Editors: Xu Xian, J3000
Chapter 064 Trap
The secret of the sabre wasn't worth the risk at all. Gu Shenwei was very disappointed.
The sabre's hilt only had a few insignificant marks beneath the silk binding: seven on one side and three on the other. Even if they really represented something, Gu Shenwei simply didn’t understand it.
He re-wrapped the silk carefully and waited quietly for the bell that signalled the second night watch period. Elder Zhang seemed to be avoiding him, he didn’t come back even after nightfall.
Xue Niang probably couldn’t live past tonight, and Gu Shenwei’s life completely depended on Shangguan Nu’s whim. He even wanted to ask Shangguan Ru for help, she was going to be Tenth Gongzi and would have more power to protect her followers. But he soon discarded this idea, his behavior was tantamount to exploitation and betrayal to Shangguan Ru. With Shangguan Yushi fanning the flames, Shangguan Ru would kill him herself.
It was already the second of the five night watch periods, Gu Shenwei left the stone hut.
He had been walking on a winding, narrow path full of traps since the moment his family was exterminated. Every day he had survived was a miracle, and today was no exception.
He hadn’t thought of the heaven’s will that had supported him the first couple days he'd lived here in a long while, but, now he called out to it again.
It was late, so the door keeper of the eighth young lord's yard was surprised to see Servant Huan since people at the castle seldom walked around at this time. Gu Shenwei had to claim that Xue Niang wanted to see him before the man reluctantly let him enter.
Xue Niang seemed to have anticipated Servant Huan’s arrival. The room was lit, she ordered him to come inside before he even opened his mouth.
Gu Shenwei presented the wooden sabre. “I was lucky, after little servant went back to the inner chamber, Tenth Gongzi wanted to walk around Liu Sha Dian. There was indeed another sabre embedded in the opposite wall. This is it. Little servant looked carefully, there was no other wooden sabre in the temple. Little servant was afraid that Xue Niang would be anxious to have it, so little servant has come to deliver it tonight.”
Xue Niang nodded and looked at the wooden sabre carefully, after awhile, she said, “Turn around.”
Gu Shenwei turned around knowing that Xue Niang wanted to untie the silk bindings and check the hilt. She had never seen the wooden sabre from Liu Sha Dian before, so she wouldn't know if the threads were wrapped correctly or not.
Gu Shenwei’s heart skipped a beat. Xue Niang broke the wooden sabre again, does this mean that this sabre is still not the right one? Or has Shangguan Nu played a trick? Many questions flashed through his mind in that moment, he then heard Xue Niang say, “Come, I’ll take you somewhere.”
Gu Shenwei turned around and saw the wooden sabre had been splintered into tatters, Xue Niang obviously didn’t want others to know the secret of the sabre.
But why didn't Shangguan Nu or the watcher he sent make a move? Xue Niang’s conspiracy has been verified, what are they waiting for? Does this mean the secret of the wooden sabre is not important to Golden Roc Castle at all?
“To where?” Gu Shenwei tried to keep calm, but his voice became unintentionally raspy.
“I promised to teach you peerless kung fu skills, but here is not a suitable.”
“Yes, thank you, Xue Niang.”
At normal times, Servant Huan would effusively show his thanks, but he couldn’t calmly pretend to be a servant right now. Xue Niang had promised to teach him peerless kung fu skills, but she also promised to return the wooden sabre, yet she just broke it. This was not a good omen.
Xue Niang left first, Gu Shenwei had no choice but to follow behind. Shangguan Nu didn’t reveal anything about his plan, maybe he treated the servant as bait like the wooden sabre.
Gu Shenwei had never been indecisive like this. While he followed Xue Niang obediently, he secretly made up his mind. If he could survive and continue his cause for revenge, he would never be a pawn in a plan again: he must be the mastermind.
The door keeper's expression wasn't good. Xue Niang simply said, I'm sending him back, and walked out the courtyard. That person didn’t dare block her.
It was late at night and the alley was empty. Xue Niang made a turn at the alley exit and immediately pressed her ear against the wall to listen. She also knew the techniques of the guardsmen at Golden Roc Castle.
She led Servant Huan to walk farther and farther. Their destination was not the inner chamber in the North, but all the way in the South-East. As they walked, the nearby stone wall deteriorated into wilderness. Although it was also part of east castle, no one lived here. It had no use at all so was just abandoned.
Gu Shenwei remembered being here when he and Shangguan Ru played the ‘assassination’ game, he had wondered why the castle had let this place become deserted.
“This is a haunted place.” Shangguan Yushi’s explanation was simple, but it scared Shangguan Ru from coming here anymore.
He wanted to yell several times, hoping to arouse the night watchmen’s attention to catch Xue Niang, but he held it back in the end. Once they walked deeper into the ruins, he knew it was useless to yell now.
The two walked into a small alley, the walls on either side of them had collapsed. Wild grass as tall as a man grew all along the foot of the walls, the stones paving the path were also in disarray. The moonlight was dim, the howling wind sounded like the cries of ghosts.
Xue Niang’s hearing was much better than Shangguan Ru, which meant no one was following them if she didn’t hear any suspicious sounds. Gu Shenwei became more and more worried, he couldn’t rely on Shangguan Nu to care about a servant’s life.
Xue Niang suddenly stopped walking, Gu Shenwei almost bumped into her.
She poked Servant Huan’s flank. “Wait here.”
Gu Shenwei’s body softened and he slowly sat on the ground. He felt all his strength drain away, he knew his acupoint had been poked.
Xue Niang continued deep inside the alley, Gu Shenwei looked around the shabby surroundings.
The long, narrow alley was in a West to East direction. It became narrower towards where Gu Shenwei sat so only two people could walk side by side. From there on, instead of walls on either side of the path, there were stone statues of men similar to those that guarded tombs.
The night became shrouded in darkness, Gu Shenwei couldn’t see anything anymore, but he came to understand the secret of the wooden sabre.
This alley was obviously the shape of the wooden sabre, the narrow part with rows of stone statues was the hilt.
Looking back, the pit marks on the hilt were all on the back side of the sabre, this corresponded with the Southern area of the alley. Xue Niang had walked farther in, so Gu Shenwei deduced she was searching for the seventh stone figure. As for the three marks on the other side, the stone figure must have a corresponding mark.
Gu Shenwei understood the secret of the wooden sabre now, but he became more confused about Shangguan Nu's inaction, does this mean he doesn’t care about this at all?
Xue Niang quietly appeared in the darkness. She was expressionless and empty-handed.
Gu Shenwei tried to stand up, Xue Niang grabbed his neck and raised him easily. This thin woman's figure belied her power.
“Reincarnate well, I will teach you peerless kung fu skills in the next life.”
Xue Niang had what she wanted, so there was no need to keep him alive.
Gu Shenwei struggled desperately, he tried to pull Xue Niang’s arm as hard as he could, but her arm was as hard as wood. It was inhuman.
“I … have something to say …”
Gu Shenwei forced out these five hoarse words. Xue Niang hesitated a bit and slightly reduced her force to let a gulp of life-saving air flow into Servant Huan’s chest.
“The wooden sabre is fake,” said Gu Shenwei.
Xue Niang revealed a trace of an ironic smile, it made her look more like a ghost in the moonlight. “I’ve told you that you’re smart, it’s a pity that you’re too smart. I knew you checked the wooden sabre. The stone figures here all have a mechanism in them, they would've been activated if I chose the wrong one, don’t you see I’m okay now?”
Xue Niang used her other hand to poke Servant Huan’s xuanji acupoint, inserting unprecedented, powerful finger energy. Most of this teenager’s kung fu skills were taught by her, she wanted to remove them now.
His dantian seemed to explode and his body felt like it was breaking into thousands of pieces. Gu Shenwei was puzzled how he could still think, still feel, and even still finish speaking a sentence, “This is a trap.”
The corner of Xue Niang's mouth curled slightly, as if she wanted to smile again, but her face suddenly changed. She threw Servant Huan aside while quickly turning around.
“Who is it?”
Gu Shenwei couldn't hear anything, Xue Niang didn’t attack him anymore, this hot finger energy was enough to kill him. He had once used the sword manual's words to unintentionally make this finger energy his own. But the finger energy this time was too powerful, the more he tried to recall those abstract words the hotter his brain became. He couldn’t even tell if he was dead or alive, not to mention recite those words.
He felt he had lived through countless reincarnations, when it was actually only a short while. The hot Qi inside his body was still unbearable, but his mind was clear now, just in time to see Shangguan Nu holding a narrow sabre about ten steps away from Xue Niang.
“Iron Claw Kang Wenmei of the Da Huang sect turns out to be a servant of Shangguan Nu’s family, I’m really flattered. I'm also impressed by your kung fu that changes claws into fingers.”1
Gu Shenwei was surprised that Shangguan Nu knew Xue Niang’s background, he never knew Xue Niang’s true identity. He was very unfamiliar with sects of the Western Regions and had never heard of Da Huang Sect before.
“Hey hey, eighth young lord, you’re not a family man, you know too little about what goes on in your house.”
Shangguan Nu was indifferent, he slowly stepped forward. “Too little, but not too late.”
Xue Niang produced a scroll from her robe, she sighed, “After all that effort, it was still a fake.”
As the sound of her voice died, Xue Niang threw the scroll at Shangguan Nu before she jumped and kicked. Her target was not Shangguan Nu, but the paralysed Servant Huan on the ground. She knew she had been betrayed, this was vengence to release her anger.
This kick was so sudden that Gu Shenwei couldn’t avoid it even if he was fully prepared. He could only try to use his balanced power and bear it with his chest.
Peng, Xue Niang kicked Servant Huan’s chest and jumped high in the air using the rebounding force.
On the other side, the scroll opened and fell onto Shangguan Nu, Shangguan Nu drew his sabre with his left hand and cut the scroll into pieces. He looked up at the woman flying in the air, but didn’t pursue.
Xue Niang’s kick seemed to have broken Gu Shenwei’s bones into pieces. He vomited a mouthful of blood, but didn’t die. Even the burning feeling in his body was greatly relieved, he didn’t know why so raised his head to look at the bird-like Xue Niang.
All of a sudden, he recalled the two golden rocs that had died, the female bird’s posture of flying off was very similar to Xue Niang's at this moment.
Then, a familiar scene occurred: a head materialised behind the unsuspecting Xue Niang’s shoulders.
It wasn't incorporeal, it was a masked face. Like the female roc's killer, he appeared in the air and struck a deadly blow from behind.
It was like reliving a nightmare, except the female bird became a woman. From now on, Gu Shenwei mixed the two scenes of killing bird and killing person, they appeared in his dreams now and then, and every time he would awake with cold sweat.
Xue Niang’s head left her body, like a fruit falling from a tree.Her blood seemed to explode out all at once, but her corpse dangled in the air, motionless. The masked head seemed to have merged onto Xue Niang’s neck.
Gu Shenwei stared at this bizarre scene. He couldn’t bear the horror further and the twitching in his stomach anymore, so he lowered his head to vomit uncontrollably.
This was the first time he saw the green-faced assassin clearly: this mythic figure wasn't just a legend to him anymore.Translator’s note: Da (Big) Huang (Wild) usually refers to remote, deserted areas. Similar to Da (Big) Xue (Snow) Shan (Mountain) sect, Da Huang sect is also one of the sects in Western Regions. ↩