Chapter 56: Yin-Yang Bone Sword
Iron Claw and his bunch met Jade-faced Tiger by the pond where Wenchang had robbed the carriage. Iron Claw followed the hoofprints from Wenchang and the others and sped after them like mad, finally reaching the public road outside Woodbend.
The two shopowner brothers saw the scene change from bad to worse and ran out to the road calling for help, attracting the notice of Iron Claw and his men. They galloped over and saw Wechang and Black Iron Pagoda's horses hitched in the grove. The horses were branded, indicating they belonged to Excellency Li of Fanchuan.
Iron Claw was observant. He called out happily, "They're inside. After them!"
They dismounted and drew their sabres and spears and made for Woodbend Refreshments. Eight men stood guard outside while Iron Claw led four men and parted the curtain and went inside.
Wenchang warded off a man's sabre and spun around and pushed his bench backward as the sabre from a man behind him bit into the wooden bench.
Wenchang jerked the bench to the side and took advantage of that moment to send a kick flying.
The man cried out as the sabre was pulled from his hands and he was kicked in the belly and knocked back. The bench came down on his head and smashed apart and the man was still.
Wenchang grabbed the sabre and dodged to the side to avoid the attack from the man behind him, but before he could turn around a red image flashed before him. It was one of the lamas who had been knocked back eight feet after eating one of Carefree Cloud's palms.
Wenchang used the back of his sabre to swipe at the monk's neck. "You're a piece of shit too."
The monk didn't know anyone was behind him, and he was unable to resist the massive force that had pushed him back. The back of the sabre bit into his neck with ferociously and not only split the skin, but also fractured the bone. The monk was much more powerful than Wenchang, but he couldn't take that hit. If it had been the blade his head would have been lopped off.
The monk cried out and fell down with a thud.
"Why didn't you use the cutting edge?" White Dragongirl said.
Wenchang misunderstood and thought she was ordering him or questioning him. He snorted and turned and slashed three times with his sabre, the last slash cutting a huge gash in his opponent's left arm. The man screamed and ran off, getting in the way of Iron Claw who was just charging in.
"Let's get out of here!" Wenchang called to Black Iron Pagoda unhappily.
Black Iron Pagoda had already knocked out two opponents. He said okay and turned and ran.
The fleeing man who had been cut was scared out of his wits. He saw someone charging for him and recklessly stabbed with his sabre in his flustered attempt to find a way to escape.
The person coming at him was Iron Claw, but the man didn't realize, the point of his sabre already at Iron Claw's chest. Iron Claw was ready and darted to the side, brandishing his iron claw. "You're dead!"
The iron claw came down on the man's head with a thud and blood and brains spewed out
The man's howl gave Wenchang a start. Wenchang had exceptional eyes and saw instantly it was Iron Claw. "Let's go! Out the back way."
Black Iron Pagoda wasn't dumb. He knew his match had arrived, and he couldn't use his long whip in such as confined area, so wouldn't it be stupid to stick around? He disappeared like a wisp of smoke through the little door leading to the back.
Iron Claw only saw the back of Wenchang, but from what Jade-faced Tiger had told him he knew Wenchang had changed into silver-purple clothes, so he knew it was him. "Rotten thief, where you do think you're going?" he raged.
White Dragongirl was exceptionally intelligent. She knew this new arrival was Wenchang's enemy. She had taken a liking to Wenchang so how could she just let Iron Claw do as he liked? She shouted and drew her sword and thrust it out. "Hold it…"
Before she had finished a lama came in from the side and slammed the leg of a wooden bench into her sword. "Girl," he thundered, "be a good girl and come make this Buddha happy."
They instantly started fighting. Iron Claw skirted around them and rushed through the little door.
The three girls in green ran out to the public road, but the little beggar was already nowhere to be seen. There was no one out on the road.
"After him," the taller girl said. "We'll head toward the city first." The three horses galloped like mad.
When they were close to Benediction temple, the girl on the left said, "Miss, that boy is awfully clever. We won't catch him. He's probably already gone into hiding."
"That boy is rotten," the miss said hatefully.
"Miss, maybe we should head back…"
The young lady slowed her horse. "You're right. He had two friends with him. We can go ask them about him. Let's go."
They galloped back the way they came, but they were a bit too late. Wenchang and Black Iron Pagoda had burst through the back door and out through the backroom door. No one was guarding back here. They skirted around to the south and sped off, abandoning their horses. They didn't want to have a showdown with Iron Claw in broad daylight.
Their lightness skill was superb, and they had to be fast to shake off the government troops. Iron Claw had been slowed up by White Dragongirl and that grand lama before he scurried into the backroom. There was a well outside and a woodshed and a neighboring courtyard. He didn't know which door Wenchang had escaped from, so he first checked out the courtyard.
The five of them split up, searching, but they found no one. They went back around to the front, thinking Wenchang must come back for his horse, but they were out of luck there as well.
Three horses galloped up and the three girls in green jumped down and ran into a man with a sword guarding the horses. The man saw the girls and was dumbstruck. He'd never seen such a beautiful girl before. He lustfully forgot where he was.
The young lady went inside but didn't see Wenchang or Black Iron Pagoda, but she saw five men on the ground, and two lamas. White Dragongirl and Carefree Cloud were were each fighting with a lama. The room was a complete wreck, not a good place to linger. She went back to the horses and bowed slightly to the man. "Excuse me, uncle…"
"Oh! Oh… are you… are you talking to me?" The man was at a loss for words, not at all like an armed escort who roamed the jianghu.
A tranquil smile spread across the young lady's face. She asked properly, "Just so. This young lady is asking you, uncle, if you have seen a man wearing silver…"
Just then, Iron Claw rushed over and said, "Hah! Are you his companions?"
The young lady was baffled, but she didn't get angry. Still smiling, she said, "Who are you referring to, uncle?"
"Don't play dumb! I'm talking about Cai Wenchang."
"Cai Wenchang? Who is Cai Wenchang?"
Iron Claw raised the iron claw in his hand and got close. He snorted. "It's that dirty scoundrel dressed in silver. Hmph! Those three can't get away. You must be in cahoots with those three rotten thieves and have come back to snatch their horses for them. Right? Hmph! You're in trouble with the law now."
The young lady didn't like him calling them rotten thieves, but she maintained her pleasant composure. "Uncle, aren't you being a bit too biased? This young lady is looking for them, but how can you conclude that we are in cahoots? You are mistaken, sir."
Iron Claw was roared overbearingly, "If I, Shooting Rainbow Iron Claw, don't act in good faith, then how can I maintain Northwest Escort Agency's reputation? Hmph! There's no need to get to the bottom of this. You can explain it all before the magistrate."
"Eh? Sir, you are Young Master Yang of Northwest Escort Agency?"
"Who doesn't know that Shooting Rainbow Iron Claw Yang Jun is the young master of Northwest Escort Agency?"
"I'm taking you to the yamen. Your cohorts have created trouble in the city time and time again. The audacity! Especially that damned little beggar, who had the nerve to smash our agency's banner and run amok in our establishment. I'm gonna catch him and flay him and tear him limb from limb to vent my anger. Seeing as you're a lady I will not tie you up. Get on the horse."
"Young master, you want to arrest us?" She was still smiling.
"Enough talk. On the horse!"
The young lady's powdered face sank. "Young master, I think you've thrown your weight around long enough. But let me tell you, it would be better for you if you quietly mosey along out of here."
"What? What did you say, girl? Do you know who you're talking to?" Iron Claw was furious.
The young lady's tone turned even colder. "This lady is talking to the young master of Northwest Escort Agency, correct?"
"You dare to talk this way to my face?"
"Yang Jun, do you know who you are talking to?" She was being impolite by calling Iron Claw by his real name.
"I've had it up to here!" Iron Claw flew into a rage, shooting his iron claw out to grab the girl's shoulder. "You dare be so arrogant to my face… God!"
He looked like he'd seen a ghost as his iron claw fell to the ground. He retreated back, step by step, his eyes wide, face blanched, knees trembling as if he could not hold up his heavy body. His mouth gaped as he gasped.
When he had reached for the girl's shoulder she had suddenly formed in front of the point of his claw and floated with it, though her feet seemed not to move at all. It was as if her body were an ornament on the end of the claw, only half an inch away from it. When the claw advanced she retreated, keeping in step with the claw's movement as if she were a ghost attached to it, a weightless, material spirit. At the same time, she effortlessly opened her silk bag and black and white rays of light gleamed as she withdrew a sword with a shiiing like a dragon's moan, the black and white rays dazzling, their queer light reflecting in all directions.
It was a curious three-foot sword, its handle encrusted with dazzling diamonds, a flame-red tassel fluttering. The crossguard was shaped like a blooming lotus, the points curved inward, able to hook onto another weapon. The strange sword's blade was black on one side, white on the other, black and white light glittering out in all directions. On the white side was a black skull and crossbones pattern, strikingly black. When light hit the skull it seemed to jump out at you. There was the same design on the black side, only this one was white, very lifelike. The sword looked like a true work of art.
The young lady slowly extended her sword. "Pick up your iron claw and prepare your rainbow spearknives and get ready to fight for your Northwest Escort Agency's reputation. And your life."
Iron Claw felt himself go weak all over. A chill shot through him from below his dantian and he broke out in a cold sweat all over. His throat constricted and he backed away. In a shrill, trembling voice he said, "Yin-Yang Bone Sword!… Yin… Yang… Bone… Sword…"
"Straighten that backbone and stand like a man," the young lady said lightly.
At the shop entrance, Carefree Cloud gave the shopkeeper two ingots of silver. "This disaster was all my fault, I'm really sorry about this. Take this gold as a symbol of my goodwill and to compensate you for all this damage. Those four lamas aren't badly hurt, they can take care of themselves. Two of those five men are dead. Once the others come to they will collect the bodies, so don't worry about that. Whatever you do, don't notify the authorities. The families of the victims won't get you involved. Sorry the disturbance. Goodbye."
He and the girl walked toward their horses. A dozen men were guarding the area on all sides, they saw their young master falling apart mentally like he'd been possessed by a demon and unable to save himself. They were all stunned by the words "Yin-Yang Bone Sword" and they stiffened like clay statues, all the color draining from their faces.
Carefree Cloud and White Dragongirl pushed past them and stopped suddenly, stunned.
"Are… are you Miss… Miss Fang from Misery… Misery Valley?" Iron Claw was still beside himself.
Carefree Cloud smiled wryly and shook his head and whispered to White Dragongirl, "Let's leave quickly, child. That's Shooting Rainbow Iron Claw Young Master Yang. He must have offended Misery Valley. That Misery Valley girl is not likely to have started this."
"My surname is Fang, name Xiaojuan. Yes, I am from Misery Valley."
Iron Claw flinched like he'd been struck by lightning and sat down hard on the ground.