Chapter 148 Hall Leader
Shangguan Chui’s death had caused a chain reaction throughout Golden Roc castle.
The second young lord Shangguan Tian was urgently recalled back to assume his older brother’s position as assistant to his father. He was originally on Madam Meng’s side, so the first thing he did after coming home was visit his ‘mother’. He also asked his wife to pass along the message that he had no intention to compete for the title of ‘Unique King.’
The fourth, fifth, and seventh young lord had been loyal to their big brother Shangguan Chui so they were now very anxious. Specifically in order to comfort them, the Unique King increased the number of killers and sabremen under the three, sent them to the two large countries of Bei Ting and Shu Le, and asked the monarchs of the two countries to ensure their safety.
The other young lords once again showed their allegiance to Madam Meng. Even the eighth young mistress Luo Ningcha had to make amends to her mother-in-law and admit that she was meddlesome and had misunderstood her mother-in-law’s good intentions. Fortunately she didn’t call out Servant Huan, but she did summon him later and threw a tantrum at him.
Gu Shenwei had no choice but to carefully persuade the Miss and let her know that Madam Meng was just taking advantage of Shangguan Hong and his mother and that she had no true feelings towards the two. The Yang knew this very well and would naturally thank the Miss for her help. Now that the Yang’s status had been improved due to her son, it would also be good for Miss, and so on and so forth.
On the day of the kill, the twins’ sabre awarding ceremony was carried out as planned. For the first time, Shangguan Ru followed her elder brother into the Liu Sha Temple formally, and offered sacrifices to the ancestors.
Even though Madam Meng was victorious, Shangguan Ru had not received the title of ‘young lord’. Although the Great Desolate Sect was almost wiped out, the war between the Waning Moon Hall and Golden Roc Castle was still ongoing, and the Unique King didn’t want to give the outside world any cause to gossip at this time.
A total of twenty brown-belted killers obtained the red belt and became official killers, though it would have been twenty-one killers if Servant Huan, who graduated earlier, had been counted. The additional graduee who replaced Servant Huan was Lotus. As Gu Shenwei expected, Lotus had made a great contribution at the last moment, and this had gained her Madam Meng’s favour and secured her the killer’s title.
When assigning the killers, Shangguan Ru took the lead as usual and chose the ten best killers including Servant Huan, Lotus, Wild Horse, and Liuhua. Shangguan Fei took the remaining eleven killers, having an advantage in the quantity.
On the seventh day after the sabre awarding ceremony, Golden Roc Castle held an afterlife ritual, and almost all of the killers who stayed in the castle watched the ritual. Many young killers even saw the King Lord for the first time.
The Unique King didn’t show up during his wife’s battle with his son which had spawned many rumours. His presence suppressed these numerous discussions, but still no one knew why Madam Meng had gained the full support of King Lord and surprisingly gotten the Golden Roc Seal and Liu Sha Sabre.
Eleven of Shangguan Chui’s killers were still alive. One of them held his head while the other ten carried his corpse. They sent their lord to the Afterlife Cliff, placed him upon a pile of firewood, encircled the funeral pyre, and knelt down. Someone threw a torch and the woodpile immediately turned into raging fire.
The eleven killers repeatedly chanted the afterlife sut
ra, “The soul rises to the nine heavens, the spirit falls to the nine abysses. The living suffers in grief, the dead settle in peace.”
Hundreds of killers stood near the Afterlife Cliff like a group of dark clouds. They all followed and repeated the words in a low voice. The chanting sound combined into a solemn and slow dirge.
The corpse was cremated, and the remaining wood and bones were thrown off the cliff.
The eleven killers drew out their narrow sabres, broke them, and threw them away with their scabbards. Then another eleven killers went over, cut off their heads and also dropped them off the cliff. The ritual had come to an end.
Gu Shenwei stood in the crowd and looked at the expressionless Unique King from afar. He wished that he could turn into a little bug and fly into the King Lord’s heart to see what this man, who overawed the people of the Western Regions, was truly feeling. Had he really killed his own brothers for the throne? Was he really indifferent to his oldest son’s death?
Shangguan Hong, who had acquired a new identity, was bashful and worried as he stood behind Shangguan Fa. Although he was several years older than the twins, he had to wait for some time to obtain the title of ‘young lord’. Even so, he was terrified and had no confidence in his new position.
Gu Shenwei thought, Shangguan Hong will never be the son Unique King likes, which may save his life.
The infighting of the Shangguan family was soon forgotten, and those who hadn’t, forced themselves to lose their memory. Everything worked as usual in the castle as if it had never been stained by a drop of blood at all.
The day after the afterlife ritual, Shangguan Ru summoned her ten killers for the first time at Kun HuaYard.
Apart from not having the title of ‘young lord’, Shangguan Ru’s small organization was exactly the same as Shangguan Fei’s. Shangguan Yushi was appointed as the ‘strategist’, which was a title chosen by Shangguan Ru but wasn’t acknowledged by the castle. Wearing a neat, male attire, Yu Gongzi stood by Tenth Gongziwith her hand gripping a sabre. Her serious and cold expression seemed to tell people that she would never dress like a woman and marry in her lifetime.
Killers were the core force of a young lord, but they were not all that a young lord had. Usually, a young lord had to recruit more sabremen in Jade City to establish a peripheral organization. This task fell on Servant Huan, and because of this he was given the title of Hall Leader of the Outer Hall, which was a nominal position as it had been invented by Shangguan Ru on the spur of the moment.
In fact, there were signs this arrangement had already been planned. When they assassinated the Ten Dragons Gang, Gu Shenwei had already been appointed as the spy. He had gone to the city the most and had learnt the most things from Tie Hanfeng. It seemed that someone had made these arrangements a year ago.
Gu Shenwei couldn’t help but suspect Shangguan Yushi, because in this way he was separated from Tenth Gongzi again, which was just what she wanted.
In fact, this was also what Gu Shenwei wanted. The fight between Shangguan Chui and Madam Meng made him understand one thing. A man with powerful martial arts skills might not be the strongest one, and a weak woman could also have great power and win over people.
Gu Shenwei would break up openly with Golden Roc Castle sooner or later. He couldn’t fight the largest killer’s organization under heaven all by himself, so he had to start building his own forces now.
Of course, he couldn’t carry out such things openly. That’s why it was a great opportunity for him to form a sabremen team for Tenth Gongzi.
It seemed that Shangguan Yushi wanted to test Servant Huan’s ability by sending him into the city alone. Although someone would meet up with him in the city, he was the one in charge and had to take all responsibility.
Gu Shenwei went down the mountain with a sabre, a sword, and a killer’s name tag with the character ‘jue’ in his robe.
He first went to Southern Jade City to find a man called Liu Waizui. It took an entire day for someone to send him the sabre and sword he had relinquished at the gateway between Northern and Southern Jade City. It seemed that the halo of the ‘Outer Hall Leader’ couldn’t shine beyond Golden Roc Castle.
Liu Waizui’s mouth wasn’t wry at all. He was in his thirties and actually looked rather handsome. It was just that he looked at others the wrong way. He always squinted one of his eyes as if he was spying on others at all times. 1
Liu Waizui was more interested in the infighting that had just subsided in the castle, and kept teasing this teenage Hall Leader, hoping to pry more gossip out of him about it. He finally started introducing the relevant information reluctantly after his attempts failed.
First of all, one needed money to build a sabreman team. The sabremen drew their blades for coin. The better the sabremen, the higher the cost. This wasn’t a problem for Gu Shenwei, as he had a written pledge and could draw 20,000 taels of silver from a gambling house, which was enough to last him a while. According to Liu Waizui’s estimate, his money was enough to recruit about 50 to 100 sabremen.
Next, one must have sharp eyes. The Southern Jade City was full of wandering sabremen, and one could even casually pull a sabreman from the roadside mud ditch. It was not written on a sabreman’s face whether he was good or mediocre. So whether the money spent was worth it or not solely depended on the recruiter’s ability. Although Liu Waizui didn’t say anything directly, he showed an obvious suspicion that Servant Huan lacked this requirement.
Indeed, Gu Shenwei was still a sixteen year old teenager. Many outsiders hadn’t heard about what he had done in the castle. Although the brown-belted killers had caused a sensation in Southern Jade City before, it was forgotten by most people by now.
Finally one also needed a courtyard to keep these sabremen and other necessary people like the bean counters, clerical staff, and servants.
Gu Shenwei remembered that Zhang Ji had once said that these tasks originally had to be done by the young lords in person to practise their leadership. The tasks gradually became seen as less important and were given to the servants.
So Gu Shenwei wasn’t bothered about handling these small matters at all. He spent three whole days with Liu Waizui to collect the money, rent a courtyard, and look for servants. The only chore left afterwards was to hire the sabremen.
The courtyard was located in the south-west of Southern Jade City and wasn’t far away from the southwall tavern and retention alley. It had several dozens of rooms lining in three rows, which were in a secluded place and easy to defend.
Liu Waizui naturally became the housekeeper. He had fought long for this chance, but it seemed that he would have been happier if he could have worked for Ninth Gongzi Shangguan Fei.
Then, Gu Shenwei wanted to handle some of his private affairs before hiring the sabremen.
On the afternoon of the fourth day after he entered the city, Gu Shenwei was armed with a sabre and sword and rode to retention alley to see the siblings of the Xu family.
Xu Xiaoyi looked very embarrassed after he opened the door. Gu Shenwei didn’t say anything. He walked into the house and asked Xu Xiaoyi to call his sister down.
Xu Yanwei was sleeping and was very unhappy after being woken by her younger brother. She became more displeased after hearing it was ‘Big Lord Huan’. She dawdled a long time before leaving her bedroom. Standing at the top of the stairs, she said, “Oh, isn’t this my lord? You must have come here to collect the silver. It’s a pity, someone took it away earlier. You shouldn’t blame us. Without you staying here to guard us, we can’t afford to offend those people.”
Xu Xiaoyi appeared more embarrassed than his sister, and he finally said, “It’s the Tavernkeeper Lü of southwall tavern. Brother Huan, you know, as soon as Lord Tie died, his businesses all belonged to Tavernkeeper Lü.”
The purpose for Gu Shenwei’s visit was to find out who had inherited his Master’s legacy, so he nodded and said “Follow me.”
“For what?” Xu Xiaoyi asked with his eyes wide open.
“To take the silver back.”
“Well, well … I can’t help you with that.”
Gu Shenwei gripped his sabre hilt, Xu Xiaoyi immediately changed his mind, “Yes, yes. How can I let Brother Huan go there alone? You are a killer now, and you have to have a servant, right?”
Xu Yanwei snorted upstairs, “If my brother loses a piece of flesh …”
Gu Shenwei raised his head and casually said, “No matter how many pieces your brother’s cut into, I’ll bring all of them back.”
Xu Yanwei’s face changed color before she stomped her feet and went back to her room, not coming out again.
Xu Xiaoyi tried to persuade Gu Shenwei, saying, “That’s what she is. A prostitute. She will please whoever is in charge. Well, you won’t fight with your sabre, won’t you? Tavernkeeper Lü is also a man of Golden Roc Castle, so we’re on the same side.”
Gu Shenwei didn’t answer. He should thank his Master Tie Hanfeng. It was that cripple who had led him to learn about Southern Jade City and introduced many big and small shields to him. So he knew that tavern keeper Lü wasn’t someone of the castle. He owned a tavern, an underground bank, and would pay money to both Golden Roc Castle and the Meng family every month. It was purely a business arrangement.
Gu Shenwei would bring back the siblings’ money, because it was his brothel. He would also bring back Tie Hanfeng’s money. It was the money stolen by him and his Master, which came to a couple of hundred thousand taels and was almost enough for the formation of a small army.
Translator’s note: Wai Zui means wry mouth.