“Perhaps the Emperor is in the treasury!” the Whirlwind said as he ran down the hallway next to Niu. “If I were hiding the greatest human alive, I would surely lock him up in the treasury…around all those nice gold coins.”
“You are the worst brother in arms, ever,” Niu said.
“Ah,” the Whirlwind replied. “You called me a brother. I’m growing on you, just as Club Fu will.”
“It’s just an expression,” Niu said.
The duo turned a corner and found themselves face to face with Rage Dog, who was seething with anger.
“Bohai,” Niu said.
“There is no Bohai,” Rage Dog said. “There is only Rage Dog.”
Niu perused his former compatriot. He saw the missing hand, the hole in the gut, the sword. “Where is the Emperor?”
“His brain is the property of Dragonhand,” Rage Dog said. “Master of the Clan of the Terrifyingly Unnatural Brain Bite, the Next Ruler of China and the only one wise enough to have ever recognized my talent.”
Niu looked into Rage Dog’s eyes. “I always recognized your talent, brother.”
Rage Dog tilted his head. “You did?”
“Of course, Bohai.”
The undead warrior covered his ears. “No!”
“Your cockiness did you in, brother,” Niu said. “But it may not be too late. Come, Bohai, we must…”
Rage Dog gritted his teeth and snarled. He whacked the hilt of General Tsang’s sword against his chest three times, then shouted at a deafening level, “Bohai is not here anymore! There is only Rage Dog!”
Niu cocked his head to the right and left, cracking the muscles in his neck. He raised his faces. “A shame. I did so love him.”
The undead warrior pointed the sword at Niu. The Whirlwind threw up his hands. “Alright then, I can see you two have some things to work out so I will just scurry along.”
“Leave,” Niu said. “A novice would be instantly bested here.”
The Whirlwind gasped. “Well, if you’re going to insult my pride then maybe I’ll just…”
Pow! Rage Dog slammed the Whirlwind in the face with a mighty kick. The blow was so strong that it knocked the thief through a wall and into a nearby room, where he landed on the floor and became buried underneath a pile of rubble in an unconscious state.
“Some people never listen to good advice,” Niu said.
“No, they do not,” Rage Dog replied.
Rage Dog struck first – a swift kick to Niu’s stomach. Like a rock, Niu barely moved. The big man countered with a punch that knocked Rage Dog back several feet. The opponents fought for several minutes – kicking and punching, kicking and punching. Rage Dog sent several sword swipes in Niu’s direction, but all were easily sidestepped.
“I’m starting to believe you, beast,” Niu said. “Bohai isn’t in you anymore.”
“What makes you say that?” Rage Dog asked.
Niu swept his foot underneath Rage Dog’s ankle and hooked it, tripping his adversary and sending him to the ground. The creature lost his grip on the sword and it skittered across the floor.
“Bohai wouldn’t have allowed that to happen,” Niu said as he stood over Rage Dog’s body and looked down.
Rage Dog flipped up to his feet. The opponents looked at the sword on the ground, then at each other. Instantly, they dove for it, punching and kicking one another as they reached for the weapon.
“Enough!” Niu said as he pointed General Tsang’s sword at Rage Dog. “This ends now!”
“No,” Rage Dog said as he backed up…and up…and up. “This ends…
With his one and only hand, Rage Dog formed a tiger claw, then began running at Niu. “…when I say it does!”
“Don’t make me do this!” Niu shouted.
Thunk! Rage Dog impaled himself on General Tsang’s sword, but it didn’t matter. His tiger claw pinched up and down, getting closer and closer to Niu’s face. Niu clutch the hilt of the sword with both hands and strained to keep the monster back until…the lights went out.
Niu had never cried out in pain before. He’d always accepted injury as an inevitable part of life, something to be experienced with dignity. But this was unlike any pain he’d ever felt in his life. His brain had been saved, but not before Rage Dog’s tiger claw pinched its way through his eyes, tearing them out completely. The giant tumbled backward and fell, releasing his grip on the sword as he did.
Rage Dog yanked the sword out of his stomach and ran, anxious to seek out the Emperor.
“Ungh.” In the nearby room, the Whirlwind stirred. “I’ve been trampled by horses with more decorum, I tell you.”
The thief pushed a few bricks off of his body then arose and stepped out of the hole his airborne carcass had made moments earlier. He shook his head, looked around, then spotted Niu on the ground.
“Oh, sure, you lecture me about discipline but here you are taking a nap,” the Whirlwind said. “I have half a mind to…”
The thief stopped mid-sentence when he saw that Niu was now unconscious, and his eye sockets were bloody and bare.”
“That’s not good,” the Whirlwind said. The thief squatted down, slapped Niu on the cheek a few times, then snapped his fingers in front of Niu’s face. “Baldy! Is anyone in there?”
The Whirlwind stood up, then looked down at Niu and held up two fingers. “How many fingers are in the air?”
No response. The Whirlwind stood over Niu’s body for awhile, utterly stupefied as to what his next move should be until…crash!
A window in the hall way broke. Then another, and another. Six in total. Dozens of zombified warriors poured into the palace. They marched down the hallway toward the Whirlwind and Niu, hungry for the living meat that was before them.
The Whirlwind grabbed Niu’s hands and attempted to drag the giant. All manner of grunting and groaning sounds were made as the thief strained his muscles to the limit. “Come on, baldy! Work with me here.”
The zombies growled.
“Bah!” the Whirlwind said as he dropped Niu’s arms. “Just my luck to be stuck with the only kung fu warrior in the country that needs to go on a diet!”
The zombies approached closer.
“Back!” the Whirlwind shouted as he brandished his club. “Stand back, you lousy wretches or I’ll bonk the lot of you!”
The zombies surrounded the Whirlwind and his hefty charge.
“You want this man, you’ll have to go through me!”
“Well,” the Whirlwind said. “I didn’t say the subject wasn’t up for negotiation. Any chance you all might just have a quick nibble off this fellow while I saunter my way out of here, no questions asked?”
“Blurgh!” shouted an angry zombie.
“Come on, chums,” the Whirlwind said. “Look at him. He’s massive. You’d have to be a bunch of bloody pigs if you want to eat him AND me in one sitting.”
“Bragah ragh!” screamed an impatient zombie.
The Whirlwind nodded and brandished his club once more. “Right then. So as I was just saying ever so heroically, if you want this man, then you’ll have to come through me!”