Chapter 213 Bribe
As a brothel, the Thousand Charms House wasn't as famous as Retention Alley, but it had more prostitutes and the price was cheaper, so there was always a continuous stream of guests every day.
Zhong Heng was quite satisfied with this place. It was good to have a gorgeous beauty, but having a couple of women at once was also not bad.
The Patrol Commandant was invited to Southern Jade City to have a talk, but he had actually spent the whole day in pleasure-seeking. Those two junior officers who accompanied him were even more indulgent. They would be leaving Jade City in a few months and didn't want to miss a last chance to enjoy themselves.
It was not until the late afternoon that Zhong Heng ordered the prostitutes and his subordinates to leave, as he himself had a private talk with the killer Yang Huan. This time he didn't talk in a roundabout way but soon got to the point. "Brother Yang, can I call you so?"
Zhong Heng was intoxicated, his face blushing as if he were about to pour his heart out.
"I thought you were a good killer the first time I met you. You're smart, sensible, and … ambitious."
In Jade City, everyone regarded 'ambition' as a virtue. Gu Shenwei smiled. No one knew his real ambition. "Commandant Lord is really flattering me."
"It's not flattery. I'm telling the truth. But, Brother Yang, don't you think for yourself?"
"I don't understand, my lord."
Zhong Heng leaned over and lowered his voice. "Your hands have been stained with the blood of two sons of the Unique King."
Gu Shenwei had helped Shangguan Fei kill the big young lord Shangguan Chui, and also 'followed the order' to get rid of the fourth young lord Shangguan Ruo. "I was just following my lord's orders."
"Heh Heh, Brother Yang, you are a wise man. How can you not understand this? The underlings do the dirty work and the lord gets the benefit; after the cunning hare is killed, the hound is eventually boiled."
Of course Gu Shenwei knew this, which was also one of the most important reasons why he had hesitated to kill the twins. It was hard to find another lord like the twins who was young, immature, and could be easily controlled. "Fortunately, the castle hasn't blamed me yet."
Zhong Heng chuckled and took a sip of Sobering Tea. "The castle hasn't been normal for the past few months, has it?"
"What do you mean, my lord?" Gu Shenwei's heart moved a bit.
"Inside Golden Roc Castle, the woman has been in charge; outside the castle, the old enemy hasn't been wiped out. And all the young lords has been fighting desperately against each other, but the Unique King seems to be very calm and has never intervened."
Gu Shenwei had been involved in the infighting of the Shangguan family. Although he also had some doubts when Madam Meng counterattacked against the big young lord, he soon got used to it. Hearing what Zhong Heng said however, his previous doubts arose again. "Lord Zhong, if you trust me, you might as well speak up."
Zhong Heng, however, didn't 'speak up' right away. He had to figure out one thing first. "Brother Yang, I'd like you to tell me the truth first. Who is your real lord in the castle?"
This remark pointed directly at one of Gu Shenwei's deepest secrets. He wanted to lie to cover himself up, but immediately gave up. Zhong Heng was the patrol commandant, so he naturally had plenty of sources of information. It was both meaningless and unnecessary to deceive this lord who was going to be killed. "To be honest, I don't have a lord now. It's not easy to survive as a killer, so I have to find myself a reliable lord."
"Haha." Zhong Heng laughed contentedly and then said seriously, "There's only forced loyalty in this world, no willing loyalty. A prudent bird chooses a tree to nestle in, but there are only several 'trees', and everyone tries to seize them, so how can one have other choices? So, there's nothing one can do about which tree he finally lands on."
"Thank you, my lord, for your teachings." Gu Shenwei had actually learnt a lot from Zhong Heng, but this remark didn't count, because he knew this long ago.
"So, everyone should be concerned about whether there is a problem with the tree at his feet, and be ready to fly away early."
The Patrol Commandant was only symbolic in Jade City, as both the security and defence of the city didn't need him. So a large part of Zhong Heng's duty was to collect information for the Central Plains. His hints would, therefore, naturally carry weight in Gu Shenwei's mind. "My lord is saying —"
"The Unique King is ill and has been for a long while. He hasn't been in charge of the affairs of Golden Roc Castle since last winter."
Gu Shenwei had seen the Unique King twice. The first time was at Giant Boulder Cliff when the killers tried to capture the golden-crowned roc. Shangguan Fa was high-spirited and vigorous at that time, and had killed a highly skilled green-faced assassin with a single blow. The second time was at the funeral ceremony of the big young lord Shangguan Chui. Shangguan Fa had been expressionless and was surrounded by a crowd of experts.
"Really?" Gu Shenwei couldn't find any sign that the Unique King was ill.
"That's exactly what I want to ask Brother Yang to do. Do me and also yourself a favour by making it clear."
Gu Shenwei noticed that Zhong Heng had specially stressed the word 'me'. It was rare for this Lord Commandant to take responsibility himself, which exactly showed that he was under the order of the Governor. "It's a capital crime to talk about the King Lord in the castle. Besides, I can't even go back to the castle easily now. I'm afraid I can't help."
With his eyelid lowered, Zhong Heng blew the steam out of his teacup and casually said, "The father loves his daughter, and so too does the daughter. The Unique King is ill, and as his child, the daughter should care about her father."
Shangguan Ru again. This little girl didn't know how much intrigue and danger her identity brought her, but she had happened to become weak at this particular moment. Gu Shenwei was just one of the many beasts surrounding her, which calmed him down further. "This is not a favour for me. It will only kill me."
Zhong Heng knew that he had convinced the killer, and all he had to do now was make tempting promises. "The Western Regions are no longer the same as before. Golden Roc Castle has passed its peak, and the Central Plains will come back to Jade City sooner or later. You know, thirty years ago, this was the station of tens of thousands of elite troops of the Central Plains. Now the Imperial Court intends to send its troops here again. If Brother Yang is backed by such a big tree, will you still worry about security issues?"
The deal was done, and all that remained was to whitewash it to make it look neither treacherous or conspiratorial. If the Unique King was really sick, the killer must find a back way out for himself. In Zhong Heng's view, Yang Huan was the most likely target to win over, especially since he had already stained his hands with the Unique King's sons' blood.
The danger of betrayal was not the betrayal itself, but how to make sure the other side hadn't cheated and wouldn't betray you at the critical moment. Gu Shenwei had pretended to hesitate, waiting for Zhong Heng to make a compromise and show his final bottom line.
After another hour's worth of roundabout talking and bargaining, the two finally reached a blatant deal. The killer would try to inquire about the Unique King's physical condition, while Zhong Heng would provide protection when the killer needed. At the same time, he would give half of the 1,100,000 taels of silver the Kun Society had collected to the killer as an incentive.
Zhong Heng was about to die. Gu Shenwei had Wei Lingmiao's secret order to get rid of this pawn without a trace. The reason why the killer had wasted time negotiating was that the bottom line of the Patrol Commandant was also the Governor's bottom line. When he next negotiated with Wei Lingmiao, he would ask for a bit more return based on this bottom line.
Gu Shenwei would like to be an accomplice no matter which force wanted to eradicate Golden Roc Castle. But he had learnt a truth that if he didn't have the say in the matters, a friend might also become an enemy.
Gu Shenwei took his leave at the second night watch period. After trading a few words with the boss in front of the brothel, he walked down a busy street and let many people see him. He was the killer in charge of external affairs of the Kun Society, and many shopkeepers knew him.
At about the third night watch period, Gu Shenwei advanced rapidly on the roof with his face masked, and sneaked back into the Thousand Charms House. He didn't report the mission to Shangguan Ru; he himself had planned it and assigned the manpower.
Zhong Heng's kung fu was ordinary. Gu Shenwei only brought the knockout drugs with him, so he could kill this lord without a sword or sabre.
But Gu Shenwei didn't want to kill the target so easily. He had to know why Wei Lingmiao had a deep enmity with the Patrol Commandant.
The brothel was very busy at the moment. Gu Shenwei let three batches of guests go past him before he finally had a chance to jump to the ground and push the door open to quickly enter. The prostitute inside had been bought over by him and didn't latch the door.
Everything went well except that Zhong Heng wasn't lying in bed as planned, but sitting.
There were no lights in the room, and one could only vaguely see with the light outside.
"Come back to kill me?"
"How will I die?"
"Huh, the bitch you found was too ugly. I had no other choice but to kill her first."
There was a woman lying on the bed. Gu Shenwei knew she was dead without even looking at her. Zhong Heng was really hard to fool, but Gu Shenwei wasn't worried because he had a backup plan. In the next room, three temporarily hired sabremen were drinking. With a hint, they would rush in and hack the Patrol Commandant's corpse into pieces to cover up the stabbing wound made by the killer. Later they could claim that it was for the women, which was quite a common thing in Southern Jade City.
"How did you know?" Gu Shenwei asked calmly. Killers usually didn't speak when they killed. If Zhong Heng knew this, he would understand that he still had a chance to talk the killer out of his plan.
"Eyes. You want to kill me, so you can't help observing my flaws to find the best part to start. You like cutting at the neck, don't you?"
Gu Shenwei smiled and grabbed a chair to sit down. He kind of liked this Patrol Commandant. This slippery fellow had a sensitive heart beneath his appearance. "This is a problem, and we have to solve it properly."
It was this Zhong Heng who had taught the killer the difference between 'investigating the truth' and 'solving the problem'. Now, he had to solve his own problem.
"Right, after the cunning hare is killed, the hound is boiled, I just didn't expect that I'm the one who would be cooked first. What benefits did Wei Gongzi promise you?"
"Postponing the payment of the 'peace talisman'. To me, it can't be counted as a benefit."
"Heh, you're a bit of a loser in this business. "
"Hmm, Lord Commandant must be able to offer more reasonable advice."
It was no use relying on kung fu to survive in a city full of killers. Zhong Heng untied his broadsword and threw it at the door. He didn't even hold his sabre in his hand. He knew that his martial arts skills were far from the killer's, and that the only way to save himself was to use his silver tongue.
"A strong ally is an ally that has mutual needs, or has each other's secrets."
The relationships between Gu Shenwei and the Big Head God's daughter Luo Ningcha, and the ninth young lord Shangguan Fei were all in this state, so he knew this very well. "What's Wei Gongzi's secret?"
"If I say it now, I have nothing more to say."
"It's the same if you don't say it. I can't just sit here and wait."
"Heh heh, I don't mind telling you. But remember that I still have other secrets. Don't kill me the moment I finish."
"No, I'll tell you in advance when I kill you."
Zhong Heng cleared his throat. It was the first time he had seen the killer's cold side, and his heart started racing, and he wasn't as confident as he had been at the beginning. "Wei Gongzi has a sore point. He killed his fiancée, felt guilty, and was very worried that it would spread abroad."