LOOG – Chapter 24

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Chapter 24: You Really Shouldn’t Have Done That

The geography on Sunan’s side of the valley favored his group by just a bit . There were less trees, and the land was more stable, making it much easier for them to gallop at top speed toward the area where the cliff turned into more of a slope.

They flew like the wind.

For a brief moment, Sunan thought back to his life back in the village, before everything changed. Although horses were rare in the village, and he had never actually ridden one, donkeys were common, and as a child he had always fancied himself somewhat of an expert. He had even raced donkeys with his friends in the village, and had won more often than not.

After he and Sun Mai took over Iron Awl Hu’s organization, he had suddenly had access to real horses, and had quickly become familiar with how to ride them. In fact, the horse he currently rode was one of the finest in the stables.

Right now, the wind buffeted his face, sending his hair whipping around his head as he galloped along. He could feel his horse’s hooves pounding into the turf, and when he glanced into the right and saw the valley so far down below, he almost felt like he was an eagle.

He couldn’t hold back from letting out a long whoop!

After about a minute of riding, the distance to the sloping downward hill had been halved. At that point, he looked across at the other side of the valley, and could just barely make out a flicker of motion which was the other group riding their horses through the dense forest opposite. They had not made much progress. Obviously, Sunan and his people would reach the valley floor first.

Sure enough, after another minute or two of riding, they were able to descend downward into the valley itself.

It only took a few seconds of riding before Sunan reached the area completely devoid of trees and vegetation, where he tapped his heels against his horse’s side, sending into the fastest gallop possible. The valley whizzed by as he drew closer and closer to the crater. However, when he was only about halfway there, something flickered in his peripheral vision. He turned his head in shock to find that the young woman he had seen before was rapidly catching up to him.

She was riding on the other side of the furrow that cut the valley in half. It was a strange sight to see a young woman riding a horse, but what was more surprising to Sunan was the type of horse she was riding. Even he recognized the distinctive shape of the ears that identified it.

That’s a Harqa steed from the Kushen Basin! The fastest horses in the world! Who is this girl?

Sunan tried to push his horse faster, to little effect. Even as he caught sight of the crater up ahead, the young woman passed him as her Harqa steed exploded with a burst of greater speed.

Dammit! Beaten by a girl in a race?!

The young woman reached the crater at least fifteen seconds before Sunan. Most shocking of all was that instead of waiting until her horse came to a stop, she actually leaped out of the saddle, somersaulting through the air to land nimbly at the edge of the crater.

What was that? Can she use Qi?

Despite his level of ability and power with Qi, and his experience fighting, Sunan was by no means confident enough to leap off of a galloping horse. He quickly reined his horse in, then jumped out of the saddle and hurried over to the cater.

Even as he reached the lip of the crater, the young woman was cautiously approaching its very center. There, Sunan could see something buried in the ash and soil, something that glittered with faint, silver light.

Damnation! If she lays hands on that this whole trip is a waste!

Hurrying down into the crater, he suddenly yelled, “Hey! That’s dangerous, don’t touch it!”

The young woman looked back at him with a raised eyebrow. “Dangerous? And how do you know that?” Looking away, she took another step forward until she was virtually on top of the object.

“My astrologer said so!” Sunan replied. “That fallen star belongs to me!”

The young woman snorted, edging closer to the object. After a moment, she pulled a knife out of her sleeve and prodded at it.

-Whoosh-

Knives in her sleeves? This girl seems dangerous…. Sunan hurried over, angling a bit to the right so that he could get closer, and yet still keep a safe distance from the young woman.

Now that he was close up, he could see that the object itself, which was mostly buried in the ash, was a chunk of metal. Or rock. Or maybe a mixture of both. It was mostly black and rough, although flecks of silver could be seen, which glowed with odd light.

That’s what stars look like? Is it hot?

The young woman suddenly looked up at him, her eyes flashing. “I’m afraid you don’t know what you’re talking about. Not only is this thing not dangerous, it actually belongs to me.”

Sunan clenched his jaw.

By this point, the sound of galloping horses could be heard as everyone else arrived one by one. Sun Mai hurried down into the crater, followed close behind by the tall, muscular young man Sunan had noticed earlier.

“Back away from Chieftess Bao!” said the burly man, fingering a bronze axe which was strapped to his waist.

“Tell your Chiefess Bao to back away from Sect Leader Sunan!” retorted Sun Mai, taking a threatening step forward.

Bao rose to her feet. “Calm yourself, Mao Yun.”

“That’s right, Mao Yun!” Sun Mai continued. “Haven’t you read the Sayings of Kong Zhi? The wise man knows when to back down. This is Sect Leader Sunan, champion of Daolu, slayer of Iron Awl Hu! He slaughtered the Killer of Daolu with a single punch, so he could take someone like you down as easy as butchering a sleeping pig!”

Mao Yun glared at Sun Mai. “I’ve never heard of any Iron Awl Hu, but let me tell you this, Chieftess Bao single-handedly crushed one of the Demon Emperor’s Ogres. So what do you have to say to that?”

Sun Mai seemed strangely at a loss for words. Before he could recover, Sunan quickly jumped back into the conversation. “Chieftess Bao, please forgive Sun Mai’s impulsiveness.” He clasped hands and bowed. “I am Sunan of Daolu. Might I ask why you claim right to this fallen star?”

Bao’s eyes narrowed for a moment, but she also clasped hands respectuflly. “Greetings, Sect Leader Sunan, I am Bao of the Pure Phoenix Sect. This pure white star fell on the first day of the first cycle of the eighth lunar month, which is the Phoenix month. How could such an object not belong to the Pure Pheonix Sect? Sect Leader Sunan, I have heard of your illustrious name, and although my lieutenant Mao Yun has not heard of Iron Awl Hu, I have.

“I also know that you are the Sect Leader of the Golden Dragon Sect. Consider this, Sect Leader: if a golden star fell to the ground on the first day of the first cycle of the first lunar month, the Dragon month, I would never claim that such an object belonged to my Pure Phoenix Sect. Therefore, how can you claim that this pure white star belongs to your Golden Dragon Sect? It even fell into our territory.”

Sunan glanced over at Sun Mai, and was dismayed to find that his jaw had dropped and his eyes were as wide as saucers.

Sunan cleared his throat, mind racing as he tried to come up with some sort of response.

“As I thought,” Bao continued, “even you realize that this pure white star must be a gift sent to me by the Enlightened Goddess. If you attempted to steal it from me, you would in fact be interfering with the will of the Enlightened Goddess. Is that something you would dare to do?”

At long last, Sun Mai seemed to recover his composure. “Hold on a moment, Chieftess Bao. I’ll have you know that the Golden Dragon Sect doesn’t even believe in the Enlightened Goddess!”

Mao Yun snorted. “Hmph! A bunch of blasphemers! As to be expected from weaklings like yourselves.”

Sun Mai slowly turned to look at Mao Yun. “I’ll have you know that neither Sect Leader Sunan nor myself are weaklings. You might not be aware, but your Chieftess Bao has no doubt heard that we personally killed one of the Lions of Peace. Yes, you heard me well. Killed him. With our bare hands. Don’t think I didn’t notice your clever phrasing earlier. You didn’t say that Chieftess Bao ‘killed’ an Ogre. You said she ‘crushed’ an Ogre. A clever attempt on your part to play with words. How did she crush him? In a beauty contest? Unlike you prevaricators, we seek the truth and pursue the actual!”

“Are you calling me a liar!?” bellowed Mao Yun, clenching his hands into fists.

Sun Mai tilted his chin up. “I’m merely pointing out the flaws in the fanciful story you have woven to make your Chieftess sound more intimidating than she really is.”

“Say one more word, you puny little bookworm, and I’ll make you regret it!”

Simultaneously:

“Mao Yun–” Bao said, reaching out toward Mao Yun.

“Sun Mai–” Sunan said, reaching out toward Sun Mai.

And yet, Sun Mai interrupted them both. “Listen up you buffoon! I’ll say anything I want, any time I want. And there’s nothing a lying goon like yourself can do to stop me!”

Mao Yun’s eyes blazed with fire, and he suddenly sent his palm flying out toward Sun Mai.

What was most shocking of all was that Mao Yun was a full three meters away from Sun Mai when he struck out. Even as he extended his palm with lightning speed, the illusory image of a hand sprang out and shot through the air toward Sun Mai.

Dammit, they can use Qi! thought Sunan.

Sun Mai’s eyes widened, and yet he didn’t hesitate for even a moment.

“Dance of the Bixie!” Grinning, he flew off to the side at incredible speed, completely avoiding the flying hand, which faded away without hitting anything. Dance of the Bixie was the new name Sunan had convinced him to use for the same move he had once called Dance of Kong Zhi.

Mao Yun’s jaw dropped when he saw Sun Mai suddenly flit away from his attack. Before he could make another move, Sun Mai’s index and middle finger slashed through the air.

“Sword of the Scholar!”

-Slash-

The shining image of a sword appeared, which blurred through the air toward the shocked Mao Yun. Mao Yun instinctively threw his hands up to defend himself, but it did little good. Sun Mai’s Sword of the Scholar slashed into Mao Yun, opening up gashes on his forearms and right shoulder, and sending him staggering back.

Mao Yun ground to a halt a few paces back, panting, blood dripping down his arms.

It was at this point that Bao took a step forward. At some point, two knives had appeared in her hands. Jaw clenched, eyes blazing, she said, “You really shouldn’t have done that.”

Hey everyone, the Daolu expansion to Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate is nearing completion. We are currently in the final editing stages, and are looking for an extra pair of eyes to help with proofreading. Like I said, the expansion is very extensive, with tons of character information and backstory. If you’re interested in helping out, and getting credit in the book itself, please send a message to me at issth-deathblade at yahoo dot com.

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