Xing Feng woke up as soon as he spat out some blood. “Let’s do it again,” he told Cha Luo as he lifted his head to look at her. His face pale from the exertion.
Cha Luo watched him, hundreds of thoughts past her mind, her feelings mixed. Finally she decided, “It is not necessary.”
“It is not necessary,” she repeated, this time louder. She raised her right hand and knocked Xing Feng unconscious. Slowly, Liu Guang pushed herself up, the tears that started to well up in her eyes seemed to be laced with sourness , what was left was simply disappointment.
An agonizing flood of Qi hit her, she could feel the metallic taste of blood at the back of her throat but she managed to swallow it after gritting her teeth.
No more was needed to be said. Cha Luo had already made a choice between her and Xing Feng. She did not care that her Qi was imbalanced and that she was at the risk of losing all her skill in martial arts. She was indeed the light of the past. She had never entered Cha Luo’s heart.
Grasping the last little hope she had left, she picked herself up and grabbed hold of a corner of Cha Luo’s sleeve. “Perhaps you could push my Qi back to its correct meridians. I….”
Cha Luo lowered her head, and gently, she wiped the the blood splatters on her body. In a voice that was just as gentle she told her, “I want to too, but my inner Qi is just as strong as yours. If I force it, then you and I will be injured as a result.”
Liu Guang felt as if her heart cooled to the brink in that moment. She managed to pull the corners of her mouth into a smile, wrapped her clothes tightly around herself and darted out of the room.
That night, Xing Feng remained in Cha Luo’s room. Cold sweat soaked his entire body, and when he woke up, his eyes seemed to be hollowed out. It was as if he had grown older by a few years overnight.
Cha Luo watched him at the head of the bed. As she helped him sweep back a lock of white hair she told him, “You seem to be growing older and older. So old you are no longer yourself. I did not know that the Se Jie poison could hurt you so badly. If we repeated that last night, then today, would you have been able to open your eyes?”
He sat up and scoffed out a bitter laugh, “Who is a vixen and always looks as if she is twenty? Of course the older I look, the more you are unwilling to like me.”
She glanced at him and noticed that a serious look had already shadowed his face. “Do you not find yesterday a little strange? Liu Guang seemed to be testing you. Perhaps she heard something and knew you are planning to choose a new Absolute Slayer.”
“Perhaps. But that cannot be her idea. She has always been so straightforward. She isn’t someone who does such indirect things,”she replied, her expression unchanged.
“But she is a quick learner of martial arts. If she challenges you….”
“So what if she challenges me?” Cha Luo laughed brushing off the dust on her shoulder. “It is time for new blood to replace the old. Liu Guang, no matter how she is, is history.”
Just as she expected, by dusk, Feng Zhu requested an audience with Cha Luo and reported that his mistress had already moved the Qi in her courtyard and that everything was balanced again and that Cha Luo should not worry.
Cha Luo had her black cat in her arms, and without even lifting her head she laughed coldly, “Is Liu Guang planning to challenge me tomorrow? Alright, I will report it to Gongzhi. He will judge tomorrow.”
Feng Zhu gasped in surprise hearing that and immediately retreated two steps back and went on his knees. “My Mistress absolutely has no intention in doing so! Please do not misunderstand.”
“I fear there is no misunderstanding,” Cha Luo replied as she gently stroked her black cat. “If her Qi is really unbalanced, how can it be under control so easily? As she is so bold, purposefully using the blood Gu worm to mess up her Qi to test me, of course I am not foolish enough to wait until she recovers.”
“Tomorrow I’ve decided to fight to the death with her.” A strange green glow lit up her eyes.”Purposefully messing up her Qi, she must be quite badly injured right? Go back and tell her, she has one night to recover.”
A night passed quickly, Liu Guang brought in some water to bathe in. She lit up a box of incense before taking out her weapon.
It was a knife, a gold knife, around 2 feet long and when it danced in the air it gave out the world’s most beautiful light. In a split second it could decapitate somebody’s head.
It was this knife that she used to remove the head of the previous chief, burned the body to ashes in order for Cha Luo to comfortably sit in the cheif’s chair.
But all the past favors had disappeared in the years. In the place like the gate of Ghosts there was no sisterhood that would be able to withstand the tribulations of life and death.
Letting out a bitter laugh, she tied the knife to her waist, and holding onto the final support she had, she arrives to the practise grounds.
The training grounds was a wide, open space and was the place where they trained the candidates for the shadows. The green tiles that covered the ground was already smooth and polished from the countless people who had prodded on them.
Today, the entire grounds were filled with people. Each carrying their own expression as they waited for the battle to begin.
On the north west corner, a black litter was waiting beside it stood a middle aged man. Liu Guang knew it must be Gong Zi who was sitting inside and bowed to him from a distance before walking towards the center of the training grounds.
There was no sign of Cha Luo only a single leaf drifted there, being pulled left and right but the spring wind.
Slowly, Liu Guang pulled out her knife even before leaving the scabbard she felt an air carrying a thirst for killing coming from behind her. A sharp thirst for killing.
A rainbow of light danced in mid air that leaf was shredded to pieces immediately. Cha Luo had attacked, her eyes a myriad of colours, her sleeves as light as the clouds, using her most powerful blow from the start.
Leaping up, Liu Guang’s golden knife met blow with blow unfaltering. With a sweep of her arm, she cut away half of Cha Luo’s sleeve.
It was a beautiful match, the rainbow crystal eyes against the golden glowing light. It was difficult to know who would come out victorious from the first 100 blows as shadow clashed with shadow.
“Liu Guang lost.” Gong Zi suddenly said with a sigh within the litter, knowing even more than those who still had sight. “She will definitely lose within the next 20 blows.”
The outcome was just as he had expected it. Within 18 blows, Liu Guang lost. Cha Luo’s sleeve wrapped around the gold blade and severed in half. And her person rocked back and forth, struggling to stand upright from a blow from Cha Luo right to her heart.
Cha Luo let out a cold bark of laughter. She twisted the tip of the knife and turned it towards Liu Guang, making a cut on her neck. “If you did not injure yourself through testing me you might not have lost. Do you not think you were a fool?” she asked softly.
Narrowing her eyes as the wind blew into her eyes, Liu Guang replied, “I did not think so. At least this battle today was fair. If I die today it was because I was defeated in a match, it is better than dying without knowing why.”
Cha Luo did not waste a single breath, she lounged forward and pushed the knife an inch deeper, slicing the vessels in her neck and watched as her blood scatter to the ground, the red splatters unfurling like a blossoming red spider lily. It only took a blink of an eye, before the entire ground was covered with her blood.
“I will not allow you to die so easily.” Just before all the blood left Liu Guang’s body, Cha Luo leaned down and covered her wound with her hand. “I believe Foreman Xing will know how to attend to you.”
Hearing that, Xing Feng, each step he took forward cooled the hearts of the audience a little more, the crowd fell as silent as the dead.
Finally, Xing Feng came to a halt before Xing Feng, and slowly kneeled before them and covered the wound instead of Cha Luo. “You must remember she was once indebted to you, without her, you would not be in this state today.” He turned to Cha Luo, “Enough. I will help you to cut all her martial art skill and send her off as an Earth Slayer.”
This was the 2nd time he went against Cha Luo’s wishes in less than a few days. And publicly too. A red light flashed within Cha Luo’s eyes, “If you dare to, say what you said again!” she spat out every word.
Xing Feng lowered his head even lower. His fingers were covered with Liu Guang’s blood and repeated in a low voice, “I said you are indebted to her, she is the last person of the past within the Gate of Ghosts.”
“A person from the past?” Liu Guang laughed when she heard his words. Her laughter filed with madness and despair. “My great foreman Xing, you really are naive. Do you think your Mistress Cha Luo is still 19? Do you think her conscience still remains? You are wrong. She is no longer human, she has lost all her humanity.”
“Just continue to entertain her and help her in her crimes. It seems when she becomes a demon she will meet a good end!” After she finished speaking, she opened her mouth and spat out a mouthful of fresh blood and a short part of her tongue onto Xing Feng’s face.
Xing Feng coughed lightly, a droplet of blood fell from his lashes and when he turned back to look at Cha Luo, her face was indeed a deep shade of scarlet.
“She is already dead,” he told her as he let her go as a sudden wave of weariness hit him. Cha Luo’s face finally returned to it’s normal color. “Liu Guang is already dead. The position of Absolute Slayer is now free. Please return now everyone,” she announced with a smile.
Everyone soon dispersed, including Gong Zhi, there were only 3 people left, 2 alive, 1 dead.
Cha Luo bent down and let out a sigh as she studied Qing Feng, “Do you remember the first time you went against me when I was 19? How many days did I make you kneel as punishment?”
“3 days.” Xing Feng replied without any hesitation. “I understand what you mean Chief, I will kneel here for 3 days.”
“Remember, I do not want this to occur another time. I am only this lenient to you.” Cha Luo swept a glance at him, and left with a sweep of her sleeve.
[Listening Bamboo courtyard]
It was 2 months later when Wan Mei finally saw Gong Zhi. He seemed to have lost weight and was even more melancholy than usual. There was some hot tea in the pot. Unsure what to say, Wan Mei poured him a cup of tea and waited. “Have you practised Never Light?” he asked her slowly, clutching the tea cup tightly.
Wan Mei did not say anything. Gong Zhi lowered his head to drink a cup of tea. The steam from it covering half his face. “Never light, means complete darkness. It is not hard to understand. When I was 12, they pushed my face in a cloud of poison, poisoning my eyes. From that day onwards, Heaven retracted all light from me and my eyes and heart was filled with darkness.”
“Try it.” He put down the tea cup and felt for his bamboo Xiao. “If you cannot succeed even that, then you do not deserve to be my student.”
Wan Mei silently pulled out Shen Ying. The sound of the Xiao picked up as soon as she lashed out with her weapon. It was a low and dark melody, one with no pain or anger, only darkness.
All the light in the world extinguished. A light green cloud of smoke, slowly seeping through the lashes, it turned out that there was not an endless supply of light. From then onwards, there will never be light in the morning.
Despair resonated in sound of the Xiao, and then in a blink of an eye, all light was extinguished, suddenly she had an epiphany. Shen Ying wobbled in mid air before it struck down, there was no strong wind, no thirst to kill, it was only one blow, but one enough to extinguish all hope.
She felt some accomplishment and repeated the technique again and again with the Xiao and in the end, she too felt utter despair, affected too by Shen Ying.
“You did not disappoint me,” Gongzhi said when he finally put down the Xiao. Suddenly he reached over, grabbed the end of the Xiao and pulled her into his arms.
Wan Mei stared at his dark eyes that were unfocused. Suddenly she felt pity for him rise within her and reached over to touch his eyelashes.
“I do not need anyone’s pity, that includes you.” Gongzhi easily brushed away her fingers, the tips of his fingers worked their way through her robe and grabbed hold of her twin peaks.
Wan Mei’s breathing suddenly grew heavier and hotter, she did not know when her body was pierced by Gongzi, but when she came to, she was already sitting on his lap and between one of his thrusts she felt her chest sandwiched by his hands, one resting before her chest, the other on her back. His inner power flowed from her chin acupoint to the acupoint on her tailbone.
Heat came rolling into her in waves, and right when she reached the peak of her pleasure, her inner power swarmed through her emerging from her tailbone before leaving her body.
She let out a cry, not knowing whether in pleasure and pain. Finally, she collapsed onto Gongzi with weakness; it took a long time before she finally regained her strength to pick herself up again.
“I have helped you open up your ren and du meridians. From today onwards, you are a skilled martial artist,” Gongzi told her calmly.
She started at his words and looked up at him. By now he seemed exhausted so Wan Mei did not say anymore as she hurriedly helped him to his rest.
Another two hours passed before Gongzi finally moved a little. The ayyenatte by the food announced that Cha Luo has sent someone to see Gongzi.
Wan Mei quickly blew out the candles and the room fell into complete darkness. Soon after she heard someone’s light footsteps padding their way towards them.
“Xiao San greets Gongzi and Mistress Mei.” That person opened his mouth to speak. It was Xiao San whom Wan Mei had not seen in a long time.
Slowly, Gongzi picked himself up, “What message did Cha Luo ask you to bring?”
“First, she would like to notify you that there is an opening for the Absolute Slayer position. They plan to choose one from the Heavenly Slayer starting from now. And she would like your advice on how to accomplish that?”
Gongzi started but did not immediately answer his question. “That is the first thing, what is the second thing?”
“The second message is for Slayer Mei,” Xiao San immediately answered, “it is to grow a Gu worm within Slayer Mei.”
“Now it was Wan Mei’s turn to be surprised.
“A Gu worm? What kind of Gu?”
“It is one that will not harm Mistress Mei. If you agree to have this growing within you then you will be able to compete for the position of the Absolute Slayer.”
Gongzi did not say a single word. Listening to the Xiao San’s familiar breaths by her ear he did not grow any suspicions and pulled out her arm.
Xiao San’s movements were extremely gentle. He made a small cut by her wrists and the Gu worm easily wriggled itself into her body.
Before she could feel anything everything had ended. Unable to contain her question as asked, “It’s done?”
“Yes,” Xiao San replied, his voice lowered and there was a slight croak in his tone as he spoke…..