Perfect World Chapter 15 – A Little Charm

on 08 21, 2010

Xiao Yao walked side by side with Lin Bao Zhu.  Both men had their hands behind their backs with their noses in the air.  The younger swordsman took a deep breath of the brisk morning air.  His tired eyes continued to droop while the other’s simply stared in his direction.

“Hmph.  Look at you – it’s obvious you didn’t get enough sleep last night.  I don’t need company to buy Yue Ru’s medicine.  Return to the inn.  Be fully rested for the journey ahead.  No one else knows how to fly that sword of yours, do you understand?”

Chuckling, Xiao Yao threw his arms in the air and stretched as he yawned.

“I can’t.  I promised Ling Er I’d accompany you.  And I’m a man of my word.  Eight horses can’t – ”

“Save it.” Lin Bao Zhu’s heart stung at the words ‘man of my word’.  You allowed tragedy to befall my Ru Er…you failed to keep your word to me, Master Li…

The two continued walking in silence for a while.  According to the innkeeper, the medicine they needed was only sold at a store at the other side of town.  He didn’t seem too pleased, either, when Xiao Yao and Lin Bao Zhu woke him from his slumber for the second time in a day.  They also sensed an element of fear in the innkeeper’s voice when he spoke of the shop.

“Well, perhaps you don’t need my company.  But, don’t forget, I truly care for Yue Ru, too, and besides, I also promised Ling Er that I’d give her some time to talk to that Guo Bing character alone.  He was up even before you were.”

“Miss Ling Er wanted to speak with him alone?  What for?”

Xiao Yao was infuriated just thinking about it.

“That guy – he’s always staring at my Ling Er, like a giant pervert.  I’d like to squish him under my sandel.”  Xiao Yao grinded the tip of his sandel into the dusty ground.

“There’s something strange about him, all right.  But then again, there’s something awfully familiar when I look at him also.  I just can’t place my finger on it.  We’ll have to keep an eye on him.”

Ling Er inhaled deeply and nodded her head.  Knocking on Guo Bing’s door, she called his name.  After a moment of silence, the scurrying of quick feet could be heard as a figure approached the door and opened it.

“Who is it?”

“Xiao Shi Tou?  Is Guo Bing here?”

“Shhhhh.  Good morning, Ling Er jiejie.  Yue Ru is resting here now.  Lin Bao Zhu left her in my care before he and Xiao Yao set out to locate that medicine shop.” Xiao Shi Tou scratched and tilted his head as he tried to remember where his roommate went. “Well, he was here, but you just missed him.  He said something about going to look for something to do.”

“Oh, thank you, Xiao Shi Tou.  Hm, I guess I better go find him.  Be sure to take good care of Yue Ru jiejie, all right?” Ling Er bowed slightly before turning to leave.  The little monk smiled as he quietly closed the door.  He always enjoyed any conversation with Ling Er, despite the duration or the content.  She was always so sweet and gentle with him, and Xiao Shi Tou was grateful.  After all, everyone wants to feel appreciated, right?

Where could he have gone?  Ling Er tiptoed across the wooden floor and made her way to the stairs, trying not to make a sound.  It seemed as though none of the other guests have awakened yet.  The top stair creaked as she stepped down.  Shaking her head, she looked around before jumping over the railing and gliding down to the floor.

Guo Bing peered through the shutter blinds as he covered his mouth with his hand, trying to control his laughter.  This was going to be great.  His eyes shifted to Auron, who circled the dancing maiden before landing on her shoulder.

“Oh, well who are you?”  The young girl, who couldn’t have been more than fifteen or sixteen years of age, closed her fan as Auron fluttered his wings and perched in her free hand.  She giggled as the bird rubbed his head against her open hand.  Seeing his opportunity, Guo Bing sailed over the wall and landed with one knee touching the ground and an arm outstretched from his side.

“Auron!  There you are!”  Taking his time to get up, he brushed his bangs from in front of his face, staring at the girl.  Standing up straight, he grinned as he tilted his head sideways and in the direction of the surprised maiden.  “And who might you be, miss?  I must say, you are simply exquisite.”  Cooly, he stuck out his forearm, which Auron immediately flew to, and walked towards her.  She put her hand to her mouth as she turned away from him, blushing beet red.

‘Wow!!!  What a HANDSOME guy!!!’

Auron flew to a nearby tree as Guo Bing extended his other hand and lifted her chin, making her face him.  Her eyes, once wide-eyed when he first made his entrance, now looked dazed, staring dreamily at the man in front of her.  The smallest grin cracked on Guo Bing’s face as he fixated his gaze deeply into hers.  Inching his face nearer to hers, he once again asked her for her name.

“Jing Hua?  That’s a very beautiful name – quite melodious, in fact.  However, I feel that I must be honest with you, dear maiden.  I saw you dancing just now.”  His finger stroked her hair behind her ear and slid down her cheek.  “Dance for me?” Without waiting for an answer to his seductive whisper, Guo Bing stepped away from her and sat rigidly on a nearby bench without turning around.  Frozen in both fear and excitement, Jing Hua could only stare at him.  His eyes flashed red as they stared back, welcoming her into his presence.

“It’s okay.  Don’t be afraid.  Take your time, my dear.”

Looking at the ground, she quickly snapped open her fan and stood with it pressed against her knees.  She hoped he didn’t catch them bending when he told her not to be afraid.  After a brief moment of silence, Jing Hua bit her lower lip and began twirling her fan, arching her leg high into the air as she moved gracefully towards him.

Staring up at the hanging sign, Xiao Yao read, ‘Obscure Remedies & Ambiguous Charms’, aloud.  They had finally reached the other side of town.  It was definitely a bigger town than they expected.  It had looked so much smaller when they were on the sword.

“What kind of name is that?” Looking around, Xiao Yao ran his finger along the store entrance and stuck his tongue out with a disgusted expression as he saw that it was now covered in wet dust.  “Ugh.  Is that mold?”

Ignoring him, Lin Bao Zhu cleared his throat and stepped in, shifting his eyes from one end of the store to the other.  A collection of bottles of various sizes filled with fluids of a multitude of colors stood nestled on the far left rack.  Those wouldn’t help him.  The next rack was no more promising than its predecessor, containing furs and feathers that overlapped each other from being overstocked.  Xiao Yao stepped in beside his companion and started walking around.  Walking along the aisle with the rack of furs, he traced his hands along the many coats that were on display.  Suddenly, as his hand passed towards the middle of the rack, a big patch of fur moved out towards him.

“Ahh!  What the?!” Xiao Yao jumped back and rubbed his hand on his shirt, keeping his eye on the moving pile of grey hair.

The blob turned around and a small, wrinkled pair of hands appeared to split the grey hair in two, brushing it away to reveal a small, round face.

“Oh, I’m terribly sorry.  I didn’t notice you walk in.  You must excuse me, I’m not used to receiving customers this early in the morning – or at all, in fact.”  Looking over at Lin Bao Zhu, the figure exclaimed, “Oh, my!  Two customers!  That’s a new record!”  The old woman smiled, exposing a toothless grin as her face wrinkled up, causing her eyes to slant, squinting them more than they already were.  “How may I help you gentlemen?”

The shopkeeper looked over at Ling Er and smiled when she saw the mismatched sleeve on her right arm.  Walking over to her, she bowed her head and cupped her hands together in front of her chest.

“Hello, miss.  Is there something I can help you find?  Are you looking for anything in particular?”

“Good afternoon.  No, thank you.  I’m just browsing.” Ling Er replied with a sweet smile.

“That dress you have on is very pretty; but, somehow, I don’t believe that this is supposed to be part of the fashion.”  The shopkeeper pointed to Ling Er’s right sleeve as her eyes took in the princess’s beauty.  “You’re a very beautiful girl, miss.  Did that used to belong to your boyfriend?”

Clutching the sleeve in her left hand, Ling Er smiled and nodded as she blushed slightly.  “Actually, he’s my husband.”

“Oooh, how precious!  He must be quite the handsome and capable man.  Are you looking for a new dress to surprise him?”

“Well, I’m actually looking for a friend.  He left the inn that we’re all staying in earlier this morning before dawn.  I started looking for him shortly afterwards, but I still haven’t found him yet.”

“But my dear, it’s well past noon!  If you haven’t found him by now, I doubt you’ll find him any time soon.  Why don’t you stay here a while and pick out a nice, new dress for yourself?”

A bit hesitant, Ling Er hooked her finger and brought it to her mouth.  She did need a new dress, but she wanted to pick one out with Xiao Yao gege.  But they were probably going to leave early next morning and the shops would be closing soon.  Ling Er blinked and thought to herself that it had been a waste of a morning.  She failed to locate Guo Bing and still did not have anything to eat since last night’s dinner.  After some more thought, she looked at the shopkeeper and nodded her head, smiling with her lips pressed together.  If she was going to pick out a dress without her Xiao Yao gege, it would have to leave him perfectly wide-eyed and stunned.  Excited, both girls disappeared into the clothing store’s stock room, where Ling Er started to pick out dresses to try on.

A man in his middle ages sighed as he looped another glass bead onto a short, white string.  Society was rapidly going down the drain.  He found the atmosphere in the ‘Obscure Remedies & Ambiguous Charms’ shop to be exceptionally warm and inviting, despite what the majority of the townfolk said or thought.  He promised himself that he would be a frequent customer for the short, old woman if he lived in this town.  Or, at least he would be a frequent visitor.  His younger companion darted his tongue to the right side of his upper lip as he shut one eye, trying to focus on stringing the last bead that would fit on his own piece of string brfore tying it together, forming a gorgeous bead bracelet.  The old woman cackled as Xiao Yao lost his grip on the string of beads, watching it as the incomplete jewelry item fell to the floor, sending beads in multiple directions as he stood up in frustration.

“NOO!  That’s the second time, already!  NO!  I mustn’t have this attitude!  This charm bracelet will not defeat me!  I will make a beautiful one for my Ling Er!” Bending down, a determined Xiao Yao began picking up the green, yellow and white beads that had scattered along the ground once more.  “So, the other people in this town…they think you’re a witch and that your shop is cursed.  And that’s why you rarely have any customers?”

The old woman, who had only made herself known as Gu Ma, let her cackle subside as she sighed and nodded weakly.

“Only when they wanted to scare the wits out of visitors who ‘didn’t know any better’.  I came here hoping to sell enough mystic goods and supplies to return to my goddaughter quickly with some rare, but powerful, ginseng that I think would help her.  The ginseng I seek has not been found to be growing for ages.  I stumbled upon a gentleman who was willing to sell me some if I had enough money.  The sum, as to be expected, was enormous.  I thought I could make some fast money by marketing the many miracle cures I already know.  But, alas, business has been very slow.”

Lin Bao Zhu finished tying his bracelet together.  The red and grey beads alternated in sequence and seemed to glow when he held the bracelet up to the setting sun.  Gu Ma had said these charm bracelets brought unusual luck to the wearer, adding that even if there was no change, it’d still serve as a nice gift.  She had Xiao Yao’s attention when she offered to give them a discount on the medicine they bought for Yue Ru if they would each consider making one.  And, though it turned out that the charm bracelets were much more expensive than the medicine, both men were glad they stayed and made a new friend.

“People will be people, fearing what they cannot understand and condemning what they find to be different than what they’re used to.  Don’t worry about them, Gu Ma.  I’m sure your business will pick up soon.  You have only just set up this shop a little over a year ago.  Give it some more time and I’ll bet you’ll need to hire extra help!”  Lin Bao Zhu tried to encourage the old woman as she hunched over, holding up her head in her hands.

“I agree!  But, what’s wrong with your goddaughter?  Is she ill?”  Xiao Yao piped in as he started to string his bracelet for the third time, scoffing when Lin Bao Zhu told him to slow down this time.

“Well, it’s not something I can really freely discuss.  Let’s just say she’s striving to return to who she used to be.  Though, I guess her situation is not too unusual when compared to that of Master Lin’s daughter.  And even though I think she already has some help, I can’t just sit around and do nothing while my one and only goddaughter is unhappy, now can I?”

“I suppose not.  When those we love and care about are unhappy, it seems we’re all willing to go to any means to make them smile from the heart.  I guess that’s the beauty of the human heart.”  Xiao Yao continued to alternate the green and yellow beads, carefully inserting a pure white one in between each pair.

“It can also be considered a curse.  If the one we love and care about is our own self above others, then the innate selfishness within our hearts will breed and fester within us until we’re reduced to mere barbarians, the scum of the earth.”

“One must also consider the means we’re willing to settle with.  Even if, in the end, our goal is achieved and our loved ones are content, we could have brought much harm and suffering to those who are innocent, depending on the means.”  Lin Bao Zhu and Gu Ma replied to Xiao Yao one after the other, lightly laughing at their young friend.  Squinting his eyes, Xiao Yao chuckled as he understood what they were telling him.

“Well, one can only do what one can, be responsible for his or her own actions and considering the greater good.  Despite the reactions of others, one can only do one’s part, right?”

“Right.”  Lin Bao Zhu and Gu Ma answered in unison.

Jing Hua let out a deep breath she had tried to hold the entire time she had been dancing for Guo Bing.  She stopped with her back facing him, but quickly turned around to see the young man rolling around on the ground.  The charming and suave front had fallen, revealing a cruel and immature foundation.  It slowly occurred to Jing Hua that it had been a façade this entire time.  She hung her head low as she watched him lay on his stomache, pounding the ground with his fists as he laughed hysterically.

“That was the most STUPID dance I’ve ever seen!  And you know what else?!  You’re the most UGLY and clumsy girl I’ve ever seen!”  Guo Bing pointed at the poor, young girl as he slandered her harshly in midst of his laughter.  Jing Hua could feel the tears well up in her big, bright brown eyes.  Her hand quickly clutched her heart as she dropped her fan to the ground.  Falling to her knees, she looked at Guo Bing with her eyes darting up, down, left and right, trying to understand why he was making her suffer as she started to cry.  Guo Bing smiled smugly.  She was the tenth girl he had fooled that day.

Double digits, not too shabby!  Guo Bing turned around to leave when he heard yells coming from the opposite wall.

“There he is!”

“Is that him, meimei/little sister?!”

“Let’s get him!”

A large group of men, totaling nearly twenty bodies, came scaling over the wall and headed straight for Guo Bing.

“You’re going to pay for hurting our friends and sisters, you tricky, good for nothing bastard!  You’ll regret the day you set foot into our town!”  The leader screamed at Guo Bing while swinging a large sword in big circles above his head.

“Uh oh…that’s my cue to leave!  Auron!”  The falcon flew from a tree branch he had been perched on and flew around the group of men’s faces, flapping his wings furiously as Guo Bing somersaulted over the nearest wall and dashed through the streets towards the local marketplace.

This would be the fastest way back to the inn.  If I can return there without being seen, it should be okay.  His tall, thin body launched itself onto the roof of the first building he encountered as he sailed across the air onto the next roof.

Thanking Ling Er for her purchase, the shopkeeper wrapped her old dress in a box and returned it to her last customer of the day.  Bowing in gratitude, Ling Er took the package with both hands and blushed as she looked at herself in the mirror.  She hoped Xiao Yao gege would approve of her choice.  The shopkeeper, who had kept the store open a little later than usual for Ling Er, reassured her that if his jaw didn’t drop immediately at the first glance of his pretty wife, he was definitely not a real man.  It was getting late and Ling Er decided it was best if she returned to the inn.  The streets were already near empty.  Waving farewell, she turned and started walking.  Xiao Yao gege and Lin Bao Zhu should be on their way back to the inn as well.  Guo Bing might have returned as well.  She still regretted not having a talk with him.  A sudden, loud yell reached Ling Er’s ears as she looked above her.

“AHHHHHHHH!” *CRASH*  Guo Bing landed face first onto the ground in front of her with a loud thud.

“Guo Bing?!  Is that you?  Are you ok?”  Ling Er quickly approached the young man and helped him to his feet as his grey falcon hovered in the air above them.

“Stupid roof!  Whoever built you sucks!  Useless!  How dare you break upon contact with my royal foot!”  Guo Bing shook his fist at the top of the building he fell from as he snarled in embarassment.  “Ling Er?  Oh, why hello my –”

“THERE HE IS!  DON’T LET HIM GET AWAY!”  The angry group of men had caught up with Guo Bing when he slipped and fell from the roof.  Charging at him with weapons raised high, they growled in their thirst for vengeance, kicking up a huge dust cloud behind them.

“Guo Bing, who are these men?  What did you do to them?  We’re supposed to avoid unnecessary attention.”

“I dunno!  They’re crazy!  Let’s get out of here!” he lied as he grabbed her hand and started running in the opposite direction.  Looking back at her, Guo Bing flashed a giant smile.  “Hey.  Guess what?  I managed to make ten girls fall in love with me today.  How’s that for skill?”  Hearing Auron scream, he turned back around to find that he had led them into a dead end between two tall buildings.  “Well, IIIIII could easily scale these walls, but I fear for you, Ling Er!  Don’t worry.  I, the great Guo Bing, shall protect you.”

Disgusted, Ling Er shook her head as she sighed with frustration.  He really was a troublesome one.  She brought her hands together one on top of the other and stepped towards the appraoching men.  Sliding her right hand, her thumb connected with her index and middle finger, sending a small cloud of fairy dust hovering towards them.  One by one, they dropped their weapons and fell over to the ground.  Guo Bing walked over to the nearest one and waved a hand in front of his face.

“He’s….asleep?”

“Yes, for the time being.  Now, let’s leave quickly before we attract even more unwanted attention.”  Ling Er walked up to Guo Bing, placing her hand on his shoulder as she pulled.  “Come on.  We really should go.  Xiao Yao gege and the others are probably waiting for us already.”  Guo Bing stumbled backwards and turned around.

“I’m coming, geez!  Relax, will ya?”

The leader of the group grunted as he reached for Guo Bing’s foot.  Grabbing it, he used the last of his energy to hold on before falling to sleep as well.  Guo Bing’s momentum forced him forward, making him collide with Ling Er.

“Ahh!”  Ling Er fell to the ground as the package with her old dress flew out of her hands.

“Oops.  Hehe, sorry.”  Guo Bing landed on top of her back as his hands covered hers.  They watched as the the package sailed through the air, hitting a man in the leg as he passed by.  The man stopped abruptly as the package fell to the ground.  Turning, he looked over, scanning the sleeping bodies of the many men in the alley before halting his gaze at Ling Er and Guo Bing as his jaw immediately dropped.  Ling Er’s eyes moved from the package to the man’s feet and slowly looked up.  A slopping sound echoed in the alley as a fresh box of beef and broccoli with rice fell to the ground, spilling its contents.

“Oh, hey, Xiao Yao…Uh…What’s up?”  Guo Bing smiled innocently at the man who now had his fists clenched tightly.  He quickly got off his hands and rested on his knees, unconsciously making it appear as though he was straddling Ling Er.

“Xiao Yao gege…” Ling Er looked at her husband’s face.  He was going to explode at any second.  She had to do something.

“Ling Er.”  Xiao Yao’s eyes glanced at the open package to see his wife’s old dress.  His sleeve hung out, laying across his foot.  Gritting his teeth, he smiled with his lips pressed tightly together at his wife, hoping to let her know he did not wish to blame her for this distasteful scene.  Then, shfiting his eyes, he glared at Guo Bing as his smile faded into a stern crease.

“You…What do you think you’re doing to my wife?!  Oh, I’ve been waiting to do this for a long time now.”

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