A Trio Worth Fighting For: The Story of Ling, Yao and Chien Po

Chapter I: The Tale of Ling.

The Sun rose bright and splendid behind the mighty faces of the mountains. Dew was dripping from the beautiful spring grass and the air smelled of fresh rain from the heavens. A lanky young man, with shoulder length hair rose from his bed sheets as the first ray of sun pierced the valley, He let out a funny-sounding yawn as he stretched and rubbed the crust from his half open eyes. His name was Jiǎ Ling. "Ling!" He heard his mother call his name, "What is it?" He answered rather grouchily. "Remember your father is going to the market today, He has a big trading presentation today and He is hoping to make a lot of money." She answered softly. "Yeah, yeah okay." Ling replied. The Jiǎ family was a family similar to any other in these times. They were a well-respected family with deep roots within their village. Though they were always good with money, the times in which they were living were harsh. Money and food was scarce for the average peasant family and Jiǎ Zhang, Ling's father, was determined to get out of the difficult times and gain wealth and honour for his wife and only son. Zhang was a merchant and lately, business had been, slow, to say the least. But He had a great feeling about today and was in high spirits. Ling put on his garments and strolled into the kitchen. He was greeted by his father, a stern, tall man with a balding head. "Good morning Son!" He shouted happily as he grasped Ling in a happy stupor. Ling gasped for breath as his father twirled around the sitting room with Ling tight in his arms, his feet kicked in anticipation for solid ground. "Today, we meet our new life with pride, joy and dignity!" Zhang proclaimed. His voice was full of joy, A rare occasion indeed. He placed Ling on the ground, watching as he gasped for air. "I expect none of your usual Pranks today, I mean it Ling." He said rather sternly. "Yes, father" Ling replied sounding rather bored. "No, I really, REALLY mean it. No firecrackers, Cattle stampedes or runaway wagons today. Do I make myself clear?" His voice raised and his face was red with frustration. "Yes, yes sir!" Ling replied at once. "Good! Now, our glorious future waits." Zhang said merrily as he skipped out the door. Ling stared down at the floor with a glum face; He then looked to his mother. "Not even noon and he's already snapped at me, I'll never have his approval with anything", His mother placed a sympathetic hand on his forehead and brushed it through his hair. "He has been very frustrated lately Ling, You know that. If we don't get some money soon we'll lose our house, the horses and your fathers' career. Your father just wants what's best for all of us dear." She explained to him warmly. He gave her a slight smile. He was an awkward boy, He never had many skills and he was not physically intimidating. He was a joker more than anything, comedy was his own kingdom and he ruled that kingdom proudly. His father was what Ling considered a buzzkill, He never laughed and he spent most of his time talking about his trading, something Ling was never interested in one little bit. Zhang especially disapproved of Ling's antics, He wanted his son to be a great scholar and one day he might be able to work for the Emperor himself. Ling walked out into the sunlit courtyard of his home. The cherry blossoms were in full bloom at this time of the year, It was a beautiful sight indeed, But for Ling there was one sight more beautiful to him. He spotted her among the crowded village, The Love of his life; Lǐ Huan. She was paler than the moon, her eyes shined like stars and Ling was completely and utterly smitten. He gulped and walked towards her. He was completely unaware of the traffic in the street and walked right through the road, narrowly missing being run over by an ox-drawn carriage. She was standing next to a large hut and she was a rare sight, too beautiful for Ling to resist anyway as he approached her, smiling like a complete goofball whilst doing so. She caught sight of Ling and a look of surprise covered her face. He opened his mouth to speak, words barely coming out. "H-h-hi!" He stammered. "Oh, hello." She replied with curiosity. "I'm Ling, and it's an honour to meet you" He nerved up and spoke with a triumphant show-offish voice. "I-I'm.." She struggled to speak as well, "Lǐ Huan!" Ling answered quickly but by accident. "Oh you know me already?" "No, Well not properly anyway, I've seen you around a lot." He quickly recovered his composure. She giggled at his bumbling introduction, It seems she kind of liked him. Ling felt a swell of confidence and leaned on a large bamboo pole in an attempt at appearing laid back, slightly shifting it in the process. "Well Huan, It seems that you and I are getting to know each other easily, Why don't we get to know each other even more on a da-WHARGH!" The pole gave way and he fell to the ground with a thud. He was okay, but unfortunately the pole had a lantern hanging off of it, the lantern fell on top of a box of…..firecrackers! BOOOM! The firecrackers hit point blank into the nearby hut and set it ablaze. Ling's eyes widened in panic as the flames engulfed the hut, He heard screams from inside and a few people came running out before the entrance was finally blocked with debris. Suddenly Ling heard a shout for help, it was his father! Ling accidentally set his father's business on fire! "Hang in there father!" Ling shouted bravely as he ran through the wall of debris and flames into the hut. Outside the townsfolk were throwing buckets of water onto the hut to put the flames out, It was not working very well. The roof cracked and began to fall apart, Ling and his father ran out just in time for the roof to cave in. They both coughed smoke and Zhang gave his son a look of neither frustration nor rage, but disappointment. "What happened?" Zhang shouted at his cowering son. "Well I-I was…" "SILENCE!" Zhang overtook him. "You have ruined everything, brought dishonour to our family and shamed your own father!" He continued. "But it wasn't my fault.." Ling tried to defend himself, but to no avail. "Nothing in this world, or the next, could ever make a man out of YOU!" He screamed in anger at Ling and turned and walked away. Ling had a hurt look on his face, his father was right and he wasn't good enough for his family. If only there was some way to prove he can be a man and not make a fool of himself and his family. Huan placed a hand on his forearm and tried to comfort him, "You were brave to try and save your father" she said softly, But Ling brushed he arm off and walked off alone. He went to his favourite place in the village, the rock behind his house that he always sat on when he was alone or sad. "I can't do anything right, can I?" He asked himself out loud in shame, "Ancestors, please help me prove myself to my father!" He pleaded as tears streaked down his face. A sudden sound overtook the village, like the sound of marching cattle. 'DUM, DUM, DUM, DUM', The sound of drumming filled the air as a group of imperial stallions raced into the village square. Leading this group was a middle-aged man with an angry face and a long moustache. He saw the smoking rubble of the hut and spoke with a harsh tone in his voice "What happened here, Who is responsible for this?" "We had a little accident, nothing to worry about" Zhang replied. "I am Chi-Fu, Counsel to the Emperor himself and I bring news from the imperial city, The Huns have crossed the northern border into China!" the people gasped at this revelation, This meant one thing only; War! Chi-Fu continued explaining "One man from every household is required to join the Imperial army and fight for China, and for freedom." Chi-Fu began giving out conscription notices to every family, he eventually called out "The Jiǎ family!" Zhang went forth and took the notice from him. "You must report to the Wu Zhong camp in two days, Farewell citizens!" The imperial regiment rode off into the distance leaving the frightened citizens to themselves. Ling hear his father speaking to his mother, "I have to go, I think it's quite clear now that we cannot depend on Ling to be responsible. He will only bring more shame upon us." Ling was hurt by his father's words and thought about them deep into the night. If only there was a way to prove himself. He knew what he had to do. Ling went into the armoury and equipped his father's gear, took the conscription notice and headed for the door. To his surprise, he was stopped by his mother. "What on earth are you doing Ling?" She looked him up and down, "Your taking your father's place?" "I have to ma, I have to prove to father that I'm not a failure, that I can be a man and bring honour to the family!" he explained in frustration. Tears ran down his mother's soft, pale face. Ling placed his hand on her cheek in comfort. She simply replied, "Be careful" as she wept. She knew that this meant more to Ling than anything; she couldn't stop him from going off to war for such a brave and touching cause. She kissed his cheek, And he walked out the door and into the cold night, where his destiny awaited.