Perfect World Chapter 10 – A New Journey

on 08 21, 2010

Still half-asleep, Xiao Yao rubbed his eyes and stretched out his arms, arching his back before he let out a low grunt.  Smiling, his eyes remained closed as  he turned over and swung his arm over to Ling Er’s side of the bed.  Xiao Yao’s hand was met with the feeling of cold sheets as he slid his hand up and down, searching for his wife.  Opening his eyes, Xiao Yao’s smile turned upside down as Ling Er was no where to be found in his sight.  He looked towards Yi Ru’s small, wooden crib to find her missing as well.  Xiao Yao immediately shot up in bed as he frantically looked around.

*sniff, sniff*

A variety of sweet aromas filled his wide open nostrils as a goofy grin became plastered on his now fully awake expression.  Breakfast!  The sun shined shyly through the blinds of the window, lighting up the room in streaks, as Xiao Yao stepped softly onto the cold floor.  Walking over to the window, he was forced to squint as he lifted the blinds and opened the window.  It was some time after dawn and the usual morning dew was still kissing the delicate hands of nature’s children.  Xiao Yao gladly took in the scenery of the giant trees and beautiful garden outside of their hideaway.  He had enjoyed their time here, which, for the most part, was peaceful and full of joy.  He had become quite close with Sheng Gu and, whether Jian Sheng would admit it or not, he felt that the old master was growing to like him.  The feeling was mutual, thought Xiao Yao.  Looking once again at the empty beds, images of all the wonderful times he had spent with Ling Er and Yi Ru played slowly in his mind.

After fastening his shoelaces, Xiao Yao smacked his lips and flashed a cocky smile before joining his friends for breakfast.  Ling Er was cooing to Yi Ru as she rocked their daughter in her cradling arms while everyone else was busily enjoying all of the delicious looking food on the table.  Exchanging morning greetings, Xiao Yao took the seat next to Ling Er and was about to give her a quick peck on the cheek before he reminded himself of the audience around the table.  Ling Er playfully took a man tou / bun and stuffed it into Xiao Yao’s mouth.  The young swordsman chuckled as he swallowed a bite of the sweet pastry and added some of the dishes to his rice bowl.  He looked over at Sheng Gu, who had woken up early in the morning with Ling Er to prepare their morning meal and pack their lunches for the day.  He’d never seen such black bags under her eyes.

“Sheng Gu, did you not sleep well last night?”

Looking more closely at the setting, he saw that the three other males of the group sat closely together, a good distance away from Sheng Gu, hiding their faces in their food.  Her eyes shot up and looked at Xiao Yao.  Blinking, she glared at the two men and small spirit, who were cowering in their rice bowls.  Before they started eating, Sheng Gu made sure to lecture each of them for keeping her up last night, especially Xiao Shi Tou.  Sensing an opportunity for a jest, Xiao Yao smiled deviously and opened his mouth to speak, only to be stopped by Ling Er, who had placed Yi Ru into his arms.

“She’s already eaten.  I’ve changed her and she needs to burp before she falls asleep again.  I’ll go pack our things for the journey.”

Having eaten and satisfied their hunger, Jian Sheng, Lin Bao Zhu and Xiao Shi Tou took this chance to excuse themselves from the table, to pack as well, of course.  This left Xiao Yao pacing around the floor, patting Yi Ru’s back and grabbing another bite to eat periodically, and Sheng Gu sitting alone at the table, watching the young man take care of his daughter.  Some time over the past few months, she had started seeing Xiao Yao as if he were her own son.  Perhaps it was because he was Jiu Xian Jian’s only disciple, or maybe it was how he always seemed to need taking care of.  Or maybe it was because she missed Ah Nu so much.  Either way, Sheng Gu had become quite fond of the swordsman.  Seeing Xiao Yao’s facial expression, it was obvious he was still concerned about meeting the guardian spirit and leaving Yi Ru.

“Don’t worry, Li Xiao Yao, I’ll be sure to take good care of Yi Ru.”

“I know.  Thank you so much.  I just…really don’t want to leave her.  I’m sure Ling Er feels the same way, but she’s always had a stronger sense of duty than I.”  Xiao Yao looked down at the floor as he stopped pacing, but still patting Yi Ru’s back.  Although Xiao Yao was still frivolously immature at times, he was very well aware of where he needed improvement.

It was agreed that the group would meet on Mt. Shu as soon as possible.  If Jian Sheng and Sheng Gu did not hear from Xiao Yao, Ling Er, Lin Bao Zhu or Xiao Shi Tou in a fortnight’s time, they should consider the meeting to have been a malignant trap and for their first priority to be to hide Yi Ru, sending scouts to gather information concerning what had happened.  Everything was packed as Lin Bao Zhu bid farewell to his newfound allies and sat towards the back of Xiao Yao’s enlarged sword.  He placed himself in between the extra sets of clothes and packed lunches that Sheng Gu had prepared earlier that morning to make sure the belongings would not be lost during the trip.  For all he knew, Xiao Yao, that brainless twit, wouldn’t be able to control the sword and fling the bundles, if not them as well, hurling down to their doom.  Xiao Yao and Ling Er kissed Yi Ru on the cheek before reluctantly handing the child to Sheng Gu’s arms.  Waving goodbye, the couple stepped onto the sword and sat down in front of Lin Bao Zhu.  Jian Sheng, in a hurry to leave, placed his hand on Sheng Gu’s shoulder and they quickly disappeared along the road.  Ling Er remembered when Jian Sheng had taken her to Mt. Shu using the same method of transportation.  Turning to Xiao Yao, she and Lin Bao Zhu nodded that they were ready to go as well.  Making the sword hover higher into the sky, Xiao Yao looked at the small cottage that had housed them for the last time before soaring away.

The day seemed to drag on as they dashed through the clouds.  Xiao Shi Tou had been prancing around carelessly, telling Xiao Yao to change course every once in a while.  Lin Bao Zhu found himself lost in thought a good portion of the time, staring down towards the ground that was now only a blur in his eyes.  Every once in a while, he would glance at Xiao Yao, who had his arms wrapped tightly around Ling Er as she slept soundly, and sigh.  He still missed his Yue Ru dearly.  At this point, he didn’treally understand what he was doing.  Ever since he had received that outrageous letter, it was as if he was being led around, controlled like some puppet.  Lin Bao Zhu thought about how easily he had found Xiao Yao and the others, how everything seemed to fit so nicely, and scoffed.  How could he have been fooled so easily?  The enemy was definitely sly and cunning, not to be taken lightly or underestimated.  But, could he really trust and consider the young couple sitting in front of him his allies?  After all, he had tried to force Xiao Yao to marry Yue Ru and told Ling Er to leave him, resorting to inappropriate tactics after she refused.  Lin Bao Zhu stared back towards the ground below as he reminded himself that despite his doubts, in the current circumstances, they were all he had.

“Keep going towards the other edge of that mountain.” directed Xiao Shi Tou, pointing into the horizon.  Xiao Yao complied and turned the sword slightly.  He laid his cheek on Ling Er’s head, rocking from side to side.  They had already consumed the large lunch prepared for them by Sheng Gu, and Ling Er became so full she became very tired.  Xiao Yao loved how Ling Er leaned against his chest as she lay in his arms.  The whole world and all its troubles seemed to fade away into nothingness.  He thought of how she died in his arms in Bai Yue’s nightmare world.  That was the harshest pain he had ever endured.  He shuddered as he forced the images out of his mind and held Ling Er tighter against him.  It had been a beautiful day, with near perfect weather.  Aside from a heavy gust of wind that had almost blown Xiao Shi Tou over the edge a moment ago, the trip had been blessed with nothing but sun and a light breeze, caused by their flying across the sky.  Though, as Xiao Yao looked behind them, he saw that rainclouds had formed and a flash of lightning streaked in the distance.

“Looks like we just missed the storm.” said Lin Bao Zhu, who had noticed the clouds long before Xiao Yao.  Xiao Yao smiled and nodded, turning back around.  He felt so ashamed to face the old swordsman.  Meeting him had brought his family nothing but trouble and tragedy.  His heart began to ache as he clutched it with his right hand.  Ling Er stirred in his arms woke up to see her husband grabbing his chest.  Seeing her worried, Xiao Yao smiled at her and said he was fine and was just satisfying an itch as he scratched his chest.  Xiao Yao began looking around the land they were passing.

“We’ll have to stop soon.  Night will fall within the hour and I doubt Xiao Shi Tou will be able to continue directing us accurately, nor would I be able to follow his instructions.  As soon as we hit that wooded area, past this clearing, we’ll land and make camp.  We can use the trees to hide us from being spotted too easily.  As long as we don’t know what we’re up against, we have to be overly cautious.”  His companions nodded in agreement.  The approaching night brought with it a sudden cold chill and Lin Bao Zhu reminded them that tonight was also a new moon, which would make it all the more difficult to navigate.

“Xiao Shi Tou, how much longer is it until we get there?” asked Ling Er.

“If we make good time and travel like we did today, we should arrive to where the guardian spirit is before nightfall tomorrow.”

“Do you remember anything about that life that’s at stake?  Any other details about any of this?”

“…”

“Of course he doesn’t.  Typical.” joked Xiao Yao as Xiao Shi Tou stuck his tongue out at him.  Xiao Yao laughed as he lowered the sword to the ground.  They were to take turns standing guard throughout the night.  Xiao Shi Tou would take the first shift, as he had the hardest time staying up past a certain hour.  Also, they hoped to be already sound asleep before Xiao Shi Tou began snoring.  Ling Er would be second, since she had already slept for some time during the day.  She would be followed by Xiao Yao and then finally Lin Bao Zhu, who was already accustomed to being up extremely early in the morning.  They would continue their journey at dawn.

They had travelled swiftly and Xiao Yao had propelled the sword at a higher speed than the day before.  The warriors had decided that they would be at a great disadvantage if they were to meet the guardian spirit after nightfall.  Their enemies could easily lay in ambush, using the darkness of night to cover their tracks and locations.   By the time Xiao Yao and the others arrived at the outskirts of the guardian spirit’s home, it was only a little past noon and the sun shone intensely from high in the sky.  The forestry was too thick to land inside, so they had to land outside of the forest and walk to where the spirit resided.  Ling Er exclaimed at how beautiful the forest was and how much it reminded her of Xian Ling Dao / Fairy Island.  Lin Bao Zhu remained alert as they made their way through the trees, being cautious of any form of ambush.  He remained in the shadows and followed Ling Er and Xiao Yao at a safe distance as Xiao Shi Tou sped along, leading the way.  Xiao Yao scratched his head as he stayed right on Xiao Shi Tou’s heels, with Ling Er by his side.  The area seemed vaguely familiar.  He didn’t like it.

A single butterfly had been flying around Xiao Yao’s head since they entered the forest.  Blinking a few times, he tried repeatedly to get it to go away by flailing his hands around.  Seeing Xiao Yao’s distress, Xiao Shi Tou couldn’t help but take a jab to pay him back for yesterday’s insult.

“OoOoOoh, Xiao Yao’s found himself a new admirer.  Ling Er jiejie, you had better be careful!” he warned.  Xiao Yao rolled his eyes and continued to swat around his head.

“Everyone loves my Xiao Yao gege!  But hey, if that beautiful butterfly wants to be by your side, it’s ok.  Leave it alone, Xiao Yao gege.  As long as you know you’re mine, don’t be afraid.” laughed Ling Er.  Lin Bao Zhu almost tripped on a tree branch after hearing the last part of Ling Er’s response.

“Oh great, not you, too!” Xiao Yao complained at Ling Er.  The sunlight slowly disappeared beneath the swaying trees as they went deeper into the forest.  Only a small amount of the sun’s rays made it through the wooded thickness, and along with the natural ambient light of the trees, guided the way for the anxious travellers.  Xiao Shi Tou yelled behind him that they were almost there.  The sun was beginning to disappear, changing shifts with the moon until the rooster summoned it once more.  They had been on foot for hours, and were beginning to tire.  Ling Er wondered if they should stop and rest before meeting the tree spirit, but also understood that night would once again be upon them.  Lin Bao Zhu, upon seeing Ling Er slow down, unsheathed his sword and used a small amount of energy to shoot a concentrated gust of air at Xiao Yao’s shoulder.

“Xiao Shi Tou, stop!”  yelled Xiao Yao.  Lin Bao Zhu remained hidden in the trees.  Taking a quick look around, Xiao Yao didn’t see anything that was remotely a threat.  He let go of his sword handle and helped Ling Er to a nearby tree stump.  The butterfly had also stopped and had made its landing on a small flower next to Ling Er.

*SPLASH*

The couple became on full alert as a small figure soaked in water approached them.  Huffing and puffing was Xiao Shi Tou, who lost his balance when Xiao Yao yelled for him to stop and had fallen into a small pond directly ahead.

“Great job, midget.  Now we can’t use that water to refill our water satchels.  You’ve contaminated it!” said Xiao Yao as he doubled over laughing.

“Hmph!” Xiao Shi Tou crossed his arms as he turned his head and looked away from Xiao Yao.  Shaking her head, Ling Er smiled and told the small spirit to jump into her lap and promptly dried him off with the edges of her dress.

“This place seems so familiar to me; yet, I can’t put my finger on it.” said Xiao Yao, crossing his arms and rubbing his chin.  Xiao Shi Tou squinted his eyes at Xiao Yao.

“And you made fun of me for having a bad memory.”

“Quiet, you.”

Taking a deep breathe, Ling Er advised that they should get going.  They had rested for only fifteen minutes, but it seemed to be enough as they pushed themselves to keep up with Xiao Shi Tou.  Finally, they reached the center of the forest, which was a gorgeous clearing filled with wild flowers and bright, green grass.  A single, white stone statue stood in the middle of the clearing.  It was slightly covered with vines around the base.

“Is that him?” they asked Xiao Shi Tou.  The little spirit nodded in reply as the butterfly that had pestured Xiao Yao flew from him and landed on the statue’s right finger, which was extended from a hand that rested on the its side.

The back of the statue faced Xiao Yao, Ling Er and Xiao Shi Tou as they approached it cautiously.  Keeping their distance, they slowly walked around to the front of the statue.  Just as Xiao Yao cleared his throat, the statue opened its eyes and stared at the visitors.  They gasped and stepped backwards as a ghostly silhouette stepped forth from the statue.  The butterfly started flying around the silhouette’s form as it looked at Xiao Yao and Ling Er.  The form was definitely one of a man.  His hair was white and his face was young – gentle and filled with compassion as a big smile formed on his face.  A pure white robe surrounded his body and ran all the way past his feet, dragging across the ground.  Lin Bao Zhu looked on from the shadows with sword in hand, ready to make his move should the situation become hostile.  The figure extended his finger with his arm in the shape of an “L” to match the posture of the statue he had emerged from.  The butterfly quickly landed as it had before, the fluttering of its wings slowing to a halt.  Xiao Yao and Ling Er looked on in disbelief as the figure, glowing in a faint light, continued to approach them.  Turning to Xiao Shi Tou, he spoke,

“Thank you for bringing them, friend.  I don’t know how I can repay you.  I’ve been waiting for them for a long time.”

“Don’t sweat it, my pleasure.” responded the miniature monk.  Then, leaning towards the figure, he put his hand to his mouth and whispered, “but they were worried you were a villain, especially Li Xiao Yao, that buffoon hehehe.”  The guardian spirit laughed along with Xiao Shi Tou as the couple stood there in awe.  Xiao Yao’s mouth hung open as he looked the spirit in the eyes.  Ling Er’s knees became weak as she started to fall, forcing her to lean on Xiao Yao’s shoulder.  Xiao Yao’s knee hit the ground, scraping against the dirt as his hand automatically followed suit, trying to hold him up.

“Master Li, Ling Er gu niang, long time no see.”

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