All Out Rumble
“What’s the book about?” Yuchi asked Dee as they strolled back to the magical staircase.
Rui is currently carrying the book, he also wondered the same. “This book weighs like a mountain. Look at it, it’s so thick and aged. I wonder why we need this?” With just a few steps, Rui already could barely hold on to the weighty book. His steps were slow and struggle to pursue Dee’s footsteps.
“It contains knowledge about different poisons,” Dee explained. “Maybe it would help us identify some.”
“We would need to read this whole book!” Rui complained. “I give up.”
“Who is the author?” Yuchi questioned.
“It didn’t say,” Rui said, his voice turned pale. He ran in front of everyone and stopped. “Can someone please carry this for me?”
A member took over the hefty duty. As the book’s weight got added, the guy stumbled back one step.
“The book seems really old.” Dee didn’t stop sharing his thoughts. “What if the poisons used are recently discovered? Then we would be here for nothing.”
“Hopefully it doesn’t happen,” Rui prayed, barely holding on to his breath.
Many people have already woken up by now, leaving their tents. Dee feels like
they haven’t spent a long time with Tianlan, but no one knows. They are currently
heading back to the stairs, ultimately back to Chang’an.
“How did the medicine feel?” Yuchi asked the others.
“Don’t remind me of that,” Rui cried. “Painful experience to say the least.”
The others agreed. “I couldn’t talk,” Someone added.
“Did you guys not feel better afterward?” Dee asked.
“Kind of,” Rui said. “I would say a little bit.”
“Hey.” A voice interrupted their conversation. It was a random stranger, who just left his tent. “Keep the voice down.”
“We are sorry,” Dee sincerely apologized.
“You guys don’t look so local,” The stranger said. Dee could still hear a bit of the anger in his voice.
“We are from Chang’an,” Dee calmly said.
“What’s your purpose here?”
“Here to see wizard Tianlan,” Dee explained their arrival.
“Again?” The stranger said.
“What’s wrong?” Dee inquired.
“Recently a group of people from Chang’an came,” The stranger told Dee. “It’s weird to see outsiders here. They also wanted to see Master Tianlan. I guessed things are happening in Chang’an.”
“Could you tell me who they are?” Dee is curious. There could be a chance that these people are the foreign masked ones he saw from before. If it is, then it could really help Dee track those people down.
“Obviously I don’t know who they are.” The stranger shrugged. “But, they were wearing black clothing from head to toe. A hat, a cape. Fancy, typical Chang’an clothing.”
“It sounds like Dali,” Yuchi whispered.
“Aren’t you from Dali? Shouldn’t you know?” What Yuchi said was weird to Rui.
“Master Xun did leave last week, but I don’t know if he came here.”
“Well, nice to meet you guys. I’ve got to go.” The stranger walked away.
It was actually Master Xun with the Dali department that was here recently. Dee was hoping that it was actually those foreign masked people. Dee still thinks that these people, especially the performer guy, are heavily connected with the two deaths. Any crucial information will boost the investigation process a lot.
The crew made their way back to the stairs. The sun has already come out, indicating a fresh morning. The bright sunlight dazzled Dee’s eyes. Dee is ready to head back to Chang’an, there is no reason to stay in Zundian any longer.
In the morning, Zundian became a busy town. Breakfast places opened up, and the crew was feeling a bit hungry. So they found a place to dine in. Waiting for the food, Dee started curiously observing the people here. The previous time he visited Zundian, he didn’t have the time to do so. He noticed that many people’s clothing here is worn out, different coloured materials being stitched together. Silk, brocade clothing seemed to be a luxury for these people, as most wear the roughest materials. Many look like they haven’t showered for weeks.
In the busy crowd, Dee noticed some odd things. Just across the street, there are a group of unfitting people dining at the place. These people, from the looks of it, don’t look so poor. They have fine clothes and clean, healthy skin. “Maybe they are just the more wealthy ones in Zundian,” Dee thought. “Or, they might be visiting this place, like us.” However, Dee still wants to keep an alert on them. The only reason why Dee has Shun and them protecting him is that there could be hired assassins preventing Dee from getting to the truth.
“Enjoy the food.” The waiter came serving the warming hot food.
The crew ordered some rice, paired up with tomatoes and eggs and some vegetable soup. These are the most common dishes in Chang’an, yet, when Dee swallowed the food, he felt amazed.
“This is amazingly good,” Rui exclaimed.
“Never thought tomatoes and egg combinations are this nice.” Yuchi agreed.
Everyone seemed to be surprised by how nice the food in Zundian is. Even Shun, who rarely likes any food, appears to be very impressed by it.
“Don’t choke yourself.” Dee noticed Rui tucking in the food.
“It’s so, so good!” Rui couldn’t help but praise the food. “Let me get another bowl after this.”
Seeing Rui happy makes Dee himself happy as well. Dee is glad that his crew members are having such high energy.
“Do you not find it delicious, Master Dee?” Rui asked Dee. Seeing him not eating the food.
“Oh.” Dee realized. “I was thinking about something. Forgot to eat.”
The crew would finish their food soon after. Everyone really enjoys the food. Especially Rui, as he even ordered extras and finished them all. Rui is lying in his chair, his hand on his belly. He must be really full from the heavy eating.
“Burrrp!” Rui let out a loud burp.
“Where are your manners?” Shun stared Rui down, his voice full of animosity.
“Sorr…” Rui was about to apologize before seeing it was Shun that spoke. He quickly changed his attitude. “Well, more manner than a person that refuses to talk.”
Hearing the insult, Shun quickly got up ready to finish their business. This time Yuchi stepped in before things got out of hand.
“Guys, stop with the childish act, would you?” Yuchi scolded.
“He is going against me for no reason.” Rui won’t back down.
Shun smirked, in his eyes, Dee can see anger and disrespectfulness. Dee knows that he has got to solve their conflicts now.
“Both of you calm down.” Dee tried to resolve the issue. “I’m sure there are some misunderstandings between you two.”
“We should open up more to each other,” Yuchi suggests. “So we don’t have these misinterpretations. I know both of you are very nice beings. So we can solve this easily.”
“I don’t like your attitude.” Rui shared first. “You always seem to not care about anything. I contributed heavily, but you did nothing.”
“Your arrogance is to another level,” Shun dissed back.
“Let’s not fight or insult each other,” Dee said, seeing the situation getting more heated. Maybe the two could just never get along. “This is a thing from the past now, we should move on to the next chapter.”
“Forget about it, shake hands.” Yuchi tried his best to convince them.
The two appear not to be convinced by Yuchi. “Let’s be friends for now. After this is over we have a fair one.” Rui gave a solution.
Shun offered his hand to Rui, who unwillingly shook hands. The two made peace, for now.
“At least this situation is paused.” Dee felt a bit of relief.
“Should we head back now?” Yuchi asked Dee.
“That’s a good idea.” Dee got up from his seat. Rui went to checkout. Dee’s sight scanned across the streets. The group is still there. Dee looked at their table, none of the food was left. They seem to be just sitting, not chatting, or doing anything else. Dee’s eyes met with one of them. Dee looked elsewhere, quickly acting as nothing had happened. He carefully glanced at them again, he saw one of them clearly observed in the direction of the crew.
“Everything is completed.” Rui came back.
“Let’s leave.” Yuchi jumped up from his seat.
The crew got out of the restaurant. Dee still carefully glances at them, observing how they act after the crew has left. As the crew walked farther away, Dee saw them standing up, ready to leave as well. “Are they trying to follow us?” The thought quickly came up in Dee’s mind.
Dee pulled Rui near him. “There might be some people following us,” He whispered.
“Don’t look!” Dee whispered, stopping Rui from looking back. “We have a chance to catch them back.”
“What’s wrong?” Yuchi saw them two plotting.
Dee looked at Rui, seeking if he should share the information. Rui nodded. Dee still hasn’t gained the full trust of Yuchi yet, despite his contributions for the past few days. However, Rui felt that Yuchi is trustworthy, probably because Yuchi and Dee were great friends before.
“There might be some people following us. Don’t look back. We have a chance to catch them.”
“I see,” Yuchi replied
“Don’t tell anyone else,” Dee exhorted. “They might alert them, and our chances are gone.”
The three pretended nothing had happened, they kept walking toward their carriages. Dee plans to hide behind the archway, and sneakily jump the other group if they continue to follow.
Dee sped up his steps, trying to get a larger separation from them. They walked farther away from the town and got more and more closer to the archway. Just as he crossed, Dee felt something had hit his leg. Before he realizes it, an arrow is coming towards Dee at lightning speed. It was a trap that the other group had set up. At this critical moment, Yuchi came flying in and pushed Dee away from danger.
“Awww.” Yuchi wasn’t so lucky himself, the arrow hit him in the right chest area, and stuck in there. He painfully howled. The bright red blood splattering everywhere.
Dee finally had a grasp of the situation. He quickly got up, saw Yuchi lying on the ground, in pain. The arrow was very close to hitting Yuchi’s crucial area, it was just a bit up. Dee looked behind, the group of people rushing towards them at rapid speed. Another two assassins jumped in behind the archway, blocking their escape route. The crew had nowhere to go, Dee knew the only way to get out was to fight back face to face.
“Assassins! Get in position,” Shun ordered. The others also realized their situation and quickly reacted to it. The crew formed a round formation, surrounding Dee and the injured Yuchi, protecting their safety. Swords being drawn out of the scabbard. The crew is ready to fight back in less than a second. The enemies seemed to be surprised at how fast the crew reacted, but they did not stop their steps. A fight was inevitable.
Dee scanned around, the enemy had around a dozen people. All carrying some sort of weapon. Dee could not identify who these people are, as they’ve put on masks. Dee looked down, Yuchi still holding on to his right arm. Dee knows for a fact that Yuchi could not participate in this fight. So they’ve got to escort Yuchi to safety first.
“Cover me.” Dee used a volume only the crew could hear. “I will take Yuchi to a safer spot.”
The enemies surrounded the crew, however, they did not all jump in right away. None of the two groups made their first move, both waiting for the best opportunity to attack.
“Try to not kill,” Dee reminded them. Dee never emphasized killing when during a mission, only if the situation requires the killing of others.
Shun gave a hand signal. The crew started to move around the circle they formed, still keeping their formation. This tactic often will make the enemy harder to attack when in a defensive position.
Suddenly, it was Shun who struck first. Seeing the enemies not being aggressive, a sudden attack might catch them off guard. Shun jumped out, others did as well. A chaotic fight is in the making.
Dee saw an opportunity to run off, he carried the hurting Yuchi and tried to flee. But, the enemy does have more people. Two others cut off Dee’s escape, ready to hurt them. However, Shun came to the rescue. He dashed near Dee, wielding his sword against four others. Shun took the enemy’s attention on himself, in order for Dee and Yuchi to retrieve, and Dee did just so.
Dee ran off relatively far away from where the fight is taking place. In fact, he ran north, to where their carriages were parked. He was planning to hand Yuchi to his trusted coachman, but only to find them both to be dead, blood painted every corner of the carriage. Dee couldn’t care less about whether they are alive right now. He laid Yuchi nicely in the carriage, he could still hear Yuchi’s breather. Dee for a brief second debated whether he should stay with Yuchi, or help the others out. He doesn’t think the enemies will revisit the carriage again, but the other might be in trouble. Dee is betting Yuchi’s safety on this.
“Just leave me, I’ll be fine.” Yuchi squeezed out a few words.
“Please stay here,” Dee said. Using his full speed, Dee tried to sprint back to the battlefield as quickly as he could. When he arrived the crew was in a losing situation. Many backs against the wall, fighting against multiple enemies. Shun was holding back three enemies just by himself, Rui did just the same. Dee can clearly see from far, marks of bloodstains on their clothes. Luckily, none of the members was severely injured.
Dee drew out his sword. He was never an outstanding fighter, but he is still capable. Dee’s arrival attracted the enemy’s attention. One enemy that was on Rui, came after Dee like a hungry wolf. He flew in pointing the spear tip right at Dee’s heart. Dee was quick enough to dodge the attack. Then, Dee counter-attacked him, slashing his sword. The attack was blocked easily by the enemy’s spear. The force of the two weapons clashing knocked Dee back three steps.
“That’s all you got?” The enemy provokes. His eyes are blood red. Like a thirsty wolf hunting down a little lamb.
Dee didn’t lose his cool being provoked. He calmly looked around. Rui is now on the upper end of a one-on-two. If Rui could beat his enemies and then assist the others, surely they’ve secured this fight in the bag. From the first interaction, Dee can tell his enemy is much stronger than him. Straight-up dueling wouldn’t result in Dee’s favor. What Dee thinks he’s gotta do is to waste time, until Rui, or one other win their fight. However, Shun couldn’t hold up anymore. “Someone needs to assist Shun,” Dee thought. “And it will be me.”
Dee pretended to be extremely fatigued. The enemy thought it was an opportunity, and came flying in again, spear tip pointing at Dee. However, Dee did not try to dodge this time. Instead, he aimed his sword right at the enemy and threw it straight at his face. The enemy twisted his body and knocked Dee’s sword down with his spear, and landed comfortably. He easily resolved Dee’s attack once again.
“Got some tricks,” The enemy commented. “But still wea…..” He couldn’t finish the sentence, as he saw Dee running away in Shun’s direction.
“Running away.” The enemy laughed, hunting down Dee.
What the enemy didn’t know is that he has already been tricked by Dee. Although without a sword, Dee pulled out the pocket knife that he always carried. He got closer and closer to the other enemies.
The enemy behind Dee shouted a series of strange words, some foreign language. He seems to have alerted the others, the other enemies noticed Dee coming from behind. However, this is a part of Dee’s plan. Just like he had thought, as soon as he came close to the enemies, they would change the focus to him. Dee knows that all along, these people’s first target is him. Two of the enemies that were originally on Shun suddenly went after Dee. This gave Shun just enough breathing room to regain the advantage.
Shun jumped back, using the stone archway behind him as a launcher. He stepped on the archway, using his inner force to launch him forward. His body is light as feathers, also, fast as lightning. Before the enemy could react, his belly was slashed open by Shun’s sword. Without a sound, the enemy dropped to the ground. It all happened in a matter of a second, the tables have turned this quickly in their favor. But, Dee is currently still being chased by three others.
“Awww.” Dee howled. One of the enemies threw his spear from a distance and grazed right past Dee’s right leg. Luckily, it didn’t fully hit Dee’s leg, just ripping his skin off. Dee felt the excruciating pain, but he pulled through and stayed on his legs.
“Retrieve!!!” Someone yelled. Dee turned his head to see what had happened. The remaining enemies have decided to retrieve, fleeing to the west. Two bodies on the ground, both are enemies. Shun’s sword thrust in one of them. It looks like he’s got both of the kills.
Dee walked towards his team, pulling through the pain from his right leg. They’ve survived, however, It’s not time to celebrate yet. Faraway, Rui fainted to the ground. Shun also collapsed due to exhaustion.
Dee was able to meet up with one of the members, who was in fine condition to walk. Using his last breath, Dee instructed. “Get help…. from Zundian. Tell them Yuchi…. is inside the carriage.” Dee could not hold on any longer, he lost consciousness, collapsing to the ground.