Perfect World Chapter 11 – A Kindred Spirit

on 08 21, 2010

Lin Bao Zhu watched as the guardian spirit approached his three companions.  Alarms were being set off in his mind to call out, to attack, to intervene, to do something, anything.  And yet, he remained high in a tree, hiding behind its flush leaves and winding branches, being an audience for the spectacle that was playing out before him.  What was wrong with him?  As if his indecisiveness to act wasn’t enough of a burden on his mind, Lin Bao Zhu actually felt like he was intruding.  On the other hand, he also felt some sort of familiarity with the guardian spirit.  He wondered again what was wrong with himself.  He had never been like this before.  Analyze.  Decide.  Act.  It had always been as simple as that.  His proud disposition was not used to pondering the next move in hesitance, in uncertainty.  Had Yue Ru’s passing really changed him that much?  He had always been so firm with her, so unrelenting.  How ironic that the one time he trusted his rebellious daughter to make her own decision would be the last time he would ever see her again.  Somewhere inside his heart, Lin Bao Zhu knew he made the right decision; yet, he would do anything to take it back.  Even if she hated him forever, he would have forced Yue Ru to come back with him to Lin Villa – even if he had to take more extreme measures with that useless twit down there who was presently immobilized and helpless on his knees.
Small beads of sweat formed on Lin Bao Zhu’s forehead as the guardian spirit placed a phantom hand on each of his comrade’s shoulders.  His breathing and heart rate increased, hastening the moisture on his face to drip faster.  He had to do something.  It was time to act.  Lin Bao Zhu lifted his sword and started collecting energy in its tip.  A faint, white glow surrounded the sword’s broad blade as the old master distributed his weight to his right foot.
“It seems you’ve brought an extra friend.” commented the guardian spirit casually as he turned around to face the exact direction of where Lin Bao Zhu was hiding.
“What the?! Impossi – AHHH!”
Lin Bao Zhu stared at the face that looked straight at his own in disbelief, forgetting to lunge into his attack.  The tree branch that held him gave way to the energy formed in his sword, leaving the swordsman at the mercy of gravity.  Regaining his senses, Lin Bao Zhu focused his strength towards his center of gravity and threw his sword into the ground below, using it as a stepping stone to land gracefully on his feet.
“Uncle?!” exclaimed the guardian spirit in hearty surprise.
“Jin Yuan?!  How – why – but – HUH?!” Lin Bao Zhu struggled to keep his balance.
“Ha ha…ha…ha…ha ha….Ah Qi!” Xiao Yao screamed, running towards his disciple with arms wide open.  Without thinking, he tackled his friend to the ground in a tight embrace.  Ling Er joined her husband in greeting Jin Yuan in a less violent manner, bending down and surrounding both men in her arms.  After spending a long moment in his friends’ welcome, Jin Yuan stood up and approached Lin Bao Zhu, who immediately placed his hands on his nephew’s shoulders with tears streaming down his face.  Jin Yuan hugged his uncle and there they stood until their legs tired from the overwhelming emotions that raged through their hearts and bodies like wildfire.
“Jin Yuan gege, you’re the guardian spirit of this forest?”
Smiling at Ling Er, Jin Yuan nodded as he and Lin Bao Zhu rejoined the couple.  Xiao Shi Tou had been at a loss for what to do.  They all knew each other.  Scratching his head, he asked if he was missing something.
“When aren’t you missing something?” laughed Xiao Yao.  He suddenly took notice that the same butterfly was swooping around Jin Yuan.  Then it dawned on him.
“Ah Qi, is that…?”
“Yes, Master Li, this butterfly is the same creature I was married to, who willingly gave me her thousand year old essence to save my life.” answered Jin Yuan as the winged being rested on top of his head.
“And this is the place in the forest where she sacrificed herself!  We must be close to your old home.  No wonder this place was so familiar.  How could I have forgotten?” Xiao Yao smacked his forehead in slight embarassment.  Xiao Shi Tou looked at Xiao Yao with an expression that could easily be translated as, “Do you really need to ask?”
Ling Er, who had been trapped in the tower on Mt. Shu during that time, was unaware of these events.  Jin Yuan gege was married?  Laughing merrily, Jin Yuan told her of how he met the kind butterfly spirit, Cai Yi.  Cai Yi’s wings fluttered softly as she danced in front of Jin Yuan’s face, sprinkling rainbow-colored fairy dust, tickling his nose.  Ling Er was moved to tears as she heard of the spirit’s sacrifice.  She knew that Jin Yuan gege would never accept such a selfless gesture by choice.  He must have treated Cai Yi with such forced disdain.  Sighing with understanding, she remembered when she had tried to push Xiao Yao away using similar methods, except she couldn’t bring her facade to be completely cruel.  Cai Yi must have endured a lot of pain and had an immense amount of understanding towards Jin Yuan.  And knowing Jin Yuan gege, it must have been excrutiatingly painful to be harsh and ignore her feelings, both of which were completely against his kind, gentle and selfless disposition.  Ling Er’s eyes followed the graceful creature as her beautiful form flew around the group, happy and carefree.  She landed next near Xiao Shi Tou, who was mesmorized by Cai Yi’s movements, and sat in a daze-like trance, just staring at the butterfly hover to and fro.
“She’s so beautiful…” Xiao Shi Tou’s jaw hung open as his head continued to follow her movements.
“Don’t you know it’s rude to stare, midget?  Besides, she’s married, to my disciple no less.  Hands off, you homewrecker.”  Xiao Yao rolled his eyes and shook his head as he looked nonchalantly up at the stars.  The sun had set long ago, and the only light that remained was the night stars and some lightning bugs that Jin Yuan had summoned.
“Alright, Xiao Yao gege, be nice to Xiao Shi Tou.”
Xiao Yao flashed a giant grin and nodded in obedient compliance.  Then, leaning towards Jin Yuan, he swung his arm around his old disciple.
“Hey, Ah Qi, how did you happen to become the guardian of this place, anyway?  And what’s this about a life being at stake?”
“Well, when I exhaled my last breath in that field by Master Li and Tang Yu, I felt my soul being lifted from my physical body.  I saw the tears and the anguish that each of you went through over my passing.  I had tried to live my life in a way that would leave no regrets, loving and giving to others whenever and however I found the opportunity.  Upholding righteousness and pursuing to improve myself in every way on a daily basis, I feel that my life was not a waste.  As a reward for living such a life, I was granted, blessed, with an offer to become a guardian spirit.  I would be able to choose the small area I would oversee and be allowed one wish, as well.  As you can see, I chose to protect the forest near my home, where Cai Yi saved me.  As soon as my statue was finished, I became the full-fledged guardian spirit of this area.  My hair turned white, which still puzzles me to why it was insisted that the appearance of old age reflected wisdom and authority, and Cai Yi has been with me ever since.  As for the wish, that’s where the life comes in.  I had wished for someone to be revived in this world.  Physically speaking, it’s only seven years old; mentally, I dare not venture into that realm haha.  However, my wish was only partially fulfilled; this person is not with us in this world.  Because of this, I was granted another wish.  For this second desire, I requested that Cai Yi be granted her human form once more.  This secondary wish was only to complete a whole wish, causing it to be only partially fulfilled as well.  Normally, Cai Yi would have to labor for another 1000 years, the same amount she sacrificed, to earn her human form again.  Because of my wish, that time has decreased expotentially.  Neither of us know when she will regain the ability to transform, but we’re taking it one day at a time.  But, I can see that you’re all tired and understand that you’ve been travelling for days.  I’ll continue my explanation in the morning, if that’s acceptable to you, that is.”
Xiao Shi Tou yawned, causing the rest of the party to do the same as they realized that Jin Yuan’s explanation had taken almost the remainder of the night.  Though none of them wished to turn in just yet, they couldn’t deny that this journey had made them exhausted.  Having such a joyous reunion with Jin Yuan did not increase their energy levels, either.  Sludgingly, the weary travellers made camp, surrounding Jin Yuan’s statue.  Bidding good night to his friends, Jin Yuan released the lightning bugs and nodded to Cai Yi, who flew to the head of the statue as he disappeared into the stone figure.  The night air was cool and refreshing, filled with the rythmic calls of crickets and owls on the hunt for unsuspecting prey.  Xiao Shi Tou fell asleep immediately at the foot of Jin Yuan’s watchful eye on top of a vine that weaved in and out between the statue’s legs and base.  His three companions, however, ruminated upon what Jin Yuan had told them earlier until they, too, visited the land of Nod, awaiting the rest of Jin Yuan’s story that was to come with the morning.

Lin Bao Zhu rubbed his eyes and sat up, the tiny slits in his eyes sealing themselves a few times before they opened completely.  The low hum of birds rang harmoniously with the waking of the rest of the forest.  Looking towards Jin Yuan’s statue, he saw that Cai Yi was still asleep, resting calmly on Jin Yuan’s outstretched hand.  Xiao Shi Tou, having rolled off of the statue’s base, was stretched out on the ground as if he were trying to make a snow angel in the dirt.  His stomache rose and fell in sync with the opening and closing of his mouth, emitting what had to be some sort of strange mating call.  They all must have been truly tired to have been able to sleep through that disturbance.  Looking towards Xiao Yao, Lin Bao Zhu chuckled as he saw the young swordsman rolled up in a comfortable fetal position, knees and arms scrunched against his chest.  His right shoulder was stained with his own saliva.  As if sensing Lin Bao Zhu’s stare, Xiao Yao opened his eyes.  Without blinking, he sat up and scratched his head, rubbing his shoulder against his ear.
“Huh?  Oh, that’s disgusting!” Xiao Yao complained, wiping the rest of the saliva from his mouth.  Lin Bao Zhu half chuckled as he continued to scan their surroundings.  Where was Ling Er?  The area where she slept had already been cleaned and her belongings were packed.  Xiao Yao stood up and stretched, groaning in the process.  As Lin Bao Zhu opened his mouth to inform Xiao Yao of his wife’s absence, a sudden movement at the end of the clearing caught his eye.  It was Ling Er and Jin Yuan, with their arms crossed and carrying bundles that turned out to be an assortment of fruits and nuts for their breakfast.
“Good morning!” greeted Jin Yuan.  At the sound of his voice, Cai Yi stirred and started to hover towards him.  She was happy, truly joyful at the present set up of her life.  Looking at Jin Yuan, her heart smiled as she thought of spending an eternity with her husband, even if presently, she did not hold the highest place in his heart.  She wasn’t a fool; Jin Yuan still loved his younger cousin, Yue Ru.  But, in the same spirits of the two, she was more than satisfied to be by his side, seeing him happy, not being pushed away again.
Four small feet made their way to where Xiao Shi Tou lay.  Putting its nose to the small monk’s face, the tiny chipmunk nestled against him.  The sleeper smiled as he snored once more, turned over, and wrapped his arm around the forest creature.  Being mating season, the chipmunk began thrusting itself against Xiao Shi Tou.  Awakened by the intimate motions, Xiao Shi Tou opened his eyes to find himself face to face with the creature that was rubbing against his body.  Screaming, Xiao Shi Tou glided backwards, knocking into Jin Yuan’s statue and scaring the chipmunk.  A series of intense squeeking followed as it made its escape into the bushes.  The group, while they tried to maintain composure, burst out laughing as Xiao Shi Tou yelled at them for not saving him from the lovesick chipmunk.
“I didn’t know you were into that kind of stuff, Xiao Shi Tou.  You don’t have to be embarassed that we’re here.  Next time, just tell us you need some privacy!” teased Xiao Yao as he grabbed his stomache.  Lin Bao Zhu cleared his throat repeatedly and finally managed to keep a straight face as he looked away from the violated spirit.  Ling Er began separating the food into portions and invited the group to have breakfast, apologizing to Xiao Shi Tou for their rudeness.  As they ate, Jin Yuan continued from where he left off.  They all listened intently and with curious wonder; all, except for Ling Er, whose mind was filled with the conversation she just shared with her Jin Yuan gege in the forest.

some time ago…
“Jin Yuan gege, it’s so beautiful here!  I’m very happy for you.  If anyone deserves this opportunity, it’s you.”  Ling Er grabbed another handful of berries.  The guadian spirit smiled and thanked his friend for her compliment.
“Jin Yuan gege, that life…it’s Yue Ru jiejie, isn’t it?” They continued walking.  Jin Yuan fell silent for a while.
“Yes…but no.  I was unable to wish for her existance to be brought back into this world.  Her life, mind, heart, soul, had all been too unstable for a long time, especially at the end of her life.  In order for the revival to be successful, the soul must be brought back at a peaceful time in life.  Otherwise, their personality would deteriorate and their fate would be no different than a lonely ghost, pining for release from whatever had caused its unrest in life.  For a successful revival, the condition the soul returns in must be one where it’s worth coming back.  Now, Ling Er gu niang, you knew my cousin.  What do you think would have happened if I brought her back as she was?”
Ling Er stared at the ground for a moment as she walked.  Looking at the contents of her bundles, she increased her grip on the cloth in fear that she might drop it.
“No matter how hard she tried, her kindness, her sincere and genuinely good heart would disappear, leaving behind an empty shell that dispised Xiao Yao and I…Even though she only wanted to see Xiao Yao happy, it still caused her unrest that…”
“Her father as well.  Ever since the death of her mother, Yue Ru’s never really gotten along with Lin Bao Zhu.  Hehe, always bickering, doing whatever she could to anger him, yelling the entire time that she wished to be an individual, free and independent.”
“When did her mother pass?”
“Some time after Yue Ru reached seven years of age.  I’ve been reciting a poem in my mind recently.  Would you like to hear it?”
Ling Er nodded weakly in consent.  Jin Yuan smiled.  He believed in Ling Er’s strength, not just because she was the descendant of Nu Wa, but because she was his Ling Er mei mei, and he had seen the strength of her love, of her strong sense of righteousness, of duty.  Looking ahead, Jin Yuan clasped his hands behind his back as he began.
“For every word we wish we’d Said,
Our fallen tears, like visible silence Untold,
Rest envisioned through thoughts Remembered.
Gone are nights I loved (you) in secret; when Romance
Outsoared reason, taking me heavenward an Exile.
Tender follies engrained by dreamer’s coquette Nail
Transcend mine heart to bitter Destiny.
Even as death our bodies face, for all Eternity,
None shall know my cries that form Reality.
I believe that many people know the pains of unfulfilled love, too many, in fact.  Even those that have and know love, secretly wish that it could be better, that their communication would improve, that their lover would understand them more – give more.  No matter how selfless and good a person is, resting underneath the thin film of righteousness is a carnal nature of sin, of innate selfishness that breeds dissatisfaction, hate, violence, just waiting to burst free.  That is the curse of humanity.  It will never be able to completely overcome the temptations of this world on its own strength and understanding.  The path of Forgotten Surrender is one that I think every person travels at some point in their lives.  It’s just a pity, that at the end of this road was where Yue Ru lost her life.”
Jin Yuan took in a deep breathe and clenched his teeth tightly together, his efforts in vain as a tear slid slowly down his left cheek.  Smiling, he turned to Ling Er.  Her eyes were filled with compassion as she placed a hand on his back, rubbing lightly and smiling in return.  This was the Ling Er that Jin Yuan was so proud of.  Even though her expression revealed it was killing her to hear all of this, she refused to show or submit to weakness; instead, she became his strength to continue.
“Ling Er understands.” she replied with spirited confidence.  They walked a little further, collecting less nuts and berries now, as the small forest creatures scampered from their presence.
“They’re still not used to me yet.” Jin Yuan chuckled. “Some people become wicked, complacent of what helped them become a guardian spirit in the first place after receiving the position.  I’ve yet to gain their trust.”
Ling Er nodded.
“So, because Yue Ru jie jie’s revival could not be successfully completed as you wished, you had her return as a small child, seven years of age, just before her mother’s death?”
“Not exactly.  I had wished for her to return at that time in her life not because it couldn’t be successful otherwise.  Her relationship with her father was not that bad.  But in combination with the experiences between herself, you and especially Xiao Yao, it would be too much for her.  When a life is revived, it will have a full set of memories; everything that she knew mentally would still remain.  I wished her back as a child because of this fact.  She would still know with her mind that she loves Xiao Yao, but as a mere child, her heart wouldn’t be able to comprehend the emotions or responsibilities and consequences that come with love.  True love, as you’ve noticed, is neither easy, convenient and definitely sacrificial.  I hope that as she grows up once more, her feelings for Xiao Yao would subside to the only kind of love she’ll understand at that time – kinship, saving her a lot of unnecessary pain and heartache.”
“You don’t want Yue Ru jiejie to suffer because of the relationship between Xiao Yao and I, and at the same time, you’re saving us the suffering of knowing the effects that our relationship had on her.”
“Exactly.  But, the best way to achieve this was not to bring her back to life.  It’s not as though her afterlife would have been that horrible.  God is a fair and just being.  The afterlife isn’t the problem.  I mainly wanted to bring her back to save her from her current fate.”
Ling Er looked at him questioningly.  Jin Yuan sighed as he explained what had happened since Yue Ru’s death.
“After you and Xiao Yao left Mt. Shu, the tower laid in ruins.  The vile spirits that resided in that tower swore vengeance to those that had destroyed their fun.  Many souls that were trapped in that tower were released, free to move on.  In their rage, they trapped a girl and a single soul and began to rebuild the tower.  I do not know who the girl is, but the soul was that of Yue Ru, who had been too weak to escape.  They captured her just as her physical body died, when a soul is the most vulnerable.  Some time ago, they finished construction.  The tower now stands taller and stronger than before.  Inside, the girl and Yue Ru’s soul are being slowly tortured.  That is why my wish was only partially fulfilled.  The malignance of those spirits imprisoned Yue Ru’s soul, preventing it from reuniting with her physical being.  Her body now lays in her old room in Lin Villa.  I had wondered how my uncle would react and what he would do.  I’m glad to see he sought the two of you out.”
“Actually, I don’t think he even knows about Yue Ru’s body.” Ling Er explained.  “But the others are probably waking up now.  We should turn back.”
Jin Yuan agreed as they headed back to the peaceful clearing.  As they walked, Ling Er explained to Jin Yuan their meeting with Lin Bao Zhu, the mysterious letter, and the existance of a new threat.

back at the clearing…
Jin Yuan had just finished explaining the situation to Xiao Yao, Lin Bao Zhu and Xiao Shi Tou.  He had purposefully left out the part about Yue Ru loving Xiao Yao, which Ling Er was glad of.  Lin Bao Zhu sat dumbfounded that his daughter’s body would be resting back at his home.
“Oh, no.”  Lin Bao Zhu became frantic.  “I left in such haste – and I haven’t been back in some time – ”
The group automatically understood.  They still had no idea who their new enemy was.  Yue Ru’s body was left laying in Lin Villa, unguarded.  Hastening their movements, they quickly packed and bid farewell to Jin Yuan, who, too, was worried about what had become of his cousin’s body.  He had reasoned that she would be safest at home.  Watching his friends rush towards the forest edge, Jin Yuan tried to take comfort in trusting their abilities, and also, the last thing that Xiao Yao and Ling Er said to him before they left.
“Jin Yuan, we’ll be back soon to visit you.  Next time, we’ll be sure to bring Yi Ru along as well.  It’s been decided.  We want you to be her godfather…”
Xiao Yao jumped on the enlarged sword and thrust it off the ground.  Blasting into the sky, they rushed towards Lin Villa, praying that nothing had happened to Yue Ru’s body.  Lin Bao Zhu grasped his sword tightly as he stared towards the horizon.
Oh please!  PLEASE!  Don’t take her from me again…I don’t know if I could stand losing her again.  Xiao Yao, please, make it in time.

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