Perfect World Chapter 9 – An Unexpected Visitor, Times Two!

on 08 21, 2010

“Lin Bao Zhu, bu yao da le!”
“Lin Bao Zhu, stop fighting!” called Ling Er.  Hearing his name, Lin Bao Zhu momentarily ceased his attack.  His eyes glowed with untamed fury as he looked at Xiao Yao.

“Li Xiao Yao!  Ni ze ge xiao tu zai zi!  Ni bu shi shuo guo yao bao hu wo Ru Er ma?!?!”
“Li Xiao Yao!  You little punk!  Didn’t you say you were going to protect my Ru Er?!?!”  Lin Bao Zhu suddenly lost feeling in his legs as he staggered forth and leaned on his  sword.  Lifting his head, tears filled the father’s eyes as he looked expectantly at Xiao Yao, as if demanding an answer for the fate he had allowed to befall his only daughter.  With eyes downcast, Xiao Yao could only fixate his gaze towards the ground.  He couldn’t bear to make direct contact with the fiery, sad eyes of Yue Ru’s father.  Doing so would be to invite salty sensations to fill his eyes, confirming his own failure – his sin of leaving this man alone in this world, as he had been in Bai Yue’s nightware realm.  The once dignified rock, whose strength was rivaled only by his stubborness and pride, had been reduced to a man on his knees, begging an answer from whomever would give one for his suffering.

Sheng Gu slowly approached the grieving man and placed her hand gently on his shoulder.  Jian Sheng, though he had placed his hands back in their usual place behind his back, was eyeing Lin Bao Zhu carefully, watching for any sudden movements.  As usual, he wasn’t the most trusting man in the kingdom.  Sensing the atmosphere turn from hostility to one of sympathy and pity, Lin Bao Zhu stood and fought his own emotions to regain any sort of composure.  Even when his wife died, he kept his sorrow and frustration inside his heart.  But Yue Ru was all he had left, a small voice reminded him.  An awkward silence formed as no one dared to breathe a word.

Suddenly, Ling Er started to speak to Lin Bao Zhu, only to be stopped by Xiao Yao.  Walking up to his dear friend’s father, Xiao Yao asked him to accompany him on a walk, alone.  The old man accepted with only a slight nod, after inspecting the tense expressions on the faces around them.  Putting his sword back in its sheath, Lin Bao Zhu followed Xiao Yao’s lead as the young man began walking away from the group.  As they passed Ling Er, Xiao Yao told her not to worry and that he would be back soon.  Turning to Sheng Gu, he asked if she could begin preparing dinner; they had an important guest this night.

The pair walked for what seemed like ages, neither of them knowing where or how to begin.  Xiao Yao led the way, being only a few steps in front of his guest.  His mind was a complete mess.  Feeling responsible for his friend’s death, he felt guilty for not sending word to Lin Bao Zhu earlier concerning Yue Ru.  Xiao Yao stopped abruptly, turning around to face Lin Bao Zhu and whatever consequences that lay in store for him.  They were in the middle of the small clearing, where a few large boulders rested in the soft soil that held the surrounding shrubs and weeds.  With a wave of his hand, Xiao Yao motioned Lin Bao Zhu to sit first.  The two men stared at each other, though neither took the other truly into his gaze.  Both were aloof, journeying through the multitudes of thought that seemed to hit them all at once.  Clearing his throat, Xiao Yao asked Lin Bao Zhu how much he knew?  Grunting, Lin Bao Zhu reached into his tunic and removed a long envelope that was stamped with the royal seal of Nan Zhao Guo.  Without looking at what he held in his hand, he flung it at Xiao Yao, who caught it with his fingers and read the envelope cover.  It was addressed to Lin Bao Zhu and had the word, ‘URGENT’, written on it many times.  Dumping the contents into his other hand, Xiao Yao saw that it was quite a lengthy letter.

Xiao Yao’s eyes widened as he read the letter silently.  It spoke of the events leading to Yue Ru’s death.  Everything was covered –  from when and where it happened to who was held responsible.  Gripping the letter tightly, he continued to read about Jin Yuan’s untimely end as well as the tragedy that had fallen on his pupil’s parents.  Even the details of their last battle with Bai Yue were enclosed.  A state of alarm took over Xiao Yao’s body.  What shocked him was not the information the letter contained, but the attitude with which it was written and the signature of the sender.  Sliding the pieces of paper back into the envelope, Xiao Yao looked up to see Lin Bao Zhu’s cold stare piercing to the back of his mind.  Biting his bottom lip, Xiao Yao made an attempt to break the silence.

“Ni wei shen me bu sha wo?”
“Why don’t you just kill me?”  Xiao Yao asked, returning Lin Bao Zhu’s stare, void of emotion.  For a moment, the older man just sat there, as if searching for words to explain his hesitance and at the same time, wondering if he even owed this young man any reasoning or justification for his actions, or lack thereof.

“Shi zhen de ma?”
“Is it true?”

Xiao Yao nodded in response, causing Lin Bao Zhu to shake slightly.  Seeing him clench his teeth, Xiao Yao was almost sure that the old swordsman would strike at any time.  The two continued to sit there, eyeing each other’s expressionless faces.  Xiao Yao’s grip on his sword remained loose and indifferent.  Taking notice of this, Lin Bao Zhu forced a small grin.

“Ni hao xiang bu pa wo.”
“It seems as though you’re not afraid of me.” stated Lin Bao Zhu, trying to gain some sort of insight into Xiao Yao’s mind.

“Wo bu shi pa ni.  Wo yie bu shi bu pa bi.  Wo zi dao wo zuo le shen me.  Wo yie zi dao wo shi bai le.  Bu guan Lin Bao Zhu you shen me qeng fa, wo dou hui jie shou.”
“It’s not that I’m afraid or unafraid of you.  I know what I have done.  I know that I have failed.  Whatever punishment you have for me, I will gladly accept it.”

After another period of silence, Lin Bao Zhu replied,

“Na nei feng xin, bu shi ni song de.”
“Then that letter, it wasn’t sent by you, was it?”

Xiao Yao shook his head.  Small droplets formed in his eyes as he continued to stare at Lin Bao Zhu.  The latter extended his hand.  Nodding, Xiao Yao sailed the envelope back to its original recipient.  Since the beginning of their conversation, their eyes had not averted their focus once, until now.  Lin Bao Zhu briefly glanced at the letter, then stared back at Xiao Yao questioningly.  Taking a deep breathe, Xiao Yao put all his effort into holding back his tears.  He refused to show any more weakness to the man that sat across from him, a man whom he had learned to respect immensely.  Gaining control of his emotions, Xiao Yao explained that only the events described in the letter and the circumstances surrounding those events were true.  The silence continued to penetrate throughout the clearing and into the forest around them.

Without warning, Lin Bao Zhu pulled his sword and lunged at Xiao Yao.  The young swordsman jumped up and blocked the strike with his sword still sheathed, though the force of the attack still pushed him back quite a distance.  Landing at opposite ends of the clearing, the two masters sent blasts of energy at each other, sidestepping continuously in the same direction.  When they had travelled an entire circle, both Xiao Yao and Lin Bao Zhu flew to the center of the clearing, back to back.  With their guard still up, they carefully checked their surroundings.  They were definitely being watched.  But seeing that their attacks had hit nothing but trees and shrubbery, they knew that whoever it was had already successfully made their escape.

Ling Er!

Xiao Yao’s eyes filled with panic as he turned to look at Lin Bao Zhu.  Sheathing their swords, they hurried back to Sheng Gu’s hideaway.

Sheng Gu placed the last dish on the table.  Whoever their strong visitor was, he seemed to be in need of a lot of support and good hospitality.  Tasting her own cooking, she nodded in satisfaction.  Ever since Bai Yue was defeated by Ling Er and Xiao Yao in the real world, Nan Zhao Guo had been struggling to regain stability.  Many of the cult’s followers had  acknowledged their faults and mended their ways, aligning their loyalties with the emperor.  However, there were still a number of radicals who wished for more bloodshed, namely that of the princess and her dear husband.  Any public appearance made by the two would only cause more confusion and dissension among the people at this point.  Even the emperor, who is Ling Er’s father, had advised them to stay in hiding for the time being.  To keep a low profile, Sheng Gu did not allow servants to live with them and took care of most of the daily chores around the house herself.  Ling Er had also begun lending a hand once her health allowed her to.  Although seemingly incompetent at first, the strong-hearted woman proved to be a quick learner, especially with Ling Er’s gentle guidance.  Even Jian Sheng could not deny that the quality of her cooking had improved dramatically.  They had become quite the cozy little family unit over the past few months of living together.

Although it was nice and pleasant, Jian Sheng still wondered what he was doing there.  Hadn’t he demanded that his payment for helping them in the first place was for Xiao Yao to accompany him back to Mt. Shu, to part with Ling Er for the rest of his life?  What was he waiting for?  Despite the young swordman’s growth in strength, he was still no match for his own skill.  He could easily drag Xiao Yao up the mountain by force.  Was he really doubting his ability to comprehend “dao”?  Jian Sheng smacked himself.  What was he thinking?  He was merely being overly courteous to the young couple, waiting for Ling Er to fully recover before putting his foot down.  He couldn’t risk the princess, the descendant of Nu Wa, causing herself even more harm in her weakened state, right?  Fully convinced of his own correctness, Jian Sheng smiled and walked outside for some fresh air.  As he stepped outside, a loud scream echoed through the house from where Sheng Gu and Ling Er were dressing Yi Ru.

“Xiao Shi Tou, shi ni ah?”
“Oh, it’s you, Xiao Shi Tou.” Ling Er exclaimed.

“Ling Er jiejie, hao jiu bu jian le.  Dui bu qi wo xia dao ni peng you.”
“Long time no see, Ling Er jiejie / older sister.  Sorry I scared your friend over there.” replied the small spirit, motioning towards Sheng Gu.  Realizing the miniature monk was a friend of Ling Er’s, Sheng Gu relaxed and dissipated the energy she was forming.  Xiao Shi Tou had appeared right in front of the two girls as they finished dressing Yi Ru.  Sheng Gu chuckled at the false alarm as Ling Er giggled joyfully at seeing an old friend.  Kicking the door in, Jian Sheng materialized inside the room, ready to defend against any attacker.  He looked around and took in the friendly reunion.  After blinking several times, he cursed to himself as he turned around to leave.

“Ling Er! – AIYA!” Xiao Yao barged into the room, crashing into Jian Sheng as they both toppled to the floor.  Lin Bao Zhu entered the room just in time to see the two grown men  in full embrace, staring into each other’s eyes as Jian Sheng pushed Xiao Yao off of him in disgust.  The entire room burst into laughter as Xiao Yao scratched his head and apologized.  Becoming serious, Xiao Yao started to explain what had just transpired in the forest when he saw Xiao Shi Tou grinning at him.

“Ling Er jiejie, ni hai gen Li Xiao Yao ne ge da ben dan zai yi qi ah?”
“Ling Er jiejie, you’re still with that moron, Li Xiao Yao?” asked the little spirit in surprise.

“Xiao Shi Tou, xiao xin wo zhao ge DA shi tou ya si ni!”
“Xiao Shi Tou (Little Stone), how about I find a huge boulder and crush you to death!” threatened Xiao Yao.

“Xiao Yao gege!  Bu yao qi fu ren jia.”
“Xiao Yao gege!  Don’t bully people!”

Xiao Yao opened his eyes wide as his wife defended the little spirit.  As he opened his mouth to argue, Lin Bao Zhu cleared his throat as he continued to stare at the floor.  Xiao Shi Tou stuck his tongue out at Xiao Yao as the swordsman introduced their guest as Yue Ru’s father.  Jian Sheng automatically felt a strange feeling that stung at his heart, but quickly dismissed it for later consideration.  He forced himself to stare the man in the eyes as he remained in his usual upright posture with his hands behind his back.  Lin Bao Zhu apologized for his actions earlier, calling them impulsive and irrational, and asked for their forgiveness.  Nodding, Sheng Gu walked over to welcome the man and invited him to have a seat.

“Ta shi wo he Xiao Yao de nu er.”
“She’s mine and Xiao Yao’s daughter.” Ling Er explained to Lin Bao Zhu, who had stopped to stare at Yi Ru.  The pain in his heart was visible, obvious and pitiful, especially to Ling Er, despite his efforts to hide it.  It must have been painful to see the man his daughter loved have a child with another woman.  That, even Xiao Yao knew and understood.  Breaking the silence, Xiao Yao explained what had happened during his meeting with Lin Bao Zhu, asking the old master to show the letter.  Retrieving the envelope once more from within his tunic, he gave it to Sheng Gu, who was the person he felt most at ease with at the moment.  She only had a chance to read the first line aloud before Jian Sheng and Ling Er rushed to read the letter for themselves.

“Ha, ha, si lao tou, ni nu er si le!”
“Ha, ha, stupid old man, your daughter’s dead!”

Horrified, they all read the last line in unison.

“Deng ze ni – Li Xiao Yao”
“Waiting for you – Li Xiao Yao”

All eyes turned to Xiao Yao as he startled and quickly denied writing or sending the letter.  Who would do such a thing, they wondered.  Bai Yue’s men?  How else could they have known so much?  Only one thing was certain.  Whoever wrote that letter had planned on Lin Bao Zhu killing Xiao Yao without question.  Perhaps it was the same culprit whom the two men felt spying on them earlier that day.  Ling Er suddenly remembered her small friend, who had remained silent all this time.

“Dui le, Xiao Shi Tou, ni lai shi xu yao shen me?”
“Oh yeah, Xiao Shi Tou, what is the purpose of your visit?”

The little spirit explained that he had met someone who desperately wanted to see them, her and Xiao Yao.  The room hushed as everyone exchanged worried glances.  When asked who this person was, Xiao Shi Tou replied that he had never met the man before, but was sure that he meant them no harm.  He was actually a guardian spirit of a small forest area and wished to meet with the couple as soon as possible, adding that a very important life was at stake.  Jian Sheng, rubbing his beard, asked whose life was concerned.  Everyone groaned and smacked their foreheads as Xiao Shi Tou scratched his head, saying that he forgot.

“Ze me ne me mei yong…”
“Wow, how useless…” complained Xiao Yao.  Ling Er shot him a piercing glare, but couldn’t deny that she agreed with her husband on this one.

“Ne me zhong yao de shi, ni ze me ke yi wang le?”
“How can you forget such an imporant detail?”

Xiao Shi Tou frowned at Ling Er’s question and explained that although he couldn’t remember whose life it concerned, he did remember where the man wanted to meet them.  They could set out tomorrow morning and be there within a few weeks, or sooner, as Xiao Yao corrected him, telling him of how he could enlarge one of his swords for transportation.  Another pang struck Jian Sheng’s heart as he realized the technique Xiao Yao described was handed down to him by Jiu Xian Jian.  The day had already brought him many disturbances, including the battle with Lin Bao Zhu and his unwilling intimate moment with Xiao Yao.  Silently, he hoped that this wasn’t becoming a trend.

Shaking his head, Xiao Yao warned that it could be a trap, taking this opportunity to insult Xiao Shi Tou once more by calling him a gullible twit and untrustworthy.  Ling Er scolded him again as the others took some sinful pleasure in the young man’s predicament.  After some discussion, the majority was leaning towards meeting this mysterious guardian spirit.  Ling Er, who, as her companions noticed, could still be overly sympathetic and almost naive at times, wanted to save the life, whether or not they knew whose life it was.  Xiao Yao, leaning towards being overprotective as usual, voted against it, stating that it was too dangerous, especially with Ling Er still recovering and Yi Ru requiring their care.  Sheng Gu expressed that they should go, but be very cautious.  Seeing this as a possibility that the enemy could show their true identity, Lin Bao Zhu was in favor of going.  His eyes burned at the thought of someone trying to manipulate him, using his family, no less.  Jian Sheng wanted more details and logistics on both the guardian spirit and the meeting before he would give his opinion.

Hungry, they decided to let Yi Ru have some peace and quiet as they left the room to eat their evening meal.  When they weren’t stuffing food into their mouths, they were still debating on whether or not Xiao Yao and Ling Er should go.  In the end, it was decided that despite any good reasoning, the biggest concern was Yi Ru.  It would be impossible for them to risk taking the baby along, even if the three elite masters accompanied the couple as bodyguards.  They knew nothing of this guardian spirit and even less about their newfound enemy.  Splitting up the three (Xiao Yao, Ling Er, Yi Ru) would be difficult as well.  If something happened to Yi Ru while they were gone, Xiao Yao and Ling Er could never forgive themselves.  On the other hand, if something tragic should befall the parents, Yi Ru would be an orphan, which would not allow Xiao Yao and Ling Er to be at peace, either.  They all frowned at the present dilemma.  Finally, Xiao Shi Tou piped in a suggestion that was note-worthy.  Xiao Yao and Ling Er could meet the guardian spirit with himself as a guide and Lin Bao Zhu following close behind while Sheng Gu and Jian Sheng could take Yi Ru back to Mt. Shu for protection.  This proved to be the best overall solution, seeing as how their hideout had been compromised.  The figure felt by Xiao Yao and Lin Bao Zhu knew exactly where they were; it was no longer safe to stay here.  It was decided that they would follow Xiao Shi Tou’s suggestion and set out on their separate journeys early the next morning.

That night, Ling Er and Xiao Yao tried their best to enjoy the last night their family would sleep in the same room for a while, telling Yi Ru one bedtime story after another and taking turns rocking their daughter to sleep.  On the other side of the house, Jian Sheng and Lin Bao Zhu stayed up talking with one another, keeping Sheng Gu up in the process.  Jian Sheng tried to avoid talking about Yue Ru, thinking that sensitive topics need not be discussed until later.  Even though the letter in Lin Bao Zhu’s pocket had told of his actions concerning his daughter’s death, the proud swordsman didn’t seem to hold it against him.  And why should he?  He was right, right?  Little did he know that deep down, Lin Bao Zhu was uncertain of where to place the blame for what happened to his Ru Er.  Was it Bai Yue’s fault, the fault of this man sitting in front of him, his own fault for allowing Yue Ru to roam past his grasp, or that young fool in the other room for not fulfilling his promise in failing to protect her?  Perhaps all of them shared in the blame; but, until he was sure, he was determined to not disrespect and dishonor anyone.  As Sheng Gu caught pieces of their conversation, she decided that Lin Bao Zhu was a man worthy of her respect.

When the two men had finished talking and went to bed, Sheng Gu still couldn’t sleep.  Xiao Yao had forbade Xiao Shi Tou from sleeping anywhere near him, and, after some light searching, the little spirit had found his way to a comfortable area near her door.  She couldn’t believe the amount of noise he was making for such a small being.  Already asleep, Xiao Shi Tou snored more loudly than anyone she had ever heard.  Frustrated to the point of tearing her hair out, Sheng Gu sent a small blast of energy under her door towards the source of the snoring.

“AHH!” Xiao Shi Tou woke up, wondering what was going on.  Seeing nothing, he scratched his stomache and closed his eyes again.  Sheng Gu was pleased.  She could finally get some rest for tomorrow’s journey.  A single thought floated amongst their minds as they drifted to sleep: Was this guardian spirit a friend or foe?

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