Chapter 13: Oaths
Translator: Transn Editor: Transn
Gu Shenwei's new name was Slave Huan, and the first dying man he cared for was in his 20s. The young man had three deep cuts on his chest, and he seemed to have lost all sense of sensation as he quietly lay on the brick bed without a groan or any requests. Except for his faint breathing, he appeared to be dead.
Gu Shenwei was not really looking after the man, but rather watching the man's life fading away because the only assistance Slave Huan provided was to give him a bowl of water.
The only generosity Golden Roc Fort bestowed upon the injured was to not bury them while they were still alive.
The teenagers, who had just spent their first night in the fort and were still not familiar with their names, were sent here to take care of the dying people. With the strong smell of blood, they began their new life at their new "home".
Usually, a dying person only needed one caretaker. However, this was the offseason so he was the only patient in the yard. Therefore, Slave Ji asked all the teenagers to come over and get used to it, while he himself stood far away from the door with his nose covered.
"Now you see the fate of killers," Slave Ji said.
Slave Ji seemed to gloat over the man's misfortune, while the latter gave no response.
"He's Slave Jie, and he entered the fort on the same day as I did. Now look at him, he's lying there waiting for death, while I'm standing here watching him die. Haha, if you want to be a killer, strive for it in your next life."
Slave Jie did not refute the claims; perhaps he had not even heard Slave Ji's words. However, Slave Yao (Lin Yang) dared to look up and say, "But, one can be somebody once becoming a real killer, right?"
That provoked Slave Ji. "Yeah, be somebody. All of you go become killers. If anyone of you lives longer than me in East Castle, I'll kowtow to him. Look at yourself, you would dare to be a killer? Humph."
Slave Ji waved his rosewood stick menacingly, but he did not want to get too close to the dead, so he walked away. In his mind, Slave Jie was already dead.
Slave Jie died at dusk, and the teenagers were quite reluctant to touch the dead body. However, under the threat of that rosewood stick, they were forced to carry the body to the western door and threw it into the abyss.
"It's the final destination for all the servants in Golden Roc Fort. It's called Ghost Cliff. Listen carefully, there's a strange sound, isn't there? It's like a dying person groaning."
Slave Yao scared them, and the other teenagers ran back as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, Slave Ji stood by the West Yard and snorted. No one knew whether he thought it was laughable or contemptible.
Gu Shenwei then followed the crowd. The night before, he had come to the cliff and heard the scream.
Later on, the teenagers learned from Slave Ji that the cliff outside the West Yard was named Ghost Cliff and that Slave Yao had not made up the story. However, nobody knew how he knew about the cliff.
Ghost Cliff was a triangle platform, in the middle of which there were the remains of a stone table. It was said that the dead had been previously cremated with a heap of firewood on it. That was the origin of the name Firewood Yard. Since Golden Roc Fort changed its customs, the stone table had gradually been demolished, leaving nothing behind but a little rubble and charred burn marks.
Over the next few days, the teenagers were tasked with waiting for somebody to die and then throwing the corpse off Ghost Cliff. Most of the dead were young people who had dreamed of being killers, entered East Castle to be apprentices, but had been ruthlessly kicked out.
Golden Roc Fort was divided into several relatively independent districts. East Castle was used to train killers, while West Castle consisted of various types of yards, such as Firewood Yard, specializing in the disposal of the dead.
Even while knowing that more people died than survived, people still wanted to enter East Castle, which was difficult for those teenagers to understand. Most of them agreed with Slave Ji—they preferred to be an alive, obedient slave in West Yard rather than a dead killer.
However, the ambitious Slave Yao seemed to think differently and repeatedly suggested that he had the potential to be a killer. Nobody took his words seriously because he was incapable of Kung Fu, and his constitution was not better than anyone else's.
Gu Shenwei used to think about whether he should strive to get into East Castle. Golden Roc Fort's killers had slaughtered the Gu family, and he thought being trained to be a killer and using it for revenge was a considerably attractive idea and a perfect plan in his mind. However, it would not be easy to make it come true.
First, he was pressed for time. Being the young Master of the Gu family, he could be recognized at any moment, so he had to get his revenge as soon as possible.
Second, the training in East Castle would be cruel and bloody, and few succeeded in surviving. He was afraid that he might die there without getting his revenge.
Third, the real problem was that an inferior family servant like him was not qualified to enter East Castle without a recommendation.
Gu Shenwei expected the enlightenment of the Will of the Divine again, but nothing happened.
Since he had entered Golden Roc Fort, it seemed as if the Will of the Divine had become blocked and kept out. He had no method for finding his sister or taking revenge. Now, not to mention exterminating the Shangguan family, he could not even see the edge of a piece of clothing belonging to Shangguan Nu.
He was genuinely afraid of becoming stuck in Firewood Yard and being forced to carry the dead for the rest of his life.
Not just him either, all of the teenagers had the worrying feeling about being forgotten. Golden Roc Fort did not seem to intend to treat the 10 children seriously. Like those dying people, they thought they would waste their lives in such an ominous yard until the arrival of their death.
The fifth day since arriving at the fort, those teenagers saw their first glimmer of hope.
Mama Xue, serving Miss Luo Ningcha, arrived.
Although the teenagers had never been treated in a friendly manner by Mama Xue, they had, in fact, suffered a lot of pain from her Iron Finger. Still, they felt as if they saw their kin, for only she could save them out of the abyss of misery.
That afternoon, Mama Xue opened the door, entered, and as usual spoke briefly. "Follow me."
The teenagers that had been cleaning the dead's room nearly gave out a cheer. However, Slave Ji stood by the door. Under the threat of his rosewood stick, no one dared to show any obvious pleasure.
"Who are you?"
Slave Ji looked at the unknown middle-aged woman in surprise. The woman walked so quietly that he had not heard her footsteps, which displeased him.
"I'm Miss Ningcha's wet nurse."
Slave Ji frowned, for he had never heard of Miss Ningcha in the fort, and the woman, flat as a coffin, did not look like anyone's wet nurse.
Mama Xue poked Slave Ji with one finger, and with a trace of a blush, Slave Ji grunted and fell down in the threshold.
Mama Xue turned around and walked through the yard door, and the teenagers hurried to follow her. With a crafty mind, only Slave Yao helped Slave Ji pick himself up and whispered the woman's identity to him.
Passing through the eastern door, the alley, and then after several turns, Mama Xue led the 10 teenagers to the Eighth Young Master Shangguan Nu's residence. All of Golden Roc Fort's masters' residences were gathered in North Castle, far away from Firewood Yard. Faced with numerous crossroads along the way, Gu Shenwei observed carefully, but was able to only memorize 60 or 70 percent. It was surprising that Mama Xue could find them easily, despite the fact that she was a newcomer.
The Eighth Young Master's residence faced south and consisted of inner and outer yards. Though it was not quite large, it looked fairly chic and quiet. It was hard to imagine that the master of this place was a killer.
Mama Xue pointed to the empty area in front of the main hall and gave the order: "Kneel down."
Except for Gu Shenwei, who hesitated, everyone did as Mama Xue said.
He thought about how he had made up his mind to take revenge by all means and that he could bear anything. Therefore, he quickly bent his knees and knelt on the ground simultaneously with the others.
Mama Xue still glanced at him, but it was not his hesitation that had caught her attention, but rather his upright back.
Along with the teenagers, there were 10 girls and several close maids that were already kneeling there with a restless look, indicating that something big had happened.
At the open door, there was a translucent screen, revealing a slender silhouette.
"Are they all here?"
Bighead Kingpin's daughter did not like the title of Mistress, so her close maids still called her Miss. Because of this, all of the servants that had come along with her were required to call her Miss.
"Let them make vows, one by one."
It was the voice of Bighead Kingpin's daughter from his memory, the one whose tone had been void of the shyness or happiness of a bride, but full of uncontrollable anger.
"I, Mama Xue, swear to the heavens that I'll be loyal only to Miss Luo Ningcha, daughter of Bighead Kingpin of Iron Mountain. I'll follow my lord's surname Luo and never change it. If I break my oath, I'll be punished with lightning and thunder and fall into the bottom of hell with no chance for reincarnation."
Using sincere words, Slave Yao followed Mama Xue and swore an oath first. If Gu Shenwei had not known Slave Yao well, he would have thought that Slave Yao had been serving the Miss for many years.
Slave Yao could inquire about some news. For example, he knew of Ghost Cliff, which proved that his way of dealing with people would be helpful in Golden Roc Fort.
Gu Shenwei still needed to get to know the enemies' lair, so he followed Slave Yao and he was the second one to take an oath. With the new first name and surname, he opened his mouth to swear. Meanwhile, he repeated in his mind, "I'm Gu Shenwei."
It was not easy for the teenagers who could not speak Central Plains Chinese well to swear an oath, so Slave Yao volunteered to be their translator. Although they stuttered while repeating Slave Yao's words, the teenagers unexpectedly finished their oaths.
However, no one knew why Bighead Kingpin's daughter suddenly made them do so.
After the oath-taking ritual, the Miss behind the screen asked, "Mama Xue, who do you think is well-suited?"
"The other things are unimportant. The key point is that the person must be clever, so I think he's suited."
The person she pointed to was Slave Yao, and he instantly moved forward two steps on his knees. He kowtowed as he said, "I'll go through raging fire and boiling water for Miss."
The Miss did not comment on what he was suited for, saying only, "That's him." With that, the impromptu show of swearing allegiance thus ended.
Later, the teenagers were sent back to Firewood Yard by a maid, except for Slave Yao, who was left alone and did not return until nightfall.
Slave Ji grumbled in a low voice while he locked the yard door. Now that he was aware of Mama Xue's identity, he would not dare to directly challenge her. Therefore, the only thing he could do was to give a torrent of oblique abuse. In his eyes, the 10 teenagers "belonged" to him, and Mama Xue and the Eighth Young Mistress's interference broke his control and challenged his benefit.
Slave Yao did not mind Slave Ji's verbal abuse. Back in the communal room, he kicked off his shoes and jumped onto the brick bed. Lying on his back, he let out a relaxing sigh, after which he kept silent for quite a while.
Everyone knew his temperament and understood that he would brag about the special treatment from the Miss sooner or later.
Eventually, Slave Yao said casually, "From tomorrow on, I won't be looking after the dead with you." He said this as if he had suddenly thought of something unimportant.
"Why? Will you leave here?" someone asked curiously. In Golden Roc Fort, Central Plains Chinese was the common language, and several northern barbarian teenagers had learned a few words so they could kind of communicate.
"Mama Xue's going to teach me Kung Fu. I'll be a killer soon."
Everyone was startled by his words. Slave Yao had shown his interest in being a killer previously, however, it was unexpected that good fortune would fall on him so fast.
"Can you?" Slave Qi said in his ponderous Central Plains Chinese. Although he and his brother, Slave Xie, had participated in the sworn brother ceremony, they had never forgotten Slave Yao's betrayal.
In fact, everyone had similar doubts about whether Slave Yao could become a killer. The first dead man they saw had been a killer apprentice that had been kicked out of East Castle. With such a weak body, Slave Yao probably would not stick to it for one day and would be carried back to Firewood Yard.
"You know nothing," Slave Yao said disdainfully. "Killers are still human beings. They have different ranks, and also follow the social rules. An ordinary person that entered would die, but the Eighth Young Master and the Eighth Young Mistress recommended me. Who would dare to kill me?"
No one could refute his words. They knew nothing about the real situation in Golden Roc Fort.
However, Gu Shenwei had been moved by his words.
He did not want to waste time becoming a killer, but if he could gain the masters' favor and recommendation, it would be possible for him to get close to Shangguan Nu.