Chapter 82: Pagoda Fight
Wenchang wanted to take this chance to slip away, but he didn't move; Iron Arm Ape had seen through him and closed in on him in a flash. The other seven in white also flew over, boxing him in on three sides. Iron Arm Ape nodded. "Young man, let me speak with you a moment."
Wenchang was uneasy, but still calm and unafraid. "I'm not deaf. Speak."
"There's a lot of rumors going around the jianghu that Endless Valley and Nine Palace Fortress are colluding together. It's said that you are the one source of those rumors. Please tell me, where did you hear this from?"
"I won't be threatened into answering your questions, sir."
"Heheh! You must answer. I have orders to track down the source of these rumors. I've questioned many people already. The last one confessed it was you who started it. Who did you hear it from? I'm not trying to be meddlesome. I only seek the source of the rumor. I hope you can help me, young man."
Wenchang gave him an icy smile. "It was I who spread it."
"Young man, where did you hear it from?"
"Hmph! I'm the one who spread it. That's enough."
"You started the rumor?"
"What I said is the truth."
Iron Arm Ape's face clouded. He sneered, "Do you have proof?"
"I was captured by your goons at Mysterious Altar Temple in the eastern outskirts of the city. I heard it with my own ears, saw it with my own eyes. Every bit of it is true."
"Bah! You wretch, maliciously slandering and spreading lies to defame us. Mysterious Altar Temple is an old ruin. There's no one from Endless Valley hiding out outside the city. Friends of the light path have families and occupations and have no need to set up secret hidden bases for nefarious purposes. You have the nerve to…"
Wenchang cut him off with a mocking laugh. "I'm not a little kid. I have good eyes and ears. I was captured and imprisoned by your goons and accidentally overheard it all. How could it be false? Hmph! And right now your evil intentions are clear, what with you here surrounding me along with these dark path flunkeys. I bet you will say it's a coincidence, right? That's a hell of a coincidence. I'm new to the jianghu and am ignorant and ill-informed, but I know what it means to see light and dark pathers being so polite in front of each other. Such a coincidence is really hard for me to believe."
Iron Arm Ape remained calm and smiled faintly. "What you say seems to make sense and you seem to speak with conviction. There's no need to argue with you. Government troops will be here soon. If I could inconvenience you to come along with me to Endless Valley, my superior will get to the bottom of this. We must stop your rumors with the facts…"
"I don't need to go to Endless Valley. Don't waste your time."
"So you want me to formally request you to come with me?"
"That won't do either. If I don't want to do something, no one will be able to make me."
Iron Arm Ape took a step forward and said, "Then I will have to personally request you to come."
A ways off, Carefree Cloud gave White Dragongirl a wry smile. "That young lad is really like a newborn calf unafraid of the tiger. He's headed for disaster. Acknowledging himself as a bandit and a lecher, making enemies of the Thirteen Greats of the Martial Fraternity, provoking those dark path devils, and offending friends of the light path, he just might be the craziest young man to appear in the martial fraternity since the Revenant Swordsman went into hiding over decades ago. I worry about him."
"Uncle, what do we do?" White Dragongirl asked anxiously.
"We must extricate ourselves from this mess. We can't provoke these people. Black Succubus Gu Zhen has hidden herself in the pagoda from the eastern entrance. Iron Arm Ape is outstanding, but he's no match for Black Succubus, so there's nothing to worry about for now."
White Dragongirl pointed to a stone stele not far away and whispered, "That sorcerer is already there. With him tied up with Black Succubus, Cai Wenchang still…"
"Child, you absolutely cannot be rash. Under no circumstances can we get involved. We can only rely on luck and wait for a chance to help from the shadows. Don't rush out and show yourself. We'll act according to the situation."
There was already fighting by the pagoda, quite violent fighting.
Wenchang saw that Iron Arm Ape was unarmed, carelessly coming at him with just his two fists. He was incensed. Iron Arm Ape was really looking down on him. He waited until Ape's left fist was close to his chest and then he roared and swirled his sword in a string of two slashes.
Two muffled thunks as his strikes hit home, scraping Iron Arm Ape's forearm and they separated.
"Ah!" Iron Arm Ape was surprised. Two heavy sword slashes rocked him back five feet. His sleeve had slash marks. His arm felt like it had been hit with a massive sledgehammer, the enormous force of the blow rocking him and even knocking him back. His arm was numb. He was surprised to find his Iron Arm Skill was barely able to resist Wenchang's ordinary metal sword. He never imagined Wenchang, so young, could have such well-developed internal force.
"You son of a…!" he roared. He took up his hook sword and swung it angrily.
Wenchang raised his sword at an angle and they clanged together, knocking the hook sword away three inches. The crook of his thumb was numbed from the jolt and he was knocked back eight feet.
The second hook sword strike came like a clap of thunder.
Wenchang swung to meet it, but weakly as he flitted to the left and went after Iron Arm Ape's right side. His sword bolted out with "Winter Plums Put Forth Stamens", five stabs in succession.
"Beat it! Give up!" Iron Arm Ape roared and spun and struck with "Chasm-Splitting Power".
Weapons clashed and clanged. So fast that Wenchang could not pull back and his sword was caught by the hook. Then he felt a massive twist and eight inches was clipped off of the tip of his sword.
Wenchang was flabbergasted and flew backward in retreat.
"Have another, junior!" Iron Arm Ape cried and he tore in, hook sword sailing for Wenchang's legs at lightning speed.
Wenchang could only pull back to save himself, using his Carp Slips Under the Waves technique to shoot himself backward out of the way.
Shit! He suddenly shot inside the pagoda.
A figure appeared behind a stone stele. It was Seven Spells in his eight trigram robe, laughing maniacally as he shot inside the pagoda from another entrance. He boomed, "Don't try to steal this poor cleric's business, you boorish fellow."
As soon as he entered the pagoda he heard a sweet voice say, "Get lost! This deal is not yours."
Black Succubus Gu Zhen gave flicked her sleeves, wind gusting and forcing Seven Spells back eight feet. He howled and charged in again.
Iron Arm Ape was inside with Wenchang and extended his hook sword. "Lie down and be a good boy, junior."
Wenchang went to the ground. If he tried to stand up he'd be caught by that hook sword for sure. It was too dangerous. If he didn't stand up, he could still roll on the ground. Luckily, he rolled over to the spiral staircase just as the hook sword swept over his chest and missed him by a hair.
He knew Iron Arm Ape was formidable, but he met him head on with his broken sword in a surprise attack on the hook sword. They clashed and the hook sword broke the sword into three pieces.
In that split second between life and death, he yelled and a silver-plumed dart flew through the air as he stood and scurried for the spiral staircase.
Iron Arm Ape didn't expect Wenchang to still be so fierce. He heard the young man yell and hastily smacked at the silver streak at his chest and knocked the dart to the side and pierced through his clothes at his rib. He was not able to destroy the dart or knock it away. He could only deflect and alter its path.
Iron Arm Ape flinched. Twice now his clothes had been cut by that junior. He was raging now. If word got out among the jianghu, his reputation would be tarnished. For a small-minded man like him, that was worse than death, a humiliation he could not bear.
"Little bastard, I'll smash your bones to smithereens." He roared and pounced, palm and hook sword lashing out protectively, clearly wary of Wenchang's concealed weapons.
At another entrance, Seven Spells and Black Succubus were fighting with swords drawn, locked in fierce combat. Gusts of air from the sword slashes filled the hundred-foot space and light danced and gleamed. Aside from Wenchang and Iron Arm Ape, who were already inside, none of the other seven white-clad members dared enter the pagoda.
"Come on!" yelled the middle-aged man who had been with Iron Arm Ape before. They split into four groups and jumped up to the second storey and entered there.
Wenchang's sword was already ruined. He ran up the spiral staircase which was only wide enough for two people to walk side by side, like rats fighting in a den. How could he contend barehanded with an enormous, heavy hook sword? He didn't even have room to get out of the way of it. His only way out was up the steps.
On the second floor he thought to escape out the doors there, which was only thirty feet away. Jumping down from there would be a piece of cake.
As soon as he neared the doorway a white figure appeared before him and a sword shot out at him. A second sword appeared beside the entrance. Damn! They were already at his chest when a shout pierced his ears.
"Die! Or surrender… Ah…" The last sound was a hair-raising scream
Wenchang hastily drew back and raise his left hand and not only backed away from the oncoming swords, but a throwing knife spun into a pale silver arc and shot in a flash into the vital acupoint on the white figure's chest. The man dropped out the door, his scream fading as he fell.
Wenchang wanted to steal through the doors again, but Iron Arm Ape was there, and another white-clad man was blocking the door with his sword. He said nothing but gave tit for tat with three shiny silver spearknives.
Wenchang was a concealed weapons expert. The spearknives were no big deal, but he had lost his chance to escape the pagoda. In his haste he caught one of the spearknives and made for the third floor.
Divine Sabre and his black path cohorts had not left. They were watching, hidden from a high vantage point. One of the men carried a large bundle before his saddle. Inside was Second Miss Tian.
Wenchang fled up the stairs. He could no longer jump out of the doors to the ground unless he wanted to end up dead or crippled. There was no way out. He knew it was a dead end to keep going up, but he had to struggle with all his might as long as he could before he went to the underworld. As he climbed the stairs he thought of ways to drag some more devils to the bottom with him. Every one counted. Life was fleeting for a jianghu outlaw like himself. It was nothing to be afraid of.
Iron Arm Ape was leading the way, six white-clad members following him up the stairs. Angry shouts and maniacal laughter reverberated off the walls.
Wenchang reached the seventh floor entrance as three throwing knives were loosed by a white-clad member, passing by Iron Arm Ape and heading straight for Wenchang's back, all aimed at vital areas on his upper, middle, and lower body.
Wenchang seemed to have eyes in the back of his head. He didn't jump up; if he did he'd intercept a throwing knife. He stuck to the wall and let the knives pass, then jumped. Shit. He was a split second too late. Iron Arm Ape was there already.
Iron Arm Ape was almost a foot shorter than him, but his arms were long. His hook sword was also three feet long, so he had over a six-foot reach. He leapt up three steps but the big hook sword was there, reaching for his foot.
"Come down, junior!" Iron Arm Ape called happily as he probed with the hook sword.
Luckily this guy thought he was the shit. The inner crook of the hook sword was not sharp. He hooked Wenchang's right heel and pulled, reaching out with his left hand to grab him.
Wenchang felt a tug at his foot and his anklebone felt like it was on fire as an enormous force pulled him down. He knew the hook sword's shape and construction and he was quick-witted. As he was pulled down he sucked in his belly and twisted his waist so that his foot spun around and was hooked, but the crook there was not sharp and he had his leather boots protecting him as well so turning was no trouble. He drew back his feet and his right foot slipped free from the hook.
He was still going down though and Iron Arm Ape's big hand was on his chest.
Wenchang roared and threw the spearknife he had caught before, as well as one of his own silver-plumed darts. He flung the weapons and chopped at the hand grabbing at him with his other hand. At the same time he kicked out with his feet.
Three hands connected and his foot caught Iron Arm Ape in the chest. If his foot had not been snagged by the hook sword earlier, there would have been twice as much power behind his kick and Iron Ape would be either dead or crippled.
Iron Arm Ape had no idea Wenchang was so incredible to use his wits to get himself free, and then to counter so fiercely, dashing ahead heedless of his own safety, going all out in a life or death fight. His reaction was quick; it was really hard for Iron Arm Ape to believe it. Consequently, he could not avoid a close quarters fight, and he was already wary of Wenchang's concealed weapons. Now two more were streaking at him; he had to divert some attention to deal with them. He ducked the silver streaks of light but he could not avoid Wenchang's fists and feet.
"Ah…" Someone screamed from below. It was the man who had thrown the three throwing knives. He had not only been hit by the spearknife, but also the dart, becoming Iron Arm Ape's fall guy.
Three people rolled down in a heap. Wenchang's feet were formidable. He kicked with full force and his hit Iron Arm Ape in the right shoulder, then untangled himself from the pile and raced back up the stairs. His hands were numb and achy from being twisted by Iron Arm Ape, and his right foot hurt like hell, but he still ran up the stairs with all his might.