LOOG Chapter – 55

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Chapter 55: Two Knives

Dragon Lieutenant Guan Yunchang was standing next to one of the Claws of the Phoenix, Zhang Jing. It was with some derision that he watched Dragon Lieutenant Zhou stumble into the meeting room, place a box onto a nearby table, then slump down against the wall.

Leaning over to Zhang Jing, he said, “This is the fourth meeting in a row he came in drunk.”

“Drunk, or hung over?”

“Same thing.” Dragon Lieutenant Guan had to hold back from spitting onto the ground. A minute or so later, faint snoring could be heard in the room. Ting’s lipped curled up into a sneer. Leaning back over to Zhang Jing, he said, “Watch this….”

With that he cupped his hand over his mouth and then said in a loud voice, “Big bro Zhou, wake up! The Sect Leader and the Chieftess are coming!”

Dragon Lieutenant Zhou scrambled to his feet, clasped hands and said, “Greetings Sect Leader! Greetings Chieftess!”

Of course, Sunan and Bao were nowhere to be seen. Dragon Lieutenant Guan immediately let out a loud guffaw. Others in the room began to chuckle.

Then, for some strange reason Dragon Lieutenant Zhou reached over toward the box he’d placed onto the table. He pushed his finger down onto the surface of the box, and a soft clicking sound could be heard.

BOOOOOOOM!

**

The atmosphere in the room was heavy. A new council chamber had been set up, and it was occupied by about ten people, including Bao and Sunan, Li Runfa, Sima Zikang. Some faces one would expect to be present were nowhere to be seen.

For a very long time, no one spoke.

Bao broke the silence.

“How many dead?”

“Five,” Li Runfa replied softly. “Dragon Lieutenants Guan and Zhou, Phoenix Claw Zhang. Two others, lower ranking members of the council.”

“And you said Tie Gangwen was injured?”

“Yes Chieftess. He… well, his arm was completely ripped off. The doctors aren’t sure if he’ll make it through. There were other injuries as well. Dragon Lieutenant Wang lost an eye. Phoenix Claw Li suffered some serious burns.”

Another very long moment passed in which no one spoke.

“What was it?” Sunan asked. “What could burn so hot and fast?”

“The people in the room said it happened in the blink of an eye,” Li Runfa said. “An explosion. Intense heat, obviously. Dragon Lieutenant Zhou got the worst of it. He was… completely shredded to pieces.”

Dragon Lord Sima Zikang had been just a few meters down the hall from the entrance to the council chamber, and had thus been spared even the slightest injury. “People are saying it was magic,” he said.

Li Runfa frowned. “Considering everything we’ve seen in recent years, I can’t deny the existence of magic. But I don’t get the feeling that something magical caused this. The room smelled strange.”

“It just smelled like fire to me,” Dragon Lord Sima said.

“Yes, that’s true. But there was something else. Maybe sulfur.”

Bao clenched her fist. “If there’s even the possibility it might involve magic, we need to investigate further. Get Smiling Luo involved.”

“I wish Sun Mai were here….” Sunan murmured. Then he looked over at Li Runfa. “Do we have any idea who might be responsible?”

Li Runfa shook his head. “Dragon Lieutenant Zhou was at the center of the blast, so it must have originated with him. But he seems an unlikely to be the one truly responsible. Before joining the Golden Dragon Sect, he was nothing more than a server at the Heavenly Meat Palace. He was skilled in martial arts, but was no practicer of magic, nor a man of alchemy. There must be someone else behind it.”

“Hold on a moment,” said Dragon Lord Sima. “Brother Li, did you just mention that you smelled sulfur?”

“Yes, why?”

“Just yesterday I asked Alchemist Yang to make some Galenite Elixir for me. He said that he couldn’t because he had no sulfur on hand. Someone had recently bought his entire supply.”

Bao’s eyes narrowed. “I’m no alchemist, but I’m pretty sure that not even a huge pile of sulfur could burn that hot. Or fast. And it definitely wouldn’t explode.”

“It’s still worth investigating,” Li Runfa said. “I’ll look into it.”

The meeting went on for several more hours. Discussions were made regarding who to promote as replacements for the officers who had been killed. They talked about heightening security, and even decided to look further into the backgrounds of all members of the two sects, starting with the newest ones.

The longer the meeting stretched on, the more Bao’s mood turned sour. Worst of all, there didn’t seem to be any target upon which to focus her anger. Whoever it was that had attacked the council meeting, he or she was hidden completely in the shadows. Even that person’s motives were unknown. Had Bao and Sunan truly been targeted? Had it been one of the other officers? No amount of speculation could provide a clear answer.

At a certain point, Bao felt like she couldn’t sit there anymore. “I need some fresh air,” she announced, then rose to her feet and left the room.

As she paced through the corridor, she happened to hear one of the Pure Phoenix Sect members mention that the guard tower further up the mountain had reported some suspicious movement to the southwest.

“When was that?” Bao asked.

“Greetings, Chieftess! It was only a few minutes ago. Chang Peng of the Eyes of the Phoenix is putting together a team to go investigate.”

“I see. Many thanks!”

Without any further hesitation, she headed toward the stables. Although Chang Peng was surprised to see her, and even more surprised that she wanted to join what was little more than a patrol, he didn’t say anything. Minutes later, she was outside of the caves, breathing the fresh mountain air.

Their group consisted of six men and two women, plus Chang Peng and herself.

After riding a few minutes, the trees started to grow thicker as they entered a forested area. Chang Peng said, “Chieftess, why don’t I go ahead and scout a bit? I can move a lot more stealthily on my own.”

Bao nodded in agreement, and Chang Peng rode out ahead of the group.

Bao continued along at a steady pace. This is exactly what I needed. I can feel myself calming down already.

Ten minutes later, Chang Peng returned. “Chieftess, I found them, up ahead in a clearing. Two men, lightly armed. One has an Ox-Tail Dao, and the other has a whole bunch of knives sheathed at his waist. They have horses, but aren’t mounted at the moment. Chieftess, based on their clothing, I’d say they’re definitely not from the north. Looks more like the fashion of Yu Zhing or Xuanlu to me, although I’m no expert.”

After a moment of thought, Bao said, “Let’s approach on foot.” Picking one of the men at random, she said, “You stay with the horses.”

With that, the group dismounted and proceeded through the forest with Chang Peng in the lead.

Thirty meters away from the clearing, Bao sent three people to the left and three to the right to flank the clearing, taking Chang Peng and one other with her to approach the clearing directly.

They’re probably just passing travelers. I’ll tell them to be on their way and that will be the end of things.

Soon the clearing was visible through the trees up ahead. The group moved along quietly, using Qinggong to keep their footfalls light and nearly inaudible.

When Bao stepped out into the open, she saw two men sitting with their backs to her, their horses tethered to trees a few meters away.

Not very perceptive are they? she thought, smirking.

“Greetings, travelers,” she said. Although her voice was calm, she flexed her fingers in preparation to unleash Torment of the Phoenix if necessary.

Both men looked over their shoulder at her, but the one on the left was a bit faster than the other. As soon as Bao saw him, her eyes went wide. He wore an eyepatch, and had three pale scars running down the opposing cheek. She recognized him! Back on the docks of Yu Zhing, she had clawed his eye out in a late night scuffle.

He clearly recognized her, and as he rose to his feet, his hand clasped the hilt of the Ox-Tail Dao strapped to his waist.

Bao’s eyes flickered to look at the man on the right, and when she saw his face, she felt as if her mind were being struck by a thousand bolts of lightning. She recognized him, too. His was a face she would never be able to forget, even if she wanted to.

“Geng Long?” she blurted. He was none other than Geng Long, who had led her on midnight adventures through the alleyways and along the rooftops of Yu Zhing. He had kissed her on a moonlight night, and held her hand as they gazed at the stars together. She would never forget the terror she had felt when she went to meet him, only to end up in a cold, iron cage, nor the hope which had surged in her heart upon hearing his voice outside, and thinking that he had come to rescue her. Never could she forget how her heart had plummeted when she realized that it was Geng Long who had landed her in that cage.

The calm which she had felt moments ago shattered, and instantly, rage began to boil in her heart.

For some reason, Geng Long didn’t seem surprised to see her. “Bao….” he said.

The man in the eyepatch took a step forward. “She doesn’t look much different from before. Not very impressive.”

Bao’s mind was spinning so hard she almost couldn’t think, and her eyes were beginning to go hot with anger.

“We’re just passing through, Bao,” Geng Long said, taking a step backward. “We’ll be on our way now.”

The man in the eyepatch snorted. “There are only three of them,” he said. “We could take them. Let’s just kill her now and be done with it.”

“Shut up, Xie Song,” Geng Long said.

Bao’s anger was already beginning to burn out of control, swirling through her along the same meridian pathways that she had forged in the mountains further to the north. Geng Long’s attention had shifted to his companion Xie Song, so at the moment, he didn’t notice how Bao’s eyes had begun to glow red.

Xie Song’s expression was one of complete derision as he said, “Don’t you know who Geng Long is, Chieftess Bao? He’s a Bone Slicer now!”

“Shut the fuck up Xie Song!” Geng Long barked, eyes flashing daggers at Xie Song before turning back to look at Bao.

Xie Song looked over his shoulder at Geng Long. “What, don’t tell me you’re afraid of this bitch, are you?”

Bao screamed and slashed her hand out in front of her, sending five crimson streams of light snaking through the air.

Geng Long’s eyes went wide, and he immediately kicked off with his left foot, sending himself shooting backward in a blur.

Xie Song looked back at Bao just in time to see five shining streams of light rushing in his direction. Before he could even react, the light hit him, cutting through his body as easily as a sharp knife cuts through bamboo. Blood and gore exploded out in all directions as Xie Song’s body was sliced apart. He didn’t even have a chance to scream.

Fuck!” Geng Long shouted. “Bao, what are you doing?!” Two knives appeared in his hands as he landed on the ground some distance away.

Bao strode forward, leaving behind the shocked Chang Peng and the other members of the Pure Phoenix Sect.

Not deigning to even respond to Geng Long, she reached back with her hand to unleash another deadly strike, drawing cathartically on her own Qi, ignoring the resulting pain and the wave of weakness which seemed to be building up inside of her.

Five crimson streams of light whipped toward Geng Long, but fortunately for him, he was ready. He leaped up into the air with astounding agility and speed, completely avoiding the five streams of energy, simultaneously throwing both of his knives toward her.

As soon as she unleashed the cathartic blow, Bao felt a weakness sweeping through her, causing her knees to tremble. With what little energy she had left inside, she lurched to the left to avoid the flying knives. Even still, one of them slashed her forearm, sending pain tingling up toward her shoulder.

As she toppled to the ground, Geng Long utilized a bizarre Qinggong technique to blur into motion and disappear into the nearby tree line.

Chang Peng rushed over to find Bao laying on the ground unconscious. Her face was ashen, her forearm bleeding, and most disturbing of all, the skin around the wound on her forearm was a sickly black color.

Cursing to himself, Chang Peng picked Bao up in his arms and hurried back toward the horses.

Get behind the scenes info and material for your Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate session at the Bedrock Blog.

Many thanks to reader Quaeritis who has agreed to help out with some proofreading and editing to make the chapters a bit smoother upon release! Welcome to the team, Quaeritis, the story is already improving with your input!

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