Tiger Born at Break. Who’s Your Buddy?
Wood Guardian didn’t budge even though the buff man already started swinging at her neck. I just waited where I was standing. As expected, the man reversed the direction of his slash, slicing upward at me.
I was always his target. I knew several disciplines that taught practitioners how to hide their intent so that they could catch their target off guard, and he was using one of them. His tried to bait me into thinking Wood Guardian was his target so that he could catch me by surprise. Evidently, he wasn’t a Nanjiang citizen since Nanjiang’s martial arts didn’t favour such contrived methods.
He expected me to take the bait, but he had to reverse his trajectory since I didn’t. If I dodged the first attack, he’d follow up with a flurry, which was what he hoped for. I, instead, casually performed a palm jab at his blade.
We reached a stalemate for a split second upon impact. He subsequently took a big step back when the difference in strength was clear. Even then, he needed to throw a back flip to mitigate the residue force of my strike.
I was surprised he didn’t die or even take a bruise; he might’ve been the most advanced martial artist I crossed paths with since arriving in Wanyu. He was flabbergasted simply because I defended against his sharp blade with my bare hand and drove him back.
A villager yelled, “He is the great bandit!”
“Great” bandit now?!
“Heh, consider yourself lucky.” With that, the man made for the forest again.
Only when I helped Wood Guardian up did she snap out of her daze and back away from me, realising I saved her.
Meanwhile, the villagers showered me with plaudit after witnessing the short skirmish.
“Great thief? Who is he? You know?” I peered in the direction the man absconded.
“I heard he is a bandit from the Central Plain… I, I’ve never met him before, but I heard he quickly established himself in Xiacang Anxi with his combat prowess. In the Central Plain, he was given the humorous nickname Yinhu Tengji.
“Tengji, you say?”
I recognised the name. When mountain bandit King, Gu Wuzhu, showed the Central Plain he could live a life of crime without paying for it, he gave his twelve best subordinates nicknames after the twelve constellate-, twelve zodiacs. Tengji’s Yinhu represented the tiger born at break. The Golden Lion was still notorious in the Central Plain for his broadsword skills. They claim he dismembered all of his opponents into eight, never more, never less.
Why is he some great bandit now? Why is he after me?
“He came here recently. I don’t know about his past. He’s said to be very ambitious. The proof is in the fact that he joined the biggest gang right off the bat.”
The biggest gang… Why would they have the balls to assassinate Shaman Monarch?
“All of it leads back to one person because only one person who want to get rid of me.”
Wood Guardian’s wrinkled nose was an indication she knew who I was referring to.
“No matter. I’ll just have to personally question him.”
“H-he has been gone for a while. Can you catch him?”
“I can’t catch up just because he left a while ago?” I smiled. “Though I’m pretty much how you evaluate me, I feel I need to prove it. Tell the boys to start cooking. I’ll be right back.”
Tengji was active before I was born. As a matter of fact, he was active in the Central Plain prior to Emperor Yuansheng’s coronation. During his prosperous run, Tengji occupied mountain after mountain, yet there was nobody who could stop him. People later said his accomplishments – measured using how much of a headache they gave the imperial court – could rival Ol’ Ximen’s.
It was said that the Emperor before Emperor Yuansheng was unpredictable. He invited Gu Wuzhu to the imperial city for a catch up, and the bandit with immense testicular fortitude took up the offer, planning to see what smoke they could give him. To even his surprise, the Emperor did chat to him all afternoon about his business.
“You are committing raids whilst trying to fend off officers and bounty hunters; it’s not an economical or efficient way to go about it. Let’s do this: we won’t send officers out to arrest you. In exchange, let’s split your earnings. You can keep 40%, and I’ll take 60%.”
Gu Wuzhu didn’t die from oxygen deprivation when he laughed. From then on, he added to his flag, “Robbery on the Emperor’s Decree” in bold font.
Officials didn’t arrest him. Victims didn’t dare to withhold assets. Nobody could do anything about him, giving the martial arts community a throbbing headache. Gu Wuzhu fell from grace primarily because the Emperor passed away, effectively reducing his authority drastically. Without the Emperor’s backing, not only would he not be able to perform as well, but old enemies would want revenge.
“Hey,” I hollered at Tengji from behind. “Try your broadswordplay on me again.”
Tengji, caught by surprise in his tent, swung out three times without a second thought, each being delivered with measured intent.
As I evaded Tengji’s swings, I praised, “I can see why Mountain Bandit King named you one of his zodiacs.”
“You’ve heard of me, huh?” Tengji got a proper look at me for the first time. “Freak of freaking Nanjiang, take this!” Tengji uncorked a combo that forced me to centre of the tent.
“Why you getting friendly with me?” I extended my arm through the openings of Tengji’s swings to catch him by the throat, cancelling out his strength. “Shut up for a second, loud mouth. I have a question for you.”
I hoisted Tengji off his feet and choke slammed him into the ground, winding him enough to compel him to curl up. “Is the one who asked you to assassinate me Shaman Monarch Palace’s Great Spirit Shaman?”