Chapter 1 Leaving The Manor
Even a beast could experience an awkward period; Although it was strong enough to survive on its own, it was still unwilling to lose its mother’s care and milk. It naively thought that this was normal in life, so it spent the surplus of its energy rolling and playing with insects. Sometimes, even an interesting scene might occur: a young leopard, even bigger than its mother, lying lazily on the grass, sunbathing as it patiently waited for its meal. It would never think that this beautiful moment would eventually be brought to a sudden end. Once the mother was ready to get pregnant again, “The Chosen One” turned into “The Abandoned One”. It would have to wander alone, with every difficult hunt, killing off a little bit of it’s memory of its innocent past. In the end, it was either fated to die miserably or grow into a ruthless killer.
Fourteen years old, Gu Shenwei was at such a stage. The name was a bit old-fashioned and somewhat childlike, playful innocence still remaining within him. His parents and brothers all felt a little anxious because of this, but he had his own plan: to only grow up “properly” after his elder sister gets married.
There were only three months left before that day, but the planned life was interrupted by an accident.
One afternoon, a family servant grazing at the back of the mountain had brought back a piece of strange information; a rider had stopped on the opposite side of the mountain, observing the side of the manor.
Lord Gu Lun had personally visited the back of the mountain to check, but the rider was already gone. The Lord then rode his horse to patrol around, but he still hadn’t found anything.
The Gu Family had moved from the Central Plains to the Western Regions two years ago. The manor was in an oasis, located on the south of Tianshan Mountains. The surrounding area within a hundred mile radius was the desolate Gobi Desert. There was only one small village at the foot of the mountain, with a dozen of tenant farmers living there. Strangers didn’t often come to the area, therefore it was no wonder that the Lord had been surprised at the news.
Gu Lun had originally been a military officer, so he had a high level of vigilance. He asked the family servant for more detailed information about the rider’s clothing and behavior, and then quietly arranged for the guardsmen to stay alert.
Gu Shenwei’s two elder brothers felt that his father was making a fuss out of nothing. That rider had probably been a herdsman looking for grass, and had automatically left when he saw there were people here.
Although Gu Shenwei would usually make trouble out of nothing, this time, he had agreed with his father and treated the situation as “serious”. He had solemnly rode a pony, patrolling outside the manor. Any signs of trouble had made him ride over that area fast, making sure to confirm if it had been a rabbit or a bird.
However, after a few days, no strangers had been found anywhere near the manor. It was all calm, and the days seemed to have had gone on as they used to. Dozens of people in the Gu family had continued to work on preparing the young lady’s dowry. The journey from the Western Regions to the Central Plains was thousands of miles, so many things needed to be prepared in advance.
Everyone had things on hand. The young lord’s duty had been to run into his elder sister Tsuilan’s boudoir every day, fawning and playing silly, which had made her gut-wrenchingly sad. She hadn’t even moved one step away from home, but her tears had already soaked several pieces of clothing.
Gu Shenwei had a certain way of thinking in his mind. The Central Plains and the Western Regions were like two worlds. Once they parted, he didn’t know when they could meet again. He just wanted to use these seemingly naive means to let his elder sister remember him.
The quiet days had only been temporary; the tenth day after the strange rider had shown up, several masked men had sneaked into the manor, creating no small amount of movements.
No matter what purpose those people had for breaking into the manor, it seemed that they had failed. Although the guards outside of the manor were lax, inside the manor, Lord Gu Lun had taken strict measures and always arranged for guardsmen to patrol at night. The watchful old servant Yang Zheng had been the first to witness the intruder.
Numerous fights had broken out in various places during the confusion, but the confrontation had been very short. The young lord Gu Shenwei had awoken from his sleep, still tired, and didn’t understand what had happened. The masked men had already escaped.
No one had been hurt.
All the people in the manor had awoken. More than a dozen guardsmen had excitedly talked about how they had blocked the masked men. Listening to their tone, it had seemed as if hundreds of people broke into the manor, but the old servant Yang Zheng had been very sure that the masked men numbered no more than five people.
Gu Shenwei hadn’t seen the masked men and was disappointed, imposing himself on his father and elder brothers with continuous questions. In the end, the eldest brother had sternly ordered him to shut up. Gu Shenwei had reluctantly retracted himself into a large chair, quietly listening to everybody else’s analysis about the origins and purpose of those masked men.
There had been a lot of forces in the Western Regions and the names of the people and the places were very complex, making Gu Shenwei very confused while he had been listening. His interest gradually diminished, and he had fallen asleep unknowingly. Before he had completely gone into the sleep, he frequently heard the word – butcher. He had thought, No matter what the “butcher” refers to, there’s nothing to be afraid of, my father is a real general.
In fact, Gu Lun’s general title was not as genuine as his youngest son thought it had been. He worked as an imperial bodyguard of the Central Plains Palace. After his retirement, the emperor only symbolically labeled him as a third-level conquering general.
While he had worked in the Palace, Gu Lun had actually been famous in the Wulin of the Central Plains, all because of a set of martial arts handed down from the older generations of the Gu family. In order to learn the spear manual, one of the martial arts manuals in the Gu family, Yang Zheng, a kung fu practitioner, had even been willing to be a servant. Both the eldest and second sons in the Gu family could be considered as a master. Only the youngest son, who was neither old nor young, had practiced without any accomplishment.
The young lord of Gu family had looked handsome and smart. He was also studious, but he had one shortcoming – he had no patience. No matter what he tried, it was temporary and would be ignored after only a few days. Besides, he was the youngest son of the family, so his parents, brothers and sister greatly favored him, which also contributed to his shortcomings.
Gu Shenwei had been sent back to the bedroom. After he woke up, he did not run into his elder sister’s room as usual. Instead, he swung around the Manor, inquiring about the details of last night’s encounter with the thieves.
The masked men had collapsed with one hit. All the people in the manor felt that they had won a victory. The only regret was that no captives were seized; not even a drop of blood was left, which was like a fly in the ointment. Towards the young lord, everyone was eloquent, describing the scene as extremely thrilling.
Gu Shenwei had become even more disappointed after listening to the story. He had complained continuously to his small bookkeeper, Ming Xiang, blaming him for not waking him up in time.
Ming Xiang, who was similar to Gu Shenwei’s age, was the only one who dared to argue with the young lord in the family. He spread his two hands in despair, showing a look of disbelief, ”My young lord, you are a kung fu practitioner, you must always keep your eyes and ears open. I’m only a little bookkeeper. I wouldn’t know anything after I fall asleep even when beaten to death; how can I wake you up?”
Gu Shenwei couldn’t beat the little bookkeeper in the debate, which had annoyed him so much that he ran to his elder sister’s place for comfort.
Unlike the excitement of the guardsmen, the lord Gu Lun and the old servant Yang Zheng looked very serious the whole day. Their supervision and urging of the guardsmen were stricter than usual, they had also sent out someone to collect new information. Apparently, Gu Lun believed that the break-in from that night was not over yet.
Both the inside and outside of the manor showed a trace of tension.
With the enthusiasm fading in half a day, Gu Shenwei was not concerned about the masked men anymore. He had full confidence in his father and brother’s martial arts, and there were also other masters in the manor. Even if millions of troops were coming to attack, there would be soldiers to block. He himself could do nothing but watch the fun.
Moreover, the current Western Regions was not the same as a dozen of years ago. At that time, the big powers had struggled for supremacy, small countries had fought like dogs, the despotic tyrants had taken the soldiers on, gangs had been everywhere. Robbers often found that their victims were their peers, and ordinary people could only hide at home to seek a blessing from the Buddha. Today, all these belonged to the past. The three major powers, the Central Plains, the Bei Ting, and the Shu Le, had achieved a balance and reached a compromise. More than 30 small countries, old and new, were able to re-stabilize. Gangsters declined in numbers, gradually becoming a legend.
When they had moved from the Central Plains to the Western Regions, Lord Gu Lun’s words were well thought out, “The Western Regions is now very stable; that piece of the manor will be like a paradise.”
Gu Lun’s words had been right; the oasis where the manor was located, was indeed like a paradise.
Gu Shenwei believed in his father, so he was not worried at all. As usual, he accompanied and chatted with his elder sister, wandered around the manor, and argued with the little bookkeeper Ming Xiang. At nightfall, he would be driven by his father to bed, and quickly fell asleep.
In the dim light, the young lord of the Gu family had felt somebody shoving him. He had opened his eyes with dissatisfaction, asking, “What? Robbers again?”
The little bookkeeper Ming Xiang had yawned like his young lord, holding a candle, “Not the bandits, it’s the lord.”
Gu Shenwei had barely gotten up when he saw his father’s lean figure standing in the shadow of the door.
“Huan’er, put on clothes and send your sister away.”
Huan’er was Gu Shenwei’s nickname, only his closest family called him like this.
“Elder sister is leaving already? Brother-in-law still hasn’t sent anybody here yet.” Gu Shenwei was very surprised. there were still more than two months before the original departure date, he was not prepared for that.
“Well, it had been pushed earlier, things have changed a little bit, so we have to start now.”
Gu Shenwei, who had been too sleepy and lacked the energy to think, sounded an agreement. With the help of Ming Xiang, he got dressed and wore a cloak. Gu Lun packed the prepared baggage on his back, and inserted a dagger in his belt.
The inherited martial arts of the Gu family were well known for it’s sabre and spear, but was not proficient at using a sword. The dagger was specially designed for Gu Shenwei. It had a narrow blade that was less than two Chis long, and weighed half a kilogram. 1
The daggers were usually kept by his father, and Gu Shenwei himself would rarely use one. He couldn’t help being extremely excited, instantly wiping away his drowsiness. He immediately tried to pull the dagger out to appreciate it. Gu Lun held his son’s hand, whispered:
“You are also a man of the Gu family, use it to protect your elder sister, protect yourself, do not bring it out to show off.”
“I will.” Gu Shenwei solemnly promised. A scene was immediately played out in his mind; hordes of masked men were attempting to snatch the bride and he held the dagger while standing in front of his elder sister to protect her.
Gu Lun led the two kids out of the manor from the back door. Everything was quiet, and they did not encounter anybody. There were already three people waiting outside; the young lady Tsuilan, close maidservant Ju Xiang and the old servant Yang Zheng, respectively.
The servant Yang Zheng was both a master and a friend of Gu Lun. Gu Shenwei had followed him to practise the basic kung fu skills for several years, so he called him “Master Yang.”
Gu Lun lifted his youngest son up onto the horse. With the shadow of the night lights, his face was even leaner, more like an old-fashioned teacher than usual.
Small bookkeeper Ming Xiang climbed on the horse by himself, his body wriggling. He was still rather drowsy and strongly dissatisfied with this unexpected escort task. He would have rather stayed in the manor and never come out again than to travel across the desert.
There were only five horses and five people. The elder sister Tsuilan’s body was wrapped in a cloak, nothing else was with her. She had only brought her closest maidservant out of four and her luggage was also very little.
”Where’s big brother and second brother? Where’s Mum? Are you not going with us, Dad?” Gu Shenwei asked wide-eyed, sleepiness totally gone. This pedestrian dress was not like escorting the bride; it was more like fleeing.
“You go first, we will catch up later.” Gu Lun casually replied. He pats the crupper and urges everyone to leave.
Gu Shenwei held the reins lightly, clearly wanting to ask more questions, but Yang Zheng passed from his side and said in a muffled voice,
The horse under Gu Shenwei’s legs was slapped by Yang Zheng into moving forward. When he reined his horse to look back again, his father had disappeared without even saying farewell to his daughter that was getting married.
Deep in the night, the moon hung from the western sky; it was midnight now. Gu Shenwei was very upset; this scene was totally different from the one he imagined about his elder sister’s marriage.