Editor: Xu Xian
Chapter 099 Lesson
Tie Hanfeng had a long and brilliant career as a killer. Constant exposure to sabre, sword and blood had led him to understand some profound truth and put it into practice.
Servant Huan was his first, and would likely be his only, disciple. He had been looking forward to teaching this lesson for a long time, waiting for the right moment; now, he felt it was time.
He didn’t drink or say foul words.
“Do you still remember that person I asked you to kill?”
Gu Shenwei nodded. Of course he remembered that horse-faced man. One moment, he was pouring his heart out to Tie Hanfeng; the next, he was the chosen target of assassination.
“He used to be very famous in southern Jade City and had countless ties with the castle and the Meng family, yet killing him hasn’t caused any trouble for you and me.”
Gu Shenwei also remembered this. The horse-faced man seemed to have never existed, he hadn’t heard of anyone who wanted to avenge him.
“You killed Big Belly Buddha, but caused a streak of bad luck. Think about it, what’s the difference between these two?”
Gu Shenwei shook his head. Actually, he had some idea of what the difference was, but it was vague and he was too shy to say it.
“This is the truth I want to tell you: Killing people and safely killing people are two different things. The kill is just the kill, everybody can kill, even with your bare hands. Safely killing someone isn’t just about making your opponent bleed, the first thing you have to do is cut his ‘connections’.”
Tie Hanfeng was in high spirits and nagged about a variety of things, Gu Shenwei didn’t remember them all, but he was suddenly enlightened and understood the meaning of his Master’s words.
He recalled that his Master had talked with many people before asking him to kill the horse-faced man. At the time, Gu Shenwei found the conversations baffling, but now that he thought about it, he realised they had a very clear purpose. In fact, the promises in Tie Hanfeng’s rhetoric were made in exchange for people to give up protecting that horse-faced man.
The horse-faced man was already ‘dead’ before Tie Hanfeng ordered his disciple to make a move.
Big Belly Buddha wasn’t more important than that horse-faced man. With a proper return, Meng Fifth Gongzi would also give up this servant. However Gu Shenwei broke the rules, he killed Big Belly Buddha before cutting his connections, he didn’t repay him either. Now that Meng Mingshi lost face, he had to take revenge to get his pride back.
The siblings of the Xu family were the initiators, but they handed over all their money and bore a large debt, so were forgiven.
Tie Hanfeng ended up mentioning Mr Guo, “Now you understand why you shouldn’t challenge Mr. Guo. His connections are deeply rooted, he’s even connected with King Lord himself. Don’t make a move, if you show even the slightest sign of it you’ll be killed.”
“Then what should I do? Wait for him to kill me?”
Tie Hanfeng wore a proud smile, he was like a kid who finally had a chance to share his secret. “This is the other side of ‘connections’, the person who has the deepest and widest connections is the person who’s hardest to get rid of. So, to protect your own safety, the best way is to increase your ‘connections’.”
Gu Shenwei suddenly understood this, but he still didn’t know what to do. He only had a few connections: his Master Tie Hanfeng, who was a big shot in southern Jade City, but a boot-licker in the castle; Shangguan Ru, who he hadn’t met in a long time and was kept apart from by Shangguan Yushi who treated him as an enemy.
Tie Hanfeng seemed to already have a solution, but he didn’t say it at the time. One month later, when Gu Shenwei returned to Lian Huo Yuan after he finished with his life as a house-serf at the library chamber, Tie Hanfeng finally led his disciple to finish an important step a Golden Roc killer must do: Formally recite the oath of loyalty to a young lord.
This wasn’t like the joke oaths made by Luo Ningcha, but a lifelong, inviolable blood oath. In the past, slaughter occasionally occurred between brothers at Golden Roc Castle, but it was never heard that a killer betrayed his or her lord. The reason was simple, regardless of acts of betrayal or loyalty, once the lord lost his power and died, the lord’s subordinate killers would all commit suicide or be buried alive with the dead lord.
In fact, Gu Shenwei nearly guessed his Master’s plan. In the past month, the surviving disciples at East Castle all gradually pledged to different young lords. The young lords had started fighting over those disciples, openly or secretly, a year ago. The best disciples had established a relationship with their future lords in various ways a long time ago.
The teenagers of Bi Nu gang skipped this step. They already had a lord before they entered East Castle. No one competed for them because their lords had full rights to them.
Lotus had already pledged to the eighth young lord, Gu Shenwei followed his Master to fulfil this responsibility the first day he returned to Lian Huo Yuan.
Gu Shenwei spent the whole night calming the waves in his heart, he would be pledging allegiance to the enemy who exterminated his family.
Amongst Unique King’s grown-up sons, only two couldn’t leave the castle. The oldest son, Shangguan Chui, stayed according to tradition; the eighth son, Shangguan Nu, couldn’t stand on his own due to various reasons. He stayed in the castle to assist his father and was in charge of external affairs at Wai Shi Yuan.
Tie Hanfeng’s lord was the third young lord, he sent his disciple to the gate at Wai Shi Yuan, but didn’t go inside.
Since Gu Shenwei learnt the whole process from Lotus, he conducted and finished the blood oath very smoothly.
The ritual wasn’t complicated, Gu Shenwei knelt outside of the meeting hall and kowtowed nine times, then shouted his original name, servant name, and some conventional phrases like ‘a killer is rootless and must rely on their lord’. Finally, he begged the lord to accept him.
Someone brought out half a bowl of water and a pointed cone. Gu Shenwei pierced his ten fingers and squeezed several drops of blood out, showing ‘his ten fingers were linked with the lord’. The blood dripped into water, the bowl was taken inside the hall and brought back after a while. There was less water, this showed that the lord had drunk a mouthful and dripped in his own blood. 1
Gu Shenwei drained the bowl dry and became Shangguan Nu’s ‘loyal’ subordinate from now on. With this connection, if someone wanted to kill him, they had to cut his ‘connection’ with Shangguan Nu, or had to do it in a very secretive way.
Over the past hundred years, the process of the blood oath had been greatly simplified. In the olden times, the lord and the killer had to kill an enemy together and use the enemy’s blood to make an oath. The more powerful the enemy, the better the effect of the blood oath. After that, there was also a series of complex rituals, it usually took several days or months to take in a killer.
As years went by, the number of killers increased a lot, the blood oath had become the simplest means used by young lords to seize talented people and grow their power.
Gu Shenwei knew this because he had spent a month reading those dust-covered books and accounts in the library chamber.
However, there were too many books in there, Gu Shenwei wouldn’t be able to finish reading them even in ten years. He had to choose a few from them, the one who instructed him was the teacher Zhang Ji.
The fact that Gu Shenwei could read the problem from a document impressed Zhang Ji. After returning to the library chamber, Gu Shenwei took the initiative to ask him questions. At first Zhang Ji refused, but he was in a better mood later on and became more interested. Not only did he teach Gu Shenwei all his findings over the past years, he also gave him a list of tasks, forcing this ‘extra student’ to read some necessary materials.
One of the things Zhang Ji always said was, “History teaches us a lot of lessons, one of the lessons is that nobody ever learns from these lessons.” He taught the scions of Shangguan family reading and writing and was also responsible for teaching the history of the castle, so had a very deep understanding of it.
In this boring month, Gu Shenwei learnt the history of Golden Roc Castle and found that Zhang Ji’s words were true. In those countless assassinations, the reasons for the failure were usually the same, each generation of Unique King made the same mistakes and corrected them with similar measures.
There were many traditions, like the blood oath, that had been simplified, such as the killer’s funeral. It used to be conducted at Afterlife Cliff for three days, the last step being to drop the corpse off the cliff. The whole process was full of dignity, but now it had been reduced to something somewhat insulting.
It was the same with assassination missions. As Golden Roc Castle became more and more powerful, the difficulty to complete an assassination actually became less and less. There were very few forces that could escape from the sabres of Golden Roc killers. The original procedures, like careful investigation and buying over key figures, were almost completely abandoned, sending out a ‘detective’ became the only remaining tradition.
Zhang Ji was very interested in the ‘bribing betrayers’ part, every time he asked Servant Huan to read materials related to it, he would stroke the cover of the book and sigh, “The heart, people’s heart, it’s all in the heart.”
Bribing betrayers sometimes cost a huge amount of money. Since the last generation of Unique Kings, expenditure on this aspect had gradually cut down. In the last couple years, it simply stated that unless it was a very important assassination mission, ‘bribing betrayers’ was no longer to be conducted.
Every time they talked about this, Zhang Ji would bitterly say, “In the past, the sharpest sabre was gold and silver, the most formidable killer is the strategist. Now everything has changed, there are only butchers left, no more real killers.”
Zhang Ji had thoroughly researched these archaic ‘buying over’ techniques, so had a deep understanding of them, he even had a few theories. “The lord always takes the servant’s bows and scrape cringe as granted, but the servant doesn’t think so. They will treat all their flattery and humiliation as the cost of doing business and write them down one by one, waiting for an appropriate return. If there’s no return or the return is not satisfactory, the seed of betrayal will root and sprout. Observe carefully, these kinds of people will be the ones you have to buy over. I have seen too many acts of loyalty and betrayal. I’ll tell you one thing, all the lords are foolish. They take and enjoy everything for granted and never think that they come at a price. So you’ll always find the ideal betrayer, it is they who appear the most loyal, does the most flattering, and believes he or she is the most devoted.”
Gu Shenwei was completely convinced by this and, at the same time, he felt a bit startled: those words described him perfectly. Golden Roc Castle would never afford the return he required, and he was destined to be that ‘ideal betrayer’.
Reading greatly influenced Gu Shenwei. Together with his Master Tie Hanfeng’s lesson, they were the two pillars for completing his revenge cause.
His only regret was that there was no material for the current Unique King in the library chamber, Gu Shenwei couldn’t find any detailed information about the slaughter of the Gu family.
Psychologically, Gu Shenwei felt for the first time that he wasn’t that weak. Golden Roc Castle was becoming more powerful day by day, but in the meantime, it had abandoned many seemingly unimportant things. The current Golden Roc Castle was unprecedentedly powerful, but in some hidden places, it was unexpectedly weak.
Gu Shenwei was still unable make a formed revenge plan, but the road ahead was not completely shrouded in mist anymore. Golden Roc Castle was no longer the august, towering, golden mountain, but an average castle located on the mountain peak.
Gu Shenwei’s thinking skills had grown greatly, but his kung fu had been left behind. The evil fruit planted by Xue Niang gradually appeared, he had another Qi deviation. Like the last time, he completely fainted and couldn’t recite the words of the mysterious swords manual, thus his internal energy didn’t improve.
His balanced power had been at the third level of yin energy for more than half a year. The internal energy of disciples at the East Castle used to be lower than his, but now, some people had already surpassed him.
On the third day after pledging his loyalty to Shangguan Nu, Gu Shenwei attended the seventh monthly test. It was a fiasco, he nearly lost his life. Tie Hanfeng became furious because of this and made him take out that mysterious swords manual again.
- Translator’s note: There’s a phrase in Chinese called ‘ten fingers are linked with the heart, which is used to describe the close relationship between the person and the person one is concerned about. ↩