This chapter is updated by Novels.pl
Translator: Henyee Translations
Editor: Henyee Translations
A crowd, even if it were filled with well-trained soldiers, was more unpredictable and more fathomless than a restless sea. And only the most experienced old boatmen could foresee the storm before it came.
Gulun, the deputy commandant, looked out at the faces of the hundred or so chiliarchs, most of whom he was familiar with to the point that he could call out their names and backgrounds. But now, they seemed as strange as a pack of beasts with hostility hidden behind their smile as if they were ready to tear him apart at any moment.
‘No more illusions; the facts are right in front of your eyes,’ Gulun said to himself. The Dragon King might be able to work miracles but he couldn’t place all of his hopes on a foreigner. Although Azheba and his fellow officers were reckless, they had at least dared to put their ideas into practice. He had to do something too.
The five candidates sat in a row, each with an empty wine-jar in front of them, while all the generals and officers ranked below captain had five small sheepskins in their hands, one of which was stained with blood. They would line up in front of the wine-jars and throw a sheepskin into each, and the man with the most blood-stained sheepskins would be the new commandant of the Court Attendants Army.
According to tradition, no one was allowed to show his sheepskin to the candidates, let alone speak to them, so eyes were their only means of communication.
Gulun received a lot of suggestive eyes. If all of them were credible, he would be the new commandant for sure.
He confidently looked back at them with firm eyes but clearly knew at heart that he, like the other three candidates, were just decorations.
The vote was over and everyone heaved a sigh of relief. Gulun stood up with a smile and warmly greeted everyone who came by and occasionally paused to listen to the whispers of the officers, pretending that everything was still up in the air.
King Shengri, the mediocre king who had once been famous for his wine and bird addiction, was now the most popular figure in the Norland. Some officers were already eagerly congratulating him before the result had been announced, and Gulun had to push his way through the crowd to reach him.
“Commandant Gulun…” King Shengri spread his arms as a welcoming gesture, already prepared with a few words of ridicule on the tip of his tongue.
Gulun had also prepared a few greeting words, but he changed his mind at the last moment. He threw himself at King Shengri with a dagger held high in his hand. But he wasn’t a killer and couldn’t bear the dramatic temptation of words, so he shouted, “You traitor to the Norland…”
No one was allowed to enter the tent with a weapon, but in the Norland, a dagger was seen more as a tool than a weapon, so no one cared about them or had searched the deputy commandant’s body.
King Shengri was so frightened that he didn’t even have any time to put away his smile, which made the whole scene feel more bizarre.
Gulun suddenly felt a pain in his lower back and fell onto King Shengri, no longer able to thrust out with his dagger.
The second assassination in the Court Attendants Army had also failed.
Gulun, the assassin, died under the gaze of over a hundred people. The news immediately spread through the whole camp as fast as a flood rushing out of a dam.
No one knew when or how the message had changed as it proliferated, but more and more people began to mention the word ‘Dragon King’ in their retelling of the event.
“There’s no such thing as coincidence. The Commandant just died and the Dragon King showed up soon afterward. Is he a flying immortal?”
“He’s not an immortal but a devil. You know, he has a devil bird. It’s said that the bird likes to eat dead people, and many people have died in the Royal Court recently…”
“Indeed, the night before yesterday I saw a very large shadow in the sky that definitely couldn’t have been a cloud.”
“The Dragon King must have ordered the devil bird to kill the Commandant so that he could then he appear and play the part of a good man.”
“The Dragon King brought some strange drugs from the Western Regions and Commandant Gulun became a different person after being forced to eat them.”
“Do you remember, ever since that devil came, the Royal Court has been in turmoil. One misfortune after another …”
The soldiers woke up from their silent vigil like a group of dolls suddenly being brought life, who had been summoned by a mysterious force and gathered at the tent of the Dragon King.
The influence of the rumors was fantastic. When the Dragon King was accused and seen as a murderer, his power and image were magnified by a thousandfold. The crowd stopped a few dozen paces away and was held back by the moodswings of hatred and fear.
“Silver Condor is exorcising the devil.” These words were like a secret signal that spread through the crowd like ripples. No one asked how Silver Condor had suddenly appeared in the camp.
The duel that was about to start was interrupted. Silver Condor took a glance at the crowd and said, “As I said before, you can’t escape the prairie.”
Gu Shenwei shook his head slightly, replying, “I also said that I didn’t kill him.”
As he looked up at the starry sky, Silver Condor, who had never believed in ghosts and gods, could almost feel the late Khan’s eyes staring down at him. He could not explain the coincidence of him suddenly receiving so much support in his challenge to the Dragon King. He wasn’t very sure of winning at the beginning, but now he felt that losing was impossible.
“What are you waiting for? Kill the Dragon King, and subdue the demon!”
It seemed like someone couldn’t wait any longer.
“Ehh, aren’t you King Riyao’s guard? Why are you wearing a suit of the Court Attendants Army?”
King Riyao’s subordinates had just stirred up trouble in the camp so this accusatory question immediately attracted the whole crowd’s attention. No one found the questioner but all eyes quickly focused onto the one soldier who had just shouted ‘Kill the Dragon King’.
“He really is one of King Riyao’s men.”
The soldier who had been recognized panicked. There were people everywhere and he had no way to escape. “I, I borrowed the clothes. I hate the Dragon King as much as you do. He’s the devil and brings bad luck to the grasslands…”
Someone said a few words in a language that Gu Shenwei didn’t understand, but all the soldiers present understood that the man was questioning whether this guard of King Riyao was a man of the Norland or not.
The guard obviously didn’t understand because he was also from the west of the Yellow River like Dhuta Kingkong. Although he had talked with people of the Norland before, he had never seriously learned the local language.
“I’m loyal to the Norland. No one can doubt that…”
No one doubted him. The crowd rushed toward the foreigner like a whirlpool of water and when the whirlpool dissipated, a corpse had appeared on their raised arms.
The corpse drifted forward like a canoe and was finally heavily thrown into the duelling field, bruised and battered, its clothes torn into pieces.
Old Man Mu quietly disappeared and reappeared. Except for the few people in the Dragon King’s tent, no one else had noticed his whereabouts.
Old Man Mu winked at Shangguan Ru, indicating that the corpse outside should not be counted as his fault.
There were thousands of ways to kill people, and the saber was just one of them.
Shangguan Ru softly sighed.
Old Man Mu had uncovered the spy but in the end still failed to wash the Dragon King’s image clean. The soldiers of the Court Attendants Army still regarded the Dragon King as a devil.
Silver Condor took a step forward and believed that this was the best time to make a move.
Gu Shenwei had the same idea so he made the first attack.
Thousands of people witnessed the duel.
The audience was actually larger during the first kung fu competition between the Dragon King and Silver Condor, but that had been more of a melee brawl with more than twenty people taking part. Most of that fight had been the Dragon King evading confrontation until he found an opportunity and ended the flight so suddenly that most people didn’t even see the ending clearly.
This time, though it was at night, was a one-on-one duel. After the first stroke of the Dragon King, the soldiers began to light torches and hurl them into the field, not to disturb either side but just to make it a little brighter and easier to see.
Soon, the Dragon King and Silver Condor were circled by scattered torches, forming an irregular fighting area. In the firelight, the two’s each movement could be clearly seen.
Old Man Mu was the first to discover the change in the Dragon King’s sabersmanship. He watched for a while, frowning. “Has the Dragon King decided to renounce being a killer?”
Very few people understood what he meant except for Shangguan Ru and Shangguan Fei.
The golden roc sabersmanship focused speedy and surprise attacks. The practitioner would always tried to land a blow on the back and flanks, and would retreate after one attack regardless of if they hit their target or not. Although the Dragon King had modified his saber technique a lot to better fit the Death Sutra Sabersmanship, he still adhered to the killer’s mindset.
But now he abandoned his strong point and was entangled in a close combat fight with Silver Condor. They had exchanged thirty moves in succession but the distance between them had always remained within five paces.
In the eyes of the thousands of soldiers, this duel was very eye-catching. A top-notch expert of the Norland and the Dragon King of the Western Regions were engaged in close combat. The two moved as swiftly as two wisps of drifting smoke clouds, and the shrill clashing sounds between the narrow saber and the scimitar lingered in the air. Each cut seemed to have the power to break iron.
No one knew it was intentional or not, but a torch eventually flew over the heads of the crowd and fell directly between the two’s fierce fight.
The two of them were like a tight string that had been plucked by a magical hand, and no external forces or even specks of dust could stick to the string.
Neither one had time to deal with the torch but it refused to land naturally as if an invisible juggler were incessantly throwing it back up into the air.
After a few bounces, the torch splintered apart, and the remnant of its spark leaped up like a firefly before disappearing into the darkness.
Very few people could see how the torch had been shattered by the two sabers. Silver Condor had deliberately slowed down, and Gu Shenwei was no longer focusing on his attack speed. But their saber moves were still beyond the eyesight of the ordinary soldiers.
Old Man Mu’s face turned ashy pale, and he kept muttering, “Grand Enlightenment Sword Sutra, Death Sutra…” The Dragon King’s saber technique was beyond his imagination, and he couldn’t help but feel envious.
Shangguan Fei admired the blade work but also had many doubts, “Is this the Grand Enlightenment Sword Sutra? It doesn’t look like it. Besides, the Dragon King is not using his sword. What kind of sabersmanship is this?”
“It’s the sabersmanship of the Gu family,” Shangguan Ru replied in a low voice. A few years ago, she had seen an old man perform this set of saber technique at the gate of the castle. Although she did not finish watching the performance, it had been deeply imprinted in her mind.
What Gu Shenwei was using was not only a new Gu family’s sabremanship modified to fit with the Death Sutra, but also with the newly learned Formless Prajna Palm. Although he hadn’t practiced this saber technique for long, he still remembered it clearly and didn’t feel rusty at all.
Before the age of fourteen, he had practiced it once almost every day, even to the point of being bored to tears. The result was that he would never forget this set of moves for the rest of his life.
The Gu family was famous for its two superb movesets of saber and spear, but Gu Shenwei hadn’t thought his family was worthy of such a title. It was not until after he had obtained both the yin and yang energy, used them to simulate the Balanced Power, and learned Lianqing’s secret method of directing internal Qi that he had finally understood the true essence of the Gu family’s sabermanship.
It wasn’t a saber technique for killers because it was a sabersmanship that competed fair and square.
Sometimes even the best killer might be forced out of the dark shadows and lose the advantage of a surprise attack. And in these cases, the golden roc sabersmanship would fall short.
Gu Shenwei had immersed himself in a killer’s environment for too long and he had to experience many lessons before he could understand this truth; he could not and did not want to hide in the darkness forever.
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