Chapter 203 The Village
Servant Qing drowned out his sorrows with wine and complained about the injustice of fate every day. He had paid with everything, money, time, flattery, and his face, but still ended up with nothing.
The lord Shangguan Fei neither disliked nor liked him, neither doubted nor trusted him. In short, he had become an insignificant steward, tasked with the most trivial things, and never able to reach the top.
So, when Tenth Gongzi offered a sign of friendliness, he immediately changed lords. He wasn’t a killer, so he didn’t have to die for the lord. And besides, he needed money.
Servant Qing wasn’t qualified to participate in the secret plot. Instead, Shangguan Ru’s request was simple. She asked him to watch the ninth young lord’s killers and try his best to figure out their whereabouts.
Shangguan Fei wouldn’t do it himself, but he would certainly send out his most trusted killers on the heist mission.
On the fifth of May in the lunar calendar, Servant Qing passed on some useful information. The nine killers had prepared eighteen horses and moved out at the third night watch period. Their destination was towards the west of Jade City.
That was all Servant Qing knew. He didn’t dare to inquire more about the situation as Shangguan Fei would kill him if he found out that something wasn’t right.
Shangguan Ru took seven killers and set off before the second night watch period. They had set up decoys back at their base to make the outsiders think that the main force of the Kun Society was still in the city. Chu Nanping walked outside of an empty room every now and then, pretending to protect his dual practitioners. The little swordsman was originally unwilling to do this, but he became happy when Xu Xiaoyi came to accompany him.
No one would dare rob in the territory of Golden Roc Castle, including those five rich robbers. They didn’t intend to move the silver to Jade City, so the killers’ destination must be beyond the border.
Gu Shenwei still remembered the road that served as the border of Golden Roc Castle where he was enslaved. And not far away from it, he had robbed and killed a rich man with Tie Hanfeng.
The land to the west of the road belonged to the Shu Le country in name, but it was not garrisoned, so it was for all intents and purposes a no man’s land. More bandits had started living in that area ever since the Gu family of the Central Plains was annihilated, and it made the journey to Shu Le city through this area not only longer but also more dangerous. Gu Shenwei, therefore, speculated that the bandits’ wealth would not be hidden in this place and Shangguan Fei would not choose to make a move here.
To the extreme north, through the mountain pass, was a fertile land and beyond it was a boundless grassland, which belonged to the Northern Tribe. Along the mountain foot was the country of Xiao Wan.
Xiao Wan was a small and weak country but its capital city was somehow prosperous. The Meng family’s money shop had a small local branch there, which was the most likely place the bandits had deposited their money.
Shangguan Ru and seven killers split into four teams. The first team hid near the mountain pass to monitor the movements of the ninth young lord’s killers, and one member would immediately report back to Shangguan Ru once Shangguan Fei’s killers moved to the land of Shu Le, while the others would continue tracking.
The second team consisted of Shangguan Ru and Liuhua, who guarded by the roadside on the north of the mountain. If everything went well, they would see the nine killers, but let them pass.
Wild Horse and another one of the killers formed the third team and they were lurking on top of a cliff near the road. It was one of the best spots for an ambush, and they would only attack after seeing silver.
As a mobile force, Servant Huan and Lotus would run back and forth amongst the other three teams, ready to deal with emergencies.
Three days later, the first target appeared, the big-mouthed robber. He had finished his task and then spent two more days with prostitutes before he finally steeled his heart and left the gentle town. He had to report back to the chief about the luxurious and debauched lifestyle of Jade City, persuading him to send the silver to the Xiao Wan city. Then he could live a good life in a down-to-earth manner from there on out.
He thought he had been tight-lipped and hadn’t given away any information, so he didn’t notice that his horse’s iron palm was a bit different, as it left a hoof mark that would be easily tracked.
Two of Shangguan Fei’s killers were responsible for tracking while the other seven followed far behind.
Gu Shenwei and Lotus were in the middle of these two waves of killers.
Instead of going deeper into the mountains, the robbers went into a small village.
The village had thirty or so families and was surrounded by an earthen wall. It was a sort of courier station and was one day’s ride from Xiao Wan city. The bandits had been clever enough to use it as a hiding place because no one would have imagined that the poor village hid five hundred thousand taels of silver.
The small village was as quiet as ever that night. Two groups of killers lurked around at different places, waiting for the cover of night to perform the mission.
Perhaps Shangguan Ru wanted to make up for her past weakness, so she made a cold-blooded decision this time. They would wipe out Shangguan Fei’s killers after getting the silver.
Although it would be eight versus nine, the killers of the Kun Society were far more powerful than their peers.
The ambush spot would be on the roadside cliff chosen by Wild Horse, and even now the nine killers were still being watched by Servant Huan and Lotus.
Everything was well arranged but the result was not quite what was expected.
It was very dark now. Gu Shenwei crept up to the side of the village wall and watched the movements of the nine killers while Lotus guarded behind him. He knew all their tricks and had already determined their general course of action.
First, a killer would sneak into the village. That killer was dressed as a passer-by and would enter the village on the pretence of asking for a bowl of water during the day. After learning the situation, his purpose was to confirm it again in the evening.
After that killer exited, two other killers would enter the village from two opposite directions, targeting an earthen hut in the middle of the village. They were responsible for surrounding the escapees.
The other five killers would deal with the five robbers. With a neat and nimble cut, the task would be half complete.
The last two killers would stand guard by the village wall as lookouts, staying about a dozen or so steps away from the spies. Gu Shenwei and Lotus adjusted their breath to synchronize with the sound of the surrounding insects to cover their tracks.
It looked like it was going to be a quick and easy operation, with the killers just moving the silver.
The five killers entered the hut and in a few moments the muffled sound of sabre cutting through cloth was heard. It was very quiet, and only those who pricked their ears and were very familiar with it could hear it.
The two killers on the lookout shook a bit, as if breathing a sigh of relief.
“Ahhh —” A heart-rending scream rang out, and the sounds of the nearby insects immediately disappeared. But the little ones soon forgot about the shocked humans and continued their performance. It was the killers who had been stunned for a long time.
The whole village heard the screams. Several families lit their lamps but soon blew them out. Someone courageous ran out and asked, “What’s going on? Who’s screaming?”
As he looked at the two killers on the lookout, Gu Shenwei thought that if he were in the two’s position, he would have run far away by this time.
The two on the lookout finally realized what had happened and crouched to retreat, but it was too late.
The villagers who had run out to see the situation miraculously had weapons in their hands. They cried out and rushed in. More people appeared from the nearest two houses and cut off the lookouts escape route, three of whom had jumped over the spies’ head.
“Take them alive,” someone ordered.
The lookouts drew their narrow sabres but said nothing, ready to fight to the end.
The two killers in the village who were in charge of intercepting the escapees had also been intercepted. The sound of clashing weapons came but soon ceased, and then someone shouted, “Got them.”
The killers on the lookout waved their sabres to attack, trying to kill their way out. But they only made three or four moves before they stumbled like drunkards and fell to the ground, surrendering themselves for capture.
“How many did you get?”
“Four, and killed five.”
“All right, get ready. Let’s move out and hold a memorial ceremony for Long Feidu with them.”
It was an elaborate snare. There were not just five bandits, but dozens of, who had led the horses from the houses, ready to leave the small village.
While the bandits were busy saddling the horses, Gu Shenwei and Lotus went back to the originally selected road and found their horses a few miles away before they galloped with full speed back to report to Tenth Gongzi. “Both the Kun and Qiu Society were tricked. There was no half a million silver; that robber deliberately leaked the information and lured us to the bait.”
“Who could it be?” Shangguan Ru was a bit surprised. Her biggest enemy was her elder brother Shangguan Fei, but the one who had set the trap was obviously not him.
Gu Shenwei thought for a while before he said, “It should be the swordsman from Big Snow Mountain.” He had seen a clue, which was enough for him to make a guess.
Those bandits were armed with long and broad swords. Gu Shenwei had seen such a sword only once and knew that it was an iconic weapon of Big Snow Mountain. Furthermore, Long Feidu, the name mentioned by the bandits, was the swordsman who had died at the T-junction.
“Big Snow Mountain?” Shangguan Ru became even more surprised. Those rude and proud swordsmen had never been good at dirty tricks. It really surprised her that they could devise such a perfect trap.
Time was running out, but Gu Shenwei knew the destination of those swordsmen. They would go to the T-junction to worship Long Feidu. They were on horseback, so they would soon pass the cliff where they were lying in wait.
“What should we do? They’re going this way and will arrive soon.” Gu Shenwei wanted to know whether Tenth Gongzi would try to save the nine killers or not, who were the core strength of Shangguan Fei.
Shangguan Ru made a prompt decision this time. “Big Snow Mountain is the enemy of Golden Roc Castle. We can’t let them get away with this. How many of them are there? What do you think of their strength?”
“About twenty-five men, their abilities unknown.” Gu Shenwei recalled that swordsman Long Feidu from Big Snow Mountain whom he had seen more than two years ago, and felt that something wasn’t right. “They also have knockout drugs, so be careful.”
The whole matter seemed eerie. The swordsmen from Big Snow Mountain had not only devised a subtle trap but also used knockout drugs. Usually these two methods were what they despised and objected to the most.
Shangguan Ru didn’t have time to think about this. She arranged an ambush right away. The targets numbered over twenty people and it would be difficult for eight killers to deal with them all.
The sound of horses’ hooves gradually became clearer, and between the fourth and fifth night watch periods, the swordsmen of Big Snow Mountain finally arrived at the ambush spot with their captives. The horses trotted along, none of the riders having foreseen the trap that awaited them.
With a loud bang, a great number of stones fell from the sky, and the swordsmen’s procession immediately turned to chaos. The hisses of the horses and the screams of the people were interlaced with cries of pain. Someone was hit by a stone.
There was only one killer lurking on the cliff now, and all eight others were hiding below.
Liuhua attacked first. He shot out three arrows in a row and hit three people.
The swordsmen actually reacted quite quickly. They immediately adjusted their formation and dashed towards the place where the arrows came from. They were about a dozen steps away from it when they were attacked from the flank.
Two killers rushed out and leapt over the head of the swordsmen in the vanguard. Then, two heads fell to the ground.
The killers ran forward without stopping. Those swordsmen turned their heads in anger and followed in pursuit.
This was the killer’s way of using the few to defeat the many. They killed relentlessly and retreated immediately after succeeding, luring the rest of the swordsmen to the next ambush.
The killer’s plan was being carried out exactly as expected until a mournful voice came from the rubble. “Come rescue me, I’m the ninth young lord Shangguan Fei.”