The Deathblow (1 of 2)

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Even after their exhausting day, the other women never fell asleep immediately. Arguments, tears, teasing, complaints, games, songs and gossip went on for a bit in the castle's women's wing. Of course, they hushed up the moment they saw Tien Lyn, as if her listening to their petty secrets might somehow ruin them. But this spell of silence was not like that, it was sudden and absolute.

Frightened, Tien Lyn climbed out of her hammock, lit up a lamp, and tiptoed around the curtains that divided the dormitory. It was crowded since the imminent threat of the demons' attack drove many to the stronghold from their huts. The women looked fast asleep to Tien Lyn. Nobody shifted, snored, or complained about the light shining into their faces. Yes, it was strange, but hardly threatening.

Cursing herself for a coward, she was about to return to her hammock, when shadows moved by the door.


Tien Lyn lifted up her lamp with a trembling hand and called out in a matching voice, "Who's there?"

"Did I frighten you? Sorry."

She knew that voice, and it had nothing to do with the pirates or demons. "Yu?!"

Tien Lyn nearly leaped with joy, before she came back to her senses. She was in the pirate's stronghold, surrounded by the enemies, and on the brink of being attacked by the demons. "Ancestors, Yu! You must leave! They'll kill you!"

She pushed the healer towards the exit.

"No, no." He caught her arms and resisted being moved. The lamp swung between them, the darting shadows giving his face an unfamiliar, stubborn expression. "We must wait for Finch, then we will run. There is a ship waiting. The 'Waverunner.'"

"I must be dreaming," Tien Lyn decided and stopped her ineffectual shoving. "Finch and you? You don't belong together."

"I... ah..." Yu took the lamp from her and put it on the floor. They now stood in a circle of light, isolated from the rest of the dark world. "I returned to Zhushulin to find Xi. He is alive. Then I found Finch. Or, rather, Finch found me."

Tien Lyn barely heard anything after he said that Xi was alive. She grabbed the front of his tunic, "Xi is alive?! Swear it!"

He smiled wanly at her. "Xi is well. Shao's wife is nursing him. I swear this on my Father's spirit."

"Oh, Ancestors, " Tien Lyn cried happy, silent tears until she realized she was still clinging to him, resting her forehead against his shoulder.

"Sorry, sorry," she whispered, wiping her eyes and would have stepped back, but he held her in place.

"Wait, please," he asked, and tilted his head to one side, listening. Tien Lyn heard it too, the drumming of the purposeful steps, and an angry exclamation.

The fear she felt when she'd first recognized him returned tenfold. She pushed him away again. "Run! It's Dion, Jung Hwa's son!"

Yu's brows shot up apologetically, but he did not budge. If she'd not been so scared, she'd have giggled at the game they were playing.

Dion was through the doors, a lamp in one hand, an unsheathed knife - in the other.

"Sorry," Yu breathed out and kissed her.

Tien Lyn had never seen his eyes so clearly. He never blinked once. Why does he want us dead?

Whatever his reasons, Yu chose a highly effective approach to getting his death wish fulfilled.

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