Editors: Cypress Venus Trap, Nyxnox
Chapter 141 Nurture
The brown-belted killers of the small flag battalion didn't immediately return to Golden Roc Castle. Instead, they stayed in Southern Jade City, basically wasting their time. Everyone was busy counting how many people they had killed and how large their contribution was, as this would determine who would be qualified for the killer's title at the end of the month.
According to the lunar calendar, the thirteenth birthday of the Shangguan twins fell on October 29th. On this day, each of the two would select ten teenage killers to form their own killer team. The ones who were selected would be promoted from brown-belted killers to official killers.
But the mission had ended so quickly that many people didn't even have a chance to draw their sabre, let alone make a contribution. It was all Servant Huan's 'fault'. He exposed the Great Desolate Sect's conspiracy and had caused the enemy to quickly collapse. He himself killed four people, but didn't give the others any chances.
Gu Shenwei found himself isolated again. Except for a few members of the former Bi Nu Gang who were still loyal to him, most people now viewed him as a harbinger of bad luck who always wanted to steal the show. Servant Huan could have told Yu Gongzi the information and let the whole small flag battalion share in the contributions, but he had instead run back to the castle and directly reported it to Tenth Gongzi.
Many people knew that Servant Huan and Shangguan Yushi were not on good terms with each other, but very few people knew that the hatred between the two had reached the level of life and death.
Shangguan Yushi was more dissatisfied with the situation than anyone else. The fact that Servant Huan had asked for credit from Tenth Gongzi was nothing but a stab in the back. However, she didn't dare to act rashly now, so she simply refused to meet him. Gu Shenwei wasn't able to see Yu Gongzi for even a few times after he had returned to Golden Roc Castle.
For the first few days, Gu Shenwei tried to keep a low profile and focused most of his attention onto Lotus.
Lotus hadn't suffered much, but her murderous heart was still crippled by the Essay of Severing Obsession, which was greatly affecting her sabresmanship.
She didn't kill anyone or make a contribution in this mission and had basically lost the possibility of becoming a formal killer at the end of this month. If her martial arts skill kept decreasing, it would be very difficult for her to rise again.
They had tried many methods like reciting the sutra inversely, randomly, and even secretly assassinating a new sabreman at the edge of the city, but nothing had any effect. Although Lotus could still kill, her speed was noticeably slower.
According to his own experience, Gu Shenwei felt that only when Lotus faced a real life-death crisis could she have a breakthrough and regain her murderous heart.
With regards to the Daoless Scroll mentioned by Kang Wenhui, Lotus had also never heard of it. The two decided to not mention this to others, just in case the Daoless Scroll was a secret deliberately hidden by the castle which would make it very unwise to ask around about it.
In their last free days at Southern Jade City, Tie Hanfeng had found a job for his disciple.
Gu Shenwei already felt that his Master's attitude had changed a lot recently. He rarely lost his temper except during the assassination of the Nie Qing's family, so Gu Shenwei thought that it was the time for him to repay his Master. With the contribution he had made, Gu Shenwei would definitely become a formal killer several days later, which meant he would be free of his Master's control and it was now Lame Tie's best time to 'pick the fruit.'
His guess was right.
It was a simple task; the Master and disciple would cooperate in a robbery. For this robbery, however, Tie Hanfeng had been preparing for almost ten years.
It was ten years ago that Tie Hanfeng suddenly realized that the killer's career was meaningless. They were told not to pursue fame and money, but through every assassination someone would gain fame and money, it was just that it had nothing to do with the killers. From then on, Tie Hanfeng was determined to live well and die peacefully and naturally in Northern Jade City.
Compared to a common killer's goal of 'killing however many people', Tie Hanfeng's goal appeared to be vulgar, but was actually more difficult to achieve. There was a price for enjoying the safety of the Northern Jade City, and it wasn't small. Without over ten thousand taels of silver, it was impossible to afford the high living expenses there.
A killer couldn't make that much money, and Tie Hanfeng didn't want to suffer from poverty by saving it up slowly. Drinking, sleeping with women, he didn't want to give up any of his vices. Although there were many rich people in Jade City, he couldn't rob them because they all had backers and he couldn't afford to provoke them. Even if he got the money through robbing, he couldn't spend it. Because of this, he had designed a time-consuming but extremely safe way to make money.
Tie Hanfeng was a half-shield of the escorting business at Southern Jade City and usually helped to introduce reliable sabremen to rich businessmen. He had several regular customers and the most loyal one was called Zhou Lan, who was also known as 'Bag Zhou'.
Bag Zhou was the big shield of the rice and flour trade, and it was him who had hired Tie Hanfeng and his disciple to kill the sabreman Nie Qing.
Bag Zhou's history was closely related to Tie Hanfeng. It was Tie Hanfeng who had introduced the former flour shop owner to several big shields with strong backgrounds in the first place. Then, Tie Hanfeng pushed him up step by step to the top until he controlled the rice and flour shops of a whole street.
Bag Zhou was ambitious and smart. After he reached a certain height with the help of Tie Hanfeng, he started taking fate into his own hands by tossing away money to meet more rich and powerful people while making money at the same time. He used this method to consolidate his status as all the people he met were beyond the reach of Lame Tie.
But the friendship between the two wasn't weakened due to this. On the matter of personal safety, Bag Zhou continued to trust and rely on Tie Hanfeng.
About two or three years ago, Tie Hanfeng started instilling Bag Zhou with an idea, that all the shields of Jade City, no matter how big or small, didn't have a good end. It was time to retire and return home gloriously, but you'd better not show off your wealth. Wealth begot misfortune. These were reputed words for a myriad of years.
Bag Zhou had saved up lots of silver and had long been worried. He was unconsciously influenced by Tie Hanfeng and became more uneasy, so he thought of a way to 'not show off his wealth'.
Bag Zhou suddenly became a dissolute old man, and he only mingled with the most expensive, and most famous of prostitutes. The amount of money he threw out was innumerable. The ones knew him all said that if Bag Zhou kept spending like this, he would waste all of his money sooner or later.
Bag Zhou wasn't stupid, and he didn't let Tie Hanfeng join in on his scheme. Tie Hanfeng pretended not to notice anything and even advised him not to waste too much money on women.
After ten years of careful nurturing, Bag Zhou finally grew up. After he had spent the last part of his surface fortune, he decided to transfer his business to someone else in return for some money and spend his rest of life in his hometown. Everyone saw this as another commonly seen failure story of Southern Jade City.
Only Tie Hanfeng knew that countless gold and silver treasures were hidden in the junk on Bag Zhou's carts.
"At least two hundred thousand taels!" Lame Tie excitedly said to his disciple, "Enough for me to live comfortably until I die. Damn it, I still fall short of the best but I am better than the worst. I won't have to touch my sabre in my rest of life."
As for how Bag Zhou had transferred his property, Tie Hanfeng also revealed it to his disciple, and repeatedly reminded him that this was a top secret that very few people knew.
The method was whoredom, and to whore the most expensive prostitute. "Remember Xue Fengchai? She lives next door to Xu Yanwei. She is the hottest and most expensive woman in retention alley. But not only is she a prostitute, she also makes money by hiding wealth for rich people. You give her the money as a favour and let everyone see it. She will pay you back in secret and only keep one-tenth as interest. Her backer is Golden Roc Castle; you don't need to know who it is. Anyway, she never worries about safety. No one dares to touch her no matter how much silver she takes. Heh heh, Bag Zhou thinks that I don't know this secret, but I knew as soon as he entered Xue Fengchai's house."
Now, everything was ready except for the time. Bag Zhou would 'downheartedly' leave the city tomorrow and return to his hometown in Shu Le Country. Tie Hanfeng decided that it was time to make his move.
The robbery wasn't difficult. Since Bag Zhou left the city as a poor man, he wouldn't dare to hire expensive bodyguards, not to mention using the Golden Roc flag.
But it was also not a good idea to carry out the robbery in Golden Roc Castle's territory because Tie Hanfeng would have to hand over half of his gains, which would be a great loss. And they also couldn't do it too late. No one knew if the information would be leaked or if a gang of bandits might rob it first.
"There's a T junction on the west side of Jade City. It will take about five days to walk there, and two days if you gallop. The north-south road at the T junction is the western border of Golden Roc Castle. One step outside and it will be no longer under Golden Roc Castle's protection. We'll make a move there. You go first and clean up the area on the west side. I've heard that it's been unsafe these two years. Do not let those nameless bandits ruin my big business. I have to follow and escort that old bastard to the border, in case someone tries to rob him in advance. Xue Fengchai is said not to be loose-tongued, but we can't trust her all."
This was the final purpose of Tie Hanfeng taking on a disciple over a year ago. He needed a helper, and it would be better if this helper didn't ask for much in return.
Gu Shenwei couldn't ask for anything in return. Tie Hanfeng had taught him kung fu, saved his life, and even opened a brothel under his name. And he was also pleased to have the opportunity to settle the debt at one time. In fact, Tie Hanfeng's request was negligible in his view.
"There aren't many people who don't put gold and silver in their eyes, but you can be counted as one of them." This was Tie Hanfeng's comment on his disciple, which had some hidden meanings, "Your Master will not forget you. I'll transfer all of my business to you. You can prepare early and raise another Bag Zhou so that you won't have to work hard for many years like me. Retire early when you have the chance."
The only way for Gu Shenwei to retire was to die, but he didn't say it out loud. Instead, he obediently set out in advance and cleaned up the road ahead. As for Shangguan Yushi, she didn't want to see Servant Huan at all, so Gu Shenwei also didn't intend to ask for her permission.
Gu Shenwei had a deep impression of the T junction Tie Hanfeng had mentioned as it was very close to his home, only half a day's travel on horseback. It was also at this place that he had been reduced to a slave and taken the first step towards sneaking into Golden Roc Castle.
Bag Zhou would move out the next day. The carts he had hired were the cheapest ox-carts that moved slowly. Gu Shenwei was almost three or four days ahead, so he had enough time to check all the valleys and moors within a few dozen miles. He did find a small group of bandits, numbering a dozen. They stayed for one night before leaving. Gu Shenwei didn't make a move.
Then he couldn't resist the impulse in his heart anymore and rode back to the site of the Gu family manor.
The village at the foot of the mountain was empty now. Not even a single family of villagers stayed.
The manor on the mountain had been swallowed by weeds. After only two years' time, he almost couldn't see any more traces of that big fire. The broken walls were covered with all kinds of plants, and insects and snakes could be occasionally found.
This place was nothing like the home Gu Shenwei had in his memory. He stood amongst the weeds, looking for those most vivid emotions he had before. Familial affection, laughter, grief, they were all gone. He found with surprise that even the hatred in his heart became thinner.
All that was left was an urge to kill.