Chapter 11 Name
The joint marriage between the largest killer association and the biggest robbers’ gang in the Western Regions was destined to cause a sensation in Jade City and spread for a long time.
Riding a horse together with the escort team, Gu Shenwei was probably the only person who was not interested in the wedding itself. Previously, he had already been to Jade City and this visit was his second time. His mood, however, was already quite different.
It was two years ago. After travelling hard in the desert for almost a month, Jade City was the first populated city that the Gu family had encountered. Just as the first sip of water for a thirsty person was like nectar, in the travelers’ eyes, Jade City was like a paradise on earth.
Upon entering the city, shops and wineries were lined the place. The people walking on the street came from various places and had different colors. It was the first time that they had seen so many foreigners, and their eyes could not take it all in. They all had impudently stared at the foreigners.
Lord Gu Lun, however, didn’t like this place, so they only stopped for a little while before going to the government office to exchange their passports. Early morning of the next day, they had continued on the westbound road and headed for the manor. The manor in the oasis was several hundreds of miles away and the Gu family had already asked someone to buy it.
Gu Shenwei and his two elder brothers had all felt regretful about this. Although his eldest brother had seriously chided his second brother for wanting to buy a barbarian female entertainer, he himself had also stared at the belles on the street, almost falling down from his horse.
His second brother had no small amount of pocket money that had been secretly hidden under the bed. He had intended to come back to Jade City and buy a belle with white skin and big eyes.
The escort team entered the city from the west gate and grandly marched on the street. The street sides were crowded with onlookers who all bowed to show their respect. Many people even scattered fragrant flowers to the ground. The marriage between killers and robbers received a royal-like courtesy.
In Jade City, the sabre and the sword are the kings.
Golden Roc Castle was located on the peak of the mountain outside Jade City. Its only access was a zigzag mountain road that started from the north gate of Jade City. Looking from afar, the castle on the mountain was like an imperial palace, and the city at the foot of the mountain was its first line of defense.
Houses lined both sides of the mountain road. Although it was not as dense as Jade City, it was not desolate at all. Every household’s door and walls had been decorated specially, adding joy to the wedding of Golden Roc Castle. In fact, most of these families had various connections with Golden Roc Castle; they had to rely on the Unique King to make a living.
As the mountain’s elevation increased, the temperature gradually grew colder. Although it was midsummer, one could still feel a tinge of coolness.
People approaching Golden Roc Castle for the first time would be astonished. From the foot of the mountain, no one would notice that the castle was actually built on an isolated mountain peak surrounded by a trench. Only a stone bridge approximately one zhang wide connected it to the mountain. 1
There was no railing on both sides of the stone beam. If one looked down while walking on the beam, one would see that the trench was shrouded in mist and had no sound at all, making people teeter and not be able to stare for a long time.
When they rode up to the stone beam, all of them dismounted and walked instead. No one dared to take the risk of having the horses frightened, dragging everyone down and being smashed into pieces.
Anyone who nervously walked on the narrow stone beam and up to dozens of steps would be awed by the castle in front of them.
In front of Golden Roc Castle gate was a broad path paved with bluestones. Some of these bluestones were damaged, indicating the long history of the castle.
The walls were built with huge rocks of differing heights but were well-arranged. Even the lowest wall was about three to four zhangs in height. On the top of the walls were crossbow mounts and watchtowers. Numerous flags went straight up into the clouds.
Such a castle really expressed the idiom, one man guarded the pass while ten thousand were unable to get through. As long as the inside was fully prepared, no one could break in from the outside.
Gu Shenwei really began to believe in the existence of God’s will; only because of God’s will was he able enter Golden Roc Castle.
The gate of the castle was wide open. People stood at the entrance, ready to welcome the bride.
Originally, Gu Shenwei thought he would be able see the legendary Unique King Shangguan Fa, but he was disappointed. Except for Shangguan Nu, he didn’t see any men from the Shangguan Family. He did not even get to witness the ceremony where the groom and bride bowed to each other.
Just like countless other dowries, the 10 pairs of virgin boys and girls became the property of the Shangguan Family and was immediately distributed after they had entered the Golden Roc Castle.
The virgin girls were to be the young mistress’s personal servants, and were sent to the Shangguan Nu’s courtyard. The 10 virgin boys were sent to a small courtyard which had the name ‘Ji Xin Yuan’. 2 This led to Gu Shenwei’s speculation that their main work from now on would probably be cutting wood.
At this point, for the newly arrived teenagers, the only thing left for the wedding was ethereal music and faint laughter.
The first night at Golden Roc Castle was quiet and long. Apart from someone bringing them dinner, no one came to ask about these new assets. The 10 teenagers slept in one room on a big, heated brick bed that barely fit all of them.
The triangle-faced teenager Lin Yang was the earliest one to recover from shock. The hand-print on his face had already disappeared, and he his confidence almost restored. It was he who had thought of the idea about being sworn brothers, so he proclaimed himself as ’big brother’.
“Golden Roc Castle, you know, this is Golden Roc Castle. Even the royal families of the Western Regions have to show their respect to the Shangguan Family. You are lucky; no, I’m lucky, I will definitely be successful. Maybe I can win the Unique King’s favor. Gaining favor in Golden Roc Castle means gaining favor in the whole of Jade City. As for you all, follow me honestly and learn some tricks for dealing with people. Maybe then, you can become somebody. What’s more, don’t blame me for not telling you; Golden Roc Castle will kill at least one person every day, so you’d better be careful.”
Lin Yang liked to scare people and even more, he liked to be touted. Several teenagers with pale faces sucked up to him, begging him to take care of them.
Lin Yang talked noisily for almost two hours before sleeping quietly with satisfaction. Then, all the other teenagers fell asleep one by one. Gu Shenwei closed his eyes, then opened them. He still couldn’t fall asleep, and also couldn’t remember when the last time he had a good sleep was.
He had already entered the Golden Roc Castle. His elder sister might be kept somewhere here. He could even sense her call. Although it was very risky, if he did not go out and explore for awhile, he would feel an unbearable uncomfortableness.
Although Lin Yang might jump up and shout again, or the outside may be full of traps, Gu Shenwei didn’t care about these. He crawled up quietly and slipped out of the room with his bare feet.
The yard was very small, with doors on the east and west sides. Outside the eastern door was an alley. It was this route that Gu Shenwei and the others had followed to enter the yard. The alley was long and guarded by guards during daytime. He thought for a while, before finally deciding to go through the west door and check out the situation.
The door was unlatched, which was a good sign. The outside was pitch-black, so Gu Shenwei had to let his eyes to adapt for a while before he was able to distinguish his surroundings. The ground was flat, with gravel as far as their eyes could see. Close by, some tall trees could be seen.
This place did not look like it was part of Golden Roc Castle, and more like the outside of the castle.
Gu Shenwei was surprised that it was so easy to leave Golden Roc Castle. Carefully, he groped forward for 30 to 40 steps, before his foot accidentally kicked a stone. He heard strange sound so he stopped walking. When he looked down, he was taken aback.
He had already walked to the edge of a cliff. With one more step, he would have fallen into the abyss. No wonder nobody guarded here; it was not necessary.
The strange sound had come from below, distant and weak. It was similar to the sound of a stone colliding with a cliff, and was also like a sharp whistle. In this quiet night, it was like a call from hell.
Gu Shenwei’s hairs stood up. He backed away two steps, before turning around and running back to the small courtyard.
After returning to the yard, Gu Shenwei’s mind settled a little. He then walked softly to the east door and pushed a bit, only to find that the door was locked. Retreating several steps to observe where he could jump out, his body suddenly hit something. He looked up to see a man looking down at him.
The man was dressed in black, his face masked and almost merging with the dark. His right hand was positioned near the left side of his waist. If one looked closely, one would notice that the man’s hand was holding a hilt. He was standing there, as quiet as a ghost.
Was there someone like him, coming out to investigate Golden Roc Castle?
Gu Shenwei was pleasantly surprised at first, but the experience on the cliff edge had cleared his mind than usual, so he didn’t move and didn’t say anything.
The two of them stared at each other for a while. finally the man dressed in black spoke first.
“You violated the curfew.”
Gu Shenwei’s heart sank. The man in black was not a helper, but a watchman of Golden Roc Castle. Not only was Golden Roc Castle impregnable from outside, but inside was also heavily guarded.
“I didn’t know, I am new here. I, I want to pee.”
“You are from the eighth young mistress’s side?”
Gu Shenwei nodded desperately.
The man-in-black hesitated, then loosened his grip on his sabre.
“There is a chamberpot inside the room.”
Gu Shenwei realized that he had just escaped from death. Nodding quickly, he ran to the bedroom and found the chamberpot. But because he was too nervous, he held out for a long time before being able to squeeze out a little. He always felt that the night watchman was still listening outside.
His heart was still beating quickly after lying down on the brick bed.
“No more risks.” He reminded himself secretly.
The other teenagers were still snoring and sleeping soundly.
Gu Shenwei still hadn’t thought of how he would get his revenge. The next day after he entered Golden Roc Castle, he found that it was extremely hard to even see with Shangguan Nu.
Ji Xin Yuan had nothing to do with wood accumulation; it was a place to send off the dead.
For those who were injured, ill, with low status, or not worthy for a cure, they would all be sent to this small yard to wait for death. In Golden Roc Castle, there were lots of people like this. Just as Lin Yang had said, “there will be dead people every day”.
Big Head God’s daughter was enjoying her honeymoon, but the 10 teenagers brought along with her all fell into the ‘abyss’ after they woke up. The duties assigned to them were to take care of those dying people.
To watch people being killed by a sabre or sword was one thing, and quite another to personally touch the dying, watch their wounds fester and bleed. After only one day, the teenagers looked decades older than they actually were, quiet and melancholy. The rotten odor lingered in their nose. Even Lin Yang was stunned, dull without a word.
The person in charge of the Ji Xin Yuan was a 20-year-old man. He had a skinny body and a pale face decorated with acne. It seemed like he was someone who had fallen ill and sent to the yard to die, yet kept living and becoming the ‘lord’ of this place.
The man in charge was surnamed Han, and was called Servant Ji. He was clenching his teeth while saying his name, as if it was the teenagers’ fault that he had such an ill name.
He always carried a three–chi-long red stick, and had the catchphrase, “to teach someone how to be a good servant, one has to beat them until their bones are soft.” 3
Golden Roc Castle had stricter rules than the robbers’ gang of the Iron Mountain. The first thing Servant Ji did after taking over the new servants was to name them again. The method he used to choose a name was easy — he sequentially picked one character from the ‘thousand-character classic’, then added the character ‘Servant’. Characters that may be a taboo or too complex were first removed, with seven or eight hundred characters left to be alternatively used by successive servants.
This was how Servant Ji received his name.
He took out a roster that was labeled with a variety of symbols, indicated which words were still available.
“San Lu Xiao Yao, Xin Zou Lei Qian, Qi Xie Huan Zhao. Hm, Lu and Zou have been used; there are still ten characters are left, just enough.”
The room used to brand named was a small yard nearby. A white-haired old man with slack skin was responsible for this work. Servant Ji would determine the character, and the old man would find the appropriate iron mold and put it in red fire.
Even if they didn’t understand the language of Central Plains, those teenagers understood what would happen next. They looked at each other. No one dared to be the first.
“Hurry up, we have more things to do.” Servant Ji urged impatiently.
Lin Yang — he would soon be named Servant Yao — pushed Gu Shenwei ahead, so Gu Shenwei was the first one to obtain a new name branded on his right arm.
It was surprising that his new name had the same character as his nickname.
For the pair of brothers, the older one was called Servant Qi while the younger one was called Servant Xie.
The teenagers’ arms were all branded with two ugly characters, as well as a bird with spreading wings, the symbol of Golden Roc Castle.
Servant Ji was very satisfied when he saw that his new underlings had forehead dripping with beads of perspiration. He even exposed the characters on his own arm, letting everyone look before dropping his sleeves and saying:
“Now you are men of Golden Roc Castle. When you are alive, you are servants of the Lord. When you die, you will be servants of the previous Lord. Now, however, all of your lives are in my hands.”
Translator’s note: Zhang is a Chinese unit of measurement; it is the equivalent of 3.3333 meters. Translator’s note: Literally Ji Xin Yuan means Firewood Storage Yard. Translator’s note: Chi is a Chinese unit of measurement; it is the equivalent of 0.3333 meters.