Tag Archives: horror

Zom Fu – Chapter 44

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The little boy was four years old and just a bit over two feet tall. His bedroom was filled with vases, statues, paintings and other artistic riches. Golden sheets and pillows sat atop a bed that was large enough for a fully grown adult to get lost in, let alone a child. Further, the boy was dressed in the finest black and gold silks.

Ironically, though his decor was fancy, his personal interests were not.

“Ball!” the little boy said as he rolled a leather ball across the marble floor. When the ball reached the wall, it bounced back. The boy caught it, rolled it up to the wall and repeated the process.

“Hee hee,” the young one giggled. “Ball!”

A fist pounded on the door.

“Ball,” the boy said as he rolled his favorite toy again.

“Oh glorious one?” came the muffled voice of Nianzu from out in the hallway. “I humbly request an audience, please.”

The boy grew tired of rolling and switched his game up to throwing. He tossed the ball against the wall and caught it on the bounce back. “Hee hee! Ball!”

Nianzu tried again. “Unspeakable danger approaches, your majesty. We must get you to safety at once.”

Crash! The boy laughed as his ball smashed a thousand year old vase to smithereens.

“Is everything alright in there,  exalted one?” Nianzu asked.

The boy clapped his hands together, giving a stirring round of applause to the devastation he’d created. “Ball!”

Out in the hallway, the trio consulted one another.

“Should we just smash the door down?” Nianzu asked.

“And be executed for treason?” Tengfei inquired.

Nianzu shrugged. “It’s not like he actually knows what’s going on.”

Weiyuan and Tengfei’s mouthes dropped.

“Blasphemy!” Weiyuan cried.

“Sacrilege!” Tengfei shouted.

The duo dropped to their knees and started kowtowing towards the door.

“He does not speak for us, oh wondrous son of heaven!” Weiyuan cried.

“Kill him, exalted one!” Tengfei shouted. “Please spare us and kill him!”

Nianzu rolled his eyes. “Idiots.”

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Zom Fu – Chapter 43

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The general and his men ran through the Forbidden City as reinforcements rushed to the gate.

“Cousin,” Nianzu said. “All these years I thought you’d lost your mind with tales of monsters in the form of men. I am sorry.”

“Apology accepted,” Tsang said.

“Can they be killed, General?” Weiyuan asked.

“Only if you bash their brains in,” General Tsang said as he fished around in his pocket. “Which reminds me…”

The general pulled out a hand full of chrysanthemum flowers. He bit into one, then passed out the rest. “Eat these.”

“Why?” Tengfei asked.

“An old remedy the Infallible Master taught me years ago,” General Tsang. “It works. Kept me from becoming a heart eater, and it’ll keep you from becoming brain eaters.”

“Brain eaters?” Nianzu asked.

“You wouldn’t think they’d be so tempting,” the General said. “But I’ve seen good men turn into fiends after just one whiff of brain.”

The conversation was interrupted by a loud, guttural, “Arrrrggghhh!”

The quartet looked up to see a large, fiery object streak through the sky. As if that weren’t odd enough, the object was….screaming. As it began its descent towards the Imperial Palace steps, the general realized what had happened.

“What in the…he’s setting his warriors on fire and launching them over the wall!”

“Raargh!” The flaming fighter landed on the steps, then immediately charged at General Tsang. The general didn’t flinch as he lopped off the undead beast’s head with one swift swing of his sword.

Nianzu felt bile gurgle up into his throat as he looked down at the still living head.

“’Join the army,’ you said. ‘It’ll be an adventure,’ you said.”

“Complaints later, cousin,” General Tsang said as he crushed the head under his boot.

The quartet rushed up the steps and into the palace, then made their way to the throne room. There they found Captain Yuen and three of his guards standing at attention.

“Are you daft, man?!” the general shouted. “Do you not hear the commotion outside?”

“The Imperial Guard remains with the Emperor at all times,” the captain replied.

The general lifted a curtain behind the Dragon Throne, then marched down a hallway with his men behind him. Captain Yuen and his men followed.

“Stop!” Captain Yuen said.

“Don’t quibble with me over protocol, Yuen!” General Tsang shouted. “The Emperor’s life is at stake.”

The sound of Captain Yuen drawing his sword brought General Tsang to a halt.

“You joined the pig in his betrayal,” General Tsang said as he turned around.

“No…and yes,” Captain Yuen said.

“It can either be one or the other,” General Tsang replied.

“No, because I took no bribes and I never wanted this to happen,” Captain Yuen said. “Yes, because I knew of Zhen’s treachery and did nothing.  I did not want to oppose the Emperor’s advisor.”

“Redeem yourself now and help me,” the general said. “We’ll talk about the shame your cowardice has brought you later.”

“Don’t you see?” Captain Yuen said. “There’s no stopping Dragonhand. He’s grown too strong. His clan is vast. He’ll have the Emperor’s brain whether we live or die…”

Captain Yuen pointed his sword at Tsang. “…and I choose to live.”

“Damn you, Yuen,” General Tsang said as he pointed his sword at his newfound adversary.

The captain turned to his subordinates. “Join the others. Seal off the palace. If Dragonhand wants in, he will have to negotiate with me.”

The Imperial Guardsmen nodded and dispersed.

Nianzu drew his sword. “We’ll make short work of him, cousin.”

General Tsang kept his eyes locked on the captain. “Four against one isn’t very sporting, cousin. You three find the Emperor.”

“But…”

“If I do not rejoin you, keep him safe.”

“But…”

“That’s an order!” General Tsang barked.

Nianzu nodded, then headed down the hall with Weiyuan and Tengfei.

The general and the captain paced about the hallway as they eyeballed one another.

“Is that your little plan?” General Tsang asked. “Trade the Emperor for your life?”

“I want my life,” Captain Yuen said. “He wants the Emperor. It’s a fair trade.”

“I’ve already seen one fool who thought he could bargain with Dragonhand die today,” General Tsang said. “Reconsider and there won’t have to be another.”

“Sorry, old man,” the captain said. “But it is decided.”

General Tsang sneered at his opponent. “So be it.”

The general and the captain charged at one another, shouting battle cries as their swords clanged.

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Walking Dead Recap -Season 7, Episode 10 – “New Best Friends”

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Mmm.  Brains.  So delicious.  So yummy.

SPOILER ALERT

The Walking Dead continues.  Rick still seeks recruits to join his battle against the Saviors. Ezekiel says no on behalf of the Kingdom.  What’s his face I don’t remember but that douchey guy says no on behalf of the Hilltop.

However, Rick meets the trash people, a group of schmucks living in a junkyard who are totally weird and say and do weird things.

Is Rick right for taking on the Saviors?  What say you, 3.5 readers?

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Zom Fu – Chapter 41

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General Tsang stood on the wall and observed the vast army of the undead. Their forms were twisted and mangled, in various states of decay. They made way as Dragonhand walked through the crowd, followed by Lickspittle and his zombapault.

“I hate to be the kind of man that says, ‘I told you so,’ Zhen,” the general said.

“Then don’t,” Advisor Zhen replied.

“Pitiful dogs!” General Tsang shouted down to the undead masses. “How dare you approach the walls of the Forbidden City in such a threatening manner?”

Dragonhand looked up at the general. “I am Dragonhand, destroyer of all of the great kung fu clans and lord and master over all that I desire. I have come for the Emperor’s brain.”

The general scoffed. “Begone, vile beast! The Emperor’s brain is his and his alone!”

General Tsang watched as one of Dragonhand’s warriors climbed into the bucket of the zombapault.

“These fools take us for cowards,” General Tsang said. “Cousin Nianzu!”

“Sir?” Nianzu replied.

“Deliver a barrage of arrow fire,” General Tsang commanded. “Show them the penalty for trespassing upon the Emperor’s lands.”

“Right away, sir,” Nianzu said. “Archers, to your stations!”

Over a hundred archers took up positions atop the wall, bows and arrows at the ready.

“Prepare to strike on my command,” General Tsang said. “Aim for their ugly heads for only the piercing of their wretched brains will put these animals out of commission.”

Advisor Zhen stared down at Dragonhand. The brain bite clan’s master looked up at the fat little man and winked.

“Belay that order,” the advisor said.

“Silence, Zhen,” General Tsang said. “I’ll tolerate no more of your stupidity.”

“Belay that order!” the advisor shouted.

The general and the advisor stared each other down.

“On what authority do you belay my order?” General Tsang asked.

“The Emperor’s,” Zhen answered. “I am his right hand.”

“Perhaps you haven’t notice the horde of dead men waiting outside to eat us alive,” General Tsang said.

“Yes,” Advisor Zhen said. “But must you always answer violence with more violence?”

“It’s never failed me yet,” General Tsang said.

“I shall parlay with the man,” Advisor Zhen said.

“That’s no man,” General Tsang said.

“I will talk him out of this,” Advisor Zhen said. “I was gifted with a silver tongue and I can talk anyone into anything.”

General Tsang closed his eyes and thought upon this proposal for a moment, then looked at the fat man.

“Zhen,” General Tsang said. “I have fought villains all of my life. They do not negotiate. They do not feel remorse. They take attempts to bargain with them as a sign of weakness. As much as I have long dreamed of seeing you being ripped apart, I do not want that to happen today, and certainly not by this foe. I beg of you, do not go down there.”

“I’m going down there,” Zhen said

“Damn it,” General Tsang replied.

The general leaned over the wall. “Abomination!”

“Yes?” Dragonhand said.

“The Emperor’s advisor seeks parlay,” the general shouted. “Do I have your word no harm will come to him during the impending negotiations?”

“You have my word,” Dragonhand said.

In a lower tone of voice, General Tsang muttered, “Yeah, that and a gold piece will buy me a night in a whore house.”

The general and the advisor descended a long flight of stone steps until they reached the gate. General Tsang rested his hand on a lever.

“I am completely against this,” General Tsang said.

“I know,” Advisor Zhen said.

“He will kill you and claim your death as a victory, then proceed to lay siege to the city,” General Tsang said.

“It’s a pleasant surprise that you care so much about my wellbeing, Tsang,” the advisor said.

“Funny,” General Tsang said. “It comes a surprise to me too.

The general yanked the lever until the gate rose just enough for Zhen to squeeze under it.

“I will fix this,” Zhen said.

“Yeah,” General Tsang said as he closed the gate. “It’s been nice knowing you, fatty.”

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Zom Fu – Part 6 – Preparations

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With the tiger claw clan’s sanctuary in ruins, the ghost of Yaozu, the Nineteenth Infallible Master, dispatches his last two remaining disciples on missions in an effort to defeat the Clan of the Terrifyingly Unnatural Brain Bite.

Niu locates the Clan of the Mediocre Yet Effective Club Bonk, a group of drunken ruffians who fancy themselves kung fu experts, but know little about it and prefer to spend all their time robbing the Emperor’s tax collectors.  It will be up to Niu to train them to become a fighting force.

Meanwhile, Junjie most face a demon who has been held captive for countless millennia.

Chapter 30          Chapter 31          Chapter 32        Chapter 33          Chapter 34

Chapter 35           Chapter 36        Chapter 37         Chapter 38         Chapter 39

Chapter 40

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Toilet Gator – From the Desk of Bookshelf Q. Battler

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From the Desk of Bookshelf Q. Battler

Dear Noble Reader,

Your butt. Yes, I want to talk about your butt, for your butt is the most important part of your body. If you’ve got a great one, people tend to stare at it. If you’ve got a flat one, you’ll need to put a pillow under it. If you’ve got an itchy one, you’ll need to scratch it. Sooner or later, some annoying problem is going to crawl up your butt the wrong way and don’t even get me started if you work in a stressful environment filled with backstabbing, duplicitous coworkers. In that case, you’d better cover your butt.

Speaking of covering your butt, do you know where your heiney is the least protected? The toilet. That’s right. The toilet. You go to work, you make sure you do the right thing so the boss doesn’t theoretically bite off a piece of your butt as he fires you. On your way home, you look over your shoulder to ensure that no one is trying to kick your butt. Alas, when you drop your trousers and take a seat in order to make a cheek squeak, your butt is left completely defenseless as it sits upon the porcelain throne.

“But BQB,” you will surely say. “What could possibly go wrong while I’m sitting on the toilet?”

I’m sorry. I know you are my beloved noble reader, but that’s a stupid question. Really. Pull your head out of your butt and get in the game here.

Have you ever thought about what happens to a turd after you flush it? You probably haven’t, you inconsiderate prick. That poop that was once food that nourished you goes down on a pipe, gets transferred through a line going underneath your property, where it travels until it reaches your community’s sewer system. From there, it makes the long journey to your local sewage treatment facility.

In other words, there is a whole freaking subterranean highway lurking below your ass crack and you’ve never even thought about it because you’re all like, “La dee da, look at me, my life is so important that I don’t have to think about what is going on underneath my butt while I’m pooping.”

Snap out of your self-obsessed existence, noble reader, for there is a whole other world full of devastation, death and intrigue going on in the lowly depths beneath your butt. Close your eyes, push with all your might, then wipe and get the hell off of the bowl as fast as you can because just when you thought it was safe to go number two, I present to you, Toilet Gator.

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Zom Fu – Chapter 40

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The Clan of the Terrifyingly Unnatural Brain Bite cut a horrific swatch through the countryside, looting, plundering, and replenishing their numbers by converting villagers into vile, undead brain addicted beasts. Towards the end of their reign of terror, the young men of one village in particular were forced to stand for inspection.

“Look at yourselves,” Dragonhand said as he walked past a line of captives. “Weeping and cowering like children, completely unaware that I am about to turn you into the best possible version of your miserable selves. Lickspittle, has the sacrifice been made?”

The toady held up a juicy, goo dripping brain. “Yes, oh infinitely wise one. Our warrior, Quon, gave up his thinking meat so that others may revel in the glory of zom fu.”

“Excellent,” Dragonhand said as he snatched up the disgusting gray matter. “Who wants the first bite?”

The hostages appeared perplexed, surprised that their captor would even make such a ghastly suggestion. The fiend held the brain underneath the nose of the first villager, gave him a good whiff, then continued on down the line, making sure each man got a good nose full.

“I admit brains aren’t much to look at,” Dragonhand said. “And they aren’t suitable for those with a discerning palette but I assure you, once you take a bite, you’ll never want anything else.”

One of the villagers broke out into a cold sweat. “I must have it.”

“No,” another man shouted. “It’s mine!”

“That’s my brain!” a third man cried.

Dragonhand tossed the brain up into the air and caught it, as if it were a ball. He did this twice more, before letting it fall to the ground.

The captives looked at the brain, then up at Dragonhand.

“Have at it,” Dragonhand said. “But make sure you all eat a piece so that you may each learn the glories of zom fu.”

“Yes master!” the villagers shouted in unison. One by one, they dove for the brain, pummeling, biting, scratching and stomping each other just to get the slightest bit closer to their snack.

“Lickspittle,” Dragonhand said.

“Yes, oh extraordinarily brilliant one?” the toady asked.

“Don’t forget to kill them all once they’ve eaten,” Dragonhand said. “Make the cuts quick and clean. I don’t want them getting so mangled that they’re useless in a fight.”
“Of course, oh excessively amazing one,” Lickspittle said.

Dragonhand stared off toward the edge of the village, where undead warriors were busily constructed an enormous device. It consisted of a large bucket pulled back and secured to a rope, sitting on a platform with wheels.

“Lickspittle you insignificant pile of monkey vomit,” Dragonhand said.

“You called, my liege?” Lickspittle asked.

Dragonhand walked over to the device. “What is this monstrosity?”

“Do you like it, my ever so manly god on earth?” Lickspittle inquired.

“What is it?” Dragonhand asked.

“It’s a weapon of my own design, oh fantastic one,” Lickspittle said. “I call it, ‘the zombapault.’”

Dragonhand watched as one zombie sat in the bucket, smoothing out the rough parts of the wood with a hand held plane.

“What does it do?” Dragonhand asked.

“I’m glad you asked, oh indubitably handsome one,” Lickspittle said. “You see, by pulling the bucket back as far as it will go, then securing it with a rope, the device becomes capable of…”

Dragonhand lost interest in listening to his toady speak. He drew a knife, cut the rope, and watched as the catapult set the unsuspecting undead warrior hurtling several miles into the air.

“The short version is that I think it will be good for getting our warriors over the Forbidden City’s walls,” Lickspittle said.

“Astounding, Lickspittle,” Dragonhand said. “For once in your pathetic, useless, poor excuse of a life, you have managed to impress me.”

Lickpittle gushed with pride. “Oh, master. You have no idea how much that means to me.”

“Don’t let it go to your head, worm,” Dragonhand said.

“Of course not, master,” Lickspittle replied.

Master and lackey watched the previously launched warrior continue on an upward arc until he started falling down over the horizon.

“Do you think he’ll be ok?” Lickspittle asked.

“Why would I care?” Dragonhand inquired.

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Zom Fu – Chapter 39

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Within three settings of the sun, Junjie and the Infallible Master had made their way to the Camp of the Terrifyingly Unnatural Brain Bonk. Late in the evening, the camp fires burned as the Whirlwind’s men showed off their new moves. Some were skilled. Others were unsteady.

“You have made me proud, my son,” the master said.

“If only we had more time,” Niu replied.

“More time?” Junjie asked. “Master I fear every second we delay, the emperor’s brain is put in more peril.”

The master waved aside Junjie’s concern. “I have long studied Dragonhand’s ways. He will march on the Forbidden City soon, but not before replenishing the ranks he lost at our sanctuary with villagers that he will turn into undead warriors.”

“Speaking of,” Niu said as he popped a chrysanthemum into his mouth. “Your cure works, master. I no longer crave brain.”

Junjie looked about to see several members of the brain bonk clan chewing on chrysanthemums.

“Something I missed?” Junjie asked.

Niu slapped Junjie’s back. “Not all of us are inherently pure enough to be immune to brain lust, brother. Some of us require extra help.”

The Whirlwind sneered as he munched on a flower. “Just my luck that the cure isn’t a succulent duck.”

“Whirlwind,” the master said as he bowed. “The tiger claw clan thanks you for coming to our aid in our time of need.”

The Whirlwind bowed in return. “Yeah, well, it’s awfully big of me, seeing as how you lot never recognized us as an official kung fu clan.”

Niu shook his head. “Drunken, fornicating thieves.”

“Happy, free-spirited wealth distributors,” the Whirlwind said.

“Bonking a man over the head with a club does not a kung fu warrior make,” the master replied.

“That’s what I said,” Niu added.

“All kung fu clans must be fully adept in all basic moves,” the master said.

“We’re getting there,” the Whirlwind said.

“You’re nowhere near there,” Niu replied.

“And every clan must possess a signature move, one that no other clan can perform,” the master said.

Niu sighed. “Then it will be impossible for the clans to rise again.”

Junjie felt a great sadness overcome him. “If all of the masters have died…”

The big man finished the hero’s thought. “…then the knowledge of their signature moves has died with them.”

The master laughed. “Nonsense, my son. They live on in you.”

Junjie rolled his eyes. “Master, please do not toy with me.”

Moonlight passed through the old man’s ghost as it pointed to one of the practice dummies that the club bonk clan had been practicing on earlier.

“Show me the furious fox paw,” the master said.

Junjie raised an eyebrow.

“Go on,” the master said.

Clearly unsure of himself, Junjie timidly backed up several feet and lined his body up with the first straw dummy.

“Not sure what there is to gain by making me look like a fool master,” Junjie said.

“The only man who is a fool is the one who does not live up to his full potential,” the master said.

Junjie ran. He built up speed. Much to his surprise, he hurled himself up into the air and came down on the dummy’s face with a powerful punch, knocking the faux sparring partner’s head clean off.

The members of the club bonk clan appeared to be in awe of the feat. The Whirlwind sipped wine. “A lucky shot.”

“That,” the master said as he pointed to the Whirlwind’s wine skin, “Is a large part of why your clan has never been recognized.”

“I told him that too,” Niu said.

The Whirlwind blew a raspberry at Niu. “Pbbht! Teacher’s pet!”

The master turned to Junjie. “Show me the devastating crane smash.”

Junjie walked up to the second dummy. “I don’t understand.”

“Do not try to make sense of it,” the master said. “Just do.”

The hero closed his eyes and held his arms out to the left and right. He flapped them three times as if he were a bird, then on the fourth flap, he brought his open hands down to both sides of the wooden spindle that formed the dummy’s neck. Like its predecessor, this dummy was also decapitated.

“Impressive,” Niu said. “The fates smile upon you, brother.”

“The mystifying monkey slap,” the master said.

“Impossible,” Junjie said. “It is the one of the most difficult moves to master in all of kung fu, second only to the sacred yet inscrutable tiger claw.”

“The mystifying monkey slap,” the master said. “If you please…”

Junjie took his position before the third dummy. He breathed deeply and exhaled. Ten slaps to the chest. Ten more to the stomach. One final slap to the heart.

“Perfect formation,” the master said. “Had this dummy been alive, we’d all be covered with blood and guts.”

“How is this even possible?” Junjie asked.

“Long ago, people were simple and trusting. As such, man took a ‘more is better’ approach to knowledge. All kung fu students were taught all of the signature moves. Sadly, this led to a dark age where China was dominated by evil men who were experts at all of the signature moves of kung fu,” the master explained. “They warred amongst each other until only one kung fu artist remained. Thus, the wise and all-knowing First Infallible Master became the fount of all kung fu knowledge. He decided that no man should ever again be trusted with the knowledge of every signature move. So, he kept the tiger claw for the clan that he raised, then started clans all across the country, blessing each one with a move of their own.”

Niu looked down at the ghost. “Master, you’ve replaced the will of the First Infallible Master with your own.”

“If the First Infallible Master were here, he would agree,” the master replied.

The big man looked the hero over. “To place so much power in one man…”

“When Shaoshang threatened to drag the world into darkness, only the First Infallible Master was able to defeat him. Like Shaoshang, Dragonhand has mastered all of the signature moves. Only someone as powerful as the First Infallible Master will be able to defeat him.”

“This is not a path I wished for, brother,” Junjie said.

“I know,” Niu said as he rested his giant hands on Junjie’s shoulders. “And what I am about to say goes against everything that I, as a fatalist, hold dear. The master once told me that it is possible to write your own pages in the book of fate.”

Niu held up a chrysanthemum and chomped the head off. “Just as I have come to learn that I can fight the fate of becoming a brain addict, so too will you be able to fight the temptation that accompanies your newfound power.”

The master smiled. “I have trained my disciples well.”

A quiet moment passed, one where master and students gazed upon one another, sharing an unspoken yet mutual respect and understanding. Soon enough, it was ended with a wretched belch.

“BRRAAAP!” The Whirlwind chugged wine. “If you girls are going to stand around fawning over each other all night, do it somewhere else, will you? Some of us are trying to get one last bender on before we face potential death at the teeth of a bunch of smelly undead pricks, thank you very much.”

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BQB’s Walking Dead Recap

Hey 3.5 readers.

I’m late with my recap for the Walking Dead, but suffice to say everyone’s favorite show about zombies returned last Sunday.

SPOILER ALERT

Rick is recruiting other groups to fight with him against the Saviors.  The Hilltop and the Kingdom are against helping.

Overall, there are some parallels between world diplomacy and Walking Dead diplomacy.  Countries or in Walking Dead’s case, settlements, have to decide how much shit they want to swallow from another group before they give up and go to war.  Often, though we hate to admit it, swallowing shit is a reasonable alternative to sending thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands of people to die in battle.

Anyway, will be interesting to see how this plays out but the Grimes group vs. Saviors show down is in progress.

What say you, 3.5 readers?

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Zom Fu – Chapter 37

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Flames danced all over Junjie’s hands.

“How do you feel, my son?” the master asked.

“Better than ever,” Junjie replied.

The hero scrambled up a tree, swung from a branch, then popped a few fireballs out of his hands and into the sky before landing on his feet like a cat.

“And I know a lot of things I never knew before,” Junjie said. “In my mind, I can see images of what the world looked like long ago, when men lived in caves and acted as animals.”

“Shaoshang’s arrival on earth predates recorded history,” the master said. “You see what he saw.”

Junjie frowned. “He delighted in pain and misery. I can see…the faces of his victims.”

“And yet, you are still you,” the master said.

“Of course,” Junjie said as the flames around his hands died down. “I would never want to be him.”

The master wagged a finger toward his student. “But you could.”

“I could?” Junjie asked.

“You could and yet you could not,” the master said. “A happy conundrum. In theory, you posses the physical power necessary to conquer the world but you lack the desire to do so. You could be like Shaoshang, but then again, you could not.”

Junjie shadowboxed for awhile, throwing his fists into the air against a non-existent opponent. “Dragonhand won’t know what’s coming for him.”

The master sighed. “You still have much to learn.”

Junjie stopped boxing. “What?”

“Two opponents now have been able to exploit your weakness,” the master said. “Dragonhand and Shaoshang both sized you up and instantly realized that you feel inferior for having never known your parents.”

Junjie leaned up against a tree. “Did you know them, master?”

“I did,” the master said.

“Why did they not love me?” Junjie asked.

“Oh, young one,” the master said. “Do not believe the lies that others cook up in order to seal your doom. You were very much loved.”

“I wish I could believe that,” Junjie said.

“You doubt your master?”

“I doubt myself,” Junjie said.

“Very well,” the master said. The ghost turned into a fine mist and swirled through the air for a while before burrowing into Junjie’s ear.

Shocked, the hero fell to the ground. There he laid, twitching and convulsing until his eyes closed.

The master’s voice filled Junjie’s brain. “If you will not believe me, then see the truth through my eyes.”

Junjie’s eyes popped open. He was on his feet now, but he wasn’t in the forest. He was at the tiger claw clan’s sanctuary, during a time long before its destruction. He felt smaller and shorter. He looked at his hands, only to notice they were boney and wrinkly.

“Huh?” Junjie asked, only to instantly realize he was speaking in the master’s voice.

A young man that looked like a bit like Junjie approached with a wrapped up bundle in his arms.

Junjie’s spirit remained silent as the master did all the talking. “Honghui.”

Honghui dropped to his knees and held the bundle up towards the master.

“I have failed you, Infallible Master,” Honghui said. “I have failed my love, my clan, myself. Please, take this little one before I fail him as well.”

Junjie watched through the master’s eyes as the old man’s hands moved the blanket to one side to reveal a wiggly, black haired, wide-eyed baby.

“You are much too hard on yourself, Honghui,” the master said.

“It is deserved,” Honghui said. “But Junjie deserves better.”

Suddenly, everything went black. When Junjie woke up, he was back in the forest, still lying in the dirt. He looked up to see the master’s ghost standing over him.

“What was the meaning of that?” Junjie asked.

“I will explain when the time is right,” the master said. “But for now, the meaning for you is that you must not doubt yourself, for your father certainly did not.”

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