Hi Guys, So I think some of you are talented writers. Perhaps you're not satisfied with the ending of some wuxia stories. Perhaps you often dream of becoming a hero in your wuxia story. Then why don't you write it down and share your story to us?
OK, I'll try... I started this a long time ago and plan to finish it as well - but I lack the time and the inspiration right now. I've yet to incorporate some of the suggestions and corrections by my beta-reader, so this is still a very rough version of the story...
Most of you should be familiar with the source material... ;-)
She was dancing on the bank of the mountain river like a willow leaf riding the back of a summer breeze. Like many other women that roamed the martial world, she was dressed in men's clothes and usually wore her hair tied up in a simple topknot. It made traveling that much easier. No one in their right mind could mistake her for a man, though. Her every motion overflew with grace quite unmistakably feminine and her rather voluptuous silhouette couldn't possibly leave anyone in doubt. The once spotless white of her clothes was somewhat worn now, bearing the patina of many days on the road, but it still shined proudly. The silk ribbon in her hair was flowing and twisting like a white snake in the water. Her goose-quill sabers, usually carried in a pair of richly decorated sheaths on her back, were now unsheathed and wheezing, sighing and whistling as they cut through the air. She knew that he was watching and she was showing off.
The woman had been following Cheung for weeks now. She had sort of joined him in Kaifeng about a month earlier, but she must have had been looking for him for a while already. And yet she kept her distance once she found him. She never approached him and never attempted to address him, though she was careful not to lose the sight of him or at least of his tracks. He often observed her, measuring her up for possible weaknesses and analyzing her as he would any potential opponent. Her well-measured, confident gait and the lightness of her steps were clear indicators of a superior qing gong. Cheung had seen her climb up steep hills and descend even steeper valleys with incredible speed and ease. He'd observed her practice her routines and found her skills quite remarkable for one of her age.
Of course, apart from being a potential enemy, she was also a woman – and Cheung was all man. Even as he examined her moves to find out any flaws or recurring mistakes (he noticed occasional carelessness and general lack of precision – subtle but potentially fatal should she encounter a stronger, faster opponent), he couldn't help but appreciate her lovely form (and he found that to be quite flawless). She was rather small-breasted (he liked that) and she had a slender waist, lovely round hips, and shapely, firm thighs. She had a pretty heart-shaped face and truly striking, almost cat-like eyes - big, bright, and eloquent. There was something familiar about her features, though Cheung couldn't for the life of him put his finger on what it was.
He hoped against all odds that this was not just an unnecessarily long and unnecessarily ostentatious prelude to yet another duel challenge. He had come to like his present company – or rather to feel like he'd like her should he get to know her better. But there was obviously a purpose behind all this and experience had taught him that people following him around were usually bad news. His name clung to him like a dead weight and the blood dripping off its blunted edge attracted wolves, tigers, mosquitoes and flies alike.
Once he used to be Cheung, the Magic Sabre... But that chap had been gone for years now. He used to be young, full of vigor, wearing a grin across his face and his heart on the palm of his hand. He had died a violent death.
They called Cheung by his given name now. Saam – three. Sometimes Saam Dou. He always carried three blades with him, wherever he went - a sabre and two swords. The less conspicuous of the swords had been nameless before Cheung came to possess it but now everyone in Jianghu called it Green. A fine blade it was, though far from spectacular. Its simple but elegant hilt and guard made of yellow bronze showed some solid skill and good taste on part of the weapon smith who crafted it. The scabbard was coated with snakeskin and the color of its bronze throat and chape matched that of the handle. At first sight and even upon closer inspection it seemed like a good sword that might fetch a good price at a market but not much more than that – unlike the other blade.
That one had been named long before Cheung acquired it. It had been named long before he was even born. Moonlight. A fitting name for an exquisite weapon. The gilded guard and the hilt were crafted with such precision and such attention to detail that one could study them for hours and still be fascinated. The surface of the scabbard was covered with rich, deep red velvet and decorated with gold and mother of pearl. The sword gave off a cool, rigid aura and the air around it always seemed a notch colder. Moonlight was one of the Legendary Thirteen, ancient weapons made of mysterious, rare materials, designed to absorb and channel energies. Some of them helped to cultivate the chi of the wielder, while others drained the chi of those injured by them. Some were rumored to grant almost supernatural abilities. Most of these blades tended to be as tricky as they were powerful, though. When wielded by inexperienced hand or guided by an undisciplined mind they were often unpredictable and treacherous in ways normal weapons couldn't be. They could disrupt flow of chi in the body or drain one's strength if not handled with caution. And Moonlight belonged among the trickier ones; in fact, it was generally deemed cursed. Very few of those who'd possessed it had not been themselves possessed and most of its numerous owners died either a gruesome death of the body or a slow death of the mind. Quite a few had managed both. And yet among the rivers and lakes Moonlight was one of the most coveted treasures. Of the Legendary Thirteen five had been lost, two were known to be locked up in the imperial treasury and five others were owned by powerful sects and clans. Only one blade was left roaming the martial world and the promise of power and strength that it was believed to grant its wielder greatly outweighed in the minds of those who sought it all potential risks. Cheung had never known any peace since he'd become Moonlight's self-appointed guardian.
Both swords were always polished, handled with an almost reverent caution and taken very good care of.
The sabre, on the other hand, was one of the ugliest blades in the martial world. It was the very same, through which Cheung once obtained the monicker "Magic Sabre", but there was nothing even remotely magical about it – it was an old weapon made by some nameless smith in one of the Southern provinces and its most striking feature was the fact that it still somehow held together. Whoever made it was obviously a simple man of a simple background and very simple skills. The handle and guard were a testament to crude minimalism and the weapon had all the charm and elegance of a kitchen cleaver. Cheung took care to keep the blade in a reasonably good condition, but the steel was not of the best quality and it was getting a bit rusty near the guard and along the blunt edge. Its simple leather scabbard was worn and stained.
Sabre was his weapon of choice. It always had been. The sword, nimble, slender and notoriously difficult, seemed like a spoilt mistress to him: rather fanciful and ridiculously demanding. He understood why some men loved such women and he saw why some fighters loved their swords. But he had always preferred his girls and his weapons unpretentious, curvaceous and easy to handle. He never fought with Green or Moonlight. If he unsheathed them at all, which he hardly ever did, it was to check on them or to oil them. Reasons why he held on to them were known to few, speculated about by many – and in any event deeply personal. The swords hadn't aged a day in the past thirty years; in Cheung's hands they had become well-preserved memories of their last owners. The sabre, however, had aged with its wielder. Neither of them aged particularly well.
A great many of the good fighters that he met (let alone those who followed him around) wanted either his life in a duel or the Moonlight Sword he carried – very often both. The girl in white was quite obviously a fighter. And not a bad one. And while Cheung could only speculate about her motives, he was more or less expecting the usual turn of events. Youngsters like her were the worst sort - so eager to kill or die for the most foolish of reasons.
"What use will a fancy sword or a hollow title be if the whole damned jianghu is after you..." He muttered as he watched the girl's elegant, fluid motions. He uncorked his wineskin and took three hearty swigs. He looked up and squinted at the sun. It was already well after Mid-Autumn and the air was getting a trifle too cool and crisp for his liking. The sun still shone brightly but it was already the pale sickly autumn sun, a mere shadow of its summer glory. "Radiant and cold," he thought. "Like a smile of an imperial official." This northern climate wasn't doing him any good. He gulped down some more wine and re-corked the wineskin. He had already wasted more than half an hour watching his pretty pursuer. But the shadows were getting longer and it was high time to resume his journey. He was headed for a nearby village – Red Pines – and he wanted to get there by the following evening. He looked over his shoulder, giving the girl one last look. She had stopped practicing and was now watching him inquisitively.
"Just go home," he mumbled under his breath. It might have sounded like an indignant growl of an old moody watch dog but for one brief moment a genuine plea softened the cold gleam of his eyes.
She'd heard this Cheung Saam used to be a very handsome fellow. She believed it. His features bore clear traces of former comeliness - elegant cheekbones, aquiline nose, almond eyes... When still young and slender, he might have been very good-looking. Beautiful, even. But that must have been a long time ago.
Now he was a rather plain looking aging man with a receding hairline (he kept his hair – what was left of it, anyway – fairly short), unkempt beard and an ugly scar that made quite a mess of his right cheek. And though he was clearly strong and fast, his figure was far from athletic. Lan Lan often wondered how someone who ate so little and traveled only on foot could have developed such a potbelly. Perhaps it was from all the booze he drank. It looked as if the man lived on wine.
His clothes were old, rather worn and ill-fitting, an odd assortment of garments most of which had probably been either looted off freshly slain opponents (a long, poorly mended slash across the back of Cheung's leather coat would suggest as much) or bought from a ragpicker.
He looked like one with many stories to tell but he seemed to be one of those who generally feel very little inclination to do so. When she started following him from Kaifeng, she used to try and hide from his keen sight but she soon gave up. He always knew when she was around and it rarely took him longer than a few moments before he discovered where she was. He seemed to find a certain pleasure in this little game and Lan Lan disliked the somewhat triumphant spark in his eyes whenever he found her out - so she stopped hiding. She enjoyed observing him. She always tried hard to peel away the crust of age and scars – to see through it and behold the man that her mother used to be so fond of. But somehow, the Cheung-gor she'd heard so much about didn't appear to be there. The man met her inquiring gaze boldly – and sometimes returned it with the same intensity and scrutiny. He was wondering. He was curious. But he wouldn't approach her, she knew that much. And she was not going to approach him either; not before her brother would catch up with her.
One thing was for sure – Cheung Saam Dou was going to be very surprised.
The clanging and grazing of metal against metal woke her up in the middle of the night. It took her only a moment before she got her bearings. She'd made camp in a small hillside cave about half a mile from a nearby waterfall. That was where Cheung had settled for the night and where the noises were coming from right now. She sprang up to her feet, quickly bound her abundant hair into a ponytail and grabbed her twin sabres. She cautiously peeped out of the cave, overlooking the river valley. The moon was already high in the sky and there was an unpleasant chill in the air. It was about one watch after midnight – probably not much more, certainly not less. The moonlight illuminated the valley and cast short, deep shadows. She couldn't see the waterfall at the moment, as it was behind the bend of the river, but she could hear that there were at least three, maybe four or five people fighting.
She had to approach fast but cautiously. Whatever was happening, she didn't want to be seen. The slopes of the valley were littered with large rocks and boulders, which worked to her advantage. Using them for cover, she crept close enough to evaluate the situation. Three men ganged up against one – and the one happened to be Cheung Saam. The attackers were young, strong and agile. One was wielding a sword, while the other two had sabers. The one with sword apparently set the pace and it almost seemed like there was some wordless communication going on between him and his comrades. He was trying to distract their target, to provoke Cheung into becoming careless and to create openings in his defense. The other two were supposed to exploit them. A cowardly but efficient tactic, probably designed specifically to deal with exceptionally strong opponents. Cheung was, however, proving to be a truly tough nut to crack. The young attackers weren't too daring in their advances and Cheung was surprisingly nimble for someone well over fifty. His blade was always exactly where it needed to be to shield him from a blow. He was also making good use of the scabbard, either to block the attacks or to deal out rather painful punches and jabs. When he couldn't block, he simply dodged. His motions were deceptive, fluid and seemingly careless and effortless; whenever he successfully hit one of his adversaries or blocked an attack, it almost looked as if it was not with skill but by some bizarre accident. She had to smile and nod appreciatively. Sleeping Buddha technique was extremely difficult to master and even though Cheung only knew several defensive moves, he had managed to incorporate them quite seamlessly into his own style and use them with great efficiency. He didn't fall into any sleep-like trance like true masters of this strange art, but even the limited, superficial command of it that he'd acquired granted him considerable advantage over most opponents. Quite an achievement for someone who'd only faced Sleeping Buddha once. Not Cheung, but the three attackers would get exhausted soon. They were trying to contain running water in a fishing net, they just hadn't realized it yet. At that moment she was almost resolved to sit back and watch the spectacle. She could learn a lot from mere observation of Cheung's tactics and skills – and she didn't want to deprive him of face by interfering. These three seemed fairly easy to handle. But then she noticed something glistening on his forehead. He was sweating. Maybe a tad too much for this chilly autumn night. Granted – he was in the middle of a fight... Nevertheless, she scrutinized his face and posture more closely – and realized that he winced ever so slightly from time to time... And that a hardly perceptible shudder ran down his whole body every now and then. If she noticed, from this distance, so must have the attackers. Whatever was wrong, she'd find out later. Now there was no more time to be wasted. The sword wielding thug was in the middle of a ruthless attack on Cheung's upper torso, when a white lightning descended upon him out of nowhere. The unexpected interruption threw all three out of rhythm and out of accord. Their seamless chain of attacks was broken for a moment. "I don't like your manner of three on three," she hissed and attacked. Choosing the sword-wielder was deliberate. Not only was he the heart and the mind behind the whole formation, he was also by far the most experienced of the bunch. And – as mother had told her – Cheung had always been better against sabers than against swords. The swordsman fought back valiantly, but Lan's skill far surpassed his, not to mention he was already tired. It didn't take long before openings appeared in his defense. Lan Lan was not yet able to strike him down, but her blade cut through his clothes a few times and at least one of those strikes drew blood. In the meantime, Cheung was busy fending off the two sabre thugs. Their attacks were becoming more and more vicious – but also more and more careless. The shorter of the two was becoming frustrated. Finally, he cried out in anger and slashed across Cheung's belly. The move was too careless, too hasty and the angle too wide. Before he knew it, a well aimed jab sealed a pressure point on his sabre wielding forearm. The blade fell harmlessly from his hand with a loud clang, as his wrist and fingers went totally numb and useless. He attempted to pick up his weapon but a swift kick hit him hard on the side of his neck and he fell on all four, nearly fainting and dizzy with pain. It became quite apparent that Cheung's knowledge of pressure points counted among his most profound strengths - together with the almost uncanny accuracy with which he was able to hit them. Cheung's wincing and sweating became painfully apparent, but the remaining saberman was clever enough not to let that mislead him. The oldtimer didn't bear the nickname "magic saber" for nothing. The young fighter was fast. Impressively so. And now, in addition, he became very careful, unwilling to repeat his buddy's mistake. He started a series of vicious, dodgy attacks. He was hoping to exhaust his opponent – not realizing that his tactic had already failed. He was trying to be as unpredictable as possible, but there was a pattern to his attacks, and Cheung was quick to perceive it. For a while, the old swordsman played along, fending off attacks and observing his adversary's moves. Finally, he growled between clenched teeth: "You bore me." A flash of moonlight reflected on the blade of the sabre, and an ugly sound of the sharp edge slashing through flesh – and cutting through the bone - could be heard. The young fighter had become too immersed in his attempts at keeping Cheung occupied and in defensive and – despite all his dodginess – he'd become careless again. He had left his torso poorly defended. Only now, as he swayed and staggered, vaguely aware of his knees giving way, did he realize his mistake. His ribcage gaped open and so did his mouth; an expression of slight disbelief with a hint of reproach settled on his face as he fell, and remained etched to his features even after his life left him.
Cheung looked around. The young fightress was standing above the fallen body of the swordsman who had led the attack of the three. His throat was slit from ear to ear and his head almost severed. The third man was nowhere to be seen or heard. "Thank you, miss." He said. "But I'm afraid I've got no means of returning your kindness." "You have, actually." She replied. He remained silent and waited for her to continue. "Take me with you." A derisive snort and a dismissive shake of his head was the only answer she got. "Why not?" "I travel alone," he replied matter-of-factly and started to assess potential severity of a nasty looking slash wound on his left forearm. She observed him for a brief moment and then she asked: "What incapacitated you so? I'd never expect a fighter like you to..." "An old wound," he interrupted her, his eyes fixed on the injury he was examining. "Old wound – and the change of seasons. I'd probably deal with them, eventually – but then, I might not." Finally, he apparently decided that the wound belonged in the “just a scratch” category and having now no pretext not to look at the girl, he met her curious gaze with a not entirely friendly gaze of his own. "They must have come from Red Pines," she remarked. "Had they been following us, they would have probably been aware of me." "I would've been aware of them," he said. "Why are you traveling to Red Pines, anyway?" She asked. "None of your business," he replied. "Seems like you are being quite eagerly expected," she said, somewhat teasingly. "Don't you say," Cheung retorted with a sardonic sneer. He winced as he bent down to collect a few items scattered on the ground. "By all hells, I'm getting old." Paying no heed to her, he casually inspected the dead thug's clothes. Then he relieved him of a woolen sash, which he immediately used to wipe blood off his saber. The only other interesting item that the unfortunate man possessed was a pair of good leather boots. To Cheung's apparent delight, they were more or less his size, so he quite unceremoniously pulled them off the dead man's feet. The girl shook her head somewhat reproachfully. "What about him," she said and pointed at the swordsman she'd killed. "I've noticed he had a very fine leather belt." Cheung shrugged. "That one's yours." He'd either missed or simply ignored the irony in her tone. She shook her head again, less reproachfully this time, and a smile fleeted over her pretty lips. Quite despite herself, she rather enjoyed the absence of any pretense or pretentiousness in Cheung's words and behavior. Suddenly, the man erupted in a chain of the most shameless curses and profanities she'd ever heard (and while traveling in jianghu, she had heard quite a few). Glancing at the bundle he'd just picked up, she immediately understood what provoked the tirade. Both swords were gone. The moonlight was still bright and the tracks of the third thug were quite clearly visible in the sandy soil of the river bank. Cheung quickly overlooked the campsite, making sure he hadn't forgotten anything. Then he nodded a wordless "thanks and goodbye" to the girl and set out after the thief's tracks. "Wait!" She shouted after him. "What about me?" He stopped and looked back at her, apparently irritated. "What about you..." "You were supposed to take me with you!" He shook his head. "No, I wasn't. I thought we'd already settled that." "It's... It's important!" She said, somewhat hesitantly – as if disclosing something she'd rather keep to herself. Cheung made two steps towards her and looked at her inquisitively. "Why?" It sounded like a command rather than a simple question. She was standing there, silent, frustrated and hesitant. When his question remained without reply for too long, Cheung shrugged and was about to resume his journey. At that moment she finally said: "The sword they took from you. I can't allow them to have it." He laughed, almost bitterly. "Ah. So you're after Moonlight after all." He didn't even try to conceal his disappointment and indignation. "Well, that idiot will rue the day he was born as soon as I get him. And you'd better sod off unless you want to share his fate." "We can go after him separately and get in each other's way," she said, "or I can help you out. Your pick." To her surprise and indignation, he roared with laughter. "What!?" "You? Get in my way?" His laughter ceased as abruptly as it started. "The only reason you have been able to tail me so far is that I haven't even tried to shake you off." "True. But we both know that thief is headed for Red Pines, don't we. I can run all the way there. Can you?" She said and grinned cheekily. Cheung didn't appreciate her sense of humor at all. He pointed his saber at her throat. "True. How about I kill you right here on the spot, then?" An almost mischievous glint in his eyes suggested that he was merely teasing, but she wouldn't bet her head on it. Cheung was notorious for being mostly good-willed but dangerously unpredictable. She met his look boldly, though. "I mean you no harm." Something in her voice and something in those large, feline eyes made him lower the blade. "Do as you wish," he said. "But do it on your own." He was turning away again and she suddenly felt that this might be her last chance. She couldn't afford to wait for her brother any more. "It's not Moonlight that I am after," she said. The hesitation and uncertainty in her voice clearly indicated that she had just carried out a trump card she had originally meant to hold on to for a while longer. Cheung turned towards her, an expression of genuine surprise – and interest – on his face. "Who are you?" He asked. "What do you know about the swords I carry? Or me, for that matter?" His expression was blank, but she could sense that his whole being tensed like that of a cornered beast. She eyed him defiantly and said: "Take me with you and you'll find out soon enough." And then, as if struck by an afterthought, she added in a much meeker tone: "Please...?" He snickered and shook his head. "Your name at least?" The corners of her mouth quirked up in a smile. "Just call me Ah Lan." "Fine, Ah Lan. If you can keep up, you can come with me. If not..." And he was already speeding away and up the river bank as he shouted that back at her: "...just follow the tracks." She cursed under her breath: "Stupid old badger." But she was smiling even as she did so. This was the closest thing to "come along then" that she was ever going to hear and she didn't mind if there was a little challenge involved. She had to return to her camp and pick up her belongings first. She would catch up with him later.