Mei’s parents Lan (mother) and Yingjie (father) were refugees from the northern kingdom. They had heard of a small farming village in the Mountains of Cloud Pass which would be perfect to start their family in. Once they had made it to village they quickly scouted for a place to live. They found an old cottage which wasn’t being used anymore and settled down there. The village’s populace was middle age to elder men and women. Lan become quickly pregnant with their first daughter Jia and shortly after they had another daughter Ruolan. Then, finally they were blessed with their last daughter which they named Mei. Yingjie was the happiest man with a loving wife and three beautiful daughters. He noticed as they grew everyday they started to look more and more like their mother, same beautiful long black hair, silky cheeks and breath taking eyes.
"Mei?" Yingjie said while sitting at the table.
She looked up at her father while laying down on the floor "Yes daddy?" "You know what today is right?" Her father asked.. "mm Yep, Today I turn six." She said cheerfully kicking her feet back and forth in the air. "Yes, that’s right. Your mother is going to cook us a big feast for your birthday tonite." could hear her mother in the kitchen making breakfast for everybody. "Mei, After breakfast lets all go play!" Ruolan said to Mei. She looked up at Ruolan who was standing next to her. "No, I wanna go lay out under the tree and stare at the clouds!" Jia remarked walking over to her two younger sisters. Ruolan giggled and replied "Ok, first we’ll go play in the fields then go lay out under the tree, ok?" All three of the girls nodded at the same time.
After breakfast they did just as planned they ran and played thru the wheat field for several hours playing hide and go seek. Then finally once they were tired with that they walked over to Jia’s favorite large camphor tree. She spent many days out here laying out while looking up at the sky. It offered the perfect shade and branches that were low enough for her to climb on. Jia quickly ran over to the tree and started to climb up it. "Is our sister a monkey?" Ruolan said sarcastically. Mei and her sister both giggled to each other. "Yeah I am!" Jia said while waving her right arm.
She climbed half way up the tree and sat on a large branch. "Wow, I love the view up here" Jia thought to herself. The little girl could see for miles and partial down into the valley below which lead to the mountains. "Hey you guys should climb up here and check this out. I can see far away up here!" She told her sisters. Ruolan and Mei both looked at each other and said "No!" together. "What boy is going to like a girl who climbs trees anyway?" Ruolan smirked. Mei giggled and nodded. Jia gave her younger sister a scowling look then went back to enjoying the view. As dusk came they finally heard their father calling for them. The girls quickly ran home and prepared for dinner.
"Tonight, is my youngest daughters birthday!" Yingjie triumphantly said while raising his red clay cup in the air. Mei smiled brightly while her mother and sisters clapped for her. Mei looked at all the food her mother prepaired. There was steamed beef filled rolls, diced vegetables, rice and fruit set out on the table. But the grand item of them all was the giant roasted boar. "Wow daddy, that boar must have been huge" Mei said excitedly. "Remember when I was gone for a week? I scouted the area for the days looking for something special for you.. Only the best for my family!" Xingjie laughed. "Let’s eat before the food gets cold" Lan said.
"Ahh that was good." Xingjie said while stretching his arms out at the dinner table. ""Mei, Ruolan, why don’t you both go play while Jia and I clear the table." Lan said while standing up out of her chair. "I wanna help too!" Said Ruolan not wanting to feel left out. Mei walked around the dinner table over to where her father was sitting. She looked up at him with a big smile and her arms extended outward. He eased his chair out and picked Mei up into his arms.
"What was that? It sounded like a scream." Lan said almost dropping the white clay bowl in her hand. "I heard it too!" Jia and Ruolan both said at the same time with a look of surprise on their faces. Xingjie looked at Lan’s face, She was worried. "I’ll go check it out" He said setting Mei down on her feet. Mei eyes followed her father as he made his way towards the front door. He cracked the front door open slightly, peering cautiously out into the night.
"What is it, dear? Is everything all right?" Something was happening, he realized, but it was hard to make out what was going on. People were running in chaotic fashion between the cottages of the little mountain village, but who were they all? "Lan, Stay inside with the children, There’s a lot of movement in the village. I’ll be back in a minute. Lock the door behind me. I don’t like the look of it."
"Be careful." Lan said looking extremely concerned.
"I will." Xingjie walked out closing the door behind.
"Mama, I’m scared," Mei said quietly. She sat at the table and hugged herself, her pale face a ghostly white in the flickering light of the fire.
"Don’t worry, Mei, I’m sure that your father will help take care of everything," Lan said, her voice soft and comforting. She barred the door, moving swiftly back to the center of the room and place an arm around Mei’s shoulders. "He’ll be back soon. You’ll see."
"I’m scared too." "And me." Both girls said.
Mei and her two older sisters huddled in close and Lan could feel them shaking. It was hard not to let their fear amplify her own forebodings. "Come, girls," she said, trying to rouse them with a cheerful tone. "lets all finish up clearing the table. I’m sure he’ll be back in no time, you’ll see."
Meanwhile outside, "What’s happening?" Xinjie yelled out as he walked out into the street. "Bandits! They’ve come to kill us!" The terrified man yelled as he ran passed him. There was so much dirt kicked up in to the air he could only see 15 feet in front of himself. "Something’s burning" A fiery glow could be seen coming from cottages further down the road.
As he started to walk forward when several villagers came running over to him. "We need to defend our home, help us! Most of us have never been a fight before." A villager said with fearful look on his face. There were only 10 of them.
"I must protect this place for the sake of my family!" He clintched his hand into a fist.
"Grab anything you can use as weapon!" He ordered them. They nodded and ran off into the night to scavenge what they could. "Hmm I need to find something I can use also". Xingjie quickly took in his surroundings scanning the area, he spotted an old rusty machete hanging down under a cottage roof. He quickly sprinted over and an unhooked it from the rope which held it. "This will do.."
"Good, they’re back" He looked as the village defenders came back. "We’re ready" An old said grinning while holding a shovel in his hand. Several other townsmen were behind him armed with various farming tools.
"Lets go!" Xingjie pointed his machete towards the center of town. The villagers followed behind him ready for battle, gripping their weapons in hand with angry snarling looks upon their faces.
"AAAHH!!" The old man screamed from of being stabbed in the back as he attempted to flee from the bandits sword. "Hahaha this is so easy, We should raid these peasant villages more often!" The bandit laughed. "Kill them all!" Another one said while thrusting his sword into the air.
The bandit pulled his sword out of the old man’s back and out of the corner of his he noticed an angry mob of peasants that had gathered wielding farming tools and a man with a rusty sword. "What’s this… coming to fight back?" He said mockingly while holding his sword dripping with blood over his right shoulder. The other bandits took notice of this and gather next to him forming a line.
Both sides faced each other standing 20 feet apart from the northern side of town to the southern. The bandits stood there taunting the villagers by slapping flat side of their blades against their dirt covered hands grinning evilly.
Xingjie looked at how many bandits there were, there had to be at least 30 of them. "Man we’re out numbered…." He thought to himself in anger while having a look of disgust on his face.
"Get out of our village you scoundrels!" An old man bearded man yelled while shaking his rake into the air. "Yeah!" many of the other villagers commented.
Xingjie heard a scream from behind, many of the other villagers quickly turned around to see what happened. A bandit had managed to sneak around to their backside for a surprise attack. This was a perfect time for the men in front of them to attack them. The bandits quickly rushed the villagers while letting out their battle cry’s. The rallying villagers tried to fight them off, The sounds from the battle could be heard for miles.
After clearing the table the girls had all gathered around fire place to listen to a story from their mother.
"Do you think daddy is ok?" Jia asked while interrupting Lan’s story. "I’m sure he’s fine." She went back to telling the story.
Then suddenly the front door to their house was smashed into splinters from large axe. "Oh my god, Girls get behind me!" yelled Lan. The frightened little girls quickly scampered behind their mother. "Well, what do we have here." A Bandit said as he entered the cottage. Another one entered in behind him and they both quickly corned the family against the wall. "Please leave us alone!" yelled Lan. Mei peaked out from behind her mother. She saw a tall towering man with black braided hair that ran down to one side. He was wearing an old tattered suit of chain mail that was etched in blood and at his side was a huge axe still dripping wet with blood. She slowly looked up at his face, He had a cold stone expression and his eyes were fixed on Lan. Through all the dirt and blood that covered it she noticed a tattoo of the number seven on his right check. Jia and Ruolan started to cry.
"Lets have some fun!" The other man from behind cackled. Lan tried to stare down the man but quickly realized her efforts were in vein.. "Please don’t hurt my children! I’ll do anything you want." Lan yelled trying to find some way out of this situation. "Anything?" the man in asked in a cold monotone voice. "Yes! Anything just don’t hurt them." Lan replied shaking. "Then…. Die" He said as he raised his axe into the air. Lan instantly knew their fate was sealed. She quickly turned around and grasped on to her children trying to act as a shield. "Please god, no! Honey where are you? Please come save us." She thought to herself as she closed her eyes tightly. She screamed as white pain flashing pain tore across her backside sending blood in to the air. Her body went into shock causing fall forward on top of her children pinning them to the floor. Mei couldn’t see what was happening but could only hear muffled laughter. "I can’t breath.." She thought to herself gasping for air.. The man hacked away at Lan and the children she was trying to protect until they heard a loud blaring horn. "Fun time is over.." The bandit sighed to the other and both exited the cottage.
Mei slowly came to and opened her eyes, she was still trapped. "Mommy?" She asked in a quiet voice then paused for a bit then said it again but louder. "I’m so cold" She then realized she was cold from the dampness of her body. "Why am I wet all over? She focused her eyes on the floor next to her face. It was covered in a dark red liquid. She looked forward towards the light and saw a hand hanging downward. Small red droplets fell from the hand’s finger tips. "Blood?" She thought to herself. "Mommy! Jia! Ruolan!" She cried out frantically. There was no answer. She gathered all of her strength and started to wiggle out from under them. She turned around and grabbing on to blood drenched hand. "Mommy!" She cried out while shaking it. Mei then realized her mothers hand was ice cold then gazed upon her mothers body. There was large gashes on her body and she noticed under her were the bodies of her sisters. "Jia! Ruolan!" She yelled and could tell nobody was moving. She flung herself on top of her mothers remains tugging on her cloths hoping she would wake up and this was all some horrible bad dream while bawling uncontrollably.
"Daddy? Where’s daddy?" She thought to herself while tears still ran down her cheeks.. She managed to pick herself up and staggered towards the entrance of the cottage. She saw the remains of their front door all over the floor. She carefully stepped around it and walked out into the dirt covered street. The dawning sun lit up the village as she could see smoke and ash filling the air. "Daddy!" She yelled out several times.
The streets were littered with decomposing bodies as she looked down the road towards the center of town She wanted to scream but she was so traumatized nothing came out of her mouth. Several crows in the area had found this a perfect time for feeding. "Daddy!" Mei yelled out again. Several of the crows took to flight as she came closer crawing as they flew away. The smell was unbearable to her from the rotting flesh to the burnt smell of smoke. She covered her nose and mouth with her right hand as she looked about for her father. She recognized a lot of the bodies on the road as well people she didn’t.
"Daddy!" She yelled out, spotting him sitting against a wall. She ran over to him sobbing. His head was slumped downward and had a large wound in his chest. She cried out and shook his shoulder repeatedly trying to see if he was alive. She could feel the coldness of his shoulder against her hand and shaking caused his body to fall over. She cried harder knowing she was all alone.
After she could no more cry, she stood and wandered the around the remains of the village in a daze. She soon found herself out in the wheat fields and then realized she wasn’t alone. Out of the corner of her eye saw tall dark figured behind her. She screamed and tried to run but before she get away he managed to grab her by the arm. "Calm down little one, I wont hurt you." In deep yet gentle voice. She looked back at him untrusting with tears running down her cheeks.
"So you’re the only one to survive this massacre. I wish I had come by sooner.." He let out a big sigh. She turned and looked at him more clearly. He was an older man with short cut graying hair and a beard. He was wearing a dusty dark leather brown cloak with black vest on and long brown pants. He smiled gently at Mei and took her into his arms "You’re safe now." He whispered to her. She started to cry again and held onto him. He picked the child up and noticed she was drenched in blood. "Lets get you cleaned up and some hot food.. You must be hungry." She nodded. "What’s your name little one?" "Mei" she replied quietly. "That’s a pretty name, My name is Zhang. It’s nice to meet you." As they traveled down the road she quickly fell asleep in the mans arms as he carried her off.
Zhang was once a high ranking General in the Empires Army, but now is nothing more then a mere wandering monk. He took on the job of raising Mei as his own. As the years passed he taught Mei the ways of sword and hand to hand combat. She seemed to be a natural at learning everything her new father was teaching her. Though deep down inside of her there was a inner rage that was brewing for revenge. Her father later passed away (tuberculosis) from ill-ness when she reached 16. On her fathers death bed she knew she must start a new life for herself one that required someone to pay. She then had a flashback in her mind of the person who caused all of this. "I must find and kill that person with that tattoo." She thought to herself in anger. As she left the hospital where he father laid she took one last look and then left. "Good bye and thank you father."
She quickly ran home long the dirt covered road which lead to the House of Chengli. This place was owned by an old friend of Zhang’s which offered to take them in for a place to stay. It was a small Manson which almost resembled a miniature fortress on a large hillside. She made her way thru the main gates and into the courtyard. There she was greeted by a Gardner wearing a long straw hat and had a bamboo rake in his hand. "Good day, Mei-xiaojie" He said while bowing to her. She didn’t even glance at him and continued walking past him. She as she entered the main front doors of the manson she quickly turned towards the direction of the room they shared here.
"Oh Mei-xiaojie!" Mei turned around and saw Liqiu one of the house maids running towards her. "I’m so sorry for your loss. The lady of the house, Daiyu-taitai has given you permission to stay as long as you’d like." saying in a consoling yet cheerful voice while smiling. "I wont be staying, Can you pack me some food, I’ll be leaving as soon as I’m ready." Mei replied with a cold tone in her voice while avoiding eye contact. "But Mei-xiaojie, Why? Where will you go? A young girl such as yourself can’t be left alone!" Liqui said holding onto Mei’s arm while desperately trying to change the girls mind.
At 16 Mei had grown very beautiful with her fair pale skin and long black hair which still went down to her mid back. Liqui knew she was ripe for the picking and was afraid some local lord would try to find her and make her one of his concubines. That wasn’t a fate she wanted for Mei. "I’ve made up my mind!" And with that Mei shrugged off Liqui’s hand and walked towards her room slamming the door behind her.
Once inside the room she walked over to her closet pulling the brown rugged leather backpack out she had used before for traveling. She then placed the open bag on the bed it then proceeded to fill it with clothes.
She paused and turned her head towards the direction of the voice. She saw a ghostly figure of Zhang standing across the room. She staggered backwards and rubbed her eyes thinking they were playing tricks on her. She looked again but there was nothing there. "Must have been my imagination" She thought to herself. She looked down at her backpack half filled with clothes and sighed. "I miss you father.." She said to herself. After packing her clothes and tying it closed, she put it on her back. She then walked over to her father’s side of the room and saw his sword in it’s holding case. She walked over it and looked over it carefully. It was a long katana which she knew was given as gift to her father. The scarab was made out of a dark brown wood finely polished and smooth to the touch. There was a design on it, a long dragon inlaid in silver. The guard was in the shape of a triangle with had 2 holes in it on both sides with patch like etchings on it. The hilt of the sword was wrapped in strong dark brown leather and at the pommel laid the head of a dragon with it’s mouth open as if it were roaring.
"Father, I need you for the road ahead. Please lend me your strength." she closed her eyes and prayed to him. She then placed her hand on the scabbard and felt a sparking shock from it. "Ow! What the…" moving back away from the sword. She slowly walked back towards it and closed her eyes. She paused herself for a second, bracing herself for the shock again. Determined to pick it up she grabbed the katana quickly by the scabbard lifting it into the air. "Nothing… Was that you father or the katana trying to tell me something?" While looking up at the ceiling as if he was looking down upon her. She tied the sword at her side and headed for the door. She took one last look around the room then exited.
"Liqui, is the food ready?" "Mei-xiaojie, here. Please be safe." She said with a tear in her eye. "Thank you Liqui, Tell the Diyu-taitai I’m sorry." She grabbed the bag of food and quickly ran for the door. She ran through the courtyard and down the dirt covered road until the House of Chengli was in far distance.
"Good bye and thank you everyone." She thought while looking back and catching her breath.
Mei traveled north towards a city called as Xiangfan. This city was famous for it’s trading of spices and other exotic items. A large defensive wooden outer wall ran around the city with guard towards at every entrance. The buildings inside were made from mud bricks and white an off white color. The streets were cobbled and almost maze like. High walls and ally ways could be found everywhere she looked. There was a slight rank smell coming from the city that she couldn’t put into words. She walked thru the city streets seeing many peddlers selling their goods. She asked a few where might be good place to find information. They all seemed to point her to the Dragon’s Tongue bar.
She wandered around the twists and turns of the city streets during the day and when the sun was starting to set she came across a large red building with a white sign above the door. The sign read "Dragon’s tongue bar" She walked up the wooden steps to the front large double wooden doors. Painted in red on the left door it read "Regulars only" she ignored it and opened the door. Entering the bar was like an explosion of senses. "oh my god, what is that smell" She thought to herself almost covering her nose. The air smelled of smoke, food and bad body odder. The hard wood floor was littered with scraps of hay that laid about. There were various shapes of tables in the room with customers drinking at them. Across the room at the far end was bar itself with only a few customers sitting at it. "They’re all watching me.." She thought to herself as she made her way to the bar. Many of the people in the bar looked very unsavory. She sat down at an empty stool waiting for the bartender. The bartender glanced over and saw this girl sitting at his bar. He moved over behind the counter and stared at Mei. "What’s a girl like you doing here?" he said in a rough voice. She looked up at him, He was a tall heavy set man with short cut hair almost balding with a long scar ran over his left eye. "I was told this is the best place to find Information, I need to find a man with a tattoo on his face, in the shape of the number seven." "Look girl, go home to Papa. Leave here before you get hurt." The man said as he picked up a cup to polish it with a rag. "I need your help to find this man, please." Mei pleaded. The bartender remained silent with his eyes closed and continued to polish the cup. After a while of starring at him she decided to leave the bar. "Hmph, that was a waste of time or maybe it’s cause I’m a girl.." she thought to herself while rubbing her chin.
She walked from the bar and located the closest Inn she could find. It was an old wooden two story building called the "Golden fortune" Inn. From the outside it looked sort of run down but once it side it was rather pleasant. The main lobby area looked like it was also used as a dinning hall and over to the left side was the main registry. Behind the counter was a short older woman wearing a red and gold colored kimono with graying black hair and wore small glasses. "I’d like a room please" She said to the old woman. "Oh, can I get a hot bath also?" The old woman nodded. "Nuo! Show this girl to room 10, Then a bath." A young girl dressed in a kimono came running towards Mei. The girl bowed towards Mei and took the room key from the woman. "Follow me, Miss" The girl was almost the same age she was. She was kind of cute with long black braided hair with a red bow tied at the bottom of it. The kimono she was wearing was a dull blue that had a design of birds flying around it with a red belt. She lead Mei up the stairs and past several rooms till they came to room 10. She opened the door for Mei then backed up bowing for her to enter the room. "Enjoy your stay, I’ll have the bath ready for you in a few minutes. Come down stairs and hang a left. You’ll find our bathhouse there." Mei entered the small wooden room. The room was only 10×7 with a small bed, a long mirror, a table near the window and a chair. She placed her belongings under the bed and prepared her change of clothing for after the bath.
Once she had everything settled she headed for the bathhouse. Nuo stood out the curtained doorway that the character for women on it. "Right this way Miss" Nuo said while lifting up an edge of the curtain. Mei walked into the bathroom and Nuo followed in behind her. The bathroom was tiled in tan colored stones along the floor and walls. There was a bathing area was a 15 x 6 pool which had stream was pouring out of it and above it there was also a small waterfall cascading hot water into the pool. Along the upper left and right walls there mirrors and at the bottom there were fossets with a small wooden stool and a small bucket. "Put your clothing in this basket. I have a special robe you can use while we wash your clothing." Nuo said with a smile while holding a wooden basket in her hands. Mei disrobed and placed her clothing inside it. "Do you have a pair of scissors?" Nuo looked oddly at Mei for a second then nodded. Nuo turned around and took the basket with her then exited the room. Mei sat down at on one of the stools. Within the bucket at her feet was a small bar of green soap. She picked it up and placed it to the side and then filled the bucket full of water. She lifted the bucket above her head and dumped it on top of herself. She repeated this a few times then started to use the bar of soap to lather her body. "Would you like help with that?" A sweet voice from behind her said. Mei almost jumped off the stool while turning around startled. Nuo was behind her bending over with a smile on her face. "I can wash your back if you would like Miss" "…..ok." Mei replied in a low tone of voice. Nuo lifted up her kimono past her knees and bent on her knees. "Soap please." Mei reached over and handed Nuo the bar of soap. She felt her cool hands lathering her backside. "Wow Miss, You have such beautiful hair and skin, I’m so jealous.." Nuo said in a childish way.
"Time to wash each other backs!" Jia excitedly said while holding a bar of soap in her hand in the air. Mei looked over at her older sister Ruolan and nodded. All three girls happily washed each other in the river while their mother Lan sat back watching them and smiling.
"Miss? …. Miss? The bucket please.." Nuo said trying to get her attention. Mei looked down at the bucket and saw her reflection. "Am I crying?" Tears ran down her cheeks, at first she thought it maybe it was just water but they wouldn’t stop flowing after she wiped them away. "Are you ok Miss?" She could hear some sniffling coming from the girl. "Yeah, I’m fine…" Mei replied trying to hide her unexpected feelings and refilled the bucket. Nuo poured the cool water down her back washing away the soap. "There all done." Nuo stood up and extended her hand out to Mei to help her up. Mei stood then moved over to the steaming pool. "Our water here is from ancient underground hot spring. This is our prized possession. The water is quite refreshing." Mei stepped in to the pool with her left foot into causing the steam to part different directions revealing the stairs that lead further down. As she got in deeper and used to the temperature she could now see the floor. There was a design of red rocks in the shape of a rose at the bottom of it. Along the back wall of the pool upper tier which could used as a bench. She sat down in the pool relaxed and reflected on the past couple of days..
"This is it.." She thought to herself and exited the pool. She noticed there was a red robe with a silver pair of scissors on top of it. With one hands she clutched her hair together into one long strand and grabbed the scissors in the other. "There’s no turning back now…" A jagged slit sound was made as it cut cleanly thru her long shiny black hair. She continued to cut her hair until it was very short. Mei returned to the bench and filled the bucket with water. She dumped it over her head washing away the remaining splinters of hair. After putting the robe on, she exited the bathroom and came out to the main room. "Oh my…" Nuo gasped while covering her mouth. "Miss, are you ok?" "I’m fine" Mei said with a smile upon her face and went to her room. "Tomorrow I’ll try the bar again, maybe this time they’ll take me more seriously."
Mei woke up early in the morning and went out shopping, Afterwards she came back to her room and laid out the clothing she had bought on the bed. A black baggy vest, matching pants, lose fit under shirt and some cloth wrapping..She quickly striped her cloths off and got changed. "This should do.." She said while checking herself out in the mirror. She tied her katana to her side and went down stairs.
"Good afternoon, Sir." Nuo greeted while bowing to the guest coming down the stairs. "I hope your stay here has been pleasant." "Nuo, Don’t be rude to our female guests." The old woman corrected. Nuo looked at her grandmother (who’s back was turned this whole time) then to the guest in total confusion.. "Not a Sir?.. Oh…OH, I See! Miss it’s you! Oh my, I hardly recognized you dressed as a man." She said in embarrassment while covering her mouth. Mei grinned at Nuo "Fooled you didn’t I?" "Yes, excellent disguise Miss." Praising her while bowing. Mei moved over to one of the tables and sat down. "How was that? Manly enough?" "Horrible. If you’re going to pose as a man you’re going to have to try harder. Less hips, relax your back more." the woman behind the corrected again. Mei looked over at the old woman (she never once looked towards them during this whole event).
Mei spent most of the afternoon practicing until she finally had it down. "I’ll be off now, Gonna test this out." "Good luck to you Miss!" Nuo said while seeing Mei off. She made her way back to the Dragon Tongue Bar. Mei took in a deep breath and psyched herself up. "I’m a man, I’m a man!" She opened the door and entered the bar. There weren’t as many customers today as the last time she was here. Mei strutted over to the bar doing the walk she practiced earlier at the Inn. "This better work.." As she approached it and took a seat. The same bartender was behind the counter. He eyed this new person sitting at his bar. He nodded to the new customer and asked "What can I get for you?" "Woo It worked! He doesn’t recognized me!" "I heard around town this is the best place for information.." She said in a deep tone of voice. "Hmm maybe a drink will clear up that voice of yours.. What will it be?" The bartender now had both hands down on the table looking at her. "I’ll take a …. Something strong, Yeah!" He raised an eye brow to the man’s order and prepared a drink. "Here you go, Drink up.". Mei took the drink in her hand. "Here’s to our health." Then she took a swig of it.
As quickly as it went in, it was about to come back out. She quickly had to control herself before coughing up the vile drink has it sent a burning sensation down her throat. "Whoa, How can people drink this stuff?" She thought to herself as she finished off the drink, slamming it down on the table. Suddenly, she felt an unexpected warm feeling inside her chest and her head started to feel fuzzy. "What’s happening to me.." She tried to focus her thoughts back to her mission at hand. "Soo… Can you tell me .. I’m looking for a man… He’s got a tattoo on his face ..Seven.." Her speech started to slur a little. "Hmmm, Don’t think I’ve seen anybody around here with a face like that.. How about another drink?" "No.. Thank you, good sir." Mei said with her hand covering the top of the cup. She then felt some approaching from behind with laughter. "Hey buddy, I couldn’t help but over hearing you’re looking for someone, Today is your lucky day. I know exactly where to find this person."
The man standing in front of her was rather tall, thin build wearing a gray bandanna that partially covered one eye with a dark red shirt and long black dusty pants. Mei glanced up at the person and had to rethink the words she just had heard.
"Is that so? Where is this person?"
"Follow me, he’s real close by in fact." Trying to hide the grin on his face. Mei immediately stood up "Take me there, now!" The man moved towards the exit and motioned to her to follow him. He lead her through several streets and alley ways until they came to a dead end. "Where is he?" Mei shouted at the man. The man turned around and laughed "Looks like you wont be finding anyone today, Turn out your pockets and leave all your belongings here or else!"
She instantly knew she was surrounded by three other strangers from behind. "Where is the man with the tattoo on his face I am looking for, Tell me now!" She barked. "Tattoo on his face? Hah don’t make me laugh, Put your sword on the floor." He then pulled out a concealed stiletto. "Hurry up!" He yelled. Then men behind her pulled out various weapons also. Mei cleared her head and focused. She took a battle stance extending forward her left leg and placed her right hand on the pommel of her sword which was tied on her left side. "Heh, So you want to fight" The man scoffed. "Here they come.." She quickly spun around slashing upward slicing one of them in half. With her next step forward she easily sliced the other the one guy. "The one from behind" She spun back around and hit him with the flat of her sword across his head sending him flying back. The last guy stood there scared out of his mind. "Holy shit!" She could smell the fear emanating off his body. He quickly dropped his knife and ran off screaming. She turned around and looked down at the man with the large welt on his forehead. She stood over his body and pointed the sword at his throat. "Tell me now what you know" He coughed and looked up at her with one eye open and laughed. "Tell me now!" She yelled again at him but he just continued laughing at her. "What the.." Her mind went blank for a second. She then realized the man’s throat had been cut open and the tip of her blade was drenched in his blood. "Damn it" She thought to herself. She quickly sheathed her katana and looked both ways down the street from the alley way which was now covered in blood then back to the Inn.
"Oh, Miss your back.. What would to order dinn….er?" Nuo tried to greet Mei but she quickly fled up the stairs to her room. She glanced over to her grandmother and shrugged. Once back in her room Mei looked out the window into the street. Dusk had already passed and it was soon night time. Several times thru the night she saw people walking through the streets dressed in Uniforms holding lanterns looking for something. "It’s me they’re looking for I bet" She said to herself as she slumped into her bed. She glanced over at her katana at the etching of the dragon on the scabbard. Her eyes quickly closed as she nodded off to sleep.
Laughter filled her dreams with screams and blood covered the walls. She looked up and saw the sky from under the large camphor back home. She sat up and looked towards the direction of her village. It was covered in flames, All she could hear was the screams coming from it. "STOP IT!" She yelled out. She awoke in a cold sweat and was greeted by the morning sun pouring in through the window. She staggered over to the mirror and look at herself. She gasped and closed her eyes tightly "Why am I covered in blood? What is happening to me?" She reopened her eyes and looked herself in the mirror again ..everything was normal. "Am I losing my mind?" She gathered her thoughts back together and made her way down stairs. "Good Morning, Miss" Nuo bowed as she usually did then offered Mei some food from the kitchen. "I hope you weren’t disturb last night by police, I heard they are looking for a murder." Nuo was trying to make small talk with her during breakfast. Mei almost choked on her food when she mentioned this. "How horrible…." Was the only that came from her lips. "I’m going to check out today." "I see… I’ll make check out arrangements for you." "Thank you" Mei finished up her food then headed back up to her room to pack her stuff. "I need to leave this city as soon as possible. I can’t afford to be caught." After she repacked her backpack she headed back downstairs. "I hope you’ve enjoy your stay here, Miss. I hope to see you again in the future. Good luck to you in your travels."
Mei was able to leave the city of Xiangfan without drawing unwanted attention and headed south towards the city of Delun. Over the next couple of months of dead end searching she finally found herself at some road side bar stand. It was hut with an extending awning. There were a few stools out front of the bar and mats on the floor if you wanted to sit down instead. A tall man was behind the counter serving people drinks. There was also a waitress wearing a pink kimono who took orders from the seated customers. "May I take your order?" She girl asked Mei. "Hmm Yeah I’ll have some tea." "Ok, I’ll be back in a second." She ran off into the hut."Geez, where is your sister Shun?" The bartender yelled. "We’ve got customers waiting on drinks!" "I’m sorry, She said she was taking a break.. I don’t know where she is.." At that moment Mei heard a scream from a young girl. "Was that a scream?" Several people at the bar asked. Mei quickly stood leaving her backpack behind and ran towards the direction of it. The sound came from a grassy hill side that had an old white bricked path.
Little did Mei know this event would forever change her life again.
She followed the bricks till she got to the top of the hillside which lead into an old temple courtyard. There were three buildings covered in overgrown plants with a large round fountain in the center. There was a large open bricked path which lead through the center of it all. There she saw a group of men huddled over a girl. She cried out "Nooo!! Please stop! Don’t touch me!!". Without thinking Mei quickly drew her sword and sprinted towards the group of men. "Gauuhhh!" The man yelled and fell to the floor. The others were startled by this and turned around to face Mei. The girl in tears on floor looked up at Mei with her clothes in tatters "Please save me!!". "Kill him!" One of them yelled, They all quickly drew their swords. "Heh, four on one.. I like these odds." She smirked at them and took a Ochs stance (sword above her head) ready for their attack. Just as they were about to rush her Mei suddenly sensed something from behind her, but it was too late. Something had hit her so hard from behind she went flying."what, what happened.." The girl on the floor cried out towards Mei, All she could hear was their laughter as she blacked out.
"Ow my head hurts… Where am I?" She opened her eyes to find herself laying down on a hard dusty wooden floor. She tried to move her arms and hands but couldn’t. They were bound together behind her back. "I must be in of those buildings I saw earlier at the temple.". "Please stop! It hurts!" She heard a female voice cry out. "Yeah, scream for me baby!" A man’s voice said followed by some laughter. Mei felt sick to her stomach that she couldn’t do anything for the poor girl. She then heard footsteps coming closer. "Man, Are you sure there’s more alcohol in here?" A male voice said. She could hear the person shuffling around in the room. Then there was silence, She knew he was still in the room. She didn’t dare look up at him to find out what he was doing. His footsteps suddenly came closer to her. "Piece of shit!" She heard the guy yell. She felt a blow to her back from the guys foot. He kicked her repeatedly. "That’s for killing my friend!" She just laid there and took it all. After all he got bored and then spat on her. She could hear him walk away then closed the door and left the room. She made sure he was gone and attempted to sit up. Her body ached as she moved around into a upward sitting position. She looked around the room, It seemed to be some old storage room of some sort that hasn’t been used in awhile, mostly boxes and barrels littered the room.
She then heard some footsteps coming back to the room. She quickly laid back down to appear as if still unconcious.The door open and a different man’s voice this time. "He’s still out cold. The boss is going to teach him a lesson now." Another voice was in the room. "Yeah!" She could hear them walking towards her. She readied herself for when they would grab her. She quickly swung her legs around to trip one of the guys. "Oh no you don’t!" The other guy saw this coming and immediately stomped down on her stomach. She cried out in pain. "Oh looks like there’s still some fight in you,. The boss will take care of that!" The guy smirked. They untied her haands and dragged her out of the room and thru a wooden hallway which lead outside. Once out into the courtyard they tossed her to the floor.
She opened her eyes and placed both hands on the white bricked pathway. She slowly pushed herself upwards and looked around. In front of fountain, in front of her she saw a tall man that must have been at least 7 feet tall with large muscular build . He tattoos and scars that covered his whole body in various designs and had short cut black spike hair. At his side was a huge bronze mace that looked incredibly heavy. At the temple buildings she could see more men standing around watching with evil grins on their faces waiting for the show to come. "So.. you’re the guy who interfered with my men having some fun.. You even killed one of them." The boss said. She looked at the guys face carefully but didn’t see anything familiar there..
"He’s not the one"
"Hey boy! Are you listening?" Another man walked out in from the left side. He wore an open vest jacket with fox furs running down both sides of it with long brown pants and had large axe tied at his side. His body was also tattooed but mostly on his chest and face. Mei glanced up at this new person, she couldn’t believe her eyes.
Images of the massacre came flashing back before her eyes.
Her heart started pound.
faster and faster.
Her body felt red hot all over.
Upon the man’s cheek laid the number seven.
She looked wide eyed up at him. From out of no where a roaring laughter came out of her uncontrollably. The guy stood there awkwardly looking at this kid laughing like someone who had just gone insane. He was disgusted by the way this kid mocked. "Shut the hell up!" He kicked her across the face causing her to land flat on her back.
"Enough…Qiang, Get this boy his sword." The boss ordered.
The man standing above Mei turned around and walked off.
Mei just stared up at the sky watching the clouds as they drifted by. She felt something hit her in the stomach and realized it was her katana. She grasped it in her hand and slowly got to her feet.
"Hmph, maybe if you’re good enough I’ll let you join our group. Draw your sword and lets duel." The tall man laughed.
"I don’t want to fight you. I only want to kill the man with the tattoo of a seven on his face" Mei yelled with her face down trying to regain her strength.
"Sorry kid. I can’t have you going around killing anymore of my men. Good help is hard to find these days. But if you want a shot at him you’ll have to go through me first. Draw!" He yelled.
"Is that so…." Mei assumed a drawing stance with her left foot out forward and her hand on the pommel of her katana. She closed her eyes and tried to focus her mind but her feelings kept getting in the way. "I must beat him, I must".
Without thinking she sprang forward towards the man. He readied his huge mace and grinned at the boy charging him. She drew her sword and let lose a upward slash towards him, then quickly spun around sending another slash towards the middle torso area. She paused for a second not knowing if her move successfully connected or not. "Not bad moves kid. Now it’s my turn.." With that he stepped forward sending his mace crashing down upon her. She dodged quickly to the side but before she realized it another blow was coming from the her right side. She quickly raised her katana up to block it. The blow was so strong it sent her flying back on her ass about five feet away. "I would have been done for if that had hit me" She thought while picking herself up.
He rushed towards her and again sent his mace crashing down on her, she quickly slid to his right side. "He’s going to try that same move again, I bet." Again another quick swing of his mace came flailing towards her.. This time she was ready for it. She quickly fell to stomach dodging it. "What? I missed?" The man thought. Mei sprang back up and let lose three consecutive strokes towards his torso. In her mind she knew the fight was over and could see all the other thugs around her had shocked expressions on their faces. "Oh my god.. He beat Hong?" "No way!" Hong’s body still stood like a statue from the shock of the blows.
She glanced down her sword at the tip of her sword and realized something. "No blood?? How can that be? I know I hit him directly three times for sure." Raced thru her mind then she realized her first two opening blows had indeed landed also. Without warning Hong swung his mace towards Mei glancing her across face sending her flying a good distance away. "Yeah!" A thug cheered. "Nobody can defeat Hong!" Another one yelled. "Was that your best boy?" He ripped away the clothing where Mei had struck him. The outline of the three slashes were hardly visible scratches upon his tattooed skin. She quickly got to her knees and reached for her katana. "It’s not here ..Where?" She glanced over and saw it standing upwards into the ground between two pieces of brick about 15 feet away.
She attempted to get up on her feet then felt intense pain in her right ankle. She hobbled towards her katana with her hand extended out towards it. Hong ran over to her and kicked his foot into her stomach. Mei fell to her knees and coughed up some blood. Hong looked down at the boy hunched over. "It’s over.." And sent his mace crashing down on the her.
All Mei could feel was blinding white pain the mace sent as it slammed into her back flattening her into the ground. She slowly opened her eyes and watched as Hong and his men walked away into the distance. "I’m going to die, aren’t I"
Mei mustered the remaining strength she had and looked up at the katana which stood in front of her. "Please father…help me…" with those words everything went black.
"Father? Is that you?"
"Hardly mortal. Though I knew your father. He was a great man and used me well."
"Wait.. Used you?" She opened her eyes and saw she was in a room of darkness except for a blinding light coming from in in front of her. As the light slowly faded away when she saw a huge Jade dragon take shape.
"Who are you?"
"My name is Keikai. At first I wasn’t sure if you were ready or not, I tried to stop you from touching me but I knew deep down I needed to repay your father."
"Am I dead?" She glanced around only seeing darkness.
"No mortal..But your body will probably not last much longer."
"What am I supposed to do? I can’t die now.. I must find that man and kill him at any costs!" She yelled as tears started to flow down her cheeks.
"Any cost you say?" The dragon asked interested.
"Yes any cost.. If I have anything to give you in return. Please take it!" She yelled with her arms extended forward to the dragon.
"I don’t want anything yet mortal. But in time I will.. Interesting. I shall lend you some of my powers but they come at a high price. Your eyes, You must keep them sealed at all times. They will only bring about your own downfall if used uncorrectly. Instead, use your mind and you shall see something different. You can however use your eyes but only in the most dire of circumstances. Understand?" The dragon said with one eye open.
"Yes anything!" Mei pleaded.
"So be it" Keikai extended his hand out and touched Mei upon her head while letting out a furious roar.
Mei screamed out in pure agony on her knees. It felt as if her brain was on fire and could explode at any minute.
She slowly started to open her eyes then remembered the dragons words. She wondered if she could move, but realized she wasn’t in any pain. She sat up in complete darkness. All she could hear around her was the birds and insects chirping around her. She suddenly she felt a throbbing in pain in her skull which quickly passed. She sat back up but something was different. "I can see" Looking at the brick pathway under her, she instantly realized the bricks were different. She glanced up and took in her surroundings.. Everything was engulfed in a shadowy aura of it’s former self. The trees, the birds and the builds seem to all be emanating a dark cloudy smoke. She looked down at her hand and saw the samething.
"If this is the price I have to pay, so be it." She stood and pulled Keikai out of the ground. She moved over towards the fountain and reached under her shirt. She pulled free the red cloth under wrapping she used to hide her breasts and dropped it in to the fountain. She splashed the wrappings around in the water cleansing it of her sweat. After the water settled she saw her reflection in the water, "My hair is white now.." she said while clutching it in her right hand. She then tore it the cloth into a bandanna and wrapped it around her eyes.
It took some time for Mei to adjust to the world of shadows and darkness.
"They couldn’t have traveled that far out the area." She resumed her search for man again,
She searched the country side asking if they had seen a band of men lead by a man named Hong who wielded a huge mace. Some seemed to frightened to even speak of him while others told her what horror they had heard about him. "If I can find Hong, I’ll find Qiang too." She found out Hong was the son of a great Warlord who used to have free reign over the country side. Once his father passed on Hong took on the new role of Warlord in his stead. Some of the old alliances his father made never liked the idea of Hong taking the title. Many of them turned their backs on him so far as take away his late Father’s keep from him. With no place to stay he turned into a wandering Nomad.
She traveled to the City of Delun to search for clues.
The City of Delun was fairly small compared to the previous city she was in before. The Walls of the city were made of wood along with all the buildings. There were no paved roads in the city. It was quite and peaceful from the outsiders view. Really unknown to Mei it was the perfect spot for thieves. Alot of travelers who came from north would have to stop here for lodging. Often they would leave missing merchandise or nothing at all. Crime rate was very high here and often the city would lock down for martial law.
She hunts them down
She finds and kills Qujin but then hasta deal with Hong.. She gets the crap kicked out of her again and then she finally decides to use her true sight.
During the fight she starts to feel the effects of using her eyes
then she clears her thoughts and remembers her pain from her childhood and embraces it. 1 clean slice of her sword cuts his mace and him in half.
wounded she staggers off, blind in one eye then collaspses.