Editor: Xu Xian
Chapter 068 Feed the Bird
The first half month at Lian Huo Yuan was a nightmare for Gu Shenwei, especially once most of the 30 ‘abandoned ones’ were eventually taken away by killer Masters and many of the others simply gave up to work as servants at west castle. Gu Shenwei became increasingly doubtful about whether he made the right choice or not.
His only comfort was that he had a chance to visit Giant Boulder Cliff again where he hid the mysterious sword manual.
There were too many killer’s disciples at east castle, it was impossible to test them all on the same day, so several kung fu competitions had to be held at Lian Huo Yuan almost every day.
The styles of the kung fu competitions were extraordinary. All the disciples had to cover their faces, the overseer would select a room randomly; different rooms would simulate different environments like alleys, the wilderness, bedrooms, and Inns. Two disciples would enter the room from different doors and immediately start fighting, without any rules, until one of them fell.
These were the rules on how disciples advanced to become killers: One could become an apprentice killer only after defeating one’s opponents 12 months in a row. One could become a qualified, real killer only after killing one’s opponents with one cut six tests in a row.
This was a cruel, neverending killing game in which very few people passed. It was not because those teenagers were soft-hearted, if they were allowed to use one more move, most of them would kill their opponents without any hesitation regardless of whether their opponents were friends or not. But it was very hard to kill with one move, those who had fierce killing intent always found that, even when they fought aggressively, their opponents escaped from fatal blows.
Those who were injured lightly could still continue playing the game, those who were fatally wounded were sent to Ji Xin Yuan at west castle, supposedly for treatment. Many disciples believed this, which astonished Gu Shenwei. He really wanted to loudly tell everyone about the truth: Ji Xin Yuan was not a hospital, it was a place purely to wait for death.
But no one would listen to him, just like at east castle, he couldn’t make any friends.
For those rare few who were killed by one lethal cut, they not only became others’ stepping stones to become killers, but also earned an odd honour – they were thrown off of Afterlife Cliff.
This was the job Gu Shenwei had to do at Lian Huo Yuan.
Usually, the overseers with yellow belts were responsible for this, but now that they had the ‘candidate’ disciples, they were happy to hand over this heavy responsibility.
The first person Gu Shenwei carried out was just an 11 or 12 year-old little kid. With a few more years, he might have been a fearsome killer, but now he was only a corpse. A single wound went straight across from shoulder to forehead, where it was deep to the skull; the black cloth used to cover his face was cut into two pieces.
The corpse was carried by Gu Shenwei and his partner, when they were almost at Afterlife Cliff, Gu Shenwei told his partner behind him, “Let me do it alone, it’s not good to walk along the stairs with two people, you can just carry the stretcher back.”
The purple-faced teenager nodded repeatedly, he carried the stretcher under his arm and ran away before even saying thank you.
Gu Shenwei carried the corpse, he didn’t go down the steps to Afterlife Cliff, but turned towards Giant Boulder Cliff instead.
This was once the twins’ territory, but it had already been abandoned now. It was still in the same state as the day the two golden rocs were murdered; dirty, broken nets were strewn everywhere amongst unwanted books and wooden sabres.
Gu Shenwei put down the corpse and found the mysterious sword manual he had been longing for.
Although he was already very familiar with the words and figures in the manual, he still went over it greedily. Then he stuffed it close to his chest and decided to study it carefully when he was alone at Lian Huo Yuan. He felt that he had already figured out something from it.
Having no intention to go to Afterlife Cliff, he picked up the corpse and decided to throw it away here. Just at this moment, he heard a muffled chirp from underneath the cliff.
The skinny, gluttonous chick that loved pecking people.
It had happened almost a month ago, Gu Shenwei totally forgot about this helpless, orphaned chick that lost both its father and mother. He immediately felt guilty at heart, it was him who caused the death of the golden rocs and made the flightless chick have to live alone underneath the cliff. It definitely couldn’t understand what had happened.
Gu Shenwei soon realised he must’ve heard wrong, that sound couldn’t be the young bird. Unique King clearly said that the golden rocs didn’t chirp in their entire life, they would die right after if they chirped. That sound was probably him just hearing things, it wasn’t real.
But once Gu Shenwei felt guilty, he couldn’t rid himself of it. He carried the corpse to where he once fell, then he carefully dropped the corpse so it fell close to the cliff face.
The moment he let go of the corpse, he remembered the ‘Death Sutra’ chant and recited it in a low voice, “The soul rises to the nine heavens, the spirit falls to the nine abysses. The living suffers in grief, the dead settle in peace.”
Was the chick alive? He didn’t know.
Would the corpse fall accurately into the nest? He didn’t know.
Could the golden roc feed on the dead? He didn’t know.
To atone for his guilt, he hoped this small gesture could make up for some of the harm he brought to the golden roc family.
From this day onwards, Gu Shenwei would throw the killer disciples’ corpses off of Giant Boulder Cliff whenever he had the chance. Sometimes, he could do it several days in a row, sometimes he had to wait for about a week. He couldn’t find any signs that the chick was still alive, but he persisted. That little one, whether it was dead or alive, became the only thing he felt responsible for in this world.
The unselected disciples became less and less. As expected, Gu Shenwei finally had a bedroom all to himself, the first thing he did was practise his balanced power using the shortcut manual, which almost killed him.
The Desolate Finger Energy Xue Niang had filled Servant Huan’s xuanji acupoint with was very powerful, it not only prevented him from increasing his internal energy, but also restricted him from using shortcut manual to fuse his yin and yang energy.
Gu Shenwei felt his Qi deviate halfway through his practice and fainted shortly. He woke up at dawn, it was actually lucky he passed out, otherwise he wouldn’t have to wait three years to die.
Since the shortcut manual wasn’t working, he started studying the mysterious sword manual again.
He managed to decipher some parts of the book. Most of the words referring to ‘death’ in the book were not about killing others, but ‘killing’ oneself.
“Devoting oneself to Dao would gradually harm oneself, one will become weaker and weaker and finally die, only after one dies can one find the truth about death.” Gu Shenwei stared at these words adapted from the classic Dao De Jing, after reading it he thought for a while before he could somewhat understand it: Only by letting oneself die could one let others die.1
It was easy to understand but hard to follow and practise. It was already extremely difficult to have the heart to kill others, let alone to kill oneself.
In order to take revenge, Gu Shenwei didn’t care whether he lived or died, but to commit suicide, he couldn’t do this no matter what.
Maybe those words were a metaphor, Gu Shenwei thought, no one could ‘kill oneself’ and then ‘kill others’.
So he tried to secretly practise the moves in the sword manual, of which totalled 29. After practising many times, he became more confused.
Every of the 29 moves stabbed at the enemy’s neck, but the angles at which one stabbed were strange and different. There was even one move that was a stab from above. Gu Shenwei’s lightness skill was average, he tried several times but couldn’t do this move at all.
The verses written below the moves were all obscure and metaphorical, even the explanatory notes clarified little, Gu Shenwei could only understand a very small part of it.
One must stab quickly, the faster the better. This was the clearest sentence in the manual, but it didn’t say how he could quicken the move.
One must stab accurately. Gu Shenwei could only understand part of this reminder as the ‘accuracy’ in the manual did not refer to the enemy’s neck, but the opponent’s ‘Qi‘. As for this ‘Qi‘, whether it was the same internal Qi practised by kung fu practitioners in Wulin, he wasn’t sure at all.
What Gu Shenwei found most unacceptable was how all 29 of the moves were offensive. All of them were desperate moves that truly lived up to a book filled with the word ‘death’.
Although Gu Shenwei didn’t practise kung fu hard when he was young, his father was a kung fu expert who somehow managed to understand all the other sects’ martial arts. According to him, all kung fu were both offensive and defensive. Perhaps there were many fully offensive moves in a set of martial arts moves, but the rest would definitely be defensive moves to provide a balance. Gu Shenwei had never heard of something like this mysterious sword manual that completely forewent defence.
After Gu Shenwei learnt these 29 moves, even he himself lost confidence. There was an obvious flaw in this set of swordsmanship moves: if his first move failed and he used too much of his strength, his enemy could take advantage of the situation. If this happened, he wouldn’t even be able to block his opponent.
Gu Shenwei probably would’ve given up studying this sword manual a long time ago if the last three or four pages didn’t have a practice method which had significant effect on his internal energy.
There were over 4000 characters written on the last few pages, they were so small that he could only see them clearly by holding the book close to his face. Every time he had a Qi deviation or Xue Niang used her finger energy to abuse him, Gu Shenwei turned the finger energy into his own internal energy by reciting these words.
He didn’t understand their meaning at all, he just rotely memorized them, so couldn’t actually understand how it worked.
Gu Shenwei tried to recite these words when he was fine, but it didn’t have any effect at all. It looked like it could only improve his internal energy when suppressed by the Desolate Finger Energy.
Gu Shenwei had already spent about two weeks on the mysterious sword manual, he achieved nothing other than thoroughly memorizing the words. He was even behind on his own kung fu practice, so finally made up his mind and carefully hid the sword manual at Giant Boulder Cliff again.
The second day after Gu Shenwei hid the mysterious sword manual, a person that would influence him greatly came to Lian Huo Yuan.
That person was called Tie Hanfeng, but he was neither cold nor sharp. 2
Tie Hanfeng was lame in one foot and had a ruddy face. He bowed to every yellow-belted overseer at Lian Huo Yuan, which made his walk weirder. He looked like a scoundrel begging for money or food.
So, when one of the overseer introduced him as a killer, the remaining five teenage disciples all stared in disbelief.
Tie Hanfeng was not only a killer, he was a Master qualified to take disciples. However, this year was his first time taking a disciple, no one knew why he had missed the formal day for selecting disciples and came half a month later instead.
Those overseers didn’t like talking with him and lied to him that no disciples were left. Tie Hanfeng, however, walked straight to the room where they carried corpses. “Aren’t there some left here? I’m not greedy, I’ll only take one.”
All the teenagers lowered their heads, trying to pretend that they were busy. They would rather go to west castle and be a servant than follow a scoundrel of a killer Master. It wasn’t important to them that they couldn’t learn advanced skills, what they were afraid of was being killed in their first monthly test if their Master taught them irresponsibly, or didn’t teach them anything at all.
The overseer kept shaking his head and reluctantly said, “Well, you can take one if they’re willing to follow you.”
This was it, amongst the five of them only Gu Shenwei was willing to be Tie Hanfeng’s disciple. He was willing to risk taking the wrong Master because, in that one moment, he felt an astonishing killing aura from this crippled man.
- Translator’s note: Dao De Jing or Tao Te Ching is a classic of Chinese philosophical literature. Its author is referred to as Laozi, who is often called the founder of Daoism in ancient China. By the way, these words are very abstract and what I put here is just my own understanding based on the story. ↩
- Translator’s note: Tie (Iron) Han (cold) feng (sharp) ↩