Chapter 49: Tweaking the Tiger's Whiskers
Black Iron Pagoda's large frame appeared at the other end of the west main avenue, his thick whip wrapped around his waist. He was a head taller than everyone else in the street, like a crane standing among a brood of chickens, very striking. He wore a sky blue robe with a brown outer robe, and a small bundle slung over his shoulder. His whip was wrapped around him on the outside of his robe. He was much tidier and cleaner than before, no longer the image of a vagrant man of the jianghu.
Wenchang didn't notice Black Iron Pagoda heading striding toward the drum tower; he had to take care of this Northwest Escort Agency assistant. Three more assistants came out to see what the ruckus was all about. Wenchang was angry, but he had not yet shown it. He said coldly, "I can lecture you if I want. What, are you using the Northwest Escort Agency's power and influence to come out here and accost people in the street? Is that appropriate behavior for businessmen? Outrageous!"
That angered the assistant. "You came here to spy on us…"
"Pfft! Shut your slanderous, dog mouth," Wenchang interrupted.
Before the assistant could say anything, the other three came over, hollering, throwing their weight around. The one grabbing onto Wenchang roared and pulled on his shoulder with his right while his left swept out a chop toward Wenchang's ear. A chop to the ear gate acupoint was a good way to subdue someone, as it could knock them out, and pinching the shoulder well acupoint was an even more severe method.
Wenchang couldn't take any more. He tensed up his shoulder well, making it as tough as steel. He spun around, raised his hand and blocked the oncoming chop and countered with two punches with his right, into the belly of the assistant, who yelped and let go of him and doubled over, holding his stomach as he sunk to his squatted.
Wenchang finished what he started. There was no need to talk rationally anymore; just hit. He chopped the assistant in the back of the head with his left and as the man pitched forward he brought his knee up and caught the man in the jaw.
The assistant grunted, his mouth bleeding. He stood and staggered forward two steps before falling on his back. He struggled twice, then blacked out.
It had all happened in the blink of an eye; no one had a chance to stop it or step in to help. The contest was quickly decided with a merciless attack.
The other three were stunned. "Asshole, you dare mess with Northwest Escort Agency. You got a lot of nerve, don't you? Get him."
They attacked at once, creating mayhem in the street.
Wenchang wanted to see what these Northwest Escort Agency men were made of. He darted to the left and blocked the fist of the man on the left while slamming his right palm into the chest of the man in the middle.
The man yelled as he was flung back ten feet and crashed to the ground. Oh, so that was all he had. Wenchang turned and ran. Now was not the time to stir up trouble.
But he was too late. Half a dozen armed agency escorts had come out, moving fast to surround him and cut off his escape. One of them said, "Buddy, you're not bad. Stick around and let us Northwest Escort Agency men entertain our guest."
The assistants grouped up, shouting. There was no escape. Time to fight it out! Wenchang tied up his earflaps. "Haha! I can stay, but who wants to entertain me first?"
One sickly-looking guy among them shouted, "It's him… It's him…"
"Who?" One of the escorts said.
"That son of a bitch who beat me up on the road to Baqiao, the one who was captured at the temple ruins and then rescued by Outcast Androgyne."
Everyone was shocked. One of the escorts' face changed. "Are… Are you Cai… Cai Wenchang?"
Wenchang tightened his bundle. "Nevermind whether I'm Cai Wenchang or not. Come on if you have the guts!"
Suddenly, a swarthy-faced man pushed through the crowd and thundered, "Who's looking for Cai Wenchang… Eh? Little brother, it's you. You came…"
It was none other than Black Iron Pagoda. He looked at Wenchang and noticed the latter was a bit taller, but his face had not changed, so naturally he recognized him. An escort stuck a hand out to block him and looked like he was about to strike. "So you're this Cai fella's…"
Before he could finish Wenchang said, "Big brother, I just got here. Let's go!"
Black Iron Pagoda's massive hand came down and slapped the armed escort upside the head. He strode forward. "Head west, little brother. Charge! Follow me."
"Stop him! Stop…" The crowd was in an uproar.
The two crazed tigers ran toward the west main avenue, shoving aside anyone in their way, their iron hands like massive hammers knocking people out of the way. Black Iron Pagoda knew the area well so they lost their pursuers after a few turns. The only one still watching them was an old nun.
Divine Spear Yang Hu was not at Northwest Escort Agency at the time. But his son, Shooting Rainbow Iron Claw Yang Jun, was the number one hero of Chang'an, more ruthless than his father, and stronger. Iron Claw heard someone was causing trouble in front of their establishment, and that it was none other than Cai Wenchang, who they had failed to apprehend before. He was enraged. How could he stand for that? He immediately dispatched men, nearly everyone they had, to search the city for Cai Wenchang and that big swarthy fellow. He personally led three agency assistants and headed west.
As the agency men dispersed, a shabby little beggar arrived outside the gates, filthy and slovenly, but with a delicate, pretty face, his large eyes glittering. He carried a dog-beating staff as he hurried over.
People in the street were talking about how Cai Wenchang had stirred up trouble at Northwest Escort Agency, the news spreading like wildfire. Not only was the escort agency out looking for Cai Wenchang, government officials at the yamen were out searching for him as well.
The little beggar had been roaming around on the south main avenue, but when he heard the news he hurried over to Northwest Escort Agency. The situation was tense outside the agency; six men holding clubs and sabres guarded the main gates, lest someone try to come and start trouble again.
That someone came, the little beggar. He carried his dog-beating staff and ran up to one of the guards, smiling. "Uncle, that guy really dared to start trouble here in the middle of the day? He must have a death wish, huh, Uncle?"
The guy he called Uncle was brimming with energy. "Yep, that guy must have eaten a panther's heart and a tiger's liver to come here recklessly seeking trouble and trying to ruin our reputation. Unbelievable."
"Oh, so it's true," the little beggar said to himself.
The guard wasn't hard of hearing. "Of course it's true. Our chief already sent people west to go after him. That guy can't get away; he's a dead duck."
"Oh, uncle, what is that guy's name anyway? Where's he from?"
"Cai Wenchang. Local accent, but not sure where he's from."
"It's really Cai Wenchang?"
"Yeah, why not? A big, imposing man, and handsome… Eh? What are you smiling about?"
The little beggar really was smiling, a peculiar grin on his face. "I'm smiling because you have eyes but can't see."
"Huh? You mean you are…"
"Cai Wenchang," the little beggar cut in. "Take this, you son of a bitch."
The guard was hit in the hip with the staff. He yelped and fell.
The little beggar stole in through the gates to the rear courtyard. The two guards there didn't know what hit them, they just went down as soon as the staff slammed into them.
The little beggar ran to the hitching post and yanked off the reins of a dozen horses and spurred them on toward the exit, creating chaos.
A dual-horse carriage had just pulled up to the steps of the agency. The occupants had entered the establishment, but the driver had not yet had a chance to take the carriage to the parking lot.
The little beggar ran out and leapt up, hooked his arm around the driver's neck, and pulled the driver off the carriage seat.
The little beggar grabbed the reins and snapped them and snapped the whip and the horses took off. The little beggar waved the whip as he whooped with laughter as the carriage barreled out. "Hahaha! Cai Wenchang's friend is here to smash the reputation of your shitty agency. Haha! Nice!"
The carriage bolted out at top speed, knocking against the gatepost on the way out, the projecting axle smashing into the post as the horses whinnied, a cloud of dust kicked up behind them as the archway overhead rocked, ready to collapse.
Just then, the little beggar snapped his whip left and right and broke the agency flag poles off on either side. This was a big no-no within the martial fraternity, but the little beggar's audacity knew no limits, destroying them without a thought for the consequences; there was no taking it back.
The carriage wheel broke off and the little beggar jumped down and scurried past the agency guards and slipped away to the west like a rat.
Wenchang hurried after Black Iron Pagoda, turning left and breaking right, losing their pursuers. They arrived near Taiping Ward. The streets were clean, but there were not many people around. Black Iron Pagoda walked on the right-hand side and slowed his steps. "Dear brother, are you alright?"
"Fine, thanks to you, Big brother," Wenchang said.
"Dear brother, provoking Northwest Escort Agency is a mere trifle. Let's leave this evening, but where do you plan to go next?"
"Wherever you decide, big brother… It's those three brothers."
Up ahead three men approached. The Three Heroes of Chang'an. Winged Tiger chuckled and came over. "Nice job, little brother. This man is…?" He pointed at Black Iron Pagoda.
Black Iron Pagoda rolled his eyes and said to Wenchang, "Dear brother, you made friends with these three bastards?"
Wenchang stopped, surprised. "What's the problem, big brother?"
Black Iron Pagoda stamped his foot. "These three bastards are the Three Heroes of Chang'an. F*ckin' good-for-nothing sons of bitches…"