A novel by Simon Nguyen
Read Chapter I
Chapter II - Vengeance
As spring once again reigned over the vast grasslands of Mansi, the land was occupied by hundreds of goat herders. While the herders were busy taking care of their livestock, their children were also having their share of fun. The vast grasslands were the perfect playing field for the children.
Among them was a young child, whose appearance differed from the rest of the children. His trim built did not resemble the traditional muscular built of the natives. Nonetheless, the child was probably the happiest boy on the field. He was overwhelmed by the experience.
As the sun was slowly disappearing from view, the herders were preparing to lead their goats back to their pens. The young child suddenly realized what time of the day it was. Without even having time to bid his friends farewell, the boy sprinted home with all his might. As he came closer and closer to home, the joys that had endeared him earlier were quickly fading. From the distance, the boy could catch sight of his adopted father, who stood unhappily and impatiently at the gate of his home. The child’s joys turned into sour fears.
The father was a man in his mid-forties. He had long arms and a strong built. His right foot was crippled. He moved with the assist of a cane. Immediately upon catching sight of his son, the father went inside without saying a word. The boy silently followed him keeping his head lowered.
His father led him to the main hall of their home. At the center of the hall, a giant altar stood. On the altar, there were eighty seven wooden blocks each with a different name imprinted on it. When the boy saw the altar, his face showed a heavy expression of sadness. He went down on his knees at once.
“Read to me what is written on this wooden block,” the father asked pointing his cane at the biggest block, located at the center of the altar.
“Cha Ri,” the boy replied.
Unsatisfied with the intensity of his answer, the father struck the boy hard on the back of his head with his cane. Despite the pain and his hair soaked with blood, not a single cry was heard.
“How dare you call your father’s name? He does not deserve to have a pathetic son like you. In one night, your whole family had been murdered. You are the lone survivor and their only hope to be avenged. But you have forgotten about them.”
“Father, I have never forgotten my fated duty. Ever since you told me what happened to the eighty seven lives of my household, I have never had a full night of sleep. I’m always eager for the day when I will be able to take revenge on the murderers of my family.”
“You can fool your dead father, but can’t fool me. If you were truly sincere in avenging their deaths, you would not squander a whole day fooling around with those barbaric children. The daily schedule I set for you is one of ease. You are to spend five hours practicing your martial arts, six hours reading and writing, another six hours doing chores, and the rest eating and sleeping. You just wasted a whole day without having anything done.”
“I know that I have made a terrible mistake. Please tell me my punishment; I will carry it out at once.”
“Good! That’s the spirit of a Cha. Go to the forest and cut down five dozen pieces of wood. Each piece must be equal the length of my cane and three times thicker.”
After hearing the instructions, the boy asked for his leave. He left the house and headed for the forest, which was a distance from his home.
When he reached the forest, darkness had already consumed the place. With his vision becoming blurrier by the second, he stumbled over a sharply pointed rock. The accident left a deep cut on his left knee. Streams of blood poured out from the wound. The cold night wind added more pain to the boy’s misery. His whole body was overwhelmed by pain, fatigue and soreness from the harsh weather. The boy collapsed and remained motionless on the ground for a long time.
His mind was completely blank. Fatigue had barricaded the channeling of his thoughts. But suddenly, the words of promise he gave to his adopted father when he first learned the fate of his family came back to him.
“I swear to you that I will take revenge on those who murdered my family. I will burn their hearts with fire, in the same way they had done to my family. Let heaven and earth be my witnesses!”
Each of the words was like a strike of thunder, waking the boy up from his fatigue. He felt a robust energy coming from within. Using this new strength, he was able to rise up. The boy took out his axe and started chopping down the trees.
Watching the boy from afar was his adopted father. When he saw the boy managed to rise up using his own will, he was overcome with joys.
“Old friend, your son has finally grown up. It’s only a matter of time before he will avenge your death.” The man whispered to himself.
He then looked down to his crippled foot and took a deep sigh.
“This is the least I could do for you. After all, I owed you my life.”
When he was ten, his family sent him to Tosan to study martial arts. His parents had high hopes for him. They spent a large deal of money on his schooling. His father even sold his pawn shop to pay for his study at Tosan. However, his schooling was not a smooth ride. Frankly, he did not born to be a champion fencer. Although he worked relentlessly on his martial arts’ skills, he made little progress. His social life also shared the same fate. Having a shy personality, he had a hard time making friends.
Cha Ri was the first and only one to approach him. He was overwhelmed by his sincerity. The two quickly became close friends. In fact, they were more like brothers than friends. But happy times were short-lived. He soon faced the sad reality that his family was running out of money and he would have to drop out from the school soon.
He was under pressure from his parents to maximize his learning at Tosan. In his desperation, he made the most regrettable mistake in his life, which was to attempt to steal the most powerful manuscript of Tosan’s fencing. He was unsuccessful and got caught in the act by Master Winter, the guardian of the manuscript.
Stealing the manuscript was the most severe violation of Tosan’s code of conduct. According to the rules, those who attempted to steal the manuscript will be sentenced to death. He was about to be executed when Cha came to his rescue. Using his sincerest tone, Cha tried his best to persuade the Tosan’s headmasters to reduce his punishment.
At the end, his life was spared. Instead, the masters crippled the offender’s left knee and banished him from the school. The biggest victim in this whole ordeal was Cha, who was also banished from the school.
Cha was Master Summer’s favorite pupil and was also the strongest candidate to replace the Four Masters as the leader of Tosan’s school of martial arts. Tosan was one of the top martial arts’ sects in the pugilistic world. In addition to its two hundred students, former students were numbered in the thousands. Being the headmaster of Tosan was a powerful and desirable position. Cha gave up such an opportunity to save him.
After the two were expelled from Tosan, they bid adieu and returned to their respective homelands. Cha inherited his family’s ceramics business, while the crippled Jung faced a more daunting future. Although he was spared of embarrassment, as Tosan decided to keep his expulsion a secret, he had a hard time finding employment due to his crippled foot. To take care of his family, he had no choice but to pursue a dangerous career as a traveling silk trader. Jung often had to leave home for extended trips, which took him over treacherous terrains and violent seas. There were also prospects of bandits and extreme weather.
Despite living quite a distance apart, Cha and Jung kept their close bond intact. Jung managed to attend Cha’s wedding, in spite of his difficult schedule. Jung was also the first guest invited to the banquet celebrating the birth of his friend’s son. Unfortunately, his busy schedule kept him from making to the banquet in time. He arrived to Dosi two days late.
The Cha’s mansion was already burned down when Jung arrived to Dosi. At least 300 bodies were found in the ashes. Jung was saddened by the unexpected tragedy; he was determined to learn the fate of his good friend.
The good news was that no baby was found among the bodies. “Cha’s newborn must still be alive,” Jung presumed.
When he learned a body was discovered in a forest outside Dosi, he hastily arrived to the scene to identify the body. Although the body was in the state of decay, Jung recognized right away that this was his friend Cha Ri. He let out a sorrowful shriek and wept bitterly.
“Rest in peace, my friend. I will do everything I can to avenge you.”
After he finally gathered himself, Jung asked those at the scene if a baby’s body was also found. The answer was no.
Jung would spend the next two months in Dosi, scouring areas in and around the city for the baby as well as investigating the circumstances behind the attack on Cha’s mansion. Finally, there was good news. A paid searcher informed him that an old couple who lived in the mountain, roughly five furlongs from the forest, recently adopted a baby who was left on their front porch.
Immediately upon hearing the news, Jung rushed to the couple’s house to see the baby. Although he had never seen his friend’s baby before, he recognized right away that this was Cha’s son. The child strikingly resembled his dear friend. Moreover, an examination of the towels wrapped around the child found an embroidered family emblem. Jung recognized the emblem as belonging to the Chas. The child was indeed his friend’s son and had somehow survived the tragic ordeal.
Jung adopted the baby afterwards and named him Cha Boju (the avenger). To protect the child from possible pursuers, the silk trader moved to the remote border town Mansi.
..........End of Chapter II..........