Editors: Rams and Nyxnox
Chapter 086 Problem
Gu Shenwei pondered what the prostitute Shen Yanshi had said and didn’t quite understand why she had wanted to meet with a kid but not with these two grown-ups. He suddenly missed the east castle he was familiar with. Killing was both the means and purpose of life there; it was simple and direct.
While Zhong Heng went back to the ya shu at the northern Jade City, Tie Hanfeng led his disciple to the southwall tavern to take a rest. 1 He drank more wine than usual and met with some more people as Gu Shenwei sat side and listened to the news that people were talking about.
Xu Xiaoyi claimed that everyone knew him in southern Jade City and it seemed to be true. People called him by various names such as ‘little devil’, ‘little kid’, or ‘little bean’, but no one knew the whereabouts of him and his sister, Xu Yanwei. The sister and brother duo seemed to have disappeared from the southern Jade City, and no corpses matching their descriptions were found in the wilderness within ten miles.
“It’s really weird. In southern Jade City, even two ants wouldn’t be able to hide from these people’s eyes.”
At midnight the amount of informers began to a gradually decrease. Tie Hanfeng tightly gripped his wine cup as he fell more and more confused.
“Perhaps they hid in the northern Jade City.” Gu Shenwei thought. To him, that was the only possible explanation.
“That thought had long ago crossed my mind, but those two, a thief and a prostitute, weren’t even qualified to enter the northern Jade city. Also we checked the records at all of the city gates, and there were no records of people with unknown origins entering the northern Jade City.”
Gu Shenwei had personally seen the guards of the northern Jade City in action, as they constantly recorded the names of those who entered and left and took custody of their weapons. Even when faced with the professional killers of Golden Roc Castle, there were no exceptions. It would indeed be difficult for a pair of siblings to sneak in.
“Unless they were burnt to ashes, they will be found.”
Tie Hanfeng gulped down a mouthful of wine as he finished those last words and fell asleep with his head leaning against the seat. He never slept in bed, at least Gu Shenwei had never seen him to do so..
Gu Shenwei sat quietly, looking at the drinkers drunkenly staggering around, leaving or falling drowsily as he counted the time in his mind. There were no night watchmen inside southern Jade City. He felt that it was around the fourth night period as he stood up.
“What’s up?” Tie Hanfeng’s snoring sound ceased and he asked a question with his eyes closed.
“I am going out for some air.”
Gu Shenwei walked out of the tavern, made a circle and entered the city from another gap in the wall. He randomly walked across several streets and rushed towards the retention alley after making sure no one was following him.
The guests that had came for the wine had gone away like tidal waves; the guests that came for sex had fulfilled their lust. They all walked out of the boundless gentle towns. Some of them left proud and satisfied, others slipped away mysteriously. All of them wanted to reach home before dawn so that, maybe they could find an excuse to deal with the blame at home.
Gu Shenwei tried to touch the hilt of the sabre, but his hand remained empty as his sabre no longer existed by his waist, leaving him with only a deep feeling of restlessness.
After another wave of guests had left, the retention alley finally became quiet, albeit temporarily. The lights in the small houses were turned off one by one until eventually there were only a few guests that were ‘kept’ behind.
Gu Shenwei stood away from the houses and leaned against the wall of a corner, observing both Xu Yanwei and Shen Yanshi’s small houses. Xu Yanwei’s small house had no lights in either the inside and outside. The latter had a lantern lighting the front door but the inside was dark as well.
About a quarter of an hour later, Gu Shenwei crouched and quickly ran to the door of Shen Yanshi’s house. The door was unlatched, as if it was waiting for his arrival.
He quietly pushed the door open and went inside. The layout of the house was almost the same as the house on the opposite side. He directly went to the back-door, pushed it to be unlatched and then went softly upstairs.
There were no servants around because they were probably already sent away.
The door of the bedroom was also unlatched. Gu Shenwei listened for a while and heard that there were no sounds of breathing inside.
Gu Shenwei pushed the door open just a crack. He slipped inside and immediately saw two corpses. He walked over quietly and bent to check. They were Shen Yanshi and an old server. One of them was cut in the abdomen, the other in the neck.
The eyes of the dead people were wide open, bigger than when they were alive. The corpses’ eyes shimmered and gave off a surreal feeling, but it only made Gu Shenwei’s senses sharper and he felt a chill passing through the spine from his neck.
He turned around and saw a man sitting in the corner. Like a dead man, he didn’t have any breath, but he was certainly alive.
“I was wondering if the murderer was going to come back or not.” The man sitting in the corner said.
“Perhaps the murderer was waiting for a scapegoat.”
Gu Shenwei abandoned the intention to run away because the two knew each other. He just didn’t expect the other side to be an expert.
“Maybe the murderer was waiting for a good show.”
Zhong Heng stood up and walked to the corpses, “Another masterpiece of the Golden Roc Castle’s narrow sabre. Even the sabresmanship is alike.”
“It’s not alike.”
“The Golden Roc Sabresmanship is quicker. Sabre in and sabre out. The attack happens in just a moment, so the cut will be very small. It is even smaller than the width of the narrow sabre. Shen Yanshi’s cut was caused by the narrow sabre, but the murderer made it by stabbing slowly and waited for awhile before pulling the sabre out. Thus the cut was a bit bigger. That old woman’s wound isn’t deep because she died from losing too much blood. It does not match the style of killing with one cut in which the Golden Roc Sabresmanship is renowned for.”
Gu Shenwei himself, felt surprised as he finished speaking. He had seen countless corpses at east castle and never paid special attention to the wound, but to him the difference was so obvious.
Zhong Heng squatted, and he even touched the wounds on the two corpses for a while, “The murderer was closer to her when he killed her. He probably held her with one hand and gripped a sabre to stab with another hand. When he killed that old woman, the murderer used the flat cut sabresmanship he wasn’t good at.”
“You believe me?”
This was the second time Gu Shenwei asked the same question from a different person.
“I’m not entirely sure. It’s difficult to change the pace of sabresmanship from slow to fast, but it is easy to change from fast to slow, and you even found the murderer’s flaw in such a short time.”
“What do you want?”
Zhong Heng retreated back to the corner, sat on the soft chair and thought quietly for a while, “I’m thinking about how to solve the problem.”
“I thought you wanted to find the real murderer.” Gu Shenwei said with irony.
“I just want to solve the problem.”
“I’m your problem, do you want to solve it now?”
“No. Golden Roc Castle gave you three days, and I won’t take even a second away.”
Gu Shenwei wished that he could have had a sabre with him. His desire to touch one was so strong that his throat felt dry and itchy.
The two kept silent for a while before Zhong Heng suddenly said, “Do you understand me?”
“I’m not good at guessing.”
The man in the corner let out a kind smile, “The truth is completely different from the ‘problem’. For example, someone lost a hundred liang silver in the room. The one seeking the truth wants to know if the silver existed or not, whether it was lost or not, and who was the thief. The one trying to solve the problem wants to create hundred liang to satisfy everyone. As for where the silver comes from or who will provide it, those are all trivial matters.”
Zhong Heng’s words were as abstract as Tie Hanfeng’s words, that they were not coming here to find the real murderer but to prove that the third person was not killed by him. Gu Shenwei seemed to understand but he always felt something was wrong with it.
“For this matter, what’s the problem you want to solve?”
“The problem I want to solve is to catch the real murderer.”
Gu Shenwei was stunned for a bit, but then realized that Zhong Heng was making fun of him, which annoyed him. Why can’t everybody say it more clearly? Why always talk ambiguously in a roundabout way? He couldn’t help but think again that the killer’s world at east castle was so simple that even Xue Niang appeared to be sincere and frank now.
The two men separated by corpses spoke in riddles, no one asked the other why he came to the crime scene.
Zhong Heng stood up again when the sky was going to be bright. This time he decided to leave, “I want to ask around, how about you?”
“I too want to ask around.”
The five prostitutes who previously belonged to Big Belly Buddha all lived nearby. Three on the north side of the street, two on the south side, one missing, and one dead. The role Zhong Heng played was a policeman and an announcer of the death.
The first prostitute who heard the news sat up on the bed and said dreamingly, “Dead, another one died. A person is like a fallen flower, but there’s no flowing water to float on. A handful of yellow soil is enough for burying a body. Die, all of you go die.” Then she fell and slept again.
The second prostitute had a guest sleeping on the floor, so she accepted the inquiry downstairs, “I would say that she was seeking death for herself. For this kind of business, it’s good enough to focus on earning money. One should not be ambitious, she was too ambitious, like that missing Xu Yanwei. Aren’t you investigating who killed prince Ju? It’s really a coincidence as those two bitches were that prince’s favourite. Those two were such bitter rivals that I thought the sister and brother of the Xu family were killed by Shen Yanshi.”
“But you didn’t say it yesterday.”
“Yesterday? My lord, I also have my own ‘prince’ to serve, my heart is not here. As for that prince Ju, he was not a good guest. Although I’m a bitch and I should not say behind the guest’s back, he was not my guest so I can say it, am I right?”
“Right, go ahead.”
“He laid his hands too hard on them. Only that Big Daddy Xu would like to send his own daughter to be scourged by him, and also that Shen Yanshi, she would do anything for money. If it were me, even a gold or silver mountain piled in front of me I would not be enough for me to serve him …”
The third prostitute already got the news in advance from nowhere and ignited two pieces of incense for the sister, “Everyone wants to squeeze into the northern Jade City but enters the wilderness in the end. Sister Yanshi didn’t serve any guests yesterday because she closed the door at a very early time, saying that she was too tired and wanted to take a rest. Alas, you don’t care about who killed her and only want to know something about the prince. I have nothing to say. The ones who want to kill him could fill up the whole retention alley.”
Gu Shenwei wanted to find the woman servant who followed Xu Yanwei around, but it was said that she was sent away in advance. The prostitute knew nothing about it, but an old woman reminded him, “Go ask around Madam Xiao’s place, madam always kindly treats the old and the weak. She may have accepted old woman Li.”
Gu Shenwei returned to the cold, empty street before he felt a lump in his throat and he would regret if he didn’t say anything, blurting out, “That sister and brother pair, are they really Big Belly Buddha’s own daughter and son?”
“Hmm, that explains why they asked for your help to kill him. Nobody is surprised as this would’ve happened sooner or later.”
Gu Shenwei braced against the wall and vomited. Then he stood up and asked, “Everybody knows what he did?”
“This is the Jade City. What you can think of and can’t think of all happens here. You’ll get used to it gradually.”
Zhong Heng’s tone was annoyingly calm, but Gu Shenwei still forced himself to calm down. He didn’t come here to save the world and no one could save the world. This world will be devastated by itself, he thought.
Along the whole retention alley, Xiao Fengchai’s house was the largest and the most luxurious. In fact, she alone had three houses. She connected the three and made them into one.
Madam Xiao was taking a rest and no one was allowed to disturb her. The old woman who used to serve Xu Yanwei was indeed here, but she couldn’t provide any relevant information. Ju Gaotai was Xu Yanwei’s regular guest, but he was not the only guest. She was sent away a day before what had happened, so she didn’t know if Xu Yanwei had a guest or not at that night. She also didn’t know who left a thousand liang silver.
“A thousand liang silver? This old woman has never seen such a generous guest before.”
The two was about to leave before the old woman Li recalled something, “Not long ago, a person called Mi Gongzi visited frequently. He seemed to be really rich. If there were anyone who would spend a thousand liang silver, it must be him.”
Mi Gongzi always came alone. He either wore a long robe or a cloak, acting secretively. Except for Xu Yanwei, no one has ever seen his true face. The retention alley always had this type of guest so it was not too strange.
As Gu Shenwei thought about this ‘Mi Gongzi’, a picture formed in his heart.
- Translator’s note: Ya shu is government office in feudal China. ↩