“It’s raining men!”
--The Weather Girls
Chapter 145 – Escaped
Zhao Sunli the War Goddess’s arrival had turned the tide decisively. A large portion of Nangong Xie’s men lay dead and dying on the floor.
The Handsome Scholar found himself alone and surrounded by a ring of corpses, their blood pooling all around him, a a completely miserable and forlorn picture. He who had entered so full of fire and purpose, eager to wreak his revenge on Huang Ming was now stranded on the floor, one leg crippled leaving him helpless and unable to even dream of escaping.
A lesser man would have been broken, but this was Nangong Xie. He had watched on with morbid detachment as his men were decimated by Zhao Sunli with her silver spear, but the scholar was more surprised by Huang Ming’s nimble movements as he weaved out and under the clumsy swings of his hired men to slash at their throats and stab at their hearts with that short blade that was strapped to his underarm.
Whatever hopes of salvaging the situation with his men stationed outside disappeared when Huang Lang strolled in leisurely with bloodied swords.
“Everything is settled,” Huang Lang said and began to direct his men to clean up the scene.
Nangong Xie’s heart sank, knowing that his entire force had been wiped out.
“Everything is finished,” Nangong Xie whispered fatalistically. He was not even puzzled by Huang Lang arrival, nor the ill-fitting dandy moustache on the Celestial Qilin’s face.
Huang Ming squatted before him, the hidden blade withdrawn to leave him looking like an unassuming young man once more.
“Have you come to gloat?” Nangong Xie asked, his eyes flashing with defiance.
Huang Ming looked at him impassively, as if one was studying an insect.
“You brought this on yourself,” he said simply.
Nangong Xie’s had been sitting limply on the floor to ease the pain from his broken calf, but the flat comment caused him to suddenly lunge at Huang Ming, his hands clawing at his neck.
Huang Ming easily avoided the desperate struggle and swatted him aside, and the Handsome Scholar fell back clumsily.
Nangong Xie laughed hoarsely. When they had first associated, he was the stronger, the more clever, the more handsome. He was easily the leader of their generation in Tianxin City, while Huang Ming was only the perpetually sickly, lecherous drunkard who could only rely on his father’s name and his mother’s wealth.
Nangong Xie was a little older and the most accomplished among the Seven Stars, and he thought he had left Huang Ming and the so-called Seven Stars of Tianxin behind.
Yet the wastrel Huang Ming had surprised him again and again.
“You… who are you?” Nangong Xie questioned aloud.
“You never truly knew me,” Huang Ming replied with a slight smile. ‘How could you?’ he left unsaid.
Nangong Xie snorted, obviously dissatisfied. “Well, what now?” he asked.
“We have some questions for you about the prime minister,” Huang Ming said.
“You can save your breath,” Nangong Xie sneered.
“Then we have no use for you,” Huang Ming replied flatly. He stood back up and turned away.
“Are you just going to leave me here?” Nangong Xie called out, but Huang Ming ignored him and went over to confer with his brother.
“What are you doing?” Huang Lang asked quietly.
“He says he won’t talk,” Huang Ming shrugged.
Huang Lang gave Nangong Xie a cursory glance. “Wrap this up, we have to leave,” he said and turned away.
“You two are too poor at acting to frighten me into cooperate,” Nangong Xie mocked.
“You are not as important as you think,” Huang Ming returned.
“Kill me then!” Nangong Xie snarled. Huang Ming’s off-hand comment was especially galling. Having been the centre of attention in Tianxin City and then worked his way to become the right hand of Prime Minister Tong Xuan, the way Huang Ming had dismissed him struck a raw nerve.
“Well, you still have your uses,” Huang Ming smirked.
“You-!” Nangong Xie seethed.
There was a booming crash as a new figure dressed in black dropped in from the ceiling to stand in between Nangong Xie and Huang Ming. The floor tiles cracked and popped from the landing.
Huang Ming mouth fell open as the dust settled from the figure’s arrival. The newly arrived figure was huge and tall, and Huang Ming had to look up… and up. Huang Lang and his own men in black goggled at the sheer size of the person.
Despite the thick black cloth covering every inch of the figure except for the eyes, Huang Ming knew who it was. He knew of only one person of this size and stature.
“You?” Huang Ming asked disbelievingly, not knowing whether he should laugh or be frightened by the sheer amount of black cloth used by the newcomer.
The one who had arrived was the gargantuan woman that he had defeated in the royal banquet. The disguise was a poor attempt at subtlety and the effect was almost comical.
“You know this man?” Huang Lang asked, earning a hateful glare from the giant clothed in black.
“Woman,” Huang Ming corrected. “This woman is the bodyguard of Lord Aidi, the Jin Ambassador.”
From the way her eyes moved, Huang Ming knew she was smiling ferociously underneath her mask. It was as if she enjoyed this pointless disguise, this shared joke between them.
“What are you doing here?” Huang Ming asked.
The giantess ignored him and turned to gently pick up Nangong Xie. None was more shocked than the Handsome Scholar, it took all of his willpower not to whimper as the huge hands descended on him. Once he had confirmed that she was not mangling him, Nangong Xie opened his eyes… and found himself in a bridal carry.
“What is going on here…” Nangong Xie mumbled.
“Do you know this woman?” Huang Ming could not help but ask.
“No…” Nangong Xie answered before he could stop himself.
The giantess growled, a wordless admonishment for him to shut up and Nangong Xie complied.
Then the woman turned as if to leave.
“Wha… what are you doing… halt!” Huang Ming demanded. He turned to his brother and his stunned men.
“Well, stop her!” Huang Ming yelled, waving a finger at the woman’s general direction.
Huang Lang glanced at the gigantic woman and then back to his younger brother. “You stop her,” he said incredulously. Even his silent assassins who had so mercilessly killed Nangong Xie’s thugs earlier were shaking their heads.
“Men,” Sunli snorted derisively. Like Huang Ming, she too recognized the nameless bodyguard from the banquet.
The War Goddess gripped her silver spear tightly and stood in the giantess’s path. The disparity between their sizes was stark, yet Sunli stood unafraid and levelled the point of her spear at the giantess.
The giantess glowered at her, and one could sense that she too was itching for a fight if not for the Handsome Scholar in her arms.
“Drop the garbage so that we can fight,” Sunli challenged.
When the giantess did not respond, Sunli narrowed her eyes. Without further warning she thrust her spear forward towards the giant’s throat.
There was a metallic clang and the ringing echo of clashing steel as a sword deflected the spear down and away harmlessly away from the giantess.
Sunli was surprised by the weight of the parry.
“Allow me,” a new voice interrupted. Yet another figure had dropped down from the ceiling, taking the side of the giantess.
Now this arrival was unknown, but the voice and body was a man, though definitely not Lord Aidi himself. This man was taller and bulkier than the slender Jin ambassador.
Sunli scowled, more annoyed at having her spear stroke deflected than the prospect of facing yet another mysterious figure. But before she could launch a second attack, the man threw down a smoke bomb.
As ridiculous as it seemed, the thick smoke that billowed forth was enough to obscure their escape.
“What is this, a ninja festival?” Huang Ming muttered.
A quick dispersal,
A dramatic reversal.