Chapter 156 Pursuing the Murderer
The death of the duke Gao Zhen was rather strange, but there was no blame to be given as sneaking into Southern Jade City while the Kun and Qiu Society were still having a ferocious battle was a suicidal move.
The patriarchs of both sides requested for the leaders of the two societies to not enter Southern Jade City. Everyone agreed that this rule was unfavourable towards the Qiu Society.
As a teenage girl, Shangguan Ru was curious but had no desire towards the taverns, gambling houses, and brothels in Southern Jade City, so it was relatively easy for her to restrain herself. The gongzis of the other party, however, were different. Hiding in Northern Jade City was no different from being jailed. Before long, they began to miss the hustle and bustle as well as the beauty of Southern Jade City, leaving them restless like a stag in heat.
The first man who couldn't hold back any longer was precisely Duke Gao. He probably felt that it would be peaceful at the end of the year and that the two parties would not arrange any assassinations, so he only brought one close servant with him. He left Northern Jade City from the east gate, travelled in a big circle, and entered Southern Jade City from one of the gaps in the wall. After that, he made his way directly to the home of a familiar whore in the retention alley to enjoy himself.
The two soon realized their 'wish' to die together. After the murder, several experts came to inspect the crime scene and they all concluded that the murder weapon was a sword.
There were not many swordsmanship experts in all of Jade City and one who held a grudge against the duke was even rarer. So one of his best friends, Sword Offering Ye Si Lang, announced on the last day of the year that the murderer must be the killer Yang Huan from the Kun Society. And to avenge his friend, Ye Silang asked for a duel on the ninth day of the first month of the lunar year in the Rouge Forest.
Duke Gao wasn't an ordinary sabreman. As soon as the news of his death came to light, the castle sent someone to Southern Jade City to investigate it. The eleven killers, including Shangguan Yushi, all had to explain where they had been when the murderer occurred.
The five assassination teams were outside gathering information about the enemy and they all had their partners to verify their alibi except for Liuhua who was a loner. But Liuhua was only good at using the bow and arrow. Not to mention his swordsmanship, even his sabresmanship was mediocre. So the prime suspects were still Servant Huan and Lotus.
The two had swords and their relationship was ambiguous, so their testimony for each other was untrustworthy. However, there was no more evidence supporting that Yang Huan was the murderer. This was especially true for the 'evidence' of him knowing swordsmanship as no one in the castle believed it. If he really had superb swordsmanship, he would have shown it when he was still at East Castle. He would not have been pushed into danger several times and almost die under Wild Horse's sabre during one of the monthly tests.
Ye Silang swore that Yang Huan was a swordsman due to the way he held his sword. This argument was quite controversial because many people thought that the reason Yang Huan had touched his sword in the Rouge Forest was because of panic. Afterall, the sword and the sabre were carried together and it was possible to confuse the two.
But the Qiu Society didn't let go of the murder case. The leaders of the Qiu Society believed that the murderer must be from the Kun Society. And since there were only two people from them that used a sword, the murderer must be one of the two.
After two days of bickering, Shangguan Ru became angry. They were at war and killing was normal. Since Duke Gao had entered Southern Jade City, killing him was not be a violation of the rule. So, she accepted Ye Silang's challenge on behalf of Gu Shenwei.
Gu Shenwei was caught in a dilemma.
He had been hoping to meet an expert to practise his swordsmanship on, but he would rather do it secretly. Also, he had already lied to the castle by saying he didn't know swordsmanship. If he suddenly killed someone in public with his mysterious swordsmanship, he wouldn't know how to patch up his lies.
An alternative for him was to duel with his sabre. The Death Sutra Swordsmanship and the Golden Roc Sabresmanship had some similar aspects, and he could use the sword techniques with his narrow sabre, which was exactly what he and Lotus did normally. But Ye Silang was an expert. For a kung fu competition between experts, the smallest difference could mean the difference between life and death.
Gu Shenwei was always a bit slower when using a sabre. Although this small difference might not be conspicuous to outsiders, it might cost him his life.
Shangguan Ru was very confident about Servant Huan's power and had accepted the duel for him. Gu Shenwei could do nothing but come to Northern Jade City and carefully tell Tenth Gongzi that he was a killer and kung fu competition in the ring was not his strong suit.
Just like before, Shangguan Ru was very excited about such things. "Take it easy," she comforted. "I've already thought about this. The time and place of the duel is up to him, but the rules are up to me. I have an idea. Instead of fighting in public, you two can take the whole Rouge Forest as a venue, like the duel you had with Wild Horse."
During the slaughter amongst the disciples, Servant Huan and Wild Horse had had a duel. They tracked each other in the ruins of houses, both searching for a chance to strike, but the duel was ultimately called off by the Unique King at the last moment.
Gu Shenwei could only accept it and he couldn't use his sword. In order to show that his sword was only a memento, he had to leave it outside before entering the Rouge Forest. But having the duel in this way also somehow gave him some advantages that would make up for his shortcomings in sabresmanship a bit.
Lotus had thought of many methods for him, such as hiding the sword in the forest in advance and disguising it after killing Ye Silang.
Gu Shenwei didn't agree. For one, it might be discovered by others. Another was that he didn't want to place his hopes on external help. It would destroy his will to kill if he kept thinking about getting the sword.
The duel was unavoidable now. Not only did the Qiu Society and Kun Society want them to do it, but the residents of Jade City also supported this duel, both for the sake of watching the fun and for ending the bloodshed in the city by killing someone outside the city.
So all of a sudden, Ye Silang's revenge became a competition between the two parties. A swordsman and a killer who didn't acknowledge himself as a swordsman would decide the most powerful emerging force in Southern Jade City.
The whole matter developed so quickly that so many people turned their attention to the duel on the ninth day of the first month that even the atmosphere of the New Year was diluted, not to mention the cause of the duel — the death of Duke Gao.
Gu Shenwei's sense of rationality was also muddled. He kept thinking about how he could conceal his swordsmanship. It was not until the third day that he suddenly realized that this duel was inexplicable; the two parties should have actually focused on finding the real murderer.
As he thought of this, Gu Shenwei immediately felt that Ye Silang's story had a problem because he couldn't wait to get revenge as soon as Duke Gao died, as if he were trying to conceal something.
Gu Shenwei made some inquiries. To his bewilderment, Ye Silang and Duke Gao had been close friends for many years. They were like blood brothers, one a military man and the other a civil gongzi. They were famous in Jade City. The key was that they didn't have any conflicts of interest. Ye Silang didn't like money or beauty, and he was not from the same country as Duke Gao, so it was also not related to messy palace politics. No matter which aspects their relationship was looked at, Ye Silang had no reason to kill. This was also why no one suspected Ye Silang after Duke Gao died of a sword wound.
The suspicion was broken at the very beginning, but Gu Shenwei still decided to continue investigating.
Shangguan Ru didn't understand, saying, "Just duel. Why should we find out the real murderer for the enemy? If you ask me, it's all the same no matter who killed him. Just take this opportunity to wipe out the arrogance of the Qiu Society."
"That's true. But we've got to find out who's behind this. This person wants to fish in troubled waters, and we can't let him off so easy." Gu Shenwei himself was a veteran in fishing in troubled waters, so he was very alert to this.
So, the duel on the ninth day of the first lunar month remained unhindered, but Gu Shenwei was permitted to find the real murderer in the following six days. He also had to find time to practise his sabresmanship and get familiar with the terrain of the Rouge Forest. Even he himself didn't know why he was so committed to the case, but he just couldn't stand that the enemy was hiding in the dark. Perhaps it was due to his killer's instinct, but he always regarded hiding in the dark as his prerogative.
On the afternoon of the third day, Gu Shenwei and Shangguan Ru came to visit the patrol commandant Zhong Heng. As the corpse had already been put in the coffin, they could only go to this peace officer in name for help learning more details about the murder.
Zhong Heng was as warm as ever, especially with Shangguan Ru. He treated her as a distinguished guest and the young lord of Golden Roc Castle and didn't give an indication that he was dealing with a little girl. This made Shangguan Ru very satisfied, and she became more interested in the investigation of the real murderer.
Zhong Heng had seen the corpse at the murder scene, describing it as, "The wound was in the front and it was certainly a sword wound. The woman died the same way, with a single shot through the heart. I'd say that was not the castle's style."
The two teenagers knew what the patrol commandant meant. If the murderer was a killer from the castle, the wound would be on the back or flank. But Gu Shenwei knew one Golden Roc killer who was also good at piercing through the heart with a single blow. It was Lotus, but she was with him that day and didn't have the time to commit the crime.
Besides, the door and windows at the scene were all closed and the servant, maidservant, and old biddies had heard nothing.
They didn't find any clue particularly valuable. They were about to leave before Zhong Heng mentioned a trifling detail no one had noticed. He probably thought that it was not worth mentioning so he put it off until the end. "By the way, there's one thing that might be useful or maybe not. I found several uncooked rice grains on the bed, which the maidservant and old women didn't know where it came from. The kitchen was downstairs, and uncooked rice was not supposed to be brought upstairs. But, you know, they might be … playing some tricks."
The two thanked the patrol commandant and left. When they came to the broad and tidy streets of Northern Jade City, Shangguan Ru suddenly asked, "What kind of tricks were they playing?"
"I don't know. This lord always talks ambiguously." Gu Shenwei blushed a bit. He really didn't know what the 'tricks' were, but he could guess what they were about.
Shangguan Ru still looked puzzled. Gu Shenwei worried that she would ask everyone she met when she went back, so he said: "That's a brothel, and there's nothing good there, so it's better to not know it."
Shangguan Ru nodded solemnly as if she was experienced, but she asked again after walking for a while, "I've heard you have a brothel, too."
Gu Shenwei's face deepened in colour and he even became a bit panicked. He was most afraid of someone mentioning it, not to mention that Shangguan Ru was still a teenage girl, and replied, "It was a joke played by my Master."
"There are many brothels in Southern Jade City, and several of them are paying protection fees to us, so it's no big deal. Just a business."
Gu Shenwei suddenly realized that Shangguan Ru wasn't an ordinary little girl, she was the daughter of the Unique King and he was not acting like himself. "Yes, and we can collect lots of information with a brothel."
Gu Shenwei admonished himself that he should remember to always treat Shangguan Ru as the Tenth Gongzi."
It turned out what Tenth Gongzi said next made Gu Shenwei more panicked, "Have you played any tricks in the brothel?"
Gu Shenwei waved his hand repeatedly. He was too embarrassed to be like a killer, which made Shangguan Ru laugh a lot.
Gu Shenwei was angry at heart. What he wanted to do now was to track down the real murderer, and not be teased by a little girl.
"Duke Gao died in the brothel. To find the truth, we have to go there to take a look."
Upon hearing this, Gu Shenwei let out a breath, "Yes, I'll go tomorrow."
"Mm, let's go together."
Gu Shenwei stopped and looked at Shangguan Ru with surprise. It wasn't a good idea to bring Tenth Gongzi to Southern Jade City.