Chapter 129 Iron Spikes
Lotus was soon cleared of suspicion. The prostitute saw a ‘ghost with long hair’, which hinted the assassin was a woman, but several people saw Lotus meet the ‘ghost’ and almost have a fight in the courtyard. So the one who killed Wu Ling could not be her.
In fact, the killers outside who failed to stop the assassin also initially suspected that it was Lotus, but they soon found they weren’t right.
In Golden Roc Castle, almost no disciple would be sad when their Master was killed.
The Masters usually didn’t treat their disciples as human beings. Masters who had many disciples under them usually forced their disciples to fight to the death to quickly eliminate the weak, even outside of the slaughter period. Abuse and rape of the disciples was also common. The killer Masters not only went unpunished, but openly flaunted these actions in public.
Creating a heart of hatred was an important step in developing a cold-blooded killer.
But Wu Ling wasn’t killed by Lotus. Not only there were witnesses, but Lotus wouldn’t have to hide it. If she could kill her Master, she would have made a big show of it because then she could inherit her Master’s red belt and become an official killer.
Gu Shenwei had another suspicion: Lotus secretly taught Death Sutra to others.
But this suspicion was cleared soon as well. There were only four Jia Chen disciples left in Southern Jade City. Liuhua once tried to assassinate Lotus, and Wild Horse was the leader of the opposing side. All of them were irreconcilable enemies, and Lotus would rather disclose Death Sutra publicly than teach them.
Lotus had the same doubts about Gu Shenwei, but dispelled them for the same reasons.
The two settled down and took advantage of this rare moment of solitude to help inspire each other, and try to search for clues on what was going on like before.
Waning Moon Hall was once part of Golden Roc Castle. Death Sutra must have had a very close relationship with Golden Roc Castle, and was perhaps part of the swordsmanship that had been preserved in Waning Moon Hall.
Since the Four Noble Truths Temple had a fragment of the Death Sutra, it might also have part of the swordsmanship. The scripture taught by Tiger Monk could help reduce one’s murderous heart, and he seemed to have a deep understanding of the swordsmanship.
While Gu Shenwei and Lotus were worrying about their swordsmanship and the monk’s plot, the killers in another room were thinking about how to cover up this embarrassing defeat.
Golden Roc Castle sent someone to investigate as soon as it received the news. Guo Xiansheng from White Clothes Yard showed up at midnight. Following the King Lord’s order, he summoned all the forces in Southern Jade City to kill the disciples of Waning Moon Hall and Great Desolate Sect. The cautious plan of luring the snake out of its’ cave was abandoned; Golden Roc Castle was ready for a slaughter.
Wu Ling’s death was just one of the assassinations that took place that night. Several other assassinations occurred almost simultaneously while the killers were gathered in the brothel and looking for clues on the assassin.
Seven spies of Golden Roc Castle were killed, four killers including Wu Ling died, and there were several assassinations that had failed. Wild Horse was even able to fight back and kill one assassin, which was the only success of Golden Roc Castle that night. This also made Gu Shenwei and Lotus realize that they were the only ones whose murderous heart had been reduced after learning the exorcism scripture.
As the news kept coming, it finally became clear that this wasn’t an isolated incident. Waning Moon Hall and Great Desolate Sect were using this to
declare war with Golden Roc Castle. The war between them had already spread from the desert to Jade City.
As soon as the sun rose, the streets of southern Jade City were surprisingly full of people. Countless sabremen were hired to look for suspicious women. Those brothels, either large or small, became a severely affected area, and those who didn’t have a lot of connections or strong backers were immediately wiped out.
The Golden Roc killers and hired sabremen had killed over a hundred people by evening, some of whom had indeed had hidden steel thorns and surprisingly showed that they knew kung fu when they resisted, but the majority were innocent people.
The investigation afterwards showed that, although the hired sabremen were large in numbers and had the most kills, their results were the worst. They killed indiscriminately and without a purpose. Some of them even took advantage of the opportunity to avenge themselves. Only the Golden Roc killers were fully prepared and could focus on the targets.
As soon as the mass retaliation began, those four brown-belted killers used as bait were forgotten. Since no enemy no longer showed any interest in them, their value became insignificant.
The four teenagers were gathered and left alone in a small, isolated courtyard. Their Masters all went to join the manhunt. Although Tie Hanfeng was not satisfied with his disciple’s performance these two days, he still warned his disciple not to act on his own impulse. Now that the matter had developed into a battle between two big sects, it was definitely not something that could be solved by a teenager who wasn’t even a killer yet.
Gu Shenwei genuinely stayed there for two days. Then he couldn’t bear the torment of waiting anymore and decided to continue his investigation. He actually had some other plans in mind. If Waning Moon Hall was really powerful enough, he could help them in secret. The fiercer the fight between the two parties, the more helpful it would be for his revenge.
The four teenagers broke apart openly on this matter.
Wild Horse and Liuhua proudly refused Servant Huan’s invitation. Liuhua’s reason was simple and direct, “You’re not the leader anymore.” Wild Horse grimly stared at him instead, his wide-set eyes full of disdain.
Lotus was still Gu Shenwei’s only helper.
The first clue was that bold sabreman. Gu Shenwei didn’t want to alert the ‘snake’, but it wasn’t a concern now because now many ‘snakes’ were ‘dancing’ everywhere.
The tenant of the house had changed and sabreman turned out to have disappeared. A new tenant just moved in and didn’t know anything about the former tenant.
The second clue was that long, big iron spike which Tie Hanfeng didn’t take seriously, but Gu Shenwei still kept. The only thing he could do now was to go to some smithies and ask about it.
It was noon time and there were few pedestrians on the streets. Not many people dared to find joy in Southern Jade City during this special time. Occasionally, they would come across a few men with aggressive eyes who kept staring at Lotus, unwilling to leave until they saw the narrow sabre by her waist.
The initial killing spree was over. Golden Roc Castle, Waning Moon Hall, and Great Desolate Sect were all back to normal and only worked at night. The two parties had their own gains and losses over the past two days, and Golden Roc Castle had a slight upper hand.
Many sabremen came to Jade City to make a living, so there were many smithies. Most of them were gathered together and a village of them was formed in the Southeastern suburbs. To prevent disturbing their neighbors with the ceaseless sound of hammering, the village was surrounded by earthen walls.
Since the beginning of the war, there were only a few remaining prosperous businesses in Jade City, and blacksmithing was one of them. One could clearly hear the clanking sound inside the walls from afar.
Gu Shenwei found that it was not easy to find the origin of the iron spike in this place. There were nearly sixty big and small smithies on both sides of the street. The two teenagers were strangers here. None of the blacksmiths would talk much when they heard that the two weren’t doing business, but asking for information.
In the end, the two found what looked like the largest shop. They silently entered the yard and guarded the door. Seeing their unsheathed narrow sabres, people moving in and out all stayed far away.
Several blacksmiths in the shop stopped their work and looked at the two teenagers who had come with bad manners. One of them put down his hammer and wiped his hands with his apron while measuring up the intruders. “Just a moment, please.”
The blacksmith squeezed past the two and hurried away. Soon, he came back with a long-robed big man.
Gu Shenwei didn’t know this big man’s name, but could guess his identity. This was a big shield of the smithy business, but he had never been introduced by Tie Hanfeng before.
“I am Du Qi. What’re you up to?” Big Shield clasped his hands and said while glancing the narrow sabre hanging by the teenager’s waist.
“Just asking around. But people here aren’t very talkative.”
Du Qi sneered curtly and said, “You must be disciples of the castle, didn’t you learn any manners before you came out?”
Du Qi flipped his robe, revealing his black clothes and red belt. It turned out that he, like Tie Hanfeng, was a Golden Roc killer. He looked to be in the prime of his life and was probably still working for one of the young lords.
Gu Shenwei knew that he was causing trouble again. Tie Hanfeng had never introduced this big shield to him and there must have been a reason behind this. It was highly possible that the two weren’t on good terms with each other.
“We are under orders.” Gu Shenwei kept his composure. Based on his past experience, he’d rather hang on than retreat under such a situation.
Du Qi looked puzzled, “Do you have an overseer’s name tag?”
People who came out of Golden Roc Castle to do something had special name tags which could be used to determine their identities.
Gu Shenwei only had a brown-belted killer name tag, it could be used for bluffing commoners, but couldn’t deceive a real killer. So he didn’t reach into his robes, he held his sabre hilt instead, “No.”
Gu Shenwei had always hesitated when killing people these days. The power of his sabresmanship had been greatly reduced, but not to the point of being unable to use the sabre completely. Judging from the way Du Qi walked, he was by no means an expert like Tie Hanfeng.
Du Qi’s face was taut for a while, then he suddenly smiled, “Are you Tenth Gongzi’s subordinates?”
Gu Shenwei didn’t answer.
“What do you want to ask?”
“Who made this nail?” Gu Shenwei took out that big, spear head-like iron spike.
Du Qi frowned as he glanced at it, then said to a blacksmith, “Go ask.”
The blacksmith went out to ask around and brought back a man called Elder Hong.
Elder Hong’s smithy was so small that it was almost completely hidden by the two neighboring smithies. It would have been very difficult for the customers to find it if no one led them there.
Elder Hong was a short, stocky old man whose back had a slight hunch. Expressionless and stubborn, he turned a cold shoulder to the arrival of big shield Du Qi and those he brought.
“He’s hard to deal with, but he’s a top level craftsman.” Du Qi reminded and stayed outside the shop, neither following inside nor leaving right away.
“You made this nail?” Gu Shenwei asked.
“I don’t know.” Cried Elder Hong gruffly. His voice was so loud, as if the teenager asking questions was a little brat who came to make trouble.
Even big shield Du Qi’s attitude wasn’t as bad. Gu Shenwei couldn’t help but be a bit stunned, his hand touching the sabre hilt again.
Lotus, who hadn’t said anything, opened her mouth, “We want two swords made.”
Elder Hong finally stopped what he was doing and handed over his hammer to his nervous disciple nearby. “What kinds of swords?”
Lotus drew her narrow sabre. “Make them as long as this, but a bit narrower. Use the best iron.”
Elder Hong glanced at the narrow sabre. “Got it. Two swords, one hundred taels of silver. Hand the silver over now and pick up the swords after half a month.”
One hundred taels of silver was enough to buy a pile of ordinary sabres and swords. Gu Shenwei didn’t know Lotus’s intentions, but he still produce a piece of gold worth over a hundred taels.
Lotus took it, but didn’t give it to Elder Hong at once, “Carve a character on each sword hilt, ‘Huan’ and ‘Yun’.”
Lotus was her servant name, her real name was Huo Yun.
Faced with such a bold and sudden display of affection, Gu Shenwei was stupefied on the spot and didn’t know what to say.
Lotus was still impassive, “Now tell me, for whom were these iron spikes made? And what are they used for?”
Elder Hong looked at the yellow gold and licked his lips, “I can’t tell you who ordered them, that’s the rule. As for what they are used for, I don’t know. I just made them according to the customer’s requests. If I have to guess, it might be used for building a very high shelf or climbing a mountain. You know, hammer a nail every few steps.”