This work of fiction is dear to my heart. I started this 7 years ago when I was in seventh grade. I had written a complete outline and had planned to edit it with the intentions to publish, or at least share with the world. So I had posted a few chapters online on winglin.net only to have it deleted a couple of years later. Now that I’m taking writing classes, I think this is a good opportunity to edit this work once again.
This chapter is the first edited chapter I submitted for my 10th grade creative writing class many years back. My writing style had changed since then, but I couldn’t bring myself to edit again since it was so well written. I can only hope I can regain this style again. January 8th, 2015: I edit some things in the chapter including names of places, grammatical and tenses errors, and revised some sentences to make it easier to understand. There’s no dramatic changes, so you don’t have to re-read it. However, it is recommended that you do. 😀
Since this is my first attempt at a soft Wuxia + Gong genre, please forgive me for any mistakes. I’m unfamiliar with the Chinese language, so please forgive me for that as well.
Chapter 1: Battle on the Mountainside
The sun is setting in the sky, reflecting it’s golden light upon the land below, as a young maiden, of seventeen summers, ran through the forest grounds, in hope of returning back to her village in time for the night’s celebration. Today is the first of winter, and as a tradition of the Three Lakes Village, there will be a festival to honor the gods, in return for their blessing upon the land for the fertility of the village’s latest harvest.
Zhang Lian Hua stopped to catch her breath, as she had been running for more than twenty minutes, and there is not much hope in returning to her mother before the festival begins. As a native of the land, Lian Hua deciphered the amount of time it takes to get back into her village from Mt. Hua, in which she had spent the majority of her lifetime, training in the art of swordplay and mastering her internal energy from the nuns who resided in the Moon Lake Temple at the top of the mountain.
Today, Lian Hua had been occupied in learning a new technique of mastering her internal chi that she overlooked the time in which she was supposed to return home. Looking up at the sky to predict how much time she had left, she calculated and leapt up, somersaulting over the trees, using her inner chi to carry her toward the village. If she cannot make it to her mother in time, she might as well meet her mother in the village, where she knew her mother will be waiting for her, knowing that she would be late for the festival.
With only ten minutes to spare, Lian Hua flew like lightning, balancing herself with her inner energy as she ran across the top of the trees. She smiled to herself as she smells the fresh chilly air that blew pass her. There were even small amounts of the cherry blossom scents that emanated from the village in the distance. She was getting closer to home.
Just as Lian Hua spotted lanterns lights from the distance, she suddenly heard the clanging of weapons echoing from the opposite direction of the village. Curious, she stopped, balancing her foot on one of the tree branch as she focused toward the source of the sound. Judging from the amount of weapons clanging against each other at the same time, there must be at least twenty men at battle, and they were not that far from the village.
Knowing that she should be heading toward her village for the festival, Lian Hua couldn’t suppress her curiosity and followed the source of the sound. Thanks to the power of her inner chi, she arrived at the scene. Hiding behind a tall bush, she peeked out and saw a man standing face to face with a group of five men dressed in black, their face masked. The sound of the clashing weapons had died down.
The man, she predicted, was in his late forties and was not a native of the land. He must have come from the city farther much farther north of her village, like a distant city or maybe even the capital. After taking a closer look at his armor and uniform, he didn’t look like any new comer from the central land that comes to visit her village when she was younger, but more like the soldiers she’d seen marching through mountain towards the border and the scouts that had come through her village market to buy supplies for their troops.
The sun had finally set and the crescent moon had risen in place, reflecting its light through the dark night. Lian Hua hardly moved a muscle in her body as she watched the men, whose showed no sign of movement from either side. Trying to ignore the foul smell of the dried blood from the dead soldiers and the bodies of the black-dressed men around them, she watched intently.
Sword stained with blood, the man showed no sign of stepping back nor did he showed any sign of fear in his eyes. Seeing him reminded Lian Hua of her late father who was well know among the region for his bravery and courage. Most people would dropped their weapons and flee for dear life, or maybe even get on their knees and begged for their life, losing any sense of dignity that they have.
After what seems like hours, the man lifted his sword pointing its tip toward the five men, who made no sign of retreating back. “I,” he spoke fearlessly, “Miao Jiang Feng, had never done anything to harm anybody out of military affairs. What have I done to upset you, and cause the blood of my men to scatter in place of mine?”
The men looked at each other, speaking not a word, making eye contact. One of them, probably the leader, nodded to his men and stepped forward toward Miao Jiang Feng. Holding his weapon by the handle, he clasped his left knuckle in his right palm. “My brothers and I have no feud against you, or with any of the men that came with you. However, these are orders from our higher officials and we had no choice but to abide by it.” He bowed his head and gathered himself into an offense position, his sword in an attacking stance. His actions are followed by the other four men behind him.
Miao Jiang Feng laughed. “Good. If you want to take my life, come and take it,” he said, also putting himself into an offense position. “Let’s see which one of you will have that potential.”
The rest of the men yelled and charged into their duel. Each of the five men moved into their position, surrounding Miao Jiang Feng. They retracted their sword and hauled it toward their opponent’s upper body. With all five men surrounding him, Miao Jiang Feng had no choice. He leapt up over the coming swords and somersault over the men’s head, swooshing his sword to slash their neck but they immediately withdrew their sword to fend it off.
Once landed, Miao Jiang Feng charged against his enemy as they came for him. On and on, they fought into the night, oblivious that Lian Hua had been watching them for more than thirty minutes from a nearby bush. The clashing of their weapons echoed into the night, the metal from the weapons reflected the moonlight at certain angles, causing Lian Hua to blink when the light reflected at her eyes.
At a glance, it looked as if both sides are equally strong, though the masked men were more likely to win because they outnumbered Miao Jiang Feng. However, at a closer look, she could tell that the one who was holding back was Miao Jiang Feng for there were times he could have taken the life of his opponents one by one. Fortunately for them, he had held back.
About another twenty minutes later, Miao Jiang Feng leapt up over the five men, swirled his sword around, and channeled his chi into the sword before thrashing it toward his opponents. Seeing the sword coming toward them, the men were forced to retreat 10 steps and dodge left or right, away from the sword speeding toward them. Unfortunately, only three of the men escaped. The other two, who were behind them, didn’t see the coming sword that flew right through their upper chests. Both men screamed as the momentum of the sword caused them fall backward and hit the ground with a loud thud.
The other three, upon seeing two of their comrades down, charged back at Miao Jiang Feng, this time screaming for more vengeance. Another ten minutes passed as Miao Jiang Feng still had the upper hand and the other three were now wounded from the impacts of their opponent’s sword. Miao Jiang Feng, who hadn’t landed, was in an upside down position with his hand thrusting his internal force to his three opponents, causing them to fall backward to the ground and dropped their weapons, which scattered close by. Just as they got back on their feet and hurry to grab their weapon, Miao Jiang Feng landed right in front of them, stopping them in their track. Without saying a word, he lifted his right hand toward them, causing fear in the men’s eyes.
With little effort, Miao Jiang Feng channeled his chi into his hand and used it to retrieve his sword, which landed about twenty-five feet in away from them after it flew through the two men, who laid lifeless on the ground not far from it. The sword flew right into his hand and Miao Jiang Feng sheathed it. Lian Hua watched in amazement, for she had never seen anyone capable of retrieving their sword from such a far distance. At least, other than her shifu, who had mastered the Advance stage of Moon Lake Abby’s greatest pride, the Silver Lotus Swordplay, which relied mostly on resilient internal energy.
Lian Hua was currently in the beginner level of the Intermediate stage of the Scripture, but even she could only retract her weapons at only twelve feet. Miao Jiang Feng must have cultivated his chi to the fullest, for he didn’t seem to use much effort to retrieve his sword from such a distance. She would have to practice for at least another five more years for her to be at his level.
The three men looked at each other. “What should we do brothers?” One of them asked. “We failed to the mission they gave us. They would take our lives for sure.”
“There’s nothing we can do,” the one who seemed to be the youngest cut in. He looked at Miao Jiang Feng with hatred. “There’s only one option. We’ll fight to the death! If we were to die, we’ll take him with us!” Without warning, he reached down and grasped his sword tighter, which was two feet away from him, and charge forward, ready to strike his opponent.
Unfortunately, the other two reached out to grab him, stopping him in his track. “Let me go!” he yelled as he shrugged them off, but their grips were tight on his shoulder.
“Li Mu! Don’t be impulsive!” the leader, she guessed, yelled at him.
Miao Jiang Feng clasped his left knuckle into his right palm. “I beg for your forgiveness. If I, General of the Great Dragon Legion, had caused trouble for the three of you, I will be happy to assist you in any way I can,” he said calmly as he bowed his head in respect.
At first, Lian Hua was a bit taken back by his response to the ones who tried to take his life. However, seeing how Miao Jiang Feng had held back earlier and computing his attitude toward his enemy, she knew that he wanted to make friends more than foe.
“We don’t need your good deed!” Li Mu retorted back, his shoulder still in the grips of his two companions.
General Miao looked at the other two, who looked away from him, but with a more respect than Li Mu. He laughed and replied, “Good. You can’t help others without their consent. If you don’t need my help, then I’ll take my leave here.” He nodded too the three men and turn to leave.
However, Li Mu suddenly shoved his companion’s grips off his shoulder and charged forth toward the general. “Stop! Miao Jiang Feng!”
Having let his guard down, Miao Jiang Feng turned, expecting to face Li Mu. Instead he only faced two puffs of white smoke that flew directly at his eyes. “Ach!” he screamed as he realized that the white smoke was a poison that had already penetrated the eyes, causing him his vision to blur. Luckily, he shut his eyes in time and used his inner chi to force come of it out. Otherwise, he will become blind.
Meanwhile, as the general was trying to recover from the sudden attack, Li Mu seized the opportunity, raised his blade across him, ready to strike his opponent’s upper body as he came toward him again. “Die!”
“Li Mu!” his fellow members screamed after him as his blade come down to strike his foe. The leader of them suddenly leapt up toward Li Mu, trying to stop his friend from doing anything rash. ”Stop it right now!”
Unfortunately, the effort to stop his companion was intervened by a white flash that flew right by him and toward his destination. Before anyone can comprehend, a loud clash of two blades was heard, and Li Mu felt a blow to his chest by a strong but unknown force, causing him to fall back a few feet from his target. It was then followed by nothing but dead silent and the breathings of the four men on the forest ground.
Everyone watched in astonishment as the white flash turned out to be a young woman. Her hand wielded a thin sword, in which she pointed toward Li Mu, and her face was firm with anger and distaste. Li Mu quickly recovered from the sudden blow and faced the unidentified woman with great anger. “How dare you interrupt me, little girl,” he stated as he lifted his blade against her. “No one attacks me from behind and get away with it!” As he finished the sentence, he leaped forward and struck.
Lian Hua smiled at Li Mu as she channeled her chi into her hand and used it to thrust her sword forward with great strength and momentum that forced Li Mu to retract his blade and take a few steps back. She then retracted her sword and took a step forward to Li Mu as the other two men came and stood behind him. “Li Mu, are too much! How can you consider yourself a man?” she yelled at him. “How can any of you consider yourself worthy of being a man? Sneak attack isn’t a deed of a real man!” Before any of the three can react, she swiftly turns and rushed to the General’s aid. “General Miao, are you alright?”
The general, who had succeeded in forcing most of the poison out, was able to recover from his shock and was listening intently to the situation, although he still cannot open his eyes. “I’m all right,” he answered as she helped him straighten up. He clasped his knuckle to his palm again and thanked her. “Thank you, xiao gu niang , for helping me. If it wasn’t for you, I will be dead. This deed, I will never forget for the rest of my life.”
Lian Hua smiled and nodded, grateful that he was all right and that she had done the right thing. She wanted to clasp her knuckle too, but there is no use since he couldn’t see. “General Miao doesn’t have to thank me. I cannot just stand and watch others committing such dishonorable deeds.”
He smiled at her. “You are such a good person, xiao gu niang. But I still have to thank you for saving my life. If you ever need anything, I will gladly repay you. But for now, I am still under the influence of the remaining poison and still cannot see,” he informed her. “Xiao gu niang, please leave quickly. They will kill you if you don’t go now. Go. I cannot protect you in the condition that I am in.”
Lian Hua ignored him and turned to the three masked men. “This is not any of my business and I am sorry for meddling into your affairs. But you had not fight a fair battle and therefore lost. I suggest you should admit defeat and let the general come with me before words of this get out.”
“Insolent girl!” Li Mu spurted back and stepped forward to face her. “Who do you think you are, intruding in our affairs? I suggest you run along and go back to where you come from. This is no place for a child.”
Lian Hua kept calm even when she was insulted. It is a skill required when practicing the Silver Lotus Swordplay, which requires patient, determination, and intelligent to master the final Advance Stage. Thanks to the past fifteen years of training, patient had become second nature for her.
Choosing to ignore the man, Lian Hua continued. “But if you disagree, junior will be pleased to learn a thing or two from the three of you.” She smiled as she bowed her head slightly and clasped her knuckle into her palm, although much to her unlinking. Unfortunately, in the Jiang Hu , it was a required courtesy used even with your enemy to show your acknowledgement, if not respect.
Although masked, Lian Hua could read the expression of the three; surprised and confused. It’s not everyday that a simple girl would walk up to them and challenged them to a duel. Nor did they expect her do it in order to help the foe that their employer hired them to exterminate. Without having to ask, she already knew what they thought of her; simple and with little sign of martial art in her character. Her mother had ingrained into her the traditional ways of a Chinese woman when she was but a small child. Her father, on the other hand, sent her to Moon Lake Abby when she was two so she could start her training in martial arts.
Having never ventured far from her home or the abbey, Lian Hua considered herself unworldly. She knew nothing of Jiang Hu and the outside world. Although there were times when she must used her knowledge as a pugilist disciple in order too complete tasks and missions assigned to her and her martial sisters once every few years, she knew that there was more to learn. Still, while she was unfamiliar with the outside world, her shifu did not have useless students. Lian Hua had spent the last fifteen years, mastering almost all of Moon Lake Abby’s skills. While she is not as powerful as her shifu and a few of her senior martial sisters, she knew enough to protect herself and make her shifu proud. The only downside is that people often underestimated her and put their guard down, turning it into an unfair battle.
Li Mu was the first one to react. He stepped forward and laughed mockingly at her. “Good! You’re such a brave girl, xiao gu niang,” he said, as his eyes scanned her from head to toe. “It’s not everyday that we get a challenge from a mere girl.” He lifted up his right knuckle and clasped it into his left palm. “Forgive me if I hurt you!” Even as he said that, he lifted up his blade and charged for her, sweeping his blade across her lower body. Already predicting this move, Lian Hua leapt up before his blade even came in contact with her. She somersaulted over him, landed, and like lightning, she turned to point the tip of her sword at the center of his throat the moment he turned to face her. He could’ve avoided it, but Lian Hua knew that he was hard temper and acted more impulsively than his other two comrades, giving her this advantage.
Li Mu stood still, not moving a muscle, as he lifted his chin up to avoid the sharp tip of the blade.
“You lost,” Lian Hua finished his sentence for him. She smiled as she turned halfway and looked over her shoulder at the other two, her blade still at Li Mu’s neck, putting him at her mercy. “Do you want to challenge me?” she asked. When there was no answer, she added, “My name is Zhang Lian Hua, a disciple of Moon Lake Abby atop Mt. Hua. If you feel this battle was unfair, you can go and ask for me there. Unfortunately right now, you three had lost. Therefore, I won the right to take General Miao with me.”
She retracted her sword, give it a swirl, and sheathed it in less than a second before she completely turn to face the two brothers. Clasping her knuckle into her palm and bowing her head slightly. “Junior is sorry if she had offended any of you. But I have one more request; may I have the antidote to cure General Miao? You had lost to him already, and he could’ve have taken your life very easy if he hadn’t held back. I’m sure that all of you knew that. Therefore, consider that giving him the antidote is a payment for sparing your life.”
“No!” Li Mu yelled behind her, now free from her blade, but was debating whether he want to take her from behind. However, Lian Hua wasn’t afraid, for she was faster and could predict his moves very easily. “We cannot. What would people think of us if we lose to her?”
“Li Mu,” the leader of them said sternly. He gave Lian Hua a glance before looking at Li Mu.
“She’s right. We already lost. If we’re to continue and don’t admit defeat, we will lose any sense of dignity we have.” He turned to his other comrade. “Ah Fu, give her the antidote.”
“Ah Fu! Don’t!” Li Mu called.
Ah Fu looked at the leader, who nodded. “Give it to her. Ignore Li Mu.” And that was all it takes for him to walk over to Lian Hua as he took the antidote out of his shirt and handed it to her. Lian Hua took it, thanked him, and returned to the general’s side. After grabbing a hold of the his arm, she looked back at the three. “You three are not as bad junior expects you to be. I believe that if you change your ways and do good deeds, people will only respect and live up to you.”
“Xiao gu niang, are you alright?” the general asked once she was at his side. “General, we can go now,” she informed as helped him lead him in the opposite direction, leaving the scene of the battle. The smell of the deceased were already getting to her, and she doesn’t want to spend the rest of the festival among the dead.
“Miss Zhang,” the leaders suddenly called her to a halt when she almost exited the scene into the dark path among the trees. She stopped but didn’t turn to face the. Instead, she sighed and replied, “I believe that you are not bad and was only doing what commanded of you. But if you are truly a hero, please burry the remains of those you have slain by your blades and reconsider my words.” As she finished her sentence, Lian Hua leapt up and disappeared into the dark forest in the night, with the General by her side.