Chapter 2 The Pursuers
The old servant Yang Zheng led the way as the five of them took advantage of the night to sneak out. First, they passed through a field of grass,then they climbed a hill. Upon turning to the only dirt road near the manor, the lush grass disappeared without a trace. A single step took them to a completely different world, one that was covered in hard soil and gravel. The small bookkeeper Ming Xiang groaned with fear.
Gu Shenwei had been in a half-awake state the entire time. Marching in the night, his elder sister’s marriage, the dagger hanging by his waist, everything seemed so unreal. It was not until the horizon turned bright did he finally become alert, surprisedly that the rays of the sun were coming from behind.
“Hey, are we heading west?” Tsuilan’s betrothed was located in the Central Plains. This marriage had been decided since Tsuilan’s childhood. To deliver the bride to the groom’s family, they should’ve been travelling to the east.
Yang Zheng vaguely hummed, as if the young lord’s question didn’t deserve an answer. After a while, he said, “Let‘s go to Shu Le City, there will be officers and soldiers to escort us.”
”Shu Le City?” Gu Shenwei cried out in pleasant surprise. Shu Le was the largest country in the Western Regions. Strictly speaking, the manor of the Gu family was located inside this country. Its capital occupied a large area and had a high population density; it was one of the most flourishing places in the Western Regions. Gu Shenwei had heard its name a long time ago, but he hadn’t seen it for himself ever since they moved here two years ago.
Gu Lun had once served as a senior official in the Central Plains, so Gu Shenwei didn’t feel it was strange for the Shu Le country to send troops to escort them, he just thought their own entourage was too small.
Miss Tsuilan had been sitting on the horse, and seemed to have no objection to this arrangement. Gu Shenwei restored his vitality. He kept the same pace as his elder sister, talking about what interesting things they might see in the Shu Le City, and also pulling out the dagger, waving it semi-professionally. Tsuilan was a little bit quiet, and would only occasionally speak a few words to persuade her brother to be more careful.
Although she was only three years older, Tsuilan’s care for her naughty brother was very motherly-like.
Because there were two girls, they walked very slowly. The sun was scorching at noon, but Yang Zheng still had no intention of taking a rest. Tsuilan and the maid-servant had already stumbled a bit, but they endured without complaint. Gu Shenwei, was worried about his elder sister, but also could not stand walking under the blazing sun for a long time, clamored loudly for food and a cool drink.
Just then, a hasty click of a horse’s hooves faintly came from behind .
Yang Zheng jumped off the horse and listened quietly for a while. He took off the familiar spear from the right side of the horse and stood in the middle of the dirt road, his white hair fluttering majestically in the wind.
The others consciously retreated to the roadside, while only Gu Shenwei’s eyes lit up. He also jumped off the horse, drew the dagger, and stood side by side with Yang Zheng.
“Sister, do not be afraid, I’ll fight the robbers!”
“Move out of the way.” Yang Zheng held the spear in front of him, using the shaft of the spear to draw the young lord back. He had a high status in the Gu family, except for lord Gu Lun, he was not polite to anyone, especially when Gu Shenwei was still only his disciple.
Gu Shenwei shook his dagger discontentedly. He still wanted to fight on his own and have an opportunity to help kill the enemy. Just then, he saw a cloud of dust rising from a distance; the pursuers had already come.
A total of three people, all dressed in black, reined the horses from twenty steps away and drew their broadswords from their sheaths.
“People from the Gu family should go home.” The man-in-black in the center said, the sound like cold, rusty iron.
”The unnamed people should get lost back home.” Yang Zheng straightened the spear.
The Gu family were known for their “ superbness in sabersmanship and spearsmanship”. They first practiced the saber, then the spear. Yang Zheng was especially proficient at the spear. Although faced with three enemies, he had no fear.
The man-in-black on the left side slapped his horse, brandishing his broadsword to kill.
With his legs set apart, Yang Zheng held the spear, pointing the spearhead forward. He squatted a little, his appearance like a farmer holding a hoe to fight against the leaping wolf.
The man-in-black rushed closer, broadsword held high in the air, about to slash down. Yang Zheng suddenly stabbed out the spear in his hands.
The stab was simple and plain with no tricks, but it was also hard to judge the strength. It seemed that even children could escape from it, but surprisingly, the man-in-black couldn’t evade the attack, and he was pierced in the chest. Both his body and broadsword fell down. Not even a single cry was uttered. His horse continued to run for a while before it stopped.
The other two men-in-black unconsciously pulled the horses and went back two steps.
Gu Shenwei excitedly took two steps forward. He had never realized that his master’s martial arts level was this high. He had been quite skeptical of his own family’s spearsmanship. Master Yang Zheng practiced the same stabs every day and hadn’t practiced any other moves after so many years. Gu Shenwei hadn’t expected that such a simple stab could have tremendous power. The young lord couldn’t help but look at his master and the family spearmanship with new eyes.
The two men-in-black glanced at each other, then raised their broadswords, slapping their horses to attack at the same time. The two of them, one left and one right, wanted to attack from both sides.
Gu Shenwei stepped forward, also wanting to test the power of his own dagger. In fact, he had never learnt any swordsmanship before, and had only absently practiced several sets of sabersmanship. For him, there was no difference between the use of a sword and a saber.
Yang Zheng drew the young lord behind him with the shaft of the spear again. His legs still slightly bent, he extended his long spear forward, as if he only knew this move.
Sometimes, using one move was enough. Yang Zheng had been immersed in spearsmanship for decades. Regardless of the weather, he would practice stabbing at least a thousand times every day, and had never stopped. To others, it appeared to only be a common stab, but in his mind, it was actually a move of million strokes. One move matched a million strokes. The more he trained, the more infinitely wonderful it became, which was indescribable.
Only lord Gu Lun could understand his mind; after all, the spearsmanship was passed from Gu Lun to Yang Zheng. Gu Lun had often sighed, saying that the spearsmanship of the Gu family’s “two superbness” could only be inherited by someone whose surname was not Gu.
Because of this reason, Yang Zheng was very loyal to the Gu family. As long as he existed, he would not allow anyone to hurt the young lord and the young lady.
At this moment, the two men-in-black arrived to kill.
Yang Zheng stabbed the spear out two times in a row. It was so fast, that it seemed as if the two men were stabbed at the same time.
One of the men fell silently off the horse, while the other screamed with a cry of “Aah!”. Although he swayed in his saddle, he didn’t fall off his horse. He clicked his legs and leaned his body, commanding the horse to flee towards the west.
Yang Zheng turned around and held the spear with a single hand. He aimed the spear for a while, then threw it with force. The one zhang-long spear shot out, as smooth and fast as a javelin. 1
Thirty steps away, the man-in-black was speared through the chest, falling down to the ground like a puppet.
“Master Yang!” Gu Shenwei cried out with both surprise and admiration. “Teach me spearsmanship!”
“Stab the target five hundred times a day. You will have the initial success in three years, and after stabbing a thousand times a day, stick to it for ten years. Only then will you master spearsmanship completely.”
“If so, it’s not as good as practicing ‘balanced power’, after ten years I will be even more powerful.”
“Well, that works too.” Yang Zheng walked to the corpse and pulled out his spear, wiping the blood off with the man’s body. He then turned back and mounted his horse, continuing to march. He didn’t put the young lord’s enthusiasm to mind; likewise, he didn’t care about the three corpses left on the road.
‘Balanced power’ was an internal Qi manual of the Gu family. It was always passed down to the sons of the family, and prohibited to pass to the daughters and those who didn’t have the surname of Gu. It had great power, and was the basis of the Gu family’s martial arts. Although Gu Lun trusted Yang Zheng completely, even Yang Zheng was not taught the ‘balanced power’.
Gu Shenwei had practiced ‘balanced power’ since childhood. It had been nearly ten years now, but he was still only at the first level, making it the slowest record of practising the manual among all the ancient descendants of the Gu family.
The five of them continued to move forward. Gu Shenwei was very interested in the origins of the robbers. Yang Zheng was silent, so he had no choice but to eagerly discuss this topic with the small bookkeeper Ming Xiang. His elder sister Tsuilan and her maidservant Ju Xiang slowly recovered from the scare, and would occasionally insert a word.
After discussing for two hours, Gu Shenwei ‘s enthusiasm extinguished. Suddenly, Yang Zheng said:
“His kung fu was very good.”
“Who?” Gu Shenwei asked with surprise.
“The one that almost ran away.”
“Him? I don’t think so, he was pierced to death by you, my master, before even making a move. No, his kung fu is good, but the Gu family’s spearsmanship is better, isn’t it?”
Yang Zheng didn’t argue anymore. A master’s competition often ended in life or death within several moves. The loser didn’t necessarily have inferior kung fu skills than the winner, even if they lost in one move. In a different time and place, the situation may have been reversed. It was very difficult to explain clearly about the subtle differences of a fight to an outsider. Although Gu Shenwei was surnamed Gu and the time he spent practicing his family’s martial arts was not short, he had never attained mastery over the martial arts, and thus could still be considered as an ‘outsider’.
As they travelled , the sky gradually became dark and Yang Zheng finally decided to stop for a rest. To rest, they were actually sitting on a roadside stone for a short time as there were no inns and villages nearby.
After rushing for a whole day, Gu Shenwei was exhausted, leaning against his elder sister. Ming Xiang and Ju Xiang took out the dry food and water from the package, serving the young lord the meal.
Yang Zheng simply ate a few bites, frequently looked east, while still being wary of his surroundings.
Gu Shenwei disapproved of Master Yang’s excessive cautiousness. Master Yang not only learned spearmanship from his father, but also learned his rigid character. There were three corpses lying on the road, who would dare to follow?
“Young lord Huan, there is a very important task that I do not know if you are willing to do or not?” In the Gu family, only Yang Zheng called Gu Shenwei ‘young lord Huan’.
“I’m willing, I’m willing, does it have anything to do with killing the robbers?” Gu Shenwei excitedly jumped up.
“Hm, but it’s not easy to accomplish so don’t force yourself, young lord Huan.”
“The more difficult the better.” Gu Shenwei said proudly as he held the hilt
“I want you to ride ahead to Shu Le City and ask for help.”
“Ask for help? Aren’t the robbers dead?”
“There may be more robbers.”
“Master kills one with one move, I…… kill one with two moves, we can kill them all.”
“But there are many of them and only two of us. it would be difficult to protect the Miss.”
Gu Shenwei glanced at his elder sister Tsuilan, ”That does make sense, I’ll go, but to whom? The King?”
“No, when you arrive at Shu Le City, find Marshal Yang and tell him that I need his help, he will understand.”
Gu Shenwei stood up to get on a horse, but Yang Zheng grabbed him. “Exchange your clothes with Ming Xiang, yours are not suitable for a galloping horse.”
The more Yang Zheng arranged things formally, the more excited Gu Shenwei became. Ming Xiang was somewhat hesitant to be a pulled by the young lord to a further distance. They exchanged the clothes in the end.
But what made Gu Shenwei unhappy was that Yang Zheng had confiscated his dagger. He had told Gu Shenwei that it was unnecessary on the road, “Head west, and you will be able to reach Shu Le City within one day and night.”
Gu Shenwei leaped onto the horse as the day’s fatigue disappeared without a trace. He showed a bright smile to his elder sister. ”Wait for me to bring help back!”
He was still very simple and naive, not even asking for the details or not realising how he was about to leave with nothing, not even considering how he would eat or drink on the road.
Gu Shenwei rode the horse farther and farther, gradually became a little black spot in the horizon. Tsuilan, who had been watching her brother’s figure, suddenly sighed. “I hope the horse runs fast enough, and I hope he won’t turn back.”
Yang Zheng’s face slightly changed. The Miss’s age was pretty young and her personality was gentle, but she was not stupid. She had seen many things. She already understood most of what had happened.
“Forgive me, Miss. I racked my brains, but could only save one person.” Yang Zheng said with a voice of grief while going down on one knee.
“Uncle Yang, please get up. Saving my brother alone is enough to save the Gu family, what are you guilty of?”
The little bookkeeper Ming Xiang and maidservant Ju Xiang looked at each other. They did not understand what the Miss was saying, but their hearts felt very uneasy.