Chu Li and Siao Qi were eating some biscuits and dried meat, while glancing casually at their two horses outside the kiosk. Both horses were in dire need of a good rest.
Chu Li could not take his eyes of the three masculine men. He seemed to be deep in thought.
The three men were very nervous, they could not sit or stand still. It was as if there were thorns all over their body, pricking them. They had an uncanny feeling about Chu Li.
Siao Qi realized the way Chu Li was looking at the men and walked over to him.
Chu Li asked, "They're not good people, want me to take care of the situation?"
Siao Qi froze. She turned her glance to the three men.
Before that, the men did not grab her attention at all. To her, they ceased to exist. But after the reminder from Chu Li, she finally set sight on them for the very first time.
"Dear Lord, we didn't do anything to offend you, right?" One of the red-faced muscular man started speaking. He gave Chu Li a fist salute, trying to appear respectful towards his captor.
Chu Li shook his head, "No, you did nothing offend me. But what you did, was you took away the lives of many innocent people."
"What? Stop accusing us for things we didn't do!" The man with the blushed face protested. He then smiled at Chu Li and gave him another fist salute, "We are disciples of the Hornet Valley."
Chu Li raised an eyebrow, then glanced at Siao Qi.
He knew very well, that the man was lying. They were no disciples of Hornet Valley, they were bandits.
Siao Qi replied, "Finish them off!"
"Got it." Chu Li nodded.
In the blink of an eye, he disappeared from where he was standing, then reappearing behind the three men. With the speed of lightning, he threw three palm strikes their backs respectively. The force of his strikes penetrated their torso, crushing their inner Energy center. The hits rendered them no longer able to summon any of their inner strength for the rest of their lives.
"You... You..." The three men stared fiercely at Chu Li and Siao Qi. They felt furious but fearful at the same time, struggling to come to terms with what Chu Li had just done.
Chu Li looked at them, "Do you even know, how many people died in your hands? What I've just did was merely a light punishment!"
Siao Qi added, "I can only blame the authorities for being so incompetent. How are you three not even convicted of any murders yet?"
The three men were fuming. The cursed the evil lady in front of them deep down in their hearts but dared not show their annoyance. If they said something that would piss them off, their captors might change their minds and kill them instead.
Chu Li and Siao Qi watched as the three men staggered back to their horses, fleeing the scene in a state of hurry. Chu Li shook his head, "You're just too kind, Lady Siao."
Siao Qi looked at him, "Don't I already have you, to be the evil one?"
She could see that Chu Li had taken things to his own hands. He made his palm strikes look like he only ridded them of their inner strength and martial art abilities. But in truth, he had also severely damaged the men's internal organs, leaving them with a ticking time bomb in their bodies. By her estimations, those men would not live long. They would succumb to a terrible death soon after, and nobody would come to their rescue in the wilderness they were heading to.
Chu Li smiled, "I'm more than happy to wipe the kind of outlaws like them off the face of the planet. I'm doing everybody else a great favor here."
Killing them would be like saving a thousand lives. And he was right, it was indeed a great deed. From what he could see, they had butchered at least 25 people, and among their victims were women and elderly people. Although they were not extremely skilled at martial arts, but they were devious criminals, and had evaded the authorities for a long time.
The incident however, did not hinder the two's journey, as they soon found themselves back on the road again.
The thundering of hooves split the silence, as their horses galloped through the bleak landscape. With help from Chu Li and Siao Qi's inner strength, the horses galloped on rapidly. By noon the following day, they arrived at the foot of the Phoenix Mountains.
The Phoenix Mountains were a seemingly endless mountain range. If Chu Li and Siao Qi did not were not skilled at levitation, they would not have embarked on this arduous journey, to search for someone in the mountains.
The first thing they did was to settle down their horses at one of the houses in the foothills. After that, they levitated and entered the Phoenix Mountains.
Siao Qi's initial plan was that they split up, so that they could each cover a separate area, in hopes of accelerating the manhunt. But Chu Li had insisted otherwise. He explained that by sticking together, their enemies would not have any chance of ambushing them. Plus, they were not innate masters, so they should take extra caution.
Siao Qi conceded to him and agreed to his stance. Thus, the two of them scouted the area from West to East, slowly entering the deeper regions of the Phoenix Mountains.
Chu Li put his Omniscient Mirror to use. He could now see everything within a three-mile range from where they were standing. However, all he could see were endless rocky mountains. He also noticed that the peak of the mountain was not too high up, as he could already see it from halfway up the mountainside.
The Sun was shining warmly in the clear blue sky. The sunlight ricocheted on the windows, lighting up the interior of the study room brightly.
Siao Tieying was reading in his study room.
He was determined in his quest to quench more historical books, so that he could improve his military strategies. The Hu Ren Public House had been breathing down his neck of late, and he had no answer. If this situation persisted, the Yi Public House would crumble under his weak governance.
Suddenly, he heard a knock on his door. Then came Lin Quan's voice, "Master Siao, the Second Lady has fainted!"
"What?!" The book slipped form Siao Tieying's hands. He rushed to the door and let Lin Quan in. "What happened?"
"She collapsed when she was having her medicine. Elder Guo found out and asked me to notify you about it."
Color drained from Siao Tieying's face. He exited the room in a hurry, with Lin Quan following behind him.
The two hopped onto a boat and started rowing frantically. Before long, they reached the Island of Symphony. They then made their way towards Wind Tower.
Several servant girls were standing in the main lounge of Wind Tower, all with worried looks. When they saw that Master Siao had arrived, they gave him a salute.
Siao Tieying waved them off and climbed up the stairs in a swift manner. Lin Quan followed closely behind.
Guo Mulin was standing beside of the bed with his head lowered. He was watching over Siao Shi, who had blacked out and was laid down onto the bed. Mulin's face looked glum.
Upon hearing the footsteps outside, he turned his head around and made a fist salute, "Master Siao."
"My second sister, she...?" Siao Tieying asked worriedly, "Is she going to be alright?"
"Doesn't look too good." Mulin shook his head, "The medicine had little to no effect. I've already administered the Spirit Blessing Pill for the Second Lady, but..."
"With the Spirit Blessing Pill, she should be fine now, right?"
"Sigh..." Mulin exhaled, "Even the Divine Pill would not be of much use now. The Vitality Sealing Finger's curse in the Lady's body was too overpowering. It blocked off any medications that we administer into her bloodstream. With medicine out of the picture, there won't be another way to save her!"
"There's no other way?" Siao Tieying replied anxiously, "My third sister have gone out to look for 'Thunder Guiding Blade' Feng Jiuyang and will return soon. Can she hold on until then?"
"I'm afraid we don't have much time. She wouldn't make it." Mulin smiled bitterly, "Unless Feng Jiuyang can arrive at once, if not... Sigh, if we delay any longer, by the time 'Thunder Guiding Blade' arrives, he would not be able to save her either."
"Sigh, how much longer will my second sister take?" Siao Tieying sat down at the edge of the bed, caressing Siao Shi's pale but beautiful face, his heart in writhing pain.
Mulin sighed, "I'm afraid she won't make it through the night."
"Tonight?!" Siao Tieying exclaimed in terror.
Mulin looked down and nodded weakly, "Please forgive me for my inability!"
"What's the use of saying that?!" Siao Tieying waved him off, and creased his eyebrow, "If we can disable the Vitality Sealing Finger now, would there still be hope?"
Mulin looked at Siao Tieying, and sighed, "With her current condition, there's no way we could do that."
"Why is that so?" Siao Tieying asked in a low voice.
Mulin explained, "To disable the Vitality Sealing Finger, one would need to use a gush of energy to cleanse all the affected acupuncture points in the person's body. But at the same time, the other acupuncture points could not be hurt. Which is why no matter how precise one's inner energy is, there is no guarantee that the other acupuncture point will not be harmed.And judging by the Lady's current condition, even the slightest mistake would cost us her life!"
"Lin Quan, go and get Zhao!" Siao Tieying ordered him.
"Yes, Master." Lin Quan replied swiftly, then left the place quietly.
Mulin shook his head again, "Master Siao, no use in that."
"We won't know if we don't try." Siao Tieying shook his head in disagreement, "You want me to sit here and watch her die?!"
Mulin sighed, "How's it going with Chu Li and Siao Qi's mission then...? Sigh, it's all my fault, I shouldn't have gambled with fate. I should have disabled the Vitality Sealing Finger earlier, not delaying the matter until now!"
"No, the fault is on me!" Siao Tieying watched the unconscious Siao Shi, mumbling to himself, "It is I who have failed my duties as a big brother. I was incapable of looking after my own sister!"
Mulin remained silent.
At that moment, they could only blame God for not showing the Second Lady any mercy.
Lin Quan and Zhao Qingshan arrived at the room in time.
"Elder Zhao, please go and disable the Vitality Sealing Finger!" Siao Tieying turned his head around and ordered, after giving him a fist salute. "I don't care what happens, we must give it a try!"
"Master Siao, it will be futile." Mulin interrupted.
Siao Tieying gritted on his teeth strongly, "She might die if we try, but same goes if we choose to do nothing. It's better that we try, if not, I won't be able to forgive myself for this!"
"Master Siao, I..." Zhao Qingshan looked troubled.
He knew what the outcome would be. The Second Lady was beyond salvageable now. Master Siao was just trying to beat the impossible. But if he was unable to revive the Lady, Master Siao would surely be upset, how would he forgive him then?
Mulin said, "Zhao, the Lady would not survive the night. So even if you fail, we only cut her short for one night, no harm to give it a try."
Zhao Qingshan smiled bitterly and replied, "Guo, but I don't want to be the cause of her death!"
"Don't worry." Siao Tieying gritted hard on his teeth and said, "The earlier we end this, the earlier she can be set free. This weak body of hers had already caused her enough suffering. It's about time we end it now!"
"Master Siao, I really couldn't..." Zhao Qingshan shook his head helplessly, "I really have no confidence."
"It wouldn't matter if you have the confidence." Mulin added, "It's already too late!"
"...right." Zhao Qingshan nodded.
He grimaced. Why would they ask him to try, if it was already hopeless?
He walked towards the bed and looked at Siao Shi's pale face. The mere sight of it would make anyone shed tears of despair. She had a bright future ahead of her, but now... There was an old saying, that pretty girls were often destined to lead a miserable life. Shame that even the Second Lady could not avoid this ill fate.
When he thought of it, he steeled his heart and decided to do as he was told. It was better than not trying at all. Maybe there could still be a miracle.
He researched on the Vitality Sealing Finger before, hence he knew precisely which acupuncture points to gush open. He pictured the scene in his mind, imagining waves and waves of inner strength surging through the acupuncture points. He stood there quietly, cultivating his inner strength, tuning his body to an optimum condition.
Siao Tieying and the others held their breath as they watched him intently.
Suddenly, Zhao Qingshan opened his eyes. For a moment, it looked like electrical currents were emitting from his eyes. His eyebrows fluttered as if a strong wind was blowing at it. He raised his right palm and reached for the top of Siao Shi's head.
"Pom!" a dull sound rang out, as Siao Shi's body shuddered violently. The next thing they knew, she spurted out a mouthful of blood, her face turning even paler. But still, she remained stationary on the bed, her breath shallowing with every passing second.
"Pfft!" Zhao Qingshan too spurted out a mouthful of blood. He staggered backwards, landing onto the ground in a seated posture.
Siao Tieying moved closer to Siao Shi's face to have a look.
Mulin did the same and checked on her meridians, then proceeding to check if she had any signs of breath. His face appeared grim.
Siao Tieying noticed his facial expression, he knew immediately that something was amiss.
"My second sister, she..." Siao Tieying's voice trembled as he asked.
Mulin shook his head, "Master Siao, my condolences!"
"No! No! Impossible!" Siao Tieying shook his head in denial, forcefully shrugging him off, "It cannot be!"
At that moment, Mulin could only sigh and remain silent.
Siao Tieying touched Siao Shi's face. It felt warm, but when he put his finger under her nose, there were no signs of breath. His sister remained still, as if she was sound asleep.
"Sister, wake up!" Siao Tieying shook her shoulder gently, gently calling out to her, "Open your eyes and look at me!"
"Sister! Sister!" Siao Tieying was not ready to give up just yet. He continued, "Don't ignore me, I will save you! I will never leave you alone, I will save you!"
"Master..." Lin Quan whispered.
"Get out! All of you, get out!" Siao Tieying turned his head around and shouted, "Don't interrupt your Second Lady while she's resting!"
Mulin stood up and gave Siao Tieying a fist salute. He then made his way out.
Lin Quan hesitated for a second, looking at Siao Tieying worriedly. Soon after, he helped Zhao Qingshan back up on his feet and then exited the room. All of them left the third floor.
Siao Tieying held Siao Shi's hands and kept whispering to her, as if he was afraid of arousing her from her dreams, "Sister, do you still remember what mother had said when she was on her deathbed? She advised you to listen to me, listen to my every advice after she's gone. She asked me to take good care of you, sister, and protect you from getting bullied."
"I still remember the times when I brought you out to pick lotus seeds and catch butterflies. I still remember that sweet smile on your face back then."
"From that day onwards, I sworn to myself, that I will do anything to make sure my sister lives a free and happy life!"
"But I failed my duties as a big brother, I was useless. I had let you suffer too many sorrows. It's all my fault, I didn't take good care of you. I'm sorry, my sister!"
"I may be the heir of the Public House, but what's the use? I can't even protect my own sister! I could only watch from the side when you endured all those sufferings!"
"I wish that I could trade you my body, sister. I am willing to take on all those sufferings for you. You don't deserve a life like this... Sister, open your eyes and look at me, don't ignore your big brother!"
"Ah--------!" Siao Tieying lifted his head and howled in grief. The windows shook, as his loud wail reverberated throughout the whole island.
Lin Quan and the others were downstairs at the time, and they all looked at each other. They could not do anything but sigh.
Grief had consumed Siao Tieying entirely. He looked down once more onto Siao Shi's lifeless face. He gently wiped away the blood at the edge of her mouth with his shaking hands. He then embraced her, hoping to give her some warmth so she would not feel cold.
"Pa!" Two pieces of jade fell from his chest.
The jade broke into half as it fell onto the floor, as if a sharp blade had sliced through it, separating it into two smaller but equally sized pieces.
"Ah------!" Siao Tieying let out another loud cry of sorrow, just like a wolf howling at the full moon.
"Pa!" two pieces of jade fell from her chest.
Siao Qi stopped abruptly, her usually calm face turned glum.
Chu Li neared himself towards her.
The two were amid levitating from a tree branch to another, searching for "Thunder Guiding Blade" Feng Jiuyang. The Phoenix Mountains were secluded and quiet, and there was not a single soul. Their search was not met with any success thus far.
Siao Qi jumped down from the tree and picked up the two smaller pieces of jade. She looked at them, her face looking grim.
"Lady, what is it?" Chu Li did not understand what was going on.
Siao Qi lifted her head and gazed at him, a terrified look on her face.
"Lady Siao?" Chu Li whispered to her.
Siao Qi's visions blurred out, but she quickly recovered. She handed the jades to Chu Li and explained, "These are the Jades of Life. My three siblings and I each have a same set. If one of us dies, the jade will break apart."
"Death?" Chu Li creased his eyebrow, "Is it your younger brother, the Fourth Master?"
Siao Qi shook her head, "No, it's my second sister."
Chu Li was shocked, "That can't be, right?... When we left, the Second Lady was still in good shape. Although her life vitality was draining, but it was not exhausted yet!"
"Yes, I can't be wrong, it's my sister." Siao Qi nodded slowly, "I could feel it. She's gone!"
"No way!" Chu Li could not believe it.
Siao Qi held onto the tree beside her, trying to prevent herself from falling.
Chu Li looked up in the sky. He sighed, "Could this be fate?"
Siao Qi proclaimed, "No need to look for Feng Jiuyang anymore. Let's go back and see my sister."
Chu Li said, "Allow me to bring you back."
"Alright, let's go." Siao Qi replied.
Chu Li helped her up, and then blinked away. They vanished from where they were standing, reappearing two miles away from that spot.
He looked at Siao Qi, "Can you bear it?"
"Just go, don't worry about me." Siao Qi replied.
Chu Li nodded, and once again he blinked away, reappearing another two miles away.
He felt at a loss. He had not expected this day to come so soon. He had failed to save the Second Lady's life.
He blamed himself for not being able to do better. Even if he was not entirely confident, he should have tried to help the Second Lady, by secretly disabling the curse. He did not necessarily have to listen to Master Siao's commands. Even if he had failed in treating her earlier, the ending would still be the same as now, it would not have mattered at all!
A million thoughts flashed through Chu Li's mind. The images of Siao Shi's beautiful smiles floated before his very eyes, like a gallery of memories. His heart was in wrenching pain.
Siao Qi started seeing various shapes of lights and shadows, she suddenly felt like vomiting. But all she could do was to close her eyes, although it did not help at all. The nausea exacerbated, and finally she could not take it anymore. She tapped on Chu Li's shoulder from behind.
Chu Li supported her, then walked backwards for a few steps to provide her with some breathing space. Siao Qi bent down and started throwing up.
"Lady Siao, I shall make my move first then." Chu Li said.
Siao Qi took out her handkerchief and wiped her mouth. She raised her head and looked at Chu Li, "No, I'm okay!"
Chu Li shook his head.