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    WARNING: Stories on this site may contain mature language and situations, and may be inappropriate for readers under the age of 18.

    THE HERBALIST II: AFTER THE FALL by J T Asher
    October 18, 2013  Short stories   Tags:   

    “Your real father, Devil’s Palm, he is a very bad man. He killed thousands of innocent people, and most of them died in a cruel and horrible fashion, either by his devices, diseases, or by his insane experimentations. You must understand, I ended him, for the greater good,” the Herbalist said before he left.

    “And how dare he insult my father! So what if he killed many people? In this world, in this jianghu, it is kill or be killed! Much must be sacrificed to push the boundaries further in the name of science. My father was a radical man, but the Herbalist is not that different. He kills too. He uses beautiful reasons and excuses, the ‘failures’ he regretted. And no one blames him for that. But I know his dirty secrets,”

    It seemed like an eternity that Zhou has been sitting on the chair, in the Herbalist’s Tower. The more he thought of the reason he was staying there, the angrier he became. A fatal mistake that now became the downfall of his brilliantly concocted plan for vengeance.

    He struggled to get up, but he couldn’t. The drug was still in him.

    You must understand, I ended him, for the greater good,” the words came to him again and again, like waves crashing on the same rocks.

    “Come on, get up! Come on!” he screamed in his head, willing his body, but he couldn’t even curl his fingers, or to blink his dry eyes. He couldn’t even perspire.

    He heard footsteps stomping up the tower in fury. It sounded like someone leading a herd of cows to climb the stairs. The door flung open and the two servants of the Herbalist hurried in, and shut it tight. They immediately barricaded the door with everything they could find.

    “Did you see Jin and Little Ren?” one of them asked between breathes.

    “No. We got separated when the place is overrun,”

    “They just came out of everywhere! They are…wait, who is this?”

    They inspected Zhou briefly and poked him. “Some guy that Jiahui took in. At least he is dead,”

    “OPEN UP! GUYS, PLEASE! OPEN UP!” Someone was slamming on the door. The two servants looked at each other. One of them reached for the door, but his partner pulled him back.

    “That is Jin, god damn it!” He pushed his partner away and tried to remove the barricades. Jin was pushing and slamming at the door at the same time.

    “They’re coming! Hurry!”

    A gap appeared in time for Jin to squeeze her head through, just as the animalistic grunts and howls were blanketing the room. Jin was panicking even more, but her fat torso was stuck. Zhou began to feel the air blowing so ever slightly at the back of his neck. He could now smell rotten flesh. His index finger twitched. He could also hear a very loud scream.

    “We got you Jin! We got you!”

    “Get me in please! I don’t want to die!”

    They pulled Jin in as hard as they could, and all three of them fell to the floor. Jin was finally in.

    Or what was left of Jin.

    “I…uh…” Jin groaned and stopped moving. A hundred grey, bloodied fingers appeared at the gap of the barricade, tugging at the splattered intestines of Jin. The fingers reached out, and now twenty filthy arms were pushing everything and anything away. The two men, knowing of their ultimate fate, hid in the furthest corner of the room quaking in fear. One of them took out a small bottle and gulped down the contents without hesitation. He choked and choked, and within a minute he slumped to the floor.

    “NO! What about me? Why didn’t you leave anything for me?” The last man searched desperately at his dead friend’s pockets, but he couldn’t find anything that could give him an easy way out. He ran to the Herbalist’s cabinets but all he could find was ginseng, or cordicep, or some other herbs that may either increase sense awareness, or prolong life.

    “No, no, not like this,” he cried as the last piece of barricade broke, and the corpses stumbled towards him. Zhou watched, with his eyes still unable to shut, while the man fought his last uphill battle, and was eventually grabbed and tore into several pieces of flesh within seconds.

    An old woman, late for the party, was not getting any share of the meal.

    She turned and stared at Zhou. She stared into his dead eyes hard, looking for his soul.

    “Are you sure you’re really dead?”

    “Get me the needles now,”

    The lantern lights were quivering, as if they have known fear. The old bed was quaking and squeaking; the patient was slowly slipping out of consciousness, but she was not giving up her sanity without one last struggle. In the midst of her babbling nonsense, the Herbalist caught a few words about her husband, and her favorite Southern dish.

    “Needles, sir,”

    “Jiahui, you need to keep your cool,” the Herbalist said to his young apprentice. Jiahui stood beside her master, feeling ashamed and frightened at the same time. There was a groan, and the patient spewed blood onto the Herbalist’s robe. Jiahui flinched, while the Herbalist seemed unbothered, while absent-mindedly flicking his fingers on the bloodied robe and humming on a merry tune.

    “Hmm…eyes are red. Nail color…purple. About time to go,” he observed with an eerily unconcerned chuckle, “You’re shivering as badly as the patient,” the Herbalist continued in his usual leisurely tone as he poked the acupuncture needles on several pressure points on the patient.

    “You’re not even looking at me,” the young student retorted.

    “I can hear the gritting of your teeth. Nobody wants to see a medical lord that has no confidence…or can’t even hide her own fear,”

    The patient moaned in pain, and suddenly regained some clarity. She opened her eyes and pleaded loudly in fear, “Please kill me. I can’t take this anymore. I don’t want to become a monster,”

    “Oh you, be quiet,” the Herbalist snapped, and stabbed his index finger on the back of the patient’s head. She sank again into semi-consciousness.

    “Were you ever…afraid?” asked Jiahui.

    “Oh, never. Treating patients is not just a job. It’s like…hmm…a hobby! Nothing better than sticking a hundred needles on a shivering, twitching patient,”

    Jiahui grabbed the Herbalist by the arm and whispered, “Master, we have to get out of here right now,” she looked around the dungeon and made sure no one else was around, “We can tell Lord Tong that there is nothing we could do to help…”

    The Herbalist waved her off and replied as quietly, “The only reason he is keeping us alive is because I’m the renowned Herbalist that heals everyone. If he finds out his two daughters, the grandma, and his wife are all dead, then we shall both go to hell and see Fifth Uncle Yen,”

    “But the words of Lord Tong, leader of the Clan of Flying Dagger…”

    But before he could say more, the patient’s condition took a worst turn. Her fingers were clawing and ripping on the mattress, her mouth drooling involuntarily. She gasped for air the one last time, and her body collapsed unto death.

    Jiahui and the Herbalist stared at each other’s blank faces. After purging the infected patients at the Herbalist’s tower, they journeyed towards the West Hills in search of the Five Poison League. The Herbalist believed this unstoppable disease came from the hands of their leader, Poison Princess. They were to confront her and put an end to a medical war spanning over the decades. All these years the Five Poison League has unleashed countless diseases to the nearby populations, and used various unspeakable poisons against anyone that got in their way. Good villagers were often captured for their deadly experimentations. The Herbalist was the beacon of hope, finding cures and healing all. And all was lost when the sick died and rose again only to make dinner out of everyone.

    Invited graciously by Lord Tong of the Flying Dagger Clan, the Herbalist unwittingly stepped into his fortress just as food and supplies were running low. It was a deadly mistake – the Herbalist was soon forced to heal the bitten ones, with a sword pointing at his chest.

    They heard footsteps approaching the dungeon. The dead patient’s fingers were twitching so ever slightly. Based on experiences, the Herbalist knew that she would be waking up in a couple of minutes, only for blood and brains. His assistant was looking at him, waiting for him to come up with an idea. The footsteps were getting louder by the minute.

    With haste, the duo lifted the body to a clean bed. Jiahui got rid of the bloodied mattress, while the Herbalist wiped off any signs of blood and drool on the corpse’s face. They were putting on the blanket just when they heard the loud clanking of the door locks.

    Lord Tong’s teenage son walked in to see the Herbalist cleaning his acupuncture needles, and Jiahui preparing some medical concoction. He bowed courteously at the Herbalist and said, “I’m deeply sorry about this mess. My father should not have locked you up and threatened you. I’m so truly ashamed,”

    The Herbalist smiled politely and replied, “Oh I understand how you father feels. No hard feelings though,” and he gave the young man a pat.

    “How is she?” the young man pointed at the woman on the bed.

    “Oh, your mother is fine,” the Herbalist chuckled, “I think she is slowly recovering. She is asleep now…” the young man brushed him aside and went to his mother’s bed. He grasped her fingers and felt her lingering warmth.

    “Mother, mother,” he spoke gently, “Ah Yang is here to see you, mother,”

    Mother groaned in her sleep and her fingers grasped on her son’s in response. She tilted her head groggily, as if it was a morning too early to wake upon.

    “Mother? I’m so glad you’re well,”

    Mother slowly flipped her eyes open. She stared back at those loving eyes, as if taking her time to recognize her son.

    “Mother, your eyes are still red. But at least you’re fine now,” the son smiled with tears welling up and dripping out, and laid his face on hers, while he said to the Herbalist, “Can you take a look at her eyes later on? She seems to AAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!”

    Mother pulled a chunk out of his face and before she could swallow it, was already reaching for his left earlobe. The son yelled in pain and terror and struggled to free himself, but her mother’s fingers were tightly clutching onto his, the fingernails stabbing into flesh and redness. In the midst of horror, the son, still having remembered the martial arts taught by his father, and with an overpowering sense for survival, twisted and broke his mother’s arms, and pulled his face away from those chomping teeth. And right that second, a great slab of boulder crushed onto his feet, and his bloody cheek dropped right into his mother’s hungry mouth again.

    “What are you waiting for?” the Herbalist turned to his frightened assistant, slightly amused by her shocked round eyes, “Take your stuff! Let’s go!” Jiahui grabbed her backpack and shovel and the duo rushed out of the dungeon. She took a final look at the horrible mess, just when Mother burped aloud.

    They fled up the stairs as soft and quick as shadows, with their shovels ready to knock on unsuspecting heads. They reached the upper floor and to their dismay, not one, but four guards were standing in their way.

    “Why are you out here, Master Herbalist?”

    “I’m on my way to see Master Tong,” the Herbalist answered with a gentle smile, “You see, Madam Tong has fully recovered and she wants to speak with her husband. I urge you to quickly find your master and bring him right here,”

    The guards inspected them from head to toe, and the gruff, tallest guard with a beak-like mouth spoke, “Oh no, no, no. You are going nowhere with your pack, and your little shovel,”

    “Well son, I need to go and get some herbs from the store to tend to Madam Tong. We’re running low with the supplies in the dungeon…”

    “No, you’re not getting any herbs any day and I suggest you crawl back to where you belong, or I’ll pick up your old senile ass and throw you into the boiler room,”

    The Herbalist leaped forward with surprising agility, struck his shovel with all his might and stabbed right into the mouth of the mouthy guard. Before even he dropped to the floor and lay dead, the Herbalist spun himself right between two other guards, and stung their chests with two needles in between his fingers. They slumped to the floor on his left and right, their arms lay motionless on their swords, still yet to pull them out.

    The last guard was fast enough to block the Herbalist’s furious kick, but no faster than his fingers that pierced into his eyes. The man howled in pain with his newfound blindness, and tumbled down the stairs. An alarm was immediately sounded, and now rushing footsteps and the clanking of swords echoed through the halls.

    The Herbalist pulled his shovel out from the beak-like mouth with a sloshy pop and examined that face. “Well, insulted the wrong old, senile ass, eh?” he taunted with a smirk. Jiahui looked at the skirmish’s aftermath and remained silent. The kindly, slow-moving, gentle old master of hers has morphed into someone she barely recognized by now.

    As if he could read minds, the Herbalist spoke softly, “I was secretly trained by a Wudang swordsman after he lost a bet to me. That was a long time ago,”

    “You…you never told me, I would never…”

    “My dear, there is so much more you don’t know about me. But now is not the time…”

    Jiahui couldn’t look his at the eye, and involuntarily took a step back from someone she used to know, and love. The Herbalist saw that, and quickly grabbed a hold on her hands, and said, “Look at me! I mean no harm to anyone, especially to you! Trust in your master again, Jiahui! You have to get to the Alchemist. He is an old friend of mine, and he is only a day’s journey away from here,”

    Jiahui looked into those bright cerulean eyes, and could not help but trembled.

    “You must find him, Jiahui! He’ll know what to do. Lord Tong is coming, and I can hold him off for you to escape…”

    “Speak of the devil,” a voice boomed in the air, and out of nowhere, a huge man pounced towards the Herbalist, both their weapons clashed with a thunderous screech and the shovel was broken into two. The Herbalist was knocked backwards to the wall, while the man stood his ground. It was Lord Tong, leader of the Flying Dagger Clan.

    The Herbalist remained calm and languidly shook off the dust and concrete fallen on his shoulders. He exclaimed with a smirk, “Thankfully, I have got extra,” and took out another shovel from his backpack.

    “Well, Master Herbalist,” the man sniggered in a deep, gruff voice, “I must admit, your soft, old gentlemanly demeanor has fooled me. You sly, old fox! I should have guard this place by my own, if I have known of your…”

    “Hidden talents. I need a pastime when I’m not too busy on curing patients and writing medical scrolls, you know,”

    The two men fixed their eyes on each other, their weapons ready to clash again, their feet ready to strike out with intensity. The hall was surrounded with many guards, but they held their breaths and remained silent.

    “Now come quietly, back to the dungeon,” Lord Tong pointed his sword at the Herbalist, “You can’t win,”

    The Herbalist smiled and replied, “Oh, never try, never know, right?”

    “Very well,”

    The Herbalist had this coming. But he did not know how deceivingly fast those gruff, clumsy-looking fingers of Lord Tong were, right until a flurry of daggers came rocketing to him in perilous speed. He hit the daggers away as best and fast as he could, just as Lord Tong charged towards him with all his might, the sword clashing again with the shovel.

    And a dagger flew out from his hand, aimed towards Jiahui, and struck her on the left thigh before she could even duck away. Jiahui pulled out the dagger with a scream of pain, aimed at the back of Lord Tong and threw the dagger as hard as she could.

    Yet Lord Tong simply grabbed the flying dagger from the air without difficulty, as if he had eyes on his back. He turned and punched the Herbalist on his torso, and the old man stumbled away with blood spilling from the mouth.

    “Silly girl,” the evil warlord taunted, “You and your master would never…”

    He screamed when he felt the searing, burning sensation on the fingers that have snatched the dagger from Jiahui. His fist was red and twice the size of what it used to be, the poison quickly working its way up.

    “You little bitch!” he howled in rage and pounced towards her like a ferocious beast. Jiahui pointed the edge of her shovel at Lord Tong, and a thick cloud of greenish fume shot out and enveloped the hallway. The men started to feel tremendously dizzy, and some slumped lifelessly to the floor. Jiahui charged out of the poisonous mist, swinging her shovel and knocking off her opponents along the way.

    “Master! Where are you?”

    The green mist thinned out slightly for her to see her master struggling against the evil warlord. The Herbalist’s needles stabbed into several of Lord Tong’s vital pressure points, but he seemed unaffected by the attack.

    “Run! Get help!” the Herbalist shouted, just as Lord Tong pulled the shovel out of his grasp, kicked him to the floor, and slammed him to the wall with a loud crash. Lord Tong turned to Jiahui and gave her an evil grin. “You’re staying here too,” he said, and his hands reached out for the girl. But he fell to the floor and screamed in pain, his left arm now bloated and red.

    Jiahui bolted to the exit as fast as she could, and yet she froze, just when the door crashed open, and a horde of bloodied, infected corpses fell on top of one another. Then they saw the living, breathing people in the hall, and they crawled, stumbled, shuffled on their feet, and eventually started to sprint hideously towards them with their flailing arms.

    Jiahui didn’t have the luxury to look for her master, and she fled to the nearest window and hurled herself out, just before several twisted and greyish fingers could touch her, and fell on top of a small tree. The branches almost immediately broke on impact, and she dropped to the ground with a great thud.

    She pulled herself up and felt the broken foot and the bruised arms. She looked to the left and to the right. Out on the streets, several infected corpses took notice of her, dropped whatever they were munching on and started towards the much fresher meat.

    “Just a broken leg,” she muttered to herself, “Nothing we can’t fix in a second,” Using her well-trained techniques, accompanied with a muffled scream of pain, she managed to ‘restructure’ the leg for temporary usage. She hobbled up, stabbed the nearest corpse to its second death, half-ran and half-crawled painfully across the street, and hid behind those untended market stalls.

    As Jiahui collected her breaths and thoughts, her eyes took in the unusual amount of mess all around her, and she nearly screamed when she realized those were not the everyday litter of the market place. Human intestines were left sprawling on the ground, and the walls stained with crimson fingerprints and hair. The puddle right behind her was a pool of blood, and when she looked up, a half-eaten man was staring down at her, his feet still stuck on the balcony, his mouth still drooling silently.

    It was quiet around her, but she could hear the gnawing of bones, the tearing of flesh, and the ghostly moans that echoed the eerie, yet calm street. There were human screams near and far, and the sounds of pitter-pattering fearful wanderers, and the occasional scratching on the walls, and the flipping-flapping of those hanging clothes when the wind passed by with a rotten, foul stench.

    “I need to get out of here,” she thought, “According to Master, the Alchemist is not far away. I can cut through the path in the forest. There will be lesser of those corpses in the woods,”

    The pain on her left foot reminded her of the difficult task instructed by the Herbalist. She sobbed as silently as she could, while thinking of her Master that could have been dead by now, and how lonely and helpless she felt all in a sudden. There was no longer anyone to guide her, no plans for backing her up, and all by herself.  She took out a tiny bottle, and reminded herself that if she ever got surrounded, she will consume it, and rather die painfully by the poison of the Liver-Bursting Leaf, than to be eaten alive.

    Then she remembered of Zhou, the handsome swordsman that she rescued not long ago, and how they stood by the grave of Devil’s Palm, words unspoken but hearts yearning for each other. She remembered touching his chest and caressing those arms amidst the violent storm, while checking him for any undead symptoms. Oh how the cold, icy rain gushed onto her shivering, slender body, but she stood by him. At that moment, her only wish was to help that stranger, and if he ever heals, she would want to know him more, and probably, be with him.

    She grieved for Zhou and her master, for their fates were unknown to her, and she feared to face them on her journey. She feared that if they ever meet again, all they may want will be pieces of her to tear with rotten teeth.

    “Hrrrrr…muuuuhhrr…”

    Why is it that Master never spoke of the Alchemist, until today?

    “MMUUUHHHRRR!!!! RREEEEHH!!”

    Jiahui looked up to see the hanging corpse flailing its arms to grab her. One of it came loose and dropped right in front of her, its fingers still twitching.

    “Run! Run!” her instinct screamed in her head, and she scrambled out to the path. The hideous street deceived her with its silence, as corpses emerged out of everywhere and lurched towards her. Jiahui willed herself to run, dragging her injured foot, tears on her face, desperately throwing anything and everything her hands could reach to the crowd right behind her in hope to slow them down. But she was no faster than any of the undead army, as it was a race of the cripples. The corpses stumbled on each other just to get closer to their prey, but their hungry moans were attracting more and more of their own into the competition.

    “Crap! No!”

    In her hurry, she dropped the Liver-Bursting Leaf potion, and the tiny bottle rolled away from her and disappeared into the flurry of diseased feet.

    A great, fat corpse pounced out from the crowd and pulled on her ponytail. Jiahui struck on the corpse as hard as she could, that she did not see the cliff right in front of her, and before she knew it, both of them were tumbling down into the woods.

    As soon as they lay on the forest floor, Jiahui threw herself towards the corpse and stabbed at it until it stopped moving. She stumbled away as quick as she could, just as more corpses fell to her from the cliff. The one nearest to her has its skull cracked before it could get up, and she raced to the other one and knocked it down.

    And yet more and more of the city corpses were rolling down, and soon she was so weary that she could no longer pull out her shovel from a gaping mouth, and in her last desperation, she climbed onto a small tree and cling onto the largest branch, as the undead screamed and lashed their ugly tongues out from below, their broken fingers scratching on the tree barks but they could not reach her. Jiahui wept shamelessly in her final moment of life, shouting to gods that would never hear her, as the moans of the undead blanketed those wavering prayers of hope.

    Just when she thought she saw a figure in a distance. Could it be?

    He came, quick as a flash, and with a thunderous roar for challenge, he caught the attention of the corpses. He did not panic as the hungry horde streamed down the hill to meet him. He unsheathed a gleaming blade on his left arm; and on his right, a wheel-like blade attached to a long iron chain.

    As the corpses approached closer, he swung the chain to the air in a circular motion, and stepped confidently towards them. The rotating blade swooped straight to the first three zombies at lightning speed and immediately sliced them into halves. He swung again, and the blade beheaded another two corpses instantly. With another heavy swing, the blades punched into the face of the next bloody man so hard that he flew backwards and knocked his crazy friends off their feet. He jumped, and landed gracefully right on top of a corpse, crushing its skull, while lashing out the flying guillotine to the remaining zombies.

    Zhou panted silently and slowly walked towards Jiahui, who ran, and fell, and ran again until her weary arms could embrace him. They were too exhausted to speak of anything, and they could not even sound their own laughter, or to cry out any tears. And yet for the first time in the past few weeks, there was joy.

    All was quiet again, and the last leaves of the trees fell onto the immobile corpses, slowly hiding their hideous form away from the world, one yellow piece at a time.

    As Zhou watched helplessly with his unblinking eyes, the corpses rushed into a frenetic frenzy towards the last remaining servant of the Herbalist, tearing him apart limb from limb, and dragging his intestines out while the pitiful victim was still screaming as much as his lungs could bear.

    An old woman, late for the party, was not getting any share of the meal.

    She turned and stared at Zhou. She stared into his dead eyes hard, looking for his soul. For the first time in his life, Zhou panicked. She started to stumble towards him.

    She knew he was not as dead as he looked to be.

    Zhou looked on, waiting for her to come and sink her teeth onto him. At least he would not feel the pain.

    Instead she dragged him out of the room, all the way down the Tower, and right to the small untamed path that Jiahui walked with him not too long ago. And before he could think more of Jiahui’s petite figure in her emerald dress, his body fell onto the forest ground.

    The old woman pulled him up, her grey fingers clutching onto his shoulders like an angry crow, and she observed him closely with her bloodshot eyes.

    “Uhh…y-you…”

    “Hmm, you’re starting to get your power of speech back,” the woman exclaimed with a smirk, “Then I guess we need to proceed on our introductions fast,” She stood up, pulled off her wig, and revealed her true form. She was a beautiful middle-aged woman, but her skin was still a purplish grey due to the spreading infection. The dark veins on her neck betrayed her otherwise pale, gorgeous complexion.

    Zhou looked at her, and a sense of dread filled his heart more than a horde of corpses could do to him.

    “Scared you shitless, eh? They call me the Poison Princess. But I’m not as terrible as they tell you. Really,” she said with a mocking earnestness, “I’m here to help you,”

    “Ever since I’ve known of your existence, child of my husband’s mistress, I’ve always been searching for you. I’ve always wanted to kill you with the most exciting and exquisite ways medicine can do! But you’re your father’s child, and…for now, we’re on the same side,”

    She looked at him with her piercing red eyes, and yet spoke with a gentle, persuasive tone, “I need your help, Zhou. I need you to find the Herbalist and his disciple. You see, I’ve been infected. I’m still myself only because I’ve always been with all sorts of poison my entire life. They give me strength to still fight it, but I can’t hold on. Not for long! I know they’ve solved half of the puzzle. They have the blue lotus root. I need the recipe. And you will help me to find it. And go get his best friend, the Alchemist. I heard he obtained a strange fruit from the Southern Sea. It could be a key ingredient,”

    Zhou laughed with difficulty, but still he laughed nonetheless. Slowly he stood up.

    “Y-you…you are go-going…die. Why sho-sho-should I…I…hell…hell…help?”

    “Because you’re family. As much as I despised you, you’re my husband’s son. I want us to reunite, and be a whole family again,”

    Zhou sniggered and stumbled away.

    “Oh well,” Poison Princess crouched towards him and shoved him down. He was no match against her viciousness, and her teeth sank onto his shoulder. Her fingers worked quickly on his pressure points, and he slumped to the floor, immobile again.

    “So that is how it tastes like,” she exclaimed while licking her lips.

    “Kill me. Ha-have…your rev-re…revenge,”

    “No, no, no. I told you I’m going to help you fix this. See what have I got?”

    She took out a silver pill, and danced around him gleefully, dangling the item in front of his eyes.

    “The silver worm-king! It works wonders for you! Grants you immunity to all sorts of poison! Of course it doesn’t stop you from becoming a zombie,” she paused and sighed, and continued cheerfully, “But it’s going to slow the disease down! Fight fire with fire! That’s how it is! You studied your scrolls, right?”

    She wrapped her fingers around his head, and helped him to nod.

    “Here, here. Let me help you. Say ‘Ah’,” She stuffed the silvery pill into his mouth.

    He choked and choked until he spilled his puke all over the ground, and out came a wriggling, caterpillar-like creature in silver, struggling out of the pool of vomit. And yet before it could escape, the woman came over and scooped it up into a bamboo box.

    Zhou scrambled away from his puke and rested himself on the tombstone of Devil’s Palm.

    “Now we share the same fate. Like mother, and son! But just to remind you, if you ever stray away from your mission – the silver worms now swimming in your blood, well…they’re like bodyguards. They eat away all sorts of poison that gets in your way. But just like bodyguards, they need to get paid monthly,”

    She paced around like a little girl with a silly grin, and continued, “So if you don’t come back to Mama within a month, the little worms will not get paid with Mama’s secret recipe of an antidote. And they’ll get angry. And they’ll start to eat you instead, from inside out,”

    She gave Zhou an endearing, yet wicked smile, and outstretched her grey fingers to caress his miserable face.

    “Oh, of course I would give you the antidote! As long as you do what you’re told, and to love me like a good son! I won’t hurt you! Now soon our family shall be reunited once more, and once we solve this amazing disease, we can start all over again!”

    “My fa-father…dead,”

    “Aha! I don’t think so. One more reason to get the Herbalist to me!”

    7 Comments

    1. Really enjoyed this and looking forward to a part 3!

      Comment by Justin Dunne on October 18, 2013 @ 6:27 pm

    2. Intricately described, meticulous characterisation, original premise…magnificent work, J.T. Please start working on the next chapter of this saga as soon as possible! I want to read much, much more about the Herbalist and this excellently-crafted world that you’ve created.

      Comment by Craig Y on October 18, 2013 @ 8:12 pm

    3. Waiting for third story anxiously. Wonderful story.

      Comment by John the Piper's Son on October 18, 2013 @ 10:07 pm

    4. All the color, fun and detail of an action packed Shaolin movie complete with imperial intrigue and drama minus the camp plus zombies!
      Now if you can get the zombified monkey king in there somewhere ill call it an epic!

      Comment by bong on October 20, 2013 @ 11:40 am

    5. While it is very different i am enjoying this story. Keep up the good work.

      Comment by Gunldesnapper on October 21, 2013 @ 6:47 am

    6. I love it! I find the part of the Herbalist treating the sick woman disturbing and hilarious!! Also enjoyed the kung fu scenes. You don’t get much of those in zombie fiction!

      Comment by Samantha S on October 25, 2013 @ 10:25 am

    7. Hey guys! I was scrolling through the ‘stories’ page (I haven’t for quite awhile) and I’m thrilled to see my story posted! You guys shoulda send me a mail or something about it but it’s a fine surprise!

      Thanks for the feedback and the kind words. Part III is almost done! I’m trying something different but never forgetting our zombie roots!

      And a Merry Christmas to everyone and watch our for Zombie Santa crawling his way down from the chimney!

      Comment by JT Asher on December 24, 2013 @ 7:30 pm

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