Chapter 67: Night Escape
He ran toward the rear building along the rooftops, not dropping to the ground. He passed over the third rooftop and a huge dark figure appeared out of nowhere in front of him holding a strange eight-foot long staff. He stood on the ridge tiles like a god. He was bald and the sleeves of his robe flapped in the wind. Heavens! It was that bald guy he'd seen earlier near the drum tower.
"Heh, it's not your mother," the bald man thundered.
Wenchang had seen the man's lightness skill already so he knew he was in trouble. And the man's nonchalant attitude sent shivers down his spine. Attack first to get the upper hand; delay and get wrecked. There was no time to think, he just shouted and shot three silver-plumed darts, two to ward off baldy, the other at a figure approaching him from the left who held an iron claw he knew all too well. It was the young agency head, Iron Claw.
Shooting Rainbow Iron Claw had set this up earlier; by the time he appeared his shooting rainbow spearknives had already left his hand. His rainbow spearknives were special within the martial fraternity and famous throughout the jianghu and were the reason for his nickname, so it was clear these were renowned, vicious things. Three rays of white light flashed one after another.
Men guarded against tigers, and tigers guarded against men. Wenchang attacked as well, these two concealed weapons experts happening to use their skills at the same time.
They were too close and Wenchang had been taken by surprise by both of them. There were upturned eaves behind him, but even if he could make it there he wouldn't be able to avoid the spearknives. Iron Claw was too confident, and he had no idea his opponent was Thousand-Hand Scholar's disciple. He thought to dodge, but it seemed he was too late.
The man on the ridge tiles blocking the way was Blue-eyes Snow Lion. He came on recklessly, roaring as he shot his palm out.
It all happened in the blink of an eye. Wenchang flung his darts and advanced on the big monk, but then he realized he was being ambushed as the white flashes approached. He was caught between a rock and a hard place, but he was resourceful under pressure. He turned and stamped his feet, hard.
One rainbow spearknife passed by harmlessly, another brushed across his back, and the third nicked him in the left rib. His ultimate breathing was not advanced enough to repel the internal force put on the spearknife, but it was still pretty good to deflect it so that it only scraped the flesh and didn't penetrate deeper.
In the same instant, Iron Claw cried out as a silver-plumed dart sunk into his right hip bone, nearly destroying his Celestial Pivot acupoint. It passed through and he lost his footing and slid off the roof.
At the same time, the big monk's palm arrived and deflected the silver-plumed darts so that they merely passed through his monk's robe, nearly hitting their mark.
Wenchang's stamping broke two tile rafters, plus the weight of Blue-eyed Snow Lion, and half the roof collapsed.
Wenchang felt a powerful, invisible force hit him, his blood and qi seething as his chest felt like it had been slammed by a thousand-catty sledgehammer. A wave of dizziness assailed him as he tumbled off the roof.
Wenchang was caught off guard by Blue-eyed Snow Lion's Seal Palm attack, making him dizzy as he bled from his rib wound where the spearknife had got him. His feet landed on air as the tiles gave way underneath him and he fell. He had planned to break the rafters and drop down to avoid the spearknives and Snow Lion's attack, and now the path was open to him, but he was already injured. He was loathe to part with his sword sword as he steeled himself against the impact of the ground. Chips of tile and wood splinters rained down on his head, disorienting him.
On the roof, Snow Lion was taken aback. Those tiny silver-plumed darts had managed to penetrate his palm force and had even ripped through his monk's robe. Damn near impossible. He howled in rage and leapt onto the portion of roof that had not collapsed. "When I catch that bastard I'll flay him alive…"
The silver-plumed darts were four inches long. The three-edged steel shafts didn't bear the force of the throw. The silver plumes were small and short; a strong wind could disperse the force of the three-edged tips. All three edges were sharp and could not only penetrate, but also cut, so they were vicious things for defeating internal force qigong. Wenchang's internal force had yet to reach the level of perfection, but his Conception and Governing meridians were clear, enough to put him in the ranks of first-rate masters with room to spare. No wonder those two darts surprised the self-assured number-one master, Blue-eyed Snow Lion.
It was dark on ground level, easy to be hit with a concealed weapon attack. Snow Lion had misgivings and so did not rashly give chase.
The dust cleared around Wenchang as his senses swiftly cleared and he doggedly ran in the dark. He knew he had fallen into a trap and that his life was hanging in the balance. If he didn't break out of this encirclement then he'd leave his life here at Northwest Escort Agency. In this life-and-death moment, his will to survive produced a miracle within him and he forgot his pain as he seemed to take on an infinite supply of energy. His self-control helped him find a way out. His courage lifted as he did all he could to find an escape route.
There was no one down on the ground; they were all on the rooftops or scattered outside the compound. He turned left and broke right as he left the area where six masters were searching for him in the rubble of the roof collapse.
He got around back but didn't know where the gates were. Suddenly a loud crash startled him as a wooden gate was kicked down and cold wind blasted in.
He darted to the side and saw a man enter through the gates, brandishing a sabre before him to shield himself as he rushed in.
It was brighter outside than inside the compound; from inside he could see outside clearly. It was getting urgent now! When it came to survival the rules of the jianghu were not worth half a copper. No need to quibble. He suddenly darted out and swung his sword behind the man. He couldn't let the man cry out so he swung with all his might and lopped off the man's head. His arm jolted and the man's head rolled to the ground as the now-headless body ran ten more feet before the sabre crashed to the ground as the body slammed into a wall.
Wenchang rushed out as another man climbed up the steps. Not waiting to see if it was friend or foe he launched an attack, sword and body arriving at the same time to pierce through the man's chest like spearing a fish. The man dropped his sword and screamed and was kicked and sent flying by Wenchang, who stole into a small courtyard.
He'd killed two in succession and was beginning to feel his energy waning. A dark figure came out him from either side. He took a deep breath and leapt up onto the high wall and rolled over the other side as soon as his hand touched the top of the wall. Three throwing knives and two darts sailed over his head. If he had leapt straight over the three knives and darts would have taken his life.
Alright, now he was at the outer part of the Feng family's rear square. Building materials were piled up like a mountain and there was a pond ahead and an orchard on opposite the pond, which was surrounded by withered willows. On the other side of the orchard closely-packed houses. If he could make it and squeeze in there, he'd be safe.
He ran like mad along the left side of the pond, but two figures were hot on his heels on either side. Looked like even if he went through the orchard it would be hard to make it through to the houses. They'd intercept him for sure because he was already about to give out. There was no way he could keep this up.
When hard-up, one's wits fire up. He finally had an idea. He rolled to the ground as soon as he entered the orchard and rolled to the side of the pond and dipped into the water like a cormorant and silently slipped under the water. It was freezing cold, but he recovered and swam to the bottom and got his bearings and swam back the opposite way.
The pond was not large, about five square meters. He made it to the other side in a single breath and climbed out. Not far along the bank was a stack of lumber.
He was fated to be saved. Something happened as Blue-eyed Snow Lion led them to the orchard. There was a wall on the other side of the orchard, but it was shorter than the trees. Beyond the wall was a side street. It just so happened some fool burglar was at it nearby. It was not only not going well, but he had been accidently locked inside a small room by the owner. He wasted a lot of time before he was able to break through the wall and climb out and run into the night watchman who was in the middle of sounding the fifth watch.
The night watchman saw someone crawl through a busted wall and knew something was up. The watchmen were paid from neighborhood funds and were tasked with announcing the time as well as keeping a lookout against thieves. Burglars would not usually be around stealing in this area at this time of night. And attacking a night watchman was the most taboo thing because they worked hard for a meager living and were looked at with sympathy by the various miscreants of the jianghu. Leaving them alone had become an unwritten rule of the jianghu.
The watchman saw a thief appear before him and stood a ways off, according to the rules, and shouted, "Capture the thief! Capture the thief! Capture…"
He only called out, he didn't try to capture the man himself. He only shouted, waiting for the head of the nearby households to come out and nab the thief. He didn't know where the thief had run off to. There was not a sould out on the streets at night so there were no other witnesses. The watchman's voice was loud and clear. Soon a few dozen men came out, many holding clubs and sticks, their shouts thundering ceaselessly.
Blue-eyed Snow Lion mounted the wall and was dumbstruck. The street was ablaze with lanterns and torches, the air boiling with voices. He couldn't understand it; that boy had been mortally struck by his seal palm. How could he have escaped?
One after another, seven or eight men approached. One of them noticed someone on the wall and hollered, "Look, the thief is on that wall. Heavens! There's a dozen of them. Quick, bang the gong to notify the authorities, bang the gong…"
Divine Spear Yang Hu stood to the right of Snow Lion and stamped his foot. "The bastard got away. I'm so pissed!"
He couldn't continue after him. He could only quietly withdraw. Snow Lion also knew it was no use, and he didn't want to make trouble for Northwest Escort Agency. He gnashed his teeth and left as well.
It was almost light out. Lanterns lit up the main hall of Northwest Escort Agency. Three silver-plumed darts lay on the table while everyone studied them trying to figure out who they belonged to.
Iron Claw was seriously injured, so he wasn't there. But he sent word that the person who had come that night looked a lot like that Cai Wenchang who had caused trouble during the day. And he was sure of it as soon as he heard the darts scream through the air that it was the Cai Wenchang who had hit him with a throwing knife earlier.