Chapter 6 Killer
Gu Shenwei knew that flag.
It was two years ago, the Gu family, included dozens of people, were leaving the Central Plains and passing through the desert to the unknown Western Regions. They had hired plenty of labour on the way, including a man that had carried a Golden Roc flag. He was not a leader, but he had always walked at the front of the team. He was also not a servant, so he hadn’t done any chores. He had stayed at a suitable distance from the employer. The horsekeepers had been a bit afraid of him.
The journey to the Western Regions had been depressing and boring, but there had been one thing Gu Shenwei did remember clearly. The journey had lasted a month, but they had not encountered any attacks from the robbers. It seemed that the Lord Gu Lun’s judgement on the situations of the Western Regions had been confirmed. In fact, it was because they had been protected by the Golden Roc Castle.
The Golden Roc Castle had once been the guardian of the Gu family, which made Gu Shenwei more confused; why did the protector become the butcher two years later? He even began to suspect if the robber Soaring Eagle was wrong.
The two men holding the flag stayed in place while the rider in black came by himself, stopping more than ten steps away from Long Feidu. He jumped off his horse and unhurriedly put away his longbow. He acted as though he was preparing to say hello to a casually met old friend.
“A swordsman from the Big Snow Mountain visits the territory of the Golden Roc Castle, what a surprising guest.”
“Hey, a killer from the Golden Roc Castle dares to fight alone, it’s also very rare.”
“I’m compelled, but I have somehow practised how to fight for several days.”
“I’m ‘Tan Duo Feng’ Long Feidu from Big Snow Mountain.”
Long Feidu held the broadsword with both hands. The broadsword was still slanted to the ground.
“I’ve heard a lot of you. I’m a nobody from the Golden Roc Castle, it’s not worth mentioning.”
The killer in black pulled out his sabre. This sabre was not the same as the ones used by the robbers. The sabre in his hands was straight and narrow, no more than two Chi long. 1 Compared to Long Feidu’s broadsword, the killer’s sabre was like an embroidery needle.
The two of them walked closer and closer. The onlookers all held their breath, waiting for the blow of life or death.
Gu Shenwei was nervous inside. He looked forward to the victory of the Big Snow Mountain swordsman. He had also made up his mind that no matter how Long Feidu would treat the two teenagers later, he would not intervene anymore.
The killer and the swordsman walked closer. They were less than three steps away from each other, and no one attacked. It was soon less than one step, and still no one attacked. The two of them just stared at each other, as if they were acquaintances passing by, nodding to each other.
Gu Shenwei’s heart was suspended in his throat. He had watched a fight many times, and he himself had also participated in one several times. The two sides always squared themselves into a posture long before they were close, and kept changing their postures while they approached each other. Nobody had ever behaved the same as these two. It was so casual that even killing intent was not shown.
The killer and the swordsman were side-by-side now, and they were separated by less than a step. With one more step, they would cross each other, and yet they still turned to stare at each other. It happened in just a moment. The killing intents suddenly burst out from nothing; it was very domineering. The sabre and the broadsword moved at the same time.
Even if the crowd was already prepared, even if they kept watching, the crowd was still surprised. Their body unconsciously leaned back, as if the sabre and the sword were targeting at their vital parts.
The two of them attacked as fast as lightning, but there was no intersection with the sabre and the broadsword. The killer in black retreated faster than the speed of the moving sabre. In the blink of an eye, he had retreated to five steps away, just at the edge of the broadsword’s attacking range.
Long Feidu didn’t wait for his broadsword move to finish and also held it back.
There seemed to be no winner after the first move. Gu Shenwei thought that the swordsman from the Big Snow Mountain was stronger, but he was not very sure because he remembered the words his father Gu Lun had once said.
Gu Lun had always shown indulgence to his youngest son. He had never forced him too hard on practising kung fu, but once, when Gu Shenwei was overcritical of another’s martial arts skills, Gu Lun had shown an unusually serious look. He pointed to his own eyes first, then pointed at his own hands, and said.
“It is much harder to have a good eyesight than a pair of powerful hands.”
Gu Shenwei had made a small deprecating shrug at that time, but now he believed.
Long Feidu had killed six gang members in several moves, while the killers from Golden Roc Castle had quietly killed dozens of people in the Gu family. The black killer in front of him might not have been one of them, but his kung fu skills couldn’t be any less than those killers. Both the killer and the swordsman were real masters, but when they fought for life or death, the moves were so simple, to the point of being crude. It was nothing but a hack and a stab, but it had the same effects as the old servant Yang Zheng’s thousand years unchanged long spear stab.
Instead, for Gu Shenwei himself, although he had learnt several sets of boxing as well as sabresmanship and could comment clearly and logically about the different martial arts schools of the Central Plains, he wasn’t even able to fight back the most ordinary robbers.
Flashy, this was the word his father Gu Lun had said while smiling and shaking his head.
The killer and the swordsman clashed again. This time they did not slowly approach closer, but like arrows pulled at full strength, a leopard with taut muscles. They jumped up, in less than a moment, the sword and the sabre collided, making a harsh grating sound.
It was the black killer who still retreated first. This time, he retreated farther than ten steps away, looking nervous and as if his hair stood on end.
Long Feidu waved the long broadsword again and moved a big step forward.
Gu Shenwei’s heart flipped. He thought that the swordsman from the Big Snow Mountain would pursue and strike a fatal blow to his opponent, but he was wrong. Long Feidu only made one step before he stood still, the two sides caught in a stalemate.
The two of them confronted each other like statues for a long period of time, which made the surrounding audience bewildered, but nobody dared to rashly applaud. They could be killed if they stood on the wrong side.
“Mercy powder, I should have thought of it.” Long Feidu suddenly kneeled down with one leg, his hands still gripping the hilt tightly but the broadsword was no longer a weapon to kill; it was only a support instead.
Gu Shenwei didn’t know what ‘mercy powder’ was, and he was not the only one that knew nothing about it. However, they all knew one thing; the swordsman from the Big Snow Mountain was plotted against in secret.
“You swordsmen are always like this, ‘should have thought’, but never prepared.” The killer in black’s tone was full of disdain, showing no trace of mercy to the defeated opponent.
“The ‘mercy powder’ has no taste and flavor, and the victims will become weak and feeble. It did great harm to lots of people. Fifteen years ago, the Unique King had sworn to destroy it and forbade its use forever, and now it shows up again. So it seems the Golden Roc Castle is the same as before, still not trustable.”
“Hey hey, it seems that you know a lot, but you are wrong. This is not ‘mercy powder’, so the honorable king’s oath was not broken, and the Golden Roc Castle is still credible. In particular, the notion that Golden Roc Castle never lets its enemy stay alive, you have to believe that.”
The killer in black said while he walked behind Long Feidu, the sharp sabre on the swordsman’s shoulder.
That’s it? Gu Shenwei couldn’t believe it, he had been looking forward to Long Feidu’s fight back. But the idea that good people should defeat bad guys, fairness should prevail was just a teenager’s expectation. The swordsman from the Big Snow Mountain also ‘should have thought of’, but too many ‘should’ would never become reality.
The sabre of the killer slowly pierced into the body, until only the handle was left outside. Long Feidu didn’t resist. He died quietly, his body still on his knees, kneeling there by leaning on the broadsword. Not far away lay the six robbers who died under his broadsword.
The black killer still held his sabre, which was still dripping blood. He turned back and looked at the dozens of robbers.
He killed a real swordsman, and though his means was dishonorable, he was still the winner. So although everyone knew clearly that they would likely be able to kill the killer if they fought together, all the robbers, no matter how outrageous they behaved when robbing the people and livestock, were all like little sheep facing a vicious dog, frightened and obedient.
The killer looked at others with scorn. He wiped the blood on the sabre with the body of Long Feidu, put the sabre into its sheath, then slowly walked back to his horse. He climbed on it and pondered for a while, then said coldly,
“Finish the business and immediately go away, none of you are allowed to stay.”
The robbers felt relieved. They all nodded and agreed.
The swordsman from the Big Snow Mountain was disappointing. Gu Shenwei was more dismissive of the robbers‘ performance. The dawn of revenge had just appeared and faded away.
Gu Shenwei couldn’t think of how to defeat his enemies from the Golden Roc Castle. He had originally thought that once he mastered the ‘balanced power’ by using the shortcut to practice, he could go and kill all the enemies, but now he realized that it was not that easy.
However, he understood one thing. His father, Master Yang Zheng, and his two elder brothers, they died not because they had not been able to fight back, but because they must have been plotted against, the same as Long Feidu was.
The killer in black drove his horse forward, turned east at the junction, and then entered the territory of the Golden Roc Castle. Behind him, were two men holding the flag closely followed, like two lionesses following behind the male lion who had just beat the invaders. The robbers waiting at the west of the crossroads were nothing but a group of wild dogs hunching their shoulders.
“Finish your business and immediately go away.” Gu Shenwei quickly understood the meaning of these words, but he also found that he himself had become a commodity.
Shortly after the Golden Roc Castle killer left, a group of traveling merchants came from the northern mountain pass. It was arranged in a long queue, with some riding, some driving the trolleys, different wearings and as many as hundreds of people.
The businessmen and the bandits who had clear boundaries and were often at two opposing sides, had reached a tacit understanding of the peace on this road. Both sides were waiting for each other. The robbers took out the stolen goods and people, behaving as a merchant servant who had just started his career. They walked to the merchants to sell their own things, most of which they couldn’t even tell the names.
The businessmen enjoyed this kind of sale. It was not only cheap, if they had good luck, they could also buy a rare treasure with unknown origin from the robbers who didn’t even know its value. The most critical thing was that the T-junction was safe. Even the most brutal criminals had to suppress their impulse and dare not touch a finger of the merchants who carried gold and silver.
The businessmen had paid the protection fees to the Golden Roc Castle – the largest ‘bandits’ of the Western Regions, in exchange for privileges of not being harassed by small groups of bandits.
The trade was in full swing, the bloody smell of the seven dead bodies instantly washed away. People came and left quickly. When Gu Shenwei peered through the crowd to look at the swordsman from Big Snow Mountain, he found that the body had already fallen down to the ground, and the broadsword was gone. Apparently the other corpses were also plundered.
Gu Shenwei was full of emotions and didn’t know what to do. The two teenagers in front of him, though, didn’t have much emotional thoughts.The two of them had just escaped from death. The ‘life-saver’ turned out to be a killer from the Golden Roc Castle, and now they had to help themselves.
The two of them opened their mouth to bite the rope. The captives nearby were stunned for a moment, before they all realised that this string of people had been free, their ‘owners’ – the six robbers from Soaring Eagle gang’ – were dead .
However, at this T-junction dominated by bandits and merchants, owner was clearly not a rare thing. The captives had yet to get rid of the rope by biting when several businessmen had already came. They didn’t say anything and immediately commanded their servants to cut the rope. They were ready to accept this group of ‘goods’.
Some of the captives obediently followed their new ‘masters’ back, while some of them wanted to explain themselves to the businessmen.
“I am not a slave!”
Gu Shenwei shouted towards the man with a big beard who came for him. The other two teenagers in front used another language and also clamored. No matter what languages they used, the only response they received was laughter.
The big bearded man put away the knife used for cutting the rope and grabbed one of Gu Shenwei’s arm to take him on the trolley. Gu Shenwei was full of anger with nowhere to vent, so he used full of strength and kicked the big beard.
Although Gu Shenwei was young and his martial arts was not well practised, the power of the kick was still not small. The big bearded man screamed with pain, then angrily striked a serious blow at Gu Shenwei’s lower abdomen.
The punch was even greater than the strength of Gu Shenwei’s kick. Gu Shenwei had thought of a good way to defend himself, but he didn’t even have the time to do it before he was hit staggering. The big bearded man attacked much heavier than the Gu family’s guardsmen.
The big beard wanted to beat him again, but the businessman snapped a few words, which probably meant that he should not kill the slaves, because that was the ‘goods’ they just bought.
The big beard who got kicked felt very begrudged. He deliberately let the teenager’s head hit the wooden gate of the cage trolley when he opened it. Gu Shenwei only felt dizziness in his head before his whole body was thrown into cage.
There was another person at the place he was thrown at. The man screamed and kicked Gu Shenwei away. Gu Shenwei rolled to one side, and only restored his consciousness after a while. He found out that the caravan had started out again, heading for the east to follow the footprints of the Golden Roc flag.
This was not the only cage trolley, there was a string of them behind. The ones pulling the trolleys were strong oxes with double strong horns, with many ferocious barbarian cavalries guarding on both sides.
Gu Shenwei looked back inside the cage trolley. There were more than a dozen children curling up on the hay stack, staring fearfully at him with cub-like looks. He didn’t know which one was the one he had pressed against.
The hope for joining the Big Snow Mountain was lost, and Gu Shenwei could only return to his original road of hope. He reached out to touch the white silk close to his chest, to check if it had the text which he was most anxious to see or not.
The white silk was gone.
Gu Shenwei‘s mind boomed. He searched his whole body inside out, but the white silk was indeed gone, and there was no trace of it in the nearby haystack.