Somewhere in Huzhou
Somewhere in Huzhou.
Examining his reflection in the mirror, he gently massaged his jet black muscles. It was a beneficial habit he took up. He didn’t need to massage himself at his level. Nevertheless, it was a habit he practiced since he was young. He always massaged himself after fighting and training for the same reason martial artists massaged themselves after strength conditioning. The massage served to promote blood circulation, in turn promoting recovery. Anecdotally, young beginners performed better thanks to post-training massages.
After massaging himself, he wore on a form-fitting black shirt beneath another form-fitting warrior robe over the top. In total, he wore three layers of clothing on his torso. The three layers didn’t look bulky. As a matter of fact, they were becoming on his physique. He adjusted his hair, revealing his masculine facial features in the mirror.
The striking man was the man who jumped Shen Yiren, captured Song Ou and Hong Jiu, Evil Spirits’ leader, Great Thief, Abels, a man of many legends.
Originally a member of Beijiang’s imperial family, Abels was forced to live on the run and turned to pilfering after his father’s younger brother usurped power and falsely incriminated his family. His uncle exterminated his family the year he turned thirteen. Thankfully, Abels devoted family vassal sacrificed his own son for Abels, protecting the latter’s lineage. The young master died that day. Abels was reborn as a small-time thief. Abels’ forged through a tempest to get to where he was.
Abels didn’t actually undertake official martial arts lessons. He observed martial artists from various schools then mimicked and analysed them until he could use them practically, resulting in him possessing a large database of techniques. During the early days of his martial arts quest, he was a snotty-nosed brat, lanky and frail against pugilists. One winter, he broke his ribs and gasped for dear life on the street curb. He ate leftovers wealthy families threw out; live no matter what it took, was his guiding principle.
At some point, people who knew Abels were astounded when they witnessed him excel in martial arts exponentially and rapidly. By no means was he a genius. Everyone, including his family and teacher, were privy he wasn’t the sort of talented boy who left deep impressions. If he had a talent, it would be not taking things to heart. He faced every challenge thrown his way with a smile that never wilted. In less than a year, he surpassed everyone else in his age bracket. The only person who could comprehend how it was possible was himself. He realised skills he stole via observation were skills he would never forget.
Later on, Abels ventured into the desert and began to study the secret martial arts manuals his late father left behind for him. After years of dedicated training and racking up experience in dozens of life-risking fights, his prowess reached an entirely new realm – the realm deemed the peak of martial arts.
The year he turned thirty-seven, Abels infiltrated the imperial palace. The unstoppable force tore through the enemy lines alone to take the head of Beijiang’s Tiezhen Kingdom’s monarch, his uncle. Correct, he single-handedly usurped the kingdom’s power and launched a new dynasty.
Abels had crossed an arctic where the ever-present cold was his nemesis and wastelands the cruel sun beat down on. His numerous journeys to hell and back forged him into the man he was.
Abels stared at the mirror and said in his mind, “I can’t wait to test this incredible weapon against the droves of enemies coming.”
The corner of Abels’ mouth tugged up into a confident smile unlike ever before…
A while ago.
Thanks to Abels’ rule, Hong Jiu and Song Ou weren’t considered slaves or abused until Shen Yiren returned to finish their undecided battle. Hence, despite Hong Jiu and Song Ou having their hands cuffed and being incarcerated in a room, they were fed three meals a day, so there wasn’t much worth crying about. At the end of the day, though, thieves were thieves.
River Monster and Mountain Monster lived and breathed the life of thieves. Knowing Song Ou’s wealthy family background, they badgered him – technically threatened to amputate his limbs, erase his martial arts skills, jam his bones, castrate him and so forth – until he conceded and agreed to write a letter home, requesting two hundred thousand for pocket money.
Nobody sympathised with poor Song Ou. He had been away from home for years. He had yet to woo Shen Yiren and marry her. He couldn’t make a name for himself as Liu Shan Men’s captain. His father gave him a harsh scolding the last time he visited home for his failure to establish himself. It would only be surprising if his father didn’t answer, “I don’t have twenty thousand, but you can offer your life.” Consequently, he had no appetite. He sighed and sighed, but he couldn’t sigh away his woes. As for Hong Jiu, well, he made himself at home. He merrily ate and drank everything offered.
A henchman delivered two bowls of cold rice and two cold sautéed cucumber dishes or something similar. Meat was a luxury they weren’t bestowed. The mere appearance of the food shut down Song Ou’s appetite, yet Hong Jiu wolfed down the food as if it didn’t just banish his hunger but also satisfied his palate.
“Deputy General Hong, how come you’re not worried when we’ve been detained for two days now?” grumbled Song Ou.
“Enlighten me as to what worrying would do. As you stated, we’ve been detained for two days. You spent two days worrying. How’s it working for you?”
Hong Jiu knew Song Ou didn’t want to eat. Thus, the former took the latter’s serve and ate the extra serve. Song Ou found Hong Jiu’s behaviour puzzling: “The food is so poor that I literally choke on it. How can you eat as if it tastes delicious?”
“Poor, you say?” grumbled Hong Jiu, shooting Song Ou a condescending gaze from his peripherals. “You rich kids don’t even know there are people freezing to death outside your doors while you’re enjoying your meat and wine. Back when I was a beggar, finding food that rat piss or mud contaminated or spoiled one every ten days was considered a blessing. If you’re complaining about food that tastes this good, you must never have been hungry before.”