Editor: Nyxnox, Xu Xian
Chapter 128 Losing the Murderous Heart
It was a mistake for a killer to learn about their victim's origin in detail.
A pot of good wine and a narrow sabre from Golden Roc Castle were enough for two sabremen who had lived in Southern Jade City for many years to say everything they knew. The bruises on Gu Shenwei's face from the earlier fight helped disguise his real age and made him look a lot more mature.
The two sabremen were fellow villagers with Nie Qing, all of them were from the Northeast Military Garrison Village.
Many years ago, when the Central Plains was at its prime, it had established many military garrisons in the Western Regions. There were as many as a hundred thousand soldiers that monitored and controlled almost all of the countries. But times had changed. When the Central Plains decided to regain control of the Western Regions again, there were only a few thousand soldiers still stationed there. All the military garrisons were deserted.
The former military garrisons had become normal villages, and those former abandoned soldiers had taken off their armor and picked up the hoe to become farmers. They married the local people and had their own children. Their dressing style and living habits were gradually assimilated into that of the local barbarians, but the culture of their warrior spirit had never declined; almost all the families hid weapons in their home and the first ironware the boys touched after being born was either the sabre or the spear.
Nie Qing was one of the soldiers' descendants in the military garrison villages. His parents died early but he still had an elder brother, elder sister and a younger sister. He followed the tradition of the military garrisons and practised kung fu since he was little and become a farmer when he grew up. Watching his childhood friends leave the village to venture through the world, whom either returned home after obtaining fame and wealth, or died in unknown places, he actually showed no envy.
That was, until he was in his thirties. One day, he dropped his hoe and said to his neighbors, "Anything this tool can dig up, the sabre and sword can too, they can do even more."
His wife had watched him for many years and knew the day her husband would be tempted to take risks would come. So instead of objecting, she only made one request, "I'm not waiting for anyone. Either you take us with you, or divorce me now and let me remarry and have your son change his surname."
With his wife and son, Nie Qing went down the same road his fellow villagers did and came to Jade City. It was exactly sixty days later when his whole family was killed.
Nie Qing seemed to have saved some money or he was sponsored by someone. Anyway, his life was not as shabby as the other wandering sabremen. Although he had never found a patron who appreciated him, he still managed to support his wife and children.
His elder brother was an honest peasant, the only man who didn't like sabre and sword in their village; his elder sister had married someone far away and lost contact with them long ago.
None of this information interested Gu Shenwei, and he became more and more restless as he continued listening. There was one piece of information that had attracted his attention. It was said that Nie Qing's younger sister was taken away by immortals when she was little, which had caused a great sensation in the military garrison villages.
But that was about it. The two fellow villagers didn't know where Nie Qing's younger sister had been taken and they even had some doubts on whether she had really gone away to study immortality or not. "Maybe she died, and Nie Qing's parents made up that story."
The two sabremen exposed their fellow villager's background, drank the last cup of wine and ran off in a hurry.
Gu Shenwei was sitting there thinking before someone came up to him.
It was also a sabremen, tall and strong. With round eyes and steep arched eyebrows, he projected natural dignity and power. He clapped the table and asked, "You killed the three of the Nie family?"
"Go away." Gu Shenwei gripped his narrow sabre on the table.
"It's enough to kill the man, why did you kill the woman and child?" The sabreman didn't step back, but raised his voice. The entire tavern grew quiet again.
Gu Shenwei looked up at the sabreman and felt that he was being judged. He had the impulse to kill again, "Because he had tied his wife and son's lives to his own when he decided to bring them with him."
Gu Shenwei didn't draw his sabre. He didn't know why he had explained himself because there was no need to explain anything, especially so to a strange sabreman.
The sabreman's face constricted in anger, and he suddenly spat. The thick phlegm fell on the narrow sabre sheath, then he turned and strode away.
The tavern was lively again, but the voices were much lower.
Tie Hanfeng watched with surprise as the sabreman walked out of the tavern. Then he took his leave from the tavern keeper and beckoned his disciple to follow him.
Outside the tavern, Tie Hanfeng punched his disciple in the stomach without saying anything. When Gu Shenwei was back on his feet, he said, "What the fuck is this? Where's the anger you had when you fought with me? Go kill him, and leave the head in the tavern."
"I don't want to kill anyone now." Gu Shenwei said stubbornly and walked into the dark alley.
Tie Hanfeng followed his disciple, his brow furrowed deeply. He had always felt that his disciple was worth being trained, but now his faith was wavering.
The two followed the intrepid sabreman to a village near the city. Several hours ago, the Master and disciple had killed a family of three here.
The bold sabreman entered his own courtyard. He was so enraged by his anger that he didn't notice he had been followed.
Gu Shenwei leaned against the wall and waited for a long while before he jumped inside.
Tie Hanfeng guarded outside, expecting his disciple to come out with a few heads. The result disappointed him and made him more bewildered. Because when Servant Huan came out, what he held in his hands was not heads, but a long, large iron spike.
The iron spike was about nine or ten inches long, square-headed and could be held with one hand. It had a sharp end and could actually be used as a weapon.
"What's' this?" Tie Hanfeng asked when they walked to a quiet place.
"I don't know. He hides a lot of these in his house."
The two made a turn and stopped by the door of Nie Qing's home. Tie Hanfeng became more and more annoyed, "I'm telling you, a killer never returns to the killing scene, on principle."
Gu Shenwei jumped inside by himself and found that the corpses had already been moved away, but the blood was still there. Under the firewood behind the stove, he found a pile of the same big iron spikes.
The Master and disciple walked through the dark alley while quietly discussed about those iron spikes. Tie Hanfeng also felt this was a bit strange, but he had a good explanation too, "They are sabremen, the iron spikes are probably the goods they were supposed to escort."
"But what can these iron spikes do? They are too thick to be used for building houses and not handy if used as a weapon."
"Go ask that bastard spitting at you, he must be able to spit out something else."
"Don't beat the grass and frighten away the snake right now."
"Now you're being cautious. Didn't you want to take the initiative and find those women?"
"Yes, so these sabremen aren't important. Hasn't the White Clothes Yard secretly deployed many people in Southern Jade City? Can they help monitor this sabreman?"
"How should I know? You're the bait, and I keep an eye on you. That's all I care about,"
Tie Hanfeng said with an angry tone. Gu Shenwei knew that he had touched his Master's sore spot. Lame Tie was a half-shield at Southern Jade City, but had no status at the castle.
It was midnight after they returned to Xu Yanwei's small house. Xu Xiaoyi immediately told them the bad news.
A Golden Roc killer had just been assassinated.
The Master and disciple immediately went to the spot where the incident took place. It was a low-class brothel which also provided housing accommodation.
The people of Golden Roc Castle had blockaded the brothel and were interrogating the prostitutes and guests one by one. Tie Hanfeng showed his name tag (yao pai) and led his disciple inside. Soon the details of the incident were made clear.
The killer Wu Ling had settled down in this brothel and was killed by an assassin in one move while he was having sex with a prostitute.
Wu Ling was famous in the castle, and his sabresmanship was very good. Although he was a bit old now, he was still much better than some average killers. Like Tie Hanfeng, he was also used to be the third young lord's subordinate and now worked as a killer Master.
The Master and disciple saw the corpse. There was only one wound, the sharp weapon pierced through the left eye and exited through the back of the head. Wu Ling was naked with his mouth open, half of his face covered in blood. His narrow sabre was lying on the bed, unsheathed, which meant that he was killed without knowing anything.
The prostitute who slept with Wu Ling hadn't regained her composure yet, crying and moaning, "It's a ghost, a ghost with long hair! It held a sword, and he died right away after the blow!" This was her answer to all the questions.
This assassination made the killers present very embarrassed. Wu Ling was an expert, and there were also many people lurking around the brothel. This was supposed to be a trap to lure the snake out of the whole, but when the snake finally came it had slipped away.
Gu Shenwei knew this killer Master called Wu Ling, he was Lotus's Master.
In total Wu Ling had taken ten Jia Chen disciples, but there were only two left after the slaughter, one of them being Lotus.
Those four brown-belted killers were kept at Southern Jade City as bait, and the ones who stayed with them were their own Masters. Wu Ling led Lotus to live in the brothel. In Golden Roc Castle, men and women were the same. If one wanted to be a killer, one had to forget about one's gender.
Tie Hanfeng and other killers gathered together and chatted, but they had to wait for someone from the castle to decide what to do next.
Gu Shenwei found Lotus in a small room.
Lotus was very calm, she hadn't seen her Master's corpse yet, "I came across the assassin in the yard but wasn't able to draw my sabre in time. That person's lightness skill was very good, the killers outside couldn't stop him either."
"Something's not right."
The two said these words without any clear purpose. Outsiders might be puzzled hearing what they said, but the two were very clear about what the other was saying.
For those who practised Death Sutra Swordsmanship, 'Being unable to draw the sabre in time' meant being killed. It also meant there was something wrong with the person holding the sabre,
Gu Shenwei had already realized that something was wrong with him when he followed his Master to kill the Nie family.
In Golden Roc Castle, he had killed many disciples who were even younger. In order to practise the swordsmanship, he had also killed many people he didn't even know. However, he hesitated and his hand was a bit weak when he was facing that fourteen year old teenager.
The fact that he had already been punched by his Master before he touched his sabre hilt in Xu Yanwei's small house was also because he hesitated.
Due to hesitation, he let go of the bold sabreman when he was challenged in the tavern. Although he found some strange iron spikes by tracking the sabreman later on, that was not the original idea he had in mind.
He killed Nie Qing and his son because their martial arts skill was poor and he didn't have to use the swordsmanship.
In his Master Tie Hanfeng's eyes, he no longer even looked like a killer.
Death Sutra Swordsmanship required the practitioner to be swift and precise. Slight hesitation showed betrayal of the swordsmanship's true meaning.
Lotus felt the same way as Gu Shenwei. It wasn't until she encountered the assassin that she realized she couldn't draw her sabre according to what the Death Sutra Swordsmanship required.
"It's the monk."
The suspect Lotus thought of was the same as Gu Shenwei's. Master Tiger Monk taught them a set of exorcism scriptures, which he claimed to be the correct pronunciation of the Death Sutra. Now it seemed to be very problematic.
What the two were unsure about was whether the other four teenagers who also learnt the scripture were similarly affected.
"Have you seen the corpse?" Gu Shenwei asked. He still had a more important question to communicate with her, or even 'interrogate' her with.
Lotus shook her head.
"The one who killed your Master also used the Death Sutra Swordsmanship."
Kill with one blow, and the sword even pierced through the eye. With only one glance, Gu Shenwei immediately knew that this was a technique he was very familiar with. Other than him and Lotus, he couldn't think of a third person who could do the same.