Chapter 15: It Has To Work This Time!
“Rebuke of the Dragon!”
Two shimmering dragons shot out at lightning speed toward the two thugs. The first thug was completely caught off guard. The dragon slammed into his throat, causing blood to spray out like a fountain as the man was sent spinning off to the side, where he flopped onto the ground, dead. At the same time, the oil lamp he had been holding clattered away and went out, plunging the entire courtyard into almost total darkness.
The other thug was faster. As soon as he saw Sunan, he ceased drawing his weapon and stepped back. As the shimmering dragon bore down on him, he crossed his arms in front of him and then waved them to the side.
That’s Disdain of the Ogre! He’s a Qi fighter!
A shimmering ripple appeared, and yet the dragon blasted through it, slamming into the man’s chest and shoving him backward.
At the same time, Sunan saw a flash of motion in his peripheral vision. Glancing to the side, he saw Sun Mai flying through the air toward the two brutes who were holding down the young woman.
Before Sunan could do anything to help, the man he had just attacked drew his Ox-tail Dao and lunged forward.
Don’t get distracted!
Even as the Ox-tail Dao slashed down toward him, he dodged to the side, grabbed the man’s wrist, and then punched out toward his throat. This was a new move he had been working on devised to counter attacks from bladed weapons like this, which he knew were the preferred weapon for most soldiers, bodyguards, and even thugs like this.
He’s a Qi fighter, but he’s not as fast or as strong as I am. Probably has only had a single breakthrough.
The thug’s eyes went wide as Sunan’s hand slammed into his throat. A gurgling sound could be heard as he staggered backward, followed by a clang as his sword dropped to the ground a few meters away. Coupled with the blow from before, the man didn’t appear to be in very good shape.
Need to end this fast. Where’s Iron Awl Hu? Sunan’s eyes flickered to the right, but he saw no trace of Iron Awl Hu. For the briefest of moments, one of the new techniques he had been working on flickered through Sunan’s mind, and he considered trying it out.
No, I need this man out of the count NOW!
With that, he yet again unleashed Rebuke of the Dragon. This time, two shimmering dragons bore down on the thug, who once again tried to use Disdain of the Ogre, only to fail miserably. One dragon slammed into his shoulder, the other into his knee. Blood spattered, and a crunching sound rang out as bones were broken. The man spiraled through the air for a full two seconds before slamming into the ground nearby his fellow.
Sunan spun toward Sun Mai only to find that the other two brutes were laying face first on the ground, either unconscious or dead. Sun Mai was helping the young woman to her feet.
Suddenly, soft clapping could be heard from within the shadows of a nearby willow tree.
“Not bad, you two,” said Iron Awl Hu. “And I have to say, I’m quite surprised to find you here.”
Sunan backed up toward Sun Mai, peering into the shadows of the willow tree, trying to catch a glimpse of Iron Awl Hu.
“Just let us go,” Sunan said. “We don’t have any beef with you.”
“Oh, I’d say you do. You killed one of the Lions of Peace, who was under my care. Do you think the King of the Pure Ones takes kindly to such things? Not only might you ruin my plans, you might cause his wrath to be unleashed on Daolu. Is that what you want?”
“What plans?” Sunan asked.
Iron Awl Hu chuckled. “I won’t be telling my plans to a nobody like you. Now you listen to me. I’ll tell you what’s going to happen now. It’s obvious you’ve taught yourself a bit about the Divinity of the King of the Pure Ones. However, I can also see that you are weak, weaker than me, and also less experienced. Besides that, I have a whistle here in my hand. If I blow that whistle, twenty of my soldiers will be in this courtyard within two minutes.
“You might be able to fight with Divinity, but not against twenty men at the same time. You’re nowhere close to such a level yet.
“Therefore, you will lie down on the ground and place your hands behind your neck.
“I will not kill you. Instead, I will teach you more of the Divinity, and how to use it in combat.
“That is what you will do. Or… you will die. I will give you to the count of five to comply. One.”
What is this Divinity? It must be Qi. And the King of the Pure Ones? Is that the Demon Emperor?
Sunan glanced over at Sun Mai, who was glaring into the shadows of the willow tree, one hand held out protectively in front of the pregnant young woman.
Sunan took a deep breath. He must be bluffing. He would have called his soldiers already if he really had some.
Sunan’s hands twisted into the shapes of dragon’s claws, and he leaned back onto his right leg.
Then there was silence. Sunan frowned slightly, craning his neck, but still unable to pierce the darkness of the shadows beneath the willow tree.
The piercing sound of a whistle broke the stillness of the night. In the same moment, Sunan sensed an explosive burst of Qi coming from the willow tree. Something flew out, radiating power, moving with such incredible speed that Sunan didn’t even have a chance to blink before it was two meters from his chest.
It was an iron awl, razor sharp, fully a third of a meter long.
Based on the raging Qi power he could sense within that awl, Sunan knew that if it struck his chest, he would be very seriously injured, if not killed.
Flying out behind the iron awl itself was none other than Iron Awl Hu, his brocaded silk robe fluttering in the wind.
In recent days, Sunan had been working on a few special techniques, one of them being the counter he had just used on the thug with the Ox-tail Dao. Another was a move he hoped would be effective against arrows, darts, or other such weapons. He had not used it in a real fight, not even against Sun Mai when sparring. At the moment, though, he had no time to think, nor any time to devise a plan.
Even as the iron awl pierced through the air toward his chest, he began to tilt back at the waist, pouring Qi into his leg, which shot up, aiming toward the spot he hoped the iron awl would occupy in the following second.
His foot made contact with the awl at just the right moment. Even as his leg continued to fly through the air, he flipped backward through the air, and the iron awl spun away into the darkness of the courtyard.
Sunan landed on his feet two meters back from his original position, where he immediately crouched into a ready position to meet Iron Awl Hu.
However, he was shocked to find that in the time he had spent flipping backward, Iron Awl Hu had changed directions, and was now heading toward Sun Mai and the pregnant woman.
Even as Sun Mai prepared to make a move, Sunan unleashed Rebuke of the Dragon, sending two shimmering dragons toward Iron Awl Hu.
Iron Awl Hu was clearly no stranger to a fight. He waved his hand to the left, sending a gust of wind out that sent the two dragons spinning away, not stopping for even a moment as he closed in on Sun Mai.
It was at this point that Sunan notice for the first time that Iron Awl Hu’s left hand had been clutching at something behind his back. It was another iron awl, but this one was almost ridiculously oversized. It was two-thirds of a meter long, and might even be mistaken for a club were it not for the razor tip.
As Iron Awl Hu closed in on Sun Mai, he pulled the huge iron awl out from behind his back and raised it high into the air.
“Awl Tribulation!” he growled, and suddenly the awl seemed to crackle with electricity.
Sunan had already begun to dash toward Iron Awl Hu and Sun Mai, but there was nothing he could do at the moment. His heart was sank from the intense feeling of destructive power he could sense from the massive, descending awl.
But then, Sun Mai’s lips twisted into a grin. Grasping the young pregnant woman by the robe, he said, “Dance of Kong Zhi!”
Even as the iron awl descended, he pushed down with his left foot, shooting backward and into the air with jaw-dropping speed.
The awl slammed half way into the ground, causing the entire courtyard to tremble, and a booming thud to echo out. The paving stones for two meters surrounding the point of impact cracked and shattered.
Dance of Kong Zhi? thought Sunan. Somehow he couldn’t imagine the austere and proud philosopher Kong Zhi dancing through the air. He needs to come up with a new name for that one.
When Sun Mai landed several meters away from his original position, he turned to the young woman and said, “Get into the shadows!”
At the same time, Iron Awl Hu grasped the huge iron awl and wrenched it up from the ground.
Only a few seconds had passed, but already, shouting sounds could be heard from the buildings surrounding the courtyard, and lights were beginning to shine up.
Sunan knew that it wouldn’t be long before soldiers arrived.
Iron Awl Hu hefted his massive weapon as he turned toward Sunan, his lips twisted into a snarl.
Now is the time to go all out! Take him down!
As Iron Awl continued to turn in his direction, Sunan dashed forward, simultaneously building up his Qi in a meridian near his right thigh.Then he planted his left foot and leaped into the air, kicking his right foot out, powered by all the Qi he could muster.
Slash of the Dragon’s Tail! He didn’t shout the words out, but in his mind, that was the perfect way to describe the way his right leg slashed with blinding speed toward Iron Awl Hu’s neck.
Iron Awl Hu lifted his awl up in an attempt to block the move, but was too slow. Sunan’s foot landed square on the side of his neck, accompanied by a blast of wind that sounded like a roar coming from ancient times.
A cracking sound rang out as Iron Awl Hu staggered to the side, accompanied by a roar of rage.
A hit! But he’s not down!
Suddenly, an illusory sword slashed down from the other direction, accompanied by a shout from Sun Mai: “Sword of the Scholar!”
Iron Awl Hu could do nothing to block this attack, and the illusory sword slashed across his chest, sending blood spurting out into the darkness of the courtyard.
More shouting could be heard from the surrounding buildings, along with the clank of weapons.
It was in this exact moment that Iron Awl unleashed yet another sweeping attack with his awl, this one directed at Sunan.
Sunan tried to evade, unsuccessfully, and when the awl hit him, it felt as if he were being kicked by ten horses at the same time. He was knocked backward several meters, fiery pain stabbing through his chest.
By this point, Sunan was sure that the soldiers were only moments away.
This is it. It has to work this time! He began to gather his Qi into his right hip, then dashed forward and leaped into the air.
“Slash of the Dragon’s Tail!”