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Thread: Little Gou and the Leadweights

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    Member UltraRob's Avatar
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    Apr 2004
    London, Ontario

    Default The Adventures of Little Gou

    Little Gou and Leadweights

    Plot by Graham MacLean
    Written by Robyn Paterson

    So, my brothers, while we play this game of Mah Jhong let me tell you the tale of my recent times!

    No less than yesterday I was sitting in that very spot where you sit, my large sweating friend, and through that door over there no less than 30 guards accompanied by a magistrate walked through! This being the Sunset Pine I thought they were here for a good time, we got a new bunch of girls upstairs last week and maybe the Magistrate was here to do one of those "health checks" we so often hear of government officials doing. Word of a pretty face flies fast in White Fox Town, and we all know pretty flowers attract wasps as well as bees.

    But, and I know you will find this hard to believe, that magistrate was here for no less than the man who sits before you now. Shocking how the world works these days, is it not? It seems that some lowlife who owes me money must have fingered me and my rather large Elder Brother over there minding the door, for a most heinous crime. The kind of crime that makes your blood thin and all the breath want to run from your body like the butcher from the baker's bedroom when the baker's coming home.

    But, I get ahead of myself.

    So, this devil faced magistrate who calls himself Dee fixes us with an eye and say "where are your blades! Show me your swords!" Well, I can tell you that I when I heard this I knew I was innocent and would be fine. How did I know? Look at this Nine Ringed Sabre of mine! Any man could tell it's been used to cut more apples than it has heads. After he examined our blades, he told us to follow him, and he wasn't the kind you say no to.

    We followed him to the old back alleys behind the warehouses on the west side of the river, and I knew something was up from the looks on the faces of the people in those parts. The closer we got, the more they looked like the condemned, like their fates were sealed, and from that lot of walking corpses that's saying a lot!

    Finally he took us down an alley, and gentlemen, I kid you not when I say that we were walking in a river made of pure blood. It oozed everywhere, and the smell...gods help me, it was like the smell of hell on a hot day. I've seen a few battles in my day, even been part of a few, but this was butchery, not battle. It was so bad that my Elder Brother over there lost his breakfast twice over, poor fellow that he is, his body's strong but he's got a weak stomach that one.

    When the magistrate up and sees our faces, he knows that we ain't the ones he's looking for and tells us as much, then he asks us to keep an eye out for anyone who might be involved. While he's doing this, I check the scene: it was four men who died, big beefy coolies, gutted like fish and left lying there for the rats. What caught my attention, though, was that all of then had sheaths, but no weapons. Their blades were gone, and when the killing's this artfully done, that to me smells of a trophy hunter. You know, the kind of crazy who builds a shrine to his master from skulls and swords, you hear of them from time to time. The Martial World’s got more than its share of that type, let me tell you.

    After I helped my Elder Brother there back to Sunset Pine, poor fella could barely walk, we had a visitor. A coolie by the name of Coalheart came in here looking for us, seems he'd also gotten wind we were involved and came to check us out. The bodies in the alley belonged to his friends, a coolie Guild who call themselves The Leadweights and he'd left them hale and healthy but drunk as skunks the night before. He wanted to know what we knew, and after we told him he asked us for help to get a little revenge.

    Now, I'm not the revenging type, but I have to say that the gods dragged my brother and I into this, and we were being connected with a crime that'll give him nightmares for weeks, so I said I'd be up for it. My brother over there agreed as well, being the kind hearted sort he is. Of course, please don't tell anyone, it might ruin his reputation as a bouncer. Thank you very much gentlemen.

    After Coalheart leaves, my brother pointed out that we'd had another visitor watching us, a soldiering type who'd followed us in. When he left, I followed him and the trail led right to the Magistrate's office. I tell you, if that's the kind of men they consider good spies, it's no wonder our city government is in the shape it's in! He couldn't fool a kid, much less an experienced tavern crawler like me or my brother!

    I decided then and there to wait a while, since he might come out and go someplace else, and so I grabbed a bowl of beef soup from that old one-eyed man that sits across from the office. No sooner was I finished my soup than a sedan chair carrying some rich official comes barrelling down the road and runs into the office. "This is getting interesting", I thought to myself, so I decided to stay around a while longer. Old Chao the Carver showed up and so he and I played a few rounds to kill the time, I had quite the run of luck going too. Too bad it was just for fun, or I'd have walked away with enough to buy quite the dinner too.

    So dinner time comes, and there's still nothing, and I'm thinking about leaving when Mr. Spy comes marching out and heads off down the road. Now, I have to admit, I was more interested in the sedan chair than the spy, but after a whole afternoon that darned chair just didn't seem to be coming out. So, I tossed a tile in the air to see if I should stay or not and it said to go after the blighter.

    Off I went down the road, and I followed him all the way back to the army barracks. Seems he was just going home for dinner! I hightailed it back to the magistrate's place hoping to catch the sedan chair, and when I got there old one-eye said it hadn't come out yet. I gave it one more bowl of noodle soup, and then I headed back here to the Sunset Pine because nothing much was happening.

    When I got back, Liu the bartender tells me that my Elder Brother has gone off to check out the coolie drinking tents down by the river to see if he could learn a bit more. So, I skipped on down and caught up with him just before he got to the tents. We decided to go in separately and work the tents, looking for information. We found it alright, but not a lot of good it did us.

    It seems these Leadweights were mostly couriers for a bunch of powerful moneylenders, the kind who make you and offer you can't refuse. They were pretty full of themselves and everyone in the coolie guilds was pretty sick of them. Not a tear was being shed by anyone that they were gone, and when Coalheart showed up they treated him like the Hell King's son, an all around pariah.

    After a while we called it a night, and not a moment too soon, I could hear my bed calling me from the tents. "Gou! Gou!" It cried. "Come let me make you warm! Come let me make you happy!" I tell you gentlemen, a good bed is as good as a good woman, and twice as honest.

    So, the next morning I got up and headed down to my Master's place for a little training. I try to keep fit so I do a little Martial Arts on the side, never hurts to be able to handle yourself in a fight, does it? Elder Brother and I really are sworn martial brothers, and the two of us met at my Master's place to do our training for the day. But, when we got there we found this old xia who calls himself Iron Fist Yang was having tea with our Master.

    It seems they used to be generals back in the day, and I don't think they were on the same side. We had breakfast together, but I have to tell you it was like having breakfast with a tiger and a dragon, each one ready to leap out of their skin and kill the other at any moment. I had to stuff my eggs down to keep them in, and poor Elder Brother was so nervous he could barely eat. I think that alone should help you understand how grave a situation this was.

    After breakfast, Iron Fist asked Elder Brother and I to duel a little so he could see our Master's teachings. I grabbed a wooden sword and my brother and I sparred a few rounds. I have to say it was a close fight, but in the end Elder Brother won. He's a strong one, my brother, I'm afraid I'm nowhere near his match. He'd rather train at the hall, but I'd rather gamble here with you. What the sages say is sad but true, my friends: "time spent in vice is time spent in virtue lost". If only I'd studied harder instead of spending my time here perhaps I could write a great epic like Three Kingdoms, or fight like Zhang Fei or Zhao ZiLong.

    Of course, if I did that, where would the fun in life be?

    Now, where was I?

    Oh, yes. So Elder Brother and I had just fought our great duel and we went to pick up the swords that we'd knocked from each other's hands when that Iron Fist Yang tells us to leave them. He whips out this thing that looks like two iron woks stuck together with sawblades sticking out of it and begins jumping around all over the place! He uses these Blade Wheels to make a big whirlwind and flies all over the courtyard like some kind of immortal. I tell you, Elder Brother nearly wet his pants.

    Then he gives a speech to our Master about defeating him in the future and takes off through the air over the house and disappears. I have little doubts that it was our Master's calmness that scared him off, despite this big show our Master didn't even flinch. He knew that the Master was out of his league and he was running for it.

    It seems that this most disturbed my master, who between yourselves and myself, can be a man of many moods sometimes. So he set us to cleaning up the mess that was made by the events of the morning and told us that training was done for the day. We watched him disappear out the front gates before the grounds were even swept, perhaps off to see some sweet plum or a lily.

    When the grounds were swept and cleaned Elder Brother and myself found ourselves in need of refreshments and so I suggested a fine establishment which I frequent from time to time by the name of the Whispering Pine. It's run by a couple of old ladies, Granny Ho and Granny Gan, both of which treat me as though I was there son, and Granny Ho's daughter Li Min, who treats me as anything but her brother.

    At this point I should digress and tell you the tale of how I met the young Miss Ho one day. She is a sprightly little thing with big eyes the size of coins and lips the colour of a dried plum. I happened to be passing the shop one day and found her crying, the poor thing, it seems a man had come by and broken her heart. Being the kind soul I am I consoled her and dried her tears, and she has been most eternally grateful to me, always giving me the best of any food her grandmother's shop has to offer.

    In any case, as Elder Brother and I dined on the best food the shop had to offer it seems a miscreant slipped in among us. Perhaps he made use of Elder Brother's flirting with the young Ho (most shameless, but I ask you, what could I do? He's my elder brother.) But the point of the matter is this, when Elder Brother and I made to leave he found his sword had mysteriously migrated from his right to his left!

    Now, while birds might migrate and we call it the norm, when swords migrate I call it a crime most fowl in progress. I immediately had Elder Brother check his blade, and sure enough it had enough blood on it to make a half-dozen blood cakes. Thinking with the wit which is my gift, I had Elder Brother switch blades with myself and wandered off to relieve myself in the shop's toilet. Once there I plunged the blade deep into the cess pit while I cleaned the scabbard with what available water there was. The maggots did my work for me, and with a little water a shiny new clean blade slid into the scabbard, free of blood, if a touch odorous.

    The blade thus cleaned, Elder brother and I bid our goodbyes to Li Min and left the shop to see what fate awaited us. Sure enough, we'd gotten no more than three paces when the cry of "murderers!' sprang forth from a street sweeper. The city guard appeared in short order, meaning there must have been a government brothel nearby, and we were promptly arrested. Now, I know you wonder if we put up a fight, and the answer was not at all. They had no evidence, and it was clear that this was a set-up, so why not see who was behind it all. Oh, I know there are some who might have worried in our shoes, I know Elder Brother did, but I reassured him and remained calm for both of us knowing that the wisdom of heaven would light our way.

    Once at the gaol, it wasn't long before we found ourselves in a cell, and
    after a short wait we were brought before Magistrate Dee. The old fox was laughing to himself and promptly returned our blades, knowing full well that we were innocent. When we asked him why he was laughing he told us that the blood still on Elder Brother's sword was fresh (I had forgotten to clean the hilt completely, it seems) and that the corpse of the woman was in fact several days old. Getting blood from that corpse was like getting it from a stone, and yet here we stood with a sword tainted in fresh blood. The sweeper had quickly confessed, and they were interrogating him. We were free to go. I think in a previous life I must have been a good man, because I am fortunate enough to live under such a wise and observant magistrate! (Of course, were he less observant there'd be no evidence to find either way!)

    Regardless, after that we talked briefly with the Magistrate about matters near and far, and it seems that the cases were well in hand, so we decided to get while the getting was good. There is no point in messing in other people's business, and if I have told myself once, I have told myself a thousand times to just let other's affairs be. Elder Brother took some convincing, of course, being the stubborn fellow he is, but eventually he agreed and we decided that the tables and ladies of the Sunset Pine are as much our place the halls of justice belong to Magistrate Dee.

    So, who would the gods put in the Sunset Pine when we returned, but Coalheart the Leadweight, Coolie of the rich and money lending. He sat where I sit now, warming my seat with a tale to tell.

    It seems that he'd found the fellow who had done in his companions, and didn't trust anyone outside of the martial community to help him in getting his revenge. Never let it be said that Elder Brother or I failed to see a debt repaid, and so before the seat was cold we were on the trail to an inn in the South end of town.

    Once we got inside, we found him easily enough, and being the gentleman that I am I suggested that in case this was a case of mistaken identity we should try to talk with him first. A plate of wine, some salted meats, we'd have him drunk as a skunk in no time and it wouldn't take a shake of a dog’s tail to deal with him if he was the guilty man.

    Being the originator of this plan, I went to fetch our guest, but when I got to the room I found the door ajar. Peering inside there was a long trail of naked blades of all kinds across the room, and sitting atop the bed surrounded by blades and covering in sheaths was a man whose appearance is almost too horrible to relate to you, my sensitive friends. Suffice it to say he was large, scarred, and had a face that I can only describe as looking like no living man. If you had told me I'd just seen the prince of hell, I would have agreed and made for the nearest temple to become a monk.

    As it was, thinking that I really was looking at a dead man, I began to talk with him to see if he would reply. His eyes were open, but they didn't look at me, and I was pretty sure he was indeed dead. It was almost a shock when his rough voice answered, and he began to babble something about your humble friend here being like all the rest. He might not have been dead, but I think he was most certainly mad.

    Then he began to scream and thrust his sword into the air, and the most peculiar thing happened...all of the blades in the room began to rattle and shake like an earthquake had just hit! Then they began to move into the air as though his scream had summoned a whirlwind to carry them up and send them swirling around the room, batting and clattering off everything.

    I was so surprised by all of this I nearly lost my wits, and my life! For while the blades whirled about they were suddenly directed as if by the hand of a god towards the doorway in which I stood spellbound. I truly believe it was my fate to die that day, but if I had, who would be here to tell you this tale or give you his money?

    Of course it was Elder Brother who the gods of gambling sent to save me, grabbing me from the hands of fate and pulling me away from that doomed doorway. He pulled me free and we ran down the hallway with Coalheart, maelstrom of knives following close behind, until we quickly discovered that this hallway had a most appropriately named...dead end.

    Trapped like rats, there was not a thing we could do except fight our way out. The creature stood behind the maelstrom with a fine blade in hand, and at first it struck me that he might be using some sort of magical weapon to create this unnatural horror. So I used one of my tried and true tiles to disarm him from his wondrous blade, but alas it had little to no effect.

    At first we tried to knock the flying blades into the walls of the narrow hallway, hoping to get them to stick, but we had little success and it wasn't going to be long before we were ready for the butcher's table. Thinking I had little choice, I leapt through the bladestorm and drew my own nine-ringed sabre across his gut, spilling his blood. Meanwhile Elder Brother chose another approach, no less brave, but perhaps twice as foolhardy and allowed himself to be struck by the blades on his arms and legs. He let them impale themselves into his arms and legs and get stuck there, unable to move or threaten anyone. A braver gesture I think have not seen in my many days, and I will again now drink a toast to him and his efforts!

    Seeing the horror my brother was going through, I again cut at our attacker, this time trying to slash his throat. Blood flowed freely, but that monster was still standing, and he let out a piercing scream that rooted those of us in the hall to the spot. Suddenly the knives that he had sheathed burst free of their sheathes and flew into the maelstrom, and it seemed like all of Elder Brother's work was for naught because now the storm was twice as thick with death.

    Suddenly it seemed like all of the knives were coming at my heart, and it took all of my skill to get out of the way. Only when I was clear did I look back and see that instead of me, the knives had been aiming for our monstrous friend who I'd been standing beside. I could barely force myself to watch as blade after blade sunk into his flesh like some mutilated child's doll covered with pins. It was like a man who walks into a storm of arrows, and becomes so covered that you can no longer see the man for the arrows.

    Well, my friends, I thought for certain that he had committed suicide, perhaps choosing this form of death before his defeat at our hands. But then this creature began to move! Yes, and I know not a one of you will believe me, but under that army of blades he was still alive!

    All of this was too much for Coalheart, who had been in reserve this whole battle waiting for his chance to avenge his brothers. He leapt at the creature with the scream of a devil, and attacked it with his bare hands despite the blood and pain. He too was a brave man, but you already knew this of course.

    But my friends, bravery does not always carry the day. And, when the creature turned its attention to Coalheart he found himself pinned to the wall like a butterfly on a scholar's board. The creature’s arms were swords themselves, and there was little he could do to defend himself as one was rammed through him.

    At that point I was sure that all was lost, and I admit to having thoughts that there was no way this thing could be beaten. Perhaps by an army, perhaps our master, but not us, two lowly Xia who had barely been in the Martial World but a few years. How could we hope to prevail?

    But, where I was wanting in courage, my Elder Brother stood tall, and taking his hammer he struck at the creature again and again. I could see the fury in his eyes: he wanted justice, and vengeance for Coalheart, and dammed would be the thing that stood in his way! Never have I seen such a mighty blow as my Elder Brother struck that day, but as you have noted it was indeed a day for firsts! The gods of the Middle Kingdom were with us, and with that single mighty blow the creature was slain! Not even Guan-Yu himself could have done better!

    And that, my friends, is the story of why I was late today. Magistrate Dee had his questions, and Elder Brother and I were compelled to answer them. I don't think he quite would have believed us, but some of the tavern folk had seen the maelstrom with their own eyes, so he couldn't deny us that much. Coalheart's body was delivered to the Buddhists so they could pray for him, and the mystery of the coolie killer was solved. Mind you, I do still have my questions, I suppose nothing is ever wrapped up cleanly in these matters, but I'll leave those for another day.

    Well then gentlemen, since my purse is empty, I shall bid you goodnight. And you sir, with your new sword, enjoy it, it was one of the spoils of the day's events. Oh, don't worry, I doubt it will leap off the table and come after you- after all, the creature is dead. If you don’t believe me, ask Elder Brother over there, the man wrapped up like a woman from the Western provinces.

    Oh, Elder Brother? What's wrong? Is there something I can help you with? You seem upset? Is your poor weak stomach bothering you again? Perhaps you need a glass of wine to settle it out. Let me buy you something...
    Last edited by UltraRob; 09-26-06 at 10:41 AM.

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