Chapter 39: Bribery
Translator: Transn Editor: Transn
Gu Shenwei hoped that justice would prevail at this moment. He thought that God owed him an explanation and wondered, "Why am I abused like this now? Was I an evildoer in my previous life? If I was and I'm doomed to be punished in this life, why did God let me enjoy a carefree life for 14 years?"
Seven sparring boys took turns slapping him in the face. If anyone of them did not hit him hard enough, Shangguan Yushi would beat that boy.
Reality was cruel. Shangguan Yushi was a young master, while Gu Shenwei was just a slave boy. The sparring boys had no choice at all.
Gu Shenwei had to suppress his killing desire, and every time he got a slap in his face, he would beg for mercy. "Master Yu, Please forgive me. I'll never dare to do that again."
God seemed to neglect his prayer for help. During the whole process, no one stood up to put an end to this abuse. Shangguan Yushi easily achieved her goal of punishing an obnoxious slave. She cast a disdainful look at Slave Huan and said, "Well, I will spare your life this time."
With these words, she left with her companions.
The sparring boys were left behind. They seemed at a loss for words. A boy took a step forward, wanting to help Slave Huan up, but he quickly moved back since he saw everyone else was just standing by.
Slave Qing came over and glanced at them as if nothing had happened. "Get out. What are you doing here?"
Gu Shenwei stood up and walked toward the gate. When he walked past Slave Qing, the slave caught him with one hand.
"I knew from the beginning that you would get into trouble. Your eyes are different. No slave has this kind of look in their eyes. You behave as if you are the owner of the fort. You might have been a prince of a small country before, but you are a slave in the fort now and you'll remain a slave until you die. If you want to survive here, you'd better behave yourself. Stop striving for a position by pleasing the young masters. You are just a toy. Don't be so ambitious."
Gu Shenwei humbly expressed his thanks to Slave Qing and hurriedly returned to the stone house. He grabbed a rag to wipe the blood stains off his face. He did not mind the physical pain but he found it hard to endure the emotional torture. He felt as if his heart was stabbed by numerous sharp knives and each knife caused him endless pain. He was overwhelmed by the burning desire to kill all his enemies and, at the same time, tried his best to remain calm.
Elderly Zhang came home with lunch in hand. Since being frightened by Slave Huan last night, he had been vigilant of the slave boy. The fact that Slave Huan came back heavily wounded further strengthened his belief—people were not as reliable as cattle.
Elderly Zhang placed a big bowl of rice topped with meat and vegetables on the edge of the brick bed and pushed it to Slave Huan. After a while, he picked out a few pieces of meat from his own bowl and put it in the slave boy's bowl.
Gu Shenwei looked at the silent horsekeeper in amazement.
Elderly Zhang hunched over his bowl to eat without looking at Slave Huan at all.
Gu Shenwei did not know what to say. He held his bowl and began to gobble down his food.
Mama Xue was not as kind as Elderly Zhang. When Gu Shenwei went to report to her in the evening, she looked exceptionally grave. She already knew what had happened to Slave Huan through her own channels. The sparring boys did not think it was necessary to conceal Slave Huan's public humiliation and shame.
"If it was Slave Yao, things like that would never happen," Mama Xue complained.
That being said, she actually knew very little about the pointy-faced teenager and had never shown any appreciation for him when he had been alive.
"You managed to kill him, so you should do better than him. Don't forget about your little secret and the hidden danger in your Xuanji acupoint. I'll never cure a useless slave, let alone help him avenge his father."
Mama Xue was a rigorous person but she seldom gave out a threat. Hearing what she said, Gu Shenwei was clear that she was very dissatisfied with his current progress.
He knelt down on the ground and decided to tell her what he had thought about the whole afternoon. "Mama Xue, please forgive my stupidity. I promise I'll fix it. I've got a plan already."
Mama Xue remained silent. Gu Shenwei continued.
"I'm going to give Shangguan Yushi a lesson in front of Master Ru. It's the thing she fears the most and it will be totally beyond her expectations."
"You seem to forget that you are just a slave and she's a master."
"That's what makes it a terrible shame for her. Master Ru only likes strong fighters. In the past, Shangguan Yushi was the best fighter in the school. I'm going to prove to her that Shangguan Yushi isn't as powerful as she thinks."
"Will this childish game work?"
Gu Shenwei explained after a while, "For Master Ru, everything is a game."
Mama Xue frowned. She poked the arm of the chair with her iron-like fingers, making a rat-a-tat sound.
She was too old to understand adolescents and did not remember that she had liked to play games in her childhood. She was not satisfied with Slave Huan's plan, but at the same time, she somehow felt that it might work.
"If you get into trouble again, you should make sure that Miss Luo won't be affected."
"Yes, I promise. It's just a little game between children. Adults will never care about such trivial things. Besides, Shangguan Yushi is very disrespectful to Miss Luo. She deserves this punishment."
"You don't need to drive a wedge between us and Shangguan Yushi. I already know that she's Lady Meng's minion. Of course she likes to speak ill of Miss Luo."
Mama Xue sounded a little agitated all of a sudden. Gu Shenwei knew that what he had said was right.
"Yes. Mama Xue knows everything."
"Are you sure you can defeat her? I've heard that the little girl is a good fighter and she's probably even stronger than Master Ru."
"As for this problem, please forgive me for being blunt, I need your help, Mama Xue."
"Aha, you little brat. Do you dare to ask me to play this childish game together with you?"
"No. I just want Mama Xue to teach me more about Kung Fu so that I can defeat Shangguan Yushi with a single strike."
According to his observation, Shangguan Yushi was a strong opponent. He believed that in a martial competition, she would stand a good chance to win but in a life-and-death situation, he would defeat her after he evoked his killing desire. This was because the girl had not yet learned the trick of killing, though she was extremely cruel and merciless.
Unlike his peers, Gu Shenwei had already realized the subtle difference between a martial competition and a killing through the fight between the killers and Marshal Yang.
Mama Xue still had some concerns. She stared at the daring boy for a long time without saying a word, as if she wanted to see through his mind.
Gu Shenwei did not get a definite promise from Mama Xue, but he would carry out his plan anyway.
The next day, he rushed to the gate of the school early and stayed there, waiting for an opportunity.
He had stayed with the young masters' attendants at the gate for many days. Everyone just ignored the silent slave boy, but he had heard many things from them.
There were nearly 20 students in the school. Except for the twins, they were just relatives of the Supreme King's family and most of them were surnamed Shangguan. They were seven- or eight-year-old children or adolescents aged 15 or 16, and there were only two girls among them—Shangguan Ru and Shangguan Yushi.
Although they were in the same class, they were different in status. The Supreme King's son and daughter were the most venerated young masters and all the other pupils tried their best to please the twins. As for the young masters in the low positions, they did not receive more respect than Slave Qing.
Gu Shenwei had very little contact with the students, but he could judge their status based on the attitude of the servants at the gate.
He noticed a pupil named Shangguan Hongye. "Hongye" was a good name since it meant great achievement. His father was a younger brother of the Supreme King, but unfortunately, he had died a long time ago. Shangguan Hongye had no brothers. He and his mother depended on each other in the fort. They relied on the Supreme King's financial support to make ends meet.
When Shangguan Yushi had entered the school yesterday, she had shoved Shangguan Hongye to the ground. When being bullied in public, he did not even have the courage to say a word.
Gu Shenwei had noticed that he had looked angry at that time.
Given that, he thought he should try to find a chance to talk to Shangguan Hongye.
Shangguan Yushi was arrogant but she was, actually, just a distant relative of the Supreme King. This was her greatest weakness.
Unlike Shangguan Hongye, a nephew of the Supreme King, she and the king were just of the same clan. They descended from one common ancestor who lived about a hundred years ago.
Today, the twins and Shangguan Yushi did not come to school since they had already begun to celebrate the new year.
Not long after the class started, Slave Qing allowed the twins' attendants to leave. He himself chatted at the gate for a moment and then left to have a drink.
After that, only half of the servants still stood at the gate. They envied the twins' attendants for now as they did not have to stand outside in cold weather while holding some small items that their masters might not use for the entire day.
In such an atmosphere, no one cared about Slave Huan, who huddled in a corner.
At noon, when class was over, the students rushed out of the gate and headed for home with their servants. Shangguan Hongye was not eligible to live in the Inner Residence. His home was a small courtyard in West Castle. Given that, Gu Shenwei and he were going the same way now.
Gu Shenwei followed Shangguan Hongye and his young attendant. After they walked through two gates, he found no one else was around and called out, "Master Hongye."
It was a good place for a private conversation. The guards at the gate in front of them and at the gate behind them would never pay attention to a group of children who were chatting together. Neither would the killers hiding in the shadows.
Shangguan Hongye stopped walking and cast a doubtful look at Slave Huan.
Gu Shenwei had not yet recovered from his injuries. His eyes were swollen and his face was bruised. It took Shangguan Hongye a long time to recognize the slave boy. After that, he twitched his mouth and turned away. Though he was not a popular young master in the school, he disdained to chat with a slave, especially an unpopular slave.
"Master Hongye, you dropped something."
Slave Huan showed Shangguan Hongye something like a rag ball. Shangguan Hongye knew it was not his but before he refused, Slave Huan had already forced the thing into his hands.
He felt irritated and offended since he felt that Slave Huan had overstepped his bounds. When he was about to say something to express his dissatisfaction, he felt the weight of the rag ball and shut his mouth. He opened a corner of the rag and saw some silver inside. It was not much but was attractive enough for Shangguan Hongye.
The young master was confused. Without saying anything, Slave Huan smirked at him and quickly left. The slave's bruised face made a weird expression. Shangguan Hongye stood agape for a moment and then swiftly put away the silver.
The young attendant did not understand what had happened just now. He shouted out excitedly, "Master, how did you get the silver? Thank goodness someone picked it up and returned it to you. Now we can pay off some debt before the spring festival."
Gu Shenwei walked forward quickly, feeling uncertain about what he had done. If Shangguan Hongye thought the silver was too little or refused to receive a slave's help, his plan would be ruined.
Fortunately, the young master seemed to have accepted the silver. Gu Shenwei did not hear a thing when he walked out of the third gate and turned into an alley.
The students were a group of fools and got obsessed with gambling. Gu Shenwei had heard Shangguan Hongye's young attendant complain about his master's towering gambling debts many times. He had even said that his master had pocketed a portion of his wages to pay the debts.
Under such circumstances, Shangguan Hongye, a young master of inferior status, would treasure every penny.
For Gu Shenwei, bribing Shangguan Hongye was just the first step of his plan. He still needed Mama Xue's help.