Chapter 19: Memories of Old

Legendary Book of Sun-Moon Swordplay

Characters appearing in this chapter:
Gigi Lai Chi—Lam Suk Chi (Lin Shu Zi) 林淑姿
Annie Man Chung Han—So Siu Han (Su Xiao Xian) 蘇小嫻
Gilbert Lam Wai Sun—Lam Yik Lun (Lin Yi Lun) 林億倫
Louis Koo Tin Lok—Gu Yat Fei (Gu Ri Fei) 古日飛
Andy Lau Tak Wah—Lam Siu Tin (Lin Xiao Tian) 林笑天
Idy Chan Yuk Lin—Chan Yin Yuk (Chen Yan Yu) 陳嬿玉
Frankie Lam Mun Lung—Lam Yik Wah (Lin Yi Long) 林億龍
Felix Wong Yat Wah—Wong Hap Ming 黃俠明 (gentleman at tea stand)

Guest appearances in this chapter:
Margie Tsang Wah Sin—Chu Sau Fa (Zhu Xiu Hua) 朱繡花 (mother of toddler)
Sean Lau Ching Wan—Lau Yuen (Liu Yun) 劉运 (father of toddler)

GOLDEN PHOENIX INN

Not paying close attention to her path, Chi Chi collided right into another person running up the stairs. Reeling from the impact, both parties fell backward, landing on the floor in a tangle of arms and legs. Shocked, both women looked up at each other, their eyes round with surprise.

Chi Chi burst out in a surprised, breathless voice. “Siu Han! What are you doing here?”

Siu Han scrambled up and reached down to assist Chi Chi. “Fourth Young Mistress! What are you doing here? Your parents have been searching for you!”

Both young women staggered to a standing position and regarded each other with bewilderment, as they absently dusted off their robes. Suddenly, Chi Chi remembered the Sun Moon Sect members and her dangerous situation. Grasping Siu Han’s arm, Chi Chi pulled the other woman urgently over to a dark corner of the corridor.

Chi Chi peeked furtively out toward the stairs to see if any Sun Moon Sect members had returned. “Shhh! I was captured by the Sun Moon Sect ever since the attack on Lam Mansion. After biding my time, I have finally managed to escape!” She anxiously peered around again, making sure they were alone. “My captors have left early this morning. Let’s leave before they come back!”

Siu Han lowered her eyes guiltily upon hearing about the Sun Moon Sect. “They didn’t harm you, did they, Fourth Young Mistress?” She scanned her eyes over Chi Chi worriedly as she looked for bruises. “Are they close by?”

Chi Chi shook her head impatiently, whispering frantically. “No, they didn’t hurt me. They mostly ignored me throughout the journey, though they were quite rude and crass.” She stuck her nose up into the air and sniffed indignantly. “The two brothers who captured me appeared quite skilled, however. We need to leave quickly before they return!”

Chi Chi hurried toward the stairs, dragging Siu Han along, not noticing Siu Han’s reluctance.

Siu Han frowned as she allowed herself to be pulled down the hallway to the stairs. “What do the Sun Moon Sect members look like?”

Chi Chi glanced back at Siu Han, her tone a bit preoccupied. “Well, two of my captors are brothers. The older brother especially stands out, with his stern, tanned looks.” She paused, admitting grudgingly,” I suppose he could be considered handsome, if he would stop glaring at everyone who walks by.”

Grumbling a little to herself, Chi Chi tiptoed to the top of the stairs with Siu Han in tow and peeked down into the main foyer of the inn, her eyes scanning for signs of Sun Moon Sect members.

Seeing no guests around, Chi Chi whispered excitedly, “Siu Han, there aren’t any Sun Moon Sect members around! We have to run now before they return!”

Before Chi Chi could race down the stairs, Sui Han pulls Chi Chi back. “Fourth Young Mistress, wait! If these people are as powerful as you say they are, then we should come up with a plan just in case we bump into one of them while trying to escape.”

Chi Chi looked thoughtfully at Siu Han, then broke into a beautiful smile and remarked teasingly. “You’re right, Siu Han! Clever, graceful, and beautiful! Eldest Brother has great taste in women.”

Chi Chi, her eyes twinkling mirthfully, winked teasingly at Siu Han. However, her playful grin quickly changed into a frown as a new thought occurred to her.

Looking uncertainly at Siu Han, Chi Chi fretted, “But uh…I don’t have a plan. Plus, we don’t have time to wait around thinking up plans, because they could return any minute.”

Siu Han smiled winningly. “Don’t worry, Fourth Young Mistress. I have a way to elude those Sun Moon Sect members.” She pulled Chi Chi toward the inn room she shared with Lun, explaining as she walked. “Here is what we should do…”

MEANWHILE…
BACK IN THE FOREST AT THE OUTSKIRTS OF HOI YEUNG CITY

Taking the fight to the ground level, Lam Yik Lun and Gu Yat Fei landed in a cloud of dust, swords clanging together with such power that orange-red sparks spewed from the metal to metal contact. Shrubs rustled nearby as a doe and her fawn crashed through the foliage, escaping from the humans who were disturbing the tranquility of the forest. A majestic, white eagle circled the sky above, it’s sharp eyes catching the glint of sword metal before swooping in a graceful arc and disappearing into the clouds, its cry blending in with the discordant clash of swords.

Thrusting his sword forward, Fei aimed the tip toward Lun’s throat, intending to kill. In defense, Lun angled his body slightly sideways to evade the approaching weapon. He stopped the advancing sword by sandwiching the blade between his index and middle fingers. Transferring a burst of qi to the tip, Lun snapped the blade in two, the residual force field creating enough qi ripples to force Fei several paces back.

Lun flung the sword tip away, sending it shooting through the air toward Fei. “Here’s your sword tip back. I’ve won the duel.”

Fei adroitly snapped the sword tip between his fingers. “Not so fast. I haven’t lost.”

Lun slid his sword smoothly into its scabbard and gave Fei an appraising look. “Your sword technique is admirable, but I don’t have time for your games. Go home and come back to Lam Manor another day if you want to issue a formal challenge.”

Fei extended his arm out to block Lun’s exit. “What’s the rush, Young Hero Lam? Are you too tired to continue the fight?”

Lun halted mid-stride and stared at Fei coldly. “Do you have a problem with me? Do I even know you?”

In response, Fei glared at Lun. “Let’s just say that I don’t like you. Your voice grates on my nerves. Your face irritates me. Just seeing you around makes me violent.”

Lun threw the other a strange look. “You’re obviously disturbed. Why am I wasting my time speaking to you?”

Again, Lun started to leave. However, the jealous Fei was not about end their altercation so easily.

Throwing his broken sword away in disgust, Fei rubbed his palms together, his eyes focused murderously on Lun. A flicker of flame rose from his clasped hands, enlarging rapidly to become a licking ball of heat.

Lun narrowed his eyes as recognition dawned on him. “This fire technique… I’ve seen it before.” He chuckled mockingly at Fei. “So it’s you, the coward who had to resort to blinding me that night in the forest near Lam Manor in order to gain the upper hand.”

Fei, his eyes glowing, their ferocious glint mirroring the dangerously licking flames in his hand, twisted his mouth angrily. “We’ll see who the coward is. You’ll be begging for mercy once I am finished with you.”

With that said, Fei hurled his fireball straight upward. He then somersaulted through the air and kicked the fireball toward Lun. As Lun executed a back flip to avoid the fireball, Fei flew straight toward his enemy, arms outstretched, intending to palm him. Missing its target, the fireball crashed into the grove of trees behind Lun, turning the greenery into a huge bonfire.

Seeing Fei’s approach, Lun stabbed his sword vertically down into the earth before leaping upward to meet Fei’s palms head-on. As their palms meet midair, a resounding clash reverberated throughout the forest. An internal energy field surrounded the two combatants as explosions shattered the silence of the woods. Pigeons scattered in a flurry of wings, and tree leaves quivered before falling to the ground.

Oblivious to their surroundings, Fei and Lun continued their battle of internal energy, their eyes locked on each other, their jaws clenched tightly. A deadly silence descended upon the woodland. Suddenly, several smoke bombs flew toward the two combatants, the hissing of poisonous gas from the bombs echoed loudly throughout the eerie silence of the forest.

Reacting immediately to the new threat, Fei and Lun immediately broke free from their struggle, each executing a series of backflips away from the collection of bombs speckling the ground. Assuming a meditative position, each man focused his internal energy to form a barrier against the sickeningly sweet scent of gas encompassing the woodland in a thick hazy mist. Unfortunately, despite the men’s efforts to disperse the poisonous gas, its cloying fumes continued to creep toward them, curling around Fei and Lun like fingers of death. Soon, the fumes took effect. With beads of perspiration collecting on their foreheads, both men spewed out a mouthful of dark, red blood.

At that instant, a rain of arrows shot out from the depths of the trees, heading start toward Fei and Lun.

OUTSKIRTS OF LAM ON CITY
MEADOWS

Squinting against the hot rays of sun, Lam Siu Tin trampled through the tall weeds gently undulating in the soft breeze. Holding his hand up to his forehead to block out the bright beams, he scanned the wide expanse of field, noting a small stream gurgling in the distance. Turning around, he looked back at his wife and second son.

Siu Tin called to his wife, “Sui Yuk, there is a stream up ahead. Why don’t we rest there for a few minutes and take a drink of water?”

Chan Yin Yuk, her hands holding onto her second son’s arm to support him, followed her husband’s gaze toward the stream and nodded happily.

She looked at her second son, who appeared pale and tired. “Yik Wah, let’s get you some water to drink.” She peered at Wah with a worried frown, before reaching up and touching his forehead with the back of her hand. “How are you feeling?” She suddenly pulled her hand back in shock. “Big Brother Siu Tin! Come quickly!”

Hearing the urgency in his wife’s voice, Lam Siu Tin quickly rushed over, his eyes worriedly scanning the distressed look on Yin Yuk’s face.

Yin Yuk took Siu Tin’s hand nervously, her eyes brimming with tears. “Big Brother Siu Tin, Yik Wah is feverish!”

She gently cupped her palm against her son’s cheek, just like she had done when he was a young boy.

“Yik Wah, why didn’t you tell us something was wrong? We could have stayed for another day at the last inn. You could have gotten some more rest. We could have called for a doctor…” Yin Yuk fretted.

Wah interrupted his mother’s frantic words. “Mother, I am fine. I just feel a little tired.” Forcing his pale, dry lips upward, he cracked a brave smile for his mother’s benefit. “You and father didn’t raise me to be a weakling. I refuse to be thwarted by a little poison.”

Stubbornly refusing to be coddled by his mother, Wah gently shrugged away from her hold and walked stiffly toward the bank of the stream, his jaw clenched tightly against the pain coursing through his entire body with each agonizing step.

Looking at her son’s painful movements, Yin Yuk made a move to go after Wah, intending to assist him. However, Siu Tin held her back, shaking his head slightly as he stared at his son’s straight, proud back.

Siu Tin placed his hand on Yin Yuk’s shoulder, detaining her. “Don’t,Siu Yuk.”

Yik Yuk opened her mouth to object. “But Big Brother Siu Tin…”

Siu Tin interrupted her gently. “Let him be. He is a grown man and very proud. We are only making him uncomfortable by hovering over him like a child.”

Yin Yuk nodded reluctantly, with tears glistening in her eyes. “Yes, you are right. I wasn’t thinking clearly. It’s just that I hurt so much to see my baby like this…”

Siu Tin gathered Yin Yuk into his arms, tucking her head underneath his chin, his hands soothingly rubbing her back. Looking into his wife’s distressed eyes, he sighed, “I know, Siu Yuk, I know. Shhh…”

Tenderly, he brushed aside her bangs and placed a soft kiss on her forehead, before gathering her close again. In the distance, he saw Wah gingerly and slowly bend his knees to sit down on the grassy bank, his pale complexion a stark contrast to the deep, royal blue of his gown. Sighing, Siu Tin diverted his attention back to his wife.

Siu Tin took Yin Yuk by the hand, leading her over to a willow tree not far away from the stream. “Siu Yuk, come on. Let’s go sit in the shade over there and give Yik Wah some space and time alone.”

Reluctantly, Yin Yuk glanced worriedly back at her second son one more time before docilely allowing Siu Tin to take her to the tree. Gracefully spreading her gown around her as she sat on the rock, she looked up gratefully at her husband, who handed her a container of water.

Yin Yuk smiled wanly at him. “Thank you. I hope we find a cure for Yik Wah’s poison soon. I feel that our internal energy is no longer benefiting him as much anymore.” She frowned. “I think the poison is creating more damage as time passes.”

Siu Tin crouched down to stare Yin Yuk in the eyes. “Listen to me, Siu Yuk. Everything will be fine. I won’t let anything happen to my family.” He took her hand into his. “Trust me, all right?”

Yin Yuk covered her other hand on top of Siu Tin’s hand and nodded at him. “All right.”

At that moment, another family of three stopped to rest underneath the shade of the willow tree near Yin Yuk and Siu Tin. The husband lovingly hugged the toddler in his arms, as his wife cooed at her son from the side. Basking in all the attention, the toddler swung his body over toward his mother, squealing happily, reaching his arms out in a demand to be carried. Laughing at her son’s cute antics, she picked him up and jiggled him playfully.

The young woman placed a light kiss on her son’s soft hair as the toddler played with the loose thread on the collar of her simple, light green gown. “Hong Yee, are you hungry? Here, do you want a piece of rice cake?”

She waved a small rectangle of rice cake in front of him, and the child excitedly grabbed at the delicious treat, greedily stuffing the entire piece into his mouth, grinning at his mother. Laughing softly, she brushed the corners of his mouth with a threadbare handkerchief, while her husband looked on adoringly.

The young man smiled at his son. “Careful, Hong Yee. You might choke on the cake.”

Sitting quietly on flat rock a few feet away from the lovely, young family, Yin Yuk gazed enviously at them, mesmerized, her body held stiffly. Suddenly she jolted out of her reverie when she felt Siu Tin’s hand on her shoulder. For one silent moment, Yin Yuk stared into her husband’s eyes, as if looking straight into the depths of his soul. A single tear rolled slowly down her cheek, glistening like a jewel against her porcelain complexion.

Siu Tin gently shook Yin Yuk. “Siu Yuk? Siu Yuk?”

Breaking free from painful memories of old, she leapt up suddenly and rushed into Siu Tin’s comforting arms, which close protectively around her.
Yin Yuk sobbed softly against the front of his robe.

“Big Brother Siu Tin! I…I…” She sniffed delicately and burrowed her face against his chest, shaking slightly from her sobs.

Siu Tin tightened his arms around her. “Shhh… I know what you are thinking about. Just let it go. We cannot change what happened in the past. He is now in a better place, and we must believe that he is happy.”

Yin Yuk nodded reluctantly against his chest. “I know, I know. But hearing that couple call their baby Hong Yee brings back all those old memories… It has been more than twenty years, and yet there is not one day that I do not miss our own Hong Yee!”

Siu Tin rubbed her hair comfortingly. “Don’t, sweetheart. Don’t make yourself sick by dragging up old memories. Let it go. We have to be strong for Yik Wah. He needs our internal energy to survive. And don’t forget Chi Chi and Suk Yu. We still have to find them, right? And what about Yik Lun? He is on a dangerous mission to steal the antidote for Yik Wah. We have to catch up with him if possible to offer help.”

He, too, relived the past in his mind, as he stared off into the distance. Shaking off the unwelcome memories, Siu Tin blinked rapidly to prevent his tears from falling.

Yin Yuk inhaled shakily. “Yes, there is so much we still have to do. I cannot break down at this point. We still have to find the Seer, likely Teacher asked us to.”

She smiled bravely at Siu Tin, and together, they started toward the stream to meet up with Wah. As they walked past the young family, Yin Yuk gave them a big smile. She paused before finally deciding to walk over to them.

Yin Yuk approached the young family, smiling at the parents before glancing at the innocent face of the child. “You have a very lovely son here.”

She ran her fingers lightly against the toddler’s cherubic cheek, eliciting a delighted gurgle from him. Taking in a deep breath, she glanced back at Siu Tin, reaching for his hand for comfort and support.

Yin Yuk tried to keep her voice from choking up with tears again. “It’s Hong Yee, right? We have a son by the same name. That twinkle in your little boy’s eyes… He must be quite a mischievous little one.”

The young father laughed amusingly. “Yes, our Hong Yee is quite a handful. And your little boy? He must be just as impish. How old is he?”

The smile on her lips froze for one split second before Yin Yuk recovered and quickly answered. “Oh, our Hong is grown up now, in his twenties.”

Throwing one last longing look at the child, Yin Yuk nodded politely and excused herself and Siu Tin. As they walked away, the young couple exchanged confused looks. The toddler, worn out from the excitement of meeting new people, now laid his head sleepily against his mother’s shoulder.

The young woman patted her son’s back absentmindedly, as she curiously watched Yin Yuk and Siu Tin depart. “They seem like such a nice couple, she so beautiful and he so handsome. But don’t you think the woman looks so sad? I have the feeling that their Hong Yee is no longer with them…”

The young man absently rubbed his wife’s back, as she leaned into him, their son cuddled in her arms. Both stare into the distance, watching Siu Tin and Yin Yuk’s retreating backs with puzzled expressions…

MEANWHILE…
OUTSKIRTS OF HOI YEUNG CITY
FOREST

Seeing the approach of hundreds of arrows, Fei and Lun somersaulted into the air, dodging the projectiles as best as their injuries would allow them. Both executed a series of airborne flips, knocking several arrows away with their feet.

Listening closely to his surroundings, Lun estimated about thirty men hiding in the surrounding bushes. Grabbing a few of the arrows as they shot toward him, he threw them forcefully back into the shrubbery. Within seconds, several men dressed in black flipped out from their hiding spots, screaming in pain as the arrows burrowed into their flesh.

Taking Lun’s cue, Fei kicked off from a tree trunk and launched himself toward a grove of trees. Within the leafy depths, he grabbed out two assassins and flung them forward, causing them to crash into a trunk.

Immediately, the remaining assassins flew out from their hiding places and charged at Lun and Fei, who staggered slightly as the inhaled poisonous gas began to take effect, making their movements slow and their eyesight blurry. Using his fireball technique, Fei unleashed a rain of heat and flames toward his enemies, killing several men and severely burning a few.

Meanwhile, Lun sent his sword shooting toward the assassins, fatally slashing several more across their chests. However, as Fei and Lun valiantly fought off the men in black, twenty more flipped out from their hiding spots in the thick foliage, flooding the forest with battle cries.

After a prolonged period of combat, both Lun and Fei, weakened and groggy from the poisonous fumes, began to show signs of fatigue. The leader of the assassins, the only one wearing a red waist sash, flew directly toward Fei, intending to deliver a fatal blow to his head. In defense, Fei threw the man he was fighting with forward, using him to block the leader’s palms. Undaunted, the leader hurled away his dead underling, and launched himself toward Fei again, who somersaulted forward to meet his palms. A contest of internal energy ensued, while in the background, Lun attempted to fend off the rest of the assassins.

Unfortunately, the more Fei summoned his internal energy, the faster the poison started to circulate through his bloodstream, causing pain to tear throughout his body. Weakening, he stumbled back a few steps. The assassin leader, sensing victory, advanced and delivered a huge surge of qi from his palms toward Fei. Slammed with the new burst of qi from his opponent, Fei vomited a mouthful of blood but tried desperately to hold his stance.

From behind, Lun dived toward the battling duo and thrust his palms against Fei’s back, combining his qi with Fei’s. With their combined efforts, Lun and Fei managed to hold off the assassin leader for a little longer. Unfortunately, the poison continued to aggressively circulate through their bodies, significantly compromising their stamina.

Ruthlessly advancing forward, the assassin leader drove Fei and Lun back several more steps. Using all their reserve, Fei and Lun, with beads of perspiration collecting on their brows, concentrated on channeling their internal energy into a force field, hoping to use this surge of energy to knock out their opponent. Unfortunately, at that moment, five more assassins charged toward them, slashing Lun on the arm and injuring Fei in the ribs.

Lun used his right arm to ward off the attacks of the other assassins, while keeping his left palm on Fei’s back, so as not to disrupt the force field they were generating. Unfortunately, ten more assassins attacked Lun and Fei, disrupting their combined internal energy field. Lun was forced to withdraw his support of Fei to focus on warding off the multiple assassins rushing him. Now without the aid of Lun’s qi, Fei began to collapse. Just as Fei was about to sink to the ground from the immense pressure exerted by the assassin leader’s qi, Lun managed to knock off several of the other assassins. Quickly somersaulting toward Fei, Lun again slammed his palms against the other man’s back, lending him his internal energy. However, as the poison’s effects deepened, even the combined efforts of Lun and Fei no longer could hold off the assassin leader.

Just when all hope seemed to be lost, multiple small pebbles shot out from the depths of the forest and hit several of the assassins exactly on the forehead, causing immediate death. From a grove of trees, the gentleman from the tea stand flipped out and headed toward the trio, who remained locked in a battle for supremacy. The gentleman slammed his palms onto Lun’s back, transferring his tremendous internal energy toward Lun and Fei. The sudden addition of such power sent the assassin leader crashing backward into the bushes. Placing one hand on Fei’s arm and the other on Lun’s, the gentleman flew off with both of them. While in flight, the gentleman laughed deeply, causing the forest grounds to shudder and ring with explosions. Then in the blink of an eye, the three vanished from sight, leaving the assassin leader and the few remaining assassins to stumble to their feet as they stared in shock…

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