Perfect World Chapter 12 – A Hero?

on 08 21, 2010

Minutes away from Lin Villa, Lin Bao Zhu collapsed to his knees as his mouth hung open, gaping at the thick clouds of smoke that were already visible, streaming in stacks from his home.  Ling Er placed a hand on his shoulder as her heart tightened, making it difficult for her to breathe.  Hanging over the edge of the sword, Xiao Shi Tou peered into the distance and hastened Xiao Yao to fly faster.

“That’s a huge fire!  There’s still people trying to escape!” he cried.

Xiao Yao continued to slice through the sky towards Lin Villa.  Though he had heard Xiao Shi Tou’s exclamation, his mind did not detour from the well-being of but one potential victim.  He let her die once; hell if he’d let her go again.  He felt Ling Er stand beside him.  Not a word had to be shared.  Their thoughts were the same, and they knew it.  An abrupt ripping sound caused the group to turn around.  Lin Bao Zhu had torn the sleeve off of his right arm.  Removing the plug from a water jug, he soaked the cloth and wrapped it tightly around his face, just under his eyes, and stared with determined vigor at Lin Villa.  Xiao Yao and Ling Er nodded and followed his example, ripping the sleeves off of their right arms.  Xiao Shi Tou scratched his head, confused.

Psh, duh.  It’s to block the smoke.  Xiao Shi Tou tore a large chunk of his pant leg, wetting it to produce an air filter for himself as well.  Xiao Yao squinted his eyes as smoke attacked his vision, attempting to deprive his eyes of any moisture.  Raising his bare forearm in front of his face, the young swordsman struggled to keep his eyes open as they flew over Lin Villa.  The heat from the flames below forced their bodies to perspire profusely.  Ling Er’s vision blurred as she became lightheaded, causing her to stagger into Xiao Yao.  Catching her with his free arm, he slowly lowered her to the blade of the sword, patting her back to tell her to stay put.   Beneath them, the rest of the town seemed to have surrounded Lin Villa, trying to put the fire out from the outside.  Peering down, Lin Bao Zhu looked for his daughter’s seven year old face, her body, anything that resembled her.  However, there were no children present; only adults trying to save the Villa.  Lin Bao Zhu grabbed Xiao Yao by the shoulder and pointed to a building about to collapse from the engulfing flames.  Nodding his head, Xiao Yao sped over to the other end, where Yue Ru’s room was located.  As Xiao Yao began to descend, Lin Bao Zhu leapt off and disappeared into the smoldering flames.

“Lin Bao Zhu!” Ling Er called, before she inhaled smoke into her lungs.

The giant sword landed with a thud as Xiao Yao recalled it to a pouch on his side.  Coughing, he grabbed Ling Er’s hand as Xiao Shi Tou jumped onto her.  Together they ran, hunched over, towards Yue Ru’s room.  Xiao Yao’s stiff arm stopped them momentarily as a piece of the roof fell crashing to the ground in front of them.  Along the walls, the scrolls and cultured paintings were long lost in the fire, charred to ash as the once beautiful Lin Villa was quickly disappearing in the blazing inferno.  Their breathing became heavier as they increased their movement.  A giant column came swinging towards the trio as its foundation was eaten away.  Screaming, Xiao Shi Tou froze in fear as he stood in its path.  Xiao Yao quickly turned around and slid his fingertips across the ground to keep his balance.  Lunging towards Xiao Shi Tou, he grabbed hold of the little spirit and tumbled to safety as he kicked the column to the side.  Xiao Shi Tou’s breathing increased dramatically, sucking dry his pant leg that had loosened.

“Stop it, Xiao Shi Tou!  Keep a hold of yourself – you’re going to hyperventilate!” commanded Xiao Yao as Ling Er rubbed the miniature monk’s back.  She removed the piece of cloth and tucked him into her dress and told him to take slow, short breaths.  Xiao Shi Tou listened obediently and fell against Ling Er as his breathing returned to normal, causing him to be slightly light-headed.  The smoke wasn’t helping, either.  As they approached Yue Room’s room, the door was still closed.  Rushing with quick, small steps, they remained on alert for surrounding hazards and climbed the stairs leading to their target.

The giant door suddenly smashed open, coming off its hinges in sharp pieces.  Ling Er’s eyes became wide as the wood came sailing towards them.  Unsheathing his sword, Xiao Yao jumped in front, deflecting the incoming projectiles while holding Ling Er and Xiao Shi Tou behind him with his free arm.  Following the door came Lin Bao Zhu, tumbling out of his daughter’s room with his face blackened from the smoke and ash.

“Lin Bao Zhu!  Are you ok?  Where’s Yue Ru?!”

“*cough* Not *cough* There’s no trace of her body in there, only the corpses of some of my servants *cough*.”

Horrified, they looked to see the bodies of four people, all bloodied with swords sticking out of them at twisted angles.  Two of them still had their eyes open, piercing their hearts with emotionless gazes.  Xiao Yao broke away from their dead eye contact and yelled at Lin Bao Zhu.

“What?!”

“I said, we need to get out of here.  If we stay any longer, we’ll become as lifeless as they are!” Xiao Yao motioned towards the dead bodies in Yue Ru’s room.  With frustrated enthusiasm, Lin Bao Zhu nodded his head in agreement.  The group then ran through the garden, hoping that nature would be more kind than the architectural environment they had just braved.  At least, they thought, the greenery would not burn as easily.

“Behind these walls is an open field.  We should be able to reach safety if we get past that point!” said Lin Bao Zhu as he filled his blade with energy.  Running straight towards a wall at the end of his garden, his feet left the ground as he struck the wall, which crumbled to pieces.  Xiao Yao felt Ling Er’s hand slip as they ran through the holes that Lin Bao Zhu made in a series of walls.  He quickly turned around and jumped to his wife’s side, picking her up as he continued to run after Lin Bao Zhu.

*CRASH*

They kept running for some time after they reached the field to escape the large amount of smoke that filled the afternoon sky.  As they caught their breath, Ling Er looked across the field.

“Xiao Yao gege, look over there!”  Ling Er pointed to a man who was busy fighting off twelve other men.  He had long white hair, which was covered in black soot and ran halfway down his back.  On his head rested a sturdy straw hat that hid his face as his head continued to tilt downwards.  His blue tunic tugged back and forth as he sidestepped away from the other men.

“Fly, Auron!” A beautiful grey falcon with black talons flew from his shoulders, attacking one of its master’s opponents.  The fighter swung a long staff with his right arm, landing a strong blow into two stomachs with a thud as the victims fell motionless to the ground.  The attackers wore dark clothing with their heads wrapped in red cloth turbans.  The remaining ones surrounded the man and charged in.  Smiling, he turned swiftly and gracefully as he removed his hat and hurled it at an attacker coming from behind.  The spinning bundle of straw struck the man in red in the center of his chest, sending him flying backwards.  The man looked up, revealing a pair of large, red eyes that struck fear into his enemies.  He was now facing in Xiao Yao’s direction.  In his left arm, sticking out from the man’s tunic, Xiao Yao saw another body.  He had been carrying a small child while he fought the men off.

“Yue Ru!” cried Lin Bao Zhu as he rushed towards the battleground, taking out three bodies with his entrance alone.

“Xiao Yao!  I think those are members of Bai Yue’s cult!” Ling Er shot an energy blast, hitting one of them that was about to strike the white-haired man’s back.  Peering over, he flashed a grateful smile at Ling Er.  Before Xiao Yao could join the battle, it was already over.  Lin Bao Zhu had knocked out the remaining opponents and now had his sword pointed at the man in blue, demanding the return of his daughter’s body.

(Author’s Note: Meet Li Guo Bing, the man with long, white hair, a pet falcon and eyes tinted red.)

“Hey, put that thing away from me.  I’ve no quarrel with you, sir.”  He stood calmly with his staff resting on his shoulder.  Lin Bao Zhu tried his best to calm down before speaking again.  Taking deep breaths, he lowered his sword.

“That girl you have there is my daughter.  Please, give her back to me.”

“Oh, her?” The man lifted his arm to reveal the unconscious, mostly lifeless body of Yue Ru.  Smiling, he lowered the body to the ground as Ling Er and Xiao Yao stood by Lin Bao Zhu’s side.  He put his hands up and slowly backed away from Yue Ru.  Lin Bao Zhu rushed to his daughter’s side and held her in his arms, calling her name and stroking her hair as he fell to his knees.  He knew she couldn’t hear him, but he had missed her so much that it didn’t matter.  Xiao Yao stepped in front of Lin Bao Zhu, followed by Ling Er.

“We thank you for your help, but who are you?  And what happened here?” asked Ling Er.

“My name is Li.  Li Guo Bing.  And this, is Auron.  We were just passing through and saw a huge fire.  Being the concerned citizen that I am, I tried to save anyone trapped inside it.  But when I got here, the only one not bloody or decapitated was this little girl.  As soon as I picked her up, these men surrounded me, chased me out here, and attacked me.  Hmph – fools *snicker*.  And who might you be, miss?”

“I’m Li Xiao – ” Li Guo Bing walked right past Xiao Yao without taking so much as a glance at the young warrior.

“You, maiden, are simply exquisite, smoke stains and all.  I must have your name.”

Ling Er glanced at Xiao Yao before answering, “My name is Zhao Ling Er.  Once again, thank you, Li Guo Bing, for helping us save our friend.” Xiao Yao gritted his teeth and took a deep breathe.  Who is this guy?  And who the hell does he think he is coming on to Ling Er?

“It was no trouble at all, miss Ling Er.”  Grinning slightly, Guo Bing stared into Ling Er’s eyes and partly squinted his own.  His left knee hit the ground as he reached for Ling Er’s hand, wanting to kiss it.  Seeing this, Xiao Yao’s nostrils flared as he quickly jumped in front of Guo Bing.

“That’s Mrs. Ling Er to you.  She’s my wife.  We’re very happily married and have a wonderful child named Yi Ru. It’s nice to meet you.” Xiao Yao slid his hand into Guo Bing’s and squeezed – hard.  Chuckling, Guo Bing turned to Xiao Yao.

“Yes, yes.  It’s very nice to meet you…er, uh…Xiao Mao.”

“That’s Xiao Yao.”

“But of course.  Lady Ling Er, I’m delighted to make your acquaintance as well.” Once again, Guo Bing tried to touch Ling Er by making a few long strides around Xiao Yao.  Running his hand through his bangs, he flashed his most charming smile at Ling Er.  Dumbfounded, Ling Er feared that Xiao Yao’s jealousy would get the best of him, causing him to disrespect the man who saved Yue Ru.  She quickly back peddled and gave a slow bow to Guo Bing, who nodded and stood up straight, stretching his arms into the air.  Then, flexing his chest and filling it with air, he turned to Xiao Yao and placed a hand on his shoulder.

“So, friend, who is she?”

“A very good friend of ours.” Xiao Yao looked from Guo Bing’s hand to his face, forcing a painful smile.  If it weren’t for Ling Er, he’d have knocked this clown’s teeth in already.

“Ah, I see.  So, where you folks headed?  I, myself, am headed to Mt. Shu.”

Lin Bao Zhu, still holding Yue Ru, had been listening the entire time.  He looked at Guo Bing with untrusting eyes.

“The burning rubble you see before you used to be my estate.  What business do you have at Mt. Shu?”

“Oh, nothing too significant, I suppose.  The martial arts reputation there is unrivaled.  I was hoping to enroll as a disciple.”  Guo Bing twirled his staff as he paced back and forth, getting ever closer to Ling Er, who had joined Lin Bao Zhu with Yue Ru.  Xiao Yao glared at him as he occasionally sent his wife knowing glances and flirty gestures.

“Oh, by the way, would you happen to know who those men were that attacked me?” asked Guo Bing, staring at Ling Er.

“We think they’re members of a cult that used to be led by a man named Bai Yue.  Have you heard of him?”  Xiao Yao answered.

“No, can’t say that I have.  But they seemed very violent and extremely unreasonable.  To think, such ugly men attacking a dashing, handsome hero like myself.” Guo Bing puffed his chest out towards Ling Er as she coughed and looked at Yue Ru.

I’ll show him… Xiao Yao laughed to himself as he walked over to Guo Bing. “You know, the master of Mt. Shu, his younger discipleship brother was my master.  And the master himself, he’s actually a good friend of ours.”  Xiao Yao placed his hands on his hips, looking towards the sky.

Ling Er looked at her husband disapprovingly.  What is he thinking?  He saved Yue Ru.  Treat him with respect, Xiao Yao gege, but don’t instigate him!…

“Oh, really?!  Then you can put in a good word for me!  C’mon pal, I saved your friend.  And both of us are named Li.  Help me out!” Guo Bing wrapped his arm around Xiao Yao, who looked at Ling Er.  Her eyes slightly widened as she quickly and nonchalantly shook her head ‘no’.  Though she was grateful for Guo Bing’s help, she was no fool.  She could smell trouble.  Lin Bao Zhu stared at Xiao Yao coldly, wondering what the young man would do now.  In a small voice, Xiao Shi Tou whispered to Ling Er, “See, I told you, you married an idiot.”  Sensing the tension from his companions, Xiao Yao quickly refused, making up as many excuses as would come to mind.  Even if they were to see him again later on Mt. Shu, they could always make up some kind of explanation.  Auron, who had remained silent this entire time, flew to Ling Er and landed in her lap, nestling its head against her stomach.

“That tickles!”

“He seems to like you, and who can blame him?” Guo Bing stretched out his forearm and whistled, calling Auron back to him.  Returning to his request, he looked towards Lin Bao Zhu.

“I saved your daughter.  Shouldn’t you be indebted to me?”

Lin Bao Zhu stared at the ground.  Despite his own feelings, his pride would not allow him to refuse this man’s request.  He owed him too much.  If not for him, Yue Ru would be…  Ling Er looked at the old master as his defenses were crumbling.

“We’re actually going to Mt. Shu.  Perhaps we’ll see each other – ”

“How convenient!  For what reason?  Visiting old friends, I’ll bet!  Perhaps we can go together.  I wouldn’t mind the company.” Guo Bing interrupted Ling Er, sending her another smile.

I AM an idiot.  What have I done?  Xiao Yao looked from face to face, examining what was going on.  Was this clown really going to travel with them?

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