The eleven warriors had left their horses in the inn and headed into the forest. On those paths they pass quite a lot of people wandering around the undergrowth in search of herbs. Even though the place is relatively safe, the herb gatherers had chosen to remain within sight of each other and the main path.
By the time the warriors reached the streams, the sun is nearing the apex of the sky and is shining down brightly at them. Before crossing the stream Iwa and Kumori briefed the others once again on the dos and donts again.
This water is so cool. Where does it flow from? Rimururu asks as she carefully move across the flowing water.
The northern mountain range. Its the same source that supplies the water to the fort. Kumori mumbled.
That explains the fish. Ryu mumbles as he eyes the beautiful shimmering shapes that seems to entranced as they swim around his feet. But the spell broke as a hand landed heavily on his shoulder.
Dont even think about it. ChunLi warns as she gave Ryu a little shove to hurry him along.
One by one they all crossed the stream, ChunLi lifts her right leg out of the water onto the mossy ground. She thought she saw a silver circle line shimmers to close around her right foot as it touches the ground.
ChunLi jolted, she thought she could hear the sounds of crickets broken by what seem like a thousand ugly cawing. The trees began to rustle and crows break out of the treetops cawing away as they flee from something that frightens them too much to return. Her eyes darted left and right and still she could see no danger even though her instincts were screaming away.
ChunLi tries to lift her left leg but could not find the strength to move. She calls out to Ryu yet no words came out of her mouth.
A spilt second later the silver circle shimmers to a furious red, ChunLi jolted as the shimmering circle sent a burning heat that travels up every vein in her body. Gritting her teeth she tries to struggle but something had held her in place.
And now she watches as the red circle shimmers into blue and a chilling cold spreads slowly through her veins. Her teeth chatters as the chill creeps through her veins, she shivers in the warm noon day sun.
She knows not what going on except for the fact that there is an extra qi within her body that is battling with that of Tianzai. A qi that is so ba (domineering) that she felt strangled by it.
At the same time when all that happens within the bat of an eyelid. The box in Rimururus bag was shaking violently. IT is the source of all problems. Knowing full well that more IT draws in the opposing qi, the more ChunLi will suffer.
And the more ChunLi suffers, the chances of IT escaping ITs cube like prison would be higher. IT shook ITs prison in attempt to break the strings that binds the box.
The red string was tied in such a way that three horizontal lines interweave with three vertical lines on each side of the box to create sixteen squares for each face of the box. A total of ninety-six squares altogether.
IT howls in silence once again as IT tries to break spell that contains IT by drawing in the qi from IT surroundings via ChunLi. Knowing full well the agony IT was causing ITs host. As ITs darkness strengthens, one horizontal line starts to strain and fray.
A song, a song from Rimururu starts to weaken ITs concentration. Not Now Tianzai seems to howl as IT kept working on the string. The string started fray until the tension is too much. The moment Tianzai lets go of the opposing qi, the horizontal line snaps.
Searing heat and icy cold met and fought within ChunLis body, the explosion of qi within was so strong that if she was of low qi level she would had died in the process. But all ChunLi suffers from was some disorientation that causes her dizziness and threw her off balance.
A hand shot out and pulls her close, preventing a bad fall on the rocks. That pair of arms held her close as she breathes hard. Her lungs felt the strain of both heat and cold. Her eyes hurting from the salty perspiration that temporary blinded her.
But she knew who it is that is stroking her head trying to calm and comfort her. His voice fills with concern but seems somewhat relieve that beyond the disorientation that was no major injury.
ChunLi opens her eyes a little, all she could see scattered sprinkling of lights that shine through from the treetops. The light brought her some pain that she closes her eyes once more at the encouragement of the voice behind her. At least he was here with her. She knew the others are talking about her for she could hear the concern in their voice.
There was silence ChunLi thought. It occurred to her that the crows had not flown back. The entire forest seems quiet for that matter. She felt like screaming but couldnt find the strength to even move. In a moment of panic she calls out Ryus name.
Im here. Dont worry. Im here. Ryu whispered as he continues to stroke ChunLis head.
The box! Zannahs words seem to answer a couple of questions for ChunLi could hear a sudden flurry of activity.
The string snapped?!! Rimururus voice was a clear as a bell as is the ominous feeling that accompanies the implication of the three simple words.
How much time do we have? Zannah asked again. Only to be answered by silence.
Fifteen days or so if were lucky. Kumori spoke.
Silence took over the group once more as they waited for ChunLi to regain some amount of her strength before they continue. This is definitely not a good start.
It was a little beyond noon when ChunLi woke, the vein in her forehead was throbbing madly away and her neck felt strained. Opening her eyes she stared straight into Ryus concern face. He broke into a smile, which she replied by reaching up to touch his lips. Despite the ache in every bone of her body she smiles back at him.
The others gathered around them, concern faces waited for the couple ritual of caring to end naturally.
You better? Haohmaru asks offering her some wine.
Thanks. ChunLi took a few sips from the wine pouch to calm her shaken nerves.
How much further? Ryu asks.
Just beyond that rocky pass up ahead. The good thing being that time is still on our side. Even with a detour. Iwa pointed out the path they are to take.
Just in case. Iwa rest her hand on ChunLis shoulder to assure that as bleak as things seem to be. Its all under control.
Can you stand? Ryu asks.
Somebody pull me up. ChunLi requested. Zannah offer a helping hand to pull her to her feet. She stagger slightly when Zannah lets go.
Whoa. Careful there! Ryu caught ChunLi again.
Im okay. Lets go.
The warriors set off once more, following the beaten dirt track. On this path that is flanked by tall trees with thick canopy, ChunLi couldnt help but felt that their intrusion had caused this silence. She had this feeling that they were being watched.
Now and then as she travels on this path, she thought she saw fleeting shadows darting from tree to tree. All those eyes seem to be focus on her and her alone.
This place usually this quiet? Kyo broke the uncomfortable silence.
Now and then. Though the last time I came I took another path. Iwa answered, her eyes trailing the movement of one of the shadows. A smile grew on her face as she recognize a few of those shadows.
They do this often? Rimururu asks, she thought some of those shadows look familiar.
Force of habit. This place is their home. Makes you curious to know what they look like. Doesnt it. Kumori shrugged.
As they headed deeper into the forest, ChunLi found that the dirt path began to widen and the amount of trees began to decrease. She could see more light now and there is this other nagging feeling, the numerous shadows that were following them started decrease as well. For some reason it bothered her.
It bothered ChunLi that they are here, it bothered her that everything feels like a trap waiting for her. But then again in the present condition that shes in, everything is a trap. The feeling worsen as they now head through a pathway flank by two rocky cliffs.
Looking up, all she could see are some plants growing on the rocky surface, the empty blue sky above and what seem like a road to hell for her. All this brings to mind something that Tianzai had said to her.
Something about being lambs led to slaughter, this particular route, though the shortest path had invoke upon her such a feeling. And through this she realise that Tianzai would be using this feeling against her.
Ryus light squeeze on her hand broke her train of thoughts. She appreciates the fact that he knew more or less what shes thinking and thus helping her to break out of those train of thoughts each time she returns to it.
What took you so long? a voice like venom drips down upon them. Looking up against the sky all they see is a cloak figure. Beside that figure is a large pile of boulders held back by a shield spell.
Legrene!!! Iwa hissed, her hand reaching for her sword. Hate burning in her eyes.
Not so fast xiao yao kwai (little monster). Legrene laughs, the index finger of her left hand waving in a no-no signal.
Youll get IT over my dead body! Rimururu yelled.
Tsk tsk. Who in their right mind would want that fei wu (useless thing).
There was silence from the eleven warriors, this sudden change of attitude from that woman puzzles them.
Such ignorant fools. Tianzai is fei (useless) in the sense IT is uncontrollable and will burn ITself out when truly release. Why that idiot want to use IT I dont really care. The golds good though. Now be a good boy and hand over the Gem of Dracon.
There is no such gem. Ryu answered, his eyes narrowed as he seeks a way to reach that woman and make her pay dearly for what she done to ChunLi.
You do realise that when these rocks come down there is only one way to free save your sorry lives and nobody would like that least of all your beloved princess.
The gem is useless to you.
On the contrary! The gem is what I need, If a dark spirit like Tianzai has to destroy half the world before burning ITself out just so that I can have the gem. So goes half the world then. Legrene laughs one once more, paying more attention to her nails than the eleven warriors.
Youre insane!! Nakaruru yelled
Ah. You noticed. The woman smiled.
Come down and take it yourself! Ryu dug something out from his pouch. A little gold brooch with two dragons clasping their jaws on a black pearl.
I may be insane but Im not stupid. Throw it into the air.
Ryu glance ChunLi and then at Zannah for some answers, he shrugs and toss it up into the air. An ugly cawing tore through the air as a one eye crow swoops down on the gem.
Ah yes before I forget. The answer to your question is yes, yes, no, no. NYAHAHAHAHA!!! Legrene bows and walks away. The spell that held the boulders fizzles away.
You filthy old hag!!!!!! Iwa yells, the four answers seem to have enrage her for some reasons. She leaps up from wall to wall going after Legrene, rage building up with every leap.
The ground shakes as boulders caused an even further avalanche of rocks to come down on the remaining warriors. Not even their most powerful defense could help them escape this without injury.
One though occurred in ChunLis mind, she knew she had to do something at the risk of her own life. But then there is everything to lose if she hesitate. And if worse comes to worse, she would end up releasing Tianzai. And to trap a free and extremely vindictive Tianzai would be near impossible.
Take or he diessss…. The silent hissing answered her question. No hesitation! No hesitation! It screeches through the box gleefully.
ChunLi reaches out to the dark entity that gleefully lets her embrace ITs darkness once more, As she draws upon IT, IT held uses her qi to fight against the spell on the box. IT shakes the box violently with glee knowing full well that if all goes well IT will be free.
The ten were buried alive by the avalanche of rocks, but a small crack could be seen in the larger rocks. Cracks that spread outwards like cancer. Slowly the larger rocks hover higher up the air. Within that rocky tomb the energy shield that ChunLi provided protects them.
Provided at a high cost indeed, for now Tianzai refuses to let go of ChunLi. The battle of wills begins once more. This time It manage to snap another string and the box runs the risk of breaking open, for little rays of darkness seems to seep through.
Thoughts fill ChunLis painful head once more, the taste of power beckons her yet on the other side she could see the reason why she was taking this risk in the first place. Words he had once said fill her mind.
There are many paths. Remember that you alone choose the path which you walk.
Once again she draws her very strength to break the hold that Tianzai refuse to release. Blood trickles down the side of her mouth as she throw the second link back at IT.
ChunLis head jerk back as the floating boulders exploded, raining down stones upon the shield which fizzles away as well. She stood as still as a statue for she couldnt even find the strength to let herself go. She knew that she had to endure the pain or risk further suffering. What matter now is that theyre safe.
Ten days or less! Kumoris was heard saying. ChunLi knew that she had managed to break of the second link in time. She knows full well that third time must not come at all.
I was afraid for you. She heard Ryu whisper in her ear when he scoops her into his arms.
Dont ever, ever do something as foolish as that again!
The only answer that she gave Ryu was that a smile and a hand gesture that translate into:
Im not joking!
ChunLi smile back, somewhat amused by the serious look on Ryu face.
<< You need not give her the gem. >> she sent a thought to him when she felt her strength return.
Dont change the subject. I have more of those brooches with me. You want the one with a white pearl or a sapphire? he asked. Curiosity fills ChunLi on hearing that remark.
I only have one Gem of Dracon, but no warrior, mage or king would believe me should I give that away. So these are what they expect. He shrugs.
<< Then what is the Gem of Dracon? >>
You. Ryu grinned, the silly smile on his face made her forget about her tiredness.
Iwa? Kumori call out.
Ryu turn so that ChunLi could see her ward returning. She noticed that the disgruntled young woman look as if she had went through a fight. She was holding the trunk of a brokened off young sapling which was splatter with a bit of blood
.. Rimururu left it hanging.
If she had she would be dead. Kumori said tossing her friend a water pouch.
Rules said I cant kill her. Nothing said about not slapping some sense into her. Lucky hags time not up yet. Iwa tosses the trunk away and walks down the path. Because of this they have decided to stop for the day to rest. Tomorrow theyll continue again. This is definitely not a good start at all.