Chapter 79: Surrounded
Wenchang had a queer smile on his face, but he suddenly clenched his teeth and listened carefully, then held her tightly and planted his burning lips on her cheek.
How could Miss Tian stand it? She moaned and trembled and squirmed like a snake. Panting she murmured, “Sweetheart… if you really love me and have your mind set on me, then send for a matchmaker. You… You…”
She lost herself and slumped in his arms. Wenchang’s kissed her hard on her scorching cherry lips.
An astonishing wave of emotion washed over her and she was petrified, trembling, and weak, followed by a feeling of elation. Finally she found her strength and reciprocated passionately.
Wenchang suddenly snapped out of his fit of passion and grabbed her by the shoulders, his face clouded. “Girl, you’re a virgin, right?”
Miss Tian’s head was in the clouds, intoxicated by his caresses. This sudden change jolted her eyes wide. Wenchang’s stern face wiped the blush off her own face and she was at a loss for words. “Wha… What do you… What do you mean?”
“I’m asking you are you a virgin?”
She shut her eyes and two lines of tears traced down her cheeks. “You’re… You’re the first man I’ve been this… this close to.”
“How can you lower yourself like this? Hmph!”
She buried her face in her hands and wept. “I’m seventeen and dad has found a lot of potential matches for me, but I don’t want to marry a stranger. I want to find someone I love. I found you, but you despise me and curse me. Might as well kill me, I…”
Wenchang forced a smile and shook his head. He embraced her gently and said softly, “Miss, you’re wrong. I was wrong too. This vulgar behavior is wrong, you nearly ruined your life! It’s a sin.”
“Sir Wen, don’t… don’t look down on me, don’t…”
“Remember, don’t take any more chances like this or you run the risk of besmirching yourself.”
“Sir Wen, is… is there a place in your heart for me?”
Wenchang smiled wryly and pushed her gently away. “Miss, I can’t. I’m just a lowdown dirty vagrant, an outlaw… If I had not first learned you were a virgin you would have suffered the rest of your life. Miss, you’re already at the edge of a cliff. Mend your ways before it’s too late and find a trustworthy companion. I’m not the son of a scholarly family you take me for, but an irredeemable, no-good scoundrel. Let’s go. I’ll take you back to the city.”
Miss Tian looked at him apprehensively, tears spilling down. She threw herself at him, her voice quivering, “No no! It’s not true, you just look down on me and think me a debased slut, you…”
A white image flashed by the stairway. A light gasp of surprise from the figure in white and then Carefree Cloud’s booming voice reverberating clear as a bell, “What’s this? What’s going on?”
Wenchang pulled Miss Tian behind him and said coldly, “Just tourists on a spring outing to the Great Wild Goose Pagoda, what can I do for you, sir?”
White Dragongirl’s face blanched. She croaked, “So shameless, seducing a respectable woman!”
Wenchang snorted. “You don’t need to worry about my business, miss. What is it to you?”
Miss Tian’s face flushed. She nudged Wenchang and whispered, “Sir Wen, let’s go!”
“Hold it!” Carefree Cloud extended an arm to stop them. “I have something to ask.”
“Is it about seducing a respectable woman?” Wenchang said icily.
“Given your identity, sir, and the pale look on this girl’s face, it looks suspicious. I must get to the bottom of it.”
“What about my identity?”
Carefree Cloud smiled faintly and pointed at White Dragongirl. “About six months ago at Fine Horse Village, sir, you met my niece! And again not too long ago at Woodbend Refreshments…”
Wenchang flinched. He’d been found out. “Let me ask you first, sir, if you plan to use see yourself as acting in the name of chivalry?”
“That’s it, precisely.”
“Alright! The sword will see the truth. Haha! Cai Wenchang stops at nothing and fears nothing. I’ll meet you at the bottom. First I will escort the lady down.”
“Are… Are you really Cai Wenchang?” White Dragongirl said despondently.
Wenchang pulled the tottering Miss Tian to the stairs and said, “That’s right. The Fugitive Cai Wenchang, the notorious bandit, the lewd robber who seduced a respectable woman, mastersmith of Fine Horse Village. Satisfied?”
“Heavens!” White Dragongirl exclaimed feebly, and she leaned against the wall.
Wenchang held Miss tian and descended to the third storey. Carefree Cloud held White Dragongirl back and said urgently, “Child, calm down. This is really suspicious. If he were really a lecherous bandit, how could he let that girl go so easily? I’ll hold him up, you look for an opportunity to question the girl. Let’s go!”
Wenchang’s heart stopped when he reached the pagoda entrance. Not far away, Minstrel Chai sat on a stone tablet singing and playing his pipa. Several tourists had gathered and an old winter hat was on the ground with some bits of silver and copper cash inside. No need to ask, he was peddling his trade.
At the stone archway over a dozen men filed in, all carrying sabres and staffs, bearing down menacingly, Song An among them. Obviously, he had brought men to seek revenge.
In the shadows of the collection of steles to the left, he saw a trigram robe. It was Seven Spells leaning against a large stone tablet, a smirk on his face, welcoming him.
At the right end of the stele forest, three beautiful, voluptuous young women were watching the pagoda entrance lustfully. Heavens! It was Black Succubus Gu Zhen and her two maidservants. He’d really had a fling with Black Succubus before, so he knew her at once.
Hoofbeats thundered in the distance as a pack of riders charged toward him. Ahead was the road, but horses and carriages were forbidden on it. Since these were charging on anyway, the situation was definitely critical.
To the right of the pagoda entrance, Jade-faced Tiger and The Traveler Tong Ning moved out from behind a group of a dozen men and women just as Wenchang stepped out of the entrance. Wenchang yelped in surprise.
They were about to run into each other by sheer coincidence. Wenchang was shocked and cursed to himself.
He shoved Miss tian back into the pagoda and whispered, “Get out of here, quickly! I can’t look after you. Go, the sooner the better.”
The first to notice him was Song An and his men. Song An led the way. He roared and drew his sword and pointed it at Wenchang. “There’s the guy, and that bastard minstrel as well. Break their damn legs. You all back me up and attack.”
The dozen or so men split into two groups. Song An led eight of them, eager to strike. Their sabres and staffs were at the ready.
Wenchang opened the drawstring of his brocade bag and drew his sword and laughed. “You measly things are really gonna throw your lives away? Good, good!”
He swept into the crowd like a tiger among a flock of sheep.
This was a tight, deadly situation. He wasn’t stupid. If he didn’t go now, then when? He happend to use these louts to clear a path.
He charged viciously, sword swinging like a tempest, clapping left and twisting right swiftly, sending the sabres and staffs coming at him flying. As the crowd hollered he slipped out to the right like a bolt of lightning.
Shit! Jade-faced Tiger and The Traveler Tong Ning were sneaking off behind, but they were not as quick as Wenchang. By the time they reached the stele forest, Wenchang was already there.
Jade-faced Tiger thought Wenchang was after them so he howled and their swords crossed and tied Wenchang up.
Inside Great Wild Goose Pagoda, Carefree Cloud and White Dragongirl were questioning Miss Tian as shouts raged outside. They paid them no mind.
Wenchang was held up for a time and couldn’t get away. He got furious and crouched and fought tooth and nail, sword yielding to Jade-faced Tiger’s sword on the left, then it shot out to the right with “White Snake Flicks Its Tongue” at The Traveler Tong Ning.
The swords clashed twice in a shower of sparks. Tong Ning shot out with the same move and managed to knock Wenchang’s sword to the side. He howled and countered with “Weaver Girl Flings the Shuttle”, and moved in close.
Wenchang fell back to lure him in. He waited until Tong Ning’s third strike was halfway out, when it was not easy to retract, then he swept his sword to the left and the swords met, but Wenchang’s skimmed off to Tong Ning’s left. Midway, Wenchang crouched and belted his sword out, then shot out close to the ground and began running.
“Ah…” Tong Ning cried and fell. His left leg had been severed at the knee, so of course he fell down.
“Jade-faced Tiger Yan Ruyu, keep your cursed head for now,” Wenchang shouted as he ran like mad.
He ran between the stone monuments about fifty feet and saw a strange image flash by. Seven Spells darted out like a wraith, grinning ear to ear. “Junior, hand over the painting and the pearls and this poor cleric will help you… Haha! You’re running? You think you can run away in broad daylight? You must be joking!”
Wenchang knew how formidable he was, so why wouldn’t he run? He turned and ran, heedless of the direction. He ran another hundred feet or so, then a figure suddenly appeared under the flower terrace. It was Seven Spells again, cackling as he intercepted him head on. “There are too many people after you. Black Flag Sovereign’s men are here. Come with me quietly or else it will be a tragic end for you.”
Wenchang broke off and ran like the wind, his heart a block of ice. Seven Spells’ lightness skill seemed to be even better than before. How else could he manage to always get in front of him and block him?
Just then there were screams coming from all sides, resounding like thunder, and people were tearing about like wild beasts, chants of “Capture the bandit Cai Wenchang” rising one after another. Tong Ning’s left foot had been chopped off and he was seething with hatred. He shouted to capture Cai Wenchang though he slunk off with the aid of Jade-faced Tiger.
The hoofbeats were close now, over thirty black-clad riders leaping off their horses at the stone archway and pouring inside and spreading out in all directions.
Minstrel Chai felled several men, then tucked his pipa under his arm and ran east. A figure flashed and a middle-aged man wearing a sheepskin jacket came out from behind a stone tablet, a sword twirling in his left hand, drawing a circle in the air. He said in a low voice, “Zhen Trigram Flag with orders from the Sovereign. Hear the orders, Brother Chai.”
Minstrel Chai stopped in his tracks. “Chai Feng here, respectfully receiving His orders. How did it go?”
“Endless Valley’s Iron Arm Ape You, that lout, showed up with a bunch of masters. It’s not too encouraging. The Sovereign has already set out for Hanzhong prefecture. Zhen Flag Sovereign Peng Fang is aware of the situation and will give instructions as circumstances dictate. We can’t put all our strength on one attempt.”
“We’ve lost another opportunity,” Minstrel Chai said, disappointed.
“Sovereign Peng has ordered you not to reveal your identity. Wait for a chance to get close to that cur Cai. If the mongrel doesn’t die today, you must think of a way to befriend him so you can nab him later and take him to the valley and wait for the Sovereign to deal with him.”
“As He commands.”
“See you. Be careful.”
The messenger hid and disappeared. Minstrel Chai also hid himself behind a stone tablet to wait and see what developed.
Wenchang knew himself. He knew he couldn’t take Seven Spells’ powerful strikes, so he was doing all he could to flee. He’d had some practice at it, and when it came to lightness skill, Seven Spells couldn’t touch him. But for some reason, Seven Spells seemed a lot different today than before, faster than he, again and again slipping in front of him like a phantom and blocking his way and shocking the hell out of him.
But he didn’t realize the stele forest was constructed all around the pagoda and he was trapped in the middle. Seven Spells didn’t need to hide from anyone, moving about along the outside where there were no stone tablets in the way, so of course he was faster.
Wenchang sweeped to the right, scurrying thirty feet or so. Weird! Seven Spells once again darted out from behind a stone tablet, cackling. “Haha! Buddy, You’re tenacious enough. You just won’t give up. Okay! I’ll let you suffer a little, then we’ll see if you’re ready. Haha!”
He disappeared again mid-cackle. Wenchang wasn’t listening anyway, he just turned and ran. He wound around once more to the right, hurrying like a fish trying to slip through a net.
But, he’d only gone another forty feet when he suddenly stopped short. Shit! He couldn’t get away. He was already tightly surrounded.
All around the forest in the distance came chants calling for the arrest of the bandit Cai Wenchang.
Outside the stele forest, thirty or so black-clad men with frosty, hideous expressions appeared and surrounded him.
Not far to his right was the north entrance to Great Wild Goose Pagoda
Beside the southern entrance outside the stele forest, Black Succubus Gu Zhen stopped Carefree Cloud and White Dragongirl. They were arguing and looked about ready to come to blows.
Seven Spells sat resolutely on the northeast corner of a stone monument, cultivating his qi in a lotus position, as if no one else were around, as if he didn’t know a blood battle was imminent.