Chapter 172 Peach Grove
There was a garden outside of Southern Jade CIty’s suburbs. Its earliest owner was surnamed Gui, so it was called the Gui Garden.
The Gui Garden covered an area of over fifteen acres and was full of peach trees. It was still winter, and likewise the snow remained thick. With the current weather, it would take some time for the peach flowers to blossom.
A small new tomb had been erected deep in the peach grove. The purple cloaked swordsman had been guarding here for three days and nights, just like how the one in the tomb once had also guarded by his side day and night.
After he learnt of the peach grove, Gu Shenwei came here early in the morning and saw the target from afar.
The suffering caused by death can only be ended by death, Gu Shenwei thought. He had once felt a momentary pang of regret over the death of Chu Yangjun, but he had now already put it behind him.
“If I had two hearts, I would use one to reminisce about him and the other to think about how to kill you. But I only have one heart, and I can’t waste it on you.” As he leaned against a tree, Ye Silang talked to the grave without even looking at the killer behind him.
An emotional and foolish swordsman. Killing him may be easier than expected. Gu Shenwei stood about twenty steps away from the swordsman, his right hand no longer gripping the sword hilt. “That’s great. If you had two hearts, I would not know how to kill you.”
Ye Silang didn’t look back, as if he hadn’t heard the killer’s sarcasm at all. He went on with his monologue. Maybe he had been talking to himself the whole time and the killer just happened to be standing around. “We learned swordsmanship together. I had already learned kung fu before I met my Master, but he had never learnt martial arts before and suffered a lot because of me. This peach grove was his favourite place. Everytime he lost, he would sneak in here to cry. Later, his swordsmanship became better and better, until sometimes even I was no match for him. But we would certainly come here to play every year during the peach blossom season. This place was too crowded during the day, so the two of us would secretly come back at night. Even if we couldn’t see anything at night, we could still smell the fragrance of flowers.”
It was a good time to attack now. Gu Shenwei gripped the sword hilt again. Lotus, who was dressed in white clothes and hiding on a tree, might also be thinking the same. But he couldn’t make a move, as something was stopping him from concentrating on his sword.
“Gao Zhen, the shameless guy, actually had an inordinate desire about him and annoyed the kid in the rice shop. The two of them would always quarrel about it. Heh, I would’ve killed Gao Zhen myself if no one else did.”
“But you were a bit reluctant to kill Duke Gao because he was paying you.” Gu Shenwei tried to enrage the swordsman intentionally, hoping the other side would make the first move.
“Yes, money. It’s all because of money. I can see and experience all kinds of wonderful realms through learning swordsmanship, but there’s no money in that. Duke Gao’s death was a great opportunity for me, as someone offered me 100,000 taels of silver, hoping to pin the crime on you and eventually have me kill you. I agreed. With this money, we could have left Jade City, bought a piece of land, plant peach trees, and never be involved in the conflicts of Jianghu again.”
There was no resentment in Ye Silang’s tone, as his mind was on the one in the grave.
“You’re the most expensive killer I’ve ever met. Meng Fifth Gongzi must really think highly of me.”
“I’m not a killer, nor was he. We’re swordsmen, and though we can kill for money, we will never kill from behind.” Ye Silang’s voice suddenly became stern and his body straightened.
“I’m not a swordsman; I’m a killer. I kill for any reason, and I never stand in front of an expert, waiting for him to strike.”
Gu Shenwei was ready. When he had felt Ye Silang’s killing aura once before, it was full of boredom, but now the killing aura was so intense it was like a restrained volcano about to erupt.
“But why did you kill him? He’s no threat to you.”
Ye Silang turned around. Gu Shenwei was slightly startled. This man had changed into a totally different person. He looked gaunt and tired, and he had lost his godly radiance. His eyes were red and held a fierce glare that even the fiercest wild beast would retreat from.
But Gu Shenwei was not a wild beast. He was a killer who practised the Death Sutra for the sole purpose of killing and pursued the path of ‘killing oneself’.
“Because of you. I can’t kill you with him around, but you can kill me. You shouldn’t have let him stand in my way. If you involve a man in the battle of life and death, you shouldn’t be surprised at his death. Life and death come equally; it’s either you or me.”
Gu Shenwei felt that the moment he had been waiting for was coming. The swordsman would thrust with his full strength and he would strike back without mercy, but the real murderer was Lotus on the tree.
Three swords would stab out incredibly fast and the fight would be over in a moment faster than the time it would take for a peach blossom to detach from its branch. Someone would remain alive; someone would die, and the difference would be who could do it a tiny, almost imperceptibly bit faster than the other.
But he was wrong yet again. Ye Silang didn’t draw his sword, and he didn’t even reach out for his hilt. “I said that I would pay you back a life, and today is the day. I’ll spare your life today. We’ll meet again soon.”
Gu Shenwei didn’t respond to his ‘good intention’. His hand was still gripping the sword hilt and his internal Qi was circulating all over his body. He felt that his murderous heart had surged and become a greedy monster demanding the sight of blood.
Ye Silang became alert and moved his finger slightly, but he still didn’t touch his sword. He took a step back instead and said, “So you’re already prepared. I need to find another chance to repay you a life. Go ahead, you and the one on the tree have one chance to kill me, and this opportunity will not be available tomorrow.”
Gu Shenwei was sure that he could kill the opposite Ye Silang, though he himself might be injured. Two killers who had learnt the Death Sutra swordsmanship would definitely not be inferior to the proud swordsman.
He just couldn’t do it. Something unknown was still barely holding him back from drawing his sword. Then he suddenly understood that he was hesitating; Chu Yangjun’s face before his death had been disturbing the killer’s thoughts.
It was really strange. He didn’t even clearly see Chu Yangjun’s dying expression at that time. He had just heard his last words, the last words that didn’t need to be passed on.
It was not the best time for killing, but actually a fatal mistake. This little bit of disturbance was enough to slow his sword by a fraction, but the result was the difference between life and death. He wanted to kill the swordsman, but he didn’t want to die with him.
Gu Shenwei also took a step back.
Ye Silang didn’t move. He had paid his debt, and his promise ‘tomorrow’ had given the killer a chance to escape. If the killer refused to accept it, the other party should not blame the sword in his hand.
Gu Shenwei left the peach grove with Lotus and neither of them spoke along the way back. Gu Shenwei finally explained after they reached their living place, “It’s me that has a problem. I’m still lacking a bit.”
Lotus nodded, neither prying further nor comforting him. Servant Huan had an ‘inner demon’, which could only be eradicated by himself. She could only wait.
Gu Shenwei rushed to Northern Jade City around noon and admitted to Tenth Gongzi that he couldn’t present Ye Silang’s head by evening, promising, “I’ll do it tomorrow instead.”
“Tomorrow? Tomorrow you’re going to negotiate with the Qiu Society.”
The negotiations between the Kun and Qiu Society would take place twice, and Gu Shenwei’s task was to reach a short-term truce and determine the time and place for the next negotiation. The final peace agreement would be decided by the two gongzis of the Shangguan family and the Meng family.
“Tomorrow’s negotiation will be the battle of life and death between me and Ye Silang.”
Shangguan Ru seemed to suddenly come to an understanding, replying, “So that little bastard still wants to play tricks. Ye Silang is going to make a move when you go to the meeting.”
Ye Silang had revealed a bit of the plot to repay the killer for ‘saving his life’. Meng Mingshi had played a good game. Since Ye Silang had claimed that he was not a member of the Qiu Society, then it would not break any rules no matter if he killed Yang Huan before or after the negotiations.
“So tomorrow I’ll bring his head back.”
“Are you sure?” Shangguan Ru couldn’t help but feel suspicious. Servant Huan had retreated several times when facing Ye Silang, which affected her confidence in him.
Shangguan Ru looked at Servant Huan with thoughtful eyes, then smiled. “I believe you, but you don’t want to deal with Ye Silang alone, do you? How many people do you need? Just tell me. It doesn’t matter if you take all the sabremen, or all the killers with you. We’ll know if Wild Horse is a traitor or not after tonight.”
The Kun Society’s counterattack was set for tonight, which, if successful, would become an important bargaining chip on the negotiating table tomorrow. The ‘little bastard’ of the Meng family had a similar plot except the target was different.
“I may need some people, but I’d like to know first who facilitated this negotiation.”
“The patrol commandant Zhong Heng. Do you suspect that he’s part of the conspiracy”
“I don’t know. I will have to look into it.”
Gu Shenwei wasn’t sure whether this lord was his friend or enemy. Zhong Heng had given this young killer some pertinent advice, and had also repeatedly used the teenager to pass on some of his ‘hot potatoes’. Gu Shenwei had bribed him and kidnapped him, which made the two’s relationship even more complicated.
Zhong Heng’s scholarly face looked very innocent. The commandant lord warmly welcomed the teenage killer as usual, and exchanged greetings for a long time before he got to the point. “It’s time to end it. Every young lord of the castle will personally show up in Southern Jade City as they come to man’s estate, and this time the movement will be the largest yet. Tenth Gongzi has really surpassed her predecessors. I hope that everything goes well with the negotiation tomorrow. Let the two Society Leaders talk about other things, but let’s put away the sabre first. Honestly speaking, the castle and the Meng family are actually one family …”
Gu Shenwei sat through Commandant Zhong’s bureaucratic jargon and tried to find clues. In face of the old foxy civil servant, the teenager’s efforts failed. So he could only question openly and suddenly when the other side shut up temporarily. He had successfully used this trick many times before.
“How much will the Meng family pay you, my lord?”
“What?” Zhong Heng’s amazement seemed real, “You … this … what do you mean? Hall Leader Yang thinks I’ve been bribed?” Zheng Heng said indignantly.
“Please forgive me for being rude, my lord.” Gu Shenwei immediately apologized.
“No worries, no worries. It’s always good to be cautious.” Zhong Heng also changed his attitude quickly and became approachable again.
“My lord, the regular silver for you will be doubled from the next month onwards, from two thousand taels to four thousand taels.”
This was a private conversation and only the officer and the killer were there. So far Zhong Heng had only taken the regular silver once and he already felt a loss about it being doubled, “Hall Leader Yang, this is not a good idea, no gain without pain …”
“As I said before, I will always ask for advice again. I’ve benefited a lot from your lessons, my lord.”
Zhong Heng smiled knowingly. Leaning against the chair, he caressed a few whiskers with a look of indifference on his face which seemed to bid the visitor good-bye. Then he opened his mouth with his eyes looking askance towards the ceiling, as if he was talking to an invisible guest, “I don’t know anything. I just know that people who grow flowers steal flowers, people who grow rice steal rice, and the people who provide security are often insecure.”
Gu Shenwei took his leave and went back to see Tenth Gongzi. When there were only the two of them, he asked her a question, “On whose territory is tomorrow’s negotiation?”
“Ninth Gongzi’s. You don’t have to worry about it. I won’t spare him if he dares to play any tricks.”
Gu Shenwei showed an expression of relief on his face, but in his heart, he clearly understood everything now. His life was surprisingly gripped by Shangguan Fei’s hand tomorrow.