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.Disorientated by the blow Shushan leant forward and buried her bloody face in her hands.Striding forward Peng stretched an arm across Shushan’s arched back, scooping her up around the waist and pinning her against his hip with her facing the ground.With a smile, Peng spoke casually to one of the others with him bearing a captain’s insignia just visible in the flickering firelight.“It is a shame about the birds but at least we have discovered what happened to them.”Turning to his men his tone remained casual as he gave his instructions.“I shall take my pleasure with this one before she joins them but kill the others now.” Peng slapped Shushan across her bottom with his free hand and laughed in anticipation as he spoke.His men closed in silently on the group raising their swords threateningly.Zun was no longer thinking, only acting in response to a cold fury and sick fear as he saw Shushan struck by the lieutenant.With Lieutenant Peng’s order the need for stealth had gone and he let out a roar as he ran the remaining steps to the nearest two soldiers.They turned quickly to face the new threat but their eyes blinded by the light of the fire did not see Zun as he charged out of the dark or the wooden practise sword that crushed the exposed throat of the nearest.Thrown back by the impact the man released his own sword, which Zun snatched out of the air.Ducking under the second guard’s clumsy sweeping blow, Zun rolled before thrusting the point of his new blade under the leather skirts of the guard’s armour, deep into his gut.At the sound of Zun’s roar Mengpo had used his bare hands to scoop handfuls of glowing coals from the fire and throw them at the two soldiers nearest to him.They both instinctively raised their hands to protect their eyes and flinched back from the hot coals.Other villagers leapt at the soldiers pinning their arms as they forced the soldiers to the ground.While the soldiers struggled under a heaving mass other villagers rushed up with small knives and Mengpo picked up a nearby rock to bring it crashing down on the helmeted head of the nearest guard.The force of the blow smashed the lacquered helmet with a sharp crack, followed by a wet crunch.When Peng saw the shadowy form of the strange warrior storm in to the firelight bellowing a war cry he signalled to an archer he had stationed further back from the camp, screaming “Kill him!”The archer quickly shifted his aim from the seething group around the fire, stepping closer to Captain Kanto to focus on the shadowy form of Zun battling the two soldiers.Kanto was startled as he recognised Zun’s voice through the clash of steel and reacting instinctively pushed the bow aside shouting, “No!” The arrow shot wild and the thwarted archer turned to Captain Kanto, surprised and momentarily confused at the Captain’s intervention.As the second guard fell to Zun’s sword, Lieutenant Peng shouted at his frozen archer.“Quick fool, kill him!” prompting the archer to fumble another arrow to his string.Captain Kanto shouted angrily at Peng.“Hold! He is my son!” Undeterred, the archer was already drawing back on his string and Kanto leapt at him, using his left hand to force the archer’s aim off again while he drew his belt knife and thrust it into the man’s side.Seeing the knife flash towards him the archer threw himself back and turned towards his attacker.Too late to avoid the knife he was thrown back by the force of its impact, his fingers instinctively releasing the arrow at the shock of the blade which pierced his ribs.The metal point of the arrow pierced Kanto’s lacquer breastplate, burying the dark shaft almost to its fletching at the close range.Lieutenant Peng watched helplessly as Kanto turned his back on him to spoil his archer’s aim.He saw Kanto’s knife thrust and almost simultaneously the bloody arrow point burst through the captain’s back.Shushan had been struggling wildly in his grip but now began searching for Peng’s belt knife.Just as she grasped the handle, the lieutenant dropped her to the ground and drew his sword.For a heartbeat the inconceivable sight of the peasants attacking his men had immobilised him.Then, with a vicious snarl, he raised his own sword and leapt to do bloody murder.As the lieutenant released her Shushan gripped the leather bound haft of Peng’s knife all the harder, turning the knife in its sheath as she dropped to the ground with a thud.Almost winded by the fall she felt grim satisfaction at seeing Peng’s knife still in her hand and swept it across the back of his exposed knee as he stepped away from her.The knife’s edge was razor sharp and after the slightest of resistance parted the tensed flesh as easily as butter.Blood from the wound sprayed her face, blinding Shushan and filling her mouth with its warm salty texture as she lay on her side.Instead of leaping to the fight Peng staggered, almost falling while howling at the excruciating pain in his injured leg.The blow had cut his muscle and some of the tendons, ruining his right leg [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]