Chapter 83: Lightning Bolt
Iron Arm Ape leapt up and gnashed his teeth and tore after him. But he wasn't so agile now; he'd obviously been injured slightly.
The other five white-clad members carried their fallen comrade and raged up the stairs, cursing and shouting.
Wenchang scurried to the top floor and his heart shook. He hesitated then round his way around the side. He knew he was done for. The spiral staircase had ended and he had reached the final floor.
This was the seventh floor of the pagoda. There were doors on all sides and there were magnificent gilded shrines along each wall. There was a wooden weiqi board on the brick floor in the center of the room. A Buddhist monk and a Daoist priest sat at opposite ends of the board on rush prayer mats, one hand on their knee, the other kneading black or white stones in their sandalwood bowls. On the board, white snaked out from the center in a long line coiling from left to right. Black occupied the four corners and was gradually moving to the interior, seemingly at the advantage. There were about 200 or so stones on the board overall. They were in the late game phase and the victor would soon be decided.
On the right was an old Buddhist monk with a ruddy face and long snowy brows. He had a kind and genial face and wore a gray monk's robe with no outer kasaya. He wore spotless straw sandals and was rather tall. The sandalwood rosary around his neck was striking, the beads larger than normal rosary beads, and there was faint writing on the beads.
The other striking thing was his left ear was gone except for a section of the outer ear, and he had few teeth; many had been knocked out. There was a scar on his right temple. His left hand resting on his knee had only three fingers; the middle and ring fingers were missing.
The Daoist priest was pretty old himself, his face full of wrinkles and his hair and beard silvery. He looked lean and sprightly, the bearing of a celestial. He was tall and thin and lacked meat on his bones, with withered hands and long fingernails. His eyes were going and his lips were shrivelled. He wore a dark blue Daoist gown, his white hair drawn up in a Daoist bun. He wore cloth shoes and there was a white horsehair whisk stuck in his collar. His nose was garishly pointed and was bluish-black, like the head of s snake, not like a human nose.
Neither monk nor priest seem to notice the newcomers who had rushed in. They were focused completely on their game. Wenchang went around them, running toward the doors behind the man on the right. He looked out and down. Hopeless. He was almost 200 feet up; he'd be flattened if he jumped. It was actually an ideal place to commit suicide.
A white figure appeared at the top of the staircase. It was Iron Arm Ape. He stood there raging. Another figure in white appeared at the other staircase entrance. Both exits blocked, there was no escape!
The old monk chuckled. "Priest, why have you not moved? This is the 208th move and it's been four hours already!"
"Quiet, quiet, what's the hurry? It's been three days already, no need to rush." The Daoist bobbed his head, chuckling, the white stone between his fingers shaking.
The monk grabbed the wine gourd beside him and took a couple drinks. "Haha! You're in your death throes, it's no use racking your brain. There's nothing you can do, the situation is hopeless. Watch out, my next move I will cut the tail off your dragon."
"Yeah right! I will… Hey! Lad, you can't jump. If you do you won't end up in the Western Paradise, but in Hell."
Wenchang was about to climb down along the outside because time was critical. He had to risk it and hope he could manage to climb down to the lower storey. The entrance was directly below and it was only about ten feet down, but he was called back by the Daoist just as he was about to climb out the doorway.
The Daoist didn't look at Wenchang; his eyes were still on the board.
Iron Arm Ape figured the old monk was from the Temple of Compassion and the Daoist might be an incense burning attendant at Eight Immortals Temple, so he was completely unconcerned as he laughed maniacally. "Junior, jump if you can. I want you alive, but if you want really want to die I can't stop you, haha! Kneel…"
He charged toward the weiqi board as he spoke, about to run over it to get across, taking a shortcut between the monk and the Daoist so he could nab Wenchang.
Could he really use climbing skills while being pursued? Wenchang was at an impasse. He'd have to fight his way out. He pulled out his dagger, Lightning Bolt, and sneered. "It's either you or me. Let's see who's blood will spray the rood of Great Wild Goose Pagoda today."
Iron Arm Ape reached the weiqi board and extended his foot to step over it.
The Daoist happened to look up then and see Lightning Bolt in Wenchang's hand. The Daoist was stunned and reached out knocked Iron Arm Ape's foot away.
Iron Arm Ape seemed crazed as he suddenly flew backward and crashed his back into the wall and slumped to the floor. Ah… Aiyo!"
His big hook swork slid along the brick floor, scattering sparks. He struggled to his feet, faltering. His face was pale as death. He was about to say something.
The old monk look up at him and smiled. "Benefactor, are you trying to interrupt my game? That won't do. He's already in a deadly position. In a moment he will lose and he will not be happy about it. Be careful; if you bother him he's liable to fly into a rage out of frustration and snap your bones to vent his spleen. Go on! Let him off if you can, why be so ruthless? Benefactor, for my sake, go on! Otherwise, I will have to gain some good karma from you."
Iron Arm Ape shook all over when he saw the faces of the monk and the Daoist. His eyes were so wide they were about to bulge out of his sockets, his mouth gaping open like he'd stopped breathing. His face slowly too on a sickened hue.
The Daoist's eyes turned to Iron Arm Ape. His old listless eyes were queer and sent a chill up Iron Arm Ape's spine. The Daoist's snakelike nose twitched. It looked ghastly.
"You still here?" the Daoist spat coldly.
Iron Arm Ape felt like he'd been struck by lightning. His heart dropped and he went weak. He couldn't straighten his back and he crumpled to the floor.
Black Succubus Gu Zhen appeared at the top of the stairs. Her fair face blanched and she sucked in a breath and she pressed against the wall unbelievably fast.
Seven Spells appeared and charged ahead menacingly, his sword swinging like a flash of lightning. But Black Succubus darted out of the way and he shot past her between the monk and the Daoist, bringing with him a gust of wind. If he really charged through the wind would blow the weiqi board over. The monk and Daoist could not sit idly by and watch that happen.
The Daoist hmphed and flicked his sleeves. "Damn it! Uncultured boor, get lost!"
Seven Spells suddenly stopped short and was assailed by some strange, unknown gust of cold air. He used his own esoteric Daoist qigong to disperse it with a bizarre howling sound, but the cold force was overwhelming and he was forced back like he were up against a typhoon.
He cried out and bore down with his sword, trying to resist the force. But he could not; he couldn't resist the strange, overwhelming force. The force of his precious sword that could split a single hair in half was pitiful in the face of this cold force and he was knocked on his back with a thud, both feet skyward. He tumbled back over to the stairs and rolled down them to the sixth floor.
Black Succubus said nothing but disappeared in a flash down the stairs.
The cold force raged about, rustling the sleeves of the monk and Daoist, but the weiqi board, which was ready to fly off, suddenly settled down. None of the stones had moved.
The famed Seven Spells had been thrown down the spiral staircase with the flick of a sleeve. Black Succubus was scared and suddenly bolted out herself and Iron Arm Ape had now realized who the monk and the Daoist were. Wouldn't he be a fool not to leave too? He trembled all over. He scrambled around and hightailed it to the stairs like he'd seen a ghost and scampered away, not even bothering to grab his hook sword.
Several white-clad members had been struck dumb with fright, but seeing Iron Arm Ape's helpless situation snapped them out of it and they too all ran pell-mell for the stairs, vying to be the first to escape.
Wenchang held his breath. He couldn't believe what he'd just seen. He stood there shocked like an idiot, forgetting whether he ought to be leaving or staying. He regained his senses once everyone else had gone and he put away his sword and made to leave, circling around behind the monk toward the stairs, hoping to slink off.
But he took one step and the Daoist put a hand out to stop him and said icily, "You, stay. I didn't tell you to go. You just stay right there."
Such rude talk, and Wenchang was proud. His contrarian spirit rose. "I don't have to listen to you?"
"You will listen," the Daoist said, his voice even icier.
"I haven't done anything to you, priest. We don't know each other. There's never been any conflict or even contact between us. There's no reason for me to do what you say."
The Daoist's face clouded and he stayed his hand. The old monk chuckled. "Cleric, mind your own business and pay attention to this hell of a situation you're in on the board here. Don't try to get out of it." He smiled at Wenchang. "Little benefactor, let me have a look at that dagger of yours."
Wenchang seemed to be hypnotized as he drew the dagger and presented it respectfully with both hands. He didn't know why he was acting so weird, but he couldn't help but do as the monk said. He didn't even say anything.
The monk took the dagger and looked it over briefly. He waved it lightly and a brilliant light flashed and numerous arcs of light like bolts of lightning crackled and spat around the blade. Then it stopped. The monk held it by the handle and slowly extended it, his expression becoming solemn.
The dagger suddenly moaned like a dragon and myriad rays of electric light shot out and a pale light surged at the tip of the blade, flashing and recoiling like a snake as it gradually lengthened until it was five or six feet long before stopping.
Wenchang was dumbstruck. The dagger light compelled him to take three steps back.
The monk's face relaxed and the lightning arc disappeared and the dagger, Lightning Bolt, returned to normal, still just a sharp, gleaming eight-inch dagger, nothing special about it.
The monk handed it to the Daoist and sighed lightly. "If you use it on a dark night during a thunderstorm, you only need to use about half of your internal force to make the lightning arc shoot out three feet. It will be invincible, able to subdue dragons and quell tigers; it can overcome all adversaries. It's a lightning bolt dagger. It used to belong to your old teacher and he used it for cultivation."
The Daoist set the dagger on the floor. "Naturally I recognize it, otherwise… Hmph! If I'd wanted that junior's life I could have had it anytime."
Wenchang flinched. He thought, That damned Daoist. I don't want to give it back!
The monk chuckled. "Congratulations, friend. Amitabha!"
"Congratulations for what?" the Daoist said casually.
"A game of weiqi eliminated your viciousness, what's not to congratulate?"
"This humble monk is crystal clear, don't deny it, friend. A game lasting three days, not once falling into a dead end, expending much thought for every move, plus you're usually so competitive and such a sore loser, but you're by and by starting to understand and cultivate the seven emotions. Now with a taste of difficult and hardship before you, yet you are beginning to be calm about it. Your mind is undergoing great conceptual changes, gently restraining your nasty, violent nature. You know to leave a fellow a way out."
"You're full of shit," the Daoist said, irritated.
"You want proof?"
"If on the first day of our game those two had rushed in, what would happen to them? Be honest."
The Daoist shook his head. "Not just those two, but anyone, would have… would have…"
"What?" the monk said, smiling.
"Died!" the Daoist said simply.
"So this humble monk congratulates you, friend."
The Daoist picked up a white stone and said casually, "You win, but only by four stones. I hate to say it, but you're not bad."
"You flatter me"
"Monk, your skill at this game is unfathomable. But you still miscalculated."
"Heheh! Yes, I didn't think you would put up this much of a fight. Last night on the 99th move I figured you would lose by five. But on the 104th move you were very ruthless and took one back."
"Let's play again."
"Alright! Give that lightning bolt dagger back to the kid."
The Daoist picked up the dagger and blew on its sharp edge. An arc of light flamed briefly, and that queer dragon's moan was emitted again. He looked up and studied Wenchang. "Kid, where did you steal this dagger from?"