Chapter 168 Challenge
Shangguan Ru insisted on capturing the hidden traitor herself. She only had ten killers in total, but two of them were already dead. She needed to know who was responsible, whether it was a result of Servant Huan's poor command or underhand tactics from her own men.
She hadn't suspected Yu Gongzi yet, as she just wanted to find the spy together with her best friend.
"Alright." Shangguan Yushi's tone wasn't that resolute. She went out, turned around and closed the door, asking, "Do you know who it is?"
Gu Shenwei and Shangguan Ru purposely didn't hide their presence after they entered the yard, so the sabremen on patrol had already found them. Tuo Nengya immediately ran over and asked, "What happened?"
"There's a hidden traitor in the house who has lost one palm. Block all the exits now until …" Gu Shenwei gave the order first, as he had to make sure that the person in Yu Gongzi's room would not run away. However, he didn't finish his words as Wild Horse had already shown up.
A high forehead and wide apart eyes, it was the real Wild Horse. He showed up after Tuo Nengya's appearance. Although he was still half-tongued, his limbs were complete.
Gu Shenwei's speculation suddenly lost its way.
But he wasn't completely wrong, especially for Shangguan Ru. She had heard only part of his speculations, which was exactly the parts Servant Huan guessed the most accurately.
Wild Horse brought a man in black with a broken hand, whose face mask had been lifted, revealing a pale and painful face.
"Black Snake!" Tenth Gongzi and Yu Gongzi exclaimed at the same time.
Gu Shenwei immediately understood where he was wrong.
Black Snake's original name wasn't Black Snake. During the period of the slaughter, he devoted himself to the Snow Mountain gang led by Wild Horse. In order to show his loyalty, he had voluntarily cut off half of his tongue and changed his name in accordance with the other members.
Black Snake was an expert, but no one knew why he had never fully won the trust of Wild Horse. Gu Shenwei believed that it was a little trick played by Wild Horse. By being neither too close nor too far-off to his followers, Wild Horse could make people like Black Snake more loyal and work harder.
The chain of evidence that had been very clear was now blurred. Gu Shenwei still believed that Yu Gongzi was the mastermind, but the evidence he had had suddenly turned into garbage.
Wild Horse knelt down on one knee and made a series of gestures.
Shangguan Ru didn't know sign language very well, so Yu Gongzi came forward to help explain, "Black Snake has confessed. He liked Lotus but was refused, so he wanted to kill her to vent his anger. Servant Huan probably has heard of this?"
Shangguan Yushi's casual remark not only reversed the situation, but also placed Gu Shenwei in an awkward position.
Originally the assassination mission was a plan to lure the traitor out of the hole, but now it had become a trap set by Servant Huan to get rid of his rival in love.
Gu Shenwei shook his head and accepted his failure without saying anything.
Black Snake knelt down and first kowtowed to Wild Horse who avoided it. Then he kowtowed to Tenth Gongzi before he drew out his dagger, thrust it into his heart, and committed suicide.
No one stopped him. No matter what had driven him to attempt to assassinate Lotus, his actions were capital crimes.
Gu Shenwei was even a bit jealous that Black Snake was willing to die for Wild Horse. He couldn't find such a person around him, and even Lotus might not willingly sacrifice herself for him.
These things have no meaning, Gu Shenwei thought. Black Snake was loyal but he had already died and thus no longer had any meaning to either himself or Wild Horse.
The action for finding the hidden traitor ended quickly, and Gu Shenwei felt that Tenth Gongzi seemed unwilling to amplify the scope of the investigation of traitors.
Shangguan Ru stayed in Yu Gongzi's room that night and returned to Northern Jade City early the next morning under the protection of dozens of sabremen. She summoned Servant Huan in private before she left. Gu Shenwei now knew that the plan to find out the traitor had been at least somewhat effective.
"Keep investigating, and keep an eye on Wild Horse."
Shangguan Ru didn't believe Black Snake's confession completely, which comforted Gu Shenwei a bit. "Yes, my lord."
"I was there and we all knew that the Qiu Society was prepared for the assassination. Black Snake and Wild Horse didn't explain this incident."
This was a secret order. Shangguan Ru forbade Servant Huan to divulge it to outsiders. "Perhaps you can tell Lotus, and let her help you." Shangguan Ru blinked her eyes, revealing a sly smile.
Although Gu Shenwei had regained Tenth Gongzi's trust, he didn't have any clue about what he should do next. The investigation of hidden traitors had shown Servant Huan's alertness, and he believed that Yu Gongzi would not take any new actions for some time.
Gu Shenwei had no evidence now and the insiders had also died one by one. Unless Yu Gongzi and Wild Horse exposed themselves, he had no way to expose their conspiracy.
He told everything to Lotus, and the two had a long discussion and in the end decided to wait patiently. The resentment Yu Gongzi held for Servant Huan and similarly what Wild Horse held for the Bi Nu gang was not going to abate; the two would definitely make another move.
What worried Gu Shenwei and Lotus more was the situation in Southern Jade City.
The influence of the Kun Society was slowly ebbing away now. Some merchants who were not firm and were far away from the stronghold of the Kun Society began to betray them and gave the protection fees to the Qiu Society. Tenth Gongzi's territory was shrinking everyday, and the Kun Society could only keep an area on the west side. In the entire eastern region, only the Blacksmith Village and the rice and flour trade hadn't openly acknowledged their protector's failure.
More and more sabremen fled, causing the total number to drop below thirty. Most of the firm supporters were the sabremen led by Tuo Nengya.
To make matters worse, one day Ye Silang entered Southern Jade City at the end of the first lunar month.
Ye Silang had recovered from his injury long ago. It was said that he had secluded himself several days to reflect on why he hadn't been able to avoid the sneak attack. After he had figured out everything, he walked through the checkpoint between Northern and Southern Jade City with his sword. Instead of heading for the Qiu Society, he rented a small house on his own and lived alone without even a servant.
Then he sent out the word to the public that he would challenge the killer Yang Huan in the Southern Jade City. There was no time limit. In other words, he would kill the killer whenever he met him.
Everyone saw the challenge as a declaration of the final attack of the Qiu Society, and the death of the killer Yang Huan, would mean a crushing defeat for the Kun Society.
But Ye Silang would spare Yang Huan's life once to repay the opponent for saving his life in the Rouge Forest. "I'll give him one chance to kill me, and with whatever means, I'll spare his life for once."
The killer Yang Huan didn't respond to anything and didn't show up for a few days, as if he was frightened and hid behind the sabremen to avoid the fight.
Gu Shenwei could only tell Lotus the truth, "I'm not his match."
He had almost had a fight with Ye Silang three times, and his confidence diminished after each time. Ye Silang's swordsmanship was completely different from the Death Sutra swordsmanship. It was neither fierce nor mysterious, but it was almost flawless. Gu Shenwei had tried to feel the enemy's 'life Qi', but failed. Ye Silang's flaws were too small and disappeared too quickly for him to take advantage of it.
"If you say that you're not his match, you're really not his match."
Since they practising the same martial arts, Lotus knew Servant Huan's weakness the best. The Death Sutra swordsmanship required the practitioner's unreserved trust. Once the practitioner's will was weak, the power of the swordsmanship would drop dramatically. The perfect state was one where even the practitioner himself didn't understand how he killed, just like how Gu Shenwei stabbed a big hole in the snow ground. Even he himself didn't know how he had made it and it was impossible for him to do it again.
Gu Shenwei might win if he made the first move upon meeting Ye Silang. The Death Sutra was contrary to the other martial arts of the world, as the less one knew about their enemy, the greater their odds of winning.
"He also has a weakness," Gu Shenwei tried to persuade himself. "The assassin in the Rouge Forest hit him when he was distracted."
But Ye Silang claimed that he had figured out how to deal with an unexpected attack, and Gu Shenwei couldn't pretend not to know about this.
"Then there's only one method left. You distract him, and I'll attack."
Except for Gu Shenwei, no one had witnessed Lotus using a sword, no one knew what extent her martial arts had reached, and no one believed that she knew swordsmanship. She would be the most unexpected move.
Gu Shenwei thought the same. "Your swordsmanship is a bit inferior, and he may have really found a way to cope with it."
"Do not undermine my confidence." Lotus smiled, "How do I compare to the assassin in the Rouge Forest?"
Gu Shenwei thought carefully for a while, "You are better than him. Actually, when I think carefully about it, that assassin's swordsmanship is quite similar to ours."
"Then that's it. If that assassin could sneakily hit Ye Silang, I can kill him."
Gu Shenwei still felt uneasy, "No, I thought of how Ye Silang could prevent himself from being sneak attacked."
"There will be an expert secretly protecting him."
Gu Shenwei wondered why he hadn't thought of Chu Yangjun earlier. He was a swordsman who also liked purple and would definitely secretly protect Ye Silang from being ambushed again.
"It's still worth the risk, you have a 'chance', anyway."
"But you don't."
"Same thing. If you die, I'll die too."
Gu Shenwei never understood the full meaning of Lotus's words. She seemed like she was trying to express her affection but her tone was too flat. Perhaps she was just pointing out an obvious fact:. Once Servant Huan died, Wild Horse would soon make a move to get rid of the number two figure of the former Bi Nu gang.
"No, neither of us is going to die." Gu Shenwei suddenly became confident, but his reason remained unspoken. He believed in that 'Heaven's Will' that had led him all the way to present.
Xu Xiaoyi brought Chu Yangjun's information. This was a swordsman with an unknown reputation. He had served Immortal Peng at the Essence Pavilion ever since he was little until now and seldom left City View Alley. The people there respected him not because of his martial arts skills, but because of Immortal Peng.
That was about it. Few people knew anything about Chu Yangjun.
Xu Xiaoyi had never heard anything that about Chu Yangjun and Ye Silang knowing each other, and Gu Shenwei didn't specifically ask him to inquire about it.
Xu Xiaoyi had heard about Ye Silang's challenge. Unlike the others, he had full confidence in Brother Huan this time. "Ye Silang is courting death, it's a pity that no one bet with me, as otherwise I would bet all my money on you."
"It's rare for you to believe in me so much."
"You forget, I know that you can use a sword." Xu Xiaoyi whispered conspiratorially. Gu Shenwei had actually forgotten that he had tried his sword on Xu Xiaoyi once. "But I'll keep it as a secret, and I also heard something else that if I tell others, everyone will bet on you winning." Xu Xiaoyi added.
"Tell me, I'm the one who needs this assurance the most."
Squinting his eyes, Xu Xiaoyi tried to not smile, as if he would lose ten years of his life if he said this, "Immortal Peng told me my fortune, but he was actually talking about you; he said that you would win."
Xu Xiaoyi solemnly nodded, indicating that the problem had been solved and Brother Huan would win no matter if his swordsmanship was good or bad.