In case any of you are interested or curious about all the bitching, crying, and moaning i've been doing over the past year. Here's a glimpse of my work. My Martial Arts book is called, "The Scarlet Lotus," its still in its rough stages but it is coming along nicely. PLease do not copy, quote, take, this excerpt for your personal usage.
1. Nameless Goddess
3rd Day of the 7th Lunar month, Year 1102
After a couple of weeks of travel, Yi Wen Xia had finally arrived at Shan-yu, the Xing Empire’s westernmost province. The town itself was a frontier city and Yi could see how the remoteness if its location could often be overlooked by the Imperial government. The roads were in poor condition, the buildings all had cracks in their earthen walls, and many paper lanterns seemed rather worn and faded in their color.
It was here in Shan-yu City that a highly skilled fighter wielded a magic sword in arena-style combat and it was Yi’s job to find out if the martial artist was a practitioner of black magic. Just ahead, Yi could see the destination, a building that served as a gambling den for martial battles. This was the place where the fighter called Nameless Goddess forged her reputation by killing five arena fighters and gained the Dao-li Tung Society’s notice.
Beside her, a recently promoted fourth level priest, Li Wei Hong walked down the busy street. She knew that this was his first mission and the man looked around in a nervous manner.
Yi frowned at him. “Li,” she said. “Try not to look so apprehensive, otherwise you’ll jeopardize our cover.”
Hong chuckled nervously. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to look so obvious.” The man closed his eyes and inhaled several deep breaths.
Yi smiled at him, satisfied with Hong’s now calmed demeanor. “Perfect.”
Once Yi and Hong were off the street, they arrived at the crowded entryway of the arena. Yi saw that the round facility looked rather rustic with faintly colored walls, aged floor tiling, and an odor of decay that hinted at the structure’s age. As her partner went off to go buy tickets, Yi tapped the shoulder of a man standing in line in front of her. At first, the man didn’t notice her touch so she tapped his shoulder again. The wide man quickly turned around with an irritated expression and Yi did her best to ignore the giant hairy mole on his nose.
“Uh, sorry to bother you,” she said. “But could you tell me who is scheduled to fight today?”
“Ah yes,” the man with the big mole said. “There is a match between Nameless Goddess and the Twin Blades of Wudan. I’m betting my money on Nameless Goddess because she’s undefeated!”
Yi did her best not to show her disgust, she hated fighters who exploited their abilities. “Thank you.”
Her partner returned with tickets in hand. “I’ve got two at ring side, do you think Temple Priest Minh would mind if he found out that we spent this much money on tickets?”
Yi shook her head. “Do you have the spirit compass on you?”
Li patted his chest and smiled from ear to ear. “Check!”
Yi shook her head in annoyance at the man’s thoughtless display of pride and decided it wasn’t worth a scolding. She kept her focus on the mission. The spirit compass was needed to determine the nature of the sword and its wielder. If Nameless Goddess was identified by the device as a user of black magic then Yi would have to spring into action and kill her as quickly as possible. Life in the empire was hard enough with a sick emperor on the throne. The appearance of a new black magic practitioner would only add more to the pile of worries for the Dao-li Tung Society. In the past, the Society had dealt swiftly with evil cults that were started by zealots of evil powers and Yi hoped that this particular fighter wasn’t under any evil influence. With some investigation, the Nameless Goddess could be deemed harmless and left alone to do whatever she wanted with the magic sword. Yi’s mission would be accomplished and she could just go back home to Full Moon Temple and choose her next mission.
When they walked into the building, Yi and Hong saw that the aisle headed downwards. She was surprised at the size of the interior and didn’t expect the arena to be in a shape of a bowl. The facility was designed in a way that all patrons could see the match no matter where they were in the building. There was a large octagonal opening in the ceiling of the arena and the ring itself was round and sunken into the ground. As Yi took her seat at the ringside, she had a clear view of the fighting area and estimated that the distance from her position to the fighting level was fifteen feet below her. There were also metal bars built over the ring to keep the fighters from jumping out into the audience.
Before the match started, Yi looked at her Hanfu to make sure the outfit blended in with the rough crowd around. The color scheme of her cloth was charcoal and her pants were black. The building was loud, hot, and it didn’t help that she wore two layers of clothing. She wiped the sweat from her face with her wide sleeves and did her best to ignore the smoldering conditions. The audience members started to chant Nameless Goddess loudly and they punched their fists full of paper money into the air as if they wanted to speed up the wait.
“Nameless Goddess indeed,” Yi muttered, “I detest martial artists who use their fighting skills in pursuit of money. These people are no better than bandits.”
Hong nodded in agreement.
Finally, the noise and activity of the arena settled down as a heavyset man dressed in bright colors walked into the center of the sunken fighting ring. He wore a white turban, his skin was dark brown, his moustache was long and curvy, and his silk clothing was baggy. Yi thought the man looked rather comical.
“Welcome faithful patrons!” The announcer spoke with a heavy accent. “Today we have an exciting match for you! Behold, please welcome our local champion, no, champion of the entire Xing Empire, Nameless Goddess!”
The crowd roared into applause as Yi watched the arena guards dragged a woman in chains into the ring. The fighter’s appearance shook Yi’s preconceptions of the Nameless Goddess. Yi felt a tug at her sleeve and Hong was pointing at the female fighter with disbelief.
“That’s the undefeated killer of five martial arts masters?” Hong said with puzzlement, voicing Yi’s sentiments aloud.
Yi frowned, crossed her arms, and sat against the back of her seat. The fighter didn’t look like a cold-hearted killer nor did she seem to have any strong presence. In fact, the woman seemed scared and there was a child-like quality to her. What struck Yi the most about Nameless Goddess was a look of sadness in her expressive eyes. The martial artist shared Yi’s medium height, there was a sliver of scar on her forehead, her body frame seemed very nimble and she was very pretty.
“Now we bring out our challenger, Twin Blades! This swordfighter’s from Wudan City. His purpose in life is only challenging other swordsmen to better his skills. He has no stake of money in this match but only his very life! So your bets will now be worth an additional twenty five percent!”
As Twin blades walked out to the fighting ring, Yi noticed the audience’s anticipation seemed to grow and the thirst for increased winnings became more apparent on their expressions. Twin Blades was a rather large man, he was bald, and his beard was black and draped down his chest. A large scar ran down his hairless scalp and each of his hands was missing a finger. The man reached to his sides and drew out two swords from their scabbards. He went into his ready stance and radiated a sense of confidence in his abilities.
Three arena guards descended from the aisles and places themselves near the ringside. Yi watched as the men took their posts and quirked an eyebrow when they brought out hollow bamboo tubes.
Curious, She thought.
The ill-dressed announcer held up his hand and a bell chimed from one of the ringside guards. He then reached into his vest and pulled out a black porcelain mask. The face cover was broken, its bottom half was missing. Yi had her gaze fixed on the chained woman and saw her reached out for the mask with an expression of longing. He placed the mask down a few yards away from Nameless Goddess and quickly made his exit. The guards unlocked the fighter’s chains and ran out as well. Nameless then went to the mask and picked it up as if it was the world’s most valuable treasure. She wore the mask onto her face and Yi noticed a change in the fighter’s posture from trepidation to iron resolve. She could see Nameless Goddess’s slightly deranged smile.
Yi tapped at Hong’s arm, “Li, bring out the compass.”
The partner nodded and pulled out a wooden octagonal board. In the center was a needle surrounded by the representations of divination.
Yi watched the two opponents circled each other in the ring. “Any reaction from the compass?”
“No,” Hong replied.
When the bell chimed a second time, Twin Blades suddenly charged at the woman in the black mask. She skillfully dodged his sword swings with a duck and roll maneuver. Nameless Goddess stopped and kicked at the opponent’s kidneys. The hit angered Twin Blades and he swiped at the woman’s leg and missed. Nameless Goddess got to her feet and continued the dodge the Wudan fighter’s offenses.
Yi heard a woman from the crowd said to her mate. “She’s just dodging! Why isn’t she fighting back?”
Because she’s studying his moves and tiring him, Yi thought.
After a few minutes, of futile action, Twin Blades finally tired and stopped his chase to catch his breath. Nameless Goddess stood still and reached behind to her draw out her weapon. The sword gleamed elegantly, it was a thin blade with a slight curve, it had a white hilt, and it had black etchings that depicted an ocean in stormy weather.
“Oh!” Hong said. “Look!”
Yi leaned over and saw that the needle on the spirit compass spun wildly clockwise. A slight sense of relief fell over Yi. “The sword is positive,” she said. “No hint of black magic influence or origin.”
Twin Blades charged at Nameless Goddess. The woman parried his sword attacks and Yi watched as sparks fell from the clashing of the metal. Each time Twin Blades’ weapons hit Nameless’ magic sword, pieces of steel would break off from his blades. The swordsman paused and realized the frayed condition of his swords. He stood frozen with fear.
Without hesitation, Nameless Goddess chopped away at Twin’s swords like woodchips until the man had only two empty hilts staring back at him. He quickly went to his knees and begged for mercy. Yi found herself holding her breath.
No compassion was given.
The Nameless Goddess instantly decapitated him and a fountain of blood spewed from Twin Blade’s stump of a neck.
The gambling crowd was silent for only a moment and began exchanging their winnings.
Without any warning, Nameless Goddess lunged at the metal bars and sparks appeared as she tried to cut her way out of the ring. Many members of the audience were startled and some of the female attendants screamed. As if on cue, the ringside guards took out their bamboo tubes and blew darts at the attacking woman. Nameless Goddess was in Yi’s vicinity and both women locked each other’s gazes. For a moment, time seemed slow for Yi as she looked into the cold merciless eyes of the swordswoman. The fighter instantly went limp and fell to the ring ground. The fat ringmaster returned to the fighting area and removed the woman’s black mask.
When the arena began to empty, Yi stood and watched as the arena guards dragged the unconscious woman out of the ring.
Hong stood from his seat and sighed. “I guess the spirit compass confirms it, Nameless Goddess is not an evil magician. Not much we can do except report back home.”
Yi stood and stared at the arena employees as they hauled away Twin Blade’s body and proceeded to clean the ring. “That woman was vicious.”
“That much is certain,” Hong agreed.
“There’s more to this. I know it. Did you see how they put her to sleep? How they dragged her away like some slave? I think she’s here against her own will.”
“Do you want to stay and investigate this matter further?”
Without answering and driven by a great sense of concern and curiosity, Yi quickly ascended the aisles and ran towards the exit of the arena. She ran around the building and spotted the arena guards placed Nameless Goddess into a metal cage built atop of a wheel cart. Yi watched as the horses pulled down the road towards a large building with a tall wall that enclosed it away from the city. There was a sign above the main gateway that read: Ringmaster’s Quarters. The cart disappeared into the stronghold and Yi decided that it would be best to wait until the evening to further the investigation and more importantly, indulge her curiosity over Nameless Goddess.
Fin, for now. =) I hope you found that excerpt interesting.