As they follow the path lit by the fire, thoughts plague ChunLi once more. She had been looking at the walls and whatever shred of tapestry that remains. But mostly chaotic silken weavings of spider webs dominated every nook and cranny. A few of those tapestries decorated with the corpse of a treasure hunter or two.
What piques her curiosity was the fact that she could still feel this castle’s grandeur from a long gone golden age. Where had the people of this magnificent mountain castle gone? What had happen that lead this magnificent castle within a mountain to such abandonment?
So far the signs of life visiting this castle are that of treasure hunters who had manage to instead get caught within in the multitudes of traps. She noted as well that Iwa and Kumori seem to know where each trap lies as they deactivated each one momentarily for the gang to pass.
Thoughts that crowd her head nearly caused her to fall had Ryu not held her back firmly. She smiles back a silent thanks and the group walk on. The feeling of being watch remains as they stop by a large door. While Iwa and Kumori try to remember how to open this door.
ChunLi noticed that eyes watching them, eyes from a dried up vine held corpse that was trying for eternity to crawl in from the vine infested windows, eyes that glow from the darkness of the skull. She could feel Ryu tensing up, she knew he was watching that same corpse as well. She knew he had seen something.
Long thin legs poke out of one the corpse eye. A small tiny body at the centre of eight long thin legs. ChunLi could feel Ryu shuddering at the sight of creature. A slow screeching creek distracted the couple as the spider scurries away to the other end of the corridor, more eyes glow in the dark corner.
"Watch your steps." Iwa said as the old door opens.
"Yeah. It’s a long fall." Kumori snickers and kick a piece of stone down the stairs to emphasize her point.
The two young ladies then lead the way. Down, down, down. Occasional breaks at certain depth changes their direction but still they headed down. ChunLi could feel fear coming from the silent Tianzai. A sense of dread as the sound of dripping water counted time. Reluctance from Tianzai affected ChunLi, she wanted to go on, IT forces her to leave this place at once or she would lose her humanity and all that she held dear.
< As if I don’t risk losing that when you still remain. > She thought, her concentration on the stairs had held back stray thoughts for the moment. But the silent screams of Tianzai remains screeching in her head.
IT urges her to leave while she still can.
What lies ahead would be no help to her. Eternal servitude lies ahead. Trading one demon for another far worst is what they’re doing now. Not even Ryu could save her for he will be powerless against HER. Nothing but soft clay, to mould as SHE so pleases. Turn back, Turn back!
The soundless voice kept screaming within ChunLi’s head. It took her sheer will to control the enforced desire to turn back.
Soon the silent screams within ChunLi are drowned out by the sound of a gush of water running from yonder. She also noticed that they had stop heading downwards and is now in some sort of a tunnel, Water dripping as they slush ankle deep water. All the while she could hear water gushing out at intervals.
It was not long when their road ended. Looking out of the gaping tunnel mouth, ChunLi found the source the gushing water. She is now on a small ledge on the tunnel. There are rungs beside the ledge leading downwards. A long way down.
Before her is a huge circular chamber with four tunnels inclusive of the one they’re in. In the same fashion there are rungs beside the ledges that lead down. Which in every sense of the word means that they would have to make another climb.
The ledge ChunLi is on starts to tremble as loud rumble forces it way in. Ryu pull her inside for she stood spellbound by what is happening. For from the tunnel to their left and right. Water came gushing out so fast and powerful that the two flows rams at each other at the center of the chamber wetting what seem like long ropes of roots that hangs from the center of the ceiling. Down being the only direction that the water could go.
"Opposite is where we want to go." Iwa sniffle, the dampness of the area seems to working against her allergies.
"Takes too long to go down." Kumori added.
"Anybody up for a dare?" Iwa asked, pointing towards the coils of roots. Her sentence punctuated by another gush of water.
"Should we fall?" Galford asked
"If you’re lucky. You’ll survive the fall with a dive to the pool at the bottom if the force of falling water don’t crush you first."
"If not you be crush to death hanging on the roots as the water come gushing out."
"That sounds like fun." Kyo smirk.
The young Kusanagi took a few steps back and waited for the next gush of water. And when the water rumbles out of the two tunnels. Kyo waited till the water is three quarters on its way.
"YAGAMI!!!!!!!!" Kyo screams his rage as he leapt towards the center, slamming into roots right after the water stops flowing. Using his body weight and he swings on one of the roots to gain momentum. Within moments he swung back to the ledge where everybody is. Water gushes out from the two tunnels once more.
"I don’t think the roots would swing to your weight." Kyo held out his hand to Rimururu. Rimururu nodded and clung onto Kyo.
"Hang tight." Kyo said as he swung off once more.
The gang could hear the yells of the duo as they make it over to the other side in time, another gush of water roars out from the tunnels. Galford and Nakaruru follow up next, not many problems at all. Chizuru was the next to follow.
Here on remains six, an air of challenge takes place within the group as taunting smirks lighted up their faces. Zannah took up the challenge first and waited till the next gush slows and leaps for the roots. She caught hold of one and started swinging. Feeling that the momentum is about right she let go of the root and summersault to the other side and landing perfectly on her feet with the grace of a cat. She turns back to the rest and bow, with a following gush of water for effect.
Haohmaru laughs and readies himself. As soon as he feels his time his run and leaps for the very root that Zannah had used. A few swings and Haohmaru lets go of the root and shoots out like a cannonball, his angle had been slightly misjudged, hitting the wall above the ledge. Zannah and Kyo grab the proud samurai before he slips off the ledge.
ChunLi looks up the roots as she judges her angle, having thought of her plan she heads back to Ryu.
"See you on the other side." She smiles. Running off she leapt from the ledge, grabbing onto the same root and kept swinging. Like Haohmaru she leapt and summersault. With much ease she lands on her feet, wink back at Ryu and curtsied.
Iwa and Kumori followed next, the duo manage to get the same root and synchronized their jumps as well. Both landed side by side. Iwa sniffled once more.
"Show off." Kyo mumbled.
Ryu narrowed his eyes as his prepares his jump, taking a few more steps back he leapt for the roots. He grabbed hold of the same root and began to swing. A few more swings he would be on solid ground.
ChunLi’s heart nearly stopped beating as the root Ryu was clinging to, broke on his last swing, the warrior was sent flying through the air.
"LIIIII!!!" Ryu yelled as he slams heavily against the ledge. The ledge crumbles away as Ryu struggles to maintain as much hand hold as he could. Time starts to slow down as everything happens all at once. Time seems to stop for everything else, but left the couple outside of its grasp.
"RYUUUUU!!!!!" ChunLi screamed, lunging forward to grab a hold of Ryu. Another gush of water drowns out all thoughts and words as well as the laugh of the immaterial Tianzai.
Ryu hung precariously in midair as ChunLi held onto Ryu’s forearm, but his weight was visibly dragging her to edge of what’s left of the ledge. To make things worse, a burning sensation starts to gnaw away at the back of her hands.
The cold presence that is Tianzai snickers away in her mind and urges her to attend to let go of Ryu. IT told her.
There was no sense in dying for this man, no sense in plunging to her death when she could use IT to help Ryu up. Let IT take over her mind and IT promise to save Ryu.
"I’m not letting go!!!!!" ChunLi kept screaming as his Ryu’s weight pulls her nearer towards the edge. The burning sensation pierces through her skin and now sears her flesh.
Sheer will and the fact that she might lose Ryu push her onwards. Applying all her strength, the strongest woman in the world gave her all and pulls her husband up from the ledge. Tightly ChunLi embraced Ryu, their hearts were beating so rapidly that they risk getting a cardiac arrest.
ChunLi realized that she had held her breath as well. She could also hear Tianzai snickering about what worse would come if they should continue. Within in the blink of an eye time return to what it once was. Quietly the gang continues their journey once more.
ChunLi noted that the tunnel they are now in is in every similar to the one they had come drown from. This time the urge to turn back is even stronger. She could hear Tianzai begging, screaming, threatening and bargaining at every step they take. IT’s silent voice now louder in her head than ever. Up to some point she was nearly knocked off her feet, but Ryu had always noted and made sure she was not hurt.
And now they headed up another flight of stairs somewhat similar to the one on the other side. Like before Iwa and Kumori led them through a door similar to the one they saw before.
From the open door, vines of varying thickness spill in. the song of different birds drifted through the air along with the sweet scent of blossoms. Pink blossoms with slim long petals that made the flower resemble an open fan.
The bird songs became infuse with panic and died away the moment ChunLi walked through the door. The same feeling of being watch came back. In silence they walk through this forest, the sound of their feet crushing the soft grass beneath them was deafening as eyes watch only ChunLi. She can’t help but feel that any minute now those birds would attack her.
< Damn Tianzai. Damn Gill, Damn Legrene. > She cursed the ones who made her life a living hell.
But watching is all this silent forest did and nothing more. Moments later they pass through a vine decorated archway that led into an abandon garden that is untouched by the invasive vines.
In the center of this garden is a statue that pours water out into the pool that it is a part of. This odd looking statue is that of a woman pouring water from a earthenware jug, and crouch slightly behind the woman with its wings outspread is a dragon(think Bahamut of FF8) that some of the warriors had seen before. Unlike the ones they saw this one is larger and more masculine. The two long thick horns on its head is slight curved instead.
"Except this one has nine peaks on its tail. There’s something about this guy’s scales and various features. He’s their sire isn’t he?" Kyo noted. The others gather around him and ChunLi found a little plaque with the words ‘Qiyuan yu Zhongjie’ (Beginning and End)
"What kind of a name is that?" Rimururu appear beside her.
"Not a name, more of term to call them by." Kumori answered
Looking at the statue ChunLi could feel a sense of strange familiarity about the woman and her dragon. There was a point in her life she understood what it all meant but now she couldn’t remember. Looking at Ryu she knew he felt the same feeling as well, this something that return to haunt them. Uncertainty about what they are suppose to do haunts them.
From here she could feel Tianzai simmering in hate and loathing of the statues, screaming away at the unfairness of it all. Then IT told her
That now is not too late to turn back. Best to turn back now before SHE gets her hands on you.IT then added Eternal servitude applies not only to her but to Ryu as well. Is she is selfish enough to want Ryu to suffer as well.
ChunLi ignored Tianzai’s silent screamings, taking Ryu’s hand in hers, she follows the others up the path that leads up the marble staircase. Kumori and Iwa open the double doors and bow slightly like pages ushering them into the darkness.
A small tongue of flame flick to life on Kyo’s finger, he adjusted the flame till it brightens up the entire chamber. Time seems to have forgotten to claim this part of the castle, the columns and arches stood proud and free from dust.
The marble floor gleams while the tapestry remains whole and clean. A sharp contrast to the corridor at the other side of the castle. There is only a single staircase, without any explanation they know where it leads.
Taking a right turn Kumori and Iwa lead the way to the rest chambers. It would be a long and grueling day tomorrow.