Chapter 113 The Guests
The teenagers stopped at the top of the hill and watched for a while until they felt that it was time. They then moved forward and slowly approached those three riders.
One of the riders bent the bow and fired an arrow when they entered within a hundred steps. The arrow whizzed and plunged straight to the ground in front of a horse. This was a warning, asking the visitors to stop.
Gu Shenwei held up a long bow, which was lent by Liuhua, and also shot out.
He was not good at the bow and arrow, but he had learned a few things. Although it was impossible to kill an enemy within a hundred steps, it was enough for him send something to the enemy.
What was tied on the arrowhead was a finger of that black-bird-like woman. Gu Shenwei had cut off four of them, which were now all wrapped up with cloth and preserved.
One rider raised his hand and caught the arrow. Seeing what he got, he was obviously astonished. He reined his horse, which whinnied under his legs. The other two riders were also deeply moved; they also reined in their horses and went in a circle.
The three riders were not acting very carefully in the face of the brown-belted killers trained by Golden Roc Castle.
An arrow shot out of a bush on the left of the riders, and a rider fell. The other two riders, who anxiously pulled out arrows from their quivers and had not yet laid the arrow on the bow when they were struck by the next two shots, and also fell from their horses.
Liuhua appeared and fired an arrow at each man’s mouth. This was his mark.
Liuhua had already dismounted before the teenagers rode to the top of the hill. Gu Shenwei and the other two had stopped to distract those riders, while Liuhua crept through the wilderness. Although the grass was not lush, the clumps of free-standing bushes were enough to hide his movements.
A killer never confronted his enemy unless he had to.
Four brown-belted killers examined the three corpses and found nothing that they could identify them with.
Gu Shenwei missed this about Master Tie Hanfeng. The cripple had a lot of experience and would definitely know the origins of these people.
Fang Wenshi had also caught up. As he sat on horseback and looked at the teenagers and the corpses on the ground, he repeatedly nodded, “Great, that’s great.”
“Keep moving.” Gu Shenwei said to Fang Wenshi as he jumped on the horse.
Fang Wenshi immediately shook his head, “I’m not going in the front. You’re using me as bait.”
Gu Shenwei held his sabre hilt. “You should feel happy that you are still useful.”
Fang Wenshi’s expression immediately changed, “I am indeed very useful. If you ask me about the trend of the Western Regions, the disputes between different countries, the local products, the geography, or even the astronomy, I can assure you I can answer any question you might have. I’m very useful in building a country or state, it would be a waste for me to be simply used as bait.”
It turned out Fang Wenshi didn’t need to be bait now. Dust filled the sky in the distance, it seemed that a large number of people were coming.
“Do you have a solution, strategist?” Gu Shenwei asked, sarcastically.
Fang Wenshi didn’t catch the hidden meaning of the teenager’s words. He solemnly said, “What I learnt are the skills of Su Qin’s and Zhang Yi’s, not those military tactics of Gui Guzi’s and Sun Wu’s , but the current situation is simple. There are at least 800 people on the other side, and there are only four of you. If you don’t run now, you&rs
quo;ll definitely be killed under a flurry of arrow shots. 1
As soon as he finished speaking, Fang Wenshi turned his horse around and ran away. He didn’t stop and only looked back once, when he reached the next slope’s peak. He was puzzled by the teenagers who did not listen to the advice of the ‘strategist’.
The group of approaching people was not as large as Fang Wenshi had described, there were about thirty people or so. And the ones in the leading positions were five people in black robes, whose appearances were very much like that black-bird-like woman.
“Go to the South!” One of the riders opposite came out of the crowd and shouted.
Gu Shenwei just wanted to go forward without retreating or turning to the south. There was certainly nothing he wanted in that desert far away.
He waved at Liuhua.
Liuhua took out the long bow and shot an arrow.
One rider at the opposite accepted the challenge, and set an arrow almost at the same time, but he waited a bit before firing. The arrow hit the incoming arrow, and both of them fell. Then the rider let out a cry and also fell from his horse.
Liuhua had shot out two arrows at the same time, while the rider was only able to block one.
The interceptors finally realized that the four brown-belted killers were not normal teenagers. Strangely enough, instead of taking the advantage of outnumbering them and attacking, they turned around and left in order. They didn’t seem to be frightened.
The teenagers followed them from far away. Several miles later, they saw a larger group of people. After the two groups merged, there were over a hundred people in total. They had already made antler-like fences on the road. It formed a semicircle, the end of which reached the foot of the hill. To pass it, one had no option except to forcefully break through.
Behind the antler-like fence were three rows of well prepared archers.
Gu Shenwei led the brown-belted killers and retreated back several miles. After rounding up the horses’ heads and tails into a circle, the four of them took turns resting in the middle. They also shared some dry food and water with their mounts.
They were waiting for the night to fall. That was the killer’s time.
Gu Shenwei could not fall asleep. He kept thinking about what that woman had said, “We don’t want gold and silver. We only want the people.” The enemy did not want to kill everyone, it seemed that they just wanted to drive them to the desert.
He also did not want to kill all of the enemies of Golden Roc Castle. He just wanted to pass this hurdle, smoothly deliver all the gifts to Big Head God, and then safely return Shangguan Ru back to Golden Roc Castle. That little girl couldn’t imagine how much trouble her identity had brought them.
As the night fell, Wild Horse, Liuhua and White Camel began to reorganize their equipment, but Gu Shenwei said, “No, no action tonight. We need to wait for the people behind to catch up with us.”
Those three teenagers looked at their leader with strange eyes because Servant Huan’s choice wasn’t in accordance with the principles of Golden Roc Castle. However, disobeying the order would also break the rules of Golden Roc Castle, so the three silently accepted.
Fang Wenshi’s voice came from the outside, “Young hero, can I have some water? I haven’t had any water for two days.” As he spoke, he crept under the horse’s belly.
The leader’s attitude towards the poor scholar also baffled the three teenagers.
Gu Shenwei handed his water bladder to Fang Wenshi. After waiting for him to take a swig, he asked, “There are a hundred enemies. We are equal in number, but less than half of us can fight with a sabre. We also have abundant numbers of camels and horses. Do you have a solution?”
Fang Wenshi looked around as if he wanted to find out where the one hundred people were. He took another sip of water and wiped his mouth. “To put it bluntly, I know about strategy but I haven’t read too many military books. So it’s mere theories.”
Gu Shenwei lifted his hand a bit, gesturing that he did not care.
“Well, then, are those one hundred enemy soldiers well-trained?”
“No, they are a band of bandits with bows and arrows.”
“Well, let’s say we have fifty people. Are they also a rabble?”
“Pretty much. Most of them are improvisational sabremen. A dozen of them are good killers.”
“Killers are not fit for charging. Well, if you ask me, it’s the only method.” Fang Wenshi drank a mouthful of water and patted his stomach, “Do you have any more dry food?”
Gu Shenwei handed the last two pieces of dry food to him. Fang Wenshi gulped them down, his cheeks bulging. With the help of some water, he finally let out a long breath after he swallowed the dry food with some difficulty, “Then you can only let the sheep be driven by tigers. Let the sabremen run ahead to attract the enemy’s arrow, with the killers following closely behind. This is the only way you may have a chance to win. To be honest, I am not good at this. When you grow a bit older… No no, when you are ambitious enough to conquer other countries, it’s never too late to come find me.”
Fang Wenshi started to talk perfunctorily after he had drunk enough water and become half-full. He did not think that a killer’s disciple would be qualified to use a great strategist like him in the future.
But Gu Shenwei was inspired, and he gradually formed a plan in his mind. However, he had to safely pass the night first.
“Get ready, the ‘guests’ are coming.”
Most of the one hundred or so barricaded enemies were like bandits who had temporarily gathered together. The most dangerous people were those three black-robed ‘guests’. They were also killers and would definitely resort to night-time tactics, so Gu Shenwei decided to wait for their arrival.
It was getting darker and darker, and the stars were shining bright now. Gu Shenwei didn’t make a fire as he sat by Fang Wenshi’s side. Beside his feet lay three bedrolls in the shape of three people who had fallen asleep.
Fang Wenshi pressed his right arm, desperately trying to restrain himself from trembling the tremor from the inside. He wanted to leave, but was again refused by the teenage killer. He was really unlucky on this journey. There were several big shots who he had wanted to visit, but he had failed to see any of them. Instead, he had fallen into the hands of bandits and killers and a person like him, who was full of knowledge and ambitions, surprisingly became a burden.
“You… will protect me?”
“I’ll kill the enemy, so they can’t kill you.”
Fang Wenshi was stunned, feeling that this assurance wasn’t comfortable at all. So he chuckled, with his right arm shivering more seriously.
“You said you know the state of the current world. Tell me about it.”
Fang Wenshi became stupefied again. Then he started talking excitedly, not to persuade an unimportant teenager, but to relieve the tension in his heart.
“Now the thirty-six countries of the Western Region are at peace, and not aware that a disaster of national subjugation is nearby. Thirty years ago, the Central Plains and the Bei Ting fought for the throne, the Western Regions had no hegemony, so all the countries of the Western Regions were at war. Shu Le rose and Golden Roc Castle grew during this time. When the Central Plains and Bei Ting shook hands and the frontier was cleared, they finally had a chance to settle the Western Regions. In the end, the Central Plains, Bei Ting, and Shu Le country became the main powers of the Western Regions. The thirty six countries chose their own lords, and peace finally came. At present, the three main countries are unstable, each of them with their own ambition. Golden Roc Castle is ambitious, the Iron Mountain is on the verge of making a move; each has its own strengths and weaknesses, they permeate each other, and even a slight stroke of a hair would move the whole body…”
Fang Wenshi’s voice suddenly became vague in Gu Shenwei’s ears. He felt an indescribable drop in his stomach, a mixture of tension and excitement. His heart seemed to slow down and the fire in his blood seemed to cool down.
He suddenly thought that it would be wonderful if he had a trusty sword in hand.
Fang Wenshi was still chattering endlessly, as if the one sitting next to him was a king of the Western Regions who had a hundred thousand men in his hand and was waiting for him to show the way to avoid the scourge of a national subjugation. He was completely unaware of the real danger at hand.
Fang Wenshi suddenly felt a gust of wind. He raised his hand to touch his head, finding that his hat was gone and some of his hair had been chopped off. Confused, he saw the horse standing opposite him miraculously divide into two parts. The blood spattered and drenched his whole body like a storm.
Fang Wenshi was dumbfounded. He really wished that he could faint from fright, but his mind was clear, and his eyes were bright. Every scene and action was etched into his retinas.
In an instant, the battle between the attacker and the ambusher was over. Two people were killed, two were wounded, one horse was destroyed and the rest of the horses fled in a panic.
Gu Shenwei didn’t have a chance to use the sabre again, which left his heart restless and his blood churning. The hot Qi inside his xuanji acupoint swelled; it was a sign that he might have a Qi deviation again.
Translator’s note: Guiguzi was the teacher of the late Warring States political lobbyists Su Qin and Zhang Yi and also the teacher of renowned Warring States generals Sun Bin and Pang Juan. Sun Wu, also known as Sun Tzu, was the author of The Art of War.