Old 11-03-2013, 10:20 AM   #1
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Out of Sight (Closed)

East China Sea
Summer 1900


The ocean was a brilliant blue, broken only by the white foam at the bow as it cut through the waters. H.M.S. Proficient was making good time and would make their Chinese destination a full two days ahead of schedule. Needless to say the Captain was thrilled, as were many of his passengers. One, however, was not.

Elizabeth Montgomery could easily wait a lifetime before the ship drew into the harbour of Tanggu. Many nights on the trip from England she had wished a storm would wreck the ship and her with it. But escape never came.

She instead was forced to spend the days on the deck of the exclusive vessel, honey coloured ringlets dancing down her back while the wide brim of her hat kept her fair skin out of the blistering sun, soft green eyes watching the horizon without any real desire to ever reach it.

The trip to China was the idea of her parents. A solution of sorts, at least in their eyes. To her, it was a form of prison sentence. She was being sent to Peking, to stay with her Great-Uncle, a diplomat in her Majesty’s consulate. She was being sent away so that hopefully the supposed shame she had caused would go with her. That the rumours would wither and die and that when she eventually returned – no doubt far more cultured and well behaved than when she left, she’d be suitable marriage material once more.

Elizabeth still didn’t fully understand what she had done to deserve such a harsh punishment. Or rather, she understood, she just didn't believe it was fair. All she did was fall in love.

She knew, deep down, it was the object of her affections that was the root of it all. He was well spoken and well educated, handsome and charming. And he was also spoken for. The intended fiancé of another young lady of their family’s social circle. A young lady with an unfortunate nose which lent her a highly unfortunate tone of voice and gave her a positively hideous laugh. They’d met at a ball, as young people did, they’d danced. No harm in that. But then they’d taken a walk in the gardens, without a chaperone. Held hands. He’d kissed her cheek.

Nothing more.
Nothing at all.
Not really.

But the next day he’d tried to break off the engagement. And then the troubles began. Elizabeth’s name popped up. Along with accusations of all manner of thoroughly unladylike activities being undertaken on her behalf.

And so, with parents fighting to maintain the family reputation, and that of her sisters, she was sent away. He was sent away too. To where? She had no idea.
Part of her hoped that one day they might find each other again.

As a smudge on the skyline spread and turned into land, she doubted he would find her here. In this strange and foreign land.
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Old 11-03-2013, 03:28 PM   #2
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It was warm to be so early in the summer. That was part of the problem China was in at the moment. Droughts had driven peasants to the cities to search for employment or food. Added to that was the humiliation imposed on the Qing dynasty by foreign powers. Opium was imported after the opium wars, leading to widespread addiction. Added to that was the fact that chinese citizens that converted to christianity automatically came under the protection of the imperialist powers, something opportunistic bandits had used to their advantage. And the foreign powers hadn't been shy about using force to get their way of late either.

Wu Jintao pondered these facts as he got ready for work at the international legation. He was a christian himself, finding the belief of one God easier to comprehend and relate to than the "Three doctrines" of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. His parents had not been pleased. They had taken upon themselves to re-convert him and make a 'proper' chinese of him. They had pressured him to attend teachings of martial arts, a discipline Wu enjoyed still. They had philosophical and religious discussions with him, discussions that ironically enough made Wu more convinced of his christian faith. And when all else failed, they had beaten his brow about how foreign influence was detrimental to chinese culture and tradition.

He'd had to concede on some of their points. The foreigners had done many wrongs to China and its people. But on the whole, Wu was convinced that China was a backwards country that needed an influx of new ideas and impulses. He'd been convinced of this as he'd learned to speak english at one of the christian missions and had read the foreign history books. The world was constantly changing and China was, in Wu's opinion, lagging behind.

As he left the house he shared with his parents he said goodbye to them both. They ignored him, still upset about the discussion they'd had last night about The Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists, what the foreigners just called 'boxers'. Wu just scoffed at the name. To call practitioners of the martial arts boxers was akin to calling a finely prepared meal of Beijing duck 'a meal'. Though technically correct, it didn't begin to suggest the wonders hidden within the term. Wu hoped that he could contribute to the foreigners understanding of chinese ways. They could be blatantly unsubtle and coarse, and other times they could be more refined and clever than the wiliest mandarin. Wu saw the appeal of both worlds and he tried to merge them into a coherent whole. For himself, if nothing else.

His walk to the legation took him past the train station. Hefting his walking stick made of solid wood with a metal core (it doubled as a weapon for self defense) he felt some apprehension as he got closer to the train station. The now all too familiar Fu Qing mie yang (Revive the Qing and destroy the foreigners) rang out as a mob of angered civilians mixed with boxer soldiers came marching down the street. Some of them spilled into the train station, and screams were heard from the inside. Screams, and sounds of fighting. Wu hid. Being a christian that worked for the foreigners, he was a target himself. He'd dressed in traditional clothes, a necessity these days. He wasn't sure if he was recognisable and he didn't want to find out. He mingled with some bystanders and watched impassionately as the throng rushed past.

There were still screams to be heard from inside the train station. Wu could never later tell what posessed him just then, but he decided to venture into the train station to see if he could help anyone in any way.
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Old 11-16-2013, 06:24 AM   #3
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Soon enough Elizabeth was being bounced along in the back of a cart bound for Peking. Her senses had already been thoroughly assaulted at the quayside, so many strange smells, so many unfamiliar and indecipherable voices. Had it not been for the board that bore her name she might never have found her means of transport. She definitely wouldn't have guessed in a thousand years that the word leaving the lips of the man who held it was her surname. And so she and her chaperone, an elderly maid by the name of Agnes, followed the funny little man to his conveyance and off they went.
That had been hours ago.
And still the unfamiliar countryside flickered by with no sign that civilisation was any closer. She chuckled quietly to herself at that thought.

Civilisation.

From what she'd overheard on there ship, currently things in China were not as sedate as perhaps her parents might have hoped. Quiet, worried, conversations of bandits and uprisings between fellow Europeans. Words and phrases in mandarin she didn't begin to understand from Chinese passengers but their tone and expressions spoke volumes. She wasn't sure her parents hadn't actually made a mistake.
They had sent her there in the hope that she might learn to adopt the qualities rumoured to be attributed to women of the orient.

Modesty. Humility. Obedience. Poise.

It wasn't that Elizabeth was rude or particularly willful but she did know her own mind and often aired her opinion. Prior to the incident in the garden her father had found those qualities in her to be charming. They'd both sat in the study and shared mocking whispers about the overly mild gentlemen her mother had insisted come to tea. He'd encouraged her reading, even though it meant she knew far more of politics and history than she would ever know of embroidery or music. He had said he wanted a daughter who could think for herself. Not any more it seemed. Now he wanted a meek, silent, daughter who wouldn't hesitate to wed the next suitor who came calling. A daughter who knew her place.
It stung to think his opinion of her had been so easily poisoned by the gossips and snipes of others.
He had wanted her to be happy. Now he just wanted her gone.
As the expression said. Out of sight, out of mind.

Eventually the uncomfortably hot journey came to an end and they reached their destination.
Peking.
In all it's glory met them with more bustle and noise than she'd seen in her life. Vendors with carts selling all manner of unfamiliar but delicious smelling food, women hiding behind fans while wearing colourful silken dresses and men milling in between them all despite their wide brimmed hats.

Elizabeth wanted to stand and look at everything but before she could, her elbow was firmly taken by Agnes and the pair were helped into a rickshaw which would take them to the diplomatic quarter to meet her guardian for the duration of her stay. However long that might turn out to be.
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Old 11-16-2013, 07:47 AM   #4
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Wu ducked inside the station. Pandemonium reigned. He stood gaping, surveying the scene. Vendors' carts were overturned, spilling food and beverages and hot coals on the floor. Upended luggage carts contributed to the confusion, spilling clothes and toiletries on the platforms. Several people lay dead or injured as well. A little distance off, Wu saw a mixed group of people being herded by Harmonious Fists and hangers-on. They were shouting out threats to the flock of what turned out to be christian chinese and europeans.

Wu pondered his options. The Harmonious Fists were the real threat here. There were two of them, brandishing swords. He could probably knock one of them out cold. Then he'd have to contend with the other in an open fight. He chanced it.

"Oh Harmonious Fists, won't you let me join you in culling these foreign devils?"

One of the Fists turned and smiled as he saw Wu, all decked out in traditional chinese garb.

"Certainly. Come join us, brother!"

Wu approached them and struck, quick as a cobra. The closest Fist was unconscious before he hit the ground. The other Fist pulled his sword and started trailing around Wu. Wu had to fight off the hangers-on, they were quickly dispatched or scared off. One of them landed a lucky blow on his head, making him dizzy and nauseated. The last Fist had time to study Wu's moves and he closed in, certain that he could outmaneuver and win. But Wu was proficient in several styles of martial arts and he'd kept to one style to lure his opponent in, making him think he knew Wu's strengths and weakness.

He lunged at Wu who at the last second managed to sidestep the swords thrust. The Fist quickly withdrew and made a slashing motion, cutting Wu's forehead. Wu saw that he'd overextended his slash and quickly closed in and landed a vicious blow on the Fist's head. He went down cold. Wu grabbed his sword and looked at the little group of people.

"Follow me to the international compound! It's the only place you'll be safe!"

He took off at a run, stopping only briefly to tie a piece of cloth on his forehead to staunch the bleeding. The riot was spreading through the streets, and they had to hide and duck into alleys to avoid the worst of it. They happened across several corpses of both chinese and europeans. This was getting worse by the second.

As they cautiously ventured down a street, they found an upturned rickshaw. The man pulling it was nowhere in sight. In the rickshaw, spilling out in the street, was an elderly european woman and a wizened old chinese man. Wu approached them when he heard a young woman cry out for help in english. "See to them" he yelled, pointing at the figures in the rickshaw. The cry for help had come from a shop, and he entered it, ready for anything. He saw a young woman being manhandled by three smelly men, lecherous grins plastered across their faces.

Reaching for his ki, Wu bellowed and charged them.
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Old 01-05-2014, 08:59 AM   #5
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Everything was so frenzied compared to the sedate pace of England that she didn't immediately realise that something was wrong.
The voices around them grew steadily louder. Then more angry. And it was only a second before the rickshaw suddenly stopped that she had reached for Anges' hand.

"I think we might have come the wrong way." She murmured as men leapt before them. Shouting something in their direction. Fingers pointed at her and the men began to mount the rickshaw.
"Run Lizzie!" Agnes urged. "Run!"
Elizabeth took one look at her worried face and another at the advancing men and did as she was told. Picking up her skirts she jumped from the rickshaw and into the throng. Shoving her way past angry faces and into the first doorway she found.

Slamming the door behind her she tried to lock it but found no way to do so. Backing away as the men from the street appeared on the other side she felt her stomach tighten with fear.
"Go away!" She warned, her parasol a pathetic weapon but she brandished it all the same. "Leave me alone!" She edged a little further away, green eyes wide and frightened, scanning the shop for a way out. All they found were shelves and tables.

The men spoke to each other, she didn't have to understand their language to know what it was they wanted. Eyes when they flashed to her were no where near her face. One of them stepped closer and she swished her umbrella towards his waist. He jumped back a little.
"I warn you, you come any closer and I'll-"
She swung it again but one of the other two grabbed it. Shoving her back in the process and holding it against her neck.

She screamed, long and loud. Hands catching her wrists and pinning them at her sides.
"Help!" Her voice pierced the air shrilly and she had to hope it carried beyond the door of the shop. "Please...someone help me...!" Tears pricking her eyes as she felt a hand pulling at her skirts.

For a split second she worried he had come to join the men who were trying to keep her back against the wall but the flash of his sword soon answered her unvoiced question.
Two of the men quickly released her arms and turned to face the stranger with the bandaged head while the third dropped the parasol and instead shifted his hand to her throat to hold her where she was.

She squirmed and pulled uselessly at his hand, his grip tightening as the sounds of fighting came from behind him. His frame blocked her view. She had to hope the stranger was winning.
She had to.
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Old 04-05-2014, 04:41 AM   #6
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Wu had heard too many stories of chinese men violating european or christian chinese women and he felt it shamed him and his countrymen. Some of the reasons for the Harmonious Fists anger were valid enough, but that did not excuse rape and murder. Chinese were supposed to be better than that. A wry thought crossed his mind as he closed with the would-be rapists: "I wonder what my parents would think of these examples of chinese manhood!"

Then they were on him.

The confined quarters and the cluttered furniture worked in Wu's favor as the two men tried to outmaneuver him. As it was, he had all the time in the world to dispatch the first of them, going for blood and the kill this time. A vicious slash across the throat sent the first man down with a stunned expression on his face as he tried to keep the blood inside, gurgling his last breaths all the while. The sound would haunt Wu for the rest of his life. The second man, in a fit of controlled fury, managed to knock the sword from Wu's hand. They circled and lashed out with their fists and feet, a look of utter concentration on both their faces. Wu noticed the man had training in a style of martial arts that favored open spaces, and only that. He sent a silent thank you to his parents and his sifu for the varied training he'd received as he closed on the man and knocked him out by shifting up styles on him.

Wu picked up his sword and approached the third man holding the woman. As he approached, the man turned around holding the woman before him, and in one instant Wu lost concentration. A flash of honey coloured hair and bright green eyes crowning a beautiful pale face made his heart lurch, and his concentration was off long enough for the last man to brandish a knife, pressing it to her throat. Damn. The man spoke in mandarin: "Take one step closer and I slash her throat. She means less to me than a bug."

Wu stopped dead in his tracks. "Let her go and I will allow you to live. Your two comrades died trying to get to me. Do you think you'll fare any better? If you kill her I will make you suffer before you die. Believe me" Wu growled. "Now LET HER GO!" Doubt and uncertainty filled the man's eyes as he lowered the knife. He still had her by the throat, though. Wu lunged forward while dropping his sword again. He managed to grab the hand with the knife and pin it to the wall, earning him a fresh cut on his hand in the process. Wu's other hand grabbed the man by the throat. He turned to the beautiful woman and hoped she understood english as he bellowed "Run!" at her.

Edit: cleaned up my grammar.
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Old 05-31-2014, 08:51 AM   #7
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Elizabeth felt faint. The lecherous grin of the man who held her throat in a vice like grip, combined with the terror of the situation and the sounds of fighting that filled the air, it was all too much.

Suddenly she was facing another man, the man who had apparently come to her rescue. She could feel a blade at her throat and the thumping of her heart now almost deafening in her eyes. Her green eyes were wide as words were exchanged between the men, she couldn't understand a single syllable but she could tell she was probably better off not knowing what was being said.

In a flurry of movement, she was suddenly free, her attacker now pinned back against the wall and her rescuer holding him there.
In an unexpected display of English he told her to run and instinct made her bolt towards the door before her sense of duty made her stop and look back. Her rescuer was unarmed and wounded going by the red rivulets streaming down his hand. A glance outside showed her the chaos was still going on. Men and women running panicked through the small street.

Turning back she picked up his sword, trying to ignore the men he'd slain with it moments before, her hold on it awkward and ungainly and she had to be very careful not to cut him or herself with it.
"You...you might need this." She offered, holding it out towards him, the deadly point half aimed at the man struggling against the wall.

She knew she should run, flee the bloody scene and try to find help but...she had no idea where she was, or what had happened to Agnes. The man who had come to her aid might be able to help her, once he'd dealt with this last ruffian. She couldn't run if she didn't know where to run to.

"And then, when you've disposed of this horrible example of lasciviousness, perhaps you would be so kind as to help me find my way back towards my destination?" She added quietly, giving the man with his back to the wall a thoroughly disgusted look.
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Old 05-31-2014, 10:49 AM   #8
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Wu choked the man in his grip, relenting only when his body grew limp. He let the body go, and it slumped to the floor like a ragdoll. Leaning down, he confirmed the man was still breathing. Good. There had been enough killing to last Wu a lifetime. The woman he'd come to rescue was still there, holding his sword. It was painfully obvious she had no experience in handling weapons.

He gingerly picked up her parasol and held it out to her. "I suggest we swap, miss." Wu had always been partial to chinese women, and he'd entertained hopes of some day finding a christian girl to marry. Truth be known, he hadn't been exposed to many examples of young western womanhood. Standing before him now was a beauty the like of which he'd never seen. And she'd regained her composure quickly, considering what she'd almost been subjected to.

"Might your destination be the consulate, miss? If so, you are in luck. For that is my destination also." His english was stilted, and he still had trouble with the l's and the r's. Even so, he was one of maybe a hundred young chinese men in all of Beijing with such fluency in the language of the foreigners.

He sheathed the sword after wiping the blood off it on one of his fallen opponents, a sign of contempt on his part. And then it struck him: "Please, I beg your forgiving. In all the fighting I have neglected to introduce myself. My name is Wu Jintao (he pronounced it in mandarin), and I am an interpreter for the foreigners in their compound." He bowed for her. "I must beg forgiveness for my people, miss. You aren't seeing Beijing at its best. Droughts, famine, and, ah, fickle diplomatics has left my beautiful country in the state it's in."

Why was he babbling like this. They were in a life-and-death crisis, for God's sake! "Please to follow me, and stay close, miss!" He peeked out the door and took in the sight of the pandemonium that was Beijing. He rushed to the overturned rickshaw where the people he'd rescued at the railway station had miraculously been left unharmed. The older white woman was slowly coming to, but she was in no fit state to travel.

With the help of the other refugees, he turned the rickshaw upright again. The old chinese man was unfortunately dead. With what respect they could muster in such a crisis, Wu and the male refugees lifted the body on to the rickshaw. He wanted the women inside the cart and the men to pull it. He himself would scout ahead to see if the road was clear. With a last look at the beautiful young european woman, he took off.
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