Chapter 84: Snake Demon Alchemist
Wenchang went cold when he locked eyes with the Daoist. His eyes were so odd, like the eyes of a snake. It made fear rise in one's heart for no reason. He took a deep breath and puffed out his chest. "I got it from a man of the jianghu. He gave me the dagger and had me dive into a deep pond and cut off some jade marrow dragonhorn to save his life. I did it, but as I was exhausted and trying to catch my breath, he knocked me into the water and left me for dead. He thinks I and the dagger sunk to the bottom of the pond. Don't ask any further."
"And the guy?"
"Ten years later, just two days ago actually, I ran into him…"
"I let him go. But I beat him up a bit to retaliate."
"Didn't kill him?"
"No. Just tenderized him with my fists."
The Daoist handed him the dagger. "This mystical dagger was my martial uncle's most valued treasure. He ascended thirty-some years ago and the dagger turned to lightning and was lost as well. The one who obtains this mystical treasure is blessed, but it will also bring the recipient a lot of trouble. One day, on a dark rainy, thundering night when you're fighting with someone under the peals of lightning, this dagger will reveal itself and word will spread throughout the jianghu and create no end of troubles. You're too young and your cultivation too lacking. If you keep this dagger you will face much difficulty in the future. Look at that old bald ass other there. You probably don't know him, but those people here just now knew. Go! He and I will teach you a special Buddhist exorcist move to protect yourself. I guarantee you it will be useful."
The monk laughed. "No, he's trained in Daoist qi circulation."
"Monk, have you taken a liking to him?" the Daoist asked.
"What are you trying to do, asking me about the recipient of your martial uncle's precious dagger?"
My skills are no good, too strong and aggressive. Oh, I almost forgot, Shaolin has strict rules, you can't take in young and vigorous or people with bad conduct as a disciple…"
"I left the temple a long time ago, no need pick on me, alright?"
The Daoist slowly adjusted his clothes and stood. "You say you're a Shaolin renegade, but you still have ties there. You're still a disciple of Shaolin. This kid admitted his crimes outside the pagoda, it will for sure violate your sect's rules. Naturally you don't want to look for trouble, even though you once praised this kid's honesty and candor. Alright! Just wait, I'll teach him two or three little moves to protect himself, then we'll take a few more days and play another game."
The more he heard, the more worried Wenchang grew. He heard the words Shaolin and looked the monk up and down carefully. Then he shivered. The monk's missing ear and fingers made him suddenly realize. He thought, Heavens! It's that fabled Master Hundred Tribulations Crippled Monk Du Ji, the martial uncle of the current sect head of Shaolin. He's been missing for a long time and is one of the Three Monks of the Thirteen Greats. And I just happened to run into him.
It was pandemonium outside the pagoda. Seven Spells was the first one out, like a fish through a net. He dashed for the stone archway and ran out like mad.
The second out was Black Succubus Gu Zhen. She gave a sweet whistle to her maidservants and they all took flight.
Iron Arm Ape was all black and blue and swollen. He ran out under the help of one of his men, his face pale as death, terror-stricken. "Quick! Get the horses and let's get out of here. We're dead if we stay here."
Two men flew past and into the woods for the horses while the others carried the dead and injured on their backs and fled. One asked, "Master You, what happened? What…"
"A matter of life and death," Iron Arm Ape said, still scared.
"Who was that monk and that Daoist…"
"The monk was Hundred Prohibitions Cripple Monk, the Daoist was the Snake Demon Alchemist of Sage Dragon Mountain in Sichuan. Heavens! Those old bastard freaks are still alive, how terrible. Cripple Monk has been missing for decades, but he's not scary. The scary one is the Snake Demon Alchemist. Brother, you all have never been to Sage Dragon Mountain so you obviously don't know how terrible that cursed place is, and you don't know just how vicious that Snake Demon Alchemist is. Only our grandparents' generation knows about the ghosts and demons and celestials of Gold Snake Cave on Sage Dragon Mountain."
He needn't have said so much. Just the words "Gold Snake Cave on Sage Dragon Mountain" were enough to terrify them and sent them running off at superhuman speed, their faces pale as death.
Actually, the Daoists of Sage Dragon Mountain's Gold Snake Cave were not all that well-known among the jianghu because they rarely showed themselves. They stayed among the mountainous region bordering Sichuan and Yunnan and cultivated their longevity. But any jianghu man foolhardy enough to venture to Gold Snake Cave looking for its hidden treasures would be met with the most savage of torturous deaths, similar to their hearts carved out and their bellies cut open. The older generation among the jianghu had mostly all heard the tales, but no one had ferreted out the location of Gold Snake Cave, and of course no one knew what secrets of the cave itself.
As for the Snake Demon Alchemist, he fought with the Four Elders of Kunlun some sixty years ago on a frozen river in the mountains of Hunan. One of the elders was killed and the other three critically injured. It rocked the martial fraternity. So the Snake Demon was the only one everyone knew about, therefore he was well-known among the martial fraternity. But as the generations past and the young supplanted the old, new generations burst onto the scene and the Snake Demon did not frequent the jianghu any longer, and by and by his name gradually faded from memory. Of course, he was not expelled from the ranks of the martial fraternity. At least the elders still remembered him as a frightening master who was still among the living.
Hooves pounded like thunder as four horses arrived. They had no time to tie the corpses up on the horses, they just lay them before the saddles and galloped off along the main road out of the Great Wild Goose Pagoda, speeding for Chang'an.
Carefree Cloud and White Dragongirl, watching from a distance, saw everything unfold before them. They knew something unusual had happened inside the pagoda, or else why would Seven Spells and Black Succubus flee so desperately?
"Hurry, no matter what we mustn't get involved," Carefree Cloud said sternly. He didn't bother with waiting for White Dragongirl to agree, he just took off at top speed.
At the same time, Divine Sabre was also shocked. He would be a fool not to leave as well. Given the circumstances, Cai Wenchang must have concealed a bunch of masterhands inside the pagoda beforehand and lured them in to ambush them, so wouldn't he be a goner if he came out?
He wanted to leave, but he couldn't make himself go. As he was hesitating, Wenchang appeared in the seventh floor doorway.
Divine Sabre's heart sank. "Retreat quickly! Go!"
A group of men carried Second Miss Tian and put her in a light carriage and sped away.
At the top of the pagoda, the Daoist stood before Wenchang. "See if those people have left yet or not."
Wenchang went to the doors. The wind blew cold and fierce, the corners of his robe flapping as he looked down and saw Divine Sabre leading the way as he and his henchmen fled. He turned and bowed to the Daoist. "Immortal, they have left."
"Good! First let me see everything you've learned so that I can see what I'm working with. Go all out, kid. Look, the number-one exemplar of Shaolin, Hundred Prohibitions Cripple Monk is here. If you slack off, this expert will notice."
Wenchang heaved a deep breath and adjusted his clothes. "Excuse this junior's poor manners, I'm really terrified. This junior, Cai Wenchang, pays his respects to you to elders." He got down and kowtowed four times to them. Four times was the most solemn of courtesies.
In the eastern outskirts of the city, in a large house within a huge flower garden, three masterhands of the dark path from Nine Palace Fortress of Heartbreak Cliff, along with the "You" red banner captain, Dark Soul Han Tao, were interrogating Second Miss Tian, asking her about Wenchang. How would a girl like Miss Tian resist the threats of these old hands of the jianghu? She told them everything.
Actually, she knew very little, only that Wenchang said his surname was Wen and that he lived near Wuben Township. Dark Soul Han Tao thought that was enough and immediately sent men to Wuben Township to inquire. Not long after, they found the big mansion with a big placard reading "Literary Park".
Dark Soul Han Tao had Divine Sabre dispatch men to various places at once and detain Second Miss Tian. At dusk they attacked his mansion, but Wenchang wasn't there, only a dozen servants.
Dark Soul Han Tao was a shrewd fellow. He had the residence surrounded at once and prepared to wait for Wenchang to enter his net. The whole place was filled with an air of violence, crisis lurking at every corner.
They put the servants to death early on, but even the careful can still make mistakes. They neglected the lamplights. The mansion was pretty big and Wenchang was vigilant and always took precautions against people coming looking for revenge. So the number of lamps lit within the mansion was different every night, so as long as he took note of that he would know if something was amiss. Like the red lanterns at the entrance. On odd-numbered days the one on the left would be lit, the right one lit on even days. The lanterns in the courtyard were divided into red, white, green, and purple and every day a different color was used. Dark Soul Han Tao didn't know this, so after killing all the servants, the lantern lighting patterns got all out of whack.
Cai Wenchang stayed at the pagoda until the end of the first watch and learned three peculiar sword techniques and the Ultimate Breathing technique he had learned before.
The new moon was low over the horizon in the west, the sky a blanket of stars. Wenchang took his leave from the two unworldly eccentrics. Unusually, the Snake Demon Alchemist went to the stairway, his face solemn, and warned him, "Kid, remember, before your qigong training is perfected you mustn't misuse those three "Magic Sword" techniques, otherwise it will be really dangerous. If your internal force is not strong enough, even the most divine, esoteric sword techniques can't be put to good use and won't be able to protect you. These superb techniques are first and foremost to be used to protect yourself. They can help you get out of a dangerous situation. If you get in a pickle that you really can't get out of, come to Gold Snake Cave on Sage Dragon Mountain and find me."
Hundred Prohibitions Cripple Monk roared with laughter from behind. "Old Daoist, when are you going to get over your competitiveness? Aren't you openly encouraging this kid to get into trouble within the jianghu? Good thing he's not your disciple, or who knows how much difficulty he'd get into!"
The Daoist waved him off and hurried Wenchang, who was about to say something, down the stairs. When he came back he laughed. "That child will go far. I was just giving him confidence. To tell the truth, I'm a bit selfish, who isn't? Haha! I swear to the gods of heaven and earth, I wouldn't even accept your bodhisattvas and buddhas or King Yama himself. Any disciple who came out of Gold Snake Cave, even if he only learned one technique, I wouldn't allow him to let Gold Snake Cave lose face. Just like you've been gone from Shaolin for so long, yet you still maintain good relations with them, do you not? Don't talk rubbish. I make the first move this time."
Wenchang rode back to the Temple of Compassion. He knew Goldie and Sterling had found a chance to get away already. He stepped out into the morning wind and spurred his horse on toward the home he had recently constructed, charging into the gates of Hell.
All sorts of feelings welled up in his heart. Black Succubus had once looked after him, but in the face of danger she had quietly slunk off. But the more he thought about it, he had to forgive her. He sighed. Husband and wife are like birds from the same forest, he thought. When heavy rain comes they fly off in separate directions. And we're not even husband and wife!