Friday, January 4, 2008

"At the Peony Tea House" - Part 1

After a two week hiatus, I'm back to make the first post of the new year. I hope everyone's holiday season went well. Mine was good, if not rushed.

Today I present to you Part 1 of "At the Peony Tea House", a story expanding upon the characters and continuing the story lines from the five-act story "The Children of Gods" which I wrote and posted last year. These are fantasy Wuxia stories with anthropomorphic characters. I hope you enjoy.

Here are links to the original "The Children of Gods" story:

"The Children of Gods" Act I
"The Children of Gods" Act II
"The Children of Gods" Act III
"The Children of Gods" Act IV
"The Children of Gods" Act V

Let's get started.

"At the Peony Tea House"
by Charles Shaver. Copyright 2008 by Charles Shaver. All rights reserved.



THE RESIDENT OF THE PEONY: Wherein Wu Chan Chu is Challenged by Comet Fox


Popular with those that walk with divinity is the Peony Tea House, though it is not so innocent and charming as its name would suggest. It is true that many an undertaking generally considered immoral or otherwise in poor taste finds a home within the tea house, yet gods and immortals of variety frequent the establishment. All affectionately called the tea house simply "The Peony".

The house is painted with the greens of spring and a pink so light one might consider it white if not glared upon with some small intensity. Tea is their specialty, and few dislike it, but wine is most common.

The house never closes. In that there were many that could in some small way consider this unimposing structure their home. Few, however, could make that claim with any truth. Only the owners and select few of the staff could truly call the tea house home. Among those was Wu Chan Chu, as she was the tea house's resident champion and as champion was granted a room, free of charge, for her lodging.

Sweat and the haze from every imaginable smoking herb hung in the air of the main room of the tea house. Tables line the walls as do booths and three bars. The center of the room is clear of all obstruction and has a floor of fine woods, polished though scarred. If one did not know its true purpose, one might consider it a proper dance floor.

A dance of sorts does occur on the floor, but not that which is generally considered fine and civilized. For the Peony Tea House, above all else - before its duties as a tea house, before its use as a brothel, before its importance as a gathering place, before its liquors and multiple indulgences - is first and foremost home to games of physical skill, of combat.

Wu Chan Chu stood at the center of the polished floor. Beside her was a small man, one of the owners, calling for a challenger. She had lost some weight since she had fought side-by-side with her brother, Xiao-tep, long ago in the Cottonwood Chamber. She still bore the mark he had given her in the belly.

Her eyes drifted up, up to a small loft with a veranda overlooking the floor. There, in a plush chair and accompanied by various peoples and creatures sat the god Hanuman, seeking the joys of night.

Wu Chan Chu's fists opened and closed in anticipation.

"Come! Challengers! We need challengers! We will give good odds to anyone with fighting skills!" called out the owner through a leather funnel that caused his voice to boom, echoing off the walls of the tea house.

His beckoning was answered by a man claiming to be immortal. Though small, he was muscular and looked quite athletic. He stepped forward to the center of the polished floor.

Bets were placed, cheers thrown out, excitement grew. Everyone had come to witness the grand and fine champion of the Peony Tea House.

The owner removed himself from the floor and the fight began.

The stranger approached with an aggressive stance, throwing a quick and short punch to test his range against Wu Chan Chu's. The frog demi-goddess had to do nothing to avoid the punch. The stranger followed with a quick and low kick to her legs. She blocked it and he shifted with blinding speed to deliver a similar kick with his other foot. This one hit her calf and sent a bit of pain into her body. She blinked but did nothing more.

The stranger bolted in with a kick aimed high at her chest. Wu Chan Chu blocked the kick with a folded arm and countered with a kick to his inner thigh.

The stranger worked in closer, trying to get within her comfortable range, and was finally left standing near her chest. Wu Chan Chu threw punch after punch, haymaker after haymaker at the stranger but his arms were folded at his sides and took the brunt of the damage. She swung wider and wider, opening her chest more and more to attack. At last, the stranger attacked.

He delivered three punches, two to her chest and one to the healed cut on her belly.

Wu Chan Chu lifted her knee into the face of the stranger and he was sent reeling from the blow. She pressed the attack ad the crowd cheered her on. She threw first one knee then the other into his chest as he tried to escape backwards. She let him go, let him catch his breath. The people screamed for blood and booed their champion for allowing the man time to recuperate.

The stranger gathered himself and slowly started in towards the center of the floor once more.

Wu Chan Chu ran, jumped in a small way for her, twisting the weight of her body and bringing her knee up and out like a spearhead. She flew higher than most men are tall and her knee came crashing down on his skull. Blood sprayed from his nose, coughing from between his teeth and the stranger fell to the floor.

Wu Chan Chu collected her prize money for the win as the stranger was helped up and out of the tea house.

The owner appeared once more.

He beckoned again through the leather funnel for challengers. He called out, threatened and finally begged for someone to step forward, but no one would. He did not want to call an end to the evening's festivities. An early end meant less wine and tea sold, less bets placed, less money made.

"Surely," said he, "someone finds our champion full of nothing but luck. Please! I beg you! Rid me of her!"

Wu Chan Chu had heard this all before and was not offended. The owner was simply doing his job, making the sale, tempting the would-be challengers in the crowd too full of self-doubt or not yet full enough of liquor to step forward.

"Come! All challengers! Anyone? What a sad night this would be with such a pathetic ending! We need a new challenger! Can we allow our honored guest," at this the owner waved a hand towards Hanuman seated high above, "go home tonight without proper entertainment?"

At last the crowd parted. At last someone stepped forward.

Through the crowd came an old familiar face. Through the crowd came Comet Fox.

"I will challenge your champion!" he proclaimed and smiled at Wu Chan Chu.

Comet Fox now donned a sash about his chest, yellow like wheat in the fall, and holding to his form his ulus, his weapons of choice.

As the fox-god and frog demi-goddess drew together at the center of the floor, Wu Chan Chu spoke. "We entertain a god tonight."

"What's a god to a god?" Comet Fox asked.

"Let's tear this place apart."

"I won't hold back," Comet Fox sneered. They backed away from one another and the owner announced the fight before disappearing into the crowd to collect bets.

The gathered crowd chanted, "KU-MI-TE! KU-MI-TE! KU-MI-TE!"

Wu Chan Chu squared herself.

Comet Fox backed away, turning to the crowd and clapping his pawed hands together in time with their chanting. The crowd began clapping along, creating a riotous beat echoing throughout the tea house.

He then turned back towards Wu Chan Chu and bent forward, his legs kicking up and back like a rooster scratching at the ground.

As he cartwheeled, Wu Chan Chu thought her old friend wanted to tumble rather than fight. Confused, she knew then Comet Fox had not lost his roots as the son of a trickster god.


Check back next week for Part 2 of "At the Peony Tea House"! Thanks for reading! Let's have a good new year!

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