Chapter 164 Teahouse
Servant Huan and Yu Gongzi had vowed not to fight each other anymore in front of Tenth Gongzi, and for a long time they had at least done so on the surface. Neither wanted to end up with a lose-lose situation at the last moment, so no matter who wanted to kill whom, the key problem was not about how to kill, but how not to arouse Shangguan Ru’s suspicion.
Gu Shenwei still remembered his Master Tie Hanfeng’s words that to ‘kill someone safely’, one must cut off the ‘connections’ of the target before the kill. In other words, if one couldn’t cut off the ‘connections’ of the target, one had to get rid of one’s own ‘suspicion’ to avoid being suspected by others.
Shangguan Yushi was doing this. If she succeeded, everyone would think that Servant Huan had died in the fight between the Kun Society and the Qiu Society, with his death nothing to do with her.
Gu Shenwei decided to use a more classical method. The problem would be solved as long as he could cut off the seemingly unbreakable relationship between the two teenage girls by proving in front of Shangguan Ru that Yu Gongzi was secretly in touch with the Qiu Society.
The deeper the love, the stronger the hate.
Gu Shenwei forced Servant Jing to recall what he had overheard over and over again, hoping to find out some clues. And in the end he came to the conclusion that the man who had quarrelled with Yu Gongzi didn’t have a high status because he talked little but listened more as if he was a bit afraid of that little devil.
Quarrels and money, these two words kept dancing in his head. Shangguan Yushi’s family is average, and she tried to get money from her classmates while she was still studying in the school.
Did she borrow money from the Meng family? Or was it her brother who was in debt before his death? Gu Shenwei would not be surprised at all if Meng Mingshi was trying to use this to humiliate Shangguan Yushi, but it seemed unlikely that she would be forced to betray Tenth Gongzi simply because of this. Not to mention that it was Yu Gongzi who was scolding the other side at that time, which was not what a debtor’s attitude towards the creditor would be.
As for money, Duke Gao’s death was also related to debt and the Meng family, so Gu Shenwei had naturally linked the two things together. To his delight, Xu Xiaoyi found an important clue.
“The Servant who accompanied Duke Gao is called Qi Tian. A scary name, but he’s actually an honest man. He can’t change whatever his lord calls him. Others call him Qi Da, Heh, the character Tian lost its ‘head’ …” Xu Xiaoyi babbled for a long time before he got to the point. “He’s hiding in the City View Alley. Except for me, who would be able to find his whereabouts? Even I have spent lots of efforts …” 1
On the afternoon of the fifteenth day of the first lunar month, Gu Shenwei led Xu Xiaoyi to the City View Alley while Servant Jing followed them closely. The three went around in a large circle before they finally started heading towards their destination.
Xu Xiaoyi really feared this place located in the remote area of Jade City. Long ago, many years before, Xu Xiaoyi had travelled all over the city, but City View Alley was the only place he had never visited. At first, he tried to find all kinds of excuses, and after he failed, he became anxious. “Brother Huan, please do not let me go with you. I don’t know martial arts, and I’ll be a burden even if I go. Besides, a flowery, handsome teenager like me would definitely be eaten alive by those people.”
The City View Alley was located in the south of Southern Jade City. It was a ‘man’s world’, just castrated men. There were several thousands of them doing all kinds of business there like normal people in a small town.
Gu Shenwei had heard of this place before. When the Kun Society had first tried to solicit protection fees from the merchants, Tuo Nengya had warned him not to waste time in the City View Alley, “It’s the dirtiest place in Jade City, and nobody wants to go near it. It’s the only place that has nothing to do with either the castle or the Meng family. There’re all kinds of weirdos there. It will be very hard and one will be laughed at if one tries to charge them.”
Tuo Nengya’s words weren’t entirely accurate as there were people who were willing to approach and even enter the City View Alley. What Xu Xiaoyi was afraid of was exactly what some people liked.
Although the City View Alley was filled with all kinds of businesses, its trade pillar was the same as Retention Alley.
“I heard that the people here know witchcraft and are especially interested in hunting pretty little boys. They’ll cut off some of the boys’ little things to make them the same as them. Worst of all, they may eat some of the boys alive. It’s said that this will make people forever young and pretty …”
Xu Xiaoyi had been desperately holding onto Brother Huan’s arm since they entered the City View Alley. His mind was occupied with the horror stories he had heard from his childhood.
Servant Jing also didn’t look well. It was hard to completely forget the fear of death once one had tasted it. He was somewhat like a frightened bird now. To him, a crowded place filled with good and evil people like City View Alley was an ideal place for Yu Gongzi to send someone to assassinate him.
Gu Shenwei didn’t believe in such nonsense. The residents of the City View Alley did not look like anything special; some of them even had beards and weren’t like eunuchs at all. The only difference was the look in those people’s eyes. They seemed to have an instinct that immediately identified outsiders. The three had gathered a lot of attention as soon as they stepped into the streets.
Xu Xiaoyi became more frightened, and he was almost hanging on Brother Huan’s arm as he walked. Gu Shenwei had to take him along because he was the only one who could recognize Qi Da, Duke Gao’s close servant.
City View Alley was long and winding. As they walked in further and further, the shops became fewer and fewer and the uniqueness of the place was gradually made apparent. Most of the houses lined along the street had no signboards, but there were one or two men standing in front of each door. They could barely be called men as the heavy makeup they wore would even make the prostitutes of Retention Alley feel ashamed of themselves. Some of them were beautiful without equal, and no one would suspect anything even if they claimed themselves to be women.
Two killers and a teenager walked with their heads down, ignoring any hints or solicitations.
The information Xu Xiaoyi had said that Qi Da was hiding in the Essense Pavilion which was located in the deepest area of City View Alley, which was just down the road.” 2
“Watch it, do not let Qi Da run away from you.” Gu Shenwei reminded.
Xu Xiaoyi looked up with every few steps and became more frightened. He muttered in a low voice, “I’m the ugliest, please do not want me …”
The three-storied Essence Pavillion was a mix of strange places. The first floor was a teahouse, which was really rare in Southern Jade City. The second floor was a waiting room for summoned people, and the final third floor was a place where a group of fortune tellers lived.
A plaque was hanging across the entrance of the pavilion, which read “Remembering the meaning and forgetting the words”.
“It’s said that the fortune-tellers here are the best. There’s a living immortal who can tell you your whole life clearly. Let’s give it a try when we get there.”
They hadn’t encountered any danger along the way, so Xu Xiaoyi naturally became bold again and started caring about his future.
“You don’t have to ask about your fate; you’ll serve the prostitute and the killer all your life.”
“That may not be true. Maybe my elder sister will retire and never be a whore again.”
The teahouse was full of people, it took awhile for the three newcomers find a table available. The three started observing the guests there after they sat down.
The guests were so many and varied, with old people whose age was hard to guess, ‘monsters’ with sickly and scary faces, and many crippled people with broken arms and legs. But these people all had one thing in common; they seemed to have lost all interest in life except for drinking the tea in front of them.
The bustling waiters appeared to be quite normal, but they deliberately ignored the new guests by staying far away from them.
“Where’s Qi Da?”
“I don’t know, I’ve heard that he was hiding here, but they didn’t say whether he’s drinking tea on the first floor or having a fortune-telling on the third floor.”
“Go call the waiter.”
The reluctant Xu Xiaoyi stood up and soon called over a reluctant waiter.
“What’s up?” The waiter sounded like an overseer of the castle who had real power.
Gu Shenwei put a piece of gold on the table, saying, “I’m looking for Qi Da.”
The waiter glanced at the gold and said “Wait” before he turned away, as if what the guest had just said was just the name of a dish.
Gu Shenwei felt a bit surprised that the whole matter was so easy.
The waiter disappeared for a long while before he reappeared with a man in his thirties. With thick makeup powder on his face, the man had a pair of natural melancholic eyes, which, however, was filled with anger now.
Xu Xiaoyi secretly shook his head to show that this was not Qi Da.
“Get out, you’re not welcome here,” The man with heavy makeup shouted out loudly. The other guests in the teahouse didn’t seem to have heard it, and they didn’t even turn their eyes.
“I’m looking for Qi Da.” Gu Shenwei repeated his request, and put another piece of gold on the table.
“He’s not here, look elsewhere.”
Someone has already come to find Qi Da, Gu Shenwei thought. He put his narrow sabre next to the gold, “Think again, maybe he’s in this building.”
The man with heavy makeup retreated two steps, his lips pressed together. The three guests sitting nearby suddenly stood up and silently stared at the teenage killer.
All three had lost their entire right arm, and one of them even had a crippled leg. They each conjured up a short sabre, wide and sharp.
Xu Xiaoyi wisely closed his eyes and rested his head on the table. He was experienced and knew that Brother Huan’s sabresmanship was first-class. He just had to lie still for a while and he would surely see three corpses again when he opened his eyes.
But Xu Xiaoyi was mistaken this time, there was no sound around him. He sat up straight and found the three one-armed sabremen and the two teenage killers still facing each other silently, as if no one intended to do anything.
Gu Shenwei knew that he was too careless this time. No one had told him that there were experts in the City View Alley, so he took this place as another retention alley hosted by men, and didn’t expect to meet any experts.
The three one-armed men were all experts; they were not the commonly seen sabremen who were only good at fighting but experts at killing.
Servant Jing drew his sabre first. As soon as he made a move, Gu Shenwei followed by drawing his sabre. From the others’ point of view, the two had made the move simultaneously.
They, therefore, were pressured and held back at the same time.
The sabres had been unsheathed only a few inches before they were pushed back.
The circulation of internal Qi when drawing the sabre was like rushing water, which, if suddenly blocked, would immediately flood back. Both Gu Shenwei and Servant Jing stumbled and nearly fell. With a red flush rushing into their faces, they guided their internal Qi for several circulations before it finally restored to its normal state.
In front of the two teenage killers stood a purple-robed young man who was in his twenties. Elegant and quiet, the young man looked like a woman but he wore no makeup. The killers had always been fully on guard, but they surprisingly didn’t know where the young man had jumped out from.
The young man drew back his hands, took one step back, and bowed slightly, “The malicious star is on duty today. It’s not suitable to use the sabre.” 3
Gu Shenwei had never met anyone so highly skilled in martial arts, so he was shocked and couldn’t speak for a long time.
The man with heavy makeup and the three one-armed men were very respectful to the young man. They saluted solemnly behind him, put away their sabres, and retreated at the same time.
The young man looked over the faces of the three guests and said, “Immortal Peng wants to see one of you. He didn’t say who it was, I guess — it’s you.”
- Translator’s note: Qi Tian literally means equaling heaven. The Monkey King from the Journey to the West is known as the Great Saint Equalling Heaven. Tian (天), Da (大). ↩
- Translator’s note: The building where Qi Da is hiding in is literally called ‘the Proud Pavilion’. It also means ‘grasping the meaning and forgetting the words’. I’m not sure if the author is making a play on words or not, but the latter one seems to be the right one based on the plaque of the building. By the way, thanks to Nyxnox for suggesting the name ‘Essence Pavilion’. ↩
- Translator’s note: The young man said this in a fortune-teller’s tone. It didn’t mean that he was the malicious star. In traditional Chinese astrology, one would check the lunar calendar to see if it was a good day for an event like wedding, funeral, moving in a new house, etc. ↩