Truth and Dare
“I wonder if this is the right thing to do,” I said worriedly to my brother.
Ping nodded and drummed his fingers on his seat, a sign which meant that he was deep in thought.
“Sirs… I… I would like to thank…” the young lad stammered.
“Enough with the prattle! Can’t you see that we are busy? Count it as your blessing that you have us escorting you to the doctor,” I snapped.
The boy bowed and kept silent as he continued to massage his mother’s temples.
The thought of Prince Yunho on his own in an unfamiliar environment did not settle well with me at all. The maid would only be a liability as Prince Yunho would put her own safety before his if they ran into any trouble. The idea of the maid in a fight would have been laughable had the situation not been so dire. As it was, if the small, pretty girl actually knew any martial arts, I’ll change my name to Pong. A thousand and one ‘what if’s’ ran through my head, each situation ending with a hurt Prince Yunho.
This won’t do, I thought restlessly. One of us has to go back and protect the Prince; I thought and looked up to find Ping staring at me with the same burning light in his eyes.
“Pang, I’ll go back and find the Young Master while you escort these two,” Ping said.
“Water… water… I need water…” the lad’s mother cried out suddenly as she latched onto Ping’s arm.
Ping jumped in surprise and disentangled his arm from her and passed his bottle to the boy who seemed to be concentrating on something.
“Sir! Take me with you! I want…I want to thank the kind Sir who saved my mother’s life and if he is in any danger, I can help!” like his mother, the boy reached out for Ping’s arms and held on to it for dear life.
“What is wrong with you people? And you, shouldn’t you be more worried about your mother?” Ping asked exasperated as he tried to pry the boy’s fingers off his arm.
“Water…” the boy’s mother cried out weakly as she turned to grab my wrist. Her grip was firm for a sick patient and I narrowed my eyes in suspicion as I gripped her wrist with my fingers. Her pulse was strong and regular for a seemingly dying patient and in a matter of seconds, a light dawned upon me…as well as a growing sense of uneasiness.
Grabbing the middle-aged woman’s arm with my other hand, I twisted it behind her back as she screeched out in pain. I pressed her arm hard against her back, just an inch from breaking it and pushed her against the wall with my knee.
“The truth, lady. Why did you lie to us?” I asked in a cold voice.
“Let my mother go!” the boy screamed out as Ping grabbed his waist and pinned him on the floor of the carriage.
The woman whimpered in pain as I twisted her arm further up her back.
“Let my mother go! She had nothing to do with this! We were just following orders!” the boy shouted as he struggled to free himself from Ping’s grip.
“Whose orders?” Ping asked as he cuffed the boy across his head.
The boy kept silent as he continued to thrash about.
I applied more pressure on the woman’s arm and gritted my teeth as she let out a fresh howl of pain.
“The man in the cloak! Please! Let my mother go! I’ll tell you everything! Don’t hurt her!” the boy cried out in panic as he watched his mother’s face twist in agony.
“You will tell us everything immediately, or your mother will lose her right arm forever,” I threatened murderously.
“A… a man dressed in a black cloak approached my mother and I this morning while we were selling fruits in the market. He said he had a job for us and he would reward us handsomely. All we had to do was to distract two guards and lead them away from the town. Please sir, we meant no harm. Please, my baby sister is at home sick, we… we really needed the money, please let my mother go. Punish me instead…” the boy sobbed and pleaded.
“What did the man look like?” Ping asked frostily
“I… I don’t know. He had a hood on and didn’t show his face to us…”
“Was there anything special that you noticed?” I pryed.
The boy shook his head.
“His… his hand…” the boy’s mother whimpered as I lifted the pressure on her slightly.
“He had an extra finger on his right hand. I only saw it for a brief second when he passed some money to my son, but I swear it was an extra finger,” she cried out.
Ping looked up towards me and ducked his head out of the window.
“Reverse the carriage! We’re going back to GongJu! MAKE IT FAST!” Ping shouted to the driver.
“If you still want your life, you’d better pray hard that our Young Master is alive and unscathed,” I warned the boy as he whimpered in fright.
A shudder ran through me as I slowly backed away from those eyes. I had never seen such a sight in my life; blood-red eyes set in a face that was as white as death. The rest of him was shrouded in a black cape that contrasted sharply with his face, making it almost glow in the night.
“Who are you? Why are you following us?” I asked as I tightened my grip on my sword.
The man narrowed his eyes in response and to my surprise, took a step back. I grabbed my sword in response and with a smooth tug, sliced the cloth that concealed it.
“Talk! Who are you and why are you following us?” I asked again as I pointed my sword towards him.
Once again, the man kept silent and slowly backed away.
“Young Master! Above you!” Ker cried out suddenly in alarm.
I whipped my head in response and using my sword, blocked the attack that came from above. The attacker landed gracefully on his feet using his hand as a support and leapt for my throat. This time, I was ready. Turning my sword smoothly around in my hand, I dodged the attacker’s attack and drove the sword swiftly into the man’s body.
Pulling the sword quickly out of the still-warm body, I glanced up and realized that the red-eyed creature had long disappeared.
“Ker!” I shouted as she came to my side holding a long wooden stick.
“What’s that for?” I asked baffled as I pointed to the stick.
“To fight!” She said in a matter-of-fact tone as she eyed the body in disgust.
I eyed her stick once more in wonder before grabbing her wrist and breaking into a run. The creature was dangerous and he had men who came to kill. We had somehow managed to find trouble along the way and being in a deserted area was of no help. I ran from one street to the next, following my gut instinct, dragging Ker along with me.
“Young Master!” Ker cried out breathlessly.
“Slow down! We won’t be able to last long if we continue at this pace!” She panted.
She’s right, I thought as I felt my legs slow down at her request. Turning yet into another corner, I found myself at the steps of an abandoned monastery.
“What is with this place? A ghost town?” I muttered to myself as we paused at the steps of the towering monastery.
A slight breeze blew from the south carrying scattered dead leaves along with it. Shivering slightly as the leaves touched my cheek, I looked around for the creature and paled.
Staring down at us from the rooftops were around twenty ninjas dressed in black. Judging from their positions, it was as if they were waiting for us to arrive. I looked into each pair of lifeless eyes through their masks and took a tentative step back.
As if that was their signal, the ninjas leapt into the air and landed on the ground. Before we could take another step, they had formed a circle around us, trapping us like deer.
We were outnumbered twenty to two. Twenty trained, deadly killers against a surpised Prince and a maid.
Twenty swords against one and a miserable stick.
The outcome was not promising.
The ninjas raised their swords into the air and ran full speed towards us in perfect synchronisation. I grabbed Ker by the shoulders and swung my sword towards the approaching three ninjas. Hooking my sword with theirs, I twisted it sharply and wrenched their swords from their hands. As I turned to face the next onslaught, Ker was tugged out of my arms and before I could pull her back to my side, a forest of gleaming blades came between us.
Praying for her safety, I dodged the swords and turned to solve my own rather pressing problems first. A blade slashed painfully across my arm as I blocked an attack. Gritting my teeth in pain, I kicked the ninja in his genital area, hard. The ninja doubled up in pain as I aimed another blow at his head, knocking him onto the floor.
Glad I’m not that poor guy, I thought to myself as I turned and stabbed another ninja while flicking a random sword from the ground into my other hand using my foot.
Time for some action, I smiled, bent down and slashed the legs of the foolish two ninjas who ran straight into me. Scanning quickly around for Ker, I spotted her about a few hundred meters away. Wondering how she could possibly move so fast in such a short span of time, I dodged yet another ninja and agonizingly began to fight my way towards her.
When outnumbered by enemies, escape; then create a situation where you may fight one-on-one.
Nyx’s words echoed in my mind as I darted towards a small pathway and skidded to a stop. From the corner of my eye, I could see a group of ninja’s slowly advancing towards me. The eight of them crouched equidistant from each other creating an arc around me, swords aimed at my throat.
The Octagon. I smiled inwardly as I recognized their trademark formation. Another shadow assassin group, just like the Daughters of Nyx. Likewise notorious in the underworld, famous for their Power of Eight, an attack that involves eight people of similar physique, strength and speed and eight deadly strikes. How they found out about Prince Yunho, I have no idea, but no one was going to kill him. Not on my watch. Killing him is my job.
They were silent and observant, waiting for the slightest movement to initiate their attack. I gripped the long stick in my hand hard and held my breath.
Now! I screamed silently in my head and gave a bloodcurdling cry as a distraction. Driving the stick into the ground, I used it as a pivot and flipped myself into the air, over their heads, catching them by surprise. Landing gracefully a few feet away from The Octagon, I sprinted towards to the small pathway on my right.
I need a way to break their formation, I thought as I glanced quickly around the small alleyway while straining my ears for the light patter of footsteps. I turned a corner and stopped momentarily at the lagoon that faced me.
Perfect, I thought and leapt down the steps towards the lone boat. Pulling a small dagger hidden from under my jacket, I sliced the ropes that held the small boat to the jetty and jumped onto it. A scatter of light taps followed as I pushed the oars fiercely with both arms. Under the dim moonlight, I could see the flitter of shadows that materialized along the bank of the lagoon.
Only two or three people are able to fit on this small boat. They have no choice but to attack one-on-one if they want to take me down. The same thought seemed to flow through them as one ninja jumped and landed squarely in front of me. The hollow dark eyes held no trace of emotion as they viewed mine silently; cautiously.
A flutter of wings; a curious bat had come to the open to enjoy the cool night.
The Ninja moved, so fast that his motion was a blur. I reacted on instinct; killer instinct. Crashing the base of the oar into the hilt of his sword with my left hand, I drove the small dagger deep into his heart with my right. I could feel the strong pulse of his heart through the sliver of contact my skin made with his punctured skin; then the warm gush of dark liquid that flowed freely down my arm as I pulled the dagger out with lightning speed. It was an instant kill, quick and painless.
Those same blank eyes widened in shock for an instant before they dulled to a deathly black. I pushed the still-warm body into the shadowy waters and waited for the next Ninja to act.
Well there’s my cover as an innocent maid gone; I need to be extra careful from here on. As that thought crossed my mind, two Ninjas leapt into the air and landed on the small boat, sandwiching me in the middle.
“KER!” Prince Yunho’s voice called out urgently. I whipped my head in the direction his voice and saw the anxiety in his eyes as he stood above the steps, a blade stained with red glistening in his hand.
Prince Yunho must not know of my fighting abilities, I thought and leapt towards the Ninja on my right, narrowly missing his sword as it sliced through a section of my hair. It was a dangerous bet and I was counting on the lightness of the boat as both the Ninja and I fell into the dark waters, capsizing the boat at the same time. The Octagon were all about the same size and weight, therefore by putting more weight on one side of the boat, there was a good chance that it would capsize, especially for such a small and light boat. It would be harder for Prince Yunho to witness the fight underwater and he had the other five Ninjas on shore to take care of.
The icy water assaulted my skin like thousands of needles as I struggled to rip the sword out of the Ninja’s hand. His grip was strong and I was too engrossed to see the fist aimed for my stomach, causing me to lose a precious amount of air.
Think Ker! Strategize! I thought blindly in my head as I grabbed his fist, aimed a kick at his genital area and pulled his arm towards his back, locking it with one of my arms. The Ninja doubled up with pain and that few precious seconds gave me time to drag my dagger down his back.
I need air! I thought as I used the body as a propeller and kicked off him, away from the warm pool of water.
A sudden flash of darkness above me caught my attention. Like a bad dream, the gleam of a sword was fast approaching my face and with a sudden rush of adrenaline, I did a somersault and clamped the blade between my legs, inches away from my face. Holding the blade with both hands, I kicked with both of my feet and smashed my foot right into the Ninja’s face. Flipping the blade with both hands, I pulled it clean from the Ninja’s grip and aimed it back towards him.
My brain was screaming for air and my movements were slow and groggy. A pair of hostile hands grabbed my neck and squeezed, hard. Blots of darkness blurred my vision as I fumbled with the insides of my jacket for my dagger.
I can’t die! I won’t! Wake up! I screamed in my head and slammed the dagger into the Ninja’s face.
The hands did not loosen, nor did they tighten. Prying the cold fingers away from my neck with the last ounce of strength I had, I kicked towards the silhouette of the moon.
Fresh air. I cried out inwardly as my head broke the surface of the water. Taking great gulps of air, I closed my eyes in relief – not yet; there’s still more, I thought as my aching lungs protested against the slow rhythmic breaths that I was taking.
I turned and saw Prince Yunho plunge his sword into the last standing ninja. He’s good, I admitted grudgingly.
Prince Yunho kicked the body aside and whirled towards the water, eyes wide and afraid. They landed on me for a fraction of a second and I could see the immediate relief before they glittered dangerously black.
Kicking wearily towards him, I slowly swam until I was right beneath him. Prince Yunho grabbed the collar of my jacket roughly and to my astonishment pulled me out of the water with his hands.
“WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING?” He shouted; his anger lashed out with every word. It was the first time that I saw him in such a fury and for a second, I was almost afraid.
“YOU COULD HAVE DIED! AND IT WOULD HAVE BEEN MY FAULT! SHIT! KER!” Prince Yunho pushed me roughly onto the floor and ran his hands through his hair, a gesture that I later recognized as him trying to calm himself down.
He turned and glared at me; his eyes were still black with anger, grabbed my arms and pulled me to my feet.
“Here! Hold this. I don’t know, wave it around. Use it anyway you can to protect yourself,” His voice rumbled, still cracked with anger as he thrust one of the Ninja’s sword into my hand.
“Let’s go, it’s not safe here. Can you walk?” He asked, slightly less aggravated as he stared at my neck.
Nodding, I followed him silently as he led the way, away from the monastery.
I couldn’t understand the intense emotion that he showed, couldn’t understand the fury that had possessed him. We had survived the fight, wasn’t that good enough? We were outnumbered and at a considerable disadvantage, yet against all odds we had defeated them. Then why the anger?
Once again, this man has baffled me.
“Haha! You should have seen the way that lass was looking at me, all lovey dovey. Like as if I would go for such an ugly creature.”
“Did you hear about the new maids? The three chicks? I heard that they’re the Princes’ favourites now.”
“If you had a gorgeously beautiful girl with a hot body to cater to your every whim, I don’t see why you wouldn’t favour her.”
“HAHA! Agreed! I wish I could get a closer glimpse of them, anyone of them would do. But they’re always either with the Princes, or nowhere to be found.”
“Just a glimpse, my lad? Nothing … more?”
More raucous laughter.
I clenched my fists hard. To think that I have to stoop so low to communicate with these barbarians. Men that are not even worth mentioning; men that ought to be crushed. It was so tempting to slice their throats. It would be very simple, a single slash would do. I thought as I imagined the satisfying feel of their warm blood on my hands. However, I had a mission to accomplish and I needed these idiots.
Patting my hair into place, I shook my head to clear my mind, smiled and stepped into the light.
“Talking about me, boys?” I asked, my voice low and husky.
The four burly soldiers looked up in shock and I noted with amusement the dumbstruck look that all four of them had on their faces.
Men, they’re all the same.
I had made a few improvements on the usual plain, dark maid’s uniform. With a new low neckline and vest that hugged the curves of my waist, it was little wonder that their eyes rested on my chest.
“May I sit here?” I asked flirtatiously as the youngest looking soldier blushed deep red at being caught staring. I could still see traces of puppy fat on his face as he looked up adoringly towards me.
I sat down slowly, shaking out my hair as I did so like it was the most natural thing in the world, allowing the sensual scent to permeate the air. The soldiers closest to me caught their breaths.
“So… I’ve been hearing some… stories…” I said lightly as I traced the rim of the nearest wine cup with my finger. “Care to share?” I asked and gazed into the eyes of the soldier opposite me.
The soldier’s mouth opened slightly as he stared stupidly back towards me. His eyes took on a sudden wild gleam as he smiled widely, an act that made his square face and toad eyes even more unbearable to the sight.
Freezing my smile, I glanced around the table and was relieved to find that the other three soldiers were at least more tolerable to the eyes. The soldier on the left smiled hesitantly as I rested my eyes on him. Smooth skinned and tan, he was the better looking one out of the four.
“It’s indeed an honor to have one of the Prince’s personal maids to join our drinking circle,” the soldier on the right said as he passed an extra cup to me. His large callused hand brushed mine for a fraction of a second as he caught my eye and smiled. I returned his smile seductively as I stared into the round pudgy face, imagining the look of pure terror it would hold if I held my mace before him now.
“What honor indeed. What brings you here milady, and at such a late hour?” toad eyes asked as he sipped his wine with an unmistakably guarded look.
I pursed my lips in response and tutted.
“Can’t a girl have fun sometimes? Especially when she has such good companions, with wine to boost,” I smiled and raised my cup.
The soldiers looked hesitantly at one another. Toad eyes smiled first and raised his cup to join mine before the other three soldiers followed suit.
“To the Princes,” I smiled sweetly as emptied the contents of the cup in one shot.
“To the Princes,” the soldiers echoed.
“Mmmm… this is good sake. Not from the Prince’s personal wine cellar I hope?” I asked sweetly as I beckoned for my cup to be refilled.
“Of course not, it is purely for the indulgence of the Four Mayors of the castle. I’m sure you’ve heard of our name before, being so … connected of course,” Toad eyes replied slowly as he poured more sake into my cup.
I shook my head and gave them an innocent look. I have of course heard of the Four Mayors, the kings of gossip amongst the lowest of all soldiers; yet, being so insignificant they knew every nook and cranny of the castle, knew every dirty little secret that nobles and officials held. In simpler terms as Pansy had kindly informed me, they were the ones to look for if you wanted information.
“Do pardon my ignorance. I haven’t made the right connections yet and would like to be acquainted with such an honorable group,” I said, sipping my wine ever so daintily.
Smiling, I placed my cup gently on the table.
“As an apology for not having heard of the Four Mayors, how about a round of drinking games?” I asked, giving a challenging look towards the four earnest looking faces.
I was rewarded with their mocking smiles as the table was cleared. Two sets of dice and wooden cups were brought to the table and I waited patiently as the youngest soldier sat opposite me.
“Rule of the game. Whoever has the lowest set of numbers wins,” Toad eyes said as he placed a set of dice and a wooden cup in front of me, “Loser has to drink a full cup.”
“Why don’t we raise the stakes a little? I play once with each person and if I win all, you each have to fulfil my request. If I lose in one game, just one, you can each request something from me,” I said as I casually twisted a lock of hair with my finger.
The four soldiers looked at each other with identical disbelieving grins on their faces.
“You’re on, girly,” Toad eyes said, jeering as he slapped the young soldier on the back.
“We’re counting on you, Ji-yong,” he said and took a seat.
“Right… ladies first then?” Ji-yong said his voice surprisingly low and strong for such a baby face.
I shrugged indifferently and picked up the wooden cup. Scooping the dice with the cup, I twirled it expertly in the air and slammed it on the table before raising my eyebrows at my opponent. He grinned wolfishly and mimicked my motion, circling the cup high above his head before bringing it down onto the table.
“Showtime,” Toad eyes said excitedly as he rubbed both hands together.
“Six points!” The fat soldier said as Tom lifted his cup.
“Five points!” The fat soldier said disbelievingly as I raised my cup.
“Beginners luck,” I smiled sweetly as I motioned for Mr Tan-skinned to take a seat.
I watched amused as one by one, the soldiers lost, all by a mere point. It was simple really. Men had three great loves: women, drinking and gambling. I believe I have plenty reason to be confident in the women department and all the Daughters of Nyx were trained to have an abnormally high alcohol tolerance. But gambling, gambling is so often overlooked. It is as much a game of skill as it is of luck. Nothing makes a man so amusingly flustered as losing to a girl, nothing wounds their ego so much either. Once their guard is down, they are putty in my hands. I smirked. To become the ultimate femme fatale, I had overlooked nothing. Few people indeed have won over me in gambling, and certainly, none who lived to tell the tale.
“AHA! Two points!” Toad eyes leapt up in joy as he threw his cup aside.
“You can’t possibly beat that! It’s the lowest score!” The fat soldier grinned as he pointed towards the two red dots that faced us.
“We win! HAHA!” the youngest soldier laughed.
“Not so fast” I smiled as I rested my fingers on my cup.
Lifting it an inch from the table, I took a small peek and smiled.
One dice on top of the other, it was the lowest possible score – one point.
I am backk!!! Yes! After SUCH a long time:) Sorry for the super long wait!!! Hope you all enjoyed the chapter:) and comments would be loved!!
Randomness… I want a pig rabbit!!<3