Ken Bebelle

Magic – Monsters – Mayhem

As I said in my post yesterday, it finally dawned on me that Guo Jing really reminds me of the star of another wuxia novel, Wei Shi Lindon from the Cradle series. If you haven’t read these books, I highly recommend them! They are fast-moving, action-packed stories with wonderful characters and world-building.

Guo Jing and Lindon are both earnest heroes, fighting on the side of justice, and maybe a little too naïve for their own good. Luckily, they are both martial arts masters, and they have a solid found family to support them.

The Cradle series. Great stuff!

Here’s the Cradle series if you’re interested.

sigh It had to happen. After a few action-packed chapters in a row, we had to come to one that was a little slower. Ah well.

Guo Jing escapes with Iron Foot (not Fist!) Immortal Wang Chuyi and they make their way to the outskirts of the city. Iron Foot notes that Guo Jing’s internal kung fu is quite strong, and doesn’t mesh with his outward martial skill.

Our boy Guo Jing really does have a big, innocent heart. He’s still focused on Wanyan Kang (the Arrogant Prince) and how the prince must be made to marry the maiden.

Wang Chuyi brushes this off, and reveals that he knows of Qui Chuyi’s bet with the Seven Freaks. He accidentally reveals that Guo Jing will need to fight a student by the name of Yang, but refuses to give any more details.

Guo Jing and Wang Chuyi go back to the inn to check on the maiden and her father. When they arrive, there are attendants from Wanyan Kang there with an invitation to dine with the prince. They have also brought gifts of fruits and pastries. Guo Jing is eating it all up with his eyes.

The maiden introduces herself as Mercy, named after her mother. (Another nod from Cradle! There’s a great secondary character named Mercy in those books.) Her father was gravely injured by the prince and Iron Foot provides them with silver to purchase healing herbs. They leave for the prince’s palace, but not before Guo Jing (in a very Lindon-esque move) pockets a bunch of the pastries before they go.

The whole sequence at the prince’s palace was … kind of a snore for me. This part of the book that was an actual struggle for me, something I haven’t encountered for several chapters. There are a lot of introductions, since it seems the prince has invited everyone to his palace for tea. There is a lot of boasting and politicking that seems to go way over Guo Jing’s head (not surprising). Most of the people gathered here are not happy with Guo Jing, but luckily Iron Foot is here to help our plucky hero navigate the murky waters.

Wanyan Kang asks Guo Jing to bring Mercy and her father to the palace so they can decide whether or not he should marry her. This is obviously some sort of ploy, but I couldn’t pick up what was happening. Mercy and her father are no longer at the inn, and when Guo Jing returns to report this, Kang dispatches five men to scour the city for them.

Iron Foot is very aware that he and Guo Jing are in a nest of vipers and he’s trying to figure a way out of this situation (while of course, being unfailingly polite). When one of the others challenges him over Guo Jing’s fate, Iron Foot devises a plan. He asks each of the assembled masters to demonstrate their technique to Guo Jing, ostensibly to show Guo Jing that they are so powerful, and that Iron Foot can’t possibly protect him.

And. They. Agree.

He literally convinces them to monologue, so he can stall for time.

Unfortunately, this also shows Iron Foot that he truly can’t beat them, and he must find another way out. He ends up taking the prince hostage (what about being polite?) and earns their exit. Before they can leave, one of the masters attacks! Iron Foot manages to defend, and he and Guo Jing beat a hasty exit.

Once outside the palace Iron Foot collapses and reveals that the last attack was poisoned. He asks Guo Jing to carry him to an inn that is far enough away to evade any pursuers. Once there he instructs Guo Jing to secure a tub of pure water, into which Iron Foot begins to expel the poison from his body. Unfortunately, this is not enough, and he will need medicinal herbs to fully heal. Guo Jing frantically runs about the city, only to find that every medicine shop is sold out of the needed herbs.

(I guess this was the subterfuge that the prince was going through before, with sending out the five servants? They were clearing out all the pharmacies?)

Iron Foot makes peace with his impending death but Guo Jing isn’t willing to give up just yet. He makes plans to go to the next village to buy herbs. While out, he runs into none other than Lotus, who is no longer wearing her beggar outfit, and now resplendent in her beauty. Guo Jing is of course, completely befuddled.

Lotus comes strong right out of the gate, she wants to be called just Lotus, not Sister Huang. (poor Kohjin!)

Actually, I wonder if I’m reading too much into this from my twinkie perspective. The ‘sister’ honorific more of a respect indicator from lower to higher, yes? It’s not so much about Lotus already having romantic intentions and trying to set the stage? Maybe more that she wants them to be more familiar, and more as peers?

Guo Jing and Lotus have a little bit of a moment. Guo Jing is eager to get back to finding his herbs, but Lotus wants to have a little more of a moment, so they wait a while longer (does she not understand that someone is DYING?) Eventually they decide to go, but Lotus has a better plan than going to the next town. She figures, if the prince bought out all the pharmacies, then the best place to find the herbs they need, is in his palace. They decide to go together and raid the prince’s palace.

(cue Ocean’s 11 style music)

(And am I seeing a little bit of Yerin in Lotus?)

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