Author's note: A piece a put together as an assignment in my middle school years, the book was based on me and a certain crush.
The only chapter in the bookA blazing summer sun glared down upon the eighth graders. The grass was a light golden brown and crispy. Ryan stole a glance over at Emily, who glared at him from the other side of the field. She didn’t know it yet, but someday, she’d fall for me, he thought. His best friend, Justinian, caught him staring at her and tapped his shoulder, breaking him from his pleasant reverie.
“Dude, she hates your guts,” he told Ryan.
“Nah, she just doesn’t want to admit that she likes me,” Ryan replied calmly.
Out of the corner of his eye, Ryan could see Richard whisper to his band of juvenile delinquents. After a round of snorting and cackling, they inched over to Emily. Instantaneously, Ryan was at Emily’s side, putting himself between her and Richard’s goons.
“What do you think you’re doing, Ryan?” Richard sneered.
“Get away from Emily,” Ryan commanded.
“Get ‘em, boys.”
Within seconds, Emily and Ryan were surrounded, ten against one. This was not going to end well, Ryan thought. Raising his hands in front of himself gave them the impression that he would attack the guy in front, instead, he leaped back and shoved his foot in an unfortunate soul’s face. One down, nine to go. While they were still in their initial shock, Ryan shoved the nearest guy into the floor before proceeding to plant a foot in his face. Another one down, eight left. He quickly turned around and looked at Emily, who was being escorted home by Justinian. He smiled as he caught Emily glancing back at him, a worried look in her eyes. Maybe she does like me after all, Ryan thought happily. By now, the rest had recovered from their shock and charged at him, seeking vengeance for their lost comrades. Ryan took the first one down by grabbing his head and chopping his neck. The other seven threw flurries of kicks and punches at him. With a quick headcount, his heart momentarily stopped. There were only six. He turned around to be greeted by a thick metal rod to the head.
In a remote underground network, a man in his 30s laughed as he watched Ryan’s battle.
“I could expect nothing less from second brother’s descendent,” he chuckled.
“Divine Lord,” addressed a man in black attire. “Shall I fetch him?”
“No, let Guan Xing do his job. You may fetch him after Guan Xing fulfills his obligation, but don’t fetch him yet. I want to keep Guan Xing entertained. It’s a shame he died so young…”
Ryan woke up in a damp, dark alley, not knowing where he was, or what he was doing. Suddenly, memories rushed to him, Emily, Justinian, Richard, the metal rod. What happened when I was passed out, Ryan thought to himself. Wearily, he got up, and saw the pool of blood that he had been laying in. Struggling to take a step, he staggered an inch forward. Then he forced another inch. With each step, his breath steadied. After getting out of the alley, Ryan knew where he was, and had a guess on what had happened. Richard had knocked him out and left him in an empty alley to die. On the brink of death, Ryan knew he didn’t have much longer. Anyhow, he managed to get to Emily’s house. Ringing the doorbell, he awaited silently for her to answer. When the door finally opened, she took a look at him and glared, his bloodied appearance not phasing her for a second. Ryan couldn’t wait any longer, there was one answer he needed to get from her.
“Have you ever loved me?” Ryan wheezed out.
After a long pause, she opened her mouth, “No.”
Hot tears poured openly from his eyes as he trembled and choked out his next few words, “But you looked back at me when you were being escorted home. Weren’t you worried about me?”
“As if a glance makes any difference. What if I said that I looked back to see if you were dead yet?” Emily hand trembled on the doorknob her knuckles turned white as she tried to control herself. “No one on earth would fall for a guy as ugly as you. It’s that simple. You need to know when to back off! Just get away from me!”
Without another word, Ryan staggered away from the treacherous place and struggled to take a step forward. He was still on the porch when Emily violently slammed the door shut and ran up to her room. There was no way Ryan could contain it any longer. Acidic tears cascaded down his face, burning scars deep into his heart. A strange burning sensation stirred deep within him, like a young flame licking at his heart. Slowly, as he stepped off the porch, the burning became more and more intense. A searing flame was engulfing his heart. What was this, he stared down at my trembling hands and fell forward, a cloud of darkness obscuring his vision.
“Ryan!” Justinian shouted, running up the street.
“What?” Ryan mumbled weakly.
“Don’t die on me, Ryan! Hang on, I’m calling an ambulance!”
Then, everything disappeared.
A glimmer of light appeared in the darkness, a shimmering figure of pure beauty. Upon coming closer, Ryan realized that the figure was Emily. He began to chase after her. It was pointless, as her shimmering figure exploded into the darkness. The pain in his heart had come back, like a mountain crushing the body’s most vital muscle under its weight. Then, the pain dispersed and a flaming red figure appeared.
“Wake up, young one,” the figure urged.
Ryan opened my eyes to see Justinian drooling all over his shirt. I’m not dead yet, Ryan thought to himself. The trademark white room revealed his location to be in a hospital. Struggling to force himself up, he collapsed back onto him bed. A surge of warmth came over him, with a twitch in the lower abdomen, about one inch below the navel.
“I need to get the two of you out of here,” a voice in his head grunted.
Instantly, Ryan lurched forward against his will. Grabbing Justinian in one arm, he jumped out of the bed. Within seconds, he was out the window. Ryan stole one last glance at the room, in the bed he had previously been sleeping in was a stiff body. His head was quickly snapped forward as he sped off against his will.
“It’s fine, the body is to cover up your disappearance,” the voice in his head explained.
“What do you mean? Am I going somewhere?” Ryan asked.
The voice grunted again, but he couldn’t tell if it was a yes grunt, or a no grunt. He guessed that it would be a yes grunt.
With Justinian in one arm, he dashed through the thick forest at record speeds. After an hour of nonstop running, Ryan set Justinian down on a flat rock and went over to the river for some well deserved water. When he got back to Justinian, he could hear him snoring, but his eyes were wide open.
“Gee, that kid sure is a strange sleeper,” the voice remarked.
“Justinian, I know you probably can’t hear me right now, but there’s something I need to get off my chest. You were right, Emily hates me. The problem is, I can’t get her out of my mind. I used to be obsessed about her, I used to love her. She was my drug, an addiction,” Ryan sobbed. “Now, I hate her, despise her, yet I still care about her. She’s still in my heart somewhere, deep down, buried under tons of hatred and anger, but she’s still there. Look, I don’t have much time. I don’t know where I’ll be going, but I have a feeling I won’t see any of you guys for a while. Well, I guess what I’m trying to say is… I want you to take care of Emily for me until I return. Keep her out of trouble, protect her, and give her a hand when things get rough. Perhaps, things will be all better when I get back. Make sure nobody takes her away from me. Not even you. There’s a fine line I’m making you walk, but I trust that you won’t cross it.”
“Oh, shut up,” the voice in his head chimed in.
“Make sure no one hurts her, Justinian. I’m leaving her in your hands now,” at this point, tears fell freely from his youthful face. “Emily, I’ll always love you.”
Ryan found himself in a vast peach orchid, with only the gurgle of a nearby river breaking the silence. Walking over to the river, he stared morosely at it. To his surprise, the river reflected the image of Emily. Ryan slashed his fingers through the stream in a fit of fury, distorting the image. Getting up in disdain, he sank back down in pain. His heart felt heavy again, like immense pressure was being applied. Ryan’s heart was being torn to shreds, and he could literally feel a gaping hole where his heart should’ve been.
The scenery changed, and a corridor of darkness loomed forebodingly in front of him. A dark haired man stepped out into the dim light, and Ryan’s eyes widened. He was looking at a reflection of himself, except the man was more mature. Long spiky hair set the main difference, along with a leaner and taller stature. As the man approached, Ryan noticed the slender glaive in his right hand. A decorative dragon was coiled around the shaft. His piercing brown eyes seemed to stab at Ryan’s soul. Red flames danced around him.
“Hello, Ryan,” he greeted warmly.
“Where am I?” Ryan demanded.
“Your own mind. It’s okay, nobody will be suspicious of your disappearance,” he grinned.
“Who are you?” Ryan asked.
He smiled bitterly at Ryan, “I’m Guan Xing. I’m here on Guan Yu’s behalf to test you. Out of the other Five Generals, I must say that father was definitely the pickiest. He had to make sure his chosen descendent was brave, loyal, righteous, and strong!”
“What do you mean?” Ryan inquired, confused at what was going on.
“I have to make sure that you’re worthy of being called my descendent, now don‘t I?” Guan Xing smiled at him. “It’s fine, more of a formality really, I’m sure you’ll pass.”
Guan Xing fell silent and before anyone could blink, he launched himself at Ryan. Ryan braced himself for the impact, but it never came. The glaive was an inch away from severing his head. Guan Xing floated in midair, as if time had stopped momentarily.
Slowly, Ryan rose to his feet. Then, he felt a surge of energy pumping through him. A tingling in the fingertips followed by a bubble of warmth in his lower abdomen was the signal. With a wiggle of the hips, Guan Xing was blown back. His apparent immobilization vanished instantly.
“Aiya!” Guan Xing exclaimed. “You’re able to manipulate the power of Chi already. I’m sure father would be proud to have a descendant like you.”
By the time he recovered from the blow, Ryan was behind him, and tossed a lightning fast knuckle at his head, which sent him flying away. Ryan dashed toward him, and a faint roaring sound could be heard. Rooting his left foot to the ground, Ryan clamped his left hand down on Guan Xing’s right, and sent a palm up his chin. With a sudden jerk, Ryan tore flesh from bone as he dragged downwards. Instead of hitting the ground, Guan Xing supported himself on his hands and launched a kick at Ryan, despite the river blood trickling down the side of his face. Facing the kick, Ryan crossed his arms vertically, with his right hand on top. As the kick fell into Ryan’s trap, Ryan grabbed Guan Xing’s knee with his right hand and his ankle with his left. After slamming him violently into the ground, Ryan picked up Guan Xing’s glaive and stabbed him. As soon as the glaive made contact, he exploded into a cloud of darkness.
“You truly are Guan Yu’s descendent. I am sorry I have ever doubted you, boy,” his voice echoed in Ryan’s head.
Ryan opened his eyes to find himself back at the river. A mass of men in black suits stood before him.
“Descendent of Lord Guan, the Red Faced One, the General Who Scours Predators!” a red aura emanated from Ryan as they chanted.
“What are you talking about?” Ryan demanded.
“We are agents belonging to the Tiger’s Cave, my lord,” one of them informed.
“Tiger’s Cave? Lord? I don’t understand.”
“The Tiger’s Cave is an underground organization founded by Liu Bei, the First Sovereign, to serve the Five Tiger Generals of Shu, and their descendents. The chosen descendent of our original lords, Guan Yu, Zhang Fei, Zhao Yun, Ma Chao, and Huang Zhong, prove their authenticity by wielding their respective weapon.”
“You mean the glaive?”
“Yes, now come with me. It’s time to show you to the Tiger‘s Cave, the only link between here and the world.”
“Where is here?”
“The mythical garden where Liu Bei, Guan Yu, and Zhang Fei became sworn brothers and took the Oath of the Peach Garden. Now, hurry along.”
With a band of secret agents behind me, and my whole life in front of me, I was in for some serious luxury, Ryan grinned at the thought.
The man in his 30s sat in a perfect replica of the Hall of Supreme Harmony, abode of the Chinese emperor. He watched Ryan through a floating screen. Turning away, the screen dematerialized into thin air.
“Ah, how I wish I could relive the days when I ruled the Kingdom of Shu,” he sighed. “After everything my generals sacrificed for me, the least I can do is repay their descendents.”
“It’s quite a shame they had to pass on,” a black suited agent remarked, stepping out of the shadows.
“Yes, quite a shame,” the man mused. “Being the Son of Heaven sure has its benefits.”
Justinian woke up on a rock, not really knowing where he was or what he was doing. Instantly, he was bombarded by memories. Ryan was in the hospital, and I was there. Where was I now? Judging from my surroundings, I was in forest, Justinian thought. I must’ve been really tired to have been able to sleep on a rock. I guess I should start finding my way back home… His aching back sent waves of pain throughout his body.
By the time he reached his house, it was midnight. As soon as he collapsed onto his bed, a vibration in his pocket got him back up. It was Emily. What on earth could she want this late at night? Justinian wondered.
“Hello?” Justinian answered.
“Hey, Justinian, I need to talk to you,” she replied.
“I see. Well, make it quick, I’m exhausted.”
“Actually, this would be better if I told you in person.”
“Fine, fine, whatever.”
“Meet up with me on the grass after school.”
“Okay, okay, is that it? Because I am seriously tired.”
“Yeah, that’s it. See you tomorrow.”
With a click of his phone, Justinian drifted off to sleep.
The sleep was anything but peaceful. Visions of Ryan haunted the entire night. Where did that guy go? How did I end up in the middle of nowhere? Justinian pondered. Before he could have any peaceful sleep, his alarm clock signaled another school day. Monday mornings were dreary, but this one was even more so. School went on as usual, but Ryan wasn’t there. A rumor about Richard being expelled for fighting circulated around the school.
Right after first period, Justinian was called down to the office. Two police officers stood menacingly, glaring at him. This had something to do with Ryan, I can just feel it, he thought. They stood silently shooting death glares at each other before Justinian realized that doing so would not be in his best interest.
“So,” the policemen sighed. “What do you know about the death of Ryan Guan?”
Justinian stood for a moment, stunned at what the officer just said.
“What?” Justinian asked incredulously.
“Sir, Ryan Guan died yesterday afternoon. You were the last one to see him before he was found in his hospital room.”
His blood ran cold. What in the world happened? What in the world was going on? Justinian’s brain was on overdrive.
“I don’t know anything about his death, officer. Sorry I couldn’t do much to help,” Justinian sighed.
After school, they met on the grass like they originally planned. As soon as she saw Justinian, she grabbed his hand and ran. They ended up at the park, where she sat down.
“Did you ever find out what happened to Ryan?” Emily asked.
“No,” he lied. “He should be fine, I saw him at the hospital yesterday.”
“You’re lying,” she stated coldly.
“Does it really matter to you? Out of everybody, I thought you’d be the least concerned about him,” Justinian leaned on a nearby tree.
“All of you are so blind,” she muttered.
“What do you mean by that?” Justinian asked, getting out of his relaxing position.
“You don’t know how much it hurts inside. Every time I shunned him, every time I glared at him. At first, I thought he would only be interested in me for a week, then move on. Year after year I discouraged him from liking me, yet he was so persistent! It’s been three years, three years and he still hasn’t given up. I-I think in the end, I… might’ve fallen for him.”
Justinian raised an eyebrow at her. Either this was a joke, or she was not who I thought she was, Justinian wondered.
“Why would you fall for a guy as ugly as him?” he asked her.
She burst into tears, “Everything I said was a lie, I was trying to see how long he would last before giving in. Why was I so stupid? I had the man of my dreams in front of me all this time, and I didn’t even know it! It killed me inside to see him half dead and bloody. I was so stubborn!”
“If you liked him so much, why were you constantly bullying him?”
Tears spouted out of her eyes again.
“Okay, okay, I’ll stop!” Justinian walked over to her, trying to calm her down. “Here, if it makes you feel any better, I’ll take you out for a movie.”
“Really?” She asked.
“Yeah, it’ll help get your mind off things,” he assured.
They got to the theater and went in. I guess she really did like Ryan. Oh well, too bad he’s dead. Hmmm, what would Ryan say in a situation like this? Oh yeah, “digging a well for others to drink.” Him and his Chinese proverbs. Or maybe he’d say, “the dead sow and the living reap,” Justinian thought, laughing to himself. With an attractive girl by his side, he walked up to the man at the register.
“Two tickets to Ip Man 2, please,” he told the man.
With a bucket of popcorn, they settled into some seats and proceeded to watch an R-rated movie.
The next few days went by uneventfully, with Emily dragging him all over town. What was I getting myself into? All of this was happening, without Ryan here to see it. I bet he would’ve been jealous of me. You snooze, you lose, and Ryan wouldn’t be waking up anytime soon. Justinian grinned at the thought.
A few years later, she had started to forget about Ryan. Justinian’s original plan to help her get over Ryan had transformed into an elaborate plot to win her heart. His hopes were up and his plans had been set in action. First, he had gotten her to like him. Second, he gotten her to be comfortable with him. Third, he had gotten her to forget about Ryan. Lastly, he still needed to find a way to formally propose to her. Nothing could stop me. Well, unless Ryan came back from the dead, but we all know that’s not going to happen. Justinian thought, satisfied with himself.
On a rooftop not too far away, a slender man with long spiky hair stood silently. His silky black suit fluttering in the wind. Then, four men, all dressed in black, approached the slender male.
“25, 49, 88, 14. I see that you have all assembled,” the man greeted.
“Yes, sir,” the four answered.
“So, what have you been able to find out about… her?” The man inquired.
“The target, Emily Choy, was found in the company of Justinian Chauzai,” 25 replied.
“Ah, good old Justinian,” the man chuckled. “And has he kept his promise?”
“Um, sir, you might want to listen in on this, it’s direct feed from a telephone conversation between Emily Choy and Justinian Chauzai,” 49 held up an earpiece.
The man took the earpiece and listened attentively. “Hey, honey,” Justinian’s voice could be heard clearly. “I need to talk to you in person. Could you meet me at the park tomorrow?”
“Sure,” Emily replied. “What time?”
“Um, about noon would be good.”
“Okay, see you there! Bye!”
The earpiece crumpled under the man’s firm grip, shooting out it’s final sparks of electricity before turning into a pile of worthless scrap metal. Gripping his gilded glaive in a death grip, he turned away from the four, glaring down at the city.
“Find more about their relationship. I feel that Justinian treats Emily more that just a friend. I told him that he’d be walking a fine line, and I trusted him to not cross it. Follow them to the park, then alert me when you get there. Do not make your presence known,” the man instructed. “Dismissed!”
“Yes, sir,” the four replied, disappearing into the darkness.
The next day, the four surveyed the school. When school was over, they were all ready in their positions. With black leather suits, dark shades, and gelled hair, they followed Emily’s every step. When they arrived at the park, 88 notified 14, who passed the message onto his leader.
“Sir, we’ve located Emily and Justinian,” 14 reported.
“They’re on 4th and Main.”
“Good, continue to follow them. Keep me updated with what happened,” the man commanded.
The agents hid in the treetops, eavesdropping on the conversation with unsurpassed hearing abilities. Below the trees, every word of the conversation could be heard with utmost clarity.
“Emily,” Justinian gulped. “There’s something I need to tell you.”
“Okay, what is it?” Emily replied.
“Emily, will you marry me?” Justinian asked shakily.
“Gee, no cheesy speech, no roses, no chocolate?” Emily stared at him.
“Well, will you?” He pressured.
“Well, I guess. It’s not like Ryan’s going to be coming back from the dead anytime soon.”
Justinian smiled at her, grateful that his efforts had not been in vain. Deep down, however, hatred and jealousy of Ryan grew. Ryan, upon hearing the live feed, sent a message to his agents.
“Good job, find out more about their marriage. When and where it will take place. Over the next few days, keep close tabs on them. No more face to face conversations between them. Understood?” Ryan commanded.
“Yes, sir,” the agents replied, scattering off into the distance.
Over the next few days, the agents monitored Justinian and Emily’s phone calls, emails, instant messages, and even texts. Making sure that no face to face conversations occurred, the agents created numerous “accidents” to keep them busy. After finding out the needed information, the reported back to Tiger’s Cave, the headquarters.
“Why don’t you do something, sir?” 25 inquired.
“Oh, I will do something about their relationship. Just wait, you’ll see,” Ryan replied. “Did you find any information?”
“Yes, sir! The wedding is in one week.”
“And where would it be taking place?”
“The same park, at 4th and Main.”
“I see… Continue to separate them for the time being.”
On the day of the wedding, the park was packed with distinguished guests. Ryan hid in the tree above the couple, tracking their every move. At last, it was time for the wedding vows. As Justinian and Emily assembled on a raised platform, Ryan called his agents.
“All Tiger’s Cave agents report to 4th and Main. Prepare for battle if necessary. I repeat, all Tiger’s Cave agents report to 4th and Main. Prepare for battle if necessary,” Ryan ordered.
An elderly man presided over the wedding. Raising a gnarled finger, he wet his lips.
“Do you, Justinian Chauzai, take Emily Choy to be your lawful wedded wife?” He croaked.
“I do,” Justinian replied firmly.
“Do you, Emily Choy, take Justinian Chauzai to be your lawful wedded husband?” He wheezed.
“I-” Emily was cut off.
“Don’t!” Ryan finished for her, dropping out of the tree.
A black limousine pulled up next to the park. The door opened and Tiger’s Cave agents poured out. A field of black suited men lined the streets.
“Did you miss me?” Ryan asked. “Ryan!” Emily shouted. “I thought you were dead!” Justinian glared at Ryan, angry and frustrated that his plan was in jeopardy.
“I’ll explain later, but first, come with me. We have some catching up to do,” Ryan snapped his fingers, and the black suited men filled the park. “Hey! You can’t just barge in like that!” Justinian shouted.
“You have no right to be talking to me like that,” Ryan snapped. “I specifically told you to not let anybody take her away. You were walking a fine line, and I trusted that you wouldn’t cross it.”
“Everyone thought you were dead!” Justinian argued. “It’s been seven years, Ryan. Nobody knew that you’d come back.”
“Stop fighting!” Emily pleaded, tears streaming down her cheeks.
Immediately, five agents ascended the platform, creating a wall separating the two rivals. They stood menacingly, glaring at Justinian through their shades.
“Fine, we’ll just have to settle this some other day,” he snarled. “Emily, are you coming or not?”
“No,” she whispered.
“Fine!” Justinian stormed to his car.
Justinian started the car, and went full speed towards Ryan. With only a few inches of space between them, Justinian swerved to the side, narrowly missing him. Justinian stopped suddenly, and leaned in close to Ryan.
“I’ll see you here tomorrow,” he whispered.
“Okay,” Ryan replied. “Hand to hand?”
“Weapons, no firearms,” Justinian suggested. “Anything goes, one against one.”
“Okay,” Ryan held onto his calm composure. “See you tomorrow.”
With that, Justinian reared up and sped off, leaving the park a muddy mess. Emily, after absorbing what had just happened, bid Ryan goodbye and wished him good luck before returning to her home. That night, she called Ryan.
“Hey, Ryan,” she paused. “I thought I should clear things up about me and Justinian.”
“Yeah, sure,” Ryan took a deep breath. “I think you’ve made it pretty clear about how much you hate me.”
“That’s not true!” She argued. “I was stupid for not liking you, stupid for not appreciating what I had.”
“Well, now you have me,” Ryan whispered, on the verge of crying.
“It’s been so long…” Emily trailed off.
“I know. Listen, after tomorrow, I’ll make everything up. All the lost time, everything. I’ll make sure that you’ll be the happiest woman on earth. You know those agents? They’ll serve you, you won’t even have to lift a finger,” Ryan promised.
“How sweet!” Emily exclaimed. “How did you meet those guys anyways?”
“One second, go open the door.”
Emily walked over to the door and opened it. A box of Hershey’s and a bouquet of roses sat at the doorstep.
“Oh my gosh! Thank you so much, Ryan!” Emily exclaimed. “So, how did you meet those ninjas anyways?”
“Well, long story short, I inherited this glaive from my ancestor, Guan Yu, which gave me control over the agents. They serve the Five Tiger Generals of Shu, it’s a pretty long story,” Ryan summed up.
“It’s been seven years, Ryan, what have you been doing all this time? Why didn’t you come back sooner?”
“I’ve spent five years down here learning about Chinese history and my ancestors. The other two years were spent trying to track you two down.”
“Down here? What do you mean?”
“It’s all underground. I guess you could call it an ‘underground society’.”
“Well, it’s getting late, and you need your rest. See you tomorrow!”
The next day, Ryan and Justinian assembled in the park, which was in shambles after the failed party. Unseen by the two, a man with a white armband stood between two men, one with a halberd and one with a bow and arrow. Justinian gripped a lengthy broadsword, while Ryan clenched his glaive in his right hand.
Justinian laughed at the ancient weapon, “Did you get that from Antiques Roadshow?”
“Just watch,” Ryan replied calmly.
Justinian charged at him, yelling and swinging his sword wildly. Ryan, cool and collected, waited until the last minute before leaping high into the air. Using the force of gravity, he slammed the glaive down on Justinian’s head. Justinian’s eyes widened at the sight of the elegant glaive coming down for his head. Just before the glaive made contact, he rolled out of the way.
“Just in time,” Ryan whispered.
“Good enough,” Justinian grinned.
With another wild charge, Justinian thrust his sword at Ryan’s chest, who turned to dodged the blow by turning to the side. With a flick of his wrist, Ryan sent his glaive in a swift slicing motion toward Justinian’s neck. Justinian ducked immediately. Continuing through with the slice, Ryan turned it into a downwards chop. Justinian quickly laid down on his side, the reflective blade barely an inch away from his nose. Scrambling back up, Justinian gripped his broadsword tightly.
“Let’s get started,” he whispered menacingly.
“I thought we were already going,” Ryan replied.
“Nah, that was just a warm-up.”
“Okay then, let’s get started.”
Justinian glared at Ryan with a flame in his eye. He slashed at Ryan, his previously sloppy behavior disappearing instantly. Ryan deflected the slash with the shaft of his glaive and went in for an uppercut. Justinian brought the blade back down with massive force and traced a path up the shaft, up to Ryan’s unprotected knuckles. Putting his right foot in front of his left, Ryan brought his glaive up in an arc and knocked the broadsword out of Justinian’s grasp and continued to go for his chest. Justinian was flat on the grass again, but Ryan anticipated this. His lightning fast stomp was intercepted by Justinian’s firm grip. Justinian had reclaimed the broadsword in his left hand and aimed to slice Ryan in half, through his line of symmetry. With his right hand gripping Ryan’s leg, he sent the broadsword towards Ryan’s pelvis, only to be dodged by a quick pivot. As the broadsword stuck out between his legs, Ryan sent his glaive down towards Justinian’s chest.
Justinian rolled over to the side with a maniacal flame in his eyes. With a sudden jerk on Ryan’s leg, Ryan was thrown off balance and was forced to postpone the killing blow. Ryan was the first to get up, brushing the dirt off of himself as he did so. Justinian however, gasped for air, stunned at how close he had been to dying.
Justinian got up and peered over at Ryan, who was standing with his back towards him. Firmly gripping his broadsword, Justinian prepared himself for another round. Pulling his arm backwards, his legs were like a coiled spring, ready to pop any moment. Just as he was about to launch his attack, he was stopped by the sound of weeping. Scanning his surroundings, Justinian confirmed that the sounds were coming from his childhood friend.
“Justinian,” Ryan took a deep breath. “We both know how this is going to end, but it doesn’t have to be this way.”
“Oh really?” Justinian snapped back. “If it didn’t have to be this way, why did you take Emily away from me!”
“On the contrary… Um, never mind,” Ryan forced himself to stop. “Look, if we go on like this, one of us will die today.”
“It won’t be me,” Justinian declared.
Ryan stayed silent for a moment, “Just look at us. I could once call you my brother, now we’re killing each other.”
Justinian couldn’t contain his rage any further. With a flick of his wrist, his sword flew swiftly towards Ryan’s neck. A metallic clang rang in Justinian’s ears for what seemed like an eternity as his weapon clattered harmlessly on the ground. Ryan turned around to see Justinian sobbing, ashamed of what he had attempted to commit.
“Cooking beans on a fire kindled with bean stalks, the beans weep in the pot. Originally born from the same roots, why so eager to torture each other?” Ryan murmured.
“Seven Step Poem,” Justinian recalled. “I learned about it in my Chinese history class.”
“Do you know the meaning of it?” Ryan raised an eyebrow.
“No,” Justinian replied.
“The bean represents Cao Zhi and the stalks represent Cao Pi. In the Three Kingdoms period, Cao Pi wanted to get rid of his younger brother, Cao Zhi when he ascended the throne. To do so, he convicted Cao Zhi of being drunk and not attending their father’s funeral. As a trial, Cao Pi ordered his younger brother to make a poem on the spot. Taking seven steps, Cao Zhi recited the poem,” Ryan stared off into the distance. “Beans and the beanstalk, originally brothers, should not be working to torture and kill each other.”
Instantly, Justinian sank to his knees, a river of tears trailing from his eyes.
“I can give you a life of luxury and power. The are still the other Five Tiger Generals haven’t been located. I just relax and oversee the agents, but we need someone to lead them. We could use your help. You could be a branch administrator, Oceania sound good?” Ryan proposed.
“Yeah,” Justinian got up, wiping his tears away. “Now, tell me more about this Tiger’s Cave…”
With the bloody violence and thirst for blood gone, they retrieved their weapons and returned to the Tiger’s Cave, where Emily was waiting for Ryan.
“Ha! Priceless!” the man with the white armband cackled.
“Did you hear him, Phil? Branch administrator? What a joke,” the man with the bow added. “And that the other descendents haven’t been found? Only Zhang Fei’s left!”
“Gosh, Frank, just because Huang Zhong had seniority doesn’t mean you do,” the man with the halberd pointed out. “Besides, I think Ryan handled things pretty well.”
“I know that Zhao Yun wanted to be the fourth brother, but I didn‘t know he was a suck up,” Frank smirked.
“Hey, what’s that supposed to mean?” the man with the halberd retorted. “Don’t talk about my ancestor like that! You old fart!”
“Hey, Peter, I find that offensive!” Frank yelled back.
“Man, break it up,” sighed the man with the white armband.
To Phil’s dismay, the two continued to quarrel. Exasperated, he returned to the Tiger’s Cave. Those two are insufferable, Phil thought.
A man sat in a secret room, deep within the Tiger’s Cave. His imperial golden robes lit up the underground palace.
“Guan Yu and his righteousness, even after so many generations, his descendents still retain his sense of brotherhood,” the man chuckled. “I’m quite glad it ended the way it did. Like he said, brothers should not work against each other. Don‘t you agree, 99?” “Yes, Divine Lord. Although, I find it amusing that Ryan assumes that there is nobody to lead the agents,” 99 replied, stepping out of the darkness. “It’s a relief that they were able to stop themselves before blood was spilled.”
“Quite so. When light is concealed, darkness is at its zenith. Nearing the heavens, darkness destroys itself and sinks back to the earth, failing in its conquest. The light takes over instantly, reclaiming its rightful spot,” the man explained solemnly. “Anything else?”
“Yes, one more thing,” 99 whispered. “Who is Zhang Fei’s descendent?”
The man chuckled, “You will find out soon enough. Dismissed.”
99 disappeared back into the darkness while the man sat at his desk, reminiscing the memories of his youth. As soon as 99 receded from view, his body instantly changed. His 30 year old complexion transformed into an ancient appearance . He stroked his silky white beard and sighed. Immortality does not guarantee happiness, he thought somberly.
That night, a mouthwatering aroma lure the two childhood friends into the kitchen. Finely sliced pieces of succulent barbeque pork greeted them. A coating of honey gave the pork a dark golden hue. Deep fried tofu was served, a light brown and crispy. Sprinkled with red pepper flakes, they were delicious. After dinner, Ryan discussed plans of how agents would be spread out and how to identify the signs of a Tiger General. Suddenly, 25 walked into Ryan’s chambers. Greeting him warmly, Ryan introduced him to Justinian. Upon meeting Justinian, 25 was taken aback by his appearance.
“A fierce flame in his eyes…” 25 observed. “Do sleep with your eyes open?”
“Yes,” Justinian answered hesitantly.
“Your last name?” 25 inquired.
“Chauzai,” Justinian replied.
“Mother’s maiden name?” 25 continued.
“Zhang,” Justinian answered.
“Aha, I knew it!” 25 exclaimed.
“What do you mean?” Justinian asked, puzzled.
An emerald light enveloped Justinian as 25 spoke, “You, Justinian Chauzai, are the last living descendent of Lord Zhang Fei, the General Who Conquers the Barbarians, the Green One. Sworn brother of the First Sovereign, the Multicolored Golden One, Divine Lord Liu Bei and the Red Faced One, the General Who Scours Predators, Lord Guan Yu.”