Editors: Cypress Venus Trap and Ann
Chapter 39 Unique Skill
While Xue Niang was still considering whether or not to teach kung fu again, Gu Shenwei had made another request: provide some money to woo or, in this case, buy over somebody.
The pieces of silver that Gu Shenwei sent to Shangguan Hongye were less than two liang, but they were the all savings he had. 1
“I don’t need too much, 20 liang is enough. Shangguan Hongye owes money more than 10 liang. This money will be enough for him to pay for all the debt and he may, even have some extra left for him to gamble several times. Then he’ll come to ask me by himself.”
“How are you going to explain the sources of the money then? You’re just a servant, how come you’re richer than a lord?”
“May little servant be bold to ask Xue Niang to bring some gold and silver vessels from Miss. These stuff can be considered as being ‘stolen’ by me, Shangguan Hongye needs the money, so he’ll keep it a secret.”
Xue Niang nodded slowly. Servant Huan’s plan had seemed to be more and more childish, and could probably cause trouble for the miss and her, so she had to consider about it carefully.
Xue Niang was Gu Shenwei’s backer now, which was a huge advantage when competing with other teenagers in the castle. Without her support, he could achieve nothing.
The next morning, Xue Niang came over to give him a small package.
Elder Zhang had left early to take care of the horses. Xue Niang dropped the package on the brick bed and said to Servant Huan, who had just put on his clothes:
“You’d better make it work.”
Even Gu Shenwei wasn’t sure whether it would work or not. He himself was just a kid, so he didn’t have a profound understanding of human nature yet. But he knew one thing, and that was never to show the hesitation in his heart. So he had promised confidently to Xue Niang that his plan would definitely be effective.
At noon, he had ‘picked’ Shangguan Hongye’s little silver cup on his way back. The silver cup missed a corner and was crushed flat, but it didn’t affect its value. It was made of pure silver and was worth about three liang.
Shangguan Hongye quickly put away the silver cup and utter a sound Hmm, as if it was really his missing stuff. The bookkeeper was surprised, but he had learnt his lesson and didn’t ask this time.
Five days in a row, Gu Shenwei would ‘pick’ small items left by Shangguan Hongye everyday and he was satisfied with the progress. Shangguan Hongye accepted these silverware deservedly. He even dismissed his little bookkeeper and went home alone.
The bag sent by Xue Niang was filled up with all kinds of gold and silver wares, and were enough for Gu Shenwei to send for many days. Those gold and silver vessels were brought by the Miss and had an impressive ‘Iron Mountain Robber’s Gang style’, which meant that there were no fixed marks on them and no one could find out their origins.
The following several days were part of the New Year break. The school was closed and Gu Shenwei’s plan for buying over somebody had stopped temporarily.
Xue Niang had hesitated for several days before finally agreeing to teach him kung fu.
Even if Gu Shenwei had spent another 10 years in hard training, he may still be unable to defeat Shangguan Yushi in one or two moves. He actually didn’t expect himself to be much stronger than her, he just wanted to ‘surprise‘ her.
Shangguan Yushi practised kung fu together with the twins, so their moves should be similar. Although Gu Shenwei was not familiar with her martial arts skills, he was very clear about Shangguan Ru’s. He had already showed all of them to Xue Niang during his daily report.
Xue Niang was very familiar with Golden Roc Castle’s kung fu skills, and she had been thinking about how to defeat the enemy in one move these days.
“You can’t fight mercilessly, so you can only surpass that little girl in moves. This is kind of difficult because there are many Golden Roc Castle martial arts. Even the fist and foot techniques are more than a few dozens and it is impossible to counteract each move in them.”
Xue Niang was right, Gu Shenwei was also clear about this, so he thought of an idea:
“I want Shangguan Yushi to use her unique skills as soon as she starts fighting. Amongst all the fist and foot techniques of Golden Roc Castle, moves that could be counted ‘unique skills’ are few in number, I just …”
Xue Niang sneered coldly and shook her head. “Of course there are not too many unique skills. But as they are called unique skills, naturally they are the moves that are most difficult to be solved and blocked.”
As for Xue Niang’s kung fu skills, she could kill a person like Shangguan Yushi with only one move. But these moves could not be mastered by Servant Huan because his internal energy was too low, and they couldn’t be used on a ‘lord’.
Several days later, when the New Year ended within happy laughter and pleasant, cheerful voices, Xue Niang finally found a way. She even arranged a practice partner as his opponent.
Lotus and Servant Qian had become a killer’s disciple for several months. But unlike others who stayed in east castle, they still lived in the eighth young lord’s yard at night, which aroused lots of discussions. All these discussions pointed to the eighth mistress who didn’t know the rules, but Gu Shenwei believed that this was actually Xue Niang’s idea.
The fighting partner was Lotus, she was the most suitable substitute for Shangguan Yushi.
Lotus benefited a lot from the past several months’ training and Gu Shenwei couldn’t help but be jealous of her. If he could become a killer’s disciple, he definitely would have improved much faster than anyone else. But now, this teenage girl, who had only started kung fu practice in less than a year, was already comparable to him. She even surpassed him in fist and foot techniques.
Xue Niang asked Servant Huan to repeat the kung fu skills that Shangguan Ru was good at. Based on this, she selected five moves from the basic fist and palm techniques of Golden Roc Castle, and carefully studied the possible countermeasures.
“Remember, it is the people who have ‘unique skills’, not the martial arts itself. These so-called ‘unique skills’ are the moves one is most familiar with, most learnt. These five moves selected by me may not be the most formidable moves. They may also be not the ones that girl is good at. So, everything has yet to be confirmed.”
No matter what, Xue Niang had her reasons for choosing these five moves, so Gu Shenwei had listened with reverence. If not for the reason that they all had their own evil intentions and plots, he honestly would have thought Xue Niang was a good ‘master’, maybe, even better than his father Gu Lun and Servant Yang Zheng.
“These five moves focuses more on attack and target at one’s vital parts. If the opponent wants to finish quickly and defeat you in several moves, she will probably use them.”
These five moves were selected from three sets of fist techniques, two of which were not even learnt by Lotus. She had only entered the east castles several months ago so obviously couldn’t be comparable with Shangguan Yushi who had practised kung fu for more than ten years. But she had the focus and persistence that Shangguan Yushi lacked, which could make up for her disadvantages.
Actions were dead and people were alive. The probability that each of these five moves may be changed into three or four forms, was also thought of by Xue Niang. Thus the solutions she offered were as many as 15 moves. Even so, she thought it was not enough. But considering that Shangguan Yushi was not a peerless master, she didn’t want to teach more.
Most of these 15 moves were created by Xue Niang based on her own martial arts, and were not powerful at all if one wanted to use them in a kung fu competition. Their only purpose was to deal with the five possible moves of Golden Roc Castle kung fu.
It took Gu Shenwen three days of practise to familiarise these moves. But this was just the easiest part of the whole plan. It was useless to only master the solution. One must learn to predict the opponent’s moves in advance.
For instance, as soon as the opponent lowered her shoulder, Gu Shenwei had to judge which move she was going to use, or his opponent’s posture might be ready and it would be too late even if he knew the solution.
That was why he needed Lotus to be his fighting partner. She wouldn’t explain which move she was going to use, and sometimes she might not even use one of those five moves. Gu Shenwei had to rely on his subtle observations and keen instinct to counterattack.
Xue Niang was a stern ‘master’, and Lotus was not soft-hearted. She fought ferociously as if Servant Huan was her real enemy, which somehow made her behaviour like Shangguan Yushi’s.
Gu Shenwei suffered a lot because of this. It was the fifth day of the Chinese Lunar New Year, and the New Year break was over. He got more blue and purple bruises on his body, but the school had reopened before he was able to master the unraveling moves skilfully.
Fortunately, most of the school kids still stayed at their home. The twins and Shangguan Yushi were said to be absent till the fifteenth day of the Chinese Lunar New Year, which offered the necessary buffer time Gu Shenwei needed. He thought the solution moves would be easy to learn, not expecting that they would take so much time and energy.
The Dao of Martial Arts was a process of turning the simple into the complex and then turning the complex into the simple several times. Gu Shenwei now realized that he was still far from satisfactory.
Gu Shenwei saw Shangguan Hongye amongst the scattered school kids who came to study and considered it was a good sign. Even better was that Servant Qing didn’t come. He had asked someone to pass the words that those teenage footmen didn’t have to stay around the gate but they must come to check in everyday.
The footmen of the twins had dispersed in an uproar and soon only five or six teenagers were left in front of the gate. It would be too conspicuous for Gu Shenwei to stay, so he had also returned to the stone hut to kill some time.
Noting that it was time for the kids to leave school, he detoured to the alley in front of the front yard gate, and walked slowly towards the school. As expected, he met Shangguan Hongye before walking too long.
Shangguan Hongye was alone and didn’t bring along his little bookkeeper. He was absorbed in his walking, as if he hadn’t noticed Servant Huan.
Gu Shenwei walked in front of him and bowed to him, “Hong Gongzi.”
Shangguan Hongye answered listlessly with Mhm, but he uncontrollably slowed down his steps, showing a trace of yearning.
Gu Shenwei took out a silver bowl from his robe, “Is this what you have lost?”
This bowl was bigger than all the previous vessels. Shangguan Hongye eyes lighted up, but he didn’t take it over immediately. He glanced back and forth, then pushed Servant Huan to the corner, and asked puzzledly and angrily:
“What is your real purpose?”
“Purpose? Of course it is picking up lost items and returning them to its original owner.”
“Don’t lie to me. You’re just a dog slave, where can you pick up so many valuable items, you must have stolen them… Tell me, what on earth do you want to get from me? Or I will send you to Xi Xin Yuan.”
Gu Shenwei pushed away Shangguan Hongye’s arm awkwardly. This was not a good place for a private talk, the ubiquitous guards of Golden Roc Castle may hide in dark and listen secretly. But there was also no other place better than this, so he brought the silver bowl close to his chest, and observed the opposite teenager’s reaction.
Shangguan Hongye’s countenance changed from arrogant to greedy.
“I came across the item and couldn’t help but pick it up. As for Xi Xin Yuan, I’ve been there before.”
Gu Shenwei said icilly. He had indeed been to Xi Xin Yuan, the Ghost Yard before. This statement seemed to shock Shangguan Hongye. He took a step back, no longer appearing to be that condescending.
“If this is not yours, I’ll ask others.”
Gu Shenwei pretended to leave after he had finished the words. Shangguan Hongye no longer cared about the status difference between a lord and a servant. He grabbed his arm, hesitated for a while, and smiled:
“Not necessary, this is mine.”
Gu Shenwei took out the silver bowl again, handed it to Shangguan Hongye. But he didn’t let it go right away, “I’ll give an item like this to anyone who asks me. If you have any good brothers, you might as well tell them.”
Shangguan Hongye almost ‘robbed’ the silver bowl away, and said definitely: “No, I don’t have a brother.”
The little trick of sending items lasted for several more days. No matter what Servant Huan brought, Shangguan Hongye would take it casually, never questioning him again.
Gu Shenwei thought that it was time to pull the net and make a request to Shangguan Hongye.
- Translator’s note: Liang is a Chinese mass unit, which equals 31.25g. It is usually used for measuring silver or gold. ↩