LOOG – Chapter 34

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Chapter 34: Blue

They set out the following morning at dawn. Tie Gangwen picked five men, and Yuwen Huo picked five men. Sunan donned his armor, Sun Mai wore his normal scholar’s robes.

“I don’t like armor,” he declared.

“Sun Mai, we’re going out to fight a Demon….”

Sun Mai turned his chin up. “I’m a thinker, not a fighter.”

Sunan shook his head.

They headed out of the city’s Zhen Gate, which led to the south. According to the accounts, the soldiers had been ambushed by the River Demon near the prawn farms west of the city. Shellfish had long been one of the primary foods for the people living along the Chezou River, and considering the sizeable population of Daolu, it was little wonder that locals had established farms to fuel the demand in the city. Sunan had often wondered how the Heavenly Meat Palace managed to get their hands on so many prawns that they could serve them endlessly, and now he knew.

Eventually they reached the spot where the fight had occurred, and sure enough, there was plenty of evidence to corroborate the soldiers’ story. However, there was no River Demon present. After searching the immediate area, they decided to split up. Sun Mai and Tie Gangwen would head inland a bit, while Sunan and Yuwen Huo would continue west along the river.

Unfortunately, after traveling west for about two hours, they didn’t find even a trace of the River Demon. They asked a few farmers they saw for information, and got conflicting reports. Apparently, rumors of the River Demon were common, but few people had ever encountered it.

Soon it was noon, and Sunan called for a break. They found a shady spot along the river to dismount and eat a noon meal.

After finishing eating, Sunan headed down to the water to clean up. It was at that point that he noticed a young man a bit further up the river, sitting on a rock, a fishing pole dangling into the water.

He approached the young man and called out, “Greetings, young sir!”

When the young man turned looked over, Sunan was surprised to find that he had blue eyes.

“Hello,” the young man replied.

Walking a bit closer, Sunan said, “Do you live around here?”

“I do, sir. How can I help you?”

“I’m from Daolu, here to investigate a River Demon. Have you heard any stories about it?”

“Sure, everybody around here has heard of the River Demon. A few people have even seen it.”

“Do you know any of those people personally?”

“Well, sure. I’m one of them.”

Sunan’s eyebrows shot up. “Really? Could you tell me more about it?”

“I can do better than that, I can show you. At least, I think I can. I’m pretty sure I know where the River Demon’s lair is. I’ve never gone to check, because, well, I don’t want to get killed. There’s a little grotto upriver from here, and I’d be willing to be my livelihood on the fact that the River Demon lives there.”

“What makes you so sure?”

The young man shrugged. “I used to play in that grotto when I was young, so I know what it looks like inside. Ever since the River Demon showed up, though, I stayed away.”

“I see. Very well, I’d like to see this grotto of yours.”

The young man rose to his feet and pointed downriver. “Sure. It’s about a fifteen minute walk that way.”

After securing the horses, Sunan, Yuwen Huo, and the five soldiers followed the young fisherman down the river. Eventually, he led them to an area where a bend in the river created something like a small lake. At this point, the young fisherman stopped.

“See that?” he said, pointing up ahead. “Those rocks form the mouth of a little cave. I’m almost sure that’s where the River Demon’s lair is. I don’t want to go any further than this, though. Good luck.”

Settling his Qi and clenching his fist, Sunan proceeded forward, followed by Yuwen Huo and the soldiers. He’d only gone a few meters when suddenly, a faint clicking sound from behind caught his attention. He looked over his shoulder, and then time seemed to slow down.

Shockingly, standing in the exact position where the young fisherman had been was an enormous, human-sized crab. It was bright blue, with wickedly curved claws and cruel-looking eyes that glistened like the morning dew. It had thick fur adorning its claws and legs, which was a darker shade of blue, as dark as the depths of the Chezou itself.

The crab’s claws were currently raised high up into the air, as if it were preparing to smash them down into the ground.

Sunan shouted a warning to Yuwen Huo and the soldiers, and simultaneously swiveled in place.

-Boom-

It was at this point that the crab’s claws came smashing down, sending an enormous blast of sand directly toward Sunan and his group. Sunan leaped to the side, somehow managing to evade the blast. Yuwen Huo was similarly quick-footed, but the other soldiers weren’t as lucky. Caught completely off guard, the sand smashed into them, sending them tumbling to the ground as patches of skin were shredded completely off their bodies. Two of the soldiers’ eyes were damaged, blinding them. Bloodcurdling screams rang out into the air.

Thanks to his rigorous training in recent days, Sunan was much quicker to react than he might have been in the past. Without even thinking about it, he unleashed Slash of the Dragon’s Tail, sending a blast of energy toward the River Demon.

Simultaneously, Yuwen Huo did exactly the same thing, although his Slash of the Dragon’s Tail wasn’t quite on the same level as Sunan’s.

Unfortunately, the River Demon managed to evade both attacks, and then scuttled forward at top speed toward the fallen soldiers.

By this point, the soldiers were struggling to their feet, moaning. Before they could even draw their weapons, the gigantic crab was upon them. Its claws opened and closed with vicious clacking sounds as it attacked the two blinded soldiers at the same time.

Shockingly, one of the soldier’s heads instantly flew off of his body, blood spraying through the air as it tumbled down in front of Sunan. As for the other soldier, the River Demon’s other claw nearly cut him in half at the waist, sending blood and entrails flopping down into the sand.

Gritting his teeth, Sunan lashed out with Rebuke of the Dragon. This time, the blow hit true, smashing directly into face of the River Demon. A crisp popping sound rang out as the gigantic crab staggered backward, only to be hit moments later by a second Rebuke of the Dragon from Yuwen Huo, which ripped off one of its clawed arms.

The crab bellowed and then lashed out toward a third soldier, who just barely managed to dodge. The other two soldiers were scrambling backward, fear written across their faces.

In recent days of training Sunan had reached a certain level of enlightenment regarding how to use Qi in a fight, and knew that it was possible to surpass the limitations of one’s own body. Although he had never actually resorted to such methods in training, he was certain that by cathartically drawing upon his Qi, he could unleash far greater damage with his strikes than normal.

In this desperate situation, that was exactly what he did. Pushing himself past his limit, he shouted, “Rebuke of the Dragon!”

Two enormous energy blasts shot through the air like mighty dragons, a crashing wave of blades that slammed directly into the gigantic blue crab.

-BOOM-

The River Demon was almost completely smashed into pieces. Legs flew here and there, and its only remaining claw shattered. It tumbled backward along the river bank, blue blood splashing everywhere.

Eventually, it rolled to a stop, where it remained, emitting painful clicking sounds.

Sunan walked over and stood above it.

“Damn you human,” the River Demon said in an odd, rasping voice.

“Why did you do this?” Sunan asked. “What did I ever do to you?”

The River Demon chuckled. “You humans shouldn’t be this powerful. It’s unnatural.”

“You mean the Qi? How could it be unnatural? It’s part of nature itself.”

“If you pour oil into sand, it becomes part of the sand, but does that mean it is innately sand?”

Sunan frowned. “I don’t understand.”

“What you call Qi is not natural. It was brought to this world by the Demon Emperor.” The crab made a gurgling sound, and its voice began to weaken. “It doesn’t matter. No matter how strong you humans get, you’ll always be fools. You think I didn’t recognize you the minute you approached me, Young Dragon Sunan? People call you Young Dragon, but you are no dragon.”

“Why can’t we just live in harmony?”

“Harmony? Ha! Damn you, Sunan. I wish I could have killed more humans than I did. At least I can take delight in knowing that your precious Daolu will soon be burnt to the ground!”

“What?”

“That’s right. Even a poor little River Demon like myself can tell that you’ve been infiltrated. The Demon Emperor is playing you like a guzheng!” It chuckled. “Prepare to be cursed for all generations to come, humans! Torment of the Crab Demons!” Without any warning whatsoever, the River Demon began to tremble and twitch. A moment later, it literally exploded. Countless chunks of blue-colored carapace, white flesh, and blue viscous fluid burst out in all directions.

Sunan reacted just barely in time, drawing on his Qi to fly backward with inhuman speed.

Yuwen Huo wasn’t as lucky. Although he also flew away from the exploding crab, a chunk of flying carapace slashed across his cheek, opening a vicious gash.

Most of the exploding crab landed in the river, where it spread out in clouds of blue, before slowly drifting downstream.

Sunan looked over at Yuwen Huo. The blood oozing out of the gash on his cheek was mostly red but tinged with spots of bright blue. Even the flesh around it was blue.

“Brother Yuwen, are you alright?”

Yuwen Huo looked at him and began to nod in agreement. However, his nod suddenly slowed down, and a moment later he fell over flat on his face.

**

The entire way back to Daolu, Sunan’s heart was pounding with fear and anger. He berated himself over and over for leading his men into an obvious trap, and getting two of them killed. Then there was Yuwen Huo, his top lieutenant, who never regained consciousness after being slashed by the flying chunk of cursed crab carapace.

At a certain point, they ran into Sun Mai’s group. After briefly explaining the situation, they hurried back to the city as quickly as possible.

By the time they were back, Yuwen Huo’s entire left cheek was completely blue-colored, and he was still unconscious. Sun Mai had few helpful ideas.

The following morning, the blue coloring had spread down to Yuwen Huo’s neck, and didn’t seem to be stopping. Yuwen Huo would twitch and moan occasionally. Sun Mai was at a complete loss, and none of the other physicians or priests had any clue about what to do.

“What about that Smiling Luo fellow?” Sunan asked.

Sun Mai shrugged. “Call for him, I suppose.”

Unfortunately, Smiling Luo was nowhere to be found.

By noon, half of Yuwen Huo’s face was blue, and the twitching and moaning had grown more intense. Sunan was so frustrated that he wanted to break something. That was when Tie Gangwen approached with news that Lady Yan had arrived.

“What does she want?” Sunan asked, distracted.

“She says she can break the curse.”

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8 thoughts on “LOOG – Chapter 34” - NO SPOILERS and NO CURSING

    1. I know that Sunan and Sun Mai are kids, but how can they not be suspicious? Did they really think that the Demon Emperor would just ignore them? I’m just venting some frustration. I understand that they need to make mistakes to learn.

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