LOOG – Chapter 33

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Chapter 33: Three Pieces of Paper

Lady Yan’s eyes flickered, and the faintest of smiles appeared on her lips. “That’s a fair question.”

“Lady Yan, you’re right… I’m just an ordinary person. I don’t like intrigues and schemes. I’d prefer to just get straight to the point. If you’d rather not answer, I understand. But maybe we could both save each other some time and be direct about things.”

Lady Yan tucked a stray hair behind her ear and took another sip of tea. “The truth is that I’m here to… recruit you.”

“Recruit me to work for the Demon Emperor?”

“Not quite. I don’t report directly to King of the Pure Ones. I represent a faction within the empire that wishes… to restore balance.”

“Balance? What balance?”

“The balance that existed before the wars began.”

“You mean before the Demon Emperor began to slaughter the people of Qi Xian.” Sunan said it like a statement, not a question.

A look of sadness flickered across Lady Yan’s face. “Sect leader Sunan, there are many things that you have no way of knowing. The King of the Pure Ones came to this land long before you were even born. The truth is that originally, he had no intentions other than peaceful ones. You see, he comes from another world, a place where he was a champion of peace and justice. He fell victim to a heinous plot by the dark forces there, and was exiled to this world along with his wife and other loyal friends and followers. After finding that he had no way to return, he decided to once again lead his people in the fight for good here in Qi Xien.

“Sadly, tragedy struck almost immediately. His wife was killed by a local thief, sending him into the depths of grief. Certain of his advisers took advantage of his weakness to manipulate him into believing that the people of Qi Xien hated his kind, what you might call… a dwarf. The campaigns and the wars were led mostly by his Ogre Generals, while the King of the Pure Ones languished in despair.

“He eventually fell into a coma, and has been asleep for decades. The person who has appeared in public is not the true King of the Pure Ones, but rather, a body double.

“I belong to a group who wishes to awaken the King, and bring an end to the tyranny and evil spread by his Generals. If the King were to see the misery spawned by the wars his own armies fought, he would absolutely step in to administer justice.

“Sect Leader Sunan, I’m taking a huge risk by explaining these things now. If word spread, many of my people would be in extreme risk. I’d originally hoped to win your trust before offering this explanation, but… there’s something about you, something that makes me feel deep in my heart… that I can trust you.” She leaned forward and looked deep into Sunan’s eyes. “Please, I beg of you, keep this information secret. Too many lives are at stake, and perhaps… perhaps even the future of Qi Xien.”

Sunan’s heart pounded in his chest. Lady Yan’s gaze seemed to penetrate all the way into his soul and wrap around it like a soft, warm hand. A moment later, she looked down to pour some more water into her tea cup, and the feeling faded away. He took a deep breath.

“Of course I’ll keep your secret, Lady Yan.” He was quite skeptical about the tale she had just told, but decided that now wasn’t the best time to say so. “To tell you the truth, I didn’t want to be in the position I’m in. I never wanted to be a leader or to be responsible for other people. Everything… just happened. In any case, I’m not sure how I could help you. Outside of Daolu, I’m nobody, and even inside of it… I’m really just a kid from a farming village who learned a bit about fighting.”

Lady Yan smiled and reached out to clasp his forearm gently. When her hand touched his arm, he almost jerked it back in shock. Now that he thought about it, he’d never really been touched by a woman before other than his mother or sisters.

“Sect Leader Sunan, you’re no child any more. Trust me, you are destined for greatness. And I just hope that when you reach that greatness, you will be willing to side with those who champion what is good and just.”

“Of… of course,” he stammered, thinking mostly about how smooth the skin of her hand looked.

A moment later, she pulled her hand back. “Now then, why don’t you wait here for just a moment while I go fetch some more boiled water. It would be a shame to let these tea leaves go to waste.

**

For the rest of the day, Sunan couldn’t stop thinking about Lady Yan. Of course, the story she’d told him lurked in the back of his mind, but it was her beauty that occupied his heart. The graceful curve of her cheek, her fiery hair, the way her chest rose and fall when she breathed. At one point, he imagined himself reaching out to touch her… and shook his head to clear his thoughts.

He was utterly distracted, to the point where Yuwen Huo actually landed a punch onto his jaw in their afternoon sparring session, nearly knocking him unconscious. At first, Yuwen Huo was horrified, until Sunan started laughing and congratulated him. That punch cleared his head of thoughts of Lady Yan temporarily.

But later that night when Sunan was trying to fall asleep, she once again appeared in his thoughts.

Eventually, sleep took him, but later on, he was dreaming, and there she was again. She threw herself into his arms, and he could feel her curves pressing up against him.

“Sunan,” she said, sounding a bit breathless, “I’m afraid. Please hold me.”

“You don’t need to be afraid,” he replied. “I’m here.” His left hand came to rest on her hip, and his right hand slid along her neck as he pulled her her lips closer to his.

Suddenly, everything changed. He looked up, shocked, to find that a black wind was screaming all around him. Lady Yan vanished. He flew up into the air to find himself looking down at a black vortex, something like a swirling black hurricane. As he flew further and further away, he realized that the black wind was spinning above a huge circular object that resembled a dragon and a phoenix interlocked. The dragon and phoenix began to emanate golden light, which shone brighter and brighter as it rose up into the sky, where it formed into towering golden clouds.

Then, strangely, everything vanished, and he found himself staring into Lady Yan’s eyes again.

Then a clanging sound filled his ears, and Sunan opened his eyes. In that exact same moment, someone started banging on his door.

“Sect Leader Sunan, are you safe?”

Shaking his head to clear his thoughts, he sat up and mumbled, “I’m fine. What happened?”

“An intruder was lurking near your window! Lieutenant Yuwen is chasing after him right now.”

“Keep me posted.” With that, Sunan lay back down and stared up into the darkness of the ceiling, thinking about Lady Yan.

**

The following morning, Yuwen Huo reported that he had chased a mysterious intruder out of the compound and across the rooftops of Daolu. Yuwen Huo was convinced that it was a woman. He said that she wore a gray robe embroidered with dragons and phoenixes, and was definitely a Qi user. She moved with incredible quickness, and at one point, she even flew through the air like a bird. She eventually disappeared over the walls of the temple of Supreme Judge Yu.

The entire thing was mysterious enough to begin with, but when Yuwen Huo said it was a woman in a gray robe, a strange feeling rose up in Sunan’s heart. This wasn’t the first time he’d been told a woman in a gray robe had been seen lurking around him at night. Sun Mai had also mentioned something similar, quite some time ago.

Taking both Sun Mai and Yuwen Huo with him, he headed over the temple to make some inquiries, only to find that it was closed to the public. According to the priest at the gate, a red star had been spotted recently which the abbot of the temple took to be an ill omen. As such, the temple was closed while the priests performed various rituals to beseech Supreme Judge Yu for protection.

It seemed too suspicious to Sunan and Sun Mai, so after night fell, they decided to do some investigating of their own. The temple of Supreme Judge Yu was located roughly in the center of the city, with the southern half of the temple being a lush vegetated area called the Cypress and Hibiscus Garden. Considering how far away it was from the living quarters, Sunan and Sun Mai decided that it would be the best place to surreptitiously sneak in the temple. The moon hung low in the sky as they climbed up the southern wall of the temple, clad in black garments from head to toe.

Crouching on the wall, they looked out over the Cypress and Hibiscus Garden and Sunan almost immediately noticed that in the center of the garden, a fire was burning.

“Sun Mai, do you see that?”

Sun Mai nodded. “Let’s go.”

Sun Mai hopped off of the wall into the garden first, and just as Sunan was about to follow him, something flickered in his peripheral vision. He turned his head and was sure that he saw someone in a gray robe leaping over the far eastern wall. Frowning, he dropped down and began to follow Sun Mai as he ran through the trees in the direction of the fire.

Moments later, they found themselves standing outside of a small pagoda. A brazier had been set up outside, within which burned a small fire. When Sunan realized that what was burning were a few pieces of paper, he immediately lunged over and pulled them out, throwing them to the ground and stamping on them to put out the fire.

Meanwhile, Sun Mai stepped closer to the pagoda. “There’s a bedroll in here. A bowl. A cup. Someone’s been sleeping here.”

Frowning, Sunan squatted and looked down at what remained of the papers he’d rescued from the fire. One of them was a crudely drawn map of the mansion he and Sun Mai lived in. Another was a list of names, many of whom he recognized as his own disciples. A third, which had been badly damaged and was mostly destroyed, seemed to contain some poetry.

The graceful Bird due south takes wing,
From north to east the clouds surge forth,
From south to west fair feathers sing.
The fiends, a tempest dark and foul,
A shining pillar paints the sky,
Golden droplets spin and–

He handed the scrap of paper over to Sun Mai. “You’re the scholar. Does this look familiar?”

Sun Mai looked at the poetry for a moment before shaking his head.

They looked through the items in the pagoda, but didn’t find anything of note. Neither did they find anything in the rest of the garden after snooping around for an hour or so. The other areas of the temple seemed too well-lit, so they eventually abandoned their search and returned to the mansion.

Tie Gangwen was waiting for them.

“Sect Leader. Chief Minister. I have grave news. Some men on patrol outside the city were killed.”

“Killed!?” Sun Mai exclaimed. “How?”

Tie Gangwen took a deep breath. “A demon, Chief Minister. A River Demon.”

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3 thoughts on “LOOG – Chapter 33” - NO SPOILERS and NO CURSING

  1. “It seemed to suspicious to Sunan and Sun Mai, so after night fell, they decided to do some investigating of their own.”

    I believe that first “to” needs another “o”, if that isn’t too much trouble.

    Thanks for the chapter by the way! I’ve been loving your story Deathblade, I’ll be trying to comment more often.

    Looks like someone/something is out to get the Golden Dragon Sect, does it involve the Demon Lord? I wonder what role mysterious grey girl is playing, she seems to be involved with Bao’s poetry fits.

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