One Man’s Sorrow. Flummoxed.
“Why are you doing this?” I argued with the one of the twelve guards at the front door. “Do people forget what being friendly is when they move from the countryside to the city? What gives you the right to forbid me from going in to look for someone?”
Yes, I could use my qinggong to easily get in. The problem was Xiaogou couldn’t do the same thing… How do you expect him to exercise stealth when he alone takes up the space required to fit four adults? People would approach me if I left him somewhere on the street. Taking him in would no longer be classified stealthy infiltration but stupidity. Anyhow, I had to stick with my old busker act and test my worth as a wordsmith. As long as I could find Zha Pi, I could locate Boss.
“Sir, please do not make things difficult for us. We have been ordered not to allow outsiders in.”
“Why would I be an outsider? We used to share socks when we were young. I should be a familiar guest, right?”
“Even if you are, you are unable to identify yourself, so we cannot notify our master.”
“Mm… He’s… Empyrean Zha, I believe.”
“I apologise. You are Reverend Zha’s friend?”
Zha Pi is such a big deal now?
“Yes, yes, yes, I’m Reverend Zha’s friend.”
“I apologise for suspecting family. Turns out this is friendlies against friendlies, hahaha.”
“It’s okay. It’s okay. May I ask what your surname is?”
“Ohohoho, this one’s surname is Gui.”
“Hahaha, it’s a pleasure to meet you Brother Gui.”
I’m not your bro, bro! Don’t try to act close with me when your surname is synonymous with coward!
I rushed inside, only to be stopped again.
“What now? Do I have to fork over a toll fee or something?”
“As Reverend Zha’s friend, you can go in. In saying that, we must conduct a body search. In addition… people can go in, but weapons must be left outside.”
I waved my empty hands: “I’m unarmed.”
“Y-y-you…” I couldn’t tell if the other guard stuttered because he was mad or freaked out. “This black bear of yours doesn’t count! Surely it could fit three people in its mouth at once! If it’s not a weapon, I don’t know what is!”
Xiaogou and I reacted puzzled.
Wow, people these days are so rude. Xiaogou is no weapon. Even if you don’t consider him a pet, he’s still a food storage! Did you spare me a thought when you decided to vilify my food?!
“Such a ferocious animal is a weapon!”
“You’re twisting logic! You let Yi Wangyou in! You telling me it’s more dangerous than Kunlun’s patriarch?”
In other words, I had to leave Xiaogou within their field of view, meaning I would have to contact Zha Pi, rescue Boss Shen and then come back to fetch Xiaogou…
Man, was it the right decision to bring Xiaogou with me today? Ah, toss it!
“Whatever.” I heaved a heavy breath.
Captain Gui inquired, “Are you leaving?”
“No.” I looked into Captain Gui’s resolute gaze and clarified, “I’ll fight my way through.”
Nobody would know who I was since I had my mask on, so who cares, right? I whipped my hand, commanding “Go, doggy!”
Xiaogou effortlessly ploughed through the gate and left the guards strewn, and then I jumped onto Xiaogou’s back.
Captain Gui yelled, “Elder, we are family. Why are y-”
“To hell with family.” I kicked Captain Gui onto a tree branch then pointed up ahead: “Xiaogou, let’s go!”
Thus began the carnage.
Meanwhile, a group of people donning black robes and masks gathered at the bottom and outside of the abode’s wall. Though the leader wore a black robe, he didn’t bother to hide his face as there was no point. Fixing his eyes on the wall, Luo Yan quietly asked, “Have you sent the signal? What was Siding’s response?”
Luo Yan’s subordinate answered, “Young Master…”
“What?” Luo Yan pinched his brows together.
“We tried to make contact with him using our secret pigeon. Unfortunately, Young Master never replied, so our pigeon came back as we sent it in.”
“I’m going to make him learn the hard way!”
Luo Yan palmed his face, disillusioned with his son. Luo Siding was supposed to provide the map of the interior and patrols’ layout, yet he failed to deliver any information. Only Luo Siding knew how debilitated the crippling nutcracker kick he absorbed last night truly was – bed ridden.
A subordinate proposed, “Second Master, how about we storm the estate? With our numbers and your leadership…”
“Besides The Four Sasmuume Swordsmen, there are also dutiful guards. Their money storage’s chamberlain and the front door’s guard, Gui Busheng, are no pushovers. The reason for “Busheng” in Gui Busheng’s name isn’t because he can’t win but because he focuses on nothing but defence, creating a defence so solid that nobody can break through. As long as he stalls for long enough, there will be a chance to find an opening. Not even this old one is confident he could defuse his defence within a hundred strikes. If he manages to stall us, we’ll be caught in a pincer attack. You want to take that risk? If we want to win against him, surprise is of the essence.”
Apprehension over the feasibility of the operation started to flourish in their heads.
“Charge! Go mad! Run like a dog!”
When we came across a group of armed young swordsmen who were likely too much for Xiaogou to handle alone, I covertly flicked out celestial spider silk. Using Water King Thread – Undulation, I redirected the angles of their swords, throwing them off balance in some scenarios as more and more swordsmen arrived.
Water King Thread – Undulation relies on taking the momentum of the opponent to turn on them, which meant that the more they resisted, the less stable they were on their feet. Subsequently, more of their force would be used to harm their companions. The longer I had control over them, the more I could distort their balance.
Xiaogou started backing off and wagging its bottom. Xiaogou planted its leg into the ground, startling the swordsmen.
“He’s doing a run up!”
Xiaogou charged into the swordsmen all off balance…
Luo Yan continued, “You think Gui Busheng is in the top league? I can defeat him within thirty exchanges if I use Flame Emperor. Having said that, we will then run into Four Seasons Sword Formation, which shares the origins with Lotus Root Ground’s sword formation. Although the former isn’t as troubling, the latter has fallen plenty of people.
“You need thirty-six swordsmen, at the very least, to perform Four Seasons Sword Formation. Each of the nine teams varies their movements just as the weather does over four seasons, totalling nine transformations in total, with each strike being uniquely representative of nine seasons. You’ve already seen Four Seasons Swordplay, so you can imagine what we’re waking into. What do you think will happen if you have to take on nine times one move from Four Seasons Swordplay?
“The formation requires everyone to be connected and work together. If you’re caught in it, it’s a fight to the death; that also goes for me. You’ll lose your heads in the first strike if you’re caught. Stay calm when you have to face the formation and run. As long as you can avoid being caught in it in the first place, the formation won’t work. Don’t try to be a hero because you’re only proving yourself an idiot.”
“Second Master, what comes after the sword formation?”
“If you can get past even the sword formation, then you will be facing the swordplay department’s second chamberlain – Lu Yuluo. It’s acknowledged by all that he is the swordplay department’s second best swordsman. If you ask me, Luo Siming is only in first place owing to his status as my brother’s son. Besides Siming Swordplay, Lu Yuluo is permitted to learn all of our other styles, and he definitely learnt them. I would argue he’s the greatest threat in this operation.”
Due to Luo Yan’s reluctance to go through with the ruthless act, he kept demoralising his people as though he subconsciously wanted them to fail despite the thorough preparations.
I rode through the front hall, sword in hand. When I passed through the hall, some old man went, “Who goes there!” startling me, so I reactively swung my open hand, shouting, “Scram!” I accidentally sent him into a wall, gasping blood. Subsequently, I caught his sword that came back down and casually swung it, scarring the ground. That made it a good sword by my standards.
Anyhow, someone else confronted me, so I swatted him away with the sword. Having not vandalised somebody’s place in a long time, I actually enjoyed getting to move around and about.
I rode around as the invincible warrior, swiping anyone who got in my way whilst laughing, yet I couldn’t find anyone who gave clues as to where Boss Shen was. Of course, that didn’t mean she wasn’t there as I didn’t know if she was in a coma or sleeping. She wouldn’t have heard me if she was in either state, right? Sadly, I didn’t have any other way of searching for her than starting a ruckus. Hence, my priority became searching for Zha Pi.
“Go on. What’s the situation inside?” Luo Yan questioned.
The scout enthused, “Fantastic! The main door has been destroyed. Swordsmen litter the floor, while Gui Busheng is stuck on a tree. Four Seasons Sword Formation has been dismantled. Lu Yuluo repainted the wall with his blood. It seems we will succeed without leaving a finger.”
A bandit raid?!
“Let’s get moving, then!”
With that, the men in black jumped into the courtyard.
The people in the backyard had yet to find out Ming Feizhen had raided the estate because of how fast he worked until Luo Yan’s group infiltrated and were detected in the backyard. For that reason, someone reported to Luo Siming, “Young Master, please stay calm when you hear this. The men in black’s leader… is Second Master.”
“It was him, after all?! Where are our guards?”
“The front hall has been destroyed. The sword formation and Second Chamberlain have…”
“Since I haven’t heard anything, that means they’ve broken through already? They defeated all of my elites? How strong is his force? Second Uncle really plans to kill me!”