Gu Nan tells the story until dark, a story about Jin Yiwei, from its glorious birth to its tragic ending.
Serving the emperor to conquer the world was the vision that it was built with, and yet fundamentally it became but a tool for those indulged in schemes and corruption on the imperial court and was eventually sacrificed when useless.
The soldiers on the drill ground are obsessed by the story.
One stares at his hand reaching out, and smiles bitterly.
“That is the way for hired hounds of the imperial court to be heroes!”
“You call them heroes?” Another one spits at the term. “They are but hired hounds; you know it, dispensable pawns of schemes and corruption.”
“You can curse all you want. But that will also be our fate in the future to come.”
Gu Nan recovers the book in her hands, and calmly interrupts their arguments. “They are all the same who put their lives at risk, be it soldiers on the battlefield, or forbidden guards in the palace.”
Then she laughs as she speaks: “You and I are all inferior people fortunate enough to stay alive in this chaotic time.”
The soldiers stay lying on the ground. It is easier said than done to stay alive in this world that can swallow man whole.
Quiet at night, looking at the death row inmates lying all across the ground, Gu Nan thinks of the Zhao army fighting desperately, and the arm half only half buried in the ground.
Lifting her sight to meet the chilling moon, for the first time Gu Nan anticipates the future that her master devotes his whole life to.
He bet his life on it and was sacrificed as a pawn to finally earn the slight chance for it to come true.
A gentle breeze smooths away the dark clouds surrounding the moon, and flutters the mourning clothes under Gu Nan’s armor.
In the following three months that none of the soldiers want to remember, Gu Nan leads them into a series of unprecedented training.
On top of armed combat, hand-to-hand combat, long range raid, tactical disposition and physiques building, Gu Nan teaches them the simplified versions of Ghost Valley Master’s swordsmanship and Bai Qi’s spearmanship, and lastly the way with chi.
Although most of the soldiers are already in twenties, some even forties, too old to be masterful at chi, it is at least beneficial to learn about it and have a few.
Despite them being simple and crude, these should be skills absolutely out of ordinary people’s reach.
Therefore, when taught with martial arts, everyone has complicated thoughts.
The poor studies literature and the rich martial arts. The value of a book is already beyond one’s imagination, let alone a full set of martial arts.
They should be exclusive teachings for those from the noble houses, out of the reach of them mere inmates.
Most importantly, a set of martial arts if acquired could save their lives in the future on battlefields, and thus it is a favor they will forever owe to Gu Nan.
They are uneducated people that cannot come up with any pretty word, and hence can only show their gratitude to Gu Nan by hardnosed practice on the drill ground to acquire the skills she teaches them.
They are already hounds of the court. They will become that Jin Yiwei, the Embroidered Uniform Guards, and make their general that embroidered dress noble.
Another year passes, March again.
Last March, Gu Nan and Bai Qi returned from Chang Ping victorious.
Gu Nan on Blackie stands in front of the gate of Lord Wu An manor where the desolate ground around has been constantly cleaned by Lao Lian.
Due to her mission to train a troop, Gu Nan barely had the chance to visit home and did not know how well her families have been.
Blackie is fidgeting and pacing back and forth. While in the barrack, he never was walked by anybody, and thus has been missing home badly.
Gu Nan gently pats at Blackies neck with a smile, and jumps off from his back.
Thinking that it should be Lao Lian who will welcome her, Gu Nan knocks on the gate, only to be surprised at a little boy of age seven of eight coming out.
Black long hair tied loosely at the back of his head, he has an indifferent look unlike his peers. Yet, Gu Nan senses a slight will of sword in his eyes, which is familiar to Gu Nan as she also practices sword.
Sight fallen onto the boy’s hands, Gu Nan notices thick callus between the thumb and index fingers on both hands, confirming him as a sword wielder.
However, the boy in front of Gu Nan only feels as if she has inspected him thoroughly, chills running down his spine.
His reaction is not all at Gu Nan’s fault, since she is but a beginner at chi who has inherited an enormous amount from Bai Qi. As a result, she may unintentionally emanate vibe of aggressiveness which may either frighten the week or offend the strong.
Perplexed by the appearance of a strange boy, Gu Nan recovers her temperament, lowers her head, and asks smilingly: “Little brother, who are you?”
The boy looks embarrassed when being stared at by Gu Nan in such way, and whispers with a slight nod: “Gai Nie, also a visitor to the house. Since the host has not returned yet, we have decided to stay here for a while.”
The Wu An manor gets to have a visitor!
Is he Wang Jian’s kid? Or Meng Wu’s?
Raising her brow, Gu Nan asks with genuine joy: “Can you tell me your parent’s name?”
Gai Nie hesitates as if carefully contemplating over whether he should tell her or not, really amusing given his young age.
Gu Nan patiently waits in place when Lao Lian approaches her.
“Young miss?” A rare broad smile climbs onto Lao Lian’s expression.
“Why don’t you come inside? The Ghost Valley Master brought his two young disciples over. I intended to notify you at the barracks, but the Ghost Valley Master insists on not interrupting your official business and has been waiting for your return since.”