LOOG Chapter – 49

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Chapter 49: Two Boxes

An Jian was an ordinary man. At least, he seemed that way. Although he was no martial artist, his eyes flickered with intelligence that was outright frightening. That was one reason why he rarely looked anyone in the eye.

Currently, he was looking over the smoldering ruins of the Delightful Wind Shop, which had once stood right next to the headquarters of the Pure Phoenix Sect, the former residence of the Golden Immortal. An Jian had run the shop for a few years, selling beautiful fans decorated with poetry of his own creation. In the short time that he had operated the shop in Daolu, he had built up quite a patronage in the city, especially among the rich and powerful.

However, the shop was now nothing more than cinder and ash.

In the final hectic moments of the battle, An Jian had fled the burning shop with a handful of his fans, one of which he held in his hands right now. Looking down at the fan, he smiled.

“I must admit I failed to foresee that Daolu would be destroyed ahead of schedule. How very interesting.” A curl of acrid smoke floated toward An Jian, which he waved away using the fan. The truth was that An Jian had once been one of the most powerful martial artists alive. But that was in a different life. A different time.

“Despite living directly in the shadow of Sunan and Bao, they slipped away before I could make my move.” An Jian looked around at the smoldering city. “Thankfully, it’s not too late. All my years of preparation ensured that. The seeds which have been cast out will eventually grow to fruition, and then, I will make my move.

“I still have decades of time to work with if necessary. The arrows hidden in the darkness will fly straight into the hearts of Sunan and Bao, and then the matter will be concluded.” He chuckled. “It seems the time has come to do a bit of traveling.”

With that, he began to stroll in the direction of the Zhen Gate.

**

After a short, fitful night of rest came another long day of travel, then a bit more rest. They skirted the edges of the forest during day, then camped among the trees at night. The process repeated a few times until the group was about a week west of Daolu, beneath the towering mountain peak that was Zhifu Shan.

Bao was in a rotten mood. Flames of anger licked at her heart, and with each passing day, the anger grew hotter, and her temper shorter. The more she thought about the events which had occurred, the more frustrated she was with herself, and the more she hated the Demon Emperor. And especially the Bone General.

The faces of Lin Qingxia, Yang Ziqiong, and Yuwen Huo passed through her mind constantly. She relived the fight with the Golden Immortal, and was continuously pricked by the stinging humiliation of having been defeated.

By the time they camped in a ravine at the foot of Zhifu Shan, Bao felt like she was about to explode. Not bothering to eat an evening meal, she left the camp and began to climb the mountain alone. An hour later, she settled down cross-legged on a stone outcropping that jutted out from the side of the mountain and formed something like a platform.

From this height, she could see forest stretching out to the east, and the Chezhou River far to the north, but little else. Daolu wasn’t visible, nor was any smoke from its burning. The camp, further down the mountain, was relatively well hidden in the ravine.

As she sat there looking at the sun preparing to drop down over the horizon, she forced herself to breathe in and out. Assuming the same posture she had invented years ago, she began to meditate. Instead of forcing the Qi through a prescribed path, she allowed it to flow freely through her body.

Because of the rage inside of her, the Qi seemed to flow more quickly than usual, but at the same time, it distorted slightly, and fell into a different path than it normally did. To Bao’s surprise, she soon realized that the flow of the Qi inside of her was taking a unique shape, and apparently, it was because of the anger that burned in her heart.

Over the course of the following hour, she continued to meditate, analyzing the flow of the Qi, and trying to memorize the pattern of its flow through her meridians. Strangely, her rage had subsided, but the Qi had grown more powerful, rushing through her body like a screaming river. Suddenly, her eyes opened, and they glowed with a faint red light.

She still felt like she was about to explode, although this time, it was not from anger. Leaping to her feet, she let out a growling shout and then released the energy through the tips of her fingers. Five streams of crimson light snaked out, slashing into the rough rock at her feet, hewing out five finger-tip-deep furrows that emanated faint, maroon smoke.

Panting, Bao looked down at her fingers. Of all the techniques she had seen and used, this seemed the most terrifying. If it could slash holes into rocks, what could it do to human flesh? Most terrifying of all was that she could sense that the technique wasn’t complete. There was potential to fuel it with even more power than she had. What would happen then?

What made it so powerful? My rage?

Closing her eyes, she turned her attention inward again, and found that, to her surprise, she was completely calm. Earlier, the fury inside of her had burned seemingly beyond her control, but now, there was nothing.

After a moment of contemplation, she sat down cross-legged and slipped into a meditative state once again. The Qi began to flow, and this time, she tried to send it along the same path as before. However, as the minutes passed, and then the hours, she failed over and over again. She could vaguely remember the outline of the path, and yet couldn’t reproduce it.

Before she knew it, an entire night had passed. As the light of dawn began to rise up from the mountain behind her, she opened her eyes.

“Dammit,” she murmured. Shaking her head slowly, she rose to her feet.

It was in that exact moment that she heard her name being called out behind her.

“Bao!”

She turned to find Sunan hurrying over.

“Were you out here the whole night?!” he asked.

She looked around in surprise at the murky dawn sky. “I guess so. I was hit with some enlightenment.”

She subconsciously looked down at the five furrows which she had slashed into the boulder.

Sunan reached her and followed her gaze down to the furrows. “Is that…?”

She nodded. “A new technique. But I’m having trouble reproducing it.” After a moment of silence, she continued, “You came all the way up here looking for me?”

“Yes, something happened. Follow me.”

They hurried back down the mountain and into the camp. Bao immediately noticed a buzz of activity. At one point they passed a large pavilion within which she saw Mao Yun, Sun Mai, Sima Zikang, Liu Jiahui, and other high-ranking members of the two sects.

“Is there some sort of meeting going on?” Bao asked.

“Yes,” Sunan replied. “Up to now we’ve been running like crazy. Disorganized. We need to fix that, so the men are talking about how to divide up the new recruits.”

“New recruits? I was gone for a night. Why does it feel like it’s been a week?”

Sunan chuckled. “We have soldiers, constables, and plenty of ordinary citizens to take care of now. Those who are willing to join our sects will be divided up in the best way possible. Any who don’t wish to join will be sent on their way once it’s safe.”

As they talked, Sunan led Bao through the camp to what she recognized was her own tent.

Sunan stopped outside and gestured at the tent flap. “After you.”

She pushed the flap aside and entered the tent. It was small inside, cramped for two people, especially considering that there was a wooden table set up inside.

“During the unpacking last night,” Sunan went on to explain, “I personally took care of your items, especially… that.” He gestured at the iron box on the table.

“My Phoenix Crown.”

“Yes. While taking care of your Phoenix Crown, I happened to notice something very interesting. Watch this.” With that, Sunan unstrapped the burlap sack which had been tied to his back. Reaching into the sack, he pulled out a small wooden box, a box that Bao recognized.

“Is that the Wind Stone?”

“Indeed. Observe.” Holding the Wind Stone box in his right hand, he stepped toward the table and then extended it toward the iron box.

As the wooden box and the iron box neared, a faint droning sound suddenly reached Bao’s ears. At first it was almost undetectable, but as the boxes got closer to each other, it became clearer and clearer. Then, Bao noticed the air between the two boxes distorting, in the same way waves of heat would rise up from the horizon on a hot day.

Sunan brought the two boxes so close that they were almost touching. The distortions turn into ripples which spread out for less than a meter in each direction, and the droning sound became even louder.

“What is this?” Bao whispered.

“I don’t know. Throughout all the years, we never brought the Phoenix Crown and the Wind Stone into the same room with each other, let alone put them next to each other.” A moment passed, then Sunan pulled the wooden box away and put it back into the burlap sack. “I shudder to think what might happen if I opened the wooden box. Or the iron box. Or both of them at the same time.”

Bao reached forward and put her hand onto the cool surface of the iron box. “The Phoenix Crown and the Wind Stone almost seem like they belong together.”

“Exactly. Bao, I remember you mentioning someone adept at forging objects of power. The same one who forged your Phoenix Crown.”

She looked over at him and smiled. “It’s time for a trip to Mount Fohe.”

Get behind the scenes info and material for your Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate session at the Bedrock Blog. The info for this chapter provides details about the technique Bao just invented! Check it out!

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6 thoughts on “LOOG Chapter – 49” - NO SPOILERS and NO CURSING

  1. Ok, I’m kind of (ab)using the fact that we have direct interaction with the author of an in-progress story here. [Let me know if to tone that down a bit; I don’t mean to be overly critical.] A mix of things I’m curious about from the story so far and into the future; not sure if asking at this point is detrimental or what – it is quite likely that the story is already intending to address these one way or another:

    Starting with the disclaimer that I don’t have much experience with meditation – is it likely that she would notice that anger is the cause of the new flow/shape, WHILE she is angry?

    Hmm….division of recruits; I wonder why they retain distinct sects even when fleeing together?
    (Of course the story may already call for them to join in the future . . .) Personally I’d like to know why (eg. perhaps very different techniques or ideologies?), but I suppose simply having an idea of the size of the groups may imply a reason (ie. it’s too big a group to manage as a unit).
    Not sure why (it seems) Sunan and Bao aren’t working together. So far it feels like Sunan and Sun Mai are inclined to / trying to create a more structured/hierarchical group and Bao and company are kind of (working) along for the ride, to take advantage of the benefits of this organisation.

    Thanks for the chapter.

    1. a ravine the foot >> at the foot

      Before she knew it, and entire >> an entire

      Why does it feel like a week? >>>
      Nothing wrong with this really, but I think ‘feel’ implies that she has a ‘sensation’ of some type, eg. fatigue, whereas ‘seem’ appears more appropriate to describe her (mental/apparent) dissociation between experience and circumstances.

    2. About the meditation, yes it is likely. That’s why I wrote it that way.

      For the two sects, well, they’re two distinct sects. You have to perform rites and rituals and have official leaders. I mean, whether you’re talking about two kid’s clubs or two real-life martial arts schools or two actual sects of a religion, just because they’re working together as allies doesn’t mean they just instantly merge into one group.

      1. Ahhh . . . and I was just about to acknowledge that I wrote this comment after the first line of your next (already posted) chapter addresses numbers. Is this what it means to lose face? lol

        I would have expected it to merge over the two years really, unless there were differing outlooks one something important. But that’s sort of in the abstract, if they already had distinct practices before the two years, I guess it would have been hard anyway. (This likely also stems from a lack of knowledge about what a ‘sect’ really is in reality, as well as an admittedly atypical ‘worldview’ more generally.)

        Anyway, makes sense now. Thanks for the prompt (and detailed) response!

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