Husband and Wife to Battle – Prospering Descendant of a Clan
The two of us immediately climbed up to the ring as soon as we spotted the ring and before we could take a good look at the surroundings. Once the cheers hit our ears, we began to survey the area slowly. There was another ring in the direction of the spacious underground space; however, there were less people over there in comparison. The two rings essentially occupied either end of the space and were separated a significant distance from each other. The underground space extended beyond Feiyun Hall’s grounds to dozens of residential homes. As a matter of fact, it went further beyond the homes. The high ceiling explained why those on the surface couldn’t hear the noise underground. General Manager Bai and I took a considerable length of time just to go from the air duct to the ring in spite of employing our qinggong.
The countless flames brightened up the dark space. I could see the seated audience clearly. They all wore an assortment of masks and shouted to their heart’s content to turn up the heat in the venue. I did a rough head count to find there were more than five hundred people present without accounting for the people at the other ring. There were dozens of competitors ringside awaiting their turn.
Judging from the weapons, I could tell some of the competitors were members of orthodox sects. Some were adepts from unorthodox sects. Bai Lian meticulously scrutinised the weapons and stated, “There are Shaolin, Wudang, Emei and Kunlun disciples among the competitors.”
“Three of them are assassins. Two are in the underground syndicates. Six are smugglers. Orthodox and unorthodox sect disciples are here.”
It was odd for there to be so many ordinary folks around. If they weren’t ordinary folks, they were farmers. Based off their disguise and quiet discussions, they weren’t your everyday farmers. In all fairness, the masked audience behind them were even more bizarre. I didn’t sense a minute trace of internal energy from them. They just packed exceptional brute force from labour work. I was astounded to see they matched the martial world’s attendee numbers. There was one more person below the ring, specifically the announcer who called for us before. He appeared to be the official manager of the place.
The announcer wore the mask of a savage rabbit fiend. He raised his voice: “Shaanxi’s Mandarin Duck Blade will face the club’s Uncle and Auntie Wang. Betters, place your bets now, and then remove your hands from the tables.”
The announcer’s subordinates began collecting the money from various locations. We were the underdogs according to the bets; however, some faced a dilemma.
When General Manager Bai looked back at me after scanning the area, the two of us found we were both equally surprised with Feiyun Hall’s ability to set up such a large place; there had to be someone wielding immense power to make it possible. It was no longer a surprise they dared to steal from the imperial palace. Having said that, it also meant finding the mastermind was harder. I thought that was what General Manager Bai tried to tell me. I discovered another oddity I tried to make heads and tails of.
Rabbit turned to us and, surprised, asked, “How did you grow taller, Hero Hu? Also, where is your broadsword?”
I forgot the broadsword upstairs… I resorted to deceit: “Uh… When one understands the heart of the blade, one does not need a physical blade. I’ll be fine without it. As for my height, I’ve always been this height. Are you imaging things?”
“Rabbit has never been wrong. Strange. Strange… eh?!” exclaimed Rabbit Fiend. “Eh? How come Madam Hu is somehow different? She’s more charming. Her waist is, well, a waist and her arm… hehe.”
Rabbit Fiend’s comments drew attention to Bai Lian. She was fine with the mask; alas, she wasn’t used to female clothing. She went red in the face as a consequence of the remarks; I could feel the heat from her. I sternly jumped in: “What’s so funny? My wife has always been a stunner. A waist is a waist, and an arm is an arm. Look, I understand you’re jealous, because you can look but you can’t touch. However, it’s wrong to shamelessly mock her.”
“Ming Feizhen! Why are you going along with them?!” griped Bai Lian, using ventriloquism with her teeth gritted. “Cut the nonsense! The fight is starting.”
There were no such things as rules in underground fighting. The opponent could’ve struck at us from the moment we entered the ring.
I didn’t even spare our opponents a glance. The two of them looked as if they were in the wrong place. They dressed in clothing worn on farm fields. They belonged on a field; not in a ring. They made their move before we did.
Uncle Wang went for a double-handed grab. Auntie Wang swung her arms as she raced over. She probably learnt it when she argued with other farmers back home. With that said, in spite of their unruly style, their movements were fast and strong – evident from the booming wind.
Bai Lian and I split off but didn’t retaliate, because we felt we’d be bullies if we hit them. Something odd about them started to disturb me, nevertheless. Their eyes and ears gradually turned red. They sweated. Their lips turned pale. It was if they used some voodoo technique or something. Their movements resembled beasts, in the sense there was no structure to it. Imagine a starving, bloodthirsty wild beast running around. General Manager Bai also noticed their oddity; thus, she, too, didn’t engage them.
General Manager Bai caught Rabbit Fiend pursing his lips into a smug smile as he watched us retreat. She stifled her voice and said, “There’s something unusual about these people. I’m sure these two were ordinary folks. Somehow, they’ve augmented their strength, and they’re not in the right mind. They look as though they practiced a style of some sort. This place is weird in numerous ways. I think there’s a bigger plot behind the scenes. We need to find a way to find out more…”
“That won’t be necessary. It’s five stones powder,” I replied.
I rotated to follow closely behind General Manager Bai. When General Manager Bai dodged, I dodged. When she moved, I moved. Our movements resembled a concerted dance.
“Five stones powder?” asked Bai Lian, surprised. “The five stones powder claimed to stimulate one’s potential until they lose their mind?”
“You know it?”
General Manager Bai was more knowledgeable than I expected. She responded, “Yeah, it’s been mentioned in one of the hidden books in the imperial palace.”
Five stones powder was a hypnosis drug employed in the military to stimulate wounded soldiers’ potential and induce the mentality of taking their enemies down with them. It was an arguably cruel method, as it was awfully taxing on its user. It wasn’t detrimental if used once. After multiple uses, however, it wouldn’t rob them of their physical energy but their lifespan. Consume it more than five times, and they would be left crippled several months post-consumption. Some even lost the ability to distinguish between allies and enemies. Thus, it could be described as a double-edged sword. Another point worth noting was it came from areas beyond the capital – think far outskirts. The cavalry from the Northern half of Xinjiang also ambushed General Manager Bai and me in the capital. The coincidental matches made me wonder who was behind Feiyun Hall.
“I know it, since I saw someone suffering from it before.”
In truth, I knew of it, because it was a terrific aphrodisiac if it was slightly modified. They offered them at brothels. Being well versed in the art, my shifu taught me all about it…
Bai Lian questioned: “What happens after consuming it?”
“Immense strength. Enhanced senses. Imagine adding ten years’ worth of training to your strength just clicking your fingers. It also sustains your stamina and switches off pain sensations. Therefore, you’ll get up from any non-lethal damage and fight until you’re dead. I’d say it’s safe to assume it’s the reason these ordinary farmers could defeat adepts.”
If Uncle and Auntie Wang were up against Shaanxi’s Mandarin Duck Blades, the former might be intimidating. Against someone of General Manager Bai’s calibre, on the other hand, she could beat them without breaking a sweat.
General Manager Bai spun to deftly evade her two attackers and asked, “You know how to nullify it, then?”
“It’s hard to concoct the antidote. I’d need an hour.”
“Is there an alternative method?”
“Yes.” I lowered my voice to explain, “Regardless of what drug you use to influence one’s mental state, it’s useless once they’re out cold.”
“Thank you, Captain Obvious. I tried already; they don’t sense pain.”
“Yes, but what about their nerves, qi or blood pathways?”
Bai Lian steadied herself and perfectly timed a double palm attack counter, leading to our two opponents seemingly running into the attack themselves. The force of her palm strikes penetrated their dantians to stir their qi and blood, knocking them out. And that was how we won our first round.
The crowd erupted into cheers and sighs, though the latter was the minority. It wasn’t hard to discern who would place big bets on the fight. Surprised with the outcome, Rabbit Fiend hastily exclaimed, “Hu Wangxing and Madam Fu win! According to the rules, they must fight three consecutive fights once the fighting starts. Let the next bout commence!”
The next two bouts were against the similar duos in identical scenarios. General Manager Bai utilised my method to finish them, giving them no opportunities to pressure us. Thus, we breezed through the three rounds. Needless to say, the crowd cheered and placed bets. The two of us rode the momentum to win another three bouts, totalling six victories. A number farmers lost chunks of money.
Ostensibly, Rabbit Fiend was rendered speechless. He clenched his teeth and smiled hostilely: “Nice, Hero Hu, Madam Hu. I must admit I did not see you possessed such skill.”
Smiling, I responded, “It was just a fluke. We can’t compare to your elite subordinates.”
The audience laughed upon hearing me refer to his subordinates as elites.
Rabbit Fiend suddenly laughed: “Your skills were a pleasure to watch. I wish to recruit you two on behalf of my master, so you will compete against our adepts. What do you think?”
General Manager Bai subtly pinched her eyebrows together. She looked to me and gently shook her head: “I’ll pass. You can’t compete against their adepts with your skill. Don’t accept no matter what. As we now have a disguise, we should spend some time here. We’ll eventually find the thief.”
Before I could reject the offer, someone shouted, “A kid sneaked in! Catch him!”
The audience area was in uproar. The pretty-boy kid weaved through the crowd skilfully, evading Feiyun Hall’s people multiple times. He even stopped every now and then to retaliate, hammering them on their heads.
“He doesn’t have a mask! He must’ve sneaked in!”
People tried to run straight after hearing he sneaked in, plunging the venue into chaos. However, Rabbit Fiend belted, “Calm down, everyone. I shall capture you now. How dare you run amok here, you insolent kid! Catch him, and beat him to death.”
The dexterous kid in purple was quite strong; but alas, he was soon cornered, because he had five to six people chasing him. Once he had nowhere left to turn to, he cried, “Help me! Help me!”
I watched on with my arms folded. I was aware he followed us all the way to Feiyun Hall from the capital. I had yet to figure out what he had in mind. His bravery impressed me, though. The last thing I expected was for him to come underground.
Hearing his voice, Bai Lian exclaimed, “It’s Lord Zi!”
“Surprised”, I remarked, “Eh? Oh, Lord Zi.”
“Why is Lord Zi here? Damn it… They caught him.”
Rabbit Fiend went up to Lord Zi and lifted him up by the back of his collar: “Who let you in here!”
Lord Zi looked away: “Not telling! But certainly not you!”
“Lord Zi is going to land himself in hot waters with that attitude!”
“What are you so anxious for? His family is influential and powerful. Call his old man, and he’s good.”
“His father? What are you on about? If we don’t save him now, it’ll be too late!”
Rabbit Fiend threw Lord Zi to his subordinates. Admittedly, the subordinates didn’t look friendly. I wouldn’t have put it past them to batter him to death.
“Stop! Don’t touch him!” aggressively demanded General Manager Bai.
Rabbit Fiend: “Would you happen to know him, Madam Hu?”
Lord Zi smiled brightly once he saw Bai Lian. I assumed he believed she could save him. I would argue his optimism was closer to fearless.
Bai Lian said, “Of course I do. Release him.”
Rabbit Fiend detected Bai Lian’s anxiety. He, consequently, decided to leverage that: “We don’t know who he is, and he barged in without a mask. The people here are all prominent figures. This impacts hundreds of important people’s lives. He broke the rules first, so you can’t hold it against me, Madam Hu.”
Bai Lian shot me a wrathful glare, telling me to speak up. Hence, I said, “Brother Tu, let’s do this as men would. Let the kid go. We’ll join Feiyun Hall as you wish.”
“Haha, absolutely. You are a wise man, Hero Hu.” Rabbit Fiend then followed up, “Who is the child, though? If he is not related to anyone, we can’t just sweep it under the rug.”
“Uh, well…” I didn’t have a response. I didn’t have an explanation for the second generation rich kid…
After racking her brains, Bai Lian decided to go with, “He’s our son!”
Rabbit Fiend: “Ah?”
Lord Zi: “???”
Face red, Bai Lian clenched her teeth: “H-He’s our child!”
*Brother Tu – Tu means Rabbit. He is obviously referencing “Rabbit Fiend”.