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Jianghu Demolition Squad

Jianghu By Jun 23, 2024 1 Comment
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Chapter 52: Track

Eleven Yanyu Pavilions (Part Six)

Liu Xiu and her companions finally reached their destination for the trade, situated just beyond the city limits of Suzhou, away from the bustling main road, secluded within a modest stretch of forest.

They didn’t have to wait long when five men arrived on horseback, their attire plain and rugged, indicating a life of hardship.

Qing Jiu leaned in to whisper to Yang Chun, “Can you tell which sect they’re from?” Yang Chun, having traveled the world, had a vast knowledge of various sects and was even more skilled than Liu Xiu at identifying a person’s affiliation based on their appearance.

Yang Chun rubbed his chin thoughtfully and replied, “Their movements are chaotic and undisciplined, and their energy is hollow. They don’t seem to have any real martial arts skills. Judging by their frivolous demeanor, they appear to be nothing more than local ruffians and thugs.”

Understanding dawned on Liu Xiu, “They’re cautious, not daring to expose themselves recklessly. It seems they do not wish to openly confront us at Yanyu Pavilion.”

When the five men approached, the bulky one in the center halted his horse but remained mounted. He gruffly demanded, “Did you bring the item?”

Liu Xiu carefully unwrapped the white cloth she held, revealing Chini’s true form. It resembled a large bow without a string, its body as white as platinum. In the middle was a section that appeared to be made of wood, though the material was unknown. The bow’s ends were adorned with sharp blades, their cold light glinting menacingly. Upon closer inspection, it seemed like two short swords joined together.

The bow-sword, named Chini, boasted an exceptionally elegant design with its captivating double edges. For those skilled with the sword, this weapon was undoubtedly a ‘beauty,’ the kind that would leave them deeply enamored at first glance. Among these swordsmen was none other than Tang Linzhi.

Tang Linzhi, who preferred close combat with swords and was skilled in sword techniques, was immediately taken by Chini upon seeing it.

The man on horseback declared, “Hand over Chini with one hand and the antidote with the other.”

Yet, Liu Xiu hesitated, instead asking, “May I know which sect you are from?”

Caught off guard, the stout man frowned and retorted, “What’s with all the pointless questions?”

Liu Xiu responded with a cold laugh, “After all, we’ve already done business together. It’s only fair for Yanyu Pavilion to know who has defeated us, so we can have a rematch in the future.” Liu Xiu was adept at tailoring her responses to the situation. Had these been formidable opponents, she wouldn’t have openly threatened them. However, it was evident that these men were merely disposable lackeys sent by the other party to do their bidding. Therefore, she decided to intimidate them and try to expose their true intentions.

The stout man’s horse shifted uneasily, casting a sidelong glance into the forest beside them. One of his companions, a man with yellowing hair, impatiently demanded, “Are we making the exchange or not?”

Liu Xiu responded, “How can I be sure the antidote is real?”

The man, seeing that their group consisted of three seemingly delicate women and one man, mustered up his courage and sneered, “Damn it, women are so indecisive, always hesitant. If you don’t want to trade, just say so, and I’ll be on my way…”

Before he could finish his sentence, his horse suddenly collapsed to the ground without even a whimper. The man tumbled to the ground and, scrambling to get up, saw a pool of blood where the horse’s head had been cleanly severed from its body, now lying beside his feet. He let out a scream and leaped back.

Tang Linzhi casually twirled her dagger, her voice icy as she said, “Watch your mouth.”

Liu Xiu was quite surprised by Tang Linzhi’s action and gave her an inquiring look. Tang Linzhi, without turning her gaze, calmly stated, “It wasn’t for you.”

Liu Xiu pursed her lips, understanding the meaning behind Tang Linzhi’s words. When that man hurled insults, he wasn’t just insulting her, but their entire group of four.

The assailants were taken aback by Tang Linzhi’s swift beheading of the horse, a move they hadn’t even seen clearly. If the dagger had moved just a bit further, it could have been the yellow-haired man’s head instead. The group instinctively touched their own necks, faces pale with fear. Their horses, startled by the commotion, shifted restlessly, beneath them as they tightly gripped the reins, at a loss for what to do. They seemed to want to flee, but something held them back. They shouted at Tang Linzhi, “You, what do you think you’re doing? We, we have hundreds of brothers…”

Liu Xiu, sensing the need to maintain their ruse, adopted a softer tone, “Please, don’t be angry. We understand it’s been a long journey for you, and Yanyu Pavilion doesn’t wish to make things difficult for you.”

The yellow-haired man, swayed by Liu Xiu’s gentle words and momentarily forgetting his fright, replied, “As long as you know your place, it’s fine!”

Liu Xiu added, “But it’s only natural for me to worry about the authenticity of the antidote, right?”

The man glanced around shiftily, then raised his right hand to the sky, swearing, “You have a point. How about this? I swear to the heavens that if this antidote is fake, may I be struck by five thunderbolts and meet a terrible end.”

Liu Xiu laughed internally at the oath, knowing well that promises among these men were as reliable as jokes compared to the honored pledges of the renowned figures in jianghu. Nonetheless, she outwardly smiled and said, “With your words, I choose to believe you.”

Liu Xiu handed over Chini, and the yellow-haired man quickly took it and mounted one of his companion’s horses. The stout man tossed the antidote to Liu Xiu, saying, “Farewell.” The group swiftly rode away on their horses.

Liu Xiu looked at the porcelain bottle in her hand and couldn’t help but chuckle.

Qing Jiu cautioned Tang Linzhi and Yang Chun, “Be careful in everything you do. Don’t overestimate yourselves.”

The two of them straightened their clothes, preparing to depart, and said in unison, “Understood.”

Liu Xiu approached Tang Linzhi, advising, “Miss Tang, please be careful.”

Tang Linzhi gave her a long, cool look and nodded slightly, an acknowledgment as frosty as her gaze.

Tang Linzhi and Yang Chun then headed in opposite directions. Liu Xiu and Qing Jiu, however, remained standing in their original spot. Xiu covered her smile with her sleeve and said in a slightly raised voice, “They took the bait, as expected.”

Qing Jiu also intentionally spoke loudly, “What a brilliant plan, Young Mistress. How long do you think it will take them to realize Chini is a fake?”

In the woods, not far from them, two figures were perched on two trees, their forms concealed by the leaves. One of them was secretly shocked, “Yanyu Pavilion really is cunning, Chini is a fake!”

Startled and lost in thought, he suddenly felt a strong breeze from behind and hastily dodged to the side. A dart was then embedded in the tree trunk where he was just standing. Before he could catch his breath, a chilling force swiftly approached the direction he dodged to. This time, it was too fast; he couldn’t evade in time and was killed with a single stroke.

The other person, who was also observing from the shadows, was more experienced. Noticing that Liu Xiu and Qing Jiu had raised their voices as if deliberately speaking for someone to hear, his mind raced. Realizing the danger, he was about to retreat when his companion was already taken out. He quickly made a decision. Fearing that escape would be difficult, he prioritized informing the organization. Instead of fleeing or defending, he immediately reached into his pocket to retrieve a signal flare.

But just as he was about to act, a silver flash swept in, wrapping around the object in his hand. Unable to hold on, it was snatched away from him. Turning around, he saw a man in green, gracefully balanced on the tip of a slender tree branch. In his hand was an extremely thin silver chain, with a small silver claw at the end, grasping his signal flare.

Before he could even express his surprise and anger, three silver needles shot towards him from behind. He dodged and weaved, his martial arts skills clearly superior to the other man’s. However, he was ultimately no match for Tang Linzhi and Yang Chun. Before long, he too was dealt with.

Of course, the Chini they had handed over was genuine. Liu Xiu knew well that “without bait, you can’t catch fish.” If they hadn’t used the real Chini, how could they have lured out the mastermind behind the scenes? Her intentional conversation with Qing Jiu was meant to attract the attention of the two spies in the woods, allowing Tang Linzhi and Yang Chun to gain the upper hand.

Tang Linzhi and Yang Chun wasted no time in pursuit of the five men who had departed on horseback. After handling their business, Liu Xiu and Qing Jiu returned to Yanyu Pavilion.

The chase for Tang Linzhi and Yang Chun was relatively straightforward in tracking down the five men; the real challenge lay in dealing with the various tails along the way.

For the sixth time, Tang Linzhi silently approached someone hiding behind a tree, slit his throat, and then shot a needle towards another person beside the road, aiming for his heart. Her movements were so swift and forceful that the man was dead before he could react.

Yang Chun, observing from the side, couldn’t help but comment, “Miss Tang, you’re a living King of Hell!”

Though there were many followers on their trail, their skills and experience were clearly inferior to the pair they had encountered initially in the woods, suggesting they were not from the same group.

Tang Linzhi and Yang Chun shadowed the five men all the way to the outskirts of Chishui City, to a chaotic burial ground. From a distance, hidden in a thicket of dead trees, they saw the five men respectfully handing over Chini to another group of people. In the next moment, the new group drew their swords, and the five men were quickly beheaded. The group then took Chini and rode away.

Tang Linzhi and Yang Chun then came out to examine the scene and found that the cuts on the five men were clean and precise, indicating that the other group consisted of skilled martial artists, far beyond the level of these five local ruffians.

“Silencing those who knew too much,” Yang Chun mused, thinking back on his own servitude under Qing Jiu, he shook his head with a bitter smile and lamented, “Indeed, they were just expendable runners. Poor souls.”

“Let’s go!” Tang Linzhi called out.

Yang Chun immediately stood up, his playful demeanor returning, and quickly followed Tang Linzhi.

They followed the new group into the city, winding through streets and alleys. Fortunately, with Yang Chun’s presence, Tang Linzhi managed not to lose their trail. As night fell, they followed the group, sneaking into a gang’s hideout at the docks.

While the group entered through the main gate, Tang Linzhi  and Yang Chun moved like shadows under the moonlight, silently leaping onto the eaves of the meeting hall.

From above, they watched the group’s leader, holding Chini, approach a man of imposing stature seated in the center on a grand chair, his eyebrows sharp as blades, his beard bristling with authority.

As the leader stepped forward to present Chini, he announced, “Boss, I’ve brought back the item.”

Yang Chun whispered to Tang Linzhi, “It’s the Liusha Gang.”

Tang Linzhi was somewhat familiar with the Liusha Gang, and upon hearing Yang Chun confirm their identity, she grew puzzled. Known as ruthless water bandits in the Jiangnan region, the Liusha Gang was infamous for their brute force and direct approach. If they had a grudge against Yanyu Pavilion, setting fire to the building would be within expectations, but engaging in deceit and poisoning seemed out of character. Either they had guidance from a highly skilled individual, or there was another reason behind their actions.

For the moment, Tang Linzhi decided to hold her position and continue eavesdropping from the eaves.

The gang leader picked up Chini and laughed, “Damn, it truly is a fine piece. No wonder so many people are after it.”

He wielded Chini, the fierce wind it generated cutting through the air. His laughter turned cold as he asked, “Did those boys who went for the exchange say anything?”

“They mentioned the people from Yanyu Pavilion weren’t too cooperative. They suspected the medicine was fake but ended up making the trade reluctantly.”

The gang leader snorted, “Yanyu Pavilion is not to be underestimated. But as much as they’re a headache, that’s a problem for another day. Right now, our own lives are more important. Have the brothers who went out to keep watch returned yet?”

“Not yet.”

“Go check on them.”

The man followed the order and left, leaving only the gang leader alone in the hall. After a short while, Tang Linzhi felt an extremely faint breeze pass by. Her eyes suddenly widened as she noticed an additional person had appeared in the hall.

The person was dressed in a pale blue silk robe and had suddenly materialized in the hall, like a ghostly apparition. Not only had the gang leader not noticed, but even Tang Linzhi had no idea how he had entered the hall.

“When did you get in?” the gang leader asked, but the man didn’t respond. Raising Chini in his hand, the gang leader said, “I’ve obtained this weapon for you, now it’s time for you to give me the antidote as agreed.”

The person was very straightforward in the exchange. Without even taking the blade, he tossed the antidote to the gang leader.

The gang leader caught the antidote and opened a small golden vessel on the table beside him, revealing a fat, black silkworm wriggling inside. With his pinky, he fed a bit of the medicine to the silkworm. After eating it, the silkworm’s color turned white within moments. Only then did the gang leader’s expression relax. He carefully stored the medicine in the gold vessel and sneered, “Who are you people, anyway?”

The man replied with a voice cool and detached, “You don’t need to know,” his tone deep, unmistakably male.

The gang leader laughed wildly, “Indeed, who cares about the identity of a dead man!”

Gripping Chini, the gang leader charged forward, aiming directly for the man’s head. The man sidestepped, and the gang leader’s blade slashed into a wooden pillar, instantly severing it. The gang leader laughed heartily, “Excellent blade, I’ll be keeping this!”

“Foolish,” the man’s voice remained deep and unshaken, not perturbed by the gang leader’s breach of agreement.

From above, Tang Linzhi observed the initial equal match between the gang leader with Chini and the man, but as the fight progressed, the gang leader’s offense sharply declined, while the man seemed to handle the situation with ease.

Seeing that the outcome was already determined, with the man just one move away from piercing the gang leader’s chest, Tang Linzhi broke through the eaves and leaped down alongside Yang Chun.

As the man’s blade struck the gang leader’s heart, Tang Linzhi landed simultaneously, delivering a horizontal kick that knocked Chini out of the gang leader’s hand.

Yang Chun, with his keen attention to detail, landed beside the table and swiftly grabbed the white silkworm and the antidote. With his other hand, he shot out a silver chain, wrapping it around Chini and pulling it back to catch it.

The man’s expression shifted slightly. With a turn of his foot, he was about to attack Yang Chun when Tang Linzhi flashed in front of him, blocking his path. She shouted, “Yang Chun, get out of here first!”

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Khriss
Khriss
28 days ago

It’s the ghost sect! Poisoning one to coerce while holding out the antidote like a carrot to a pig (?) these analogies are hard
Tyftc