Chapter 125 Shield
Tiger Monk Master had been bitten to death by the tiger he raised himself, half of his body being swallowed. This caused a great stir in Jade City as people couldn't help but wonder what had really happened since the matter occurred exactly on the last day the six 'evil' possessed teenagers' study of the exorcism scripture with the Master.
According to a novice monk who was in charge of delivering food everyday, Miss Shangguan Ru of Golden Roc Castle liked teasing the tiger and often fed it with all kinds of stuff. On one occasion, he even saw the little girl put an insect into the tiger's mouth and 'force' it to break its vegetarian diet.
Shangguan Ru felt that she was unjustly accused. She blushed with anger and almost cried in front of the crowd. From then on, she had a very bad impression of the monks of the Four Noble Truths Temple.
She lamented the passing of the Master. That monk was unique; he never preached at her nor did he pressure her even when she teased the tiger.
She missed the vegetarian tiger even more when she thought about this. She had finally become familiar with the 'big cat', but then it caused a disaster. She was the only one who believed the tiger was innocent.
Madam Meng thought that her daughter was frightened. She complained privately about the Four Noble Truths Temple monks' carelessness for letting Tenth Gongzi stay with a wild animal for seven days and immediately took her daughter back to the castle, determined to keep her daughter safe by her side for some time.
The tiger fled and hid in the mountains after it ate the monk. Many people tried to find it and avenge the Master, but they all failed.
The high monks of the Four Noble Truths Temple, however, didn't blame it on anyone. They believed that Tiger Monk Master was destined to have this disaster in his present life, which was a result of his deeds in his past life and thus blame should not be distributed towards others.
Only Gu Shenwei knew that Tiger Monk's death was caused by Lotus.
The Death Sutra taught by Tiger Monk Master indeed had a special effect. Even Wild Horse, who couldn't speak, felt peace in his heart when he recited it. Although their internal energy didn't increase due to this, their ability to resist the invasion and attacks of their inner demons seemed to have improved by a lot.
It was just that no one knew whether it could defeat the witchcraft of Waning Moon Hall until their next fainting episode.
Gu Shenwei had planned to consult Tiger Monk Master personally for the correct pronunciation of all the scriptures, but he shared the room with two other teenagers and it might arouse suspicion if he went out late at night.
Lotus lived alone in a thatched cottage, so this task could only be assigned to her.
It was not until they went down the mountain and returned to Jade City that Lotus finally got a chance to tell Servant Huan about the whole matter.
Lotus wrote the characters on the last several pages of Death Sutra from her memory, and gave part of it to Tiger Monk on the second night after they got on the mountain.
The Tiger Monk Master had been startled with just a quick glance. He only had less than a quarter of the verses at hand and was very familiar with them. So he immediately realized that the characters Lotus had written down were a part of the scripture that he had never seen before.
Lotus made a deal with Tiger Monk Master. If the monk taught her how to read the sutra correctly, she would hand over the complete Death Sutra, provided that the monk would keep it as a secret. As for the swordsmanship, she didn't mention anything about it.
The Tiger Monk Master had studied the characters on the clay tablet for many years, so in just several days' time he had hammered out the correct pronunciation of the whole scripture and taught it all to Lotus. However, in the end he broke his promise about keeping it a secret.
The monk read the whole book of Death Sutra. Besides just correcting the pronunciations, he also had some insight about its true meaning. It was just that he couldn't understand it completely, so after a second's thought, he still felt that he needed others' help and surprisingly decided to hand over the scripture written by Lotus to several elders of the Four Noble Truths Temple. But he told Lotus before he did so.
"I had no choice but to kill him." Lotus explained to Servant Huan later, "The Four Noble Truths Temple had a close relationship with the castle, and we would have been exposed if the scripture spread."
Lotus caught a rabbit in the mountain and fed it to the tiger, discovering that it didn't refuse meat at all.
On the last night, Lotus stabbed the monk to death and took away all the manuscripts. Then she lured the tiger to swallow the monk by half to cover the sabre wound.
The tiger ran away by itself and Shangguan Ru became the one suspected by the crowd. Lotus's plan was nearly perfect.
Gu Shenwei believed that what Lotus did was the only choice. This was the killer's means to solve a problem.
Shangguan Ru and Shangguan Yushi were brought back to the castle, while the other four brown-belted killers stayed at the southern Jade City. What awaited each of them was a different fate.
They were each assigned to different official killers as assistants to seek information and eliminate hidden dangers for the castle. On the surface this was to show that they were still 'not killers', while they were actually idling away their time everyday.
They stayed in the southern Jade City as bait.
Waning Moon Hall had reappeared in jianghu almost as a way of formally declaring war, but they surprisingly hid themselves after the mysterious woman instilled the teenagers with the 'Evil Qi'. The killers of Golden Roc Castle and the robbers' army of the Iron Mountain had killed some disciples of the Great Desolate Sect in the desert, but they hadn't seen any disciples of Waning Moon Hall.
The White Clothes Yard (Bai Yi Yuan) was full of counselors of Golden Roc Castle. After some discussion, the counsellors all believed that the disciples of Waning Moon Hall had already sneaked into the Jade City. So they decided to use the less important brown-belt disciples to lure them out of hiding.
The 'Evil Qi' in Servant Huan and the other three teenagers hadn't been cleanly driven away yet, so they were the best bait.
Of course, no one would tell the teenagers these things. Though, Gu Shenwei and Lotus didn't need anyone to as they guessed the real purpose behind them staying at southern Jade City as soon as they heard the news. The two only had time to exchange a few words before they were taken away by different killers. They had to live in different places to maximize the range of Golden Roc Castle's net.
The killer Gu Shenwei followed was Tie Hanfeng. Tie Hanfeng confirmed his disciple's speculation but he wasn't worried at all, "This is a good chance to make a contribution. We're killers of Golden Roc Castle, so how can we be afraid of a few bitches? I'm sure we can catch them all no matter how many they come. Your Master has a way of dealing with women, I'll teach you when you're a bit older, haha."
Tie Hanfeng intended to train his disciple as his future business partner, so he took this opportunity to familiarize him with the environment and rules of the southern Jade City. Firstly, he chose a brothel in the retention alley as their permanent residence. Then everyday, from morning to night, he led Servant Huan to various taverns, casinos, and brothels to get him acquainted with all sorts of people.
These people might not be experts in martial arts, but they held great influence in Jade City and formed an intricate, tough, and secretive social network. There was no way for outsiders to get involved in it without an introduction from an acquaintance.
To 'kill safely' and make lots of silver, one had to find one's own position in the network.
Most of them were brokers and protectors of a trade, and those who knew the trade called them 'shields'. There were various trades and shields, and some of them were even beyond Gu Shenwei's expectations. For example, a shield of the rice and flour trade was a thin, old man, who was said to be one of the most powerful figures in the southern Jade City. He himself had no business of his own, but anyone who wanted to sell rice and flour without trouble in the southern Jade City had to pay a visit to him before opening their business. And they had to pay money monthly from then on, but were assured that their business would be kept afloat.
The selling prices of any necessities of life at Jade City were three or four times higher than other places. Thus it attracted a large number of buyers and sellers, and the power of the shields rose accordingly.
Gu Shenwei always thought that the sabre and sword dominated the southern Jade City, but his naive idea was ridiculed by his Master, "Silly boy, you're just like those sabremen who crawl into southern Jade City on mud and water, thinking they can drink good wine and hug beautiful women as long as they have good sabresmanship. Actually they are just a group of hired thugs, which actually isn't too bad. Others are just like rabbit in the grass; they are there for us to kill for fun."
Tie Hanfeng led Gu Shenwei to visit almost half of the shields in the souther Jade City just to show him one truth, "Jade City is no different from any other place, the only ruler is gold and silver. Ah, fuck, in my eyes, the perfect way to die is to drown in gold, or die beside a woman on the softest bed in the world. In short, not being killed by a sabre or sword."
Tie Hanfeng's martial arts skills were very good, and Gu Shenwei didn't have the confidence to defeat him even after he learnt the Death Sutra Swordsmanship. But this cripple was also a killer who treated sabresmanship the least seriously. Compared to disciples like Wild Horse and Liuhua, Tie Hanfeng was a bad example.
But this experience was very helpful to Gu Shenwei, as now he knew more about Jade City. He discovered that Golden Roc Castle and the Meng family hadn't controlled everything in the city. With the rise of their position and expansion of their ambitions, these two forces had advanced rapidly and strayed further and further from the muddy street of the southern Jade City. Many small group of forces took advantage of the power gap and entered the city. Although they had inextricable connections with the castle, they also kept their independence.
Tie Hanfeng himself could be considered as a half-shield. He provided services for several bigger shields, helping them to hire bodyguards, clear checkpoints, collect on debts, punish rascals, and sometimes even kill people.
"Be very careful when walking in southern Jade City. You might offend someone unknowingly. Even a wheezing old geezer who has difficulty breathing might be one of the big shields. Even a look at him may cause someone to use a sabre to cut you on the next day. The most ridiculous thing is that there are always fools who believe in some bullshit and think that they can kill anyone here until they die without even knowing who they had offended. "
Gu Shenwei blushed a little. He had been such a 'fool' before, and even now the trouble he had caused had not yet been completely smoothed out.
There were several half-shields like Tie Hanfeng who had their own territory. One might go and hang around, but if one wanted to take over the business, one had to trade one's life for it. The core territory of Tie Hanfeng was the southwall tavern. The tavern keeper himself was a shield and also one of Tie Hanfeng's most valued clients.
Tie Hanfeng had been very careful in expanding his territory, and he successfully laid his hands on the retention alley just a few months ago. He had bought a street-fronted house, and the prostitute hired by him was named Xu Yanwei.
Gu Shenwei still remembered the brother and sister of the Xu family he had saved twice last year; he didn't expect for them to fall into Lame Tie's 'devil claw' under the name of Servant Huan.
"The owner of this house is called Yang Huan." As he stood in the doorway, Tie Hanfeng proudly introduced the brothel to his disciple.
Gu Shenwei had never expected that he would own a brothel for no reason at all. He didn't even know what to say. His dream was to be a killer, but it seemed that it would sooner or later become a joke if he continued to muddle along with his Master.
He could also guess at Tie Hanfeng's intentions. The cripple was 'buying over' his disciple and wanted his disciple to take over his business after he retired. Of course, as a token of gratitude and reward, the disciple would have to regularly show filial piety to the Master.
Gu Shenwei thought that he would probably let his Master down.
On the eighth day of serving as bait, the experts of Waning Moon Hall and Great Desolate Sect still hadn't come. Gu Shenwei, however, found the whereabouts of the enemy when he followed his Master to kill someone.