Chor Lau Heung battled an enemy who kidnapped Song Siu Ching and almost killed her. Chor realised he didn't train Siu Ching enough hence gave her a very strict, hard-core boot camp. After two weeks, Siu Ching had more than enough bruises and frustration. Chor Lau Heung 1984 is the property of Gu Long and TVB HK. This fanfiction is dedicated to Michael Miu Kiu Wai and Barbara Yung Mei Ling. I own nothing but my love to them and this series (click here to read all CLH'84 episodes). Click this to read this fan-fiction at my new Jianghu blog.
|Chor Lau Heung and Song Siu Ching, ep 36|
Chor Lau Heung crouched behind the bush in the darkness. He knew he had to show himself soon, but he preferred to observe his surroundings first, pitch dark as it was. He squinted to see any signs around, including in the tree canopies. It was a moonless night, but he thought he saw something moving slightly on a tree across the clearing in front of him. Tentatively, he walked into the open clearing towards the tree. A swift sound alerted him and he pirouetted to the closest tree branch to avoid a flying dagger. Yet, as he landed his right foot on the branch, he caught another swift sound and had to backflip off the branch to avoid another dagger. Using both his gravity-defying skill and his agility, he had to do several somersaults among tree branches to avoid not only flying daggers but also throwing-stars. Eventually, the Lingering Fragrance had enough. He unhooked the Jade Sword he'd been carrying and, as he leapt towards his target tree, rotated the central point of the scabbard around his body to make an effective spherical shield as he used his gravity-defying skill (ching gung/qinggong) to practically fly towards the tree. As he parried the daggers and throwing-stars with that method, the offensive items scattered around him. Some were even reflected back to his offenders as could be heard from their gasps and cries as their weapons flew back at them. Closing in to the tree, Chor Lau Heung caught the last dagger thrown at him and threw it to the tree instead. He heard metal clanking before a chilling laughter broke.
"I have heard that you're good, but I never thought you were this good!"
"Thanks for your compliment," Chor Lau Heung landed safely on the grass and wrapped his fists to greet the enemy in the darkness. "Now I'm here, let her go."
"Not that easy, Chor Lau Heung. You have to defeat me first before you get her."
"You promised you'd let her go once I arrive here!"
"Ah, we are talking about promises, aren't we? What about your promise to be my brother's friend, and yet you betrayed him and let him fall off the cliff?!"
Lingering Fragrance squinted. "Mo Fa brought his own demise when he betrayed his sect and killed those innocents. If your sources were trustworthy, you'd know that I'd tried to reason with him before we had to have the duel."
"Rubbish! You let him die!"
Chor Lau Heung sighed as he remembered the day he lost Monk Mo Fa who used to be his best friend. "We fought on an unstable cliff of a volcanic mountain. The volcano exploded and I just managed to hold onto a rock. I managed to catch his sleeve but he still fell." He shook his head in sorrow. "To this day, I still wished that I was able to save him."
"You lie!" With a thundering anger, a figure leapt from the darkness. By now Chor's eyes were already adjusted to the darkness, hence he could see his opponent. Mo Tao was the half-brother of Monk Mo Fa’s who died during a duel years ago. Despite never meeting Mo Tao, Lingering Fragrance could see similarities between the two men. Although Mo Fa was stocky and Mo Tao was willowy, they both shared the same facial lines and postures. The way they squinted their eyes were also similar. Chor Lau Heung wondered why Heaven arranged two brothers to be his enemies. Would it be too much to ask to have friends instead of enemies?
"It was the truth. I can tell you all about it over wine had you asked me nicely." Chor moved forward, a glint of fury shone on his eyes. "Yet you had to kill half the Beggar Clan and decapitated one of the Shaolin masters just to get me. Thus I'm afraid..." He smiled although his eyes were alight with anger, "I just have to deal with you now."
"Deal," was the chilling response he got from Mo Tao.
"Release Siu Ching first."
"Not before you defeat me."
"Fine," Chor Lau Heung tried to buy more time. "At least show me that she is okay."
Mo Tao didn't say anything. He just made a swift tug with his left hand, which caused something gliding towards them. Chor looked up to see an iron cage gliding above her, then stopped suspended in the air, held by a cable stretching between trees. It wasn't just a cage though. The whole bars of the cage were installed with knives heading inwards into the heart of the captive inside the cage. Aimed at Song Siu Ching, who was crouching silently on the cage floor.
Realising the gravity of the situation, Chor Lau Heung felt his heart stopped beating for a moment. "Siu Ching..." He whispered before increasing his volume. "Siu Ching, are you alright?"
"Brother Chor!!" Siu Ching's panicked voice somehow told him that she was okay, at least until now. "I'm here!" As if he had to be told to see it.
"Stay still, Siu Ching. I will save you!" Through the cafe bar, Chor saw the pale face of the woman he loved nodding. Then their eyes met. Chor's heart sank. Siu Ching tried to be brave, but her unsaid fear made him realise that she also knew how tricky situation they were in now. Chor Lau Heung saw no other way out than an offensive strategy.
At that point, the said serial killer laughed to see trouble registered on Chor's usually calm countenance for a few seconds. "Chor Lau Heung, even a smart man like you would know by now how hopeless your situation is. I'm controlling the cage with the rope on my hand. If you hit me, the cage will fall. But its mechanism will release the daggers from the bars, effectively making your beloved a sliced fish. If you don't stop me from flying around, I can easily bang the cage to the branch above us, and it will also trigger the knives." Satisfied to see wrath burning Chor's face, Mo Tao added, "But of course we have another option. You can kill your sorry self in front of me, and as you died I will release your love so that she can take care of your funeral. That is, if I am not tempted to decapitate you first and feed your head to street dogs."
"Don't listen to him, Brother Chor!" Siu Ching screamed from above. "I have faith that you can defeat him!"
"And if you don't tell your woman to shut up, I can also release some knives so that she has some nice holes when you open up the cage!" barked Mo Tao. Siu Ching stopped talking, but more because she didn't want to add to the already grave situation. She just looked down to Chor who was looking back at her. She smiled. He smiled back and turned his attention towards Mo Tao.
"Well, if you insist," he finally said with a faint smile. "But don't forget, I can still win, and I still can take your head."
Both men stared at each other for what seemed like an eternity. Then, alternating between bare hand and sword, Chor Lau Heung opened with close-ranged attacks that ignored the sharp edge of Mo Tao's sabre. The famous golden sabre that had claimed more than fifty men for the last two months before he and Siu Ching decided to investigate the case. The same golden sabre, he deducted, that cut a strand of Siu Ching's hair as he received a letter from Mo Tao, with the hair strand inside, informing him that he had her and he was invited to a lethal duel in exchange for her safety. Suppressing his anger and concerns, Chor managed to deliver some blows that caused the cage to slide downwards. Yet, before the cage touched down, Lingering Fragrance had kicked the cage base upwards, preventing the daggers to be released. Nonetheless, this move also gave his opponent the chance to recover from his blows and launched counterattacks. Several times Mo Tao just pulled the rope with his left hand such that the cage almost hit the tree branch, but the King of Thieves used his gravity-defying skills to attack his enemy, such that Mo Tao had to use his left hand to block the attack, thus returning the cage to a somewhat normal position. In between, Mo Tao also launched some daggers and throwing stars at Chor, making him somersaulting, back flipping and pirouetting here and there.
Finally at wit’s end, Chor Lau Heung stopped and jumped back a few steps behind. Sweat profusely ran on his face, but he didn't bother wiping it off. He just calmed his breathing to the point that his opponent couldn't detect whether he was breathing or not. Then, before Mo Tao launched another insult or physical attack, Lau Heung suddenly leapt high in the air, swung his sword high to cut the rope off the cage and spinning mid-air towards the branch above the cage. Just as he reached that branch, he used one foot to propel him back into the air. He dove down, sliced the roof of the cage, pulled a semi-conscious Siu Ching from the cage and kicked the cage to propel them back into the air, just as the cage collided with the ground, releasing the daggers into a spot where Siu Ching was crouching a few seconds ago.
The couple tumbled down on the ground as the King of Thieves exhausted his momentum. Yet, as he rose to stabilise himself, Mo Tao scooped in to snatch the weak Siu Ching. Chor jumped on his feet but Mo Tao was faster. Shoving his sabre at Siu Ching's throat, he yelled, "Stop there or I'll slice her throat."
Unlike former assassin Yat Dim Hung who wanted nothing but information about his wife's killer in exchange of Siu Ching, or even Yuen Tsui Wan who harboured some unrequited feelings at the girl, Mo Tao had no affinity towards Siu Ching. When he said that he'd cut her throat, he meant exactly that. He actually had applied pressure to Siu Ching’s neck, such that a tiny line of blood started to appear there. Lingering Fragrance yielded. "Please let her go. This is between you and me."
"Fat chance, Chor Lau Heung! I know now that I may not be able to kill you without hurting myself. But it doesn't mean that I can't cut her throat open and enjoy your pain." Mo Tao slightly moved sideways to move out of Chor’s attack range. Yet as he did so, he slightly disturbed his balance such that his foot stumbled upon a protruding root. He staggered for a few seconds, but that was enough for Chor Lau Heung to throw a pebble to dislodge the sabre. Chor wasted no time; he leaped forward, pushed Siu Ching aside, delivered a kick on Mo Tao's chest and, as his foot gained stronghold on his enemy's chest, he back-flipped.
With one hand holding onto Siu Ching’s Jade Sword, Chor Lau Heung’s first instinct was to protect Siu Ching from another attack, and that was what he did next: enveloping her body with his body. But when he sensed Mo Tao jumping at him from behind with the swishing sound of a sabre, he turned and swung the Jade Sword around. The uncalculated move paid off, for the next thing he heard was the clank of metals colliding and the thud as Mo Tao's body fell on his feet, spraying blood on him and Siu Ching. The Jade Sword had apparently not only parried the golden sabre; it had also cut open Mo Tao’s chest.
That night, Chor Lau Heung and Song Siu Ching took a rest in a nearby Beggar Clan branch. Branch Leader Mr Siu didn't object when the blood-stained Chor requested one single room for him and Miss Song. Mr Siu had known the couple long enough and had been treating them as a married couple for a while. Chor Lau Heung didn't request one room to have any intimate moments with Siu Ching though. He did that because he realised he was so close to losing her that night, thus he just wanted to hug her to sleep. Siu Ching herself was rather shocked after the cage experience, hence she didn't disentangle herself from Chor the whole night. After bathing to clean themselves from the gore and blood, the couple slept spooning each other, although Lingering Fragrance did wake up several times from a nightmare about Siu Ching, which caused the girl to wake up too.
A few days later, the couple returned to the Fragrant Boat to the excitement of Sue, Rosie, Sugar and Wah Jan Jan, who had lost track of them during the Mo Tao fiasco. The next morning, Siu Ching woke up to find Chor in dark training clothes, instead of his usual white and dandy clothes. He handed her a training sword and asked her to follow him outside. He then explained that, although Siu Ching had asked him to train her, in which he did, he now realised that he hadn't train the girl enough. The hostage situation with Mo Tao was the evidence.
"I need to train you better, Siu Ching," said Chor as he looked deep into her eyes. "I need to train you hard until I know you can defend yourself with or without me around. And I'll know that if you manage to defeat me in a fight."
Full of love to her Chor tai-gor, Siu Ching gave her consent and started the training directly. However, she didn't realise what she truly signed for. Contrary to his jovial self, Chor Lau Heung was very strict, almost dictatorial, during the training. He designed a training regime that involved tough strength and durability exercises in addition to sword and bare hand fighting. At dawn, well before breakfast, he'd wake Siu Ching up and made her do some warming up movements before they ran up and down the small hill nearby the river their boat was parked at. After breakfast, he'd make her run and fetch buckets of water for the boat's logistics, alternating with some push ups and core exercises to build up her sword/dagger throwing skills. He then had an hour of sword fighting trainings with her before lunch time. After lunch, he'd do some breathing exercises with her, followed by at least one hour of repeated and focused beating of a log with a heavy wooden stick to sharpen Siu Ching’s attacks. They'd continue with a bare hand fight until dinner time, after which they'd do a series of combined weapon and bare hand fights before bedtime. The order of the training changed every few days to prevent Siu Ching’s body getting too much into the rhythm and forget alertness.
Chor Lau Heung never let Siu Ching getting slack. He'd train her hard and expected the best efforts from her. He even slept outside the Fragrant Boat in a hut nearby the river and often didn't join the girls for dinner. He did it consciously because he felt he had to distance himself from his love to Siu Ching during the training to avoid being too lenient toward her. Originally, Siu Ching truly didn't mind for she really wanted to improve her kung fu and reduce her dependence on Chor's protection. She even ignored Sugar teasing her during her morning bucket exercises and got the hang of it.
However, after two weeks, Siu Ching started to feel like she was enrolling in a military regime befitting an imperial guard instead of training with her lover. She also had more than enough bruises and frustration. It went so far one night when she almost couldn't walk back to the boat upon completing her post-dinner training. Upon seeing her dishevelled state, the girls rushed in to help. Sugar even commented that she had never trained this hard before. She made Siu Ching chicken soup as Rosie prescribed the tired girl some herbal supplements. At that point, Chor Lau Heung entered the Fragrant Boat to get a book. He was received with questioning looks from the girls but he ignored them. He did cast an unreadable glance at Siu Ching, who was massaging her bruises, before leaving the boat again. Staring at his receding back, Siu Ching started to wonder why she did all those trainings if her lover wouldn't even bother to pat her back or console her for her bruises afterwards.
A few evenings later, the problem culminated before dinner when the Lingering Fragrance managed to deliver her a fatal blow, again, without her delivering a single successful counterattack. The blow was on the upper chest area below her right collarbone and it really hurt that she stopped breathing for a few seconds.
"Siu Ching, be serious!" Chor reprimanded her when she stopped to examine the bruise. "That was a fatal blow! You could've been killed or at least have a broken bone had I not withdrawn myself!"
Frustrated, Siu Ching retorted, "Well then perhaps you shouldn't have delivered the blow! It hurts!"
"Of course it does! And you could've blocked it had you listened to what I said earlier, and also yesterday, and the day before."
By this point, Siu Ching had enough of Chor's dictatorial training regime. She threw away her sword and screamed, "Stop it, Chor tai-gor! You're so ruthless and inconsiderate! I never had a day of rest since we started. Even Sugar said that they never trained this hard. Why are you doing this to me?!" Receiving no reply from Chor, who just looked silently back at her, she vented out her last frustration. "Don't you forget that I used to live in the Palace!"
What Siu Ching meant was that she was indeed used to live in the Palace as a princess, hence not used to such a hard training. Chor Lau Heung perceived it the other way tho; he thought the Princess finally regretted living a wanderer's life with him. He glared at her, stabbed his own sword into the ground, and with a chilling voice said, "Well then, perhaps you should go back there. That will save me the trouble of rescuing you next time."
With that, he left the training field without even bothering to look back. Siu Ching was too stunned to reply. In fact, she just stood there for a few minutes before tears treacherously streamed down her face. She dropped down, sobbed and wailed for a good half an hour until she got tired of it. Sniffling her tears and wiping her runny nose with her dirty palms, she got up and walked down towards the boat. With a mixed feeling, she tentatively checked whether Chor Lau Heung was inside the boat. To her disappointment and relieved, she found out that he wasn't there. Sue, Sugar, Rosie and Jan Jan were there though, welcoming her with question marks floating above their heads. Ignoring them, Siu Ching packed some of her belongings (not all; she had too much belongings at this stage and couldn’t be bothered to collect them all) and left the boat. She was passing by the training field when she heard Sugar and Rosie calling her. She didn't bother to stop, but she had to eventually, when the girls leapt above her and landed a few meters in front of her.
"Where are you going?" Sugar went straight to the point.
"Back home, where I am treated with respect and without anyone beating me almost to death."
"Brother Chor is trying to improve your kung fu, not to beat you to death," Rosie said with her soothing voice.
"Well, with what he did just now, and what he said just now, they're practically to that effect." Siu Ching started walking again pass the girls. "Now leave me alone."
The girls would have none of it. "It's dark, and you're hungry," said sensible Rosie. "If you really want to leave, why don't you do that tomorrow morning? Now you can rest and have some dinner." She opened a container Sugar gave her. "Here, have some chicken. We know you love this."
Siu Ching stood still for a while before relented. She was hungry and tired after all. "But I'm not going back to the boat," she said. "I will stay here till dawn."
Rosie and Sugar exchanged glances before they agreed. They sat down with Siu Ching, waiting for the dishevelled girl to finish the chicken. Afterwards, Sugar handed her some water, to which Siu Ching thanked sincerely.
"At least after I'm gone, you'll have more space for you girls," wiping her mouth, Siu Ching whispered to the ground.
Sugar looked at Rosie and back at Siu Ching before replying, "Perhaps. But are you sure that you want to leave?"
“What else can I do? The way Brother Chor treated me the last few weeks, I don't know if he still loves me.”
Rosie shook her head. “Oh but I think he still does. He treated you that way because he loved you. It hurt him every time you got captured, so he trained you hard so that you are safe and he doesn’t have to go through that feeling again. You know that, don’t you?”
Siu Ching didn’t reply until a good few minutes. “Originally I do. But now I don't get it. Don't you need to cherish the one you love instead of beating them like this?”
“I have to agree that Chor tai-gor went too far this time,” Sugar said unexpectedly. “But I also agree that, like it or not, he loves you. You might have forgotten about this, but Jan Jan told us a few nights ago how he was so worried about you when you were kidnapped by Fell Cut. Then when you were taken hostage by Yuen Tsui Wan, Brother Chor had to make a difficult decision whether to continue tracking you down or secure Hua Shan. He chose the latter, but Jan Jan could vouch for the worried look that he had every time he thought no one was watching. He kept looking at the Yunnan direction despite them heading toward Hua Shan.”
Siu Ching shook her head as tears streamed down her cheeks again, silently this time. “I don’t know whether I’ll be able to continue doing this.” Wiping her tears, she added an afterthought. “I actually don’t think I can, or that I want to either.”
Silence fell among the three girls. Only the sound of cicadas and night birds were heard as they listened to the night life around them. Finally, Rosie rose and declared that they should go back to the boat. Siu Ching could think of her next step tomorrow after a proper rest. The tired girl rejected the idea, stating that she’d stay in the training field for the night.
“It’s cold here, Siu Ching,” Sugar stated a matter-of-factly. “You might get a cold tomorrow.”
Siu Ching shook her head as she rose. Walking towards her abandoned sword, she said, “I won’t sleep much tonight. I’m not sure if I will stay here tomorrow or not, hence might as well do some training while I can.” She shrugged. “For the sake of it, for the sake of the past.”
Rosie and Sugar exchanged looks again before consented and left. Siu Ching practiced her movements until well after midnight. In between her self-made training sessions, she’d stop and let tears fell on her face before she resumed her drills. Exhausted, she finally fell asleep on the ground under a tree without bothering to light a fire.
As the first rays of the morning sun peeked from behind the clouds, she stirred in her sleep and slowly opened her eyes. Her neck felt cramped. Well, sleeping on the cold ground with damp clothes is never good for health anyway. She was expecting to shiver, but then she realised she was actually feeling quite warm. She saw the embers of a dying fire a few meters from her. Rosie must have lit the fire when she was asleep. She then realised she wasn't really sleeping on the ground. Her lower body was indeed on the ground, covered with a blanket, but her head was resting on something soft. On someone's thigh. She rose with a start when she realised she had been sleeping on Brother Chor's thigh. The man she missed and cried for last night was sleeping as he leaned on the tree, but one of his hands rested on her shoulder in a protective gesture. Her movement woke Chor Lau Heung, who looked at her gently.
"You've awake," he stated softly, in lieu of his good morning.
Siu Ching looked around, confused.
"You slept on the ground last night. I didn't want to wake you up, so I just stayed here with you." Receiving no response, he added that he’d been watching her doing the training for a while before she slept under the tree. He then asked whether she slept well. Siu Ching still said nothing. Instead, she disentangled herself from Lingering Fragrance. She looked around for her sword and grabbed it when she found it lying next to them. She rose and prepared to leave. Chor Lau Heung rose as well and asked where she was going. She debated whether to tell him or not, but eventually she did.
“Back to the boat, take a bath, then going to the capital, I guess.” She turned to look at him. “I don’t think anyone wants me here anymore.”
A glint of remorse was reflected on Lau Heung’s eyes as he walked, no, strode towards her. “Everyone wants you here. I want you here.” Almost possessively, he grabbed her by her arms to make her facing him. “I need you here. Don’t go.” He pulled her into his strong embrace. “Stay.”
Siu Ching choked on her tears as she whispered, “Why?” She looked up to see tears spilling down the face of the man she loved. “You haven’t treated me like you should have the last few weeks. I don’t know who I am for you anymore.”
Lingering Fragrance shook his head and buried his damp face on the nook between Siu Ching’s neck and shoulder. It was a while before he finally said, "I know...I'm so sorry I've been so rough at you, Siu Ching. I just wanted to keep you safe. It hurts me, the worry kills me, every time something bad happens to you. So I want to train you so you can defend yourself regardless of whether I am around. But I forgot you're a human that needs rest too. And you also need love, comfort and encouragement... And I didn't give you those for the last few weeks. For that, I am so sorry."
Song Siu Ching didn’t move for a good few minutes. She just soaked herself in Chor’s embrace, the warm embrace that she had been missing lately. Finally returning his embrace with hers, she whispered, “I thought you don't love me anymore...”
Chor Lau Heung shook his head in despair. “Of course I do love you; that was why I made you go through this. But Sue and Jan Jan lectured me last night about this, as Sugar and Rosie ignored me completely. I realised that I should have not started the training based on my fear of what might happen. I should have started the training because I love you. I should have made it more enjoyable for you.” His hands trailed to touch Siu Ching’s hands to feel callouses that were formed during the intense two weeks. Sighing, he brought both of her hands to his lips and kissed them. “I’m sorry I injured you like this...” Then, remembering something, he added, “Oh, right. Can I look at your bruises? Rosie brought me her ointment, but I didn’t want to wake you up last night.”
Receiving her silent consent, he sat her down under the tree. He then gently untied her blouse slightly to reveal a large and blue hematoma below her right collarbone. Regret flashed on his eyes again as he slowly massaged the bruise with ointment. She winced every time he touched her sore spots, so he had to adjust his pressure.
“I'm sorry I went too far last night...” he whispered almost to himself. Siu Ching shook her head as tears started to stream down her cheeks once more. Chor Lau Heung shushed and hugged her. When she still cried, his lips slowly searched for hers and kissed them. He didn’t stop there; he also kissed her nose, her eyes, and her forehead. She eventually stopped crying and just laid her head on his shoulder.
They didn't do any training at all that day and the day after. Instead, after a bath and a peaceful breakfast with the girls, Lingering Fragrance took his love to the hill where they lazed around the whole day. The next day, Chor Lau Heung spent half a day discussing his next training plan with her, for they had agreed to continue the training under a different regime. They then spent the remaining day playing chess, eating good food and enjoying the nice music Sugar played.
Two days after their fight, they started the training again. Realising that agility, instead of strength, was Siu Ching's forte, Chor Lau Heung replaced a portion of strength exercises with agility and ching gung exercises, with good rest in between. He also stayed on the boat again and joked around. He made sure Siu Ching knew he loved her and he did this because he couldn’t bear living without her. He made sure that the training was more enjoyable for her too. For instance, he’d have her practice her gravity-defying skills by tree-hopping to chase her favourite hairpin (the one he took when they were at the Palace) or (this one was her other favourite) by just rewarding her with a kiss or a pinch on her chin whenever she could catch him. He also created some manoeuvres tailor-suited to a girl of Siu Ching’s height and flexibility.
The new regime worked. In less than a week, she managed to deliver a critical blow at him, which he received gladly. When they examined his bruise, it was large and started to look blue, not unlike the bruise Siu Ching had the previous week. But to Lingering Fragrance, he'd rather experience such bruises than having his Siu Ching taken away from him again.
Special thanks to Mandred Skavenslayer of the SPCnet.tv for inspiring me to write about Brother Chor’s agility. The whole 40 episodes of 1984 Chor Lau Heung can be viewed at Dramanice. I have very little knowledge on what happened between Monk Mo Fa and Chor; I only know they were friends-turned-enemies. The first ep of CLH 84 had a few minutes of duel with Mo Fa, hence I based my narrative from that scene. I created the Mo Tao character just for this story.