What if Chor Lau Heung didn’t defeat the Bat Prince during the last duel? What if he fell into the cliff instead, presumably dead? What would Siu Ching do? The New Adventures of Chor Lau Heung 1984 is the property of Gu Long and TVB Hong Kong, no copyright infringement intended. Dedicated to the ever charming Michael Miu and Barbara Yung.
|Yuen Tsui Wan (Simon Yam) vs Chor Lau Heung (Michael Miu), ep 40|
The Return of the Bat Prince
Princess Wing Ching strode along the corridor towards Emperor Father's chamber; her faithful Jade Sword in her left hand. It was past midnight already, and most likely her father was already asleep. She didn't need to talk to him, though. She just needed to make sure he was alright. She arrived at the door, whispered to the guards not to announce herself for fear of waking His Majesty up, and slowly opened the door.
Wu Tit Fa and Master Yuen Hung were there accompanying the Crown Prince outside the main chamber. Upon registering her presence, the three men frowned. The Crown Prince spoke first.
"Sister, I thought we agreed that you were going to have a proper sleep tonight instead of patrolling." Informally known as Yip Shing Lan, the Crown Prince glanced at the Princess' attire, which was a far cry from her usual regal robes. These days Princess Wing Ching aka Song Siu Ching had taken a fancy at practical fighting clothes than feminine clothings. Not taken a fancy really. More of a necessity from her point of view.
"I can't sleep," was her reply as she sat down next to her half brother and placed her sword on the table. "Besides, it's what Chor tai-gor would do...so I'm merely following his examples."
The room was quiet anyway before she came, but this time the silence that descended was a different one. Master Yuen Hung shook his head and sighed. "Princess..." He started, but she raised her hand.
"I'm fine, Master Yuen Hung. I just want to make sure that Father is okay."
"We promised to let you know if anything happens, Princess. We have the system set up for that. Most likely you'll hear it from your chamber anyway if a fight breaks here." The Wutang leader rose from his chair and gently indicated the exit. "Let me escort you back to your quarters." He then walked without waiting for the Princess' reply. After a moment of hesitance, she took her sword and followed the Master back to her quarters. Her new quarters, because she had moved there a few weeks ago to be closer to her father and half-brother.
Less than five minutes later, she regretted having Master Yuen Hung escorting her. The wise Master did so not because of her safety, but because of something else.
"Princess..." The elder started, and immediately she knew what he wanted to say. "You need to let him go." They stopped, the Princess turned away to hide her face. "He's not coming back..."
"Master, stop it please."
"We've searched the entire valley and the whole river catchment for weeks now with the help of the Beggar Clan and other friends, not to mention the Imperial Army. You are well aware that we found a piece of his cape down the river. The only reason we haven't found his body is likely because the river had washed him away to the sea..."
"Wouldn't he return to you, to us, had he survived the fall?" The elder gently prodded again.
"Master Yuen Hung..."
"You need to move on..."
"Master, stop it!!" Siu Ching snapped. She turned back to face the Wutang master with tears streaming down her cheeks. Hyperventilating and shaking, she repeated her request, pitifully this time. "Stop it..."
The Wutang Master already expected this reaction, hence he took no offence when Siu Ching snapped. Yet he had to say it. He had to tell her that, the subject they all have been side-stepping so far since Chor Lau Heung's disappearance. Since that fateful day when he went to the valley to meet Yuen Tsui Wan's duel challenge. Siu Ching et al had arrived at the valley only to find a gravely wounded Bat Prince laughing like a mad man as he looked down into the cliff. From Wu Tit Fa, Master Yuen later learned that Yuen Tsui Wan had, in a deranged manner, informed them all that he had kicked Chor Lau Heung off the cliff, so he won the duel. Shock was the only thing preventing Wu, the three ladies and Siu Ching from battling Tsui Wan on the spot, hence the Bat Prince took the chance to jump away from the valley, leaving behind a chilling laughter and a promise he'd be back for the throne and the Princess. For he had killed Chor Lau Heung, and he needed to claim his prize.
Ever since, the Emperor has commanded searching for Chor Lau Heung as a top priority. The country couldn't afford losing the King of Thieves. As for the Princess, she went numb for days. She couldn't even shed tears for a week. She kept repeating to herself that Chor tai-gor was still alive, that he wouldn't leave her alone. That she'd felt it had he died. Only entering the second week, after listening to Drunkard Wu getting drunk and reminiscing on his old pal Chor, only then something broke within Siu Ching. She ran back to her room (the Warriors had the habit of gathering in the Palace these days to protect the Royal family and to console themselves on their loss), closed the door and wept for hours. She didn't emerge for dinner or breakfast, and only in the following afternoon, on the persistence of the Crown Prince and his wife, only she let them in. She ate two spoonful of meals, felt like throwing up, and cried again.
Siu Ching's grief had alerted her friends and family. Despite her own grief, So Yung Yung took it to herself to ensure that the Princess wouldn't do anything stupid. She took up the closest quarters to the Princess' chamber to ensure Chor Lau Heung's love was at least still alive in the morning. Yung Yung had long resigned to the fact that her adopted brother loved Siu Ching, and she had actually been a silent supporter of the couple. She wouldn't want Chor tai-gor to rebuke her from Heaven for not tending to his lover.
Yet, three days later, the Princess emerged from her chamber with an eerie calmness on her face. It was early morning, and Yung Yung was going to check on Siu Ching. To her utter surprise, she found the Princess outside her own chamber in a practical fighting suit. Chor tai-gor's lover turned to welcome Yung Yung and stated that they needed to beef up the Palace security, for Yuen Tsui Wan would definitely return, and Chor tai-gor wouldn't let him take over the throne. She then called up a meeting with the generals and invited Wu Tit Fa and the three girls to join the meeting. At the end of the short but very intensive meeting, Wu Tit Fa departed to Hua Shan to request assistance from Master Dik Chan (formerly Koh A Lam) and Wah Jan Jan. Yung Yung went to Mt Wutang and returned with Master Yuen Hung and some of his disciples. Sit Yan sent a letter to her father, and in two days Sit Yi Yan and Sit Siu Yan arrived at the Palace. The heroes agreed to conduct a roster patrol 24/7, and they also discussed what would the best course of action be had Yuen Tsui Wan failed to show up in the next four weeks, since they couldn't have all the wuxia masters safeguarding the Palace all the time anyway.
During the next few days, Siu Ching morphed into an almost-perfect replica of Chor Lau Heung. She supervised the patrol, making sure that all weak points were well-covered. She asked her generals to send spies to warn them if someone like Yuen Tsui Wan emerged in town ("Pay particular attention to men with large straw hats!"). She asked Master Dik Chan to be her sparring partner during the daylight, and she wouldn't sleep until well after midnight after ensuring the patrol was properly done. She frequently consulted her friends on the contingency plan should the Bat Prince not returning within the deadline. She grew thinner and more pale, yet her friends and family never saw her more resolute than this. They admired this version of Siu Ching, but they also longed for the old version to return. Most likely though, that Siu Ching had died the moment Chor Lau Heung fell off the cliff...
In a flash, Master Yuen Hung pondered about all these. "Princess..." He continued gently. "Do you think Chor tai-hap will be happy to see you like this?"
"I'm merely doing what he'd do if he was here."
"Yet he would do it with a smile, Princess..." the Wutang Master replied kindly. "Almost always with a smile..."
Siu Ching blinked upon hearing those words. Smile? She had forgotten how to smile. How to laugh. Her whole world collapsed after learning that Chor tai-gor fell off the cliff, and the only way to stay sane was to keep busying herself with fortification plans and training hard during the daytime. Then the dam broke again. She choked and sobbed, before breaking down on her knees and wailed. Master Yuen Hung was relieved to see her tears, for she had withdrawn to an unhealthy habit of cocooning herself with the busy patrol plan etc. True, she did that to protect her father, yet she also did that as an escape from the pain in her heart. Yet, the Master was an old man after all, who could be helpless in handling a crying woman. Hence he was relieved to see So Yung Yung and Wah Jan Jan emerging from the nearest quarters. He gently handed the sobbing Princess to the two ladies and returned to the Emperor's chamber.
The girls, meanwhile, took Siu Ching to her quarters and let her wail there. In between tears, she told them how much she missed Chor tai-gor, how painful it was to live the days without him. The girls blinked and, instead of consoling the Princess, cried with her instead. They understood the pain too well, for they too loved Chor Lau Heung with all their hearts.
"Oh for fuck sake, could you girls just shut up?!"
That cold, cruel voice did stop their tears. The girls looked up to the ceilings to where the voice came from. To their utter surprise, Yuen Tsui Wan was perching on the balusters, smirking at them, the Viper Sword in his right hand.
"YOU!!!" Siu Ching's sorrow evaporated within seconds, replaced by her anger. "How dare you show up!!"
"Well, I have promised I would, my darling, to claim you as my prize! Do you think I will miss the chance to have you once and for all?" Madness and pure desire mixed in Yuen Tsui Wan's eyes, causing his handsome face to look deranged. He had, after all, desired Siu Ching since he first laid his eyes on her, since he saw her in the Peace Mansion with Chor Lau Heung next to her. "Don't you miss me?"
"Missing you is the first thing that I'd never do!" The Princess snapped. "Besides, you have Kam Ling Chi with you already! Why don't you just go with her and vanish??"
"Ling Chi?" Tsui Wan snorted. "That boring nuisance? I killed her a few days ago after she nursed me back to health. Couldn't stand her constant nagging of asking me to go with her to whatever that famous island of hers!" He smirked as he registered surprise on the girls' faces. "Come on, Princess, don't tell me you're not happy to see me being free again to court you?"
"Happy?! I'll be happy to slash your throat!" With that, Siu Ching leapt high and slashed her sword at the intruder. A few months ago, Tsui Wan would have defeated her easily. Yet, weeks of training with Dik Chan and the others have improved her skills. She dodged Tsui Wan's Viper Sword counterattacks, back flipped and, while letting Yung Yung and Jan Jan having a go at the Bat Prince, grabbed a yellow tube installed on her wall and ran outside. She pulled the tube lid off and threw it on the ground. A yellow flare burst from the tube. Soon, the other fighters would come to help.
"Ah, being prepared for my homecoming, have we?" Tsui Wan commented as he blocked Yung Yung's roundhousekick. "Well, that reminds me that I had been stupid. I should go to the obvious first, then I will take care of you, my dear bride!" With that, he leapt outside the room and vanished.
Blood drained from Siu Ching's face as she realised what it meant. She exchanged glances for a few seconds with Yung Yung and Jan Jan before the latter grabbed a red tube from the wall, pulled the lid off and threw it on the ground too. The red flare bursting from the tube told the whole Palace that the Emperor and/or the Crown Prince was in danger. Siu Ching came up with the two flares system. She correctly deducted that Yuen Tsui Wan would lethally target the Emperor and/or her brother to get the throne; hence the red flare for red alert. She knew he wouldn't kill her, for she was well aware that he desired her, hence the yellow flare for herself. The girls then wasted no time to run towards the Emperor's chamber. They knew that their colleagues would stop coming to their quarters now upon detecting the red flare.
True to the drill, upon arriving at the Royal chamber, they found Wu Tit Fa and Master Yuen Hung duelling the Bat Prince. Master Dik Chan, Sung Tim Yi and Li Hung Chao ran into the hall followed by the Sit Brothers. Soon chaos ensued. Tim Yi and Hung Chao sprung to escort the Emperor and the Crown Prince away from the sleeping hall while Tsui Wan was busy blocking attacks. The girls knew they could have used a secret passage underneath the bed, but the crowded secret getaway would actually benefit Tsui Wan more. Sit Siu Yan assisted the girls by grabbing the Emperor and whirled him away into the courtyard; the Crown Prince and his wife followed suit. Another secret passage was available just around the corner, but Tsui Wan shouldn't see them running there. Alas, they didn't have such luxury, so they just had to protect the Emperor and the Crown Prince in the open space.
And they might just be able to do so. Surrounded by many masters, Yuen Tsui Wan did find it difficult to have the upper hand. He battled Sit Yi Yan, Master Hung, Master Dik Chan and Wu Tit Fa at the same time. Yet, just when the warriors thought they'd win the fight, Tsui Wan delivered a lethal blow at Drunkard Wu's chest. The latter's speed to slightly turn his body was the reason he was still alive, albeit coughing blood. Tsui Wan then kicked Dik Chan so hard that her body whirled a few meters away and landed so hard, such that she couldn't breathe for a second and had to be rescued by Jan Jan from the ensuing slash of the Viper Sword. Tsui Wan finished the round by blocking Sit Yi Yan's Palm attacks, whirled himself behind Master Yuen Hung such that the Master became a temporary human shield between him and Sit Yi Yan, and delivered a blow on Yuen Hung's back that caused him to stagger forward, almost clashing with Sit Yi Yan. Tsui Wan then used those precious few seconds to leap away from the chamber area and chased the Emperor.
He found the Ruler in the Royal meeting hall, surrounded by many weaponed soldiers and archers. Yuen Tsui Wan scoffed, for those weapons meant nothing to him. There was only one person who could stop him, and that person was already either at the bottom of the valley or under the sea, dead. Pretty much dead.
"Really Princess," he smirked as he registered Siu Ching wielding her sword in front of her father and brother. "You think you can stop me with this army of yours? There's only one person who can stop me, and he's now dead!!" Tsui Wan said the last word like spitting a bitter seed out of his mouth. He also said that to make Siu Ching sad, for he'd seen her wailing for Chor Lau Heung just now.
Yet, the Princess didn't even blink. She knew this moment would arrive, and she and Yung Yung et al had promised to defend the country and the throne with all their lives. Chor tai-gor would have been proud. She smiled. "Chor Lau Heung taught us well, you bastard! And tonight you'll get the taste of it." She lifted her right hand. Archers around her stretched their bows. She lowered her hand quickly, screaming, "Attack!!" and hundreds of arrows flew towards the Bat Prince.
It was the testament of Yuen Tsui Wan's skills that none of the arrows managed to even graze his skin. He somersaulted and back flipped here and there and used the Viper Sword to parry the arrows. True to Siu Ching's concern, the archers soon run out of arrows. They needed time to recharge. She glanced at one of the generals standing beside her. The general nodded and issued order. "Change rank and recharge!" Immediately, the archers gave way to sword-yielding fighters, who immediately charged Tsui Wan. Master Yuen Hung and Sit Yi Yan entered the hall and assisted the fight. Meanwhile Siu Ching et al stealthily walked their ways out of the hall into the open space. There were more archers waiting outside, and it should be safer for a fight. Tsui Wan saw this and secretly admired that girl's tenacity. He desired her even more because of that. However, he was heavily surrounded by soldiers and warriors. Realising the gravity of his situation, Tsui Wan dodged some attacks, grabbed a soldier as a human shield, then leapt high. He perched on the hall's ceiling, then somersaulted outside the hall towards the Emperor.
He found a momentary opening in the protection circle around the Crown Prince, so he leapt towards him and almost got his neck when Siu Ching leapt between them. "Don't you hurt my brother!" She blocked his Viper Sword attack with her Jade Sword and continued attacking the intruder. The man who killed her lover.
Since showing up inside the Princess' chamber tonight, this was the first full fight Tsui Wan experienced with the girl. He knew he could defeat her, but he nevertheless again admired the girl's persistence. He'd needed just 1-2 stances in the past to defeat her, but now she managed to hold her ground. Such was her defence that she actually managed to annoy him. In a flash, his deranged mind decided that it wouldn't hurt him too much to hurt her. Even if she was handicapped during the fight, he'd still accept her, for such was his desire towards her.
With that new plan, Yuen Tsui Wan parried Siu Ching's sword attack and delivered a kick that she whirled backwards. He then leapt and swung the sword hilt to hit her. He deliberately used the hilt to disarm her without killing her, for the Viper Sword was the most venomous weapon at that time.
Yet, to his utter surprise, the sword was blocked and his chest received a very hard kick that threw him backwards. Alarmed, he recovered and back flipped several times to give himself a space. In front of him, shielding Siu Ching from his attack, stood a black-clad man. Although the man wore a black scarf, the man's tall height and demeanour were an instant giveaway to his identity, such that Tsui Wan felt like he was having a nightmare.
Siu Ching also realised the identity of her saviour. She blinked, then staggering backwards. "Chor tai-gor..." She whispered to herself and almost tripped to the ground. Alarmed, the masked man caught her and, after quickly removing his scarf, asked with the utmost concern, "Siu Ching! Siu Ching, are you okay?!"
She nodded and shook her head simultaneously. Then she choked on her tears. Her Chor Lau Heung was back! He was holding her body now so close to his own as he drilled into her eyes with love and concern. A scar now adorned his left cheek, but the scar didn't make him look crippled. Instead, it added to his general appeal.
So many questions whirling into her mind now. Yet, before she could even utter a word, her Chor Lau Heung smiled and gently said, "I'd love to stay for a chat, but we know that I have a business to finish. Now, may I borrow your sword?" He then took her Jade Sword from her and firmly yet gently ushered her to the Crown Prince, who was also still agog to see the King of Thieves returning to life. The Lingering Fragrance then turned to face the also flabbergasted Emperor.
"Your Highness, permission to face Yuen Tsui Wan myself without anyone's assistance." Upon receiving the slow nod from the Emperor, Chor Lau Heung turned to face Yuen Tsui Wan, who was still trying to digest the fact that his nemesis was, in fact, pretty much alive, albeit scarred.
"Bat Prince," Chor Lau Heung greeted his opponent, "Shall we have Round Two?"
Yuen Tsui Wan looked around to see all fighters surrounding him. Master Yuen Hung, Master Dik Chan and Sit Yi Yan gasped in a happy surprise to see Chor Lau Heung alive, while the others were practically cheering him. Tim Yi almost ran towards her adopted brother had Wu Tit Fa not prevented her. After all, their enemy was still alive, and they shouldn't let their guards down.
"So many of you..." Tsui Wan smirked. "Who's to say that they're not going to attack me after I'm done with you?"
"Three things," Lingering Fragrance replied immediately. "One: the Emperor gave his words that I will duel with you alone. Two: I also want to fight you alone. Three: I will win this round, hence you're never going to be done with me."
Tsui Wan had to laugh. "I kicked you off the cliff the last time. Who's to say I won't kill you this time?"
"I gravely injured you the last time too," Chor Lau Heung smirked. "As for the fall, let's just say I learned from my mistakes and picked myself up. It won't happen again."
"So sure of yourself!"
"As I said before," Lingering Fragrance smiled and lifted the Jade Sword to a stance. "Round Two."
Then deathly silence descended upon the entire courtyard for a good few minutes. Then a wolf howled in the distance as the wind blew slightly. Then, no one knew who opened attack first, but both mortal enemies started charging and attacking each other. It was the valley duel all over again with both fighters slashing and parrying their swords at an alarming speed, such that the audience only saw flashes of light as the swords clashed. Yuen Tsui Wan was indeed a skilful fighter. Prior to the duel at the valley, Chor Lau Heung often wondered if he truly could defeat the Bat Prince. That day at the valley, he learned that he actually could. He actually could even kill his opponent if he wanted to. That day, it was his hesitance in finishing off Tsui Wan that gave the Bat Prince the nanosecond chance to block his attack and kick him off the cliff. Lingering Fragrance had been pondering about that for the last few weeks during his recovery from the fall until he came to terms with the fact that some vermin do need to be eliminated from the world for peace to reign.
Hence the difference between the valley fight and tonight's fight. Chor Lau Heung didn't hold back. His attacks were lethal and administered in a non-forgiving, almost ruthless way. Whenever he had to dodge Tsui Wan's counterattacks, he pirouetted or back flipped swiftly but then he also wasted no time to return to the fight. His feet were like springs that catapulted his body wherever he wanted to go.
There was unmistakable anger and cry for justice in Lau Heung's attacks too. Not just due to Tsui Wan's barely veiled desire towards Siu Ching (Chor Lau Heung was actually there to see Yuen Tsui Wan touting the girls inside Siu Ching's chamber), but also because of what happened to Kam Ling Chi. Lau Heung had been feeling guilty about what happened to the Kams and how he and Wu Tit Fa actually used Ling Chi's unwavering allegiance towards Yuen Tsui Wan. Hence, no matter what the girl did to him, he took barely any offence. After his recovery, Lau Heung was passing by a wilderness a few days ago in the rain en route the Palace when he encountered a farmer, pale and shaken. The farmer just took a shelter in a nearby cave when he found a dead body. A girl, to be precise. When Lingering Fragrance inspected the body, he was shocked to see it was Kam Ling Chi's. The girl was stabbed with a poisonous weapon, possibly less than two days prior. Although he realised that he now urgently needed to go back to the Palace, Lau Heung took time to properly bury Kam Ling Chi's body and give her the respect due.
And now, that anger fuelled him to press charges. He blocked a perfectly camouflaged attack from Tsui Wan, in which the latter somersaulted towards him but then changed direction mid-air and pirouetted to the left as he swung the Viper Sword towards the King of Thieves; an attacking move only Yuen Tsui Wan could execute and only Chor Lau Heung could parry. That evasion irked Tsui Wan, such that the Bat Prince slashed his sword ungallantly and screamed, "Why don't you just die?!", to which Lingering Fragrance volleyed with, "Why did you have to kill Miss Kam?!" He cartwheeled to evade the Viper Sword, then rolled into a small ball and slashed low, injuring Tsui Wan's left leg. "That's for Miss Kam!" Lau Heung declared. He then delivered a perfect roundhouse kick at his enemy's chest such that the latter spurt blood as he fell hard to the ground. "And that's for your indecent desires towards Siu Ching!" Chor Lau Heung said as he pressed the Jade Sword on Tsui Wan's throat. "And you lose." He kicked the Viper Sword away towards Sit Yi Yan, the rightful owner of the sword who swiftly caught the sword.
The few seconds silence was followed by cheers from all over the courtyard. Siu Ching ran towards her lover as the Crown Prince followed suit. Yet, true to his vigilant nature, Chor Lau Heung held his hand. "Your Highnesses, please remain where you are, the danger isn't over." Sit Yi Yan nodded to his Royal in-laws. "Majesties, please stay put," the former leader of the Bloody Palm Sect agreed. "We need to secure this criminal first before we celebrate this."
"Secure me?!" Tsui Wan spatted. "You think you can detain me?"
"I just did," came the calm reply of Chor Lau Heung, his hand still firmly held the Jade Sword against Tsui Wan's neck. "And although I'm so tempted to finish you myself, I need to defer to His Majesty's decision on this." He turned to face the Emperor, who did look pensive.
"You're a criminal, Yuen Tsui Wan, through and through. We need to carefully consider what to do with you, now that Chor tai-hap has apprehended you. General," the Emperor addressed one of his generals who had always been with him throughout the night attack. "Secure the criminal for a future trial."
"Yes, Majesty," the general nodded. He proceeded to secure Tsui Wan with the assistance of some soldiers. Yet, perhaps mere mortals were always a scion in demigods play. 'Mere mortals' like the soldiers were no match for a practical demigod like Yuen Tsui Wan. The Bat Prince remained very calm when two soldiers took over from Chor Lau Heung with their own swords against the former's neck. However, the chi required to hold the sword firmly just wasn't there anymore as Lau Heung released his hold. Yuen Tsui Wan effortlessly dismantled and killed the two soldiers and injured the general before launching himself at Lingering Fragrance's retreating back. Yet, well aware of this possibility, Lau Heung whirled to the left and launched an attack towards Tsui Wan's unguarded left side. The attack wasn't meant as a killing attack, but since Chor Lau Heung was ready this time to make that call, it came out very forceful. The Jade Sword was buried deep within his enemy's side through his abdomen, such that when Lingering Fragrance pulled it out, blood splashed everywhere. The Bat Prince gasped and, after what seemed to be a long time for the people at the courtyard, fell on the ground with a thud.
"Well, that's for my mother, if you ask me," whispered the Crown Prince after Master Yuen Hung pronounced Yuen Tsui Wan dead.
"Let me help you with the rope," offered the ever kind So Yung Yung to Wah Jan Jan, who grinned and thanked her.
"You're almost late. Thought you changed your mind."
Jan Jan turned to see Song Siu Ching coming out into the Fragrant Boat front deck, Chor Lau Heung walking seconds behind her. Jan Jan smiled. "It wasn't difficult to convince my sister that I'd like to leave Hua Shan, but I have to make sure my tasks there were properly transferred to other girls."
"Well, glad you can make it in time. We're not sure whether to wait or just leave you a message of our next stop," Chor Lau Heung said, then he gestured to the other girls. "Yung Yung is showing you how to do the roping, I take it? If you still have questions, just come ask me about it."
"Or to me," added Siu Ching. "I've got the hang of it these days."
Chor Lau Heung smiled lovingly at her before agreeing, "She actually has."
Princess Wing Ching had lived with him and the three girls onboard of the Fragrant Boat since the passing week. Following Yuen Tsui Wan's death a few weeks ago, Chor Lau Heung had gathered with others (except for the Emperor, who was too tired to stay awake to listen to his story) inside Siu Ching's old chamber. He had patiently explained what happened after the fall during the valley duel. He did fall into the valley, hit a rock and fainted as his body drowned in the river. Yet, Heaven was very kind, for a few miles down the river, he was actually saved by a fisherman who was going to depart for a few days' journey to the open sea. Since the weather was fine, the fisherman didn't cancel his trip. Instead, he took Lingering Fragrance into his boat and nursed him on-board until he woke up two days later. That was why no one found out about this fisherman saving the King of Thieves, for when the army and the Beggar Clan were combing down the river, he was actually at sea. After five days offshore, the fisherman returned with the wanderer to his hut by the river. At that time, Chor Lau Heung already recovered enough to return to the Capital if he wanted to. Yet, he wanted to fully recover first, hence he went to Yat Dim Hung's monastery, where the monk gave him the space to fully recover.
"But we asked Yat Dim Hung's help to locate you, or at least pay attention to any news," Song Siu Ching had been confused. She didn't come to the monastery herself, but Tim Yi did, and she would tell if she had met Chor tai-gor there. "He said he was sorry for what happened, and he'd keep us updated if he heard anything."
"Tim Yi came before I came there," Chor Lau Heung had looked briefly at his youngest adopted sister. "Even if she came when I was there, I already specifically asked Dim Hung not to tell anyone," Lau Heung added apologetically. "I'm sorry, I understand it had been a very rough few weeks for you all...but I thought I'd give a false illusion to Yuen Tsui Wan that I was already dead so he'd lower his guard." He addressed this specifically to Siu Ching by holding her hands in front of everyone. "I'm truly sorry."
Siu Ching thought of this for a moment before reaching the conclusion that the deception was indeed needed, though it caused her and others pain. She shook her head and said that he did it for the greater good. He smiled, knowing she had forgiven her for keeping her in the dark. They then chatted even until others had retired to bed. Chor Lau Heung told the Princess everything that happened, including that he got the scar from the fall. He also told her how much he missed her.
"I have been observing you for a few days, Siu Ching... As soon as I finished burying Miss Kam, I came here. I was so worried that Yuen Tsui Wan got here first, but apparently, he was also doing his own observations. I observed him observing you guys. I've decided to leap into action as soon as he did something, but for a good few days he did nothing but watching you all from afar. Then after he left, I would come closer to your room, observing you sleeping... Or crying, or both. Once, I actually fixed your blanket when it fell off the floor. I wished I could hug you that night, but you'd be awake, and it might attract Tsui Wan too. So I just caressed your face and left again..."
Listening to that, Siu Ching caressed Chor tai-gor's scar. He closed his eyes to immerse himself in her touches. He then opened his eyes again and, after a pause, told her what any girl would want to hear from her lover.
"Siu Ching, I'd like to take you back to my boat to live with me. I'd like to eventually marry you, if that life suits you. I know -" he immediately added as he saw her eyes flickered, "I know you want me to live in the palace, but if that's okay with you, I'd like to take you home to the boat with me instead."
"I hope I'm not asking too much of you. I understand i have made you doing an involuntary sacrifice by keeping you in the dark about my survival... Such that I actually don't feel I have the rights to ask you to leave the Palace. But my month away from you, pretending to be dead, had taught me how important you were for me. I'd like to live my life with you. It's just, I still can't see myself as a Palace dweller. Hence..."
He ran out of words, thus he turned away, looking at the dawning sky. He couldn't bear seeing disagreement in her eyes.
Lingering Fragrance then decided to face his fears. Clenching his jaws, he turned again to face her. "I'm sorry, I -" Yet, to his surprise, it wasn't disagreement that he saw in her eyes. It was love, and acceptance.
"Chor tai-gor, my month without you had taught me how much you truly meant to me. Once I actually made a vow, that if you return to me, I'd leave the Palace if you want me to. The Palace without you isn't an interesting place anyway for me." She caressed his scar again. "So, as soon as Father wakes up tomorrow, you can ask his permission to take me away. I'm sure he'd say yes."
And then she smiled. The first smile she had in a month. He smiled too, for he had missed her smile so much. He then kissed her and let her rest her lovely head on his shoulder as they watched the sunrise.
That was two weeks ago. Now, the girl he loved was here with him in his boat. Sharing her life with him. Lingering Fragrance had promise the Emperor that they'd inform him of his wedding with Siu Ching, whenever it happened, for they were not in a hurry for that. The Emperor himself, he'd just got good news that Sit Yan, the Crown Princess, was expecting a baby, so His Majesty now was quite busy with that news.
Now, Chor Lau Heung observed with glee how Siu Ching was teaching Jan Jan about the ropes. He looked at the sky and decided the wind was perfect for their journey. As Jan Jan entered the chamber with Tim Yi, Hung Chao and Yung Yung, he approached Siu Ching. The girl was peacefully looking at the direction of the Capital.
"You’re missinghome?" He gently asked as he embraced her from behind. She smiled and shook her head.
"No, I'm just thinking of Father, and how happy he is now with his incoming grand child. I'm happy for him. As for home," she turned to face her love. "...this is my home now."
"It is indeed." Chor Lau Heung smiled, landed a short kiss at her cherry lips, and asked, "Now, Princess, shall we sail away now?"
Not a lot, other than I’ve recently changed writing ‘Brother Chor’ as ‘Chor tai-gor’ in Cantonese instead of ‘Chor tai-ko’, although the pronunciation is the same. Courtesy of some discussions with Hong Kong friends. I suppose, old spellings could be writing ‘elder brother’ as ‘tai-ko’ instead of ‘tai-gor’? Cos I did find a book or two using the former instead of the latter. Oh, and ‘tai-hap’ is how people addressed a ‘warrior’ or hero or fighter during those ancient days.