To assist Yuen Tsui Wan, Kam Ling Chi poisoned Chor Lau Heung, Wu Tit Fa and the three ladies. Chor was almost defeated by Ting Fung but Sit Siu Yan and Wah Jan Jan arrived to save the day (ep 35). Then Khoo Tai Pang found out their hideout. This fanfiction takes time after Siu Ching met Sit Siu Yan in town and went to the mansion to assist Chor tai-gor (ep 36). Instead of asking Tim Yi to play music and acting all cool, Chor et al found a hidden passage inside the house (with the help of the Pak Ah zither) where he hid his friends there. Chor then faced Khoo Tai Pang alone. Chor still sustained injuries from his fight with Ting Fung, hence he was easily defeated and captured. It was now up to Siu Ching to rescue him. Featuring Chor Lau Heung first kissing Song Siu Ching. Violence, romance, action. Chor Lau Heung 1984 is the property of Gu Long and TVB HK. This fanfiction is dedicated to Michael Miu Kiu Wai and Barbara Yung Mei Ling. I own nothing but my love to them and this series (click here to read all CLH'84 episodes). Special thanks to all my CLH/FD/MB regular readers, you guys have kept me going!
|Ting Fung defeated a poisoned Chor Lau Heung, ep 35|
The Princess who saved her wanderer
Song Siu Ching crawled inside the damp tunnel. Worried that she might be trapped in the tunnel, she started to regret the idea. However, something about the air told her that she was getting onto something here. The air was fresh, not rotten. The tunnel must end in an opening where she could get out, or at least see what happened in the old mansion.
Siu Ching had found the entrance of the tunnel totally by accident. Earlier that day, she had arrived at the hillside of the old mansion with Trouble Maker Sit Siu Yan to learn that a small army of Khoo Tai Pang’s had surrounded the area. She waited for a while for Wah Jan Jan (who she knew had been tailed by Khoo Tai Pang) to reappear. The Hua Shan girl did appear for a brief moment, stepping down the stairs before she stopped and returned to the mansion. Jan Jan must have detected Khoo Tai Pang then, which was good.
“Can’t believe they are still inside,” said one of the guards. “We’ve checked every room, there were no secret passages.”
“True,” said the other one. “Just because we captured Chor Lau Heung, doesn’t mean that the rest of his lot are still here. They could’ve gone somewhere with His Majesty.”
“Well, Khoo Tai Pang said that we should be on alert, so we’ll do that,” said the third one. “At least we’re going to have fun with Chor Lau Heung.”
The first guard chuckled. “Yeah, that bastard had fooled us so many times. Now we have him, it’s time to teach him a lesson!”
The other guard said that he’d have to queue because he also wanted to teach the King of Thieves some lessons. They then circled the wilderness just for the heck of it, slashing here and there to vent out their frustration, until one of them suggested they should just return and vent out to Chor Lau Heung instead. Laughing, the four of them returned to the mansion, not bothering to look back to see how just a few meters away from the last bush they hacked, Princess Wing Ching a.k.a. Song Siu Ching laid very low.
Siu Ching remained in the bush for a while before emerging. Pale-faced and supremely worried due to the unexpected news, she just wanted to attack the mansion herself. However, fully aware that she was outnumbered, she decided laying low was the best course of action. She left her place, chose a tall parasol tree that grew nearby the hill and climbed it. She could observe the surroundings from within the thick canopy, but no one approached the wilderness anymore. In the silence that followed, she could hear water trickling somewhere. From her vantage point, she then saw a very small creek flowing from the small hill. Since she was thirsty, she took her chance to get down and walked carefully to the creek for water. She carefully sipped the water when she noticed some rabbits entering a stone across from where she stood. A rabbit hole, apparently. She was about to leave when she suddenly remembered one of Chor tai-gor's stories about how he and Wu Tit Fa tried to observe a Bloody Palm agent taking their money (Wu pretended to have Chor killed so they could face the Bloody Palm). Back then, Wu Tit Fa and Chor Lau Heung lost the trail because the money was placed under a rock by the river. Apparently, the rock was an opening to another passage a distance away from their observation point, hence the agent had taken the money without even showing himself to Drunkard Wu (Chor tai-gor had decided to take a nap back then).
Siu Ching blinked. What are the chances...She hastily crossed the small creek towards the rock and checked the point where the rabbits had entered the stone. It was a medium-sized hole, just enough for one medium-built person to enter the whole. Tentatively she threw a pebble, hoping she didn’t hit any of the rabbits. She only had to count until five before she heard the pebble hitting something. She looked around, decided that it was too dangerous for her to stay in the open clearing of the creek, and then jumped into the hole with her Jade Sword. She landed on a damp ground. It was a small cave where she landed. She waited for a while until her eyes adjusted themselves to the darkness of the underground cave. She saw a small family of rabbit in one corner of the cave, nearby a small tunnel. One of the rabbits entered the tunnel. She waited for a while but the rabbit didn’t reappear. Could the tunnel lead somewhere? Heart beating fast, she walked towards the tunnel, which was just enough for one person to crawl in. And thus she was here, crawling the tunnel, hoping that she wouldn’t get stuck somewhere. She didn’t really mind encountering some wildlife; twice some rats actually ran past her. She also saw the rabbit that she had seen entering the tunnel earlier. She was actually relieved to know rats (and rabbits) lived there, for it means that snakes didn’t live there.
She hastened when she saw light at the end of the tunnel. She emerged in another small cave, only this time the other end of the cave had stone stairs going upwards. Carefully, she walked the slippery stairs until she reached the end of the stairs, which was a landing with a lattice stone lid on the landing ceiling above her head. The lid was almost fully covered by leaves. The distance between the lattice stone and the landing was very short; she just had to reach her hand to push the lid open. She must be inside the mansion now. She poked her head and realised she was indeed inside a garden. She closed the lid again and waited for any sign of a person detecting her presence, but no one seemed to notice. She then reopened the lid and extracted herself from the underground passage.
She found herself behind a thick shrubbery at a dilapidated backyard. It was already afternoon; the sun was leaning towards the western sky. Soon twilight would descend. Crouching behind the shrubbery, she saw two small units across the yard. One looked like a kitchen by its large lattice windows. The other one, which was across that unit, was properly sealed with only one little window. It looked like a shack or a storeroom. Two guards were guarding that unit; a fireplace had been set up just outside the storage. She deducted that Khoo Tai Pang must kept an important item or person inside the shack. She was right.
She heard a scream. It wasn’t a loud scream, more like an escaped scream that was soon muffled. Blood drained from her face when she recognised the voice.
"No, please let it not be Chor tai-gor ..." She whispered. But it was definitely him. She heard whips, punches and slashes from within the shack, and the groan, gasps and muffled screams. She heard Khoo Tai Pang's voice.
"Chor Lau Heung, you bastard! Tell me where the Duke is!"
Then some more whips before a guard went outside to get an iron rod that had been sitting on the fireplace. Siu Ching's face became as white as sheet when she realised what would happen next. Then she heard it: Chor tai-gor's scream. It boiled and broke her heart at the same time as laughter was heard from the storage.
"Speak!!" Khoo Tai Pang barked again.
Then another scream. Siu Ching heard that scream again alternating with muffled gasps. She wanted nothing more than to rush in and rescue the man she loved, but she was aware that she was badly outnumbered. Her body trembled as she struggled not to leave her hideout before the right time. “I can’t be caught; I can’t be caught now... Chor tai-gor needs me...” was her mantra as she tried to block the groan and screams escaping the storage. Deciding that the shrubbery wasn't a good hideout, she returned to the lattice stone and slipped into the tunnel landing again. She could still hear Chor Lau Heung's faint gasps even from her hideout. She finally walked down the stairs again, slumped on the cave floor and cried. She acutely felt his pain. For his pain was hers too.
Chor Lau Heung struggled to open his eyes. Coagulated blood on the corner of his left eye and the fresh blood streaming down from his right eyebrow left eye had obstructed his vision. He managed to see a blur of a soldier in front of him. He prepared himself for some more beating, whipping and slashing. He didn’t like giving them the pleasure that their torture affected him, but several times over the day, he had failed to do that. These soldiers were getting good with torturing him; Khoo Tai Pang had trained them well despite the lack of ‘proper’ torturing device in the storage of that old mansion. Twice, they actually stabbed his sides with a knife. It didn’t hit any organs, but blood profusely poured down before they poked those very wounds with hot iron. He screamed, but after realising that it gave the soldiers pleasure, he bit his bleeding lips to avoid giving them that pleasure. He then whispered the only name he knew would give him strength to face the ordeal. Siu Ching....
Khoo Tai Pang had heard that name, and it gave the Flying Devil another fuel to vent out his anger. Lashing his whip several times at Lingering Fragrance’s already bleeding naked back and torso, the Duke’s private guard screamed, demanding that Chor Lau Heung tell him where the Princess was. Lau Heung had found his humour at the very weird moment. He chuckled, swallowed blood in his mouth and whispered, “Are you crazy? Do you think I will let you know...?” he coughed blood before resuming, “I won’t even tell you where your dog of a duke is. Why would I tell you where the Princess is?!”
“You - !!” Tai Pang jerked Lau Heung’s dishevelled hair so that his prisoner faced him, “ –how dare you!” Then Lau Heung thought his skull cracked as Tai Pang punched his face really hard. Then he breathed and coughed. Lingering Fragrance realised that he was still alive, skull still intact. His mother used to say he had a thick skull (for not listening to her), but this time he was grateful that she was right. Then he gasped as another knife stabbed him, followed by an inferno when the hot iron slashed that wound again. His lips bled as he prevented a scream from escaping his mouth, but when Khoo Tai Pang whipped his new wound several times, the scream finally escaped. Exhausted of energy to even restrain, he then let himself being sucked into a dark vortex as he whispered her name again. Siu Ching...
Siu Ching. He heard her voice just now. He must be in comma now, for she was in Yunnan, safe and sound. Something about what the guard said returned Lau Heung to the present. His voice wasn’t rough at all, and come to think of it, he was slimmer than the usual guards. His uniform was light blue, instead of mustard brown or green-red like the Four Fighters’s. Lau Heung tried to focus again when he realised he indeed recognised the voice. The guard was...
“Siu Ching?” he whispered with his hoarse voice. He then gasped as the guard hugged him so tightly. He moaned in pain before the person released the embrace and wiped his bleeding eyes. He then saw it clearer. It was indeed Siu Ching. The girl’s eyes were puffy, her nose was red as tears streamed down her cheeks. She struggled not to let her sob heard due to safety, but she couldn’t help it. She spent the next few minutes sobbing on Chor tai-gor's naked, scarred, bleeding and scorched chest before she extracted herself.
“Siu Ching...” he whispered again with more strength this time. “It’s really you...” He tried to hug her but since the Four Fighters left him chained standing on the wall, the chains that tied his four limbs prevented him from hugging her with both hands. He could only half embrace her with one chained hand (the chain had somehow came loose during his torture), but that was enough for him. “I’m not dreaming...”
Siu Ching shook her head as she looked into Chor tai-gor's beaten and bleeding face. “You're not dreaming. I’m here... I’m here...” She cupped his face with two hands and tentatively kissed his cheeks. She buried her pretty head on his chest before jerking back with anger in her eyes. “How dare they! How dare they did this to you, Chor tai-gor! Khoo Tai Pang must pay for what he does to you!”
Chor Lau Heung shook his head and closed his eyes. He’d let his guard down thus Kam Ling Chi poisoned them, and this was what he had to pay. He sighed. “I thought I’d never see you again...” He opened his eyes again. “The whole day they’ve been torturing me, I have only one image in my mind that kept me going.” He closed his swollen eyes again as he caressed his cheeks on Siu Ching’s hands. “Your image. Your face. Your smile. Your laughter.” He brushed his bleeding and swollen lips against her hand before opening his eyes. “You.”
Siu Ching let out another sob as she embraced his injured body. “I’ve missed you so much, Chor tai-gor...I left Yunnan on impulse because Father is now safe. I’m glad I found you here...”
“I have been missing you too...I’m so glad you found me,” whispered Lingering Fragrance. Then he asked with his raspy voice how she got in here. She told him about the secret passage she found accidentally at the back of the small hill. She had waited until Khoo Tai Pang et al left at sunset, leaving two men to guard the room. Then the two guards got bored and went outside to fetch their own dinner and wine (one of them commented he didn't want to eat there because the smell of Chor's blood and singed skin was too intense). She chose that moment to slip in undetected. She told the chained Lingering Fragrance that she’d sent Sit Siu Yan for Lau Wong temple to fetch the Beggar Clan. The beaten wanderer nodded and explained with difficulty that Kam Ling Chi poisoned them and he’d also sent Wu Tit Fa to get Mr Siu just after Sit Siu Yan left to join Wah Jan Jan in town. Chor Lau Heung had also hidden the girls and the prisoners somewhere safe. When she asked where they were, he shook his head.
“I can’t tell you now, Siu Ching. If they capture you, they will extract that information from you.”
In fact, that was the other thing Lingering Fragrance was very grateful of: that the other girls weren’t with him. They were safe, and as long as they were safe, Khoo Tai Pang wouldn’t be able to extract any information about the Duke from him. Just an hour before Tai Pang’s attack, Sung Tim Yi vented out her frustration by stringing the old zither randomly, out of tune. They had found the zither with a wooden sword yesterday, and that was how they knew they were poisoned; because Chor tai-gor had practiced with the sword and felt like someone had hit his chest from within. This time, frustrated by her misguided trust on Kam Ling Chi, Tim Yi struck the zither randomly in the backyard. To her utter surprise, she heard a grinding noise on the garden wall. When she examined it, she found that a small brick had moved slightly to reveal a very hidden star-shaped stone. She tentatively turned the key clockwise to find the wall slid just slightly, to give an opening just enough for two people to enter. She immediately informed Chor tai-gor, who then asked her to repeat what she did just now with the zither. Being a well-tuned musician, Tim Yi could recall her accidentally-found tune. She turned the key anti-clockwise and, as expected, the stone door closed again. When Tim Yi played the strange tune again, the brick moved back to hide the stone key. When she played the tune for the third time, the brick revealed the key again. Chor Lau Heung then turned the key clockwise and slipped into the opening to check what was inside. He reappeared a few minutes later, stating that he’d found an underground hideout. They had to take a set of stairs down to reach the hideout, which was well-aired. It even had a small well where they could draw water. When Lingering Fragrance checked what mechanism to open and close the door from inside, heeasily found a lever at the bottom of the stairs for that purpose. When he closed the door from within, So Yung Yung who remained outside for observation reported that the brick moved as well to cover the stone key.
Chor Lau Heung then decided that all of them were going to hide downstairs with the Duke et al. Once the prisoners were underground, they set themselves nicely. Chor Lau Heung was about to close the door from the inside when Tim Yi realised that they'd left the zither outside. Apparently, the chaos weakened their coordination, such that one person thought the other person was going to bring the zither downstairs and vice versa. Chor Lau Heung realised the importance of that zither, for it could be found by Khoo Tai Pang and they could open the underground hideout by accident. He then ran upstairs to get the musical instrument. Tentatively closing the door behind him, he checked the garden for the zither's whereabouts. He found it at the small table at the other end of the garden, rather far from the hidden door. Someone must have put it aside just in case it was knocked over during prisoner transfer. He jumped across the garden to obtain it, but just as he landed, he heard footsteps coming. Khoo Tai Pang and his men arrived at the place, and he wasn't inside the hideout! Lau Heung glanced at the hidden door; it remained hidden, but he would need time to get there. He struck the zither according to Tim Yi's newfound tune and the brick moved to hide the stone key. He prayed that the girls had the sense not to follow him upstairs, for they would be captured and that was the end of everything.
Realising he should remain calm, Chor Lau Heung hence just stood on the spot, next to the zither, waiting for Khoo Tai Pang's group to arrive. The men arrived just as Chor relaxed himself, giving no trace that he just emerged from a hidden door. They then exchanged threats before Khoo opened attack. Chor would usually defeat the Flying Devil easily, but the poison made it extremely hard for him to even defend himself. He did manage to throw the zither towards Khoo as an apparent attempt to attack his opponent, but in reality he did that to destroy the key to enter the hideout. Khoo did as expected; smashing the zither into pieces. Relaxed knowing that the hideout would remain hidden, Chor let Khoo arrested him. What followed were slashes, whips, blood, muffled scream and extreme pain he had to endure until now. He had endured it knowing that the girls and the prisoners were safe. The store room where Khoo had been torturing him was located at the other side of the house, hence his screams wouldn't be heard from the hideout. That would reduce the girls' impulse to run and rescue him.
But now, looking at the blurred image of Siu Ching, Lingering Fragrance suddenly realised Khoo Tai Pang had a golden opportunity to extract information from him. Hastily, he asked whether Siu Ching came with the Beggar Clan or alone. When the girl confirmed that Mr Siu et al had not arrived and she was there alone, Chor realised she shouldn't have been there with him.
"Then you have to go now, Siu Ching. We don't know when the guards are going to return. It can be any minute now, and there is no place here for you to hide."
“Well...” Siu Ching processed that logic for a while before saying, “Then let’s just get out of here. Let me get you out.” She reached for her Jade Sword to slash the chain, but Chor Lau Heung shook his head.
“The sound of sword clanking the chain might attract the guards." Lau Heung winced as he felt the gushing wound on his left side brushing against Siu Ching, “You need the key. Khoo Tai Pang has it, not these guards. And I can’t fight now, so if someone sees us as we leave the shack, you’re on your own. Most likely they will beat you, and use you against me so I spill the Duke’s whereabouts. And I can’t guarantee I won’t do that if you are their bait.”
“Then... what should we do?”
Through his blurred vision, he looked at her beautiful face that he’d been missing. “You need to leave. Now.”
“But I can’t just leave you here!”
"You need to do exactly that. Get out of here. Wait for Mr Siu and others outside. And you need to promise me not to return alone, not without the Beggar Clan or others.”
That logic didn’t strike with Siu Ching. Her lips trembled as she shook her head. “No way I can do that!”
“But I need you to promise me that, Siu Ching,” whispered Lingering Fragrance urgently. He coughed and strived to add, “I may not be able to keep the secret if you are captured. If I spill the beans, you know what it means to the country.” He looked into her eyes with his blurred vision. “You know what you mean to me, and that’s why you shouldn’t return here alone.”
Song Siu Ching studied the battered face of the man she loved. She had only known him for almost a year, but she knew that she couldn’t live without him. Her problem the last few months had been that she wasn’t sure about his feelings for her. Oh, she had been certain that he truly took a fancy to her, but that was before he found out she was the Princess. Afterwards, he withdrew and took a respectful distance from her, which pained her. It took him some convincing and Emperor Father’s blatant question about the wanderer's affection towards the Princess for Chor Lau Heung to realise the source of his distancing was not only Siu Ching’s royal status but also his own insecurities. Once he realised that and received a confirmation from the girl that she just wanted to be with him and she’d chose him over the palace life, he finally relented and promised her that he’d take her exploring the world carefree once they reinstated the Emperor.
Now, listening to how he would not want her around him exactly because he cared for her too much, Song Siu Ching realised Chor Lau Heung truly loved her. He wouldn’t worry so much about her safety and his own inability to keep the secret had he not loved her so deeply. With this newfound understanding, she promised tearfully that she wouldn’t return without help. She gazed into his eyes and caressed his scarred cheek with her hand. He sighed to feel her touch. She took a deep breath and tried to detach herself from him. Just as she almost gained strength for that, he whispered again, “Just in case I don’t see you again though –”
“What nonsense!” she glared despite her tears. “I will see you again, and I will free you from this place!”
“That’s very nice, but –” he forced a smile, “ – if I can’t make it –”
“You will!” she almost forgot to whisper as her vision blurred again due to her re-emerging tears. “I will make sure it happens!”
“If I can’t make it,” he whispered persistently, “I wonder...if you could do something for me now...”
Siu Ching blinked. Wiping her tears away, she asked what it would be. The answer that came later was totally unexpected.
“...I wonder... if you allow me to...kiss you...” she hardly heard it. When her eyes widened in happy disbelief, he added, slightly smiling despite the dry blood on his mouth. “I know this might be highly improper... but I don’t want to die before I kiss you. I’m sorry that our first kiss would be in a place like this... with me like this, but just in case I can’t make it...”
“No! You’ll be fine...!”
Chor Lau Heung managed a smile. “At any rate...will you indulge me?”
Blushing, she replied with “I... that would be just fine...” then tentatively leaning forward towards the beaten face of Chor Lau Heung, who then struggled to embrace her for the kiss. Lingering Fragrance could only reach one chained hand to slightly embrace his love, and Siu Ching had to tiptoe due to his height. He couldn’t bend so much to kiss her, so their first kiss was just a brush. That brush though, was enough to send electric jolts on the lovers, such that somehow Lau Heung managed to extend his chained hand to bring the girl closer to him and kiss her more passionately this time. The Princess herself, although the first try tasted blood on her, it was enough for her to want more. The second kiss ignited something alien inside her, such that she replied in kind as his mouth claimed hers. His bleeding mouth brushed and ate her soft lips such that she moaned and arched her back. However, the moan brought Chor Lau Heung back to reality such that he stopped kissing her. He withdrew with difficulty. He looked at his beloved, trying to memorise her features through his bleeding eyes in case this would be the last time they met. He then smiled.
“Thank you, Siu Ching...” The girl blushed, her eyes glazed. But before she said anything, he steeled himself. “Now go. And don’t return without help. I mean it. I can’t take it if they capture you.”
Returning slowly to reality, Siu Ching nodded. Her lover still had to whisper another go and even pushed her slightly with his shoulders before she moved away towards the door. At the door step, she looked back at Lingering Fragrance with utmost concern before slipping out of the shack undetected.
Later, Siu Ching would realise it was pure luck that she went inside undetected, stayed inside for a while there unnoticed and slipped outside without attracting any attention. She slipped into the darkness of the kitchen backyard and almost reached the hidden tunnel when she heard incoming footsteps. She quickly dove into the bushes and stayed very still. It was difficult calm her beating heart. The kiss had brought her sensations she never knew existed, such that she was rather lightheaded now. But Chor tai-gor's and the girls’ safety were in her hands now. She must leave undetected, or that would be the end of their fight. Her petite figure made it easier for her to hide in the garden. With Chor tai-gor's safety in her mind, she waited until two guards appeared from the main building and entered the shack. She then heard the commotion inside and – her fear – something swishing in the air. She then heard Chor tai-gor's faint groan as the whip (that must be it) landed on his already scarred skin. It took her whole composure for Siu Ching to stay still and not running towards the shack to beat those guards and slice their ungrateful necks. She knew she could beat the guards inside, but she wouldn’t be able to handle other incoming guards or the Four Fighters.
Siu Ching steeled herself and took her chance to run towards the hidden tunnel behind the tree. Trying to ignore the whipping noise inside the storage, she grabbed an armful of leaves, covered the lid with them before slightly lifting the lattice stone lid and slipping inside. With difficulty, she rearranged the extra leaves cover from within. She then closed the lid, ran frantically downstairs, and retraced her steps. Dirty, tired, and agitated, she waited until she was certain no one was outside before she reappeared by the creek under the starry night sky. She then returned to the tree she had been staying before. She climbed it and waited for Sit Siu Yan, Mr Siu, and Wu Tit Fa. She was awake almost the whole night. She couldn’t sleep and she didn’t want to sleep. The image of bleeding, beaten and near-unconscious Chor tai-gor kept playing in her mind, such that she alternated between tears and anger the whole night. “Khoo Tai Pang must pay for this” was her mantra. She later added Kam Ling Chi to her list, for there was little doubt that she was responsible for the poison. She later had some sleep. Very light sleep, for she kept waking to check if someone was coming, and also because she was supremely concerned for Chor tai-gor's wellbeing. Nonetheless, it was still a sleep that her body needed.
As the first light of the day penetrated through the tree canopy, she woke up again. She peeked through the canopy to check her surroundings. No one was there. She hoped that Sit Siu Yan and Wu Tit Fa would arrive soon. But what would she do if they're not here today? She decided to wait until sunrise to check the surroundings properly. Then, at sunrise she heard it: footsteps. Very faint footsteps. She curled into a ball to remain undetected. But then someone jumped to her branch and almost gave her a heart attack.
"There you are! I found you!!"
Siu Ching almost screamed when she realised it was Trouble Maker Sit Siu Yan who had just found her. "Sit Siu Yan! You're here!!" She hugged the deranged old man with relief. "Siu Yan, I'm so glad you're here. Are you with Mr Siu?"
Instead of answering, Siu Yan looked down and almost screamed to a person down there. "I found Sister Song!"
"Ssshhhh!! Are you an idiot?! I told you to remain silent!!"
Siu Ching recognised the voice. "Wu tai-gor?? You're also here!" She then jumped down the tree, followed by Siu Yan. Wu Tit Fa gestured for silence and for her to follow him. They just had to walk a short distance away to find a dense shrubbery where he then ducked and entered. Siu Ching followed and found Mr Sit, the Branch Leader of the Beggar Clan with 2-3 men there. Mr Siu was about to ask her what had been happening when Siu Ching asked how many men they had. When he said they brought 10 men with them, Siu Ching realised they needed a better hideout. She then led them to the creek and instructed them to very carefully and quickly entered the rabbit hole. Mr Siu instructed two men to safeguard the hole by observing the creek from a hidden vantage point behind a nearby bush. He then jumped in to follow the others.
Once safely inside, Siu Ching delivered her status report. Wu exclaimed his anger several times when he heard Siu Ching's description of what happened to Chor Lau Heung. He then said he'd wring Khoo Tai Pang's neck before Mr Siu reminded him that Wu was also poisoned and hadn't had his health restored. For Siu Ching's benefit, Mr Siu then explained that Wu fainted just outside town because he was running towards the Beggar Branch Quarter. Luckily, Sit Siu Yan found him and helped him to reach the quarter. The beggar clan dispatched themselves immediately and arrived there around midnight. They had waited in the shrubbery for the right time to check the mansion.
Mr Siu then led the discussion of their next course of action. They agreed that, although they would sneak into the mansion through the secret tunnel, they would need to beat and kill (or at least wound) Khoo Tai Pang such that the enemy's force was broken. However, their strongest strength was Sit Siu Yan, and even assisted by Mr Siu, Siu Ching had her doubts.
“But will Sit Siu Yan be able to defeat Khoo Tai Pang and the Four Fighters?” wondered Siu Ching as she glanced at the Big Baby who was sitting on the ground of the cave, playing with the rabbits there.
“About that, I forgot to say something, Miss Song,” Mr Siu intercepted. “We actually met some Wutang disciples in town. Through them, we asked Master Yuen Hung to help. He was visiting a temple half a day from town. They know where the mansion is, hence we just have to wait for their arrival.”
Siu Ching shook her head. “I’m afraid we can’t wait. I’m worried about Chor tai-gor. He’s usually very strong, but the poison had weakened him considerably. I’m just –”
“I agree with Siu Ching that we better sneak in immediately,” said Wu Tit Fa. “I can’t fight now, but at least I can still guard the tunnel or whatever.” Sensing that Mr Siu was still reluctant, he added, “We can ask your men to stay here and alert the Wutangs when they arrive, so they are kept updated.”
Mr Siu finally agreed. After leaving two men to safeguard the creek and to alert the Wutangs, they traced the tunnel towards the mansion. Upon arriving at the cave under the mansion, Wu Tit Fa decided to return to the creek to join the two beggars waiting for the Wutangs.
His own scream woke him up. His voice was hoarse and he barely could whisper, but the last hot iron rod was particularly painful to bear, hence he screamed despite his unconscious state. Chor Lau Heung had drifted in and out of consciousness last night. The Four Fighters and Khoo Tai Pang were more than happy to torture him until well past midnight, whipping and beating him, and pouring wine on his open wound (if not torching the same wound with hot iron rod. His body shut down several times to prevent him experiencing the excruciating pain. When he was awake during the painful tortures, he held on the images of Siu Ching, of their happy moments. After the kiss last night, he had determined to stay alive. He trusted she'd bring help soon, and he wanted to be alive when she found him. He wanted to hold her again, to inhale the sweet fragrance of her hair, and to kiss the lovely mouth again. He even smiled several times for he was so deep in his memory and imagination that his torturers thought that Lingering Fragrance mocked them despite being tortured. Hence the last hot iron rod, which wasn't only pressed to his skin but whipped against it. The pain truly hit him that he jolted out of his subconscious. Gasping, he was grateful that they didn't target his eyes anymore though, he still needed his vision to observe the surroundings. He saw two Fighters standing in front of him. Khoo Tai Pang wasn't there now, but he was there the whole night last night.
"Why are you smiling?!" Tiger jerked Chor's dishevelled hair up. So he was apparently smiling in his unconscious state then. He must have been drifting with his memories of her. Thank you, Siu Ching....
He coughed and whispered, still smiling. "Because I have a beautiful life and you are just some rotten apples no one really wants to be around with." He looked up and tried to focus his vision on his torturers. "You think following the dog of a duke around will bring you happiness? You don't know what happiness is. What love is. Perhaps you don't even know what you miss."
Tiger raised his sabre high. "You know you're really getting on my nerves? Now I don't care whether we don't know where the duke is. If you're dead, one problem is down!"
"Go on kill me," Lingering Fragrance whispered. He had no idea why he wanted to taunt those fighters. Siu Ching might not arrive for another few hours, and he actually had to just shut up so they didn't chop his head. But he couldn't help it. He smiled again. "At least I die knowing I've known love. You, when my friends find out that you have killed me, they will not spare you, and you'll be left rotten to death."
"You'll die as a lonely man who knows nothing about love."
"Yaaarrrggghhh!!!" Tiger swung his sabre high. Chor Lau Heung closed his eyes. I'm sorry, Siu Ching. I don't know why I provoked him. If I don't see you now, I'll see you in the next life...
The next thing the chained wanderer heard was a clank and a thud. He automatically inhaled, surprised that he could still breath, and opened his eyes. He felt blood spraying on his face, but somehow he knew it wasn't his blood. Then he looked down and saw Tiger lying on the ground, his back was slashed deep. The Lingering Fragrance looked up.
And he saw Fury. In the form of a girl in blue, this Fury whirled through the room. The green jade sword she wielded slashed the guards in the room without discrimination. Her eyes were red with anger, her dishevelled hair flying around her, her war cries filled the store room with a chilling realisation that no one shall escape her wrath. A man was fighting alongside her to protect her, but her anger seemed to dominate the whole room and the Fury certainly didn't need any protection. She easily defeated the guards on her own.
After the whirling Fury defeated the guards, Chor Lau Heung then saw her facing Dragon, one of the Four Fighters, who were livid to see Tiger down. He tried to trap her with some false movements but despite her anger, the Fury remained in control. She pressed forward with her sword, parrying Dragon’s sword and delivered counterattacks here and there. Then Lingering Fragrance heard the Fury saying "You will pay for what you did to Chor tai-gor!" and after she finished that sentence, she swung her sword up to block an attack and immediately swung it down again to slash open Dragon’s chest. Dragon fell, and the blood-stained Fury stood still next to her victim in her glory.
Witnessing this scene, Lingering Fragrance suddenly remembered something. Once years ago, he met a traveling Buddhist monk from the West, from Tianzhu, the land where the Buddha was born. Being an inquisitive person, he'd conversed with the monk in mixed languages about Buddhism and also about the monk's native land. The monk told him about the non-Buddhist culture of his land, including a well known legend of a goddess who defeated a buffalo demon. The goddess was a warrior goddess, although she could be gentle as well. She wielded many weapons and when she was livid, her wrath would spare no one. With a white tiger as her ride, the goddess defeated the buffalo demon. The monk also said that the goddess has a husband, and after she ended her battles, she would morph back into a loving, gentle wife for her husband.
Somehow, Lingering Fragrance remembered these two sides of this goddess when he saw the blue Fury finished her opponent. Her anger somehow subsided as her enemy exhaled his last breath. A man Lau Heung thought as Mr Siu was still busy fighting new incoming guards, but since two of the fighters were down, Fury slowly morphed into a girl Chor Lau Heung knew. She then strode towards the chained wanderer.
"Siu Ching...it's you..." He couldn't believe his eyes. He never saw Siu Ching fighting with such fury, such vengeance, and such intensity before. "You're back..."
"I promised I would, and here I am." She caresses his face and studied his battered body before glint of tears appeared again. "How dare they," she whispered as she lifted her sword to break the chain. "I will free you now, Chor tai-gor."
Yet, Chor Lau Heung saw something she didn't see. A glint of metal flew towards her. A knife, thrown by the third fighter.
"Siu Ching, watch out!!"
What followed was something that Mr Siu later described as scary and magnificent at the same time. Chor Lau Heung pushed Siu Ching back with his shoulder and head, yet the knife still hit the back of her arm. She screamed as she fell down. Her scream ignited wrath in Lingering Fragrance, such that he managed to free one of his chained hands from the wall. He then swung the chain, including the brick the chain was attached to, to the fighter who hurt Siu Ching. The chain hit the fighter's face, but that wasn't enough for Chor. He roared and freed his other hand and one of his chained legs and attacked that fighter with two chains attached to his hands. Mr Siu and Siu Ching had to calm him down, for he apparently couldn't stop saying "Don't you dare hurt Siu Ching! Stay away from her!" several time as he kept swinging the chains although the fighter was already unconscious.
Then, as Wu Tit Fa ran into the store room, informing that Master Yuen Hung and the Wutangs had arrived and the Wutang master and Sit Siu Yan were winning the fight against Khoo Tai Pang, Chor Lau Heung felt his last energy drained from him. He fell into Siu Ching's arms and, after whispering the way to forcefully open the door to the girls' hideout (by retrieving the blocking brick), passed out.
Ignoring her arm injury, Siu Ching helped Mr Siu and Wu Tit Fa carrying Chor Lau Heung outside. Master Yuen Hung and Sit Siu Yan just finished dealing with Khoo Tai Pang and two fighters; the Duke's fighters escaped but were heavily wounded. Trusting Chor tai-gor temporarily in Master Yuen Hung's hand, who exclaimed in anger to see how bad they tortured the King of Thieves, Siu Ching then helped Mr Siu opening the secret hideout. There, they found the four agitated girls who were actually planning to send Jan Jan for scouting that day, and if things were getting out of hand, they'd just slit the throats of their prisoners than giving them back to Khoo Tai Pang. The girls were naturally worried to see Brother Chor's state. Rosie aka Li Hung Chao immediately dressed his numerous wounds the best she could. Afterwards, with horses provided by the Wutangs, they escaped the greater capital with the prisoners. Since Khoo Tai Pang and the remaining two fighters were wounded, the gates were not properly supervised. Hence, sneaking out of the capital region wasn't too difficult for the group, particularly assisted by Yung Yung's excellent disguise strategy. They then headed to Hua Shan to deposit the prisoners and recuperate. En route, Rosie gave Chor tai-gor antidote to the poison. They also dispatched two beggars to fetch Dr Cheong to Hua Shan.
The first bird songs in the morning woke her up even before the first rays of sunrise peeked through the windows. Song Siu Ching yawned and stretched her limbs before she rose with a start. She looked at the bed at the other side of the room where Chor tai-gor had been laying for a week. His eyes were closed, his chest rose and fell in a peaceful rhythm. The wounded wanderer looked much better than when they first arrived in Hua Shan. Originally, Siu Ching got morning rosters to nurse Chor Lau Heung back to health. However, Lingering Fragrance had been calling her name in his sleep, such that the group finally decided to let Siu Ching do night shifts just in case he woke up at night. No one objected to that plan. Master Dik Chan, formerly known as Koh A Lam, was more relaxed about the presence of men in her nunnery, particularly during such emergency. She knew that Chor Lau Heung and the Princess were practically lovers, hence she raised no comments on the matter of Siu Ching staying in Chor's room to take care of him at night time. The other girls just accepted it at face value. Even Tim Yi, who was usually possessive of Chor Lau Heung, didn't mind. The wilful girl had developed a new sense of respect for Siu Ching after learning from Mr Siu how the Princess almost single-handedly dismantled the guards and two fighters in such a fury.
Siu Ching got up from her bed to check the man she loved. His temperature and breathing were normal. He'd been in a deep sleep for a week, as if his body went into hibernation mode in order to restore his health. However, beads of sweats appeared on his forehead. She wiped the sweats away with her handkerchief. She then reached for the water bucket on the table, dipped the cloth in it and placed the wringed cloth on Lingering Fragrance's forehead. She was about to leave the room to fetch Dr Cheong who had been staying next door when suddenly her hand was seized by none other than her patient.
Eyes widened in relief, she turned to see Chor Lau Heung smiling at her. "Chor tai-gor! You're awake!"
"I've been awake for a few minutes, Princess," said the wanderer, still with a smile. "I wanted to wake you up, but I found watching you sleeping a very satisfying experience, so I let you sleep."
"Ah, Chor tai-gor, you should've woken me up, just in case something is wrong with you." Chor Lau Heung said he was feeling well and that he was thirsty. Siu Ching removed the wet cloth from his forehead then helped him to sit up. After helping him with two portions of water, she said, "Let me fetch Dr Cheong now for you."
"Leave the good doctor alone, Siu Ching," stopping her from raising from bed, Chor Lau Heung held her hand again, tighter this time. "I sometimes woke from my sleep and found him attending to me. Also the other girls. And you. So let them sleep."
"What should I do now then?"
"Well," that smile lingered again on his recovered face. "First please hear my belated gratitude for saving me. Saving us." Then his face turned serious. "We wouldn't be here without your help, Siu Ching..."
She blushed. "But the other ones also helped. Wah Jan Jan helped you first before I arrived."
"For that, I'm forever grateful. And I've thanked her. But I haven't thanked you properly. So... Thank you, from the bottom of my heart."
The girl smiled. "It's actually nice to be able to save you this time, instead of you saving me."
His eyes darted between the two beads of her eyes. "I've never seen you that angry before. I thought I saw someone else coming to save me that day." Gently, he embraced her. Leaning against his healing chest, she could hear his heart beat as hers beat faster. "You killed people to save me that day. I've never seen you kill people. I don't know whether to apologise for that record or thank you for that."
Siu Ching shook her head. "I didn't do it on purpose, killing them. But I didn't regret it. They tortured you like that, they don't deserve to live. At any rate, I don't know if I could fight like that again. Something exploded in me that morning when I heard they tortured you again. I just ran towards the room and attacked, ignoring that I might have to face five swordsmen there. I wasn't even aware of what I did to win the fight that moment. Most of them were like blurs." She slightly smiled. "I guess we do unexpected things to rescue the people we cherish in our life..."
"You certainly did..." Lingering Fragrance brought her hand to his face, feeling her soft hand on his healing cheek. He inhaled her fragrance before shaking his head. "Still, I made you kill people to save me. I'm sorry..." He looked into her eyes, saw an ocean of her love for him. Feeling grateful that he was still alive to see and love her, he sighed. "I'm still relieved to be here with you, though..." He embraced her tighter. "I've missed you..."
It was a while before she answered "I missed you too, Chor tai-gor..." She let herself resting on Chor tai-gor's chest and shed her happy tears there before she realised she might put a pressure on his healing wounds. But when she pulled apart, Chor Lau Heung shook his head. "I am fine, Siu Ching. Stay." Pulling her back closer to him, he then caressed her arms. She slightly winced. Then he remembered that. His own wrath when he saw her injured.
"Oh, sorry. How is your arm now?"
"Better," she said with a smile. "Hung Chao actually fixed my arm that day after we freed you."
He sighed. "You got injured because of me."
"You got injured for me too..." Siu Ching gazed gently into Lingering Fragrance's eyes then leaned on his chest. He pulled her away slightly to observe her face. He then silently asked her permission to kiss her by slowly pulling her face back closer. She closed her eyes. He caresses her eyebrows then kissed her, slowly and attentively, before she moaned and kissed him back passionately. They enjoyed that intimate moment for a while until they both ran out of breath. Disentangling himself from her, Chor Lau Heung smiled.
"I'm afraid your father will not let me proceed further without a proper engagement, Princess."
"That can be arranged," she returned the smile in kind.
He chuckled and kissed her again. He then guided her to lie down next to him and whispered for her to stay with him. Tentatively, she lay next to him. She then wrapped one arm around him and rested her head on the nook of his neck, her fingers playing with his hair she had washed a few days ago. Soon, the couple fell asleep again, even as the rays of the morning sunsneaked into the room.
Tianzhu or Shendu was the name the ancient Chinese gave to the Sindh region (which included modern India and modern Pakistan, and perhaps Nepal as well). The warrior goddess that I was referring to in this story is Ma Durga, the warrior version of Ma Parvati/Uma, wife of Lord Shiva. I love her and her love story with Lord Shiva...
From this point, the story can return to the time when Chor Lau Heung and Song Siu Ching left Hua Shan for Yunnan, before getting involved with a combat with Ting Fung and the Bat Prince.