Perfect World Chapter 19 – Return to Mt. Shu

on 08 21, 2010

Sheng Gu rocked Yi Ru in her arms back and forth, cooing softly into the small child’s ear as she pat her back in rhythmic motions.  Her thoughts drifted to the whereabouts of Ling Er and the others once again, as they had been doing for the past two weeks.  It had been almost a fortnight and still they had received no word from their friends.  To make matters worse, they discovered that the dreadful tower of Mt. Shu had been mysteriously resurrected during Du Gu Jian Sheng’s absence.  It had already claimed the lives of half a dozen Mt. Shu disciples before Jian Sheng once again sealed it off.  No one who set foot near the tower’s ghostly entrance was able to return alive.  A dark, thick fog had surrounded the tower, cascading eerily over the stone steps that led towards the main training grounds.  Sheng Gu was interrupted from her thoughts by Yi Ru’s faint cries.  She must miss her mother, thought the fairy woman.  Sighing slightly, her eyes turned to the window, where she saw Jian Sheng training with his disciples.  The Mt. Shu disciples came to be everything she expected them to be; well, at least they fit the descriptions she had heard from Qing Er, Ling Er’s mother, and other travellers of the martial arts world.  Obedient and disciplined to the core, they seemed to be at much unrest with having a woman within their midst.  Despite efforts to conceal it, some still knew the story of Giang Ming and the demoness he returned with – the incident that resulted in the merciless slaughter of their master’s senior brothers.  Others had lived on the mountain their entire lives, and had little to no experience in relations or interaction with women.  And, although Jian Sheng had commanded them to treat Sheng Gu with respect and with warm welcome, she could still sense a feeling of unrest among the group of men.

A sudden knock came at the door and a pair of Mt. Shu disciples dressed in their usual attire of blue and white bowed before her.  They had brought a fresh change of clothes for her and Yi Ru.  After setting the garments in Sheng Gu’s free arm, they waited for her to excuse them before returning to their regularr duties.  Examining the attire, Sheng Gu smiled as she thought to herself that Mt. Shu was no more used to accommodating women and children than when they first arrived.  She had been changing back and forth between men’s robs and her old dress while Yi Ru had bed sheets to keep her warm.  Even during meal times, the disciples were unusually quiet.  Respecting their feelings, Sheng Gu had volunteered to eat indoors with Yi Ru after the first few days and noticed an almost immediate change in the level of conversation between the men.  She didn’t wish to label them as ignorant or haughty, but rather, perhaps prude and somewhat childish.

It was well past noon.  If news failed to arrive by nightfall, they were supposed to go into hiding.  Sheng Gu peered into the innocent eyes of Yi Ru as she felt little fingers wrap around her finger.  She silently prayed that nothing had happened to Ling Er and Xiao Yao, and also, for the safety of Lin Bao Zhu.  She had tried to push the identity of the guardian spirit who had summoned the young couple from her mind.  All she could do was speculate, anyway.

“Where are your parents, little one?” Sheng Gu wrapped the new set of bed sheets around Yi Ru’s bare body, tucking her into the small, wooden crib that Jian Sheng had his disciples quickly throw together.  Stroking the top of Yi Ru’s warm head, Sheng Gu began humming a soft lullaby as she stared off into space.

*Whoo…whoo…*  Ling Er watched as Xiao Yao changed how he stood again and again while panting heavily and flailing his arms around in a pose each time.  She chuckled at her husband’s sudden flamboyant behavior.  She couldn’t blame him, though.  She, too, was excited about being reuinited with Yi Ru.  Her eyes fell upon the painting in her hands.  Oh, what a perfect world it would be if the painting’s tale could become reality.

“Ling Er ah, do you think Yi Ru’s been eating?  I wonder if she’s taken her first steps yet.  Or, what if she’s spoken her first words.  Or what if – ”

“I’m sure everything’s okay, Xiao Yao gege.  We didn’t miss anything.”

They had been travelling without rest for the entire day, foregoing lunch in order to reach Mt. Shu quicker.  Lin Bao Zhu had seemed aloof ever since he gave Yue Ru another dose of medicine.  His mind focused on what Jin Yuan told him about the tower of Mt. Shu, the curse that had killed his daughter the first time, and how her soul was now trapped within its reconstructed haunted walls.  He was determined to save her at any cost.

“Look!  I can see the mountainside clearly from here!”  Xiao Shi Tou pointed ahead of them through the lofty clouds.  They were close.  Lin Bao Zhu looked at the young man seated in front of him.  For claiming that his wish was to be a Mt. Shu disciple, Li Guo Bing didn’t seem to be very excited.  As if reading his mind, Guo Bing stood up and pushed Xiao Shi Tou aside as the edge of his hand met his forehead just above his eyes.

“Soon, I’ll be able to show off my abilities and be recognized – finally!”

Xiao Yao rolled his eyes.  ‘Yea, recognized as a giant fool…’ He hoped Jian Sheng would put Guo Bing in his rightful place.  If the old master frowned at him, Li Xiao Yao, he should not be able to stand Guo Bing.  A smile suddenly furled on Guo Bing’s face.  His eyes sparkled as he stretched out his arm.  Auron screeched as he took off into the sky and disappeared among the clouds.

Flying furiously against the wind, Auron shot downward towards the trees below.  Looking up, he saw the giant sword falling behind him as he bulleted across through the air.  Once he gained a good distance on the sword, he flipped over and wrapped himself within his grey wings as he began to transform.  Lowering his crossed arms, Auron revealed a sinister smile as he landed on the ground, somersaulting and tumbling backwards to account for the speed he had been flying before leaping from tree top to tree top towards a high cliff nearby.  Landing on his hands and knees, he turned around and peered into the evening sky.  A small breeze blew across his naked body, swaying his long, braided ponytail as he waited for the giant sword to fly by.

“Where did Auron fly off to?” asked Ling Er.

“Oh, he was feeling pretty restless, so I let him fly off some stress.”  replied Guo Bing as he wondered when his clansmen would attack.  Little did he know, Auron would be making the attack himself.

Lin Bao Zhu’s eyes suddenly widdened.

“Xiao Yao!  Look out!”  Before the swordsman could reach the young man, a series of condensed energy bolts came flying towards them.  Lin Bao Zhu quickly unsheathed his sword and deflected much of the first wave.  But before he could reach Xiao Yao, the young man had turned around at hearing his warning just in time for a bolt of energy to rupture his back, cutting him cleanly through the front of his chest and knocking him from the sword.  Xiao Yao struggled to breathe as his eyes remained open, watching the sword become smaller and smaller as he plummeted towards the ground below.  The pressure and force from his fall began pushing on his body as he saw his own hot blood floating above him.  His vision blurred as he spiraled uncontrollably with his body on fire with pain.

“Ling…E…Er…”  Xiao Yao’s cry was muffled in the wind as he lost consciousness.

“Xiao Yao gege!  Xiao Yao gege!”  Ling Er searched over the side of the sword for her husband as she screamed his name.  Lin Bao Zhu pulled back the sobbing, helpless girl as he turned to Xiao Shi Tou.  The sword was quickly losing altitude.

“You, find Sheng Gu and Jian Sheng.  Bring them here.  I’ll get Xiao Yao.”  Then, turning to Guo Bing, he quickly eyed him up and down before commanding him to take care of his daughter and Ling Er and dove after Xiao Yao.  Guo Bing grabbed Ling Er and Yue Ru and jumped from the sword as Xiao Shi Tou floated towards the mountainside.  Lin Bao Zhu watched as the the party escaped from the sword just before it crashed into the side of the mountain.  Returning his focus on finding Xiao Yao, he sped through the air with his arms tucked straight at his side.  The piercing wind made keeping his eyes open difficult as he squinted and small tears inevitably formed from the irritation.  Through the corner of his eye, he spotted a bloody body falling fast and hastened his pursuit.  A loud scream escaped from Lin Bao Zhu as he realized he wasn’t going to make it in time.

Making her way through the rustling leaves, Ling Er dragged a reluctant Guo Bing along by the hand, making Yue Ru bounce up and down on the young man’s back.  Though her heart desparately wanted to be with her Xiao Yao gege, to search for him, she knew she had to trust Lin Bao Zhu and make their safety a priority.  Xiao Shi Tou had already scaled up the mountain side and disappeared towards the main training grounds of Mt. Shu.  Guo Bing looked ahead.  If he wanted to, he was confident he could capture Nu Wa’s descendant right now – especially in such an emotional state.  He eyed the frantic girl gliding quickly over the ground in front of him with predator eyes.  A piercing call echoed in the air.  Auron had returned, flying above his master’s head.  Unphased, Ling Er continued to hasten towards the top of Mt. Shu, where she hoped to find Sheng Gu, Jian Sheng and Yi Ru waiting.

Sheng Gu ran quickly towards the group of disciples crowding around Jian Sheng.  Upon approaching, she heard a familiar voice.

“Xiao Shi Tou?!  Where’s Ling Er?  And Xiao Yao?  What of Lin Bao Zhu?”  She rushed to the out of breath monk, who was hastily trying in vain to explain the situation.  Stumbling for words, the small spirit’s eyes were wide open as beads of sweat dripped from his forehead.

“Give him room!” At Jian Sheng’s command, the Mt. Shu disciples fell back into well-formed lines.

“Xiao Yao…We were attacked!  He was deeply wounded before falling off his sword!”  Xiao Shi Tou continued explaining the situation as Ling Er arrived, escorted by a handful of Mt. Shu disciples, with Guo Bing and Yue Ru close behind.

“Sheng Gu!  Jian Sheng!  Xiao Yao, he – ”

“We know.  Xiao Shi Tou has already informed us.”

A bright, shining sword shot forward from its scabbard as its master clutched it in his hand.  Lin Bao Zhu swung upwards with all his strength, trying to slow Xiao Yao’s freefall, forcing the many leaves against the wounded warrior’s back.  Hurling his weapon, he increased his angle towards the rapidly approaching ground below.  The sword sliced into Xiao Yao’s shirt and tunic, across his chest and impaling the top of a large tree trunk.  Gritting his teeth, Lin Bao Zhu shot right beneath Xiao Yao as his clothes ripped, giving way almost on contact.  With his garments soaked in blood and the mercurial speed of their descent, the old master was not surprised that his ploy would only buy him a few fractions of a second.  However, it was enough to barely align himself horizontally with the injured Xiao Yao.  Seconds from impact, Lin Bao Zhu turned around and slowed his fall, making Xiao Yao’s back come in contact with his own.  Then, facing the ground, Lin Bao Zhu sent out wave upon wave of concentrated energy with the Lin fist.  The grass and earth quickly gave way beneath the strong attacks, forming a hole that became deeper and deeper with each additional strike.  Feeling the force of his attacks pushing him back, Lin Bao Zhu felt them slowing down.  He hoped it was enough as he released one final blow before he collided against the ground, with Xiao Yao still on his back.  He lost consciousness on impact.

“Jian Sheng!”  Sheng Gu’s voice reached the ears of the master of Mt. Shu.  They had just arrived a short distance from the training grounds when they spotted a deep hole in the ground.  Looking down, Sheng Gu spotted Xiao Yao’s and Lin Bao Zhu’s bloody bodies and quickly yelled for her friend.  The others had stayed in the main halls as guard while Ling Er, Sheng Gu, Jian Sheng and a dozen Mt. Shu disciples searched the mountainside for their wounded friends.  Jian Sheng appeared next to Sheng Gu with Ling Er by his side as they peered down.

“Xiao Yao gege!”  screeched Ling Er loudly as she lost feeling in her legs and collapsed to the ground on her hands.  Sobbing and wailing, the disillusioned princess of Nan Zhao Guo struggled to keep her eyes open as a continuous stream of tears forced them to shut.  Jian Sheng and Sheng Gu jumped into the hole and gently picked up the two bodies.  Flying out of the break in the ground, Sheng Gu turned to Ling Er and pulled her to her feet.

“Ling Er!  Pull yourself together!  They’ve both lost a lot of blood, especially your husband.  They NEED you!  Ling Er!  Do you hear me?!  You’re Nu Wa’s descendant – snap out of it!”

Checking their bodies, both men were still alive.  Lin Bao Zhu had broken his ribs and his left arm while Xiao Yao was in a terrible state.  A large wound that began on his back ran cleanly towards the front of his upper-right torso and was still bleeding.  Many of his bones were broken or shattered as well.

“We don’t have time.  Sheng Gu, Ling Er.  You take care of Xiao Yao.  Lin Bao Zhu’s injuries are not as severe.  I’ll tend to him.”  Jian Sheng laid the old master’s body to the ground and fell on his knees, clasping his hands together.  The Mt. Shu disciples formed a circle around the pair and focused their energies into supporting Jian Sheng.  Sheng Gu did the same, with Ling Er trying her best to stabilize herself.

“It’s no good.  He’s lost too much blood.”  Ling Er couldn’t believe her ears.  They’ve come so far; he couldn’t leave her now.  Holding his hand in hers, Ling Er murmured Xiao Yao’s name, looking desparately into his face and trying to think of happy thoughts.

“Ling Er, it’s no use – he’s in need of blood.  Normally, a person dies after losing forty to fifty percent of their blood blood capacity.  I fear the amount that Xiao Yao has lost is…”  Ling Er watched in horror as Xiao Yao stopped breathing.  Reaching for her husband’s sword, she unsheathed it and looked determinedly at Sheng Gu.  Nodding, the elder woman held the dying man in her arms.

“We’ll have to seal his wounds and heal him at the same time.  I’ll worry about directing the flow of your blood, but don’t give too much.  It’s useless if you both die.  Focus mainly on healing his injuries.”

Without responding, Ling Er slit her right wrist and focused with her left fingers.  The smaller two dug into her palm as she felt her blood leaking quickly from the open wound.  With just a few happy thoughts, she had once revived a group of villagers she accidentally slaughtered.  She had to save Xiao Yao.  Her eyes closed, Ling Er heard Xiao Yao cough and gasp for breath as she began to feel light-headed.

“Xiao Yao – !”  Lin Bao Zhu gasped as he came to and asked if he had made it in time, if he had slowed them down enough.  Jian Sheng did not respond.  He winced in pain, contracting his left arm as Jian Sheng continued to apply more force and energy.

‘Happy thoughts, joyful moments…’   Ling Er thought of the last night she spent with her Xiao Yao gege, when Yi Ru was born, the wonderful painting he made for her.  Opening her eyes slightly, she saw her charm bracelet emitting a faint light that became more and more brilliant.  As the illuminance became blinding, Ling Er shut her eyes tightly, and fell over, collapsing on the soft, fallen leaves beneath her.

“Ling Er gu niang!”

Leave a Reply