A barn in a small farming town
Two weeks have gone by and the eleven were slower they thought and now they are stuck in this little town. They would have gone faster but the weather seems to worsen as they head north. They would have continued they journey even in this storm but they were stuck with a few problems.
For one ChunLi keeps falling into this freezing spell more and more often, the problem that this brought was that they can’t afford to have her fall off her horse at some river crossing or hilly pass.
The second problem is that Nakaruru had fallen ill. The only thing that makes that worse was that in her fevered sleep she kept mumbling away. And this made the others suspect that the Maiden of Nature’s illness was linked to this weather.
The third and final problem that drove the eleven into renting this barn in this little farming town, was that this storm never really seems to end had not only cause a mud slide on the return road to Shadowlaw but also wash away the bridge of the road ahead.
"Well at least we’ll be warm for a while. And eating food that is not caught after long hunts." Haohmaru takes another sip of his wine and passes the wine gourd over the worried Ryu.
"But for how long." He accepted the offer but his eyes never left ChunLi. His wife stands at the smaller door opposite the large barn door and she was staring out at the rain brooding away.
." Nakaruru mumbled away in fevered sleep. Which made Galford and Rimururu even more upset as they quietly replace the wet cloth on Nakaruru’s forehead.
"We could at least stay for a few more days." Kyo ran in from the rain. He tosses the leather hide aside and join Ryu and Haohmaru by the fire.
"So how goes the arrangement?" Haohmaru offered the young man his wine pouch.
"Well Okay in the general sense of the word. Had arrange for some decent warm food to be sent over."
"So you really did flirt with the headman’s daughter." Chizuru teased him.
"Hoy! She wasn’t flirting at me okay. She was trying to hook our pal over here." Kyo indicated the silent Ryu. Noting that Ryu was worried over ChunLi, Kyo decided to change the subject.
"Oh yeah don’t wander around this town too much. Zannah Jie." Kyo called out to silver hair woman who was sitting with Kumori and Iwa.
The two young ladies seem to be busy carving at what seems to be two halves of a box. One is container and the other is a lid. Both halves have some rather intricate designs.
What seems like the Oruchi eclipse symbol within a decorative square and within the eclipse there were a couple more squiggles, lines and symbols carved into it.
The entire design are not only present on the tops but on the sides as well. Except the both only craved half of the design on the sides in such a way that it would become the entire design when joined together.
"Well. People here haven’t really seen much pretty silver hair women roaming around these parts much. I think we all should be cautious the next few days. They only tolerate us because of the rain. What more I’m not comfortable the fact these superstitious people were mumbling away at some omen of a falling star. The appearance of strangers like us tends to scare them." Kyo put his hands near the fire for more warmth.
"Would you need a physician for your sister?" Haohamru called out.
"No, best not. If what you say about these people are true. We can’t afford to fuel their suspicions. Naky’s illness is not what you might call natural." Rimururu answered back. The usually cheerful young girl’s face was mar by her worries.
The storm seems to be slowing down for now. But then of late the storms only slow down to gather more rain to rain on them. Which brings to mind a certain ‘old friend’ could be up to It’s usual tricks again.
Ryu got up headed over to ChunLi, he worries about how ChunLi seems to be isolating herself from the group even much more. So much so that Ryu had taken it to be his responsibility to make her feel comfortable about the group.
"Sorry I’m late!!!" a cheerful voice called out. The visitor was wheeling in a small cart.
"Ah. Thank you for your troubles." Kyo got up to help the visitor unload the food from the cart.
The visitor removed the hood of her cloak to reveal a petite young woman who seems to be familiar with farm work. Obviously with a sweet and pretty face like hers she would have no lack of suitors.
"Hmmphh. No wonder." Zannah mumbled to Iwa and Kumori who are still busy craving away.
"Hey Ryu! I’m sure you’re hungry by now!" Kyo called out.
The girl’s face seems to light up on hearing the name, her eyes immediately searches for the owner of the name. Disappointment seems to take over when she saw the owner of the name holding a woman so intimately in his arms. The young woman shifted her gaze to stop staring at the couple. And so her gaze fell onto Zannah. Feeling that someone was watching her, Zannah looks up staring straight back at the young woman.
"I’ll come back later to collect the dishes!" The young woman was taken aback by the fearsome cold blue eyes of the silver hair woman and runs off.
"There we go again." Zannah sighed.
"Happen before? Oh great sister?" Haohmaru sat down beside her and handed her a large rice cake.
"Would you believe ten times?"
"That bad? You don’t look like some evil witch villain."
"That’s because you never traveled with me."
"You know. You should take some time off from looking for him."
"Ha. And do what? Bore myself to death."
"No. Spar with me sometime. I had always wanted to see who’s the better swordsmen."
"You won’t survive it. My young friend." Zannah shook her head.
"So you’re accepting my challenge dearest lady?"
"After we survive this."
"You better not lose Zannah Sempai. My money’s on you." Kyo joined in.
"Hoy. Just whose side are you on boy." Haohmaru frowned.
"Wasn’t it obvious?" Kyo grinned. The trio broke into laughter over their private joke. The laughter at least help a bit in clearing the gloomy air that had being hanging around them for the last two weeks.
"Come on people. Eat what you can and keep what you need. Tonight’s a busy night. Rimururu could you come here for a while. We need your help in this." Kumori had finished carving her half of the box. Grabbing a little more food the young woman joined Iwa and Kumori and thus their rather animated conversation began.
"And that would help my sister?" Rimururu exclaimed moments later.
"At least that’s what we hope to achieve in the process." Iwa said after finishing her half of the box.
"And that would finished It off?" Rimururu asked again, her eyes widen in curiosity.
"If we could do that we would have done so." Kumori looked over the two boxes once more. The boxes are a perfect fit and the designs on the sides became whole when the two halves came together
"For Naky. I’ll try." Rimururu beamed. The young girl was finally smiling again. Somehow the barn seems more cheery and lively because of that.
"Hwah!" No wonder It couldn’t stand her." Iwa snickered. Noting the effect that the Maiden of Light has on her surroundings.
"No wonder you agree to this temporary measure." Kumori nudged her friend.
"After what ‘our good friend’ done to Li jie. I believe that payback is in order." Iwa grinned wickedly and headed off to talk to Zannah.
A while later Kumori noticed that the quartet (Iwa, Zannah, Kyo and Haohmaru) were all wearing the same wicked grin and had burst of laughing at some private joke. The others were staring at the laughing quartet wondering if they had lost their minds due to boredom.
The sun sets and darkness came quick swallowing everything in its path. The villagers all headed frantically to headman’s house. Of late they had much troubles with their crops and their animals. And it seems that the headman had came up with some solution. The only lights that burn tonight are that which came from the stoves that warm the houses and lights from the headman’s house.
The eleven warriors had decided to retire early for the night with every intention to leave first thing tomorrow morning. Snores filled the air along with the words of one in fevered sleep.
A few hours of sleep later, ChunLi rose from Ryu’s side, her eyes closed but still she moves as if guided towards Nakaruru. In ChunLi’s sleeping mind a nightmare seems to be unfolding. All she sees and hears were her companions taunting her. Although she couldn’t hear their words she knows what they meant to say.
She could sense IT in front of her calling her name, IT asks her.
Does she really needs this bunch of people? Do they care for her at all? The somewhat invisible form dances the air before her. IT then slides up her body. ChunLi froze once more when the cool silky air touches her, she wakes on feeling that cool air.
Still IT guided her right hand, sliding her right hand slowly down from her thigh to her boot where she had a concealed dagger. ChunLi forces her herself to back away from the sleeping Nakaruru. Practically dragging herself across the barn, she wanted to call out for Ryu but no voice came from her throat.
It was a tug of war between herself and the non-material Tianzai who was pulling her towards Nakaruru. She could hear the silent screeches in her ear. Screaming for her to kill Nakaruru before the young woman kills her. IT yells once more.
Her utterly utterly useless lunk of a husband just could not be bothered with her troubles anymore
ChunLi saw that her right hand was pulling her forcefully towards Nakaruru, she was practically dragged across by the invisible force. With her own will she fight against this invisible hand. IT stops pulling her, but the moment ChunLi takes one step backwards. The unseen Tianzai raises ChunLi’s right hand and slaps her across the face with so much force that she was turning summersaults in the air before she lands on the hard floor with a loud thud.
With enough noise to even wake the dead ChunLi couldn’t help but wonder why the others were still sleeping soundly.
Stupid, stupid woman. It calls her.
None of them shall ever wake till the sun is up. But then it is too late for them. For she would have murdered them in their sleep one by one. Saving Ryu as the last to die a slow painful yet pleasurable death.
Oh IT snickers away.
She like the thought does she not? Well then IT said maybe Ryu need not die. Why not let him live a life that would allow him to How does that Chinese saying go again? Oh yes. Qiu sheng bu de, qiu si bu neng(neither live nor die).
Oh yes clever, clever self to be so smart as to know that ChunLi would indeed enjoy the companionship of a crippled lover, considering that he be just a sitting duck. IT laughs shrilly and loudy in ChunLi’s face. Seeing how the horrifying thought affects her. IT dances in glee, before returning to the task of pulling ChunLi towards the feverish Nakaruru.
Shock. Tianzai screams away shrilly at what could have stopped them in mid-tracks. The strong arms that was wrapped around ChunLi attempting to hold her in place. Silent howling fills her ears as Tianzai screams hate in the name of Ryu. Cursing him for stopping what was to be. IT screams at Ryu, screaming that if this is the way he wants to play? So be it!
"Release me!!!!" ChunLi hiss in a voice that was not her own. Moving towards Nakaruru despite Ryu’s attempts to hold her back. Every step the dark spirit forces her to take, Ryu was dragged along too.
"Li!! Fight it!" Ryu called out, shaking her slightly in hope of helping her regain her senses. He wonders to what is taking the others so long. Could the sleeping spell take so long to break? His thoughts return to now. ChunLi had stop struggling and is now limp in his arms.
"Li?" he whispered in her ear.
"You’re hurting me." She said softly.
"Is It gone?" No answer came from ChunLi and that worried him. Slowly his right hand reaches up to touch her face.
Screams of inhuman pain escape from ChunLi’s mouth at that very touch. She struggles like a wild cat trying to get loose. Spewing all sorts of curses at Ryu. Screaming away about how filthy his very touch is. ChunLi screams again with hands clawing the air and legs kicking away. She kept ramming her head backwards, smashing Ryu’s face again and again. But despite the abuse his grip remains strong, for to lose her, all will be lost indeed.
Within the screams Ryu could hear soft chanting, he recognizes it as Chizuru’s voice. The screams that escape from ChunLi became louder, trying to drown out the screams. Ryu knows that his two wards had finally managed to release Chizuru from the spell. A second voice joins them in a archaic langauge. He recognizes the owner by the beautiful voice that sings it.
"Stop it!!!! Please!!!! Ryu!!! No more, my lord!!! No more!!!!! All this hurting is hurting me!!!!!!" ChunLi screams away. But then, is it Tianzai or ChunLi?
A third voice joins them. A sweet, soft voice of a young girl. This singing chant made ChunLi howl instead. Rimururu’s voice join the chanting duo in a song, that sings of the bad things that Tianzai had done, the pain It had given to ChunLi. And that IT should leave her alone.
"Never!!!!!!!" ChunLi screeches Tianzai’s answer.
"Kill!!!! Kill!!! Kill you first!!!!!!! Slow painful death to you!!!!!!!" She screeches as she struggles violently.
"Hate you!!!!!! Hate you!!!! Hate you!!!!!!!" The words screams out of ChunLi’s mouth, hitting Ryu where Tianzai hopes would hurt most. Her head rams backwards again, smashing Ryu’s already bloodied face.
"Even you!!!!" Even you!!!!!!" Hate that was not hers to begin with was etched on ChunLi face.
"Noooo!!!!!!!!" ChunLi screams again on seeing Iwa and Kumori joining the fray. They both hold one half of the box they had carved in front of ChunLi. Their free hands drew some runes in the air before ChunLi, who is attempting to snap at the two young women’s fingers.
The two half rune glows on completion and becomes one. On cue, Rimururu sings another song. This one sings that however much that Tianzai tries to wreck the beauty of the relationship of Ryu and ChunLi. IT will never succeed. She sings of hope. Hope from friends and loved ones that bless the beautiful union that even Tianzai could not destroy however much IT is to try.
The love that is found in Rimururu’s voice combined with the Light that is within her forces the dark spirit to leave ChunLi. The small dark sparkling mist seeps out from ChunLi. Another batch of dark mist flows outs from the fevered Nakaruru and joins the main cloud in hovering the air before ChunLi.
There was a silent scream coming from the mist as Iwa and Kumori forcefully brings the two halves of the box together to contain the misty spirit. A warm ball of light glows lovingly in the Rimururu’s palms. Slowly she lifts it towards the misty spirit.
Another unheard howl escape as the misty darkness flows unwillingly into the ball of light. As the last drop of darkness is gone. Iwa and Kumori managed to close the box. On the rims where the two halves are joined a violent light shines. The entire box shakes and trembles.
With the tip of her finger Rimururu traces the outline of that joins the two halves together. Only then did Iwa and Kumori removed their hold on the violently shaking box letting it hover in mid air.
Zannah still chanting brings out a reel of thin red thread witch which she ties the box up with. Only after the box was tied did it drop to floor still shaking violently.
"And Its finally gone?" Galford got up.
"Forty-nine days." Iwa said.
"Won’t that make It more vicious than ever?"
"But We’ll be forty-nine days closer to our destination."
No answer came from Galford for he was checking on Nakaruru’s fever. Relief overtakes him as Nakaruru’s fever had subsided. Kyo called out to him and whispered something. Though puzzled Galford did as he was told and carried Nakaruru away.
The huge barn door barn door burst open as Ryu carried ChunLi. Four burly men carrying a battering ram were staring at them. The entire adult population of the town is here, carrying pitchforks, torches and scythes.
"There!!!" An old man points shakily at the limp form of ChunLi.
"The witch!!! The witch that falling star predicted. She’s the one that poisons our crops and had her minions steal the milk from our cows.
"Aye!! Her familiar was seducing our daughters and wives!" another man points his torch towards Ryu.
"Quickly!" Zannah called out to Ryu who immediately, carried ChunLi up the wagon that Zannah was driving. As soon as the couple are on board Zannah spurred the horses into action. Automatically the villagers leap out of the way as the two wagons thundered out of the barn.
"Get her magic box!!! Get them all!!" the old man yells. A villager toss his pitchfork at the wagon but misses its mark. The wagons thundered away from the little town, they won’t be stopping anytime tonight
Ryu held ChunLi in his arms, stroking her head to comfort her and himself. She smiles back up at her husband knowing that for the moment they would be free from Tianzai’s visitations. Gently she touches Ryu’s bloodied face, he smiles back at her.
The three young women who were riding the wagon with them grinned and face forward, leaving the couple a decent bit of privacy.
The box, which Iwa was holding, was still shaking violently. Seeing Rimururu is in the same wagon as they are. Iwa grins as she handed her the box that Tianzai is in. The young girl was wide eye in puzzlement at the gesture.
"Our kind can hear IT whining away if contact is close. So for the next forty-nine days. You’re the offcial Guardian of the box." Iwa snickers away at a private joke.
"And if you don’t mind. Sing to IT for the next forty-nine days? We’re hoping that we could keep IT calm till we reach wherever it is that we’re going." Kumori added, trying hard not to giggle.
"Okay." Rimururu beamed, unaware of the real reason she was made the keeper of box. The box began trembling once more. But this time ITs silent screams were ignored.