Editors: Xu Xian, Hibi-Chan
Chapter 53 Xue Niang
For walking with Shangguan Ru for more than half the night, Gu Shenwei received mere praise.
It was not dawn yet so he went back to the stone hut and found Elder Zhang had already gone out to feed the horses. He climbed onto the brick bed bleary eyed and quickly fell sound asleep and had a series of dreams.
In the dream, the two golden rocs tried their best to spread their wings. With their heads pointed towards the sky, they were in the same posture before they died but couldn’t fly off no matter what. Not far away stood Shangguan Ru, she pointed at Servant Huan with a furious expression. Then she creepily started laughing hysterically. Beside Gu Shenwei’s feet, the ugly chick pecked ferociously.
Gu Shenwei was extremely anxious at heart, he desperately wanted to wake up, but fell deeply into the dream instead. He turned to a person for help, that person’s face was blurry at first but gradually became clear, revealing Xue Niang. She was sitting on her chair as usual, cold and quiet.
Gu Shenwei sat up abruptly. He finally got rid of the dream. Although the dream was not horrifying, he was scared out of his wits and was covered in cold sweat and his heart was racing wildly.
He raised his head and saw Xue Niang sitting right on the edge of the brick bed. Her expression was almost the same as that in the dream. Reality and imagination overlapped, making his wildly racing heart almost stop beating.
“Having a nightmare?”
“Nothing to be afraid of, after all it's the same when you’re awake.”
Gu Shenwei was stunned and couldn’t say a word. For a person like Xue Niang who was always composed, it was really hard to tell if she was just saying it casually or if there were hidden meanings. But reality became clear because this Xue Niang was real.
“You did a very good job, very good.” Xue Niang revealed a rare, slight smile. She seldom came to the stone hut, it was always Gu Shenwei who came to the courtyard to see her. This smile appeared to be unreal in the dark stone hut.
“Ahh? Xue Niang has overpraised little servant.” Gu Shenwei said, but still didn’t get this woman’s intention.
“The little girl, does she like you?”
Gu Shenwei became more confused about Xue Niang’s words. He was Shangguan Ru’s close servant now and everyone knew it, but Xue Niang seemed to imply 'like' meant something else.
“Ahh! No, Xue Niang, you misunderstand.”
Gu Shenwei finally understood the meaning behind Xue Niang’s words. This was too ridiculous, Shangguan Ru was only 12 years-old. He hastened to report in detail about what had happened last night.
That was only a game and he knew it from the beginning, so he continued playing with her as usual. Shangguan Ru went to him simply because Shangguan Yushi didn’t agree to go with her.
Xue Niang’s smile, however, didn’t diminish, finally she shook her head. “It is indeed as you said, Ninth Gongzi‘s trust towards you is far beyond others.”
The word ‘trust’ made Gu Shenwei’s heart thump. He didn't tell Xue Niang Shangguan Ru’s every word, and decided not to speak of it from now on.
“I think so.”
Xue Niang’s expression returned to her usual indifference, “Servant Huan, are you willing to do anything for me?”
“I would, little servant would even go through burning fire and boiling water for Xue Niang…”
Xue Niang waved her hand and interrupted him, “Enough, because you’re smart, let’s be straightforward. You know your secrets are in my hands and I can report to the eighth young lord at any time, don’t you?”
“I know.” Gu Shenwei kneeled on the brick bed and answered carefully, feeling that Xue Niang would reveal some important information right away.
“Hmm, and you know you've been poked by my Desolate Finger and without my help your internal energy can never improve, don’t you?”
“I know.” Gu Shenwei answered with more caution. Xue Niang didn’t know he had broken through the third level of yang energy with the help of the words in the nameless sword manual.
“Other than last night, you’ve gotten Qi deviation once before, right?”
Gu Shenwei was startled. He didn't tell anybody about his Qi deviation two months ago at Giant Boulder Cliff yet Xue Niang still found out.
“Yes, two months ago.”
“Hmm, counting down from that day, you still have three more years.”
Surprised, Gu Shenwei raised his head and looked at a glum Xue Niang.
“In these three years, you will have Qi deviation regularly. And after each time, you will feel more pain. After these three years, the evil spirits will take over your whole body, even if the immortals and Buddha show up they cannot save you.”
“Please give me a favour, Xue Niang. Please give me a favour, Xue Niang.” Gu Shenwei pretended to tremble.
“I’ll do you a favour if you do one thing for me. I’ll not only remove the finger energy at your xuanji acupoint, but also give you a truly peerless kung fu technique, after which, you can kill whatever enemy you wish."
Xue Niang particularly stressed the words ‘whatever enemy you wish’. Gu Shenwei’s heart thumped, for he knew Xue Niang had never completely accepted his lies about calling himself ‘Yang Huan’.
“I will, I will. As long as it is Xue Niang’s business, little servant will try his best to succeed no matter how hard it is.”
“Well, it is not that hard. A wooden sabre is enshrined in Liu Sha Dian of Golden Roc Castle, bring it to me.” 1
Gu Shenwei knew Liu Sha Dian. It was a sacred land where the Shangguan family worshipped their ancestors. It was located in the northernmost area of the castle, which one could only reach by passing through the inner chamber, “I-I’ll find a way.”
Although it was easily said, he knew that it was clearly impossible.
“Hey, how can it be possible for you to find a way? Go to Ninth Gongzi, let her help you.”
Gu Shenwei finally understood why Xue Niang had pushed him so much to please the twins.
Gu Shenwei wasn't too confident. If Xue Niang wanted this wooden sabre, it must be of great significance or held hidden secrets, Golden Roc Castle would be guarding it heavily. He didn’t know if Shangguan Ru would help or not, or if he could succeed even if Shangguan Ru agreed to help. Every step was unpredictable, and if the matter was brought to light, Ninth Gongzi would probably be scolded, but he would be killed.
“Trying without planning is useless, if someone else finds out, you’ll definitely die,” said Xue Niang drily. She seemed to have guessed what Servant Huan was thinking.
“Please enlighten me, Xue Niang.”
“Since Ninth Gongzi likes you, you should tell her about your Qi deviation.”
Gu Shenwei became more and more surprised but Xue Niang appeared calm. She held a tea cup, sipped and continued talking, “It is said that Liu Sha Dian has a wooden sabre which hides a medical prescription. It can bring the dying back to life and you will need it to 'save your life'. “
“Of course.” Gu Shenwei finally understood Xue Niang’s plan.
“What will you say if she says there are countless masters in Golden Roc Castle and she will find someone to have a look at you?”
“I’ll say…the internal energy I practised is from an outer sect, Golden Roc Castle’s internal energy can only make the Qi deviation worse.”
“Hmm, very good. You don’t have to be afraid, after you get the wooden sabre, I’ll keep it for a short while, then you can return it to its owner, no one will find out.”
Xue Niang stood up. “Tomorrow I’ll send you to the inner chamber to serve Ninth Gongzi.”
“But King Lord agreed to let me be a killer’s disciple…”
“Hmm? You want to be a killer?” Xue Niang’s voice became icy.
“No, I’ll help Xue Niang get that wooden sabre.”
Xue Niang walked to the door, turned and said, “Even killers are not invincible, I’ll teach you kung fu skills that are more formidable.”
“Yes, thanks for Xue Niang’s great kindness.”
Xue Niang left. Gu Shenwei sat on the brick bed and thought carefully about the task Xue Niang ordered him to do. After a while he got off the bed and went outside to the east castle. That nameless sword manual, he must read it again for he had unexpectedly found a way to understand it.
The gate of the east castle was shut tightly, the small door was also closed. Gu Shenwei tried knocking on the door but no one inside responded. He was surprised because in the past few months he could enter smoothly everyday and had never been blocked.
Gu Shenwei then went to the school.
As usual, dozens of footmen were gathered at the school gate. They all stared straight at Servant Huan as if he were a condemned prisoner being dispatched to the execution ground.
Gu Shenwei slowed his walking pace and looked cautiously at these servants. Did he unknowingly break some rule and offend someone again?
Servant Qing stepped out of the crowd. His eyes were complex and filled with jealousy and resentment, but also with confusion and timidity. “Why do you still come here?” His tone was dry.
“I…” Gu Shenwei was speechless. Indeed, it had been a long time since he had come to the school gate, “Ninth Gong… have two gongzis come yet?”
“You have nothing to do with this place anymore, don’t ask questions, you know the rules in the castle.”
Servant Qing’s reply seemed harsh and Gu Shenwei had no choice but to turn around and leave. The people behind him began chattering like a group of birds. ‘Ninth Gongzi…’ ‘how come…‘ these words spread into his ears and quickly disappeared.
Gu Shenwei left the school and didn’t know what to do. Xue Niang said she would take him to the inner chamber, it seemed that he only had to wait.
At dusk, he still followed the routine to see Xue Niang. Xue Niang didn’t have too much to say this time and soon ordered him to leave.
He came across Tsui Nü in the courtyard.
Tsui Nü’s eyes had been dug out and her tongue had been cut out, but she surprisingly became Miss’s most favoured and trusted maidservant afterwards. Gu Shenwei had great sympathy for her, especially since her new name at Golden Roc Castle shared the same character with his elder sister, Tsui Lan. But he didn’t have much interaction with her before.
Gu Shenwei stood aside to give her way.
Tsui Nü smiled at him. She had an amazing ability of recognizing people by hearing his or her footsteps. Sometimes it was even more accurate than people with a sharp hearing.
Tsui Nü stuffed him a slip of paper when she passed by.
Gu Shenwei returned to the stone hut. He lit an oil lamp and opened the note, it said, ‘Third of five night watch periods, outside the southeast wall’.2
Elder Zhang was still in the stables, he would not come back until it was time to sleep.
Gu Shenwei burned the slip of paper.
He didn’t trust anyone. In his lifetime, he had already lost his only chance of trusting others. But when it was about nine o’clock, he acted according to the appointment and went to the southeast wall of the courtyard. He stood near the corner with his face towards the stone hut, if someone asked, he would say he was removing a stone from his shoe.
Tsui Nü seemed to be incapable of harming him.
The bell sound of about nine o’clock had just rested, a voice came, “Servant Huan, are you there?”
Gu Shenwei was startled because the voice came from the wall. He merely said Hm and started closely inspecting the wall. Soon he found a hole which was about the size of a thumb. Someone with a familiar voice was talking through the hole to him.
“Servant Qian, is that you?”
Gu Shenwei became even more surprised, Tsui Nü surprisingly passed along a message for Servant Qian! This was something he never would've thought of. Servant Qian had been cold, sometimes even hostile towards him since last year’s kung fu competition.
“No time to talk in detail, I just want to tell you one thing, no matter what Xue Niang asked you to do, you must find excuses to delay it.”
“What do you know?” Gu Shenwei cautiously asked, this could be Xue Niang’s trick to test his loyalty.
“Idiot, think about it, once Xue Niang has what she wants, she’ll definitely kill us three immediately.”
Servant Qian appeared to be frightened and anxious, he used a stick to block the hole right after he finished speaking.
Gu Shenwei walked quickly back to the stone hut, wondering who Servant Qian was referring to when he said ‘us three’.Translator’s note: Literally Liu Sha Dian means Six Killing Temple. ↩ Translator's note: Totally there are five night watch periods during the night. The first night watch period is from 19:00 to 21:00. Similarly, the rest four periods will be 21:00 – 23:00, 23:00 – 01:00, 01:00 – 03:00, and 03:00 – 05:00. ↩