Editors: Xu Xian
Chapter 35 Disciple
Alleys in east castle went in all directions and led to different courtyards. Gu Shenwei had once been to the small courtyard used for recruiting disciples, this time the two doors were barricaded to keep people at bay.
The twins had never been here before either, they were just aimlessly running around. To get rid of their pursuer, they made sharp turns at every crossroad. Nobody knew how many courtyards they had passed, they were too tired and out of breath. The six teenagers finally stopped and looked back, it was quiet and no one was there. No one knew if they had lost the gatekeeper, or if he simply didn't run after them.
Anyhow, they were in the heart of east castle. A real killer could be studying assassination techniques just a wall away, when they thought of this, they couldn’t help but smile at each other.
Shangguan Ru took the lead, the six of them checked the yards one by one, but all the doors were tightly closed without even a single crack left. No matter how much they knocked, there was no reply from inside. When one stuck one's ear to the doors and listened, it was silent, as if all of the yards were empty.
Shangguan Ru’s eyebrows furrowed more and more, she was about to lose her temper. Fortunately Shangguan Fei, who was ahead of them, finally found something inside one of the doors. He turned and excitedly waved his hand at the others.
The six of them crowded together, they all listened at the door. Sure enough, rapid bang bang sounds came from inside, there were people, lots of people.
But there were still no cracks in the door, and they all got bored simply listening to it. Shangguan Ru backed up a few steps, looked around, then walked to a section of wall that was relatively short. She pointed at her bookkeeper and said, “Stand against the wall.”
The bookkeeper hastily stood where she commanded him to, patting his shoulders. “Ninth Gongzi, come.”
But the wall was still too tall, and one couldn't reach the top of the wall even when standing on another’s shoulders, so Shangguan Ru pointed at Servant Huan. “You go.”
The bookkeeper was a bit unhappy, but he had no choice, he bent his knees and let Gu Shenwei climb onto his shoulders and face the alley. Now they were finally close to the top of the wall.
Shangguan Ru rubbed her hands excitedly and said to her brother and cousin, “Come, throw me up.”
The remaining bookkeeper was startled. “Ninth Gongzi, this is too dangerous.”
“Go!” Shangguan Ru only blurted out one word, but the bookkeeper didn’t dare utter another sound.
The more dangerous it was, the more Shangguan Yushi liked it. Shangguan Fei was a little nervous, but he was afraid of being looked down on, so he hesitated a little before he finally came over to help under the pressure of his cousin’s gaze. He muttered, “This is your idea.”
The two of them – one on either side – held Shangguan Ru’s feet and threw her up into the air at the same time.
Like a light bird, Shangguan Ru somersaulted and landed firmly on Gu Shenwei’s shoulders. Gu Shenwei didn’t think that she was too heavy and quickly held her ankles with his hands.
Shangguan Ru grabbed the top of the wall and peeped inside, the others on the ground stared at her eagerly.
“What do you see?”
“Hmm, many people.”
“What are they practising?”
“Same as us, they’re also using wooden sabres, even the moves are the same, boring.’
“Ahh, I got it, this is Diao Mu Yuan, where they train junior disciples.” 1
The bookkeeper ran to the gate and looked up to check. “Yu Gongzi is right, it is Diao Mu Yuan, Ehh, it has some small characters below, aiyo……”
The bookkeeper cried, then a calm, stern voice exclaimed, “Who is it?!”
The exclamation surprised and startled the teenagers, the legs of the bookkeeper who was at the bottom of the human ladder suddenly became weak and the two on top of him fell.
Shangguan Ru stood at the very top, but she had learnt lightness skills, and her body was light, so she was left unscathed since two people caught her. But she was scared, she fell into her cousin’s arms and didn’t stand up for a long while.
Unfortunately, no one caught Gu Shenwei who was in the middle. He was trying to protect the one on his shoulder, as a result, he himself fell. When he stood up and touched with his hand, he found that his forehead and nose were bleeding.
The one who shouted was the kung fu instructor from Diao Mu Yuan. He instantly identified Shangguan Ru and Shangguan Fei from just a glance. He was startled, walked several steps closer, and said, “Are you OK?” Then he reached out to check with his hand.
Shangguan Ru, who had regained her consciousness, stood up abruptly, and Shangguan Yushi helped her block the instructor’s hand.
“Of course I’m OK, mind your own business, I-we've come to challenge.”
Shangguan Ru was scared and felt like she had lost face so, surprisingly, she imitated Marshal Yang and challenged Diao Mu Yuan on a whim.
The instructor was a strong but not tall middle-aged man, he was stunned after hearing this. This Diao Mu Yuan is part of Golden Roc Castle, and it belongs to the Shangguan family. Ninth Gongzi wants to challenge her own family, what's going on? He quickly thought. These teenagers break into east castle and no one interferes, they apparently receive the endorsement of senior figures, they are all accompanying the little lord to play a game, so why should I take it seriously?
"Well, it turns out a master has come to enlighten us, may I ask which family or sect you belong to?”
Shangguan Ru just spoke without thinking and didn't expect the other person to treat her seriously, she couldn't help but grin. “We don't dare call ourselves masters, we are … the … Peng Yue Sect, I am the sect leader.”
The descendants of Shangguan family all learned kung fu at Peng Yue Yuan when they were young, so Shangguan Ru based her sect name on this.
“I’m the deputy sect leader,” Shangguan Fei said eagerly whilst his cousin stared at him angrily.
“Hu Shining, kung fu instructor from Diao Mu Yuan, greets the two leaders from Peng Yue Sect, please come in and have a competition.”
The twins were used to being flattered in the castle, so they calmly accepted Hu Shining’s compliment and walked into the yard with their heads held high. Following them were four ‘masters’, amongst of them, only Gu Shenwei didn’t have the look of a ‘master’. Although he had cleaned himself again and again, there was still blood on his face, fortunately, no one cared about him.
Diao Mu Yuan covered a large area and had a lot of houses. Its yard was much larger than the average yard, one would not feel cramped even if hundreds of killer disciples gathered there. Weapon racks were placed all around the area, and it was no different from an ordinary martial arts training ground.
The other kung fu instructors had heard the conversation outside, and they all had the same idea as Hu Shining: to do everything they could to suck up to the two little lords. They ordered their disciples to line up on the east side of the court and greet the challengers from Peng Yue Sect.
Naturally, Shangguan Ru was itching to have a kung fu competition, so she jumped out without saying much. Hu Shining pretended to be serious and pointed at several disciples, all of whom were ‘outstanding disciples’ and ‘strongest masters’.
But Shangguan Ru’s interest was worn-out after only two fights. Most of these killer disciples were teenagers just over 10 years old, they got the hint from their instructors and no one dared to fight hard. They were even more timid than the teenagers who were their normal fighting partners, and lost only after three to five moves. If Shangguan Ru pushed them more, they would rather take the beating and admit defeat than use their real kung fu.
Little gongzi Shangguan Fei entered the training ground, won three rounds in a row and felt very happy; then he asked others to bring the wooden sabre, won another three rounds, and felt so proud that he waved his wooden sabre and shouted at his sister, “Give me the sect leader position.”
Shangguan Ru ignored him and wondered how to make the killers' disciples use their full strength. When Shangguan Yushi approached her and whispered something into her ear, her eyes brightened and she loudly said, “Come back, deputy sect leader, we’ll change the competition style.”
Although Shangguan Fei was still longing to fight more, he retreated and wiped away his sweat with a hand towel his bookkeeper handed him. “Diao Mu Yuan is no match for us Peng Yue Yuan, is it?”
Shangguan Ru turned to the kung fu instructor Hu Shining. “It’s not interesting fighting like this, I know you don't dare to use your real kung fu. How about this, I point to one of my disciples to challenge yours and they fight seriously for a few rounds, the one who fights deliberately dishonestly is not a real hero, err, also not a real killer.”
Hu Shining’s heart was relieved. As long as one is not surnamed Shangguan, it doesn’t matter if we fight seriously, so he smiled and said, “Peng Yue Sect leader has sharp eyes, it's not that the disciples aren’t willing to use their full strength, it's the fact that they haven’t mastered it and feel nervous when meeting a big sect leader.”
Shangguan Ru got bored listening to too much flattery, so she turned and pointed at Gu Shenwei. Her forehead wrinkled as she just discovered that Servant Huan had been hurt, looked dishevelled and didn’t have the appearance a big sect’s disciple should have.
Gu Shenwei stepped forward and said in a low voice, “Master, let me fight.”
This was a great chance to please Shangguan Ru, Gu Shenwei didn’t want to miss it.
Shangguan Ru had no other choice because the other two bookkeepers’ kung fu were ordinary. If she let Shangguan Yushi fight, the disciples probably wouldn't dare to fight properly, so she said, “You must win, if you let your master lose face, I’ll expel you from the sect.”
Gu Shenwei entered the field and someone handed him a wooden sabre,
Hu Shining felt a bit awkward choosing a disciple from Diao Mu Yuan. To suck up to Ninth Gongzi, one had to fight seriously, but this ‘best disciple of Peng Yue Pai’ ‘s face was black and blue. Obviously he had just been beaten, so his kung fu must be ordinary, it was really difficult to choose a rival opponent from the killer disciples.
His eyes moved up and down the rows of people, he finally pointed with his hand and chose a disciple. When the disciple came over, he quietly gave an order, “Let him have 10 moves, then defeat him.”
The disciple nodded, carried a wooden sabre to enter the field, and finally stopped a few steps opposite Gu Shenwei.
Surprisingly, Gu Shenwei knew him.
It was Servant Qian who came out to fight, he was one of the servants brought by Miss Luo Ningcha. Originally, he didn’t know kung fu, he replaced Servant Huan to enter east castle after a series of accidents and mistakes. His foundation was poorer than the others, and he was still the weakest amongst the killer disciples even after several months of training.
Servant Qian usually lived in the eighth young lord’s yard; he had very little chance of meeting Servant Huan because they had different schedules. The career as a killer disciple clearly left a mark on him. Previously, he was calm, smart person who always spoke at the right time and never revealed his true feelings. But now he was much thinner, his calm personality had become depressed; his anger was deeper and his eyes were always alert.
He must have suffered a lot.
Gu Shenwei was the same, no, he suffered even more. Outside the castle, Marshal Yang’s head was still mounted on the spear, but he still had to force a smile and please his enemy’s daughter.
The two of them stared silently at each other, neither wanted to show that they knew each other.
Gu Shenwei needed this victory to make Shangguan Ru happy, he gripped the wooden sabre and made a decision in his heart. Although Marshal Yang had died, his words still left an impression on Gu Shenwei. “To kill somebody, you have to have a murderous heart.”
Gu Shenwei didn’t want to kill anyone, and a wooden sabre couldn’t kill a person. But he still tried to call upon the hatred hidden deep in his heart, drawing out his vital murderous heart.
Servant Qian gripped the wooden sabre; he also needed to win to prove that he was not a vase sent by Xue Niang to make up for numbers, and also prove that several months’ training as a killer disciple made him stronger than Servant Huan’s years of kung fu practice.
The kung fu instructor Hu Shining’s order was totally ignored, neither of the two would treat this kung fu competition as a child’s game.
Hu Shining felt something was wrong, but Shangguan Ru and Shangguan Yushi felt very happy. They clasped their hands and waited for a fascinating, real kung fu competition.Translator’s note: Diao Mu Yuan literally means Carving Wood Yard. ↩