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Sacrifice and redemption

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Wen Kexing breathes heavily; his eyes are closed as he laid his head against the elevated roots of the tree, relying on its ancient growth to support his weakened body. His insides felt torn apart by the death of Ah Xiang and Cao Weining. It was supposed to be their day. Their big day. The injustice was an agony, blossoming within his chest, completely overwhelming the pain of his physical injuries. Wen Kexing longed for Ah Xu’s touch...ever so calming, gentle and strong. He was filled with worry and wondered where Ah Xu was. They had lost contact in the fight that ensued.

Wen Kexing heard footsteps approaching him. His eyes remained closed as the Scorpion king spoke, his voice soft and sly and gleefully victorious.

“The Ghost valley master is no more...injured and pathetic. Well...this is a sight to behold.”

“Leave me to enjoy the sun.” Wen Kexing hissed.

“I have great respect for Wen master...let me have my way with him Scorpion king...”

Scorpion king turned sharply towards his subordinate. “Only I am worthy of ending the Ghost Valley Master’s life. Anything less is of great disrespect.” With those words, his weapon shot towards Wen Kexing who remained still and weak, with little energy to defend himself.

Suddenly, a flash of vivid blue and a sword came out of nowhere, deflecting Scorpion king’s weapon.

“How dare you touch someone from Si Ji Manor.”

“You are more powerful then I remember.” Scorpion king looked tense, his eyes now focused on the newly arrived Zhou Zishu.

Zhou Zishu stood in front of Wen Kexing, his sword just touching the delicate skin of Scorpion King’s throat.

“Why are you here, fool?” Wen Kexing opened his eyes and smiled at the silhouette of Ah Xu, whose back was facing him. His shoulders were strong and resolute.

‘To die with you, you crazy fool.” Ah Xu said, turning to look at him. His face was full of worry for Wen Kexing, but he half smiled, as if to reassure him before turning back to face Scorpion King.

“Ah Xu...” Wen Kexing whispered. He grimaced, trying to stay strong and focused on the situation unfolding before him. Ah Xu was not strong enough in his current state to battle Scorpion King alone. He will not tolerate anyone hurting Ah Xu. His focused slipped again as the blood loss from his chest wound disorientated him. Before he could utter another word, the sharp clangs of weapons bought him back to reality. Ah Xu was dueling with the Scorpion king. His strokes were fast and accurate, a formidable opponent for the Scorpion King. Wen Kexing laughed to himself. He need not worry. Ah Xu was the former leader of Tian Chuang, his intelligence and martial art skills were second to none. Wen Kexing shook his head as he watched the battle, something was not right. Ah Xu was fighting in a way he had never seen before. He was fighting at almost full capacity, more powerful than he had ever seen him before. But Ah Xu was still injured from the Seven orifices three autumn nails...

His eyes darted back and forth as Scorpion King and Ah Xu exchanged blows. Out of the corner of his eyes, a flying object was heading straight for Ah Xu. It was a hidden weapon shot by one of Scorpion King’s subordinate when realizing that Scorpion King was losing to Zhou Zishu. The dart hit Zhou Zishu in the right side of his chest. He fell forward with a gasp, his hand to his chest as blood dripped from his wound.

“No! Ah Xu!” Wen Kexing gasped. He groaned as he tried to get up. Ah Xu glanced at him, nodding as if to indicate that he was ok. Ah Xu turned his attention back to Scorpion king and his subordinates.

“Don’t hide in the darkness and throw hidden weapons like a coward. Come out and fight me!” Zhou Zishu pushed himself up from his knees and glanced at his opponents with grit and determination.

They all charged at Zhou Zishu and he fought back, almost basking in the glory of his renewed martial arts power. His sword moved skillfully, his steps swift as he battled his enemies. At last, he towered over Scorpion king as his sword came crashing down, killing his last opponent. The rest of Scorpion King’s entourage lay dead around them.

Breathing heavily and exhausted by the fight, Zhou Zishu’s knees buckled and he fell forward, his sword clanging to the ground next to him. His back to Wen Kexing, a trickle of blood escaped his lips. Zhou Zishu wiped the blood away hastily. He did not want Wen Kexing to see him hurt as he rushed to his side. Wen Kexing looked at him in awe as the sun lit the sky behind Ah Xu, bathing him in a magnificent glow. He reached his bloodied hand out.

"Your body has light around it. I want to hold onto it.” His hand fell, too weak to sustain its elevation. Zhou Zishu caught it in his own, squeezing it tightly.

“Ah Xu...Ah Xu...you’re hurt.” Zhou Zishu shook his head. “I’m fine. Just minor injuries. You on the other hand...” He reached out and touched the blood on Wen Kexing’s clothes, assessing the extent of his injuries. “You’re bleeding heavily. I must get you back to Da Wu and Qi Ye. Come on....let’s go, I’ll carry you.” He went to help Wen Kexing to his feet, taking his weight and draping his arm over his shoulders.

Wen Kexing shook his head, protesting. He felt dizzy from blood loss but all he could focus on was chest wound on Ah Xu and a large wound on his shoulder.

‘You’re bleeding Ah Xu...are you ok? Talk to me.”

“Stop with this nonsense. I’ll be okay if you’re okay. We must go.” Ah Xu insisted.

Wen Kexing nodded and they began the long, arduous walk back to the Ghost Valley, in hope of seeing Da Wu, Qi Ye and Cheng Ling along the way. As much as Wen Kexin did not want to, he leaned heavily against Ah Xu for he had little strength left to walk. Somehow he felt safe and his heart was warm. Even if he died along the way, he would be with the most important person in the world to him.

“Ah Xu...I’m sorry.”

“What for?” Ah Xu asked, he looked upon Wen Kexing with gentle eyes.

“For not telling you the truth about my plans...your injuries...I want Da Wu to cure you. I couldn’t afford to lose you or any harm to come upon you...” He paused. “Was I a fool? Are you angry with me?”

Ah Xu was silent for along time. His jaws clenched. Finally he said: “I am angry with you. How could you have not factored me into your plans? I thought you were dead! I jumped after you! Did you consider that?”

Wen Kexing grinned and closed his eyes momentarily. “No, I didn’t think anyone would do that for me.”

Ah Xu chuckled. “Don’t be too surprised.”

“Ah Xu?”

“Yes?”

“Would you really have died with me?”

There was a long pause before Ah Xu answered. “You’re the only reason I have to live.”

Wen Kexing smiled, his heart felt full in that instant and momentarily distracted him from the pain of losing Ah Xiang. They were silent for a while, focusing on their steps as they got closer to Ghost Valley. Every once in a while, Zhou Zishu turned to look at Wen kexing whose eyes were closed and breathing shallow. He realized as time went by that he needed to take Wen Kexing’s weight more and more as he slipped closer into unconsciousness.

Once again, Zhou Zishu felt the blood bubbling up inside his chest and into his mouth, escaping his lips. He coughed, trying to stifle the sound as he looked worriedly at Wen Kexin, concerned that he would notice that all was not well. The pain from his wounds was bearable. He had stayed strong so as to get Wen Kexin to safety. He looked down at his own wounds and felt a wave of dizziness overcome him. Another coughing fit went through him and this time, he couldn’t help the gush of blood that exploded from his mouth. His hearing, his sight and his other senses suddenly all seem to have abandoned him. He felt a brilliant spark of pain blossom throughout his body. In the distance, he could see the blurry figure of Qi Ye, Da Wu and Cheng Ling running towards them.

“Lao Wen, you’re safe now.” Zhou Zishu whispered as he and Wen Kexing both fell to the ground and the world became dark.

To be continued...