Chapter 1. The Brotherhood of Red Pine.
-In the end…I reveal you my secret technique…Remember: do not disappoint me, your master…
-Lin Xing just opened his eyes, did not understand what happened. There was an old man shrouded in antique clothes. He writhed in pain; his hands clutched a yellow folio. With these words, the old man gave him the book and drew his last breath.
There was a hope in the eyes of the old man, his emaciated withered hands dropped lifeless; he lost his remnants of the forces. His eyes were wide open and closed no longer.
Lin Xing froze next to his bed. He still could not understand what happened.
-Master! Suddenly, a shrill cry came behind him.
There was a young woman in a long yellow dress with hair gathered in a ponytail across from Lin Xing. Crying away, she ran to the body of an old man screaming.
Lin Xing began to recover gradually. He turned around and found himself in a small wooden room. Brown walls, made from a heap of somehow cut down trees were everywhere. There was a scent of wood mixed with a pungent odor of Chinese medicines inside.
-Brother…-a quiet and tender voice called Lin Xing behind him. He heard the plaintive sobs.
He turned around and saw a brother with a sister with very similar appearances. They wore the same gray dress of old Chinese sample – with no buttons and buckles, with a belt on a waist.
There was only one question in head of Lin Xing: “What the hell is going on?”
His head became as wooden and his mind froze in numbness. He clearly remembered that a minute ago he was in front of his table and drank tea, chatted with friends, sat next to his computer. Then he was drawn into a dream, he leaned over the table in a hope of a little nap.
And suddenly, the next second he appeared in that unimaginable place.
-What do we do now? The stoned gazes of the boy and the girl made them look silly.
Lin Xing grabbed his head. He refused to understand what happened there.
He pulled out a finger and pointed to himself.
-What is my name?
The kids started blinking quickly.
-You are our elder brother!
-I ask you! What is my name?
-Lin Xing Zhu!
He didn’t even expect that! He felt that his brainpan was going to explode!
-What happened, brother? –The girl was surprised by the thing that happened with a senior in learning.
-Its…alright. –Lin Xing mumbled weakly, -I want to be alone for a while.
Stunned, he headed to the exit. Was that a prank, a movie, was he a character of some kind of play? Lin Xing stepped over the high doorstep that split the falling rays of the sun in half. The golden light blinded.
There he saw the inner square-shaped yard. In the middle of the yard grew old low pine. The sun came through fine thin needles; they swayed in wind like golden grains of sand.
There was a light breeze. Lin Xing froze and slowly looked down at himself from top to bottom. At his surprise, he found that he was dressed in a kind of black monastic robe. His hair was tied in a bun, decrepit winding tied up his feet. A belt that used to be white before was worn and dirty.
-What is this…this is unbelievable...-He squatted down holding his head. Lin Xing frantically tried to understand what on the earth happened to him, but everything was messed up in his head, so he could not bring his thoughts in order.
His own memories, the memories of a man in whose body he was, everything mixed up in a pile, as flour in the paste.
He heard moans and cries behind him. His brother and sister in learning, as they called themselves, mourned their elder teacher in hysterics. Gradually, Lin Xing began to organize everything that happened in front of him in his head.
So, his real name - Lin Xing Zhu. He was a son of a wealthy merchant of the settlement at the foot of the mountain, a young master and senior student in that community of martial arts, where he studied since childhood. His father was still alive; his mother had already left that world. He had an uncle that worked in the public service.
But that was not the most important. He realized that the main thing was that the world he was in was not like the world he was before.
No memories of cars, planes, even of electricity remained in his head. All his memory was erased, there was nothing left.
Now he sat in the inner yard of a school of martial arts of the Brotherhood of the red pine that was atop of the mountain. The city of red pine at its foot was the place where he grown up. Since childhood and until that moment only that city remained in his memory, the most distant place where he been to, was the city of Hai Xu a hundred li away from there. It was wilderness around, except the mountain there was also a dense forest with endless amount of wild predators.
With absolutely no understanding, Lin Xing had a hard time to realize a situation he was in. He didn’t dare to believe for a few days, he was tormenting in doubts, he wandered aimlessly in search of something that might help him. At last, he finally resigned to the situation, there was no way back.
A couple of days passed. Four disciples buried the body of the deceased according to his will in the back yard of the cemetery. There were only four of them left in the Brotherhood of Red Pine. So they began to live together.
Gradually, he got used to everything that was around him.
Their brotherhood was called “The Brotherhood of Red Pine”, that was a totally busted community of learning of martial arts, which, as people said, had a very interesting story.
The brother and sister that seemed silly to Ling Xing were named Lu Yun and Lu Yu. The old man sheltered them in childhood, educated them and they grew up there. Although they didn’t have a great talent, they were extremely devoted to the old man and their deeds.
Another pupil, An Ying was a native of the mountain village; she came there to study martial arts. An Ying was in good relationship with her master, had an elegant appearance and a great talent. She was the strongest and skilled among the students, got involved in a fight at every opportunity. She reached the perfection in red pine style fencing. When the fight began, she was always among the first hitters. Her temper was a little reckless and she relied only on her sword to solve all her problems. Often, her relatives rescued her from troubles, paid a loan for her; it seemed that she got into the Brotherhood only by a happy coincidence.
Speaking of Lin Xing Zhu, his ability in fencing was mediocre, he slightly exceeded Lu Yun. Without the financial support of his family which provided the life of community, he would never become a senior student there.
It was six days since he got to that world.
He was in his room and studied local language. Suddenly he heard noise at the door. Then someone kicked it sharply.
-Brother, we have visitors! From the Brotherhood of Cross-Sword! –Lu Yun alerted.
-Cross-Sword…Lin Xing was confused. He remembered – that was a small martial brotherhood located in mountains nearby. –Why did they come? –he put down his book. Deep inside, he felt that something was wrong.
-Do not expect anything good from them! –Lu Yun worried. He lashed to Lin Xing and started pulling his off his place.
-Where is An Ying? –Lin Xing did not move, he sat on his chair stone-still.
-She’s gone! She said to conduct negotiations! –Lu Yun saw that he was in no hurry to get up and yelled
-Why don’t you move?
-Coming! –Lin Xing showed softness, he used to live in civilized society and was not yet prepared for such a turn of events. He remained calm as much as possible, but his hands gripped the chair with a stranglehold.
At that moment he heard voices and footsteps at the door. It looked like a few men gathered at the entrance.
-Where is the head of Red Pine, old Song Ye? –I am Ho Heng Dao, you injured people from our community last month. How do you think, should we discuss it today?
-Discuss? Sword of the elder – that is our answer! –An Ying’s voice swept sharply, and then the noise and sounds of clanging weapons impacted. To everyone’s surprise, a fight started.
-She got into a fight! Faster, brother, faster! –Lu Yun started crying.
-Already fighting? Goddamn it! Without a discussion and instantly into a fight, that’s too much! –Lin Xing felt the strong beating of his heart. –In the old movies, people announce their names first before a fight…-everything mixed up in his head but he struggled to remain calm.
-Don’t be nervous, -he heard that his voice was trembling. –We will go out a bit later and… surprise attack them…
-No, brother! I am too afraid for my sister! I am afraid that she overdoes it and will kill someone! –Lu Yun burst into tears
-Hurry up, do not loiter! Only now you can pull her away from the fight, hurry up until it’s too late! –Lu Yun was so nervous that he started sweating.
-Damn it! –Thousand curses flown in Lin Xing’s head.
Noise and rattling gradually subsided outside; sometimes an eerie cry was heard. Lu Yun barely pulled Lin Xing outdoors.
There was a terrible mess inside the yard, three healthy warriors lied on the ground and An Ying was fighting with a black-faced warrior. Their swords gleamed with silver sparks when they crossed.
These two fell back and attacked. They moved around the yard and finally a black-faced warrior stepped back gasping like a wounded bull:
-Alright, alright! An Ying is worth justifying, I agree with her victory today! Let’s go!
An Ying wore a tight green uniform, the black belt at her waist blinded. A blush appeared on her snow-white face, her forehead was covered in sweat. Years of training made her slim, her legs were long, and her figure was taut with a hair gathered in a neat ponytail. Although she gave an impression of elegant woman, it was well combined with the body of the athlete.
-You won’t go away easily! Seeing that the enemy wanted to escape, she frowned, a murderous look flashed in her eyes and she was about to step ahead to attack. But suddenly when she saw Lin Xing standing in the doorway, she stepped back, her eyebrows lowered and her face became tender.
-Oh, brother! You see, we are fighting, but it’s not because of me! They were first to raise a hand! –Both hands went down instantly and now she looked innocent.
-I..I…-Ho Heng Dao from the Brotherhood of Cross-Sword was bleeding. That girl attacked him, he had no time to say whatever he wanted, he just came to agree on a possible compensation and was drawn into a fight. Now he looked so pathetic!
Lin Xing looked at the dazzling steel sword, his heart was pounding. He felt that he was ready to fight, but witnessed that scene of battle and realized that he was too weak. In his heart, he knew that if he faces An Ying that seemed innocent or that black-faced student of the Brotherhood of Cross-sword, he would flee. In words he was the senior student, but in fact his martial art was not worth a penny.
Though he earned that title not for his skills that, frankly speaking, were equal to zero, but his family provided the whole community: all its members ate and drunk at his expense. Therefore, An Ying and Lu Yun respected his equally. Although he could not boast with his combat abilities, but the community maintenance was important for everyone.
-What do you want? –Ho Heng Dao lost the fight obviously and his face looked confused. At the same time, the students of the Cross-sword tried to get up, but limbs of some of them were cut, someone lacked the phalange. The faces were so pale, as if they suffered from internal bleeding; they spit blood on the ground.
Ho Heng Dao was well-aware of the Brotherhood of Red Pine and he thought that after death of the Elder he could easily get profit on them and didn’t expect to face such a strong rebuff! Was that little girl going to become a substitute for the old man?