Author's Note: Okay, this bit is the last bit I have of this story. It was never published, because it's an unfinished chapter - and frankly, just a bit of filler. Just putting it here for anyone who's interested, but otherwise, thanks for reading! :)
Chapter 18 - A Love Story
Bai Ji and Ping Ping looked at the familiar faces in surprise, before remembering what they had to do. Placing a finger on his lips to signal silence, Bai Ji quickly went to close the window whilst Ping Ping blew out the candle lights. They huddled in silence until a rumpus was heard outside. Soon sounds of many footsteps trampling closer and closer filled the atmosphere, and huddling beside Ping Ping, Xiao Yan Zi could feel the shivers' running through the latter's body.
"Please help us, please…" begged Ping Ping, kneeling down before Yong Qi and Xiao Yan Zi. Understanding the situation, Xiao Yan Zi wasted no time in pondering. Opening the closet to the side, she quickly cleared out the garments and pushed it all under the bed.
"Quick, hide in there," she ordered Bai Ji and Ping Ping, helping them in before snapping the door shut. Taking the hint, Yong Qi quickly pulled Xiao Yan Zi over to the bed and tucked her in before lying down besides her.
"Our lights are out, we need to look less suspicious," he whispered in her ear, "When they come in, look surprised, like you've just been woken out of sleep."
"I know, I know!" exclaimed Xiao Yan Zi indignantly, "You don't need to tell me! I could even act out Xiang Fei turning into a butterfly, why worry about,"
"Shush, they're coming," cut off Yong Qi. The couple quickly shut they eyes and waited in anticipation.
SLAM! The door flung open with a shocking noise, causing Xiao Yan Zi and Yong Qi to both jump up from their bed.
"Search everywhere…I know they entered this room!" came He Ping's voice, as men began to rush into the room.
"Wait, wait, wait! What do you think you are doing?" scolded Xiao Yan Zi, using wu gong to push the two men out the room again, "what's the meaning of coming into our room like this and waking us up at this hour!" she demanded.
"Well…if it isn't you two again, I knew there was something suspicious about you two this afternoon. Speak up quickly, where have you hidden them, or else I won't hesitate to use force!" barked He Ping when he recognized Xiao Yan Zi and Yong Qi.
"What do you mean suspicious! I should be the one asking you that question! Barging into our room like that! I was so scared, my heart nearly jumped out, and you're still barking at me accusing us of hiding something! Why would we want anything of yours?" Xiao Yan Zi yelled back, clutching her fists ready to fight if necessary.
"This is our room which we paid for, you have no right to enter it without our permission!" put in Yong Qi, helping Xiao Yan Zi in blocking the entrance.
"What's all the noise? Xiao Yan Zi, Yong Qi, who are these people?" asked a gruff voice of authority from behind the crowd of He Ping's men.
"Huang…Lao Ye…these people came into our room and woke us up! And now they're accusing us of hiding something from them! My arm hurts and I just managed to get to sleep mah, Dai Fu said that I needed rest…how am I supposed to rest with them barging in here like this!" complained Xiao Yan Zi, running up besides Qian Long to sulk on his shoulder. Qian Long soothingly patted her back, and held her beside himself.
"Mister, I am simply searching for my sister, Ping Ping. A man kidnapped her from our home today, and we saw him dragging her into this room. We believe they are hiding in there," said He Ping, seeing that Qian Long looked like a figure of high authority. Qian Long looked at Xiao Yan Zi suspiciously, but she stared innocently back…too innocent in fact, that Qian Long knew at once that this Ping Ping must actually be hidden inside that room. However, trusting the fact that Yong Qi was also in on the plan, he decided to help Xiao Yan Zi and Yong Qi with their story for the moment.
"I know you wish to find your sister, but my people have no reason to hide them inside. Also, if your sister was kidnapped as you say, I do not see any sign of a struggle occurring in that room either. My daughter is unwell today, and she needs sufficient rest. I do hope that she is able to do that without disturbances," he said, signaling the men away. He Ping and his men however, stayed put.
"We met this morning, we even exchanged fists," he said, beckoning to Yong Qi, "I have sufficient reason to believe that your people would hide my sister inside there."
Qian Long raised a brow at this knowledge, looking questioningly at Yong Qi.
"Lao Ye, we told you about him…he's the brother of the lady that they were trying to wed off," whispered Xiao Yan Zi in his ear. Qian Long nodded in thought.
"So you're the people that caused injury to my daughter…that still doesn't prove that they would hide your sister into their room," said Qian Long sternly.
"If they have nothing to hide, then they have nothing to be afraid of us looking in their room," accused He Ping, before turning to his men, "Search!" The men rushed into the room after He Ping, turning the place upside down, pulling the mattress off the bed, rearranging the tables, breaking vases, and unpacking Yong Qi and Xiao Yan Zi's neatly tied luggage. He Ping was about to open the closet when Xiao Yan Zi quickly rushed before him and barred his way.
"You…you can't look in there…" she stuttered, lifting both arms to block him. He Ping however, paid no attention.
"Out of the way," he stated before forcefully pushing her to the side, causing her to fall to the ground with a bang.
"Xiao Yan Zi!" cried Yong Qi rushing forward to help her up. However, she pushed him away and quickly went to block the closet door again.
"You can't look in there," she said again, looking straight into He Ping's eyes. "It's…it has many spiders and cockroaches…if you look in there and they all come out, how am I supposed to sleep tonight!" she fumed.
"Spiders, Cockroaches, who are you lying to?" scolded He Ping reaching out to tightly grab her arm. As he reached just where she had previously been hurt, she gasped in pain and bit her lip to hold back her tears. "Rang kai! (Out of the way)," he shouted, pulling her away from the closet door. "If anyone stops me, I'll break her arm!" Before anyone was able to make the next move, He Ping had already managed to kick the closet door wide open, only to be greeted with an empty space. Xiao Yan Zi's eyes widened in shock, and was about to speak up when she saw Yong Qi's eyes darting towards her telling her stay silent.
"That's quite enough!" spoke up Qian Long. "Mister, as you can see, your sister is not hiding inside my children's room. Tonight you have already barged in here, woken up my people, and even dared to threaten my daughter! I think it's about time you left, or I won't hesitate to take you to court."
"Humph," grunted He Ping in defeat, before signaling his men out. Darting his eyes one more time around the room to check that there were no signs of Bai Ji and Ping Ping, He gave Yong Qi one final death stare before he too exited the room.
"Well?" beckoned Qian Long when Bai Ji disappeared from view. "I think you owe me an explanation," he said, looking particularly at Xiao Yan Zi.
Pouting, Xiao Yan Zi pitifully nursed her sore arm and snuggled up to Yong Qi, who wrapped his arms caringly around her.
"Lao Ye, they were hiding inside the closet…but I don't know how they disappeared," answered Yong Qi for her.
"They?" beckoned Qian Long. "As in this Bai Ji and Ping Ping?"
Xiao Yan Zi nodded, biting her lip in anticipation for the scolding. However, upon seeing her devastated look, Qian Long's heart softened.
"I'll just have to turn a blind eye to this one then I guess…but remember our promise Xiao Yan Zi. We wouldn't want to run against schedule again!" he chuckled, reaching out to pat her shoulder. Seeing her holding her arm, Qian Long frowned again.
"That man was particularly nasty…I do wish that I shall not have to see him here again. Is that clear?" he asked to the obedient nods of Xiao Yan Zi and Yong Qi. "As for you…" continued Qian Long looking at Xiao Yan Zi, "Do you need Dai Fu to look at that?"
Xiao Yan Zi grinned at Qian Long's concern, quickly forgetting her woes and running up to give her father a hug.
"I'm alright Die, you're so great! You were so majestic looking when you were telling off He Ping! Just like that saying…what men what tall?" she blabbered happily. Seeing the happy Xiao Yan Zi, Qian Long gave once last chuckle, stroked Xiao Yan Zi's cheek and bid the couple goodnight before heading out the door.
"And don't sleep too late now, whatever matter it is that you have to attend to…" he added from the door, giving Xiao Yan Zi a wink. Xiao Yan Zi shot him another look of complete innocence before closing the door after him.
"Bai Ji? Ping Ping? Where are you guys?" she asked as soon as the door was shut. "It's safe to come out now! Bai Ji? Ping Ping?"
A muffle was suddenly heard from underneath the bed, and before long, Bai Ji had struggled out gently pulling Ping Ping with him.
"How did you guys move to there?" Xiao Yan Zi asked incredulously, her eyes widening to the size of walnuts.
Bai Ji stood up and brushed himself off. After offering a hand to Ping Ping who also stood up, he turned to Yong Qi and placed both his fists together in a sign a respect.
"I do not think we have properly introduced ourselves," he said, "my name is Bai Ji, this is Ping Ping."
"Ai Qi," answered Yong Qi, "and my wife Xiao Yan Zi."
"You still haven't answered my question? Wow, it's so cool! How did you guys move there? You must have great martial arts skills! Fancy a fight off? I've been working hard on my wu gong too!" piped Xiao Yan Zi as she raced off to stand beside Yong Qi and involve herself into the conversation.
Bai Ji stared silently at the bubbly child-like girl before him, but the look didn't faze Xiao Yan Zi as she continued to speak away.
"Well, can we? And why does He Ping hate you anyways? He is sure a mean man! I think he nearly broke my arm!"
"Xiao Yan Zi," Yong Qi spoke up quietly, gently gripping her shoulder to signal her to be quiet.
"It's okay, Master Ai," rose Ping Ping's sweet gentle voice. "Bai Ji, I think if anything, we owe these people an explanation. They saved us tonight, and we are in debt to them."
Bai Ji simply nodded whilst Ping Ping continued.
"We are originally from the west, an area where the desert and sand is endless. Our families were located in neighboring regions, and for as long as I can remember, I have always been told not to have anything to do with the Bai family. I don't know what happened, I don't even suppose father knows what happens, our animosity has spanned so many generations. I only know that once the Li family and the Bai family was united as a kingdom, but one betrayed the other and hence causing our spilt."
Ping Ping paused and beckoned for Bai Ji to continue.
"I was also told the same since childhood. I was taught that the Li's were our enemy, and I was trained in Martial arts for the purpose of defending ourselves against them. I believe that He Ping was also trained for the same purpose," said Bai Ji and Ping Ping nodded in confirmation. "I never considered why I must hate the Li's, I just did. Until the day I met Ping Ping…
Bai Ji's family and my family were once good friends, and I was betrothed to him no sooner the moment I was born. As children, we were always together, roaming the endless sandy plains, in a way that only our people know how. Back then, life was simple. I was to grow up, and be wed to Bai Ji, there was nothing else to consider, nothing else that needed thinking over…"
Ping Ping paused at this point, and reached out to hold Bai Ji's hand, sighing softly.
"Then one day, I think I was eight at the time, my parents announced that we were forbidden to see each other ever again. I never quite understood what happened between our families, but from that day forward, Bai Ji's family never visited us, nor we them. Every time a Bai was mentioned, father would treat it like it was a dirty word, and mother…mother would weep. But I continued to find Bai Ji despite my parent's orders. We had a secret place far beyond the dunes, a tiny sanctuary that we discovered one day on our wanderings…and we met there, every day if we could. As we grew, our feelings for each other grew as well."
Ping Ping choked back a tear, staring deeply into Bai Ji's eyes. Bai Ji reached up and gently wiped it from her cheeks, his expression softening dramatically from his normal tough demeanor.
"Until I became of age," continued Ping Ping after calming down. "The year I was to turn eighteen, the year I had been promised to Bai Ji. I always wondered about my betrothal in all the years our families were against each other, but father never mentioned it anymore. And then the week before I was about to be of age, father suddenly broke the news that we were going to travel to the city…travel to here. I cried, I begged them, I refused them, but it was to no use. That night, father drugged me, and when I woke up, I was already miles away from our home. All I could think of at that point was Bai Ji…we never even had the chance to say goodbye."
Xiao Yan Zi stared wide-eyed at the couple before her…a mixture of sadness for the tragic tale, and also excitement as she found herself once again wrapped up in an adventurous story with two interesting people to help. "Yong Qi, doesn't that sound a little like Xiang…"
"Shush!" silenced Yong Qi, not trusting the couple enough to reveal their identities yet, "Please…continue…" he said to Ping Ping, wanting to find out more of what they had gotten themselves involved with.
"I should take the story from here," announced Bai Ji, "After He family left, just before I about to be wed to Ping Ping, I went off in anger to confront my parents. For years, I had lived an obedient child, I never questioned them when they told me that I was not to see Ping Ping again, but that day, I allowed my anger to consume me, and I fought with them until they would tell me what happened between our families."
"You know?" gasped Ping Ping.
Bai Ji nodded. "Yes, I do, but it didn't make me love you any less."