Wednesday, January 13, 2010

THE FALLEN GUARDIAN'S MANDATE: 6

by David Agranoff


Chapter Six


Chains Of Strength




Xu heard the slaver's neck snap under the pressure of the woman's thighs. He landed on the stage as the woman released his body. One of the guards who fought Shun stopped in stunned amazement for a split second. When Shun's sword came down, he was back in the fight. The other guard turned his attention to Xu.

The guard's sword whipped through the air and Xu had to lean out of its way. Before the guard could lift his sword again, Xu swung down, knocking the blade onto the stage. The guard reached for it, but Xu kicked his wrist, knocking him back. While the guard regained his stance, Xu grabbed the sword off the stage and in the next moment, crossed it in an X with his own, locking blades inches from the guard's neck. The guard stopped, knowing that this opponent could take his head off.

Shun couldn't see, but he felt each of the other guard's movements. Now with only one to fight, he quickly overpowered the guard--pushing him back until the man was in the slave-woman's grasp. However, he dropped before her legs could get around his neck, and rolled across the stage; the crowd of perverts booed him. Xu glanced at the crowd from the corner of his eye. They thought this was a show.

The guard between Xu's swords begged as his friend scurried into the crowd.

“Get me out of here,” The strong woman yelled. The other three cried and pleaded, their twangy Cantonese becoming an unintelligible chorus.

Shun lifted an eyeball, and saw the guard running away down the street.

“We don't have long,” said Shun. “What is your name?”

The woman struggled with her chains. “My name is Tian,” she said.

Xu tightened his swords closer to the captured guard's neck. The man began to weep.

“Drop the keys on the stage or you're losing your head-–understand?”

“Please sir, the keys are on him--” The man nudged his head towards the dead slaver. Shun reached down and searched his pockets. In the third pocket he found a ring of keys.

The crowd chanted now. “Kill him, Kill Him!”

The longer Xu stared into the guard's young, pathetic eyes, the less he could bring himself to do it. Xu lifted his swords and kicked him back into the crowd. The audience broke out into jeers.

Shun held up the keys. “Which one?”

“How should I know?” Xu grabbed the keys from his hand and walked up to Tian. He had not looked at her before. She was slender, her long black hair tied in a knot. Even with her face full of fury, Tian was beautiful. Xu smiled at her--frozen in place. Tian shook her head.

“Men,” She said in voice inches from explosion. “Find the key.”

“Oh yeah--sorry,” Xu tried the first key. Didn't even fit. Another. Nothing.

Shun held his eye out, and down across the city he saw guards running up their way. The crowd of angry men had started to throw objects. Shun turned back as Xu tried the fourth key, it went in, but failed to unlock the chains.

“Hurry,” Shun yelled.


*




Kui sat on the ridge listening to the horses sleep. At first, their breathing helped him relax, but now he could not sleep. He sat on the ridge and observed the general commotion of the city. He knew that as a monk, he should have been relieved not to have to go down there himself. In reality, Kui wanted to see what was down there in that city. He wanted to believe that he could be strong enough. But even when they were sick, dying, or bleeding...he felt great pleasure at touching the women.

Kui looked up at the stars in the night sky, and thought about the city below. Maybe it was safer to indulge the feelings, rather than hold them in. He had been so disgusted when he first saw Xu in that bed with those people, sweaty and naked.

Screams and the sound of bells broke up the normal sounds of the city. Kui sat up and watched as a huge group of guards ran to the north edge of the village. It could be his friends.


*



“I don't think any of these work,” Xu said as he tried yet another key. He'd lost count somewhere around nine. He tried working faster. The crowd yelled and taunted him. The other women begged to be released. Shun tried to comfort them, and that reminded Xu every few seconds that the guards were coming.

“Stop talking, I know...” Xu tried another key.

The guards had reached the edge of the crowd. They banged a gong, and the crowd separated. Xu looked up and saw them run towards them. Several guards had long spears. Xu fumbled and pushed a key in. He looked at Tian, and saw fear in her eyes. He wanted to comfort her. Both their eyes grew wide as he turned the key with a snap. Tian fell to the stage, with the chains slamming next to her feet.

“Shun!” Xu yelled, and held the chain by the correct key. Shun grabbed the keys that went to the locks holding the other women. Xu went to the edge of the stage just as the guards stopped short and extended four long spears. Xu spun his two swords in an attempt to display prowess with the blades.

Tian wrapped the chains around her right arm and pulled the length taunt. She breathed deeply, like a tigress ready to pounce. Xu kept his attention on the spearmen.

“I'll handle this,” Xu said loud enough for the spearmen to overhear.

Tian laughed, and jumped off the stage. Xu stepped back, stunned. She lifted through the air, obviously a master of lightness-kungfu. One spearman pushed his weapon upward while Tian twisted in the air and wrapped her chain around its end. It crashed towards the crowd, who scattered away. Tian landed behind the spearmen. As they turned, a swordsman attacked her. She blocked the sword with her right arm wrapped in the chain.

Xu jumped off the stage and swung his sword at the first spearman he could. The man fell, gripping his bleeding arm. Xu had to block with one sword and swing wildly with the other. Over the clang of spears and swords, he heard Shun.

“It's not the right key!”

Tian had the swords of two men wrapped together in her chain. Across their weapons, they looked at her in dumb confusion. Tian kicked twice, and one after another, they fell, leaving their swords behind. Tian watched two swordsmen jump over them. She flipped the swords in the air and caught them just in time to block both attacks.

Xu dropped his swords, jumped over a spear attack, and reached down and grabbed the haft. In one motion he landed, and pulled the spear to the attackers neck, quickly choking him out. Tian dropped, and swept the legs of the two swordsmen. Tian lifted both swords when they rolled, and ran away.

Tian stood there breathing heavy when she realized everyone had left. Xu dropped the spear with a clang and found his sword. He shook the blood off the end, and put it away. Shun failed on another key and cursed. Tian looked around at the fallen bodies.

“Why did they give up?”

Xu grinned.

“They didn't...we just beat them.”

Tian shook her head. “No, we have to get out of here.”

Xu pointed at the other women. “We have to save your friends.”

Tian spit. “They are not my friends. If I hadn't tried to save them, I never would have been caught.”

Xu looked at her. Tian looked indestructible with her two swords.

“Did it take them an army to stop you?”

Tian looked up at the women left on the stage. “No! They turned me in!”

Shun finally turned a key and released the first of the women remaining on stage. Seconds after she was freed, she pointed to the sky and screamed.

Xu turned and looked up. The moon was gone. The night sky had become blackened with winged wraiths. Their wings extended to a ten-foot span as they circled overhead.

“They will scream before they attack,” Tian said.

They screamed so loud Xu had to cover his ears.



Click Here For Chapter Seven

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