Chapter 111 Black Bird
To go forward or to go backward. It had always been a difficult decision to make as team leader. The more information one had, the harder it was to make the decision. One might step into the trap set by the enemy if one moved forwards and similarly if one moved backward.
The enemy was like a city which seemed to be empty, but no matter how the suspicious commander dwelt outside the city, he would always think that the enemy had foreseen his ideas.
To choose was to gamble. There were countless potential leaders who had rolled the dice again and again; some of them succeeded, and some failed. The one with the best luck became the final winner and were labeled as a 'hero'.
Gu Shenwei had made many choices when working as a leader of the Bi Nu gang in East Castle, but at that time what he faced was a group of familiar enemies. They learnt the same lessons, had similar assassination skills, and could even see through each other's thoughts. But now, he was gambling with a stranger, Gu Shenwei didn't know which side he should bet on.
To move forward or backward?
No matter how hesitant he was in his heart, Gu Shenwei didn't reveal even the slightest trace of doubt. He couldn't discuss it with too many people because this would reveal his doubtful thoughts and affect the morale of the sabremen of the Meng family. He called Dao San'er over and asked him some questions, eventually formulating got a plan by dawn.
They had only finished about one third of the total journey, so the time-efficient choice was to turn around and go back to the originally selected safe road which would take only four or five days. On the other hand, moving forward would take another six or seven days to arrive at the Iron Mountain.
Gu Shenwei decided to move forward, but he didn't want to passively wait for the enemy's attack.
Servant Huan led three brown-belted killers and five sabremen to scout the road ahead. With Lotus and Shangguan Yushi's assistance, Shangguan Ru took charge of the remaining sabremen to protect the team and followed behind.
Although Shangguan Ru preferred to scout along the road, she was also satisfied with taking charge of more than twenty sabremen of the Meng family.
What Gu Shenwei wanted to do was not simply explore the road. The nine of them galloped forward without caring about the nearby conditions. There were several times when the sabremen found something strange on the roadside. Gu Shenwei still didn't stop and told them to continue moving forward.
They rode for two days and one night in total. During the journey, they only had some brief rests for water, dry food, and grazing the horses. The sabremen were exhausted and didn't understand why the several teenagers who had ridden with them didn't look tired at all.
Actually it wasn't a big deal for the brown-belted killers. They had all experienced not drinking, eating and sleeping for several days during the slaughter period. At that time, enemies were everywhere, and closing one’s' eyes meant giving up one's life.
Along the way, they found another camp that had been wiped out. There were six corpses that looked to be real nomadic bandits and not sabremen arranged by Meng Fifth Gongzi.
These six corpses surrounded a pit of extinguished fire with their faces up. Their feet pointed at the center, and the blood flowing from their chests and abdomens had stained the earth nearby, which made the scene look like a flower with six petals, huge and gorgeous.
They were apparently killed by surprise and then disemboweled.
The five sabremen were shocked and their faces turned ash pale. They all nervously looked at the young lead.
Gu Shenwei was indifferent. He was already used to corpses and cruel bloody scenes. Simple gore could no longer shock him. He merely sniffed his nose at the corpses' postmortem mutilation. To him, killing was just killing. It was meaningless to add more cuts if one could kill in a single one attack.
Unless the murderer wanted to disguise something.
Gu Shenwei dismounted and carefully examined the corpses. One of them had a stone flake with sharp edges in the stomach. This was the tool used to break the stomach, but he couldn't find any more clues. He knew very little about the martial arts styles of the world and couldn't make a judgement about the real techniques concealed by the exaggerated wounds.
The nine of them moved on. They left a mark so that the team behind would know that they were here.
Gu Shenwei found out nothing about the enemy's killing techniques, but he obtained a valuable clue. The six wandering bandits had died not too long ago, which meant that they were not far away from the enemy’s' main forces.
On the second evening after they left the camel team, the vanguard team saw another campfire.
Gu Shenwei ordered the five sabremen to lead the horses to hide in the grass nearby. He led the other three brown-belted killers to go on a fishing expedition.
Facts proved that the sabremen hired by Meng Fifth Gongzi weren’t good. Gu Shenwei would rather let them hide than rely on them to perform dangerous tasks. Even Liuhua who was lonesome was more reliable than them.
The four arranged themselves in a big circle as they slowly approached the fire. They didn't find any hidden sentries.
Gu Shenwei was hiding in the grass about twenty steps away from the fire when he discovered that these people were not the enemy he was looking for.
Eight men with ragged clothes sat around a bonfire. Someone occasionally added a log to the fire but no one spoke. Their heads were lowered, their scabbardless long sabres leaned against their body; they were like a group of ghosts who had lost all of their hope.
This was a group of nomadic bandits, hungry and apathetic. Eating hunks of meat and drinking bowls of wine were scenes that only occurred in their dreams.
Gu Shenwei had not only caught up with his enemies, he had even overtaken them.
This would be an irreversible mistake made by Gu Shenwei if the enemy had lain their hands on the team following behind right now.
One always has to take risks, Gu Shenwei thought. If he were those bandits hidden in the dark, he would definitely not attack rashly after giving a series of scary warnings.
Gu Shenwei started assigning tasks to the brown-belted killers. This was the advantage of being trained together at East Castle: everyone could quickly understand Servant Huan's intentions even as former opponents.
The next thing was to wait; waiting patiently was one activity all killers were good at.
After awhile, the clapping sound of nearing horse hooves came, and those eight bandit’s spirits lifted. They held their sabres and dashed to the road, but before they could yell for the travellers to halt and leave their money behind for passing by, nine horses had already sped by and only left a pile of dust. One of the nomadic bandits dodged slowly and was almost hit.
The eight of them cursed while brandishing their long sabres and returned to the fire pit after they finished. They angrily exchanged a few words and fell silent again. They then fell asleep with their head tilted one by one. They didn't even have someone to keep watch.
Gu Shenwei sent Liuhua out to pass along an order. He let thee five sabremen take all the horses and continue moving forward before returning at dawn, hoping that this would confuse the enemy hiding in the dark.
As for those eight bandits, they only existed as bait.
Gu Shenwei had a strong feeling that there were probably only two or three people slaughtering the bandits along the way.
The crescent moon rose up and gradually fell in the western sky. The fire grew smaller and smaller, and the sounds of chirping insects and croaking frogs as well as the intermittent snoring gradually became background noise and was automatically filtered out by the teenagers lurking in the grass.
The enemy the brown-belted killers were waiting for finally arrived when it was almost daybreak.
There was only one person.
It moved up and down like a big black bird finding food in the grass. There was no sound when it landed. If not because of the fast moving of the shadow, even the most experienced killer wouldn't recognize it.
The black bird-like murderer circled around those eight bandits and decided to attack. Its weapon was like a dagger. With each gentle stroke of the target, one thunder-like snoring would stop.
This wasn't like a person, but rather more like a monster coming out to drain people's vitality.
Even if it was a monster, the teenagers still decided to capture it alive.
An arrow was shot out from the grass in a distance.
The 'black bird' had just finished killing the last bandit and was about to break the chest and stomach before suddenly looking back and deflecting the sneakily shot arrow by flicking its wide sleeve.
Another arrow arrived.
It was 'Mouth Sealing Liuhua', whose shooting speed ranked first amongst the Jia Chen disciples.
The 'black bird' didn't seem to expect the enemy's shooting to be so quick and was almost shot by the second arrow. It couldn’t help but become angry and behaved like a clumsy big bird, flying up and down, left and right, and dashing towards the place where Liuhua was hiding.
Liuhua fired incessantly, but none of the arrows hit the 'black bird'.
Seeing that the 'black bird' was only about ten steps away from Liuhua after only a moment of time, Wild Horse popped out from the grass. He directly slashed at the back of the 'black bird'.
The two exchanged several moves, before the 'black bird' suddenly knelt down and fell into the grass. Gu Shenwei ran out from the other side of the fire while Wild horse leaped towards the target. It turned out that the 'black bird' got hurt in her feet and was dragged down to the ground by White Camel.
Three teenagers were responsible for capturing one enemy alive. Gu Shenwei was responsible for killing any extra ones. But there came only one 'black bird', he didn't have a chance to make a move.
The fight was already over when Gu Shenwei arrived. The hands and feet of the 'black bird' had been tied with ropes, but its body was still twisting violently. Wild Horse gripped the narrow sabre tightly, his face filled with a killing aura. There were several blood stains on his shoulder. He was injured during the brawl.
The horizon grew white now, those four brown-belted killers surrounding the captive. The captive was held upside down with both hands tied behind its back, exposing ten long fingers. Each finger was coiled with a long steel thorn, which was the weapon of the 'black bird'.
Gu Shenwei pulled out the dagger he carried with him and knelt down on one leg. He turned the captive over and tore off the hood. He was stunned for a bit, because the 'black bird' was a woman.
The woman was in her forties and had a malicious and insidious countenance. Her lips were red, as if she had recently drunk blood. And her mouth was open, showing two rows of white teeth.
No matter it were a monster or a woman, it was the same in the killer's eyes.
Gu Shenwei had been tortured in the Xi Xin Yuan once and knew that fear could make a person tell everything. He also knew that very little people told the truth before cruel torture.
He turned the captive over again and cut off her two thumbs with the dagger.
The woman buried her head into the earth and groaned painfully.
The woman was turned over again, her face having lost all the colour. With mud on her face, her lips were also no longer as strikingly red.
Gu Shenwei held the dagger with one hand while his other hand picked up the two thumbs with steel thorns, "I have lots of time, and you won't die before the team behind catches up."
The woman's agonized face didn't show the slightest panic. Instead, her eyes were filled with threat, and a bit of madness. She spit out the mud in her mouth and stared at the teenager who was torturing her before she opened her mouth after some time. Her voice was muted and unpleasant to hear, as if she hadn't spoken for a long time.
"Kill me. We don't want gold, silver, or treasures, we only want people."
"Want people? Want whom?"
"Kill me. You don't have too many days left, all of you will die. All the people of Golden Roc Castle will die. Everything is destined, we're back, we'll take away what belongs to us."
The woman revealed an ecstatic smile as if all the things she wanted were in front of her.
Gu Shenwei suddenly lost his confidence. Cruel torture was useless against this woman. He also didn't have the numerous torture methods that Xi Xin Yuan had. Even if he cut her thousands of times, she would not reveal any important information.
He pointed the dagger tip at her heart and glanced her for the last time, expecting her to show any signs of weakness.
She didn't, so he pushed the dagger in.