Chapter 12 Pledges
The first person that Gu Shenwei — now called Servant Huan — took care of was a dying young man in his twenties. There were three gashes on his chest, but he seemed to feel nothing. Lying on a brick bed, he didn’t groan or make a request, as if he was already dead.
Although they said to take care of him, really, he was just there to watch him die while filling up his bowl with water.
Golden Roc Castle’s mercy was to not bury him while he was still alive.
The teenagers hadn’t even gotten familiar with their new names after only staying one night in the castle before they were sent to take care of the dying. They started their new life with the heavy stench of blood.
Only one person was needed to take care of the dying man, but it was ‘off season’ these days. The man was the only wounded person in the yard, so Servant Ji called everybody. His explanation was to “Learn to get used to it”, but he himself stood far away next to the doorway and held his nose.
“This is the outcome of being a killer.”
Servant Ji seemed to be rejoicing over the misfortune of the dying young man, but man lying on the bed had no reaction to Servant Ji’s words at all.
“He is Servant Xie. We entered the castle at the same time. Look at him now though, he is lying there, waiting for death, and I’m the one watching him die. Hey, hey, want to be a killer? Work hard in your next life.”
The young man named Servant Xie didn’t argue a single word; perhaps he hadn’t even heard the words spoken by Servant Ji. It was Servant Yao (Lin Yang) who gathered his courage to raise his head and ask,
“But one can become a somebody once he becomes a real killer, isn’t it?”
Servant Ji was annoyed by these words. “Right, be a somebody, all of you, go become a killer. If any one of you can live longer than me in the east castle, I will kowtow to him. Who do you think you are? Want to be a killer? Humph!”
Servant Ji shook the red stick in his hands threateningly at them, but because he didn’t want to approach the dying, he left, irritated. In his eyes, the Servant Xie lying on the brick bed was already dead.
Servant Xie died at dusk. Although the teenagers were reluctant, they had no choice but to carry the corpse under the threat of the red stick. They carried the corpse through the west door and dropped it down the cliff.
“This is the final destination of all the servants of Golden Roc Castle, called Groaning Ghost Cliff. Listen, can you hear the strange sounds from below the cliff? It’s just like the moans of the dead.”
Servant Yao was teasing the teenagers again. One after another, the teenagers turned and ran away. Servant Ji was guarding inside the west door, and snorted at the teenagers’ behavior, though nobody knew whether he snorted with ridicule or disdain.
Gu Shenwei also ran with the others. He had already been here last night, and really had heard a moan under the cliff.
Not long after that, the teenagers heard from Servant Ji that the cliff outside the west door really was called Groaning Ghost Cliff. Servant Yao hadn’t made up the story. As for how he knew it, he didn’t say anything, so no one was able to guess.
The Groaning Ghost Cliff was a triangular platform and had the remains of a stone table on it, positioned in the centre. It was said that in the past, people would add wood to the stone table and burn the dead. That was how the name Ji Xin Yuan came to. Since Golden Roc Castle changed its custom, the stone table had gradually been abandoned and destroyed. Now, only a few pieces of charred stone were left.
In the following days, all that the teenagers did everyday was watch people die, then dropping their corpse off the Groaning Ghost Cliff. Most of the dead were young people; they had dreamed of becoming a killer and entered the east castle to be a disciple, but unfortunately, they failed in the end.
Golden Roc Castle was divided into a number of relatively independent regions. The east castle trained killers while the west castle focused on various types of compound courtyards, such as Ji Xin Yuan which handled the dead.
Although everybody knew that more people died than lived, they still fought for the right to enter the east castle one after another. The teenagers couldn’t understand why. Most of them had the same thoughts as Servant Ji; It was better to stay in the west yard honestly than to be a dead killer.
But ambitious Servant Yao seemed to have a different idea. Several times, he had implied that he had the talent of being a killer. Nobody took it seriously however, because he didn’t know kung fu and his body was no different than others.
Gu Shenwei had also seriously considered working hard to enter the east castle. The killers from Golden Roc Castle had slaughtered the Gu family, so he would learn to be a killer here and then take his revenge. While this was an attractive idea and the perfect plan in his mind, it was not easy to realize.
First, there was little time as the young lord of Gu family could be found out at anytime, so he had to hurry and take revenge.
Second, training in the east castle was cruel and bloody. There were very little who could pass and survive successfully. He was afraid that he would die before getting revenge.
The third and also most problematic was that without a reference, a low level servant like him wasn’t qualified at all to enter the east castle.
Gu Shenwei wanted to seek advice from the God’s will again, but nothing happened.
Since he had entered Golden Roc Castle, God’s will seemed to have been blocked outside. He was helpless now, with neither away to find his elder sister nor a way to take his revenge. Right now, not to mention extinguishing the Shangguan Family, he couldn’t even see the tail of Shangguan Nu’s clothes.
He was really afraid that he would be trapped in Ji Xin Yuan and carry the dead for his the rest of life.
Not only him, all the teenagers felt like they had been forgotten. Golden Roc Castle seemed to not take the ten kids seriously. The teenagers would also be like those dying people, wasting their lives in this ominous courtyard until their death.
The fifth day after they had entered the castle, the teenagers finally glimpsed a sliver of hope to survive.
Xue Niang, Miss Luo Ningcha’s servant, had come.
Although the teenagers had never been comforted by Xue Niang and had suffered under her Iron fingers, seeing her now was just like seeing their beloved one. Only she could save them out of the sea of misery.
That afternoon. Xue Niang opened the door and came in. As curt as usual, she said, “Follow me.”
The teenagers who were cleaning Ji Xin Yuan almost cheered aloud, but Servant Ji was standing in the doorway. They dared not show their joy because his red stick was not easy to deal with.
“Who are you?”
Servant Ji looked at the unfamiliar middle-aged woman with surprise. The woman walked so quietly that he hadn’t even heard the footsteps. He was very unhappy about this.
“I’m Miss Ningcha’s wet nurse.”
Servant Ji frowned. He had never heard of a ‘Miss Ningcha’ in the castle, and this woman’s body was as flat as a coffin; she didn’t look like anyone’s wet nurse.
With one finger, Xue Niang poked Servant Ji, causing his face to turn red. With a low humming sound, he sat down on the doorstep.
Xue Niang turned around and walked towards the courtyard door. Behind, the teenagers rushed to follow. Only Servant Yao had something more on his mind; he lifted Servant Ji up and softly told him the origin of Xue Ning.
Xue Niang led the ten teenagers through the east door. They walked along the alley, and after several turns, they reached the courtyard of the eighth young lord Shangguan Nu. The lords of Golden Roc Castle resided in the north castle, far away from Ji Xin Yuan. There were many crossroads along the way. Gu Shenwei had observed carefully, but could only memorize three quarters of them. It was surprising that Xue Niang had been able to easily find them despite never coming before.
The eighth young lord’s house faced the south and was divided into two sections. Though it was not large, it was very elegant. It was hard to imagine that the owner of this place was actually a killer.
Xue Niang pointed towards a vacant area in front of the great hall and ordered, “Kneel down.”
Everybody followed, but Gu Shenwei hesitated for a moment.
He had long resolved that he would take revenge with unscrupulous means. As long as he could get revenge, then there was nothing he couldn’t bear. Thinking of this, he quickly bent his knee and kneeled on the ground with the others.
Xue Niang glanced at him. It was not the teenager’s moment of hesitation, but his straight back that had aroused her attention.
Kneeling next to the teenagers were the ten virgin girls and several close maidservants, their expressions anxious. It seemed that something big had happened.
The door of the hall was open. In front of the door was a translucent screen, reflecting a slender silhouette.
“Have they all arrived?”
Big God Head’s daughter didn’t like the title of Young Mistress, so her closest servant called her Miss. From then on, all the servants that had come along with her all called her Miss.
“Let them swear one by one.”
This was indeed the voice he remembered of Big Head God’s daughter, her tone devoid of the shyness and happiness of a newlywed bride. Instead, it had a hint of uncontrollable anger.
“I, Xue Niang, swear to heavens that in my lifetime, I will be loyal only to Miss Luo Ningcha, daughter of Iron Mountain Big Head God. I will follow my lord’s surname Luo and never change my surname. If I violate this oath, I shall be struck by lightning from the heavens, descend into the eighteenth level of hell, and never have a chance to reincarnate.”
Servant Yao was the first to follow and swear with sincere words. If Gu Shenwei hadn’t known Servant Yao through and through, he would have believed that he had followed the Miss for many years.
Servant Yao had his own way in seeking information; for example, he had known about the Groaning Ghost Cliff. This meant that his set of methods for dealing with people actually worked in Golden Roc Castle.
Gu Shenwei needed to understand his enemies, so he followed Servant Yao to be the second one to swear. He had just received his new first name and now he had to change his surname. He swore with his mouth, but in his heart, he kept repeating, I’m Gu Shenwei.
It was difficult for those teenagers who couldn’t speak the language of the Central Plains, so Servant Yao volunteered to be the translator. The teenagers followed with stammering words. Surprisingly, they were able to finish the oath.
Nobody knew why Big Head God’s daughter suddenly made them pledge.
After pledging, the Miss behind the screen asked,
“Xue Niang, who do you think is suitable?”
“The other aspects are not important; the key point is that the person must be clever, and I think he is appropriate.”
The person she pointed to was Servant Yao, so Servant Yao responded quickly. He immediately moved forward two steps on his knees, kowtowed and said,
“Little Servant would go through scorching fire and freezing water for Miss.”
The Miss didn’t mention what he was suitable for, she only answered, “Then him.”. The bizarre show for displaying loyalty came to an end.
Later, the teenagers were led by a maidservant back to Ji Xin Yuan, while Servant Yao was left alone and didn’t come back until nightfall.
Servant Ji complained while he locked the door. He had already inquired about the origin of Xue Niang and dared not directly challenge her, so he could only make oblique accusations. In his eyes, the ten boys ‘belonged’ to him. Xue Niang and the eighth young mistress putting her hands on them was actually against the rules and snatching his interests.
Servant Yao was also implicated, but he didn’t mind. He went back to the bedroom shared between the 10 teenagers, kicked off his shoes, jumped onto the brick bed and sighed with relief. Lying on the bed, he didn’t say anything for a long time.
Everyone knew his personality. Either way, he would boast about his special treatment from the Miss.
“From tomorrow on, I will not be accompanying you all to take care of the dead.” Finally, Servant Yao seemed to have thought of something unimportant and told them casually.
“Why? Are you leaving here? ” Someone asked curiously. In Golden Roc Castle, the language of the Central Plains was the official language. Those barbarian teenagers had barely learned enough to communicate.
“Xue Niang will teach me kung fu; I will be a killer some time later.”
The teenagers were surprised at these words. Servant Yao had shown his interest in becoming a killer long time ago, but nobody had thought that good fortune would welcome him so quickly.
“Can you?” Servant Qi asked abruptly in the Central Plains language at Servant Yao’s side. Although he and his brother had joined to be sworn brothers, they had never forgotten Servant Yao’s betrayal.
In fact, everyone also wanted to ask this question. The first dead person they had thrown away was a disciple who had failed in the east castle. A thin body like Servant Yao probably could not stay up one day and be sent back to Ji Xin Yuan.
“You don’t know anything,” Servant Yao said with disdain. “the killers are also humans, they have various grades and ranks and also follow the ways of the world. A normal person will die, but I’m the one recommended by the eighth young lord and Miss. Who would dare to touch me?”
No one could refute him. They knew nothing about Golden Roc Castle and didn’t understand the real situation.
But Gu Shenwei was persuaded by these words.
He did not want to waste time learning to be a killer, but if he could get the lord’s favor and recommendation, did that mean that he would have the opportunity to approach Shanguan Nu?