader complained s he spits to the ground, his knee feeling stinging pain as blood drips from the scarping of his flesh when it meet Du Long kick.
Looking at his other two subordinates he nodded and his subordinates nodded.
‘Charge!’ The bandit leader shouted.
One of them uses stealth technique and disappears as even his internal energy disappeared from Du Long sense.
But Du Long has no time to think of that as he collide his sword with the bandit saber and sparkling fires were produced.
The bandit were thrown backward six steps backward, as his feet dragged the soil as Du Long take three steps backwards and also coughed out some blood.
Du Long could feel some of his internal organ rattled after that last strike.
His face frowned.
Then suddenly before he even has a time to catch his breath a bandit wearing plain clothes emerged behind him.
The moment that bandit appeared Du Long could sense the energy and the killing intent so he quickly ducked down, as if he had grown a pair of eyes behind his head.
The attack missed him by a few seconds as the leaves falling was cut into three parts.
Du Long snickered as he swept his leg around and jammed his sword into the bandit’s throat with a crescent moon movement.
‘Pu’ fresh blood gushed out from the gaping hole in the bandit’s throat as he fell over, spurting like a water fountain, his eyes wide open in surprise, unable to believe he had just been killed.
‘This old man is really fierce’ the bandit leader thought as he saw an opening and went pass the Old man as he employed his movement technique to chase the girl.
His feet slightly floats as he was gliding through the short grass and weaving across the trees like a fish.
Du Long saw this and his face fell and was about to chase after the bandit leader but the other bandit manages to hold him down here.
‘Get out of my way!’ Du Long shouted as he burns his life energy as his internal energy rose.
He is burning his vitality! This is only short of killing himself.
Every martial artists has blood and each martial artist when they practices martial arts the internal energy they gathered refines their blood.
By burning their blood they would gain an explosive power but also shorten their lifespan.
The moment he burns his blood, Du Long sword technique become fiercer and more effective as even the large saber of that bandits could no longer hold him.
With one vertical slash he breaks the bandit saber and cut the bandit into two. The bandit was still holding the saber as his body parted and slides down into left and right.
Blood soaked the cold hard ground of the forest. And Du Long coughed another bout of blood cough.
‘Yuhuan!’ he shouted. The Old Man was about to collapse but his will is strong and he strengthen his body as he dashed forward trying to chase the bandit leader before he could take Yuhuan.
He passes by trees and slash away at branches when he saw that the bandit leader was holding his granddaughter and was about to take her away.
‘Release him bandit!’
‘Keep on dreaming! I will get all the rewards’ he shouted as he laughed maliciously.
The bandit leader only laughs and grab at Yuhuan to bring her away when suddenly sound of arrows could be heard as three arrows lodged itself at the bandit leader.
One stuck on his chest, another struck on his throat and the third arrow plunged deep into his eyes.
His eyes was bulging as he goes from happiness to despair. He perished without a sound. Yuhuan was stunned as her face was splashed with the bandit leader blood.
She was petrified and only shaking is visible from her body. The leaves sway and the wind blows as movement could be felt inside the forest.
‘More people’ Du Long surmised and he keep his guard up even though his body is telling him to rest.
His hand is trembling harder than before but he grip the blade tighter that his palm turns white.
Then a man appeared from the bushes with ten people behind him. Three of the ten men behind the men has bows behind their back.
Du Long was alarmed as he raises up his saber and pointing it at the young man. The young man has long black hair.
Clear blue eyes and a handsome face with charisma oozing from him.
He was wearing a white robe and look carefree and calm. On his back was a short spear tied on his back.
‘This young hero, may this Old Man know your name?’ Du Long asked. But it is clear while Du Long words were polite, his eyes was vigilant.
The young man smile.
‘Senior do not be alarmed. I was passing by when I heard the sound. After hearing that these bandits intend to kidnap the young lady me and my attendants wanted to help. Please let us help.’ The young man said humbly.
‘What is Young Hero name?’ Du Long asked.
He grew wary not because the young man seems to be telling lies but he could see that this young man possesses an Imperial Destiny.
Yang Yuhuan, could it be she destined to end up with Dragons and Tigers? Could she not live a peaceful life, have a child in some village and grow old happily?
‘Grandpa’ Yuhuan who was misty eyed and red in the eyes ran to her grandfather and hug his waist as she look at the entourage with suspicious eyes.
‘Do not worry, young lady we mean you no harm.’
‘I ask Young Hero name, please give me your name so I would be assured’
‘You are rude to our young master!’ one of the men behind the young man scowls as he was about to confront Du Long but the young man held up his hand and the man shut his mouth.
He hesitated at first but then he decided to be honest.
‘This Junior here is a Fairhair.’
‘Fairhair. No, you are a Hardstone.’ Du Long instantly knows who this person before him.
‘Sage Diviner Du lives up to his reputation. My father once had the honor to meet Sage Diviner Liu’ And Du Long nodded as that was his teacher as the person continues talking
‘and with his guidance, my father matters were resolved peacefully. I have always been wanting to meet Sage Diviner Du but Aeropa and Midgard is far away, separated by thousands of miles and Midgard is in turbulent times so I never step past the Dragon Pass. To meet Senior here, this is a form of destiny.’ the young man said courteously.
‘My humble name is Hakon Hardstone, the Second Prince of Norveg.’ Du Long nodded like he was understanding something.
Du Long then sit down on the ground with Yuhuan beside him as he relaxes his body and muscle, his blade was let go from his hand as he could feel his hand nerve almost exploded but he regulated his breathing before the blood pressure on his hand swell down and calms down.
‘A Prince of Norveg comes to Avillon? This is truly perplexing’ Du Long said implying many things.
‘These are turbulent times, everything is perplexing.’ The Young Prince answered without losing a beat. Du Long nodded.
‘This Old Man have long heard that the Second Prince of Norveg spearmanship is godlike and an honorable man that honored his oaths and promises. This Old Man is honored to meet Your Highness today. And this old man could not express gratitude for helping me and my granddaughter.’
‘It is fate that we meet, it is destiny that I help.’ Hakon said and Du Long smiles bitterly. Then looking at the severe injuries of Sage Diviner Du, the Prince looked at the many men behind him and gestured with his head for them to come forward.
‘Men, help Senior Du.’
Then a few more men appears from the bushes and help pull Old Man Du as a few moments later a carriage even comes to escort the Prince.
It seems the Second Prince after hearing the commotion ventured out leaving his entourage alone.
‘It is a delegation of some sort’ Du Long surmises.
‘Thank you, Your Highness.’ Du Long said as he is slowly being brought to a private carriage with the people in the carriage before will share a carriage with another person.
‘What is the name of this young lady?’ The Second Prince asked and before Du Long manage to answer Yang Yuhuan replies.
‘It is Yang Yuhuan, Your Majesty’ she said cutely and try to curtsy like the cultures of Northmen when meeting royalty.
The Young Prince smiles as a servant came beside the Prince and the Prince order him
‘Please put Senior Du and his granddaughter in the same carriage’ and hearing this Du Long smiles gratefully and nodded at the Second prince.
‘Please rest senior. When you are healed, you can leave anytime.’ Saying this words the Second Prince return to his carriage and closes his door.
Old Man Du sighed as he sits inside his carriage. Beside him is Yuhuan, looking calmer than before.
‘Grandpa, where are we going?’ Old Man Du pats his granddaughter head but he did not answer.
He only sighed. This time he finally understands. This granddaughter of his was destined to live in the path of heroes and great men.
Yang Yuhuan, her destiny was always to be a calamitous beauty. In a play about heroes in this turbulent era.
A hero seeks a beauty. But gaining the beauty doesn’t ensure you get the world.
Yang Yuhuan will get neither love nor the world. That is too tragic Old Man Du thought sorrowfully as Yuhuan snuggle and sleep on his lap.
‘If I can’t erase the Karma, then I will cover it up. If I can’t erase Destiny, the I will dare to write a new one’ Old Man Du vowed to the Heavens.
One destined to be a founding Emperor, while one is destined to be a great ruler. Both could contend for the Dragon Throne and unify back the lands….but in the end only one will sit in the throne.
The path to the Dragon Throne means to swim in the rivers of blood and to sit atop corpses and bones.
Old Man Du remembers the boy he met at the Inn in Dragon pass. Even now, he felt shivers. Since then he has gained information that the boy is a Martel.
The Jianghu people are not many here in Midgard but that doesn’t mean that they are non-existent. The Hall of Wisdom has even reaches till here.
Old Man Du recognizes the man who he contends his internal energy with. There is only one hero in Jianghu who has a red saber and have such deep attainment of internal energy mastery.
Red Sword Lancel of the noble family of Wellham from Westhold.
And Red Sword Lancel only has one nephew from his younger sister, Joanna Wellham.
It is not expensive information that he buys since this information is common knowledge in Westhold and even Midgard.
Charles Martel is descended from one of the oldest nobility lineage from his mother and a Military General household family from his father side of the family.
Looking at his background no wonder his destiny pointed him to be a founding Emperor.
But the Second Prince of Norveg is known as the Golden Lion of Norveg and his spearmanship is known to be godly even at such a young age.
And he has an Imperial Destiny. With Old Man Du abilities he could sense it and see it with his naked eyes.
This kind of people always has a unique attribute that makes people want to follow them.
And he could see it in Hakon Hardstone.
If he becomes the Emperor, while he might not reform the world, he would surely let the people live in peace and harmony.
Founding Emperor destiny on the other hand, their path is always lonesome and always bloody.
Since they always seek to replace the old order and the only way to replace the old order is to uproot them.
As he was thinking of this, Old Man Du was startled by the sound of his granddaughter snoring. He smiles.
Looking at the peaceful sleeping face of his granddaughter, Old Man Du felt an ache in his heart.
‘Destined to be a Queen but never an Empress. She will find a Dragon but will never become the Phoenix.’
And the Old Man shakes his head.
‘Forgive me, Teacher’ Old Man Du said as he looked upwards.
The only thing he could see was the ceiling of his carriage but he was reoffering to the Heavens above where his teacher would have been seeing right now.
‘I could not let my granddaughter to walk such thorny path. I will cover that Karma with another Karma. Let it be tangled. Let Destiny and Fate go crazy.’
Saying this he looked downward and slowly caresses Yuhuan cheeks and hope for the best as the carriage slowly rides out from the forest and heading to Norveg.