Editors: Xu Xian
Chapter 074 Clouded Leopard
Near the alley where Xue Niang met her end, overgrown with weeds, there was a cluster of decrepit courtyards. Half of the houses there were crumbling and fragments of stone and wood were scattered everywhere. But, once the sun set, these courtyards became the busiest part of Golden Roc Castle.
Resources and luxuries were scarce in the Castle, out of its population of 7 or 8 thousand, only the desires of the lords were readily met. For the rest, a small black-market appeared; specifically to service the killers, whose unpredictable lives made them all the more willing to exchange their silver for pleasure.
At dusk, small groups of men-in-black would push aside the weeds, pass through the gaps in the wall, and search for what they needed in this ruined place: intoxicating liquors from southwall, delicious meals from the north of Jade City, and all kinds of daily supplies of unknown origin.
The masked faces of the buyers and sellers made the black market appear even ‘blacker’.
The Shangguan family secretly allowed the existence of the black market, but restricted its size to a maximum of the 17 deserted courtyards and it’s opening hours to the second night watch period.
Gu Shenwei came to the black market every three or four days to buy wine for his Master, so he was already very familiar with the place. He could even recognize some of the regular merchants, like the teenager Shangguan Hongye.
Shangguan Hongye was Unique King’s blood nephew. Since his father had died early, he was on the bottom rung amongst the lords. His life was worse than favoured servants, not to mention those killers who spent money like water.
In order to ask this ‘lord’ to do him a favour, Gu Shenwei once gave him many crushed pieces of goldware and silverware from Xue Niang. Shangguan Hongye had claimed he had used them up long ago, when actually he had carefully restored those vessels to their original state and tried to sell them at the black market.
This business was not good. It had been several months there were still many golden cups and silver pots left at his stall.
Gu Shenwei squatted, pretending to pick out something.
Wearing servant’s clothing and a rag as a mask, Shangguan Hongye quietly peddled his wares. He praised them continuously as if they once belonged to a King.
Another rule of the black market was: No loud talking.
Gu Shenwei brought out a few pieces of the silver Tie Hanfeng had paid him for killing the horse-faced man. Shangguan Hongye’s eyes immediately lit up.
“What do you want? This chamberpot is pure gold.”
“I don’t need anything, I just need you to do me a favour.” Gu Shenwei pulled down the black cloth to reveal his face so Shangguan Hongye could recognize him.
“Go away, I … I’m just curious. I come for fun, I won’t do business with you.”
Gu Shenwei took out a few more pieces, he was certain this fierce of mien but faint of heart fellow couldn’t resist the temptation of money.
Shangguan Hongye was packing up his stall, his hands stilled once he saw this. He despised his weakness, but he hated his poverty more. Seeing Gu Shenwei putting away his silver, he immediately leaned forward and held his hand, “What do you want me to help with? Do not set a bet again.”
“No, I want to ask you, is Yu Gongzi still going to school?”
“Not often.” Shangguan Hongye pulled back his hand, he was not willing to do anything that would offend Shangguan Yushi again.
“Help me find out if Yu Gongzi has acquaintances at Lian Huo Yuan.”
“Huh, there’s no need to investigate, her blood brother dawdles there everyday.”
Shangguan Hongye regretted saying anything as soon as he spoke. He hadn’t gotten the money so shouldn’t have revealed any information. Gu Shenwei didn’t care, he asked more questions and gave all the silver to Shangguan Hongye.
He knew now.
Shangguan Yuxing was one of the well-known good-for-nothing scions who accomplished nothing except eating, drinking, gambling and frequenting brothels. He used to be an overseer at east castle, but was removed from office before long. He was familiar with all the rules and market quotations, so he found himself the title of ‘counselor’ to specially help solve ‘personal grudges’ for others from then on.
‘Counselor’ was not like the other formal positions such as sabrelord or overseer, it was not even on the roster. These kinds of people didn’t have a salary, their only privilege was that they could freely enter some places.
Gu Shenwei actually saw Shangguan Yuxing before, he just didn’t know his identity.
Shangguan Yuxing was a young man in his twenties. If you looked carefully, he looked slightly similar to his sister. He was thin, but he was average in height and build, and didn’t have the long legs or arms Shangguan Yushi did.
Like Tie Hanfeng, he often wandered around Lian Huo Yuan. He would talk to every yellow-belted overseer, but he had never approached Servant Huan before. Gu Shenwei once thought he was just an assistant and didn’t expect that he was his opponent’s brother.
Gu Shenwei soon confirmed that the one who followed him when he went to throw corpses was precisely Shangguan Yuxing.
After observing for a few more days, he decided to lay his cards on the table. Shangguan Yuxing didn’t have any status at the castle, the overseers didn’t even treat him as politely as Lame Tie, so Gu Shenwei felt that he could teach him a lesson and get him to pass on a message to the little devil.
“A killer only uses their own sabre.” This was what he wanted to remind Shangguan Yushi.
There were three days left until the fourth monthly test, Gu Shenwei went to Lian Huo Yuan alone to carry a corpse as usual.
After walking not too far, he realized there was someone following him. Shangguan Yuxing’s kung fu was really poor so he easily exposed himself.
This time, Gu Shenwei didn’t go to Afterlife Cliff, but to Giant Boulder Cliff. Once he arrived, he immediately put down the corpse and hid at the entrance of the boulder. He unsheathed his sabre, held his breath and waited for the tracker to bite the bait.
Not long after, light breathing could be heard from the other side of the boulder.
Gu Shenwei swooped around the boulder, grabbed the tracker’s collar with his left hand, and pressed the sabre against his opponent’s neck with his right hand. He was just about to give him a scare when he suddenly felt his heart tremble, he dragged his captive backwards in retreat and was just able to dodge a sneak attack.
To Gu Shenwei’s surprise, someone was behind Shangguan Yuxing.
That person was also a 14 or 15 years-old teenager. He was stout, resolute and steadfast. He wore black clothes, was not masked, and held a sabre. He was obviously a killer disciple.
Judging from the fact that he could control his breath freely, Gu Shenwei knew his kung fu was not weak.
Gu Shenwei pushed Shangguan Yuxing away, fully on guard. It was really out of his expectations to meet such an expert.
“You little bastard, your moves are really ruthless.” Shangguan Yuxing spun around a few times before he regained his footing. Relying on his bodyguard, his tone was tough.
“Why did you follow me?”
“No reason, I want to see what you are doing.”
“Stay away from me, let your sister come herself.”
“My sister? What does this have to do with my sister? Fuck, are you cursing me? Clouded Leopard, teach him a lesson!”1
The teenager called Clouded Leopard had been waiting for his chance for a while, he gripped his sabre and stood in position, his strong muscles could be seen even through his clothes.
Against Gu Shenwei’s expectations again, Shangguan Yuxing didn’t come on behalf of his sister, then whose order he was following? He didn’t have time to dwell on this, he drew his sabre and held it levelly in front of him, preparing to fight. This disciple was much more formidable than those opponents he had met in the past three tests, he’d better not be distracted.
“Hey, you two will meet in three days, why not just duel in advance?” Shangguan Yuxing retreated to the side, waiting for a good show.
The two just faced each other without attacking for a long time. They were both outstanding out of those 600 or so disciples and could feel the permeable killing aura from their opponent. Unless they could find a flaw, they would not waste their valuable first move.
Shangguan Yuxing didn’t feel it at all, he just saw two dull, gloomy teenagers and was greatly disappointed. “Go kill, what are you waiting for?”
Clouded Leopard attacked first, his move was not quick, but it was steady and formidable. Like Gu Shenwei, he attacked from the front.
Gu Shenwei could be faster than him, but when faced with a person whose move was steady and formidable, ‘slow’ was always a trap, so Gu Shenwei counterattacked directly with strength. The two sabres crossed and collided, Gu Shenwei felt faintly numb in his arm from the massive rebounding force.
His balanced power was already the third level of both yin and yang energy, his internal energy was even stronger than some grown-up killers, he was surprised that there was a teenager who was stronger than him.
This aroused Gu Shenwei’s ambitiousness, he brandished his sabre and clashed with Clouded Leopard. The two used more and more strength. Using the rebound forces, the two moved faster and faster, wind created by the sabres forced the spectating Shangguan Yuxing to retreat step by step.
“Fuck, fuck…” Shangguan Yuxing released a series of curses, not knowing how to express his astonishment.
They cut at each other more than 50 times then retreated at the same time. They both needed to catch their breath.
It was the first time Gu Shenwei encountered a killer disciple who was his match and was good at frontal attacks, so he couldn’t help but admire his opponent. The stout teenager opposite him, however, did not appear to feel the same. His eyes still revealed heavy killing intent, as if he would not give up unless he killed his enemy.
“Have I offended you?” Gu Shenwei stared at Clouded Leopard, but the one he asked was Shangguan Yuxing.
“You’ll have to ask yourself that, whatever, someone dislikes you and wants your little life.”
If it was not Shangguan Yushi, then the only person Gu Shenwei could think of was Miss Luo Ningcha, he had learnt the scions of Shangguan family liked money, so he asked, “What will Big Head God reward you?”
“Why do you mention Big Head God?” Shangguan Yuxing frowned, feeling this teenager’s words were becoming stranger and stranger.
Gu Shenwei also became more and more confused. Other than those two women, he really couldn’t think of who wanted to kill a disciple. Could it be possible someone really wanted Tie Hanfeng to lose his title of killer master? But Master’s opponent had already been killed in the small alley of the south of Jade City.
Clouded Leopard launched another attack, choosing to start with a fast strike this time. Gu Shenwei had to stay focused and use all of his strength to deal with it. After over a dozen moves, the two stepped back again, it was still a draw.
Shangguan Yuxing was a bit anxious. Surprisingly, Clouded Leopard didn’t kill his opponent within two rounds, this was unprecedented. “What are you waiting for, use your unique skills, I didn’t give you the silver for free.”
After being urged, the silent Clouded Leopard’s eyes became more ferocious, his whole body was as taut as a bowstring.
Gu Shenwei felt a bit sorry for him. Clouded Leopard had immense strength, speed and formidable sabresmanship, if he followed his own rhythm and continued to fight like before, the outcome would be unpredictable. But now he was a bit impatient and wanted to make another move before he could catch his breath, he would naturally reveal a flaw. Gu Shenwei was more than 80 percent confident he would win the next round.
Even Shangguan Yuxing, who only knew how to watch for fun, could smell the oncoming violence. Excited, he clasped his hands together.
A strange sound rudely rang out just before the two teenagers were ready to attack.
The sound came from underneath the cliff. It was as if countless stones were falling down, it sounded massive, like the whole of Giant Boulder Cliff was going to collapse.
The killing intent suddenly disappeared, the three looked at the cliff edge with surprise. Not long after, they were stunned to see a monster jump out.
- Translator’s note: ‘You sister’ is an internet slang. People usually use it to tease or curse somebody or defuse the awkward atmosphere. In general, it is a derogatory term. ↩