Chapter 2: Departure
Translator: Transn Editor: Transn
Wild animals cannot avoid going through the awkward period when they are already strong and independent enough to live on their own but still long for their mother's breast milk and care. During such times, they naively think that life should always be like this. As a result, they tend to spend their days rolling around and playing with insects, waiting for the occasional interesting thing to happen. A leopard, larger than his mother, lies on the grass and enjoys the warm sunshine, waiting patiently for his free lunch. However, the good times never last. Once the mother starts her second conception, the baby will be relegated from being the favored one to the abandoned one and, from then on, has to rove all over the world alone. Every time he hunts, the old memories of innocence fade bit by bit and in the end, he either dies miserably or grows up to be a ruthless killer.
14-year-old Gu Shenwei was going through that same exact period. His name might have been a little bit old-fashioned, but he was still as naive as a child and his family worried about him. However, he had his own thoughts on the matter and refused to regard himself as a grown-up until the day that his sister married.
There were still three months until that day, but his life plans were interrupted by an accident.
One afternoon, a servant, who was looking around the hill behind the house, came back with a strange message that a knight had stopped by the hillside and was observing their manor.
Old Master Gu Lun rode over and found that the knight had already gone. He patrolled around for a bit longer but found nothing.
The family had just moved from the Central Plains to the Western Regions two years prior and the manor was located in an oasis at the southern foot of Tianshan Mountain. This was quite an untrodden place as it was surrounded by the Gobi Desert for hundreds of miles. At the foot of the mountain, there was only a small village where a few tenant farmers were living. Therefore, no wonder the Old Master was so surprised.
Gu Lun was very vigilant as he used to be a military officer. He asked the servant in detail about the knight's dress and behavior. In the end, he ordered the manor servants to be more vigilant and secretly increased the security level.
Gu Shenwei's two older brothers thought that their father was overreacting. They just assumed that the knight was simply a herdsman who had come here for water and grass but found people here and left.
Gu Shenwei would usually make trouble out of nothing, but this time he had the same feeling as his father and took it seriously. He rode his pony, patrolling around prim and proper. If there was any noise, he would dash over to check it out and confirm what it was at full speed, no matter what it was. It was usually a rabbit or a bird.
A couple of days passed, but there were no more strangers snooping around. Everything was quiet and peaceful and it seemed that the days would continue going on like this. The whole family was busy preparing Miss Gu's dowry, as it would be a long journey from the Western Region to the Central Plains and lots of things needed to be prepared.
Everyone had things to do and the youngest Master was going to his sister's room every day, acting like a spoiled child. Such behavior made Miss Gu feel heartbroken and reluctant to leave. Even though she had not left home yet, tears had already gotten a few pieces of clothes wet.
Gu Shenwei had his own thoughts on the matter. The Central Plains and the Western Region were two totally different worlds. After her departure, no one knew when they would meet again. With such "naive" behavior, he wanted his sister to remember him.
However, peace did not last long. 10 days after the knight's appearance, a few masked men sneaked into their house in the middle of the night and made quite a ruckus.
No matter what their purpose was, they did not seem to be able to accomplish it right away because Old Master Gu Lun had arranged for the manor's servants to be on night patrol. The vigilant old servant, Yang Zheng, noticed the intruders immediately.
It was a mess and fights broke out in several different places, but none of the fights lasted long. By the time Master Gu Shenwei woke up and had any idea about what was going on, the masked men had already escaped.
No one had gotten hurt.
Everyone in the manor had woken up by this point and a dozen of the manor servants happily talked about how they fought with the masked men last night. They made it seem like there were hundreds of intruders, but old servant Yang Zheng was pretty sure that there were no more than five masked men.
Gu Shenwei was upset about not having witnessed those masked men, so he kept asking his father and brothers about it. It was not until his eldest brother ordered him to shut up did he reluctantly sit himself down in a big armchair and quietly listen to them discussing where those masked men had come from and why they had come here.
There were quite a few great powers in the Western Region, and the names of those people and places were also complicated. Gu Shenwei got so confused and gradually lost interest in the conversation. Before he finally fell asleep, he heard the word "butcher" used frequently. No matter who the "butcher" was, there was no need to be scared, as his father was a great general.
Actually, his father's title of general was not as great as he thought. Old Master Gu Lun used to be a royal guard in the Central Plains. He wasn't given the title "Brilliant General", a third-class title, until he had retired.
Although he had been a guard at the royal court, his name was well-known in the martial arts world of the Central Plains because of the style of Kung Fu that had been handed down, generation by generation, in his family. It was also the reason why Yang Zheng had come here. He would be a slave here as long as he could learn the spear technique of Kung Fu. Both the eldest and the second sons of Lord Gu were already Kung Fu masters, but the youngest one barely learned anything even though he was old enough now.
The youngest Master was good-looking, intelligent, and studious, but not persistent. He always did things in the spur of the moment. In addition, as he was the youngest in the family, he was spoiled by his parents and siblings, which made this bad habit even worse.
Later on, Gu Shenwei was sent back to his room. When he woke up, he did not go to his sister's room as usual. Instead, he went around and asked for details about last night.
Those masked men were defeated immediately and everyone in the manor thought it was a victory, ignoring the fact that no intruder was captured. Not even a drop of blood was left after the fight. Despite this, the servants were eloquent and tried to make the scenes pretty thrilling to the young Master.
After hearing their descriptions of the fight, Gu Shenwei was even more upset and blamed his young attendant, Ming Xiang, for not waking him up in time.
Ming Xiang, a boy the same age as Gu Shenwei, was the only one in the family who could be serious with the youngest Master. He threw his hands up in the air while wearing an unconvinced face and said, "Master, you are the one who is learning martial arts. Your eyes and ears are both sharp and keen. I am nothing more than a young attendant who might be killed without even knowing it after I fall asleep, how can I wake you up?"
Being too angry to debate with the young attendant, Gu Shenwei turned around and tried to seek comfort from his sister.
As opposed to the manor servants' attitudes, Master Gu and Yang Zheng were serious the whole day and supervised the manor servants even more strictly than usual. They also sent servants out to find some information. According to Gu Lun, it was obviously not the end of the attacks.
A strong feeling of tension was spreading throughout the whole manor.
Gu Shenwei's interest about the masked men had already faded after half a day. He had great faith in his father, brothers, and some servants with great mastery of Kung Fu. Even if thousands upon thousands of intruders broke in, they would be blocked outside and he could do nothing but stand aside and watch.
The current Western Region was totally different from what it used to be decades before. Back then, big kingdoms struggled for supremacy and small ones were tangled in fights. On top of that, various powers and bandit gangs sprang up over a large area. It was often that robbers realized that the people they robbed were their peers and the ordinary people had no choice but to hide in their houses and pray for God's help. Now, that page of history had been turned and balance had been reached among the three major kingdoms, the Central Plains, Norland, and Shu-lik, through compromise. More than 30 small kingdoms, both old and new, had settled down while bandit gangs gradually decreased and became faded into legend.
When Old Master Gu Lun decided to move from the Central Plains to the Western Region, he carefully considered that the Western Region was quite peaceful. He swiftly decided that the manor and land were perfect for his family.
He was right. The oasis where the manor was located was truly a perfect piece of land.
Gu Shenwei completely believed in his father, so he did not worry at all. He was chatting with his sister, hanging around the manor, and quarreling with Ming Xiang as usual. When it turned dark, his father ordered him to go to bed, and he soon fell asleep.
In a sleep-filled haze, Gu Shenwei felt someone pushing him hard. He opened his eyes unwillingly and yawned, "What is it? Intruders again?"
Ming Xiang, also yawning like his Master, held a candle and said, "It is the Old Master, not intruders."
Gu Shenwei got up reluctantly and saw the thin figure of his father standing in the shadow of the doorway.
"Huan'er, put on your clothes and see your sister off," Lord Gu said.
"Huan'er" was Gu Shenwei's nickname, only close family members would call him that.
"Is she leaving now? But the people from brother-in-law's have not come yet..." Gu Shenwei asked in surprise. There should be two more months until his sister had to depart. He was totally unprepared for this.
"Yes, but things have changed and now she has to leave in advance."
Gu Shenwei was too sleepy to think, so he simply complied and put on his clothes and cape with Ming Xiang's help. Gu Lun tied up some baggage that he had prepared beforehand on his back and inserted a short sword into his waistband.
The Gu family's Kung Fu was famous for its skill of use of knives and spears, but not swords. This short sword was specially made for Gu Shenwei. With a narrow body, it was less than two feet long and only weighed about half a kilogram.
Normally, his father took care of the short sword, Gu Shenwei hardly ever got a chance to use it. Now that he had it, he was delighted and no longer sleepy. He could not wait to pull it out in appreciation, but Gu Lun held up his hands immediately and said in a low voice, "You're now a man of the family, use this short sword to protect your sister and yourself but don't show it off."
"Sure." Gu Shenwei promised seriously. He began to picture a scene in his mind about how he would wield this short sword to protect his sister from those masked men's attacks.
Gu Lun took the two kids out with him through the back door. Everything was quiet and peaceful along the way, not even a shadow of a man could be seen. Three people were already waiting for them outside: Miss Gu Cuilan, the maid Chrysan, and the old servant Yang Zheng.
Yang Zheng was not only Gu Lun's servant, but also his friend and apprentice. He tutored Gu Shenwei with some basic Kung Fu skills for a few years, so Gu Shenwei always called him "Master Shifu Yang".
Gu Lun lifted his youngest son onto the horse. Under the cover of night, he looked even more like an old-fashioned teacher than usual.
Ming Xiang groggily mounted a horse on his own as he was not completely awake just yet. He was unhappy to take this unexpected safeguard mission, as he would rather stay in the manor forever than walk into the desert again.
There were only five horses and five people. Miss Gu Cuilan covered herself in a cape and had nothing with her. Only one of her four personal maids and a little luggage were with her now.
"What about mother and my brothers? Dad, aren't you coming with us?" Gu Shenwei asked with his eyes wide open. The sleepiness had already gone away. They were more like refugees than people who were going to escort a bride.
"You go first and we will follow soon," Gu Lun answered easily. Then he slapped the horse and urged them to leave.
Gu Shenwei grabbed the reins lightly and tried to figure the situation out. Yang Zheng passed by and said in a muffled voice, "Keep going."
Gu Shenwei's horse ran ahead quickly after being slapped by Yang Zheng. When Gu Shenwei grabbed the reins again, his father had already disappeared. Gu Lun did not even say goodbye to his daughter, who was about to get married.
The night was pretty dark with the moon hanging in the western sky. Gu Shenwei was very upset as leaving at midnight was not how he had pictured his sister's departure for the marriage.