Chapter 154 Competing for Business
Shangguan Ru’s killer group was known as the Kun Society. No one knew who had suggested the name first, but it soon spread across all of Jade City. Even Shangguan Ru herself accepted it. Everyone knew that the Tenth Gongzi of Golden Roc Castle was going to clash with the Fifth Gongzi of the Meng family.
‘It would be a hilarious show,’ many people thought at first.
Shangguan Ru bore deep grudges against Meng Mingshi, which made the confrontation between the Kun Society and Qiu Society inevitable. Gu Shenwei also spent lots of efforts on fueling the fire.
As soon as he returned to the castle, Gu Shenwei reported in detail to Tenth Gongzi about the matter of hiring sabremen in the Rouge Forest. As expected, Shangguan Ru became very angry; she wished that she were there so that she could teach that evildoer and little bastard who had betrayed her at the crucial moment a lesson. In this case, it was fair and reasonable for Servant Huan to kill Liu Waizui.
It took some time and effort for Shangguan Ru to enter the city. Although the ‘evil Qi’ inside her hadn’t broken out in a long time, it was still unsure if it was completely removed or not. So Madam Meng didn’t allow her to go to the jumbled-up Southern Jade City and tried to make her daughter stay at the castle and remotely control the killer team.
Shangguan Ru had waited for many years to be completely independent, so she naturally didn’t want her hands and feet to still be bound. This caused a dispute between her and her mother.
In the end, Gu Shenwei solved the issue by offering the house his Master Tie Hanfeng had bought in Northern Jade City as a place for Shangguan Ru to stay. It was close to Southern Jade City and it would be convenient for Shangguan Ru to command her killers and sabremen if she lived there.
The security of Northern Jade City was just a little bit inferior to Golden Roc Castle’s but it was still much more superior to Southern Jade City’s, so Madam Meng finally agreed.
Shangguan Yushi had been finding faults in Gu Shenwei’s performance the whole time. She first complained that Servant Huan had spent too much time in recruiting sabremen because Shangguan Fei’s team had long been formed. Then she accused Servant Huan of recruiting some old sabremen who used to be under the big young lord. In the end, she belittled the house in Northern Jade City, saying that it was too small and was not fit to be a residence of someone with Tenth Gongzi’s identity.
Shangguan Ru wasn’t so picky. She was satisfied with everything and summoned all of the sabremen the first day after she went down the mountain.
Fifty-one sabremen entered Northern Jade City empty-handed and performed several formations in the somewhat small yard as they waited for their new lord’s parade.
Shangguan Ru’s performance proved that she deserved to be the daughter of the Unique King. She had put away all the expressions of a little girl and appeared both dignified and approachable. She had learnt lots of tricks to deal with big men from her experience at the Iron Mountain camp. So after a competition of sabremenship and a round of drinking and dicing, even the sabremen who despised women the most were impressed by her, and they all drunkenly and openly claimed that they would offer their lifelong allegiance to Tenth Gongzi.
After three days of excitement, the sabremen went back to Southern Jade City. Five killers followed them while the other five stayed in Northern Jade City. Tenth Gongzi had to consider the practical issues of survival now.
According to the rules of Golden Roc Castle, the young lords would only be given twenty thousand taels of silver in their first year of independence. The young lords had to develop and expand their team on their own merit. Although the team was crudely organized and the young lords had no experience in earning money, there were still some basic approaches commonly referenced.
The first approach was to collect protection fees. There were a lot of merchants in Southern Jade City, and each merchant had to find one or more protectors. The only problem was that those old merchants had already found their backers and there were very few new merchants out there. It wasn’t easy for the Kun Society to take a share of the spoils.
The second approach was to participate in the bodyguard and escorting business, which was also a very competitive trade. Their direct opponent would be precisely Golden Roc Castle itself. But there were still some goods owners who were focused on cheap services. Gu Shenwei could contribute a lot of help towards winning them over as he was relatively familiar with the southwest area due to Tie Hanfeng.
The third approach was the assassination business, which was originally Golden Roc Castle’s main business but had become less so nowadays. Even Shangguan Ru herself didn’t know how the real assassination business was carried out.
Shangguan Yushi spent all of her thoughts on Tenth Gongzi, so ‘vulgar things’ like making money were naturally left to Servant Huan.
Gu Shenwei left with Lotus and the other three killers. They led fifty-one sabremen and began the hard work of starting a business.
There was actually a good opportunity in Southern Jade City right now. Since Shangguan Chui was killed, the organization of the outer hall had disintegrated. Those merchants who used to be under the cover of the big young lord were looking for new protectors.
These merchants came from all walks of life. Though there were not many of them, they were from almost all of Southern Jade City.
The Kun Society started a bit late. Most of the merchants had already found a new backer, but Gu Shenwei was not dissuaded. He asked for a list of merchants from Tuo Nengya and also learnt the general standard of protection fees from the siblings of the Xu family. After gathering all of this knowledge, he led his men to visit the merchants one by one.
In order to avoid trouble, some of the merchants preferred to pay another protection fee but they demanded a large reduction in the amount, while others didn’t put the teenagers in their eyes and asked their new backers to deal with them.
Their new backer was usually the Qiu Society.
Gu Shenwei neither accepted the low protection fees, nor did he get angry with the rejecters. He just made his attitude clear to everyone: Shangguan Chui’s business still belonged to Golden Roc Castle, and only Ninth Gongzi and Tenth Gongzi were eligible to inherit it.
He was waiting for a proper opportunity to show his strength.
The opportunity soon came at the Blacksmith Village on the edge of the city.
Those dozens of smithies in the Blacksmith Village were one of the most important assets of the big young lord. The blacksmiths didn’t immediately seek a new backer after Shangguan Chui’s death, which resulted in two groups of men approaching the smithies at about the same time.
This was the first time the Kun Society and the Qiu Society had a head-on confrontation. In the beginning, the sabremen of both sides tested the other out and found that no one was willing to give in, so they tried to solve the problem with their sabres, causing several people to be injured.
The blacksmiths became dissatisfied because these small-scale brawls were starting to have a significant impact on their businesses. So they banded together and elected several representatives to meet with the leaders of both sides, asking them to set a time and have a fight, the winner of which would receive the blacksmiths’ protection fees.
This request sounded fair and reasonable. So, on a snowflake morning, a duel between hundreds of sabremen began.
Gu Shenwei and the other killers listened to Tuo Nengya’s suggestion to just watch nearby. They saw a pure fight between sabremen for the first time and found that it was a completely different style from a killer’s.
Tuo Nengya had only brought thirty cutters with him. In comparison, their opponents were a group of more than seventy sabremen who were obviously numerically superior.
Unlike the killers who always hid and killed with a single blow, they were like two troupes. Some people noisily called for a fight, some people threw things, and others made all kinds of humiliating and provocative actions. From morning till noon, only three or four pairs of men had been sent to participate in the sabresmanship competition. Each side had their own wins and losses, but not a single person died.
As soon as the meal was served, two groups of people separated to treat themselves. The experienced peddlers were already carrying wontons and noodles, waiting outside the Blacksmith Village. The sabremen ate with delight, and some from both sides even sat together and chatted happily as if they were not at a duel but a temple fair.
It started snowing more heavily in the afternoon. Two groups of sabremen were reunited and repeated the routine in the morning, and war finally broke out when the sun was about to set.
The fight lasted for about an hour with shouts of ‘Kill!’ echoing to the sky, leaving countless red marks on the snow. The blacksmiths all put down their work and stood at the door watching, pointing out from time to time to their disciples that the sharp weapon held by a certain brave sabreman was made by their shop.
Tuo Nengya proved his worth. Thirty well-aligned sabremen advanced and retreated orderly and were indeed much stronger than the stragglers on the other sides. After several battles, the sabremen of the Qiu Society had all run away.
What impressed Gu Shenwei the most was that although both sides had bled a lot, no one had died.
It was a farce, but Tuo Nengya explained it to the young leader afterwards, “The sabremen all live on the street. They always try to avoid making enemies because although they are enemies today, they might have been neighbors yesterday, and may also be co-workers under the same lord tomorrow, so why should they try hard? But the sabremen also have their bottom lines; victory or defeat is based on strength. It’s just that the winner always shows mercy and the loser also withdraws after learning of the difficulties.”
The Kun Society won the competition for the Blacksmith Village and became famous. Many merchants that originally belonged to the big young lord were now willing to join Tenth Gongzi at this time. But Gu Shenwei had another trouble, which had nothing to do with the Qiu Society but was caused by Tenth Gongzi’s twin brother, Shangguan Fei.
The twins had started building their killer teams at the same time, which had never occured in the history of Golden Roc Castle. So the scramble for their big brother’s legacy was unavoidable.
Shangguan Ru solved this problem herself. She had invited her elder brother to the house in Northern Jade City to settle the matter by seriously negotiating with him. As usual, the younger sister won at the end of the day. Shangguan Fei was so enraged that he nearly burst into tears. He stormed out of the house after throwing a futile tantrum, giving up most of his benefits.
Although Gu Shenwei had enough silver to pay his men by the end of the month, the pile twenty thousand taels of silver still grew smaller. Only twenty or thirty percent of the merchants who used to be under the protection of the big young lord joined Tenth Gongzi and they made various excuses to reduce the amount of the protection fees. Gu Shenwei roughly calculated the gains and found that they could only collect over ten thousand tales a month, which was not enough for his current expenses.
The end of the year was coming and the Jade City had been peaceful so far. The battle between the Kun Society and Qiu Society had so far been on small scales, and the people inside and outside the city all watched it for fun. Gu Shenwei had always intended to stir the pot, but he had not been able to find any proper excuses for doing so.
The excuses finally arrived at his door in the twelfth month of the lunar year.
The siblings of the Xu family had faithfully carried out the task of seeking information. Although most of the information was of little value, the two enjoyed collecting it very much. Gu Shenwei had always encouraged them, and one day, Xu Xiaoyi finally brought a piece of information that aroused his interest: The southwall tavern’s tavernkeeper had changed.
The new tavernkeeper didn’t look like a man from Southern Jade City because the sister and brother had never heard of him. But many of those who had deposited money to Tavernkeeper Lü were informed in advance and went to check the amount of money with the new tavernkeeper. It was said that Tavernkeeper Lü would retire from the backstage to enjoy himself in Northern Jade City.
Xu Xiaoyi’s ears were sharp enough to get the news three days in advance. As soon as Gu Shenwei heard it, he knew that something was wrong. This game of changing the tavernkeeper was probably directed at himself. Originally, he had intended to threaten the southwall tavern with a group of sabremen and killers, but now he had a new idea.
He first went to Northern Jade City to meet with Tenth Gongzi the next morning. He reported the financial situation clearly at first and stated that he still had a monthly deficit. And then he proposed a solution by giving away his Master’s legacy.
Shangguan Ru was very surprised and Shangguan Yushi was very suspicious, but in the end Shangguan Ru accepted Servant Huan’s kindness and loyalty, and insisted that this money was a loan.
The new southwall tavernkeeper had been in charge for several days, but Gu Shenwei still hadn’t yet received a notification verifying the amount of money he had. So he decided to go and ask for the money ten days later.
Because of this argument over thirty thousand taels of silver, the first deadly conflict between the Kun Society and Qiu Society broke out, letting the residents of Jade City who were preparing to celebrate the new year suddenly understand that the game was turning into a tragedy.