Chapter 219 Lifesaver
The slave market in Southern Jade City turned lively in the summer.
It claimed to be a market but in fact, there was not even a decent street there. Countless prison wagons lined up face-to-face in a wasteland, with narrow winding passages between them, where the slaves were mixed with livestock for selection.
Many people had been waiting for this once-year market. The rich needed clever servants, the brothels wanted beautiful women, the shops called for capable labours, while Golden Roc Castle's requirements were more special.
The killer disciples of the castle came from a variety of sources, and one of the most important was the slave market, where the young lords would send out someone to pick out and buy young kids annually. Those children would then be trained outside the castle for a few years before being sent back to the castle when they got a bit older. This was a crucial step in developing one's own force, so no one could avoid easily. Sometimes they even fought for this opportunity.
This year, however, was much more peaceful. Tenth Gongzi appeared to have ascended and controlled half of Southern Jade City, so the other young lords all sensibly avoided confrontation with her. Gu Shenwei had almost no competition while he browsed the market.
For five days in a row, he went every day and bought a varying number of little slaves. The slave traders knew who he was and followed the old rules and recommended to him the strongest and wildest children.
Like the killer, there was also a Meng family gongzi who came to the market every day.
The Meng Fourth Gongzi's first name was Mingxian. If it weren't for his younger brother Meng Mingshi, who had fooled around too much and overshadowed him in the past two years, he would be the number one playboy in Jade City.
Gu Shenwei had met this Meng Fourth Gongzi in the Bodhi Garden once before, and Meng Mingxian had even made fun of him. From the killer's perspective, he was an enthusiastic, cheerful, and playful gongzi.
Every time they met in the market, Gu Shenwei would bow and give way to the other side, and Meng Mingxian would indifferently ride straight past without even moving his eyelids. Sometimes a servant might come over and halfheartedly greet the killer, but most of the time even the servants didn't bother to speak to the killer.
Meng Mingxian didn't hate the killer Yang Huan as he wasn't concerned about his younger brother's grudges at all. In fact, he hadn't really noticed the killer salute to him. He didn't even put the entire Southern Jade City in his eyes, let alone a common killer of the castle.
The Governor Wei Song believed that the Meng family had to be the enemy who had killed his son. Instead of waiting for the force of the Central Plains to return to Jade City to avenge his son, he wanted the killer to kill one gongzi of the Meng family for him right away.
Gu Shenwei had two choices, either Meng Mingxian or Meng Mingshi, both of whom loved to play in Southern Jade City. After weighing all the factors, the killer chose Meng Mingxian.
Killing Meng Mingshi would cause the Meng family to suspect the Kun Society, while Gu Shenwei's goal was to let the outsiders, or at least the people of the Meng family, suspect the Governor.
Thus, Meng Mingxian somehow became the target of the assassination without being aware of it.
Most of the child slaves that Meng Fourth Gongzi bought at the market were little girls about ten years old. The Meng family had a lot of concubines and maid-servants, and like the killers of the castle, the Meng family mainly trained these girls themselves. But there was a rumour in the market that the Meng family was too brutal, and that most of the little girls they bought died. So every time he came, the slave traders would swarm forward, while the slaves tried their best to make themselves unkempt and hide in the back.
On the fifth day, the 'good stuff' on the market was about to run out, but Meng Mingxian still came and this time he selected even more carefully than usual. The ones familiar with the rules of the past years knew that the fourth gongzi was buying 'goods' for himself.
The moment Meng Mingxian was assassinated was the moment the market had the most customers. Dozens of servants and guards could barely squeeze out a small area for their lord, and they stood shoulder to shoulder while facing outwardly, forbidding random people from coming close.
A mere stone's throw away, the killer Yang Huan of the Kun Society was bargaining with the slaver traders and around him were a dozen or so cutters. The two groups of people's eyes met.
Meng Mingxian didn't care about the nearby surging crowds. Instead, when he saw a little boy and his eyes lit up, he started complaining inwardly about why the slave traders hadn't displayed such good stuff earlier.
The trader was a little confused about the appearance of the little slave, but he was anxious to finalize the deal, so instead of showing his puzzlement, he put on a beaming face and said, "He was specially reserved for Fourth Gongzi."
The more Meng Mingxian looked at the boy, the more he liked him He produced a handkerchief and carefully wiped the mud from the little slave's face, revealing a piece of white and delicate skin. He wished that he could take a bite right at the moment.
The little slave, who seemed frightened, jumped out of the cage trolley, bumped into Meng Fourth Gongzi, and then quickly got under the trolley. He behaved very obediently at the beginning, so no one was on guard and surprisingly let him slip away.
The slave trader first persuaded and then threatened, and in the end he got down himself, trying to drag the disobedient slave out from under the trolley.
But the result was that there was nothing under the trolley. Quietly, the child had run away.
The trader was very surprised and felt that the whole matter was beyond his understanding. He stood up with great difficulty, and before he could think of a way to explain it to Meng Fourth Gongzi, his smile froze.
Meng Mingxian was standing still with a dagger in his heart, already dead.
Gu Shenwei had gone through a lot of difficulties to persuade Chu Nanping to do this. The obstinate little swordsman flatly refused to be a killer. "I only protect your safety, and I nothing else."
"What if I practise the emotionless swordsmanship with you?"
"Oh, that works."
Chu Nanping was a die-hard, so Gu Shenwei had to fully consider what consequences his request might cause. "Help me do ten things, and then we will practise the swordsmanship."
"Ten? Deal. You can say all of them at once."
Gu Shenwei said only one thing. He asked Chu Nanping to disguise as a dirty little slave, sneak into the market, and wait for the opportunity to assassinate Meng Mingxian.
Gu Shenwei had been shopping for a few days in the market, and already had a full understanding of the Meng Fourth Gongzi's habits.
While the market was in chaos, Gu Shenwei squeezed through the crowd and took a look at Meng Mingxian. Chu Nanping's stab was very accurate, the Meng Fourth Gongzi had died immediately. He then pretended to help search for the assassin in vain. The slave trade had already collapsed to the ground and sworn to the Heaven that the little slave wasn't his, but who would believe him? The footmen, who were anxious to find a scapegoat, almost beat the slave trader to death before carrying him together with the corpse back to report.
Gu Shenwei returned to the Kun Society and waited for Xu Xiaoyi's news.
Xu Xiaoyi had already freed himself from the grief of his elder sister's death, and started seeking information in the streets again. "Everyone said that Meng Fourth Gongzi's death was very strange. He was killed as soon as Wei Gongzi 'left', as if he were reluctant to part with his good friend."
This was enough. No one had openly accused the Governor of ordering the assassination, but soon everyone would be speculating about it.
Xu Xiaoyi didn't know that Chu Nanping was the assassin, and smilingly said, "People said that the fourth gongzi was killed by a child. You look a bit like that kid."
Chu Nanping would not lie, so he didn't open his mouth. Gu Shenwei reminded, "The Meng family lost one of their people, so the little kids probably will be questioned. It's not safe outside, so you two better stay at home."
Xu Xiaoyi seemed to have realized something, and he winked and said, "Got it, I'll protect Xiao Chu well."
Ever since his sister had left, the small building at Retention Alley naturally became useless. Xu Xiaoyi had rented another, cheaper house which was in a very secluded place.
This wasn't a perfect assassination. Sooner or later, someone would think of the little swordsman from the Essence Pavilion. However, Gu Shenwei had decided to deal with the Governor Wei Song as soon as possible, so that the crowd's attention would be drawn to the vendetta between the Wei and Meng family.
The night after Meng Mingxian's death, Gu Shenwei took a flying claw and a short sabre usually used by sabremen, swam across the boundary river of Southern and Northern Jade City, climbed over the high boundary wall, and sneaked into Northern Jade City. Wei Song didn't seem to know kung fu, so the killer believed that he could kill the Governor with an ordinary sabre.
Northern Jade City had always been quiet, but the people on patrol tonight had significantly increased. Meng Fourth Gongzi's death had brought more shock to the residents of Northern Jade City than that of Wei Lingmiao because the former had occurred right here under their nose, while the latter had happened far away from sight. Many rich families sympathized with the Meng family for their loss of Meng Mingxian, but also couldn't help but worry about their own safety.
The Governor's Office, however, had little change. Gu Shenwei observed many spots and found no hidden sentry.
This was a somewhat reckless move as Gu Shenwei hadn't fully checked the Governor's Office beforehand. He had only come to the Office once and didn't know much about the situation inside.
Gu Shenwei's lightness skill was much better than before, but he still slowly crawled up through the cracks of the wall, and carefully observed every step he took at the courtyard. The Governor should be resting in the backyard, and as long as he could catch someone alive, it should be easy for him to force out which room the Governor was in.
Gu Shenwei didn't expect to be ambushed at the front yard. The attacker's sabresmanship was obviously Golden Roc Castle's style, quiet and suddenly approaching from the back.
Gu Shenwei had no time to block the blow and he could only leap forward and roll several times before he could get up and face the attacker, but the sabre caught him again.
Once he lost the first move, Gu Shenwei immediately fell into a losing position. Having no time to guide his internal Qi, he could only retreat step by step, seeking life in the midst of death.
When the attacker struck out for the ninth time, another sabre appeared.
Gu Shenwei barely dodged it, but his back was still cut.
Prudence was one of the killers' principles. Although he had adhered to it hundreds of times, he still couldn't help break it once. Gu Shenwei had made a lot of mistakes, but only when the lesson was severe enough would the principle be deeply branded in his mind and never forgotten again.
But he had no energy to dwell on this, as the only idea occupying his mind now was to dodge the next cut.
One of the attackers suddenly turned back as if he had been attacked, his steps a bit scattered. As he turned around, an arrow revealed itself on his shoulder, and the other attacker's offensive, therefore, slacked off a bit.
This was his only chance. Gu Shenwei was finally able to slash out and counterattack once. Then he took a deep breath, jumped onto the wall, and fled to the east.
What strange was that the attackers in the Governor's Office didn't pursue him.
Gu Shenwei ran into a quiet alley, leaned against the wall, and hid in the shadow to avoid the moonlight. All of a sudden, he had lost his cool and his heart started pounding.
Those two attackers were real Golden Roc killers and their sabresmanship was top-notch. In a bit more time, Gu Shenwei would have died under their sabres without a chance to show even half of his martial arts skills.
And the person who had hidden in the dark and rescued him was even more surprising. Although he had occupied all sorts of advantages, he must be a remarkable shooter to be able to shoot the Golden Roc killer.
Gu Shenwei returned to the Kun Society at Southern Jade City as fast as he could. After changing out of his night clothes, he went to Liuhua's room with his sabre and sword, and knocked on the door.
There was no light in the room. Liuhua, fully dressed in the killer's suit, showed up without a word, his expression cold.
Actually, this couldn't be considered a clue because killers usually didn't undress to sleep.
"Should I thank you?"
"You should make yourself clear."
Liuhua showed a trace of resistance and disgust as he replied. If this was his lifesaver, Gu Shenwei couldn't believe it at all.
"Did you go out tonight?"
"Tenth Gongzi sent you to ask?"
Liuhua made it clear that as killers, they were equal, and he would not answer any question of Servant Huan unless it was Tenth Gongzi's order.
Liuhua's expression suddenly changed; his face contorted and turned bloody red. He appeared so furious it was as if he wanted to swallow the Servant Huan right before him.
Gu Shenwei immediately gripped his sword hilt but then loosened. He was destined to have no chance of making a move tonight.
Liuhua fell, foaming at the mouth and as stiff as a slate.
Not far away, a muffled sound came from Shangguan Ru's room, as if something had fallen onto the ground.