Evil Spirits’ Abels
The deputy general scared the owner’s family with his abrupt warning. The owner forced a smile: “Deputy General, please do not panic. We killed cattle to prepare meals for you all, so it is perfectly normal for there to be a scent of blood.”
“You think I can’t distinguish between human and cattle blood? There are assassins on the estate grounds! They’ve already taken lives! If you want to live, move over to the owner’s side.” The deputy general smashed the table apart with a thunderous slam of his hand and thundered, “Hurry!”
Frightened silly, the owner’s family looked ghastly pale and hurriedly did as they were told, forming a big circle. They still weren’t sure if the deputy general was deceiving them to demand money. Song Ou, on the other hand, woke from his drunken stupor. At the end of the day, Song Ou’s internal strength wasn’t all talk. He moulded energy inside him to expel the alcohol upon smelling the blood.
“Everybody stay calm. As long as Ou is still breathing, he will not let any harm befall your family.”
“Pl-Please protect my family, Lord Song, Deputy General.”
Song Ou was going to respond, but the deputy general dragged the former off by his arm.
“Wh-Where are you two going?”
“Lord Song and I know how to fight, so we’re going to go check things out. If you want to live, stay put!”
The owner: “Our family is defenceless. If we encounter the assass-.”
“Put a sock in it! We’re going to kill them, aren’t we?!” exclaimed the deputy general, dragging Song Ou out the door.
As soon as the deputy general pulled the door open, a ghost head broadsword came swinging down at him. The deputy general shoved Song Ou aside, and then he swiftly caught the blade between his hands. He redirected the force of the swing, pulling the assassin toward him and driving a kick forward, sending the assassin reeling back into his reinforcements behind him.
Frosty rain violated their faces. There were over a hundred assassins brandishing sharp weapons and attired in clothing with the character “Evil” blatantly showing. The blades of those in the back were wet, but some had their clothes stained… with blood. Behind them were over a dozen corpses. In other words, they slaughtered the family servants as they came in, and the blood scent came from the servants.
The deputy general wasted no time, howling as he charged into the group of enemies and blew them away with his heavy blows, literally. Two assassins swung at Song Ou from his sides. He reactively slipped the swings, getting in between the two. He reached forward with one arm and backward with the other. He skilfully disarmed the two and took their broadswords for himself. Not a fan of killing indiscriminately, he decided to knock them out with the reverse side of the blade. To his surprise, he ended up slicing straight through to the other side of their necks.
Song Ou didn’t notice their blades were curved in a peculiar way. On the reverse side, the top was blunt, but the bottom was sharp. On the customary sharp side, the top was sharp, while the bottom was blunt. The design empowered the wielder with the ability to use four varieties of techniques – not accounting for personal style. Dual wielding the way Song Ou did would grant the user eight modes of attack and defence. Based on the design, it went without saying the assassins weren’t from an orthodox clan.
Song Ou easily took out the two assassins, for his skills were superior to them. If it was his troops who encountered them, it was unlikely they would fair well against the assassins. The realisation was scary, because the soldiers were done drinking and eating. Since they just turned in, they likely threw aside their gear. Without their gear and in their state, they would be fodder for the assassins. Therefore, regret surfaced in his mind.
Song Ou mused, “Was… Yiren right? No, no, she wasn’t. She wasn’t. If we forced ourselves to travel, we’d be in even more jeopardy if they ambushed us in the rain.”
Brother Bastard had no time to spare on thinking about anything besides staying alive because the next strike came.
“Heh, Ugly here looks as though he knows a move or two. Let’s be friends!!”
A man donning a brocade robe launched himself through the air and toward Song Ou so vigorously that it looked as if he’d jump across forty-five metres. Of course, there was a cap to what humans were capable of. In the end, he only leapt twenty-one metres. As soon as he landed, though, he bolted and leapt again. By the third leap, he had closed the gap between himself and Song Ou.
“Hah! Take this!”
The man pulled his arm back for a crushing punch, creating a vacuum where no raindrops existed or could penetrate. Song Ou judged it was impossible to block the punch head on when he felt the shockwave approaching. Song Ou took on a defensive stance from Song Clan’s broadsword style, partially concealing the two blades. The technique consisted of consecutive attacks using dual broadswords, one swinging after the other. When switching techniques, the wielder could use the switch as a counter as a means of preventing wasted movement.
Song Ou’s opponent smirked. Instead of avoiding the blades, he pulverised the paper-thin blades. Clang! Song Ou’s opponent snapped both blades in a single punch! The punch was practically a second away from Song Ou’s chest by the time he reacted, yet the fatal strike ended up hitting thin air. The man threw the punch with every ounce of power he could muster. After missing his target, he felt his blood and qi roiling in his body.
From roughly one hundred and eighty centimetres away, Song Ou belted, “Who are you?! Do you realise you’re attacking government officials in the Seven Champion Princes’ territory?”
Song Ou had been practicing against an imaginary opponent specialising in punching styles. He believed his internal energy to be no inferior to the bastard, Long Zaitian, but he lost when they threw hands. Song Ou lacked the experience and imposing aura behind his blows. Neither of those components could be learnt in a short span of time. Song Ou, therefore, decided to devise an escape tactic in case he ever needed it.
Fleeing on Wings was Brother Bastard’s ultimate creation. Using two weapons, he would bait the opponent into smashing the weapons to create force travelling toward him. He would then use the momentum of that force to propel himself backwards. This time, he managed to propel himself back eighteen metres. Still, because the punch snapped the blades, Brother Bastard was frightened for a second.
Song Ou’s opponent was tall and stocky. His movements resembled a wild beast; he even forewent shoes, revealing his dirty feet. After missing his punch, he threw another punch forthwith. Brother Bastard knew how powerful his opponent’s punches were, but he didn’t have a weapon to use his brainchild, Fleeing on Wings, again, so he was rendered panic-stricken.
“What are you just standing there for, courting death?!” Deputy General Hong shouted from behind Song Ou in a masculine voice.
Deputy General Hong met the punch head on with a hard palm strike. The air could be heard blasting as their blows met, knocking Song Ou off balance with the shockwave generated.
The owner and his family exited the room and were instantly scared deathly pale. Eyes on his dead servant, the owner fumed, “How dare you villains do this?! This old one will report you! This old one will report you!”
Song Ou instantly reacted and warned, “Why are you out here? Hurry back inside!”
The assassins charged toward the owner as if they smelt blood. Song Ou was there in the nick of time to protect them. Unfortunately, he couldn’t protect the entire family at the same time. After a flurry of swings, one assassin cut down the owner’s wife. They yanked his mistresses over and thrust a blade through the owner’s newest mistress.
The enraged and upset owner wanted to avenge his mistress, but Song Ou stopped him: “Sir, as a man, you must not bat an eye even if you are forced to wear a green hat!”
The owner bit down on his lip and decided to heed the wise and infallible advice worth gold. Song Ou, sympathetic, grabbed the owner by the arm to pull him away with the intent of providing him with more wisdom; however, a gust of wind blew toward them. Deputy General Hong was back.
“Deputy General Hong, you…”
While Song Ou was dumbstruck, Deputy General Hong thrust his hand in an upward motion, landing his palm strike flush on the owner! Like a geyser, the owner sprayed a mouthful of blood vertically and rolled on the ground. Interestingly, he didn’t land with a thud but a clang that iron would emit.
Song Ou wasn’t able to process what just happened. Meanwhile, Deputy General Hong went on a palm strike spree, battering the owner’s family one by one.
“Wh-What are you doing?! You are the disciple of an orthodox and reputable sect?! Why are you killing innocent people?!”
“I must be a saint if they’re innocent!” brayed Deputy General Hong, still palming left, right and centre: “They’re together! Are you seriously telling me you still haven’t noticed, you blockhead?! If I didn’t take him out just now, you’d be the one lying dead on the ground.”
“So you noticed? Take this!”
The stocky man tried a run his fist through Deputy General Hong from behind. Deputy General Hong, sick of fighting the people in front of him, howled and swung his right arm in a circular motion. He tucked his right back and then thrust with all of his body weight behind it!
Boom! The Deputy General Hong sent his opponent into the air, spinning circles. Once his opponent landed, he staggered behind the others behind him and landed on his bottom once the force dissipated.
Song Ou had no idea Deputy General Hong was so strong until then.
“Impressive. I didn’t expect there to be someone of such calibre within the imperial court’s ranks,” commented the owner’s son, sitting up and panting after taking a blow from Deputy General Hong. He was wounded, but his voice was scary calm.
“Taking a palm strike on your chest from me and still being able to talk… is also impressive.”
The owner’s son took his time sitting up. His muscles convulsed more and more intensely. He inquired, “You shouldn’t have noticed… May I ask what gave us away, Deputy General?”
Deputy General Hong sneered: “I grew up in the North. I know how people afraid of the cold react as well as the back of my hand. When the breeze blew through the window, Captain Song shivered and flinched despite his internal strength, yet none of you felt cold. You wouldn’t have been indifferent to the cold if you weren’t used to it. That was the first suspicious thing. When I mentioned the scent of blood, you said you slaughtered cattle to treat us. Forget the fact that we ordered our men not to consume anything you offered. Beef is not the main staple of Jiangnan cuisine. You wouldn’t have given that answer if it wasn’t an instinctive answer. You come from Beijiang, where beef is a staple. Did you not realise I didn’t let Song Ou stay with you back there to prevent you from sticking a knife in his back?”
“I never thought we’d give ourselves away over something so minor. I… I… Woo!”
The owner’s son suddenly discharged energy, bursting bones, clothing and skin into fragments. It turned out his appearance was a combination of a disguise technique and certain materials. His head was the only part of him that belonged to him. The rest of his body was a mash of body parts from several people.
Song Ou: “So that was a fake body. No wonder why he could still speak. That must’ve barely hurt him.”
Hong Jiu calmly asked, “Disguise material, huh? Human flesh?”
“Indeed,” answered the owner’s son.
The owner’s son turned out to be a short man unlike his disguise. He wore a delighted look. His black pupil hardly occupied any space in his eyes. He resembled someone who was high and needed to wrap himself up to control his urges.
“This is the first time I, Mountain Monster, have been exposed. May I ask for your honourable name… Deputy General?”
Mountain Monster over to Deputy General Hong and thrust his broadsword forward at the same time he was speaking.
“This general’s surname is Hong. His surname is Longlong. I am Hong Longlong!” Hong Jiu, who took on the name Hong Longlong, replied.
Hong Jiu struck faster than Mountain Monster. Mountain Monster tried to cut the back of Hong Jiu’s hand to disable the latter’s palm skills. Hong Jiu beat him to the punch again, coming down from above to catch Mountain Monster’s wielding hand as if he was playing tag. There were no more than four people present who could keep up with the rapid and dexterous back and forth.
Hong Jiu and Mountain Monster picked up their pace as they went. More sophisticated techniques and strategies were also unravelled. Hong Jiu didn’t like how things boded, so he swung horizontally, smashing his hand into the side of Mountain Monster’s broadsword. Hong Jiu proved his speed and improvisation to be superior once again. Both of them felt the impact of the close-quarters exchange.
Hong Jiu thought, “He looks demented, but his hands are quick and is a tough nut to crack. His internal strength is greater than the big oaf.”
Song Ou: “Who are you people? Do you have any idea how serious a crime it is to brazenly attack imperial court officials?!”
The big oaf Hong Jiu battered finally managed to catch his breath. He responded with a laugh: “Haha, we’ve been tailing you ever since you left the capital. We stalked you from Yangzhou, Zhenjiang, Longcheng, Yixing and around Taihu, but we couldn’t find any opportunities to strike. That missy sure screwed us over good, travelling through the night and even in harsh weather. You all moved faster than us bandits. We lost track of you on multiple occasions thanks to your varying pace. If we couldn’t stop you before you reached Huzhou, we would’ve tailed you for nothing.”
Hong Jiu only joined the escort two days ago under Ming Feizhen’s orders. Ming Feizhen ordered Hong Jiu to track down Night Net Manual and Jin Wangsun’s corpse, so Hong Jiu thought it would be wise to go to Gold and Silver Sect’s headquarters at Zhenjiang. The issue was Night Fortress and Gold and Silver Sect just fought tooth and nail with each other. They had settled their previous differences; howbeit, it had yet to completely blow over. Hence, Hong Jiu had no choice but to request Shen Yiren’s intervention as Mount Daluo’s disciple because she visited Gold and Silver Sect’s headquarters no long ago to find out some information.
Out of consideration for Hong Jiu being Ming Feizhen’s martial brother and her need for manpower, Shen Yiren suggested he join the escort for a few days in exchange for information she learnt from Gold and Silver Sect. Hong Jiu, a wanderer, couldn’t be any happier to travel with the escort and receive special treatment. Little did he know he’d be marching through the cold, rain and windy weather. He even wondered if it was his bad luck that led to them having a run in with bandits.
Before Hong Jiu joined the escort, he was off investigating on his own, yet he never noticed Evil Spirits tailing them the entire way. He was genuinely impressed they concealed themselves so well.
It finally occurred to Song Ou that Shen Yiren kept them safe from harm the entire time. If they were ambushed as soon as they left the capital, they’d have lost so many presents that settling the mistake would be impossible. He was upset with himself when he realised his folly led to the pinch.
“Wait… Where is Yiren? She should be here when by now,” realised Song Ou. He asked, “Where is Yiren? What did you do to her?”
The oaf was visibly puzzled: “What are you on about? We bumped into you as soon as we entered. Don’t worry, though, we’ll find her once we search this place after finishing with you.”
“You think I’ll fall for that? You started cutting people down left and right the moment you entered. It’s obvious this was premeditated. You killed my men and kidnapped Yiren. Now, tell me where she is!”
The oaf glanced over to Mountain Monster, who shook his head in response, indicating he didn’t understand what Song Ou was talking about. One of Mountain Monster’s subordinates ran over and reported, “Second-in-Command, we didn’t find any soldiers inside. The goods have vanished, too!”
“Vanished?!” Mountain Monster fumed at the oaf, “Ox Demon! How are you so incompetent? You can’t kill a single soldier with a hundred men?”
Ox Demon thundered, “How should I know what happened? Aren’t you supposed to know if there’s an underground passage on these grounds?”
“Piss off with your bullshit! I spent four hours investigating this place before we occupied it, and I didn’t find anything!”
“Excuse me,” interjected Hong Jiu, wearing his signature smile whenever he saw the world burn. “I think our vice-captain has completely fooled you.”
It wasn’t hard to figure out why Shen Yiren, the soldiers and presents were all missing. Shen Yiren obviously had the soldiers withdraw before Evil Spirits invaded. The looks on Mountain Monster and Ox Demon faces when they exchanged eye contact showed Shen Yiren caught them by surprise.
Mountain Monster was in charge of welcoming their prey and subduing the commanders to disconnect their forces. They managed to stall the commanders, but everyone else escaped!
Mountain Monster’s eyes darted back and forth quickly. Out of nowhere, he chuckled. He trained his bloodthirsty eyes on Song Ou and Hong Jiu. Voice sinister, he sneered, “They left you two pour souls behind. How does it feel to betrayed? Fantastic?”
“Was that a trick question?” Hong Jiu clenched his fists then wiped down his hands. Smiling confidently, he added, “I stayed here because I know I won’t die here. You want to test my theory out?”
Mountain Monster looked thrilled. He maintained his twisted smirk. Hong Jiu didn’t like the smirk; he cautiously surveyed his surroundings, contemplating, “What’s he smiling about? Did I miss something?”
A cold breeze suddenly approached Hong Jiu from behind. Song Ou exclaimed, “Watch out, Deputy General Hong!”
Hong Jiu couldn’t put his finger on what was wrong, so he asked, “Watch out for w-.”
A blue sword aura blitzed through the rain. Hong Jiu never even detected the attack. The assassin was none other than the supposed owner’s sixth mistress. Had it not been for the sword wielder in a black robe intervening, he would’ve been in trouble.
“Aw, I like burly men like you. Why didn’t you let me kill you?” sarcastically asked the female assassin, in a cute voice.
Admittedly, the girl was more pleasing to the eye compared to Mountain Monster despite being armed with a sharp sword. She retreated back to Mountain Monster and Ox Demon’s side. Her footwork was drastically superior to her two comrades and was likely the most troublesome to fight among the three.
Hong Jiu: “There was another one…? Thanks.”
Hong Jiu’s saviour didn’t respond. Standing in front of Evil Spirits’ three members, she removed her black hood. The rain coursing down her hair didn’t extinguishing the unwavering fire in her: “River Monster, Mountain Monster, Ox Demon… why isn’t your leader showing himself when you three sub-leaders are here?”
The swordswoman’s curves, sense of justice and aura could only belong to one person: Shen Yiren.
Song Ou cheerfully exclaimed, “Yiren!”
Shen Yiren subtly nodded and told the three, “My men have left. You won’t have any hope of finding them in tonight’s heavy rain. All that’s left is whether or not you have what it takes to subdue us.”
Shen Yiren aimed the tip of her sword enhanced with her qi at the “owner” on the ground and demanded, “Get up, Evil Spirits’ leader.”
The “owner” finally smiled. His smile was the nightmare of Beijiang’s warriors and the despair of nobles in Beijiang. It was the smile of a man who had weathered the desert, political uproots in the imperial court and bloody battles.
Without realising her tone wasn’t as imposing as it usually was, Shen Yiren firmly demanded, “Get up, Evil Spirits’… Abels!”
Abels opened his menacing eyes.
*Ghost head broadsword –https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0014/3002/8375/products/w262_480x480.jpg?v=1544225762