Chapter 119 Earthen Huts
It was not enough to just have a snitch; someone had to divulge the exact whereabouts of the black-robed women, and Gu Shenwei carefully entrusted that task to Lotus.
Although Lotus was close to Servant Huan, Shangguan Yushi still hadn’t given up on persuading Lotus to join her side. In fact, Shangguan Yushi’s ambition included all of the Jia Chen disciples except for Servant Huan.
This move by Gu Shenwei really worked. On that night’s third watch period, the two gongzis of the Shangguan family unexpectedly arrived at their tent. Lotus immediately woke up the three teenagers outside.
Gu Shenwei was pretending to be asleep, but he sat up upon hearing Lotus’s voice to watch the other two. As usual, Liuhua didn’t undress when he slept, so he jumped out of bed already holding his bow in hand; Wild Horse was dressed in an orderly way and looked at Servant Huan, his far apart eyes showing a trace of blankness.
The snitch was Wild Horse.
Gu Shenwei was a little disappointed. Although they used to be mortal enemies and he still had a scar from the sabre wound inflicted by Wild Horse on his chest, he had hoped that he could turn Wild Horse into an ally because this teenager not only had outstanding sabresmanship, but also had a logical demeanor and natural charisma.
Shangguan Ru was dressed in all black with a piece of black cloth fashioned around her neck as a hood. She was gripping her sabre hilt as she mysteriously announced to the teenagers that she was going to perform a task, and that the brown-belted killers had to go with her. Then she looked at them with an expression saying that whoever didn’t agree would be a traitor.
No one objected, and even Gu Shenwei didn’t utter a sound. He knew that what Shangguan Ru hated the most was evasive and political speech. Throughout all this, Shangguan Yushi had been staring at Servant Huan. She had matured a great deal compared to herself from more than half a year ago and could see the hidden feelings in their eyes.
The six teenagers left before dawn.
Shangguan Ru had left a letter for Big Head God, thanking him for his warm hospitality and asking him to send Servant Qing and others safely to Golden Roc Castle, while also notifying him that she had ‘borrowed’ six camels and plenty of supplies.
Gu Shenwei added twice the amount of water bladders to that list. He was hoping to place the blame of ‘luring the lord to risks’ to Shangguan Yushi, but still distrusted Big Head God. So he compromised and decided to try to persuade Shangguan Ru to return to Jade City directly after entering the desert.
The Iron Mountain camp was quiet, and the minions who guarded the door bowed in amazement to Tenth Gongzi. The bandits didn’t care about etiquette and directly asked, “Tenth Gongzi, where are you going?”
“Hunting,” Shangguan Ru replied with a smile. This was the moment she had been waiting for, a thrilling assassination where she commanded a group of formidable killers to hunt down the wicked blacked-robed women. What was once a game finally came true.
Shangguan Ru’s excitement shone through the lines on her face. She held the reins with her left hand and her right hand always held her sabre, her face serious but her eyes smiling. She would look around as soon as the wind blew and if not for the fact that one had to keep silent as a killer, she would have started jabbering a long time ago.
Gu Shenwei looked at her back and reminisced about what he was like two years ago. At the age of fourteen, he, like Shangguan Ru, treated the whole world as a playground and only cared about his own happiness. His only experience with the world was that any and all problems would be solved by his father and brothers.
But today he was on a killing mission, where nostalgia could be deadly so Gu Shenwei abandoned his thoughts after a moment of time.
The six of them moved quickly, already reaching the desert that evening. To avoid being tracked by the Iron Mountain, they had moved towards the East for a while before turning to the South.
The black-robed women had once tried to force them into the southern desert. Now that the ‘guests’ had come, they, as ‘lords’ now ‘deliberately’ hid themselves from being discovered.
Shangguan Ru’s serious facade finally failed. She helped set up a tent with the teenagers, asked them to have a banquet and drank half of the wine she brought in one meal. People could hear her laughter for miles around.
Fortunately she had heeded Shangguan Yushi’s advice and didn’t light a bonfire. In fact, drinking in the moonlight had been more fun.
The next day, as the heat of the desert grew, the pleasure of the assassination mission abated a little, and even Shangguan Ru appeared listless. By afternoon, she was no longer holding onto her sabre hilt.
Gu Shenwei once suspected that Big Head God was in league with the black-robed women, but now the suspicion was lessened. They never found anyone following them, or any signs of traps. It seemed that no one except Big Head God himself knew that Tenth Gongzi was in danger.
On the third day, the six-person assassination team was caught in a storm and lost their way. Not to mention finding the direction, they couldn’t even see each other clearly. However, they also did not dare to stop because the dust was so overwhelming that it could bury a whole camel in a blink of the eye.
This was a fateful storm. It finally abated at dusk and no longer pressured those six ashen-faced teenagers.
They lost their way. They should have seen ‘three dead trees’, which was the symbol of the black-robed women’s hideout, but what lay ahead of them was still the boundless dunes. There was nothing in view except for the endless yellow sand.
Another consequence of the storm was that Gu Shenwei knew that their whereabouts had been completely buried. If Big Head God had sent someone to follow them, that person would have been completely thrown off the trail.
There was no more wine left. Shangguan Ru drank a few mouthfuls of tasteless water, and soon went to bed.
Shangguan Yushi ordered the four brown-belted killer to explore in different directions, but they found nothing.
On the fourth day the six of them continued towards the south. They could not see the mountain pass where they came from, so they did not know how far they had deviated from the correct route. They only knew that if they continued moving South, they would reach another mountain. Then if they followed the foot of the mountain and went west, they would reach the border of the Jade City.
This actually fit Gu Shenwei’s plan. Now he was more anxious about escaping from Big Head God than avoiding the black-robed women.
Shangguan Ru didn’t want to return empty-handed for her first assassination mission. If she couldn’t leave the desert with a few heads, wouldn’t the Tenth Gongzi’s reputation be greatly damaged? So she persisted on searching while moving forward, which greatly slowed their speed. It was not until the food was almost gone that she was forced to admit to her own fiasco and quickened their march to the South.
On the tenth day of entering the desert, no one ate anything for breakfast except Shangguan Ru. Fortunately Gu Shenwei had foresight and brought plenty of water, otherwise they would not even have water to drink now.
On this day, the assassination attempt that had seemed doomed to end poorly, took a turn for the better.
The desert trail they had taken was just a part that had jutted out from the main part, so it was not very broad. After walking for ten days in a row, the assassination team had reached the edge of the desert and although the southern mountains was not yet seen, an oasis was in sight.
Actually it was a bit of an exaggeration to be call it an oasis; it was more like a piece of dry land with some sparse vegetation. The area was not large, and in the middle of it stood several earthen huts which were not even surrounded fences.
Liuhua stood on a sand dune and was the first to see the oasis. The others hid the camels and lay on the sand. After a long while they finally saw someone come in and out of the house. It was still too far for them to see the face clearly, but that person seemed to have been dressed in black.
Shangguan Yushi got excited first, “We found it, this must be another hideout of the ‘black lizards’.”
“Or a few herdsmen.” Gu Shenwei didn’t want to dampen everyone’s enthusiasm, but there were some white spots around the hut, which looked like sheep gnawing grass.
“You just want this mission to fail,” Shangguan Yushi shot him a stare.
“Don’t bicker, we must all be coordinated,” Shangguan Ru quietly dissuaded. It seemed that they had returned to the time when the three of them were playing the ‘assassination’ game at the castle.
“I’ll go find out.” Gu Shenwei volunteered and set off before waiting for Shangguan Yushi to answer.
He was dressed in a yellow cloak that he had brought from the Iron Mountain camp as he made his way around the oasis. A hundred steps away from the camp, he hid himself behind a rock mound where he smelled a familiar odour before he saw any living thing.
The land reeked of death, and even a Golden Roc killer who was used to corpses would feel that it was too pungent if they were caught unprepared. Not far away was a deep pit from which vultures occasionally rose and fell.
When it was getting dark, a woman in yellow came out of the earthen hut. Although she was not wearing a black robe, the sluggish way she walked and the aur of madness emitting from her entire body immediately proved that she was on the same side of the black-robed women. Not to mention that she was also dragging a corpse, which was definitely not a task often done by herdsmen.
The woman in yellow casually dropped the corpse at the edge of the pit, which startled seven or eight vultures away in flight, but she was totally indifferent. She turned and went to the hut, shaking and nodding her head along the way as if she was muttering something.
When the woman entered the hut, Gu Shenwei crept to the edge of the pit and waved away the impatient scavengers.
The pit was full of corpses and bones. The body which had been dumped lay at the edge of the pit was a young man whose body was covered in various scratches with little or no complete skin.
The ‘corpse’ suddenly came to life, shaking a few times with blood bubbling from its mouth like a fountain, and then quieted down again.
Gu Shenwei quietly retreated. The vultures, who had been waiting impatiently, clamoured to pounce on the food.
Gu Shenwei brought back the ‘good news’. Shangguan Ru could not wait to arrange the route and team formation of the assassination. In fact, the teenagers were already familiar with it. No matter how much they normally fought, they acted as a whole when making a move.
The moon was especially round and bright that night as it shone on the clean sand and rocks as if they were covered with a thin layer of snow.
The six teenagers took turns resting until the moon started to set in the west sky. It was the exactly the time when people slept most soundly at night.
Gu Shenwei took the lead to lead the others around the pit where the bodies were dumped and slowly approached the target from behind the earthen hut. He did not see any sentries during the day, but he did not dare to be careless, so he kept moving in circles to observe from all directions.
Discretion had its advantages. They found something strange in a tree nearby. A shadowy figure curled up on a fork in the branches, a little too big for a nest.
This was the only person on watch, as the people in the hut did not seem to have any fear of being ambushed and were not alert enough.
Liuhua solved the problem of the hidden sentry with a crossbow. The arrow perfectly hit the target’s vital area. The shadowy figure in the tree suddenly straightened up and died at its position without a sound.
The perfect assassination would have been to approach the target’s bed and kill him in his sleep, but their information was not detailed enough to know how many people were in the huts and the layout of the huts, so they took a conservative approach.
Liuhua hid twenty steps away from the huts and lined up his long bow, short bow, and crossbow. Wild Horse, Servant Huan, and Lotus each guarded a door while Shangguan Ru and Shangguan Yushi climbed up to the roof to ambush.
Gu Shenwei guarded by the door of the middle hut so he was the first to make a move. He knocked lightly on the door, and a vague reply came from inside. After a while, someone pushed the door to come out.