Two Graves

Reads: 327  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 0

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
A cautionary tale about revenge and the perils of assumption as told by two masters of kung fu.

Submitted: May 23, 2015

A A A | A A A

Submitted: May 23, 2015

A A A

A A A


When Master Qifeng believed he had met his death, he invited him in for a cup of tea. His death came in the form of another man, a rival from another school known as Master Zhaolong. Qifeng had been awake for some time when he heard the rapping at his door. His gradual motions of warm-up exercises were halted as he stabilised his breathing and went to answer it.

The sun was only just beginning to rise into the morning, it was around this hour that the nobles would be waking. The crimson robes adorning Zhaolong were starkly contrasted against Qifeng's blue ones. A man cloaked in dried blood and one wrapped in the sky as they stood mere inches apart.

The vaguest scent of blossom was carried on the breeze as the mountaintop's trees had entered bloom.

"Master Qifeng. I apologise for my extreme rudeness in arriving unannounced."

"Oh no, no, no. Do not worry, my good man. I am always happy to meet another practitioner. Would you like to come in?"

Master Qifeng stood to one side as Master Zhaolong removed his coat of red brocade to enter the training hall. The walls were adorned with scrolls, marked with fluent swirls describing the motion of the crane and the heron, about the characteristics of the elegant birds that a student should aim to emulate.

"Might I ask your name, my friend?"

There was a moment of hesitation before his visitor replied.

"I am Zhaolong, of the Laohu school." The crimson clad man bowed to the stunned reaction of Qifeng. Qifeng was not a member of the Laohu school, he was of the Guan school. His robes were indicative of this, the sky blue was to emulate the domain of the willowy creatures that had inspired his precise techniques. Just as the red robes emulated the torn bloody meat of a tiger's prey.

"I see... would you care for some tea?"

"I... yes. That would be most kind of you." Zhaolong bowed his head respectfully again and followed Qifeng to a small table. Sitting cross-legged, with his feet folded up onto his legs, Zhaolong folded his arms and dutifully waited for Qifeng's return with the tea.


-
 

In the kitchen, Qifeng was panicking. How could this be? He was invaded! The Laohu school were the immortal rivals of the Guan style. It dated all the way back to the school's founding. The two brothers, one fierce and wild and the other tall and graceful. They were set to inherit their father's style but neither could agree who would be the successor.

They both intended to change the style to suit their own strengths and it was decided they must compete in combat to decide the winner. The battle was ferocious, whenever Laohu's terrifying fingers were gripped in a vice like snare around Guan, he would retaliate with his own pressed together like a spike and repel the invasion. They fought for hours, observed by numerous students who were amazed by their prowess until both men eventually fell. Dead.

Of course there must be a winner! Is that not the way of the fight? Soon the students were divided in two, the followes of Laohu and the followers of Guan. The old master of the nameless style, the style that had no successor said that he saw the truth of his art that day. He leapt from a cliff the next morning.

The schools established monastery's in two seperate mountains, learning the way of spirituality, teaching those who could not defend themselves how to fight. The styles became quite famous!

It wasn't for 15 years that the first death occurred. It's not clear who it was who was slain first. The Guan school says it was a student called Zhuli who was brutally savaged by a Laohu student who killed them for some slight. The Laohu say it was Hong the gentle who was mercilessly slain by a Guan student.

Regardless, it soon became a matter of honour. Such a crime must be avenged! Hearts were torn, eyes were gouged. The criminals must pay! They must! They must!

It was only a week ago that a Guan student had thrown a Laohu from the top of a tower to their doom.

This must be divine retribution, that Zhaolong was here now. Qifeng's hands trembled as he reached for the small lacquer pots. There were four in his kitchen. Three contained the Cha leaves he needed to make tea. Some were older, some blended with sweet lemongrass. And in the fourth pot was poison. The small clove shaped leaves, of an incredibly dark green colour.

He could mix the drink with poison and then it would slay Zhaolong before he could ever fight him. No-one need ever know. It would be a guiltless crime.

-

Qifeng returned with the teapot and set it down before Zhaolong. He sat himself down on an opposite cushion as he poured the tea into a cup, whisking it into a froth to create the base before adding yet more hot water. He rested one before Zhaolong before making his own, holding the cup delicately and examining the face of his future opponent.

Zhaolong had thick eyebrows and a lustrous beard, a far cry from Qifeng's thin moustache and delicate brows. His stocky frame suggested great power and the callouses along his knuckles a terrifying crushing strength. The ones on Qifeng's fingertips tapped his cup, the heat not penetrating the hardened skin.

"I suppose you have come to murder me." Qifeng said.

"That was my original intention." Zhaolong confirmed, sipping at the mixture of tea leaves.

"Is it still?" Qifeng was curious, he'd phrased that in an odd manner.

"I do not know. Can I tell you a story?

"Three months ago, a student of your school killed a younger pupil of mine. Ran him through with a blade. I killed him of course, but not for honour. No, I slayed him because that pupil had been my nephew. I had known him from birth, I loved that young man. And for my actions, a brother of the man I killed murdered another of my students. I retaliated.

"And it is now I have a problem. I had more students than the Guan did and by the end of it, by my count, I have had twenty two of my most loved ones killed and I have only killed fifteen. But there is no-one left. And so I came here, to begin my vengeance again.

"But you have given me tea and welcomed me into your school. I do not have a grudge against you, only your school. But is not your school an extension of you?"

Zhaolong went silent as he listlessly stirred his tea by rotating his wrist.

"You do not deserve to die, Qifeng. But my heart cannot leave my precious pupils unavenged. I am unsure what I should do."

Qifeng was silent as he raised his cup and stared at the liquid. He sipped.

"I almost poisoned on you," he confessed "I was sure you were here to avenge the death of a Laohu student a week ago."

"Did you kill him?"

"No. But I scarcily thought it mattered."

"I suppose it didn't." Zhaolong drank his tea and stood up.

"What shall we do now?" Qifeng asked

"I think I shall return to my lodging. I do not wish to kill you today. I have dug twenty two graves this month. I do not wish to dig another, my spade has tired of tasting the earth. I will come tomorrow. Perhaps we will fight to the death. Perhaps you will offer me poisoned tea. Perhaps... perhaps we can merely sit as Qifeng and Zhaolong, while Guan and Laohu will struggle somewhere else."

Zhaolong left the school and began his walk back to town.

Qifeng gazed into his teacup, aware that he could not fully remember whether or not he had poisoned the tea. If he had then Zhaolong would collapse and die long before he reached the town. And if he had, then his cup would also be poisoned.

Qifeng drank the rest of his cup.


© Copyright 2019 jimmyhartill. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments: