Chapter 71: Eye For An Eye
Vice Commissioner of the Right Li had plotted to take over Shi Ruokui's mansion and after much effort had done it. Only two days after he moved into his new home, disaster struck.
There were three huge houses in the Shi compound, divided into front, middle, and rear, with walls separating the expansive courtyards which were connected by flower-lined footpaths and moon gates. There were stables and carriage parks on both sides, along with the servants' and gardeners' quarters. The multistoried rear house was where the women and children lived. Male servants were normally not allowed to enter the premises and instead was attended completely by female servants and maids. The night patrols could only walk along the outer passageways, but something was happening inside. If there had been no sound, those in the front house would not have known of it due to the distance.
Vice Commissioner Li had left two trusted servants to in separate houses to take inventory. Of the three men, one was dead, one knocked out, the other captured. There were no other men in the building, women outnumbering men, so the masked men had no trouble seizing the house.
There was another man there, near the rear garden. It was Cai Wenchang. He was waiting for the two night watchmen to get closer.
The night watchmen weren't carrying lanterns, a surprising breach of protocol. Normally anyone close to the house had to carry a lantern so the women could avoid them. The fact that these two weren't carrying lanterns meant they harbored evil designs. Sure enough, for they were not Li's men.
Wenchang didn't know when he entered and in his haste did not bother to find out who everyone was. By the time he closed in on the house the masked men already controlled everything, most of the men finding women to ravage, the lookouts dispersed, so that even though inside was a danger zone, there was almost no one outside. The expert fighters were all in the inner halls.
Vice Commissioner Li had been bound to a pillar, his face sickly sallow. He had fainted from fright once already, but a bucket of cold water to woke him up and the cloth gag was taken out of his mouth.
The heavy doors and windows had been shut up so the sound wouldn't travel. Therefore the masked men no longer kept their voices down. One said to another by the door, "Get Master Yan."
The doors opened and someone shouted, "Get Master Yan."
Soon after, a figure suddenly appeared in the doorway, Jade-faced Tiger Yan Ruyu wearing a lavish brocade robe, a sword strapped to him underneath. His hair was tied up but he wore no headcovering. He was beaming as he entered the hall. His fair face and red lips were even more pronounced under the lamplights, his slanting eyebrows and starry eyes dashing, and when he smiled there was a faint dimple on his left cheek. He was a handsome young dandy, a man among men.
He was trailed by two men with bushy eyebrows and big eyes, stalwart fellows, each over forty. They appeared placid and seasoned, a dignified bearing, calm and unhurried, their cold tiger eyes electric and intimidating. The one on the left had a round face, the one on the right a long one.
The head masked man removed his mask, revealing a face as pale as paper, his eyebrows swept back into the hair at his temples, his eyes cold like lightning. He had a straight nose and square mouth set in a strong jaw that jutted out. He was around thirty and without beard or moustache. His complexion was too pale and his somber face betrayed little emotion. He cupped his fist in salute and smiled. "Thanks to your help, everything went off without a hitch. I must extend my heartfelt gratitude to you once more." He saluted again.
Jade-faced Tiger's appearance had not yet alerted Vice Commissioner to the danger he was in. He shouted, "Master Yan, Yan…"
A heavy thunk as a masked man smacked him upside the head, knocking him senseless. Blood trickled from his mouth and he was silent.
Jade-faced Tiger returned the salute, smiling. "Congratulations, Chief Ke, on your success, congratulations. I feel really bad to have held you up for over a month. But I learned this bastard official had plotted to seize this mansion and that his rare curios had been stored at the government office and not at his residence in Fanchuan, so I relied on your help to get them both. I'd deeply grateful. Oh! Brother, Ke, allow me to introduce these two heroes."
He introduced the three men and they exchanged greetings.
The round-faced man was the famed martial artist from Binzhou, The Traveler Tong Ning.
The long-faced one was Evil Dragon Zhai Gui from Mount Taibai.
The fair-faced Chief Ke was a brigand chief from Mt. Dasu to the east of Guangzhou in Runing prefecture, Henan. He was renowned throughout the jianghu, an up-and-coming talent White Demon Ke He.
White Demon Ke He was not only an outstanding talent among the martial fraternity, masters of the older generation counted him among their own. Of course, his master, Holy Four Heavens Nun brought him some luck. Men without any backing would not mess with him because of Four Heavens. His hand-to-hand fighting and swordplay was commendable, and he was ruthless and cruel, so it wasn't unusual for friends of the jianghu to fear him. Even the sublimely skilled black pather, Black Flag Sovereign looked on him favorably and didn't quibble if White Demon didn't send his annual protection money to Nine Palace Fortress.
Four Heavens was one of the two Nuns, one of the Thirteen Greats along with Thousand-faced Abbess. Their personalities and behavior were likewise eccentric and importunate. They stayed clear of one to the other and didn't interfere with each other.
After pleasantries had been exchanged, The Traveler Tong Ning and Evil Dragon Zhai Gui eyed White Demon's face with an odd, impenetrable look.
White Demon saw the mood was off and smiled sinisterly. "Master Tong and Chief Zhai, you might not quite understand the situation here this time, but you'll forgive me once I explain it. This bastard official was county magistrate of Xihua County in Chenzhou before serving his pose in Fengxiang prefecture. He's corrupt and heartless as hell. My foster uncle, named Yin Dang, was wealthy in Xihua, but this bastard official plotted against him and had his family wiped out. At first I didn't know what was going on, but I went out and investigated for five years and three months and learned about it from a female servant of his who had been married off. My foster uncle raised me and I never forgot his kindness. Tonight I must chop this bastard official's family to pieces to avenge him. If you two can't understand that then I don't know what to tell you. Right now this bastard's rare curios and his beloved wife and concubines and daughters are all here. I dare not act recklessly, but will wait for you all to take what you want and the others can take the rest to your mountain strongholds and divy it up amongst yourselves. I respectfully await your advice on how to proceed."
The Traveler Tong Ning and Evil Dragon Zhai Gui looked over and the latter nodded and smiled. He nodded to Jade-faced Tiger. "A man who does not take revenge to even a score is no gentleman. I sympathize with you, Chief Ke. We're all in agreement. However, use three have received this bastard official's support, so if we went through with this we would feel uneasy and it would besmirch our good names from here on…"
White Demon cupped his fist and shook it. "As I said, I will do as you two advise."
The Traveler Tong Ning laughed. "A wise man brooks no injustice. Chief Ke talks straight and honest. I admire that. In my humble opinion, we should take one-third of the loot. As for the women, Brother Yan knows best."
Jade-faced Tiger chuckled. "I'm fine with splitting the loot, but I'd like to take two of that bastard officials beautiful daughters. Can you bear to part with them, Chief Ke?"
White Demon laughed boisterously. "If you're interested in them, why not take all three? When it comes to 'female charms' I have absolutely no interest."
"It's settled then. I only want two of them. The eldest is already used up, heheh!" Jade-faced Tiger said, overjoyed.
A girl from the pile of women with her breasts half-exposed screamed at him, "Brother Ruyu, save me. Save me. Brother Ruyu."
"Pfft, a dirty beast would be three ranks higher than you!" another girl cursed at him.
Vice Commissioner Li didn't struggle, he just wailed, "Good men, I'm begging you, let me go. You can have everything, I… I won't come after you…"
White Demon spun around violently and ripped Vice Commissioner Li's ear off and stuffed it in Li's mouth. "You've reaped what you've sown. Heaven punishes the guilty."
Vice Commissioner was amazing to not scream after having his ear ripped off. He spat it out. "You can't put all the blame on me for your foster uncle's matter back then. He victimized the the people and lorded over that remote village…"
Four sharp slaps from White Demon knocked Li's tooth out. "So you can set fires but my foster uncle can't light a lamp. You have a lot of nerve to protest you piece of shit bastard! Despicable."
Jade-faced Tiger paid no mind and went to the cluster of women and grabbed the girl who had just pleaded with him and ripped her skirt.
"Ruyu, save… save me…" She was frantic, struggling notstop to break free of the rope lashing her hands together as she tried to stand up, heedless of her nakedness.
Jade-faced Tiger stepped on her belly and laughed. He said maliciously, "My darling, you think I still want you as my pet? Bah! You're only fit to be sent to Chang'an Tavern to serve the lower classes. Quit dreaming… Ah! You vicious bitch, in a moment you will be calling me sweetheart."
The girl who'd cursed him earlier suddenly struggled up and threw herself at him and bit his right knee, but she couldn't move once he had her in his arms. She cursed, "Animal! You're not a man, you're ten thousand times lower than a dog. I will come back as an evil spirit and eat your soul."
White Demon pointed to a door and said to Jade-faced Tiger and them, "You all go on to the study/treasure room."
Jade-faced Tiger grabbed two young girls and led the way. "After you, after you, I've held you up too long already."
White Demon turned to a masked man beside him and said to him in a low voice, "You eight strip those five women and let that bastard official watch you play. Let him remember before he dies what happened tonight so he can tell King Yama all about it when he gets to the netherworld."
"Thank you, Chief, for your favor." The eight men hooped and hollered and tossed their sabres aside and fell on the five lambs like a pack of crazed tigers. The sounds of rending silk and moans and screams were hair-raising and in no time the women had been stripped bare, their fair curves and snow-white bodies alluring. Yet their wails would make one weep.
White Demon led the way to the rear hall doors and reached a hand out and pushed them open. "Let me show you in. Just take whatev… Eh!…"
On the other side was a tall masked man wearing deep blue, a bundle on his back and two travel bags. But it wasn't an underling. His underlings all wore black. There was not much difference between blue and green; northerners didn't distinguish the two, but this outfit was pressed satin. It flickered in the lamplight. One look and he knew this was not one of his men.
White Demon had not retracted his arm before the tip of a sword had shot like lightning to a main acupoint on his chest and a thunderous voice roared in his ears, "You're the leader. I've been waiting a good while. Who dares move? Back! Or I'll stab this guy in the heart."
The raucous in the hall suddenly went silent. Everyone had been stunned still by the sudden change of events.