(Lin Geng Xin as Zhuo Hao) (Liu Shi Shi as Yu Zhu)
Yue Kingdom – Earth
The little hut in the bamboo forest was nestled in a waving sea of green. Lin Yu listened to the rustle of the leaves as the winds danced among the green stalks.
She looked at the roof of the little hut with a frown. Her head hurt outrageously, and just before she woke, she had saw someone in her dreams. He stood proud and tall, haughty with a glint of laughter in his eyes. Huang Wu was always seemed so high and mighty and she couldn’t resist trying to take a bite out of him to bring him down a peg or twelve. But in her dreams, Huang Wu’s eyes were strange, they looked at her with a light that made her heart quicken. But that the same time, it was a look that made her want to cry and grab a hold of his hand.
Just when she had reached out to him, he took a step back and faded into the darkness.
She woke up.
Lin Yu looked at the golden mist of the sunlight that streamed through open windows, onto the clean wooden floor. She sat up and her head swam and the earth spun.
“Owwww.” she took a deep breath. She couldn’t remember much about last night, but someone must have rescued her.
Suddenly she covered her mouth with her hand, a blush crept up from her neck to color her cheeks apple red. She remembered kissing someone. She frowned. Who did she kiss? Her heart quickened at the thought of her lips touching that person’s lips. The warmth of those lips that shocked her to her core. But she could remember a thing. She had never kissed anyone before, was it always this…unsettling?
Who did she kiss? The question rang like a gong in her head…over and over again, adding more pain to the headache.
“Anyone there?” she called out weakly, her voice no louder than the rush of leaves outside.
“Lin Yu?” A voice from a distance called back. Lin Yu blinked in surprise as she saw a dashing young man rush through the bamboo and run to the hut.
“Zhuo Hao?” She asked, her voice a little shaky from the pain.
The man who rushed in was no other than Zhu Hao, his handsome face held nothing but concern and tenderness. Carefully he knelt at her bed and touched her forehead tenderly. “Lie back down. I’ll get you something for that.”
She opened her mouth to argue but he shook his head and pointed, she gave a weak smile and laid down again.
Soon the smell of boiling medicine reached her nose. Lin Yu grimaced a little, “I hate the smell.”
Zhuo Hao laughed, “I know, it took everything I had to make you swallow it when you weren’t awake.”
Lin Yu blinked, “How long have you been here?”
Zhuo Hao answered, “Since you’ve been here.”
Lin Yu was silent for a moment, “You’ve been at my side all this time?” She asked, wanting to know if he was the one who rescued her.
She was lying in bed, so she didn’t see the expression on his face, didn’t notice that the hand which stirred the pot of medicine paused for a little.
It was true, he told himself. He had rushed here when the mysterious message had showed up telling him that she had been injured and where to find her. From then he had been here, taking care of her. Zhuo Hao, a man who has never taken care of a woman in his life, for the first time found himself personally making her medicine, wiping the sweat off her forehead, holding her hand in the night when the fever ran high. He wanted to always be by her side. That yes was more than just a confirmation, it was a promise that he would always protect her from now on.
The room went silent as the two became lost in their own thoughts.
Zhuo Hao rescued me…So he was the one I kissed.….Lin Yu suddenly turned red and pulled the cover over her head. He turned around as he saw the strange movement from the corner of his eye. Dropping the spoon in a hurry, he rushed to the bed, the worry in his eyes clear as day.
“What’s wrong? Should I get the doctor again?” He asked hurriedly as he tried to pull the quilt off her face, “If something hurts don’t hold it in.”
Lin Yu’s voice was muffled, a little ashamed, “I’m fine. This is the only option I have right now” She tugged the quilt over her head even higher.
Zhuo Hao felt even more confused, and even more worried, “only option? what do you mean? What are you saying? Lin Yu, I’ll call for the doctor right now.” He didn’t mention that he had dragged three doctors up the mountain already and built them huts a little ways a way, just so that he can grab one if she showed even a hint of pain.
Lin Yu shook her head from underneath the covers quickly, “Don’t! Don’t! It’s just…” Her large eyes peeked out from underneath the covers as she looked at him, “It’s just that I don’t have the strength to dig a hole and bury myself right now. So I’m hiding underneath the covers.” I’m so sorry I attacked you with my mouth, she said to her self silently, as she looked at him. She felt so ashamed, she wasn’t fully able to look at him in the face. Her face was now the true color of a bright red apple.
Zhuo Hao didn’t understand, thinking that she was talking about her failed attack on the magistrate and tried to comfort her, “It’s alright, as long as you’re fine, that is all I care about.”
Lin Yu turned even redder, suddenly she wailed, “But I stole a kiss. I attacked you.”
Zhuo Hao felt as if someone punched him in the gut. He went pale. He didn’t know what she was talking about.
Lin Yu mistook his expression as confirmation for what she had done to him and she hurriedly spoke, “I must have been poisoned and delirious. I’m so sorry I jumped you like that.” She paused for a moment and thought of how people, normal humans she saw in the plays and performances handled these situation.” She looked at him seriously, “I’ll take responsibility for it. I’ll take any punishment you hand me. I’ll pay reparations.”
Zhuo Hao didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. She had kissed someone. Someone that wasn’t him. It felt as if someone had taken his heart and squeezed it until there wasn’t a single drop of blood left.
But at the same time, he wanted to laugh at her words. He had only heard those words in plays. He looked at her again, the conflict in his eyes. Should he tell her that he wasn’t the one she kissed?
He looked at her expression, she looked like a child who had done something wrong and was awaiting punishment.
“Your punishment.” He said softly, his heart thumping. She looked at him seriously and nodded.
What did it matter that she kissed someone else? He asked himself. She was the one he wanted. She was all that mattered. Let this misunderstanding start them on a new path.
He took a breath and continued, “Your punishment is that you’ll have to take responsibility for me.”
Zhuo Hao’s guards who were hidden in the trees, nearly feel out in shock. They had never heard their serious master say such romantic, silly words. They shook their heads and looked at the sky to see if it was falling down.
Lin Yu frowned a little, confused, “What do you mean, take responsibility for you?”
Zhuo Hao just smiled, he reached out a hand and patted her hair, ” You kissed me, now you have to take care of me for the rest of your life.”
Lin Yu opened her mouth, but the shock had left her wordless.
Zhuo Hao grinned and stood up, “Now that we’ve discussed that, it’s time for your medicine.” Lin Yu tried to speak but Zhuo Hao quickly walked back to the medicine on the stove. Lin Yu smiled a little and shook her head. He must be joking, she thought, he’s saying that to make me laugh. But at the thought that they had kissed that night, made her cover her head again.
Zhuo Hao carried the bowl of medicine over and sat down, “Lin Yu, stop hiding, you have to take this to get better.”
Lin Yu sat up slowly, she looked at the bitter medicine in trepidation and determination. She reached out for the bowl but Zhuo Hao shook his head, “I’ll do it. If I let you, you might throw it out the window.”
Taking a spoon in hand, he carefully spooned a mouthful and blew on it to cool, holding it out to her lips.
Lin Yu looked at the careful, concentrated way that Zhuo Hao did everything and her heart skipped a beat. She kept looking at him even though the medicine was already at her lips.
Zhuo Hao smiled, “The sooner you drink it, the better.”
Lin Yu blinked and grabbed the spoon, her face now red again. She took the bowl from her hands, even though it was shaking, “I…I can do it.” With that, she downed the bowl in three big gulps.
Zhuo Hao felt a needle prick his heart but he said nothing, only sat there silently as she drank all of the medicine.
Lin Yu drank the medicine, frowning at the bitter taste. But she was too exhausted and quickly fell back asleep.
The sound of thudding bodies on the forest floor alerted Zhuo Hao that something was very wrong.
He frowned as he rushed outside, sword in hand, and saw the bloodied bodies of his guards on the forest floor, their blood dotting the moss and flowers.
In the skies, a thousand black shadows covered the top of the bamboo forest. Their eyes red with blood lust. Together, they blocked out any sunlight from entering the forest, a canopy of black laced in the green.
Zhup Hao’s men were dead. He narrowed his eyes as the leader of the assassin group called out,
“You’re a hard man to find, Third Prince of Yue.”
Zhuo Hao did not answer and the man continued, “But the new emperor of Yue sends his regards. He said that he was rather regretful he wouldn’t make it to your funeral. But.” There was a slight hint of twisted pleasure in his voice, “He said that we need to make sure you die as painfully as possible, so that you’ll remember him.”
The low chuckle of a thousand men filled the bamboo forest.
“A thousand men against one.” Zhuo Hao commented, there was no look of fear on his face. “It seems that the emperor must greatly fear me, if he’s brought out all his assassins to kill me.”
The assassin leader shrugged, “He simply wants to make sure that by the time we’re done, there wouldn’t even be enough mean on you for animals to fight over. He was much more merciful to Zhu Zhan Ye.”
Zhuo Hao’s heart tightened, “What did you say?” He hissed, the terrible feeling in his heart made him feel cold all over.
The assassin leader guffawed, “That useless brother of yours is dead. you won’t even find a bone of him on this earth.”
Zhuo Hao said nothing, nor could the men read a single expression on his face. Inside he thought fast, looking for a way to get Lin Yu out of this safely. His people were all in the city, he couldn’t reach them.
I’ll take down as many as I can, he thought, his heart sinking to the depths of hell. But the fire burned in his eyes, they want me, I’ll lead them away.
He took a step forward and a thousand arrows flew for the ground an inch from his feet.
The men in the bamboo trees laughed and the Assassin leader continued, “Don’t think of moving. I promised the new Emperor of Yue I was going to make this as long as possible, making you into a porcupine now is not that fun.”
The viciousness in his voice was even thicker as he said, “I know there’s a woman in there. Is she your woman? I think we can bring her out here, let some of the boys have some fun. We’ll see how many men she can last through.”
The air around Zhuo Hao seemed to harden and dropped to sub arctic levels, “You will die before your feet touches the ground. If you so much as touch a hair on her head, I will find and kill everyone you love.”
The silence was deadly. These were hardened men who had killed tens if not hundreds of people. But even they felt fear as they looked at Zhuo Hao’s face. Those were eyes that seemed to be from the depths of hell.
Suddenly a man rushed at the hut where Lin Yu was. He had saw the expression on the Assassin Leader’s face. he wanted to make an impression in front of the leader.
Zhup Hao didn’t even look but threw a knife at the man’s face. Before the man’s feet touched the ground, he was dead.
The leader of the assassin’s eyes widened. Shock, surprise, and disbelief ran past his mind. He was one of the top martial arts masters in the world, and even he didn’t know how Zhuo Hao did it so quickly.
‘I have a thousand men.” the Assassin Leader said, his voice slightly hoarse, “You’ll drown, even if they so much as spit at you at the same time.”
Zhuo Hao’s smile was cold and bloody, “Then i’ll simply have to cut out their tongues.”
More hesitation on the part of the Assassin Leader. No one wanted to end up like the foolish one who rushed for the hut.
The Assassin Leader shrugged and raised his hand, readying the men to attack. They would attack all at the same time, the sheer number would smother him. It had taken the Emperor of Yue years to cultivate the thousand assassins. It was already a shame that one had died. But with so many attacking at once, Zhuo Hao wouldn’t be able to kill a single one.
“Try and make sure the girl is alive.” The assassin leader yelled at his men, “I heard she’s a dancing girl of particular beauty. She’s be a great addition to the emperor’s harem.”
Zhuo Hao pointed his sword at the assassin leader. “Your head will be the first to fall.”
One man, in light green robes against an army of thousand black robed assassins. He stood, his face as calm as a lake, his sword raised and pointed at the black dots hidden in the green, not a hint of fear on his face.
Suddenly, a single note rang through the air, rich, sharp and vibrant. It struck everyone who heard it. The assassins and Zhuo Hao found that they weren’t able to move. The assassin’s eyes showed horror. They couldn’t turn to find the where the sound came if they tried.
The single moment of sound was so sweet yet held the unbearable pressure of a powerful being. It was too strong to be human, too lyrical and too terrible in power.
A woman in white seemed to walk out of the sky, as if the sky was made of solid air.
On her face was a silver mask of delicate flowers, her movements were fluid and graceful. Her long black hair cascading her her waist as in her hands she held a small, beautiful Pipa instrument.
She walked down the heavens like a goddess descending, there were no words that could adequately describe how they felt about her. Even if they couldn’t see her face, they knew that it must be matchless.
She was matchless.
She walked to Zhuo Hao. There was a slight smile on her lips, she only nodded to him, yet there was no warmth in her eyes.
The thousand assassins felt their bodies relax as once more, they were in control of their limbs.
The assassin leader hesitated, but seeing that it was just a woman, he ignored what had just happened.
Perhaps she knew a temporary spell, maybe she was a weak magician. He reasoned with himself. She was just one person, there was nothing to be feared. His eyes flashed greedily, another woman for his emperor’s harem. He would get rewarded for this.
Sudden the assassin leader laughed, “What an pretty little idiot, to barrel headfirst to your death. Have you any thought of how powerful an opponent you face. If you stand with that man, you will bear the wrath of an emperor? Do you know what that means?”
The woman in white looked around and sat down, she began to carefully tune her instrument with a shrug. She did as she pleased, and ignored the thousand men in the bamboo as if they were merely flies.
Had they know how powerful she was, then they would know that they weren’t even flies in her eyes.
The Pipa in her hands was beautifully made, it was carved of the best beech wood, the sound sharper and sweeter than the gu qin, it was an instrument that would be recorded in the annals of time as one of the greatest weapons ever created.
The assassin leader frowned, “Are you trying to play the last song before your funeral?”
The woman’s hand touched the strings, and she looked at Zhuo Hao, her eyes telling him to stand behind her.
Zhou Hao frowned, but his situation was so desperate that he was willing to trust this strange being that flew out of the sky. If she wanted to kill him, he was sure that he wouldn’t even have had the time to blink before he died.
The Assassin leader roared in anger, this strange woman had done nothing but ignored him since she had arrived, he raised his hand and pointed at the the two, “Kill them!”
The men rushed down like a cloud of hornets for the two on the ground. The arrows were too good for these people. They were going to tear them apart with their bare hands.
The woman’s hands glided on the Pipa and the sudden sound of the Pipa broke through the screams and yells of the assassins. Each note that came out of the Pipa became a dagger made of sound.
It was the song, Ambush on Ten Sides. The incomparable song that was unforgettable to anyone who heard it.
It ripped through the air, aiming straight for the spot between the eyes on the assassin’s head.
The hand ran through the strings faster than the first time. From the hand rose the sound of challenge, the blood of battle and the heat of war held together only by the notes that flew from the PiPa.
Another fifty men fell from those few notes.
The Assassin looked down in shock. They couldn’t believe their eyes. A young girl who had just played eight notes or so just killed a hundred men. Eight notes. It was just the beginning
Zhuo Hao closed his eyes and listened. The Ambush on Ten Sides was one of the most magnificent pieces, each note wove the story of the battlefield, the rushing men, the flash of swords, the chaos of battle made into music. Listening to it was like seeing the battle itself, feel the intensity and watch as the thousands of men clash into each other.
It was the symphony in one instrument. And from this woman’s hands it was a weapon that could kill thousands in a minute.
Each strike of the Pipa, more and more died. they flew from the highest of the branches, their swords pointed at her and yet with every note they were dead before they hit the ground..
She sat there, her eyes closed, her fingers moving so fast that they were a blur and the sound like a invisible shield around her, no assassin could come even twenty feet near her. They rushed at her droves, covering the heavens but she sat as it nothing was happening.
Before the assassin leader could say a word, all of his men were dead. A thousand men, dead in a minute.
The air was still, there was no sound. From the ground the dead men lay, their eyes wide open in horror and disbelief.
The Assassin Leader felt only fear, deep and unfiltered fear as he looked at the woman in front of him. Demon…Demon..” In all of his life he had never seen anything as frightening as it. It would haunt him for the rest of his days.
“Your Emperor seems to think that he can toy with my people.” The woman in the silver mask finally spoke, the ice in her voice froze his very soul, “He will pay for his actions.” She looked at Zhuo Hao, “He’s all yours.”
Zhuo Hao nodded, “He’ll have some information that might be useful.” The woman in the mask nodded and beckoned a finger, the assassin leader felt his body leave the tree as he fell headfirst onto the ground. With that, he fainted.
A voice from the hut, faint and weak sounded, “Who…who are you?”
Lin Yu’s face was whiter than paper as she gripped the frame of the door. Her voice shook as she looked at the stranger in the mask. She felt she knew who it was, but she was afraid. so afraid that she was wrong.
the woman reached out a hand and gently took off her mask. She turned around to face Lin Yu
Lin Yu felt her breath leave her body. the tears were unstoppable as she looked at that face. It was a face that she thought she would never see again.
Yu Zhu had come home.
PS – Ambush on Ten Sides is one of the most famous Chinese songs that has been passed down through the ages. The only other one that I think is comparable in fame would be the Butterfly Lovers on the ErHu. This song is fantastic, you can practically feel the battlefield as you listen to it. I suggest if anyone is interested, they listen to this song.
Phew. I FINALLY I am able to upload these two chapters. I know I promised to be punctual and I sincerely apologize. My beloved computer has went kaput right after my car had broken down. As an added bonus, at work I jammed a printer so badly I needed a co-worker’s help.
So these are the newest chapters, hope you guys enjoy! And yes, the story is picking up again, gaining traction as Yu Zhu comes more and more into her own. Her powers are great but the threat is greater. She’s got a lot at stake and she’s finally ready to face it all.
Thanks to everyone who has been patiently waiting, I am truly grateful for the support and love!