Chapter 60: Monk Fight
The little beggar, Fang Xiaoshan, stole away from the Woodbend Refreshments shop and sped to the outskirts southeast of the city and hid himself. At the second watch he leapt over the city wall and entered the city and headed for the drum tower.
At the start of the third watch he fell in with the throng of people leaving the night market that was closing up, headed along the main east avenue toward the drum tower. When he was still half a mile away from the tower, three middle-aged men in fur-lined robes emerged from a side street to the right. They raised their caps as they approached and bowed in salute, very respectful. The man in the middle was affable with a round face. He smiled. "We've received the lady's personal order to come invite the young master to come with us…"
The little beggar backed away to the left, curling his lips. "No! In six months I'll return home on my own."
Three more men emerged from a side street behind him on the left. "Young master, the lady is low spirits and is really eagerly looking forward to…"
The little beggar turned and ran, but he could only make it a few steps. He stopped suddenly and said, "I'll curse you if you try to give me trouble."
The other three were dressed the same, the one in the middle slightly older, around sixty or so with a gray, three-tufted beard and a pair of glittering tiger eyes and a square face and snub nose and big mouth. He was intimidating but smiling broadly with his hands behind his back. "Young master, what this? You want to curse your Uncle Peng? Hehehe! Little troublemaker, I haven't heard you curse at me in some time. Young master, you don't know how worried I've been for you! I really would like to hear your boorish cursing, but we're on the main avenue right now. Why not wait and curse at me when we get back?"
The little beggar lowered his head, pouting. "Uncle Peng, don't come after me. I'll go home by myself in six months."
Uncle Peng shook his head. "Your father is back in the valley, but you can't hide your actions among the jianghu from him. He feels you are too wild, causing trouble everywhere you go. He fears you're in danger. This time you provoked Northwest Escort Agency here in the city. Black Flag Sovereign will likely be furious. Furthermore, your big sister is waiting for that old demon monk, Blue-eyed Snow Lion. If you continue to stir up trouble you're liable to spoil it, so we've been instructed to bring you back to Yunyang immediately."
"No! I have my own affairs and it has nothing to do with that. It won't interfere."
"Young master, your affairs are to continue to harass Northwest Escort Agency. Blue-eyed Snow Lion is Divine Spear Yang Hu's master. If you keep on, you'll interfere with your sister's plans!"
"No it won't, I will help big sis."
"No! That will just alert the enemy. Your big sister wouldn't like that."
"Stay out of my business, Uncle Peng," the little beggar said irritably.
Uncle Peng was adamant. "Your father told me that if the young master did not listen…"
"Then what?" The little beggar inched away toward the left.
"Then I am to take you back by force," Uncle Peng said evenly.
The little beggar darted out, looking to break free of their encirclement.
Uncle Peng flicked his big sleeve and his hand shot out. He pointed his index and middle fingers at him. "Give the young master a sleeping pill. Let's go!"
The little beggar felt a tight grip on his right shoulder and the strength was sapped from him. He fell into a big man's arms and began screaming, "No, not the sleeping pill, no…"
Another man stepped up and grabbed his jaw and forced the pill into the little beggar's mouth and forced him to swallow it. The man stuck his finger in the little beggar's mouth and the pill slid down his throat. Uncle Peng chuckled. "If I don't use a sleeping pill, what if you just raise hell on the road and try to slip away? One pill every three days. You will be at peace, and it will benefit your training. Let's go!"
The group of men carried the little beggar out toward a guesthouse near the Gate of Everlasting Joy.
Black Iron Pagoda was captured by Abbess Clearcause and brought back to the city. As luck would have it, they happened to run into the little beggar on the main avenue as they were strolling through the east market.
A man was half-carrying, half-pulling the little beggar along as the latter gradually slipped into unconsciousness. It was pretty conspicuous for a little beggar dressed in raggedy clothes to be hauled along by a man wearing a fur-lined robe. Black Iron Pagoda was walking behind Abbess Clearcause on her right, trying to think up a plan for escape. He looked around and found his escape route.
Tonight the vibe on the streets was a bit unusual. Normally, the lama monks of Prevailing Clarity Temple would return to the temple before the city gates closed at night, unless they had some reason to stay at a temple within the city or were lodging at the prince's residence for the night. But today small groups of them could be seen roaming the streets, clad in their red robes, their eagle eyes shining as they patrolled around.
Abbess Clearcause whispered as she walked, "There's no need to think of a plan to escape and find your brother. Thousand-Faced Abbess has probably already taken him a hundred or two hundred miles away from the city by now."
Black Iron Pagoda saw the back of the little beggar through a gap between a group of three red-clad lamas. Heavens! How did that strange, clever little beggar end up in the hands of the enemy? Something's going on.
He was forthright and not afraid to make trouble. He yelled and charged over. "Little beggar, how did you…"
He impolitely pushed aside the lamas and barged through.
These three lamas were not good people; how could they tolerate him just pushing his way through? The one in the middle said nothing but shot his hand out grabbed Black Iron Pagoda's wrist and charged into him.
Black Iron Pagoda was no slouch; as soon as he felt something was off he was already reacting, dropping his elbow and turning his hand over and hooked it away and punched with both fists.
They collided at the same time with a bang and they gasped at the same time and separated, the lama stepping back three paces, while Black Iron Pagoda took one step back before planting his feet. The lama was enraged. "Have you lost your mind, big fella? You…"
"Filthy monk, are you f*ckin' looking for some trouble?" Black Iron Pagoda thundered.
The lama was tall and sturdy and Black Iron Pagoda was like a giant. When they clashed shoulder and fist their reactions wer fast and vigilant, so when they clashes they immediately stepped back and resorted to shouting abuse at each other instead.
Abbess Clearcause stepped forward hastily. "Ruhai, you're causing trouble again?"
Uncle Peng had heard Black Iron Pagoda call for the little beggar, and of course he knew the man was one of little beggar's two friends. He had his men take the little beggar on ahead and then ordered two men to stay behind and watch from the side.
Abbess Clearcause was too late to call him back. Black Iron Pagoda and the lama had already clashed, their fists and palms thundering like they were going all out. Black Iron Pagoda thought the little beggar had been captured by the lama's buddies, so how could he show any mercy? He attacked with a flurry of palm strikes and punches, fighting like a crazed tiger.
The street was pandemonium as shouts rose and fell.
Another lama roared three times and intercepted Abbess Clearcause, sticking his palm out in an attack posture. "Old nun, you're part of this too." He turned his wrist and struck at her chest.
Abbess Clearcause sneered and chanted, "Buddha is merciful!" She flicked her hand and whacked the lama with the back of her hand.
The lama yelped and grabbed his wrist with his left hand and staggered back, the veins on his forehead sticking out. His eyes were wide, like he had seen a ghost. Abbess Clearcause stood there and said in a frosty voice, "Vile spawn! That was a light tap to serve as a warning to spare you from a fatal disaster later on."
Uncle Peng smiled faintly and whispered to his companion, "With Abbess Clearcause here there's no need for us to worry. Let's go!"
The three wormed through the crowd and left.
Black Iron Pagoda forced the lama back ten feet with his furious attack. Another lama joined the fray and the three of them went at it.
Abbess Clearcause could sense something was not right. "Stop! Out in the middle of the street…"
She came up behind a lama, who spun around and chopped his palm at her. "I'll kill you… Ah…"
Abbess Clearcause didn't even flinch. She waited for the chop to arrive before suddenly slashing her hand out to meet the edge of his palm, breaking the bones in the lama's hand. In the same instant she thrust her sleeve forward and the lama flew backward and fell ten feet away. He groaned and writhed on the ground.
At the same time, Black Iron Pagoda attacked the other lama. Three blasts, the lama punching Black Iron Pagoda in the chest and smacking him twice in the chest.
But Black Iron Pagoda caught the lama's left shoulder, and those three hits came at extremely close range, meaning the lama did not have his full strength into it, so Black Iron Pagoda could take it.
Black Iron Pagoda returned him a punch to the navel, then two jabs on either side of his jaw. The lama grunted and tottered backward, blood spilling out of his mouth.
Black Iron Pagoda roared like a tiger and kicked the lama down, then turned and ran into the crowd, looking for where the little beggar had gone and taking the opportunity to get away from Abbess Clearcause.
At that same moment, Wenchang was at Baqiao, respectfully seeing Thousand-Faced Abbess off on her way east. "You have strong ambition," the nun said to him, "but you don't go all out. I feel you're a bit strange; you seem to lack the confidence and courage to dominate the martial fraternity."
"This junior doesn't want to dominate the martial fraternity," Wenchang said sincerely.
"Then you're practicing your mystical qigong in vain. You are intelligent. It's a shame you can't lead the martial fraternity."
"Elder is incisive. Martial arts practice is not for dominating the martial fraternity; there's many other things one ought to do."
She nodded. "Yes, there's a lot to be done. I hope you will take care of yourself. No matter what you do in the days ahead, don't forget: don't do evil. To face the spirits of heaven and earth one must be fearless; then there's nothing you cannot accomplish. I'm not against you showing your true self to others and roaming the jianghu under your own name, but remember what I said. A day will come when you will find it useful to disguise yourself. You should go back. All meetings come to an end. Take care."
Wenchang bowed deeply. "Take good care of yourself, elder. This junior will take his leave."
Thousand-Faced Abbess waved her sleeve and darted away like running clouds or moonlight reflected on the water and disappeared into the curtain of night and was soon gone.
Wenchang waited a long time after she had disappeared, then turned and sped back to the city. The road back was no longer unfamiliar. There was still an hour left of the third watch, so there was no need to hurry. He just used a slightly faster step than normal people did and strode along quickly.
As soon as he started off he heard the rustle of a sleeve behind him. There was no more snow to reflect light so the night was black as ink, but his vision was exceptional. He could still make out objects from thirty feet away.
Whoever it was was already behind him, three big men with bags slung over their shoulders and wearing neat clothes, a sword strapped to their backs. They were using their lightness skill to hurry along the road.
Wenchang stole a glance as they passed.
As he did, he saw someone following close behind them, He slowed up a bit. Strange! There really was someone following the three men fifty feet behind, but whoever it was darted to the side of the road and vanished like a ghost into the forest.