Chapter 214 Rumours
Wei Lingmiao had come to Jade City about three years ago and soon made a group of friends. At that time, he was particularly interested in killers and repeatedly expressed his desire to learn about the assassination process.
To curry favor with him, Meng Fourth Gongzi introduced Wei Lingmiao to the eighth young lord Shangguan Nu. No one knew the detailed process but Wei Lingmiao joined in the assassination in the end. In order to make this guest see more clearly and be impressed, the eighth young lord had slowed down the process and tried to show the perfect assassination skill, only to make a small mistake.
Zhong Heng didn't know when Wei Lingmiao found out the exact identity of the assassination target. Anyway, he didn't stop the assassination. Instead, he made a request that he would do it himself since the daughter of the Gu family was his girl.
Gu Tsuilan died under her future husband's sabre. She had recognized the murderer's true face before dying and made a vicious curse. It was the curse that made Wei Lingmiao have a hard time eating and sleeping, and keep having nightmares at night.
After the Governor took office, Zhong Heng had followed him to Jade City and was in charge of the security of the Governor's mansion. He had gone to comfort the frightened gongzi several times and therefore, combed out the whole story in a mass of nonsense.
Zhong Heng kept the secret in his heart until the Governor started collecting the 'peace talisman', and Wei Gongzi returned to Jade City.
The Patrol Commandant had planted someone around Wei Lingmiao, who brought him good news on the first night Wei Gongzi was at Jade City. The informer said that Wei Gongzi hadn't gotten rid of his sore point, and that one of his important purposes of the trip was to visit the Four Noble Truths Temple and burn incense to eradicate Gu Tsuilan's resentment.
"If the truth is out in the open, Wei Gongzi's image as a talented and romantic lady-killer will be destroyed. My request is really not high. With regard to the millions of taels of the 'peace talisman', I only want a hundred thousand taels. It's only a hair off a bull's back to them, and even the money Wei Gongzi has thrown at the prostitutes is more than this, but he still wants to silence me.
Gu Shenwei was grateful that he hadn't told the truth to Wei Lingmiao. But why did Wei Gongzi tell the story that he missed his fiancée? Did he want to show his tenderness to Shangguan Ru through the killer? Or was he feeling guilty and making up a story to deceive himself?
"I see." Gu Shenwei showed appropriate surprise. He had to try to hide his feelings in the face of Zhong Heng. "But the truth is not important. I still have to kill you."
Zhong Heng smiled bitterly, as the killer's words were exactly his own principle of 'solving problems'. "What I said just now was to show my good will. From now on, you have some of Wei Gongzi's secrets, but I still have some more important information."
Gu Shenwei held his sabre, waiting for the Commandant Lord to continue. Zhong Heng smilingly shook his head and said, "I rely on this secret to save my life. I won't tell it unless I'm in a safe place. You can try to torture me to see if I will open my mouth or not."
Gu Shenwei loosened his grip on the sabre hilt. "If I let you go, where can I go to get this last secret?"
"Go to the eighth young lord. I'll be by his side."
Gu Shenwei was surprised this time. It was really out of his expectation that Zhong Heng actually had a connection with the eighth young lord. "It turns out that Lord Zhong is well prepared."
"Heh, as a hound, one must also be ready to be a hare. I'm just a low-level officer. Like you, I don't think that I have a lord, so I have to find a way to survive on my own."
Gu Shenwei stood up, walked to the wall and heavily knocked three times. Not long after, three sabremen pushed the door open and came inside, two of whom carried a large cloth bag while the other carried a small bag.
Inside the sack was a headless corpse, and in the small bag was a head with an open mouth and dull, staring eyes, which was clearly the image of Zhong Heng if one looked at it in the dim light.
The Patrol Commandant was startled and almost fell off the bed, but he soon came to understand. "So Brother Yang is also prepared."
"Thousands of taels of silver every month, I have to make sure the money is worth it, so I can't let you die like this."
The two looked at each other and smiled. There was no trust between them, as it was purely an exploitative relationship.
Gu Shenwei, who had not wanted to be Wei Gongzi's killing tool in the first place, had asked someone to make a wax head as soon as he got the assassination order.
The head couldn't fool those who observed carefully, but Gu Shenwei didn't think Wei Gongzi would personally come to check its authenticity. And that body was actually real.
Even so, Gu Shenwei would still kill Zhong Heng if he couldn't give out any useful information.
Zhong Heng took off his official uniform, put on a plain blue robe, and quietly left the brothel with the killer. The rest was left to three sabremen, who would destroy the corpse and also cut the prostitute up to fake a scene of murder from jealousy.
Gu Shenwei offered him traveling expenses and a horse, as Zhong Heng had to run away in the night. Standing on the main road, Zhong Heng looked back at Jade City in the dark and heaved a long sigh, "There's nothing left. Brother Yang, when Wei Gongzi leaves, you'd better escort him."
The journey back to the Central Plains happened to pass by Shangguan Nu's camp, and Gu Shenwei also wanted to hear the secret.
"Xu Yanwei is a good girl. Take care of her, and do not let her follow Wei Gongzi to the Central Plains."
As he finished, Zhong Heng patted the horse and galloped away. The Patrol Commandant fled from Jade City in such a panic.
The fact that the Patrol Commandant was hacked to death in a brothel had caused a lot of rumours and gossip. It was believed that the mastermind behind the scene was either the Kun Society or the Meng family. No one could have imagined that it would be the son of the Governor. After two days' noisy non-stop discussion, no one mentioned the matter again.
Gu Shenwei's plan of 'stealing the beams and pillars and replacing them with rotten timbers' wasn't perfect, but it worked well as Wei Gongzi had no foundation in Southern Jade City and would not expect the realistic head to be fake.
Gu Shenwei was very clear about Wei Gongzi's actions. As soon as the news of Zhong Heng's death was heard, three junior officers in the mansion of the Governor were arrested and flogged to death on charges of corruption.
All the blackmailers had accomplices, and Zhong Heng had run for his own life and couldn't keep these people.
As a gongzi of the noble class of the Central Plains, Wei Lingmiao had gotten used to using and ordering people around, and never expected that the killer and the Patrol Commandant would join hands to create a conspiracy. The day after he killed the three junior officers, he summoned the killer in a study in the Bodhi Garden and continued the negotiation.
Gu Shenwei had already known the Governor's intention. And understanding the Unique King's physical condition had important reference value to all parties, he accepted the bribe, but also asked to pocket 1,150,000 taels of silver.
The more avaricious he was, the more he would be trusted.
Gu Shenwei won the negotiation. Wei Gongzi agreed to the killer's terms and appointed a confidant to act as a future liaison between the two. He himself was leaving Jade City and the Governor would not meet with the killer at any rate, just so that Gu Shenwei would have no way of identifying the mastermind behind the scene if the whole matter was brought to light.
Everything went as the killer expected, and only Xu Yanwei was a trouble. Gu Shenwei met her again, but he couldn't tell her the truth. He just ordered her to stay.
Xu Yanwei, however, wanted to leave Jade City so desperately that she threatened, begged, wailed, and even rolled on the ground, saying that she had been selected and must not miss this opportunity.
Gu Shenwei let her go. He had fulfilled his responsibility as a lord, and even if it was a dead end, it was Xu Yanwei' own choice now.
In fact, Xu Yanwei wasn't the only prostitute Wei Lingmiao decided to take away.
Wei Gongzi's departure caused a sensation in the whole Jade City. It was said that he had spent a million taels of silver buying hundreds of beauties, including prostitutes and inexperienced virgin girls, planning on bringing them to the Central Plains and sending them out as gifts.
All the men, rich or poor, were sighing that there would be no beautiful women in Jade City for three years. The only comfort they felt was that Xiao Fengchai, the iconic figure of Retention Alley, remained unmoved, staying with Wei Gongzi for only one night without giving him any other special treatments.
The information Gu Shenwei learnt was more real. There were fifty women in total, who were all prostitutes. Like Xu Yanwei, many of them redeemed themselves with their own money and volunteered to go with Wei Gongzi. They were tired of living in Southern Jade City and wanted to look for hope in the Central Plains which was more than ten thousand miles away. This was not even mentioning that Wei Gongzi was such a gentle and amiable expert in romantic affairs, much better than those rude gongzis of Northern Jade City.
The Governor offered fifty carriages specially for delivering the beauties. Those exquisite and chic wagons were parked in an inn just outside the east gate of the city. The craftsmen of Southern Jade City were said to have worked day and night to make them and these wagons alone were worth tens of thousands of taels of silver.
Wei Gongzi's leaving the city attracted more attention than he did when he arrived, so much so that the news of the roc's appearance was overshadowed, with little attention paid to it. It was not until the convoy of the beauties completely disappeared from the people's views that the terror brought by that giant bird gradually spread.
The black-feathered red-crowned roc had expanded its territory and flew over almost all the territories of Golden Roc Castle. Initially it showed up in the wild, killing countless beasts. One of its special hobbies was to eat the eyeballs, while the other was to dig up graves and eat the dead. It was exactly the latter that gave it the title of 'Devil Bird'.
Slowly, living men were attacked. The Four Noble Truths Temple had sent out monks, who knew magic and martial arts, to exorcise the demon, but the result was that they didn't even see a feather of the bird. Instead, the news of the red-crowned roc killing people came from more places. An enthusiast drew a map based on the spot of the bird and found that the roc was circling around and approaching Jade City step by step.
Before Wei Lingmiao left, the residents of Jade City regarded the 'Devil Bird' as a sensational legend and few people put it to mind. Wei Gongzi even showed a strong interest in it. "If only I could catch it and bring it back to the Central Plains, I'll send it to the Emperor. I heard there were two specimens of the roc in the castle, is that true?"
"It's true." Gu Shenwei was the most qualified to confirm this rumour.
The roc appeared, but there was no reaction from the castle. The Unique King, who had taken great pains and used almost all of the castle's efforts to capture the roc before, seemed to have lost all his interest in it. Gu Shenwei saw this as a sign.
To find out whether the Unique King was sick or not and steal the Daoless Scroll had suddenly made it much more urgent for Gu Shenwei to return to the castle. But he was not in a hurry. He had to escort Wei Lingmiao out of Golden Roc Castle's territory first.
It was easy to get the task. As landlords, the Kun Society and the Meng family had to send someone to see Wei Lingmiao off. The Meng family chose Meng Mingshi as a representative, but the Kun Society had a problem. Shangguan Ru would never meet Wei Gongzi, and Shangguan Fei didn't want to step out of Northern Jade City. Gu Shenwei achieved what he wished for without even asking for it.
His purpose was not merely to hear Zhong Heng's final secret.
Wei Lingmiao was the brute who had killed Gu Tsuilan. In Gu Shenwei's mind, he was even more hateful than the rapist Tie Hanfeng. He must kill this 'brother-in-law', even at the cost of exposing his identity.