Home Bordertown Wanderer (边城浪子) Bordertown Wanderer 16
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Tuesday, 22 July 2008 08:54

Chapter 16 - Once One Enters The 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses' , Forget About Ever Returning Home



There was a small tea pavilion in the wilderness.

The riders liked to call this place the 'Nest of Peace and Happiness'. In reality, there was nothing special about this pavilion. But it was the only shelter around where one could avoid the rain.

When it started to pour, Ye Kai and Ma FangLing ran into this pavilion.

The raindrops were as big as beads of pearl.

The vast, endless grasslands in the rain looked like a scene right out of a dream.

Ma FangLing sat on one of the long benches in the pavilion. Her two hands rested on her knees as she watched the rain. She hadn't said a word for quite some time.

When women kept quiet, Ye Kai never felt the urge to make them talk. He felt that if all the women in the world opened their mouths a little less, then men would live much longer lives.

Lightning flashed and illuminated Ma FangLing's delicate face.

Her complexion didn't look very healthy. She obviously hadn't been getting enough rest and had too much on her mind.

But that look on her face showed that she was much more mature and understanding of the world around her.

Ye Kai poured himself a cup of tea and downed it in a single gulp. He only wished that the teapot was filled with wine. He wasn't an alcoholic, but when he was extremely happy or unhappy, he just had to drink.

Right now he wasn't unhappy, but right now he really wanted to drink.

Ma FangLing lifted her head, looked at him and said, "My dad never approved of me being together with you."

"Oh?"

"But for some reason, he actually told me to go look for you and accompany you for the day." Ma FangLing said.

Ye Kai smiled and replied, "Although he chose the right person, he really chose the wrong time."

Ma FangLing bit down on her lips and asked, "Do you know why he suddenly changed his mind?"

"I don't know." Ye Kai said.

Ma FangLing stared at him as she said, "You must've said a lot to him this morning."

Ye Kai laughed and replied, "You should know that he isn't a man of many words, and neither am I."

Ma FangLing suddenly leapt up and shouted, "The two of you must've talked about a lot things that you wouldn't want me to know. Why else wouldn't you be willing to tell me?"

"You really want to know?" Ye Kai asked in a serious tone.

"Of course I do." Ma FangLing replied.

Ye Kai turned to face her and said, "If I told you that he wanted to marry you off to me, would you believe me?"

"Of course not."

"Why not?"

"I ..." she suddenly stamped her foot and turned around. "My mind is already confused enough, stop playing jokes on me already."

"What's wrong?" Ye Kai asked.

"I don't really know. If I knew, then I wouldn't be so confused." Ma FangLing said.

"Those words actually make a lot of sense." Ye Kai remarked with a smile.

"Of course they do." Ma FangLing replied. She turned back around and asked him, "Your mind never feels like it's all one big mess?"

"Very rarely." Ye Kai said.

Ma FangLing bit down on her lips as she asked him, "You ... do you ever think about me?"

"I do." Ye Kai replied. His response was loud and clear.

Ma FangLing was startled, her face blushed red as she lowered her head and pulled on her sleeves. After a long while, she whispered lightly, "In a place like this, at a time like this, if you really liked me, then you would've come and held me."

Ye Kai didn't say a word. He poured himself another cup of tea.

Ma FangLing paused and waited for a response, after a while she couldn't help but exclaim, "Did you hear what I just said?"

"No."

"Are you deaf?" Ma FangLing asked.

"No."

"If you're not deaf then how come you didn't hear me?" Ma FangLing said.

Ye Kai sighed and replied, "Although my hearing is fine, I like to pretend that I'm deaf sometimes."

Ma FangLing lifted her head, walked over, and wrapped her arms around him. She held on extremely tightly.

The winds and rain were fierce and unrelenting. Her body was warm and soft.

Her lips were fervently hot.

Her heart beat like the raindrops striking down on the grasslands.

But Ye Kai lightly pushed her away. At a time like this, Ye Kai actually pushed her away.

Ma FangLing stared at him with a bitter fire in her eyes. Her whole body seemed to have frozen. She bit down hard on her lips and looked as if she was about to burst into tears as she whimpered, "You ... you've changed."

"I'd never change." Ye Kai replied softly.

"You didn't treat me like this before." Ma FangLing said.

Ye Kai fell silent. After a while he sighed and said, "That is because I understand you bettter now than I did before."

"What do you understand?" Ma FangLing asked.

"That you don't really like me." Ye Kai replied.

"I don't really like you? I ... am I crazy or something?"

"You act this way only because you are afraid."

"Afraid of what?"

"Afraid of loneliness, afraid that there isn't a person in the world who cares for you."

Ma FangLing's eyes turned red. She lowered her head and cried out softly, "Even if that were the case, you should treat me a little better than this."

"How do you want me to treat you? When no one is around, you want me to hold you? And ..."

Before Ye Kai could finish, Ma FangLing slapped him across the face. She used so much force that even her own hand felt numb, but Ye Kai looked as if he didn't feel a thing. His eyes still looked at her quietly, at the tears that were streaming down her cheeks.

She stamped her feet and screamed at him, "You're not human, I realize now that you're not human at all, I hate you ... I hate you to death ..."

Ma FangLing sobbed loudly as she ran into the rain.

It really was coming down hard.

Her figure quickly vanished into the torrential downpour.

Ye Kai did not chase after her, he barely even moved. But for whatever reason, a look of incredible sadness and pain came over his face. There was an unbearable desire inside of him to chase after her and to hold her in his arms, but he just couldn't.

He didn't do anything at all. He just stood there like a statue, waiting for the rain to stop ...

The rain finally did stop.

Ye Kai walked across the puddle filled streets and into that narrow doorway.

Everything inside the main hall was quiet and still, only the sound of dominoes could be heard.

Xiao BieLi was fixed on the dominoes that lay in front of him. His expression seemed to carry the look of unspeakable anxiety.

"What do you see today?" Ye Kai asked him.

Xiao BieLi let out a sigh and replied, "I can't see anything at all today."

"Why the long sigh if there's nothing to be seen?" Ye Kai asked.

"I sighed because there was nothing to be seen." Xiao BieLi replied.

He finally lifted his head and stared at Ye Kai. "Only when the most dangerous of catastrophes draw near am I not able to see anything whatsoever."

Ye Kai was quiet for some time. Finally he let out a laugh and remarked, "But there is one thing that I do see."

"Oh?"

"At least you won't go broke today."

Xiao BieLi waited for him to continute, but that was all that Ye Kai said. He then pulled out the brand new bank note, placed it on the table, and slowly slid it towards Xiao BieLi.

Xiao BieLi stared at the bank note and didn't say another word. Some things didn't have to be said, some things didn't have to be asked.

After a long while, Ye Kai broke a smile and said, "You know, I really didn't have to give this back to you. Because you never really wanted me to kill Ma KongQun. Am I right?"

"Oh?" Xiao BieLi exclaimed.

"You only wanted to test me, to see if I really would kill him." Ye Kai said.

Xiao BieLi smiled as well as he replied, "You think too much, thinking too much is never a good thing."

"Well whatever the case, you should know by now that I'm not the one who's trying to kill him." Ye Kai said.

"Everyone knows that by now." Xiao BieLi replied.

"Why's that?"

"Because GongSun Duan is dead, he died under Fu HongXue's sabre!"

Ye Kai's smile suddenly froze. The look on his face couldn't have been more peculiar.

Xiao BieLi slowly continued, "Not only is GongSun Duan dead, Yun ZaiTian and Hua MenTian are dead as well."

"They died under Fu HongXue's sabre as well?"

Xiao BieLi shook his head.

"Then who killed them?"

"Ma KongQun."

Ye Kai was stricken with surprise. After a long pause he finally let out a sigh and said, "It doesn't make sense, it just doesn't make sense."

"What is it?" Xiao BieLi asked.

"He knows that a grave enemy is waiting for the perfect opportunity to take his life, why would he kill his two most skilled fighters at a time like this?" Ye Kai replied.

"He was always a strange person to begin with, so he will always do things that we would never imagine." Xiao BieLi said.

That wasn't much of a response, but Ye Kai seemed to accept it. He suddenly changed the subject and asked, "Where is your esteemed guest from the other night?"

"My esteemed guest?"

"The 'Golden-Backed Dragon' Ding Qiu."

Xiao BieLi looked like he just remebered who Ding Qiu was and replied, "He is also a very strange person, he will often do things that we would never imagine as well."

"Oh?"

"I never thought that I would see him in a remote area such as this." Xiao BieLi said.

"Didn't he come here looking for you?" Ye Kai asked.

"Who would want to look for an old cripple like me?" Xiao BieLi said with a smile.

"Is he still upstairs?"

"He already left."

"Do you know where he went?"

"To look for someone."

"To look for someone? Who?"

"Luo LuoShan."

Ye Kai looked very surprised as he asked, "The two of them are friends?"

"Not friends but adversaries. They've been adversaries for many years." Xiao BieLi explained.

"Could it be that Ding Qiu came here to look for Luo LuoShan?" Ye Kai postulated.

"Perhaps."

"What exactly happened between the two of them?" Ye Kai asked.

Xiao BieLi let out a sigh and replied, "Who knows. Grudges and resentments in the martial-realm are always complicated."

Ye Kai fell silent for quite a while. Then, he suddenly asked, "Many years ago, there was a most cruel and vicious hidden projectiles expert. Rumors say that she was the lone successor of the 'Red Flower Granny'."

"You're referring to the 'Intestine Shattering Needle', Granny Du?" Xiao BieLi replied.

"Correct." Ye Kai said.

"I've heard her name before." Xiao BieLi said.

"Have you ever seen her before?" Ye Kai asked.

"She is someone I would rather not meet in this lifetime." Xiao BieLi replied with a bitter smile.

"And the last remaining disciple of the 'Thousand-Faced Living Demon', the one they call the 'Boneless Serpent', XiMen Chun, I'm sure you've heard of him as well." Ye Kai said.

"I'd rather meet Granny Du than ever run into that person." Xiao BieLi remarked.

"Well, from what I've heard, the two of them have both arrived here." Ye Kai said slowly.

Xiao BieLi's expression moved, "When did they come?"

"They've been here for quite a while." Ye Kai replied.

Xiao BieLi paused for a moment before he shook his head in denial, "Impossible, there's no way that they've come to this place. We definitely would've known if the two of them had arrived."

"Hasn't the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses' always been a place of crouching tigers and hidden dragons?" Ye Kai said.

Xiao BieLi nodded his head, then proceeded to shake his head back and forth.

"Maybe it's because the two of them have arrived at the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses' that there is to be grave danger ahead." Ye Kai said.

Xiao BieLi suddenly smiled and replied, "That is the business of the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses', what does it have to do with us?"

"Perhaps I've really said too much today." Ye Kai said with a smile.

He looked like he was about to take his leave when just at that time someone walked through the door. It was a man clothed in white covered with a strip of linen. In his hands was what looked like a letter or an invitation.

But it wasn't either, it was an obituary.

It was GongSun Duan, Yun ZaiTian, and Hua MenTian's obituary. It was addressed from Ma KongQun, and the date for the funeral was set for the day after tomorrow. The ceremonies were to be held in the morning, the burials at noon, and a reception for the guests afterwards.

One of them was addressed to Ye Kai. The man in white handed the obituary to Ye Kai, then bowed his head and said, "The Third Boss has instructed me to extend invitations to Mr. Xiao and Young Master Ye to pay respects to the deceased."

Xiao BieLi let out a sigh and replied, "Good friends from over the years, disappear forever in a single day. How could I not attend?"

"I will be there as well." Ye Kai said.

The messenger in white bowed his head three times.

"It seems that a lot of these obituaries have been sent out." Ye Kai suddenly commented.

"The Third Boss and Mr. GongSun were comrades through thick and thin, at the very least he wants his funeral to be respectable." the messenger replied.

"Everyone in town has received an invitation?" Ye Kai asked.

"Just about everyone." the messenger said.

"What about Fu HongXue?" Ye Kai said.

A detestable look came over the man in white's face as he replied, "There is an invitation for him as well, but I doubt that he would show up."

"I think he will." Ye Kai said.

"Is that so." the messenger replied coldly.

"Have you been able to find him yet?" Ye Kai asked.

"No." the messenger in white said.

"Don't worry then, I'll deliver the invitation to him in your stead." Ye Kai said.

The man in white paused for a moment, then nodded his head and replied, "I'll have to thank Young Master Ye for the trouble then. I really didn't want to see that person, it's best that he doesn't let anybody catch sight of him."

Xiao BieLi was gazing at the obituary in his hands the entire time. When the messenger in white finally left, he let out a sigh and exclaimed, "Who would've thought that they would actually extend an invitation to Fu HongXue."

"Like you said, Ma KongQun is a very strange person. But Fu HongXue will definitely show up." Ye Kai remarked.

"Why's that?" Xiao BieLi asked.

Ye Kai smiled and replied, "Because I can tell that he isn't the type of person who would run away."

"But if you are his friend, you should urge him not to go." Xiao BieLi said in a deep tone of voice.

"How come?" Ye kai said.

"Can't you tell that this obituary is obviously a trap?" Xiao BieLi said.

"A trap?"

"The moment Fu HongXue sets foot inside the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses', he can really forget about ever returning home."

'Emperor of the skies, emperor of the earth. Blood drips from the eyes, the moon doesn't shine. Once one enters the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses', forget about ever returning home.'

________________________________________

High noon. The showers had subsided, clear skies extended for ten thousand miles.

Ye Kai was knocking on Fu HongXue's door.

No one had seen Fu HongXue since earlier this morning. Whenever he mentioned that pale-faced cripple, he was met with odd looks, almost as if they had just seen a venemous serpent.

The news that GongSun Duan was slain by Fu HongXue had already spread throughout all parts of town.

There was no answer at the door but the door adjacent to him opened and out popped a white-haired old lady. She had suspicion and apprehension written all over her eyes as she stared at Ye Kai.

Her face was covered in wrinkles and her skin was old and shriveled.

Ye Kai knew that she was the landlord of these huts, so with a smile he inquired, "Is Young Master Fu here?"

"There is no Young Master Fu here, only poor mendicants live in theses shacks." the old woman replied while shaking her head.

Ye Kai smiled, it seemed like nothing could ever upset him.

The old woman suddenly added, "If you're looking for that pale-faced cripple, he already packed his belongings."

"He did? When was this?" Ye Kai asked.

"Well, very soon he will be sent packing." the old woman replied.

"And how do you know that?" Ye Kai said.

"Because I don't welcome murderers here." the old woman coldly replied.

Ye Kai finally understood that offending the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses' here was equivalent to offending the entire town. He didn't say another word. With a smile, he turned and walked out from the alley.

That old lady followed him out and said, "If you don't have a place to stay, I can rent out that room to you."

"How do you know that I'm not a murderer?" Ye Kai replied.

"You don't look like one." the old woman said.

Ye Kai's expression sunk, in a deep voice he replied, "You're mistaken. Not only am I a murderer, but I've killed over seventy or eighty people before."

The old lady's mouth dropped wide open, her face was filled with fright and astonishment.

Ye Kai had made his way out of the alley by then. He hoped that he could find Fu HongXue as soon as possible.

Although he didn't see Fu HongXue, he did unexpectedly run into Ding Qiu, who was sipping on a warm cup of tea in a small shop across the main road. He wore a lavish green robe over his extravagant garments, the expression on his face made him seem somewhat listless.

On that side of the road there happened to be a shepherd slowly following behind four or five of his sheep as they marched down the street.

Although the weather cooled down a bit after the heavy rainstorm, it was still extremely hot and torrid. But that shepherd actually had on a thick woolen coat and straw hat. His hat was tilted very low, in his hand was a herding stick, and he whistled as he strolled by.

Only the most inept and unable of people became shepherds. In a desolate wilderness such as this, falcon herders and horse herders were well-respected. Shepherds were not only poor but looked down upon as well.

The people on the street didn't even bother to glance at him. Likewise, he paid little attention to everyone else as he avoided walking towards the center of the street. He seemed as if he just wanted to hurry those sheep along their way.

Who knew that someone on that street actually did notice him. Ding Qiu's eyes lit up as soon as he saw that shepherd, as if he had been waiting for him the entire time.

Ye Kai stopped in his tracks. He glanced at the shepherd, then glanced at Ding Qiu. His eyes lit up as well.

The roads were still wet. As the shepherd made his way around one of the puddles, he saw Ding Qiu walking over and blocking his path. The shepherd didn't even look up and thought about walking around Ding Qiu but didn't seem like he had the courage.

It appeared that Ding Qiu was looking to give this shepherd trouble, as he stopped him and said, "When did you start herding sheep?"

The shepherd looked startled and replied nervously, "Since I was very young."

Ding Qiu smiled coldly and retorted, "Don't tell me that the only thing you learned during your tutelage at Mount Wudang was to herd sheep."

The shepherd looked frightened, he slowly lifted his head and looked at Ding Qiu, then replied, "Do I know you? I think you've got the wrong person."

"The one surnamed Luo, Luo LuoShan, even if all your bones turned to dust I would still recognize you. Where do you think you're going to run off to this time?" Ding Qiu said.

Was that shepherd really Luo LuoShan?

He fell silent for a moment, then sighed and replied, "Even if you do recognize me, I'm afraid that I still have no idea who you are."

He really was Luo LuoShan.

Ding Qiu smiled coldly. Suddenly, he tore off the green robe he had on to reveal the extravagant clothes he wore beneath and that distinctive hump on his back.

"The Golden-Backed Dragon?" Luo LuoShan exclaimed.

"So you do recognize me."

"What do you want from me?"

"To collect old debts."

"What kind of debts?"

"Have you forgotten what happened ten years ago?"

"I've never even met you before, I have no idea what you're talking about."

"Seventeen lives is quite a debt to shrug off, just forfeit your life!"

"This person is crazy, I ..."

Ding Qiu didn't even let him finish. With a shake of his arms, a golden whip five feet long appeared in his hands. A golden streak of light soared through the air like a dragon and snapped straight at Luo LuoShan's waist.

Luo LuoShan dodged the whip by leaning to one side while removing the woolen coat from his body with his right hand. He leapt backwards and exclaimed, "Wait a moment."

But Ding Qiu didn't wait, the golden whip lashed out in another four moves.

Luo LuoShan stamped his feet and with the flick of his wrist, the woolen coat in his hand twisted straight. This was one of Wudang's famed internal energy skills, 'Wetting Cloth Into Staves'. In the hands of those who have mastered this skill, almost anything could be a lethal weapon.

Right on that wet and muddy street, the two of them exchanged over ten moves.

Ye Kai, who was watching them from afar, realized two things.

A real alcoholic could never become a martial arts master. Luo LuoShan's bizarre drinking habits were just a guise to throw people off guard. He probably was more clear-headed than most people could ever be.

And it seemed that he really didn't recognize Ding Qiu.

But it was unlikey that Ding Qiu had mistaken him for someone else.

How could this be so?

Ye Kai was lost in thought but still wore a smile on his lips. He thought it was very possible that both were not mistaken, but that it was nothing to smile about.

Death was nothing to smile about.

Luo LuoShan's moves were simple and reliable. Although his offense didn't seem very potent, his defense was practically flawless. He was the type of fighter who would never expose a hole in his techniques, but his hand suddenly looked like it had frozen stiff.

It was in that single instant that Ye Kai saw the look in his eyes, they were filled with worry and fear. Then, his eyes suddenly protruded out. Ding Qiu's golden whip had wrapped itself around his throat. With a *GAAK*, his neck was snapped.

A fierce smile enveloped Ding Qiu's face as he exclaimed, "Blood debts are paid in full, you've finally cleared your debts today."

In the middle of his laughter, he leapt backwards and dashed away. All that was left was Luo LuoShan's lifeless body on the street, his eyes protruding out from its sockets like a dead fish. In his current state, he really did resemble an alcoholic who had drank himself to death.

No one dared to walk near him, no one said a single word. Anyone would feel extremely uncomfortable seeing someone who was breathing just moments before suddenly lose all traces of life.

The owner of the general store held his stomach with both hands as if he were about to throw up.

The sun had risen high into the sky.

The fresh rays of the sun shined down on Luo LuoShan's lifeless body, and onto the blood that was seeping out from his eyes. That blood dried very quickly.

Ye Kai slowly made his way over and crouched down beside him. He stared at the horrid expression on Luo LuoShan's face and exclaimed sullenly, "It can be said that we were at least friends. Is there anything that you would like to tell me?"

Of course there wasn't. Dead people couldn't talk.

Ye Kai reached his hand out, patted him on the shoulder, and said, "Rest assured, I'll see to it that you receive a proper burial. And I'll remember to bring plenty of wine for you to your grave."

With a long sigh, he finally rose to his feet.

It was then that he saw Xiao BieLi. Xiao BieLi was standing outside under the brims of his roof with his two hands propped against his walking sticks. In the sunlight, his face looked almost as pale as Fu HongXue's.

He was someone who had never seen sunlight in years.

Ye Kai walked over and said with a sigh, "I never enjoy killing, yet I always seem to witness murder."

Xiao BieLi had a sullen look on his face. After a long while he sighed and said, "I knew he was going to attempt something like this, it's a pity that I couldn't stop him in time."

Ye Kai nodded and replied, "Mr. Luo really died too soon."

He looked up and suddenly asked, "You just came out?"

"I should've come earlier." Xiao BieLi replied.

"I didn't notice you before when I was talking to someone else." Ye Kai said.

"Who were you talking to?" Xiao BieLi asked.

"Mr. Luo." Ye Kai replied.

Xiao BieLi stared at him blankly for quite a while. Finally, he slowly replied, "The dead can't talk."

"They can." Ye Kai said.

The expression on Xiao BieLi's face changed, as he asked, "How can the dead talk?"

"When the dead talk, only a few people can hear what they have to say."

"And you're able to hear what they say?"

"Yes."

"What did he have to say?"

"He told me that he died a very unjust death."

Xiao BieLi knitted his brows and asked, "How was it unjust?"

"He said that there was no way Ding Qiu should've been able to kill him." Ye Kai replied.

"Yet he died under Ding Qiu's whip." Xiao BieLi said.

"Only because someone ambushed him from the shadows." Ye Kai said.

Xiao BieLi knitted his brows and asked, "Someone ambushed him? Who?"

Ye Kai let out a long sigh. He extended his palm out to Xiao BieLi and in it was a jade colored needle with blood on its tip.

Xiao BieLi was taken back and exclaimed, "'Intestine Shattering Needle'?"

"It is indeed the 'Intestine Shattering Needle'." Ye Kai replied.

Xiao BieLi let out a long breath and said, "From the looks of it, Granny Du is really here."

"And she's been here for quite a while." Ye Kai added.

"Have you seen her too?" Xiao BieLi asked.

Ye Kai laughed and replied, "If someone caught sight of her when she unleashes her 'Intestine Shattering Needle', then she wouldn't be Granny Du."

Xiao BieLi could only sigh.

"But I know that she's not hiding out at the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses'." Ye Kai said.

"Why is that?" Xiao BieLi asked.

"Because she is living in this very village. Who knows, she could even be the grandmother of that little child in front of us." Ye Kai said.

Xiao BieLi's expression changed. He caught sight of an old woman carrying a young child on her back.

"Since the 'Intestine Shattering Needle' has arrived, the 'Boneless Serpent' can't be very far behind." Ye Kai remarked.

"Has he been living in this town all along as well?" Xiao BieLi said.

"Very possibly." Ye Kai replied.

"How could I have never been aware of two such masters in this town?" Xiao BieLi said.

"Experts never reveal their strength, you can seldom tell that someone is true martial arts master. The 'Boneless Serpent' could very well be the owner of that general store." Ye Kai replied.

He looked at Xiao BieLi and laughed, then added, "Or maybe he is you."

Xiao BieLi smiled back. In the sunlight, his smile carried an unspeakable cynicism. And with that, he slowly turned around and made his way back inside.

When Ye Kai saw his smile, he would always forget that Xiao BieLi was a cripple, he would always forget how lonesome of a person he was.

But all Ye Kai saw now was the figure of his back. An emaciated, deformed, and lonesome figure of his back.

Ye Kai suddenly chased after him and caught his arm.

"Since you so rarely leave that place, let's go for a drink." Ye Kai said.

Xiao BieLi looked very surprised as he replied, "You want to buy me a drink?"

Ye Kai nodded his head and said, "I rarely buy people drinks either."

"Where do you want to go?"

"Wherever is fine, as long as it's not in there."

"Why's that?"

"Your wine is too expensive."

Xiao BieLi smiled and replied, "But since it's my shop, you can put it on the tab."

The offer of putting it on the tab was simply irresistible to those who had no money in the pockets.

"I'm only trying to draw in more business." Xiao BieLi said with a smile.

"You really are the shrewd businessman sometimes." Ye Kai said.

"It's what I am." Xiao BieLi replied.

He smiled at Ye Kai and asked, "So where do you want to take me for some wine?"

"Well the way I see it, wherever we can drink on a tab would be the most convenient place. I always seem to enjoy myself the most at a place like that." Ye Kai said.

"What about when you have to pay the tab?" Xiao BieLi asked.

"Although that time would be quite painful, that's a worry that I can defer for the future. I don't even know whether I'll live until then." Ye Kai replied.

With a laugh he pushed open the door, allowing Xiao BieLi to walk in first.

But he didn't walk in after him, because just at that time, he saw Cui Nong.

She had her head lowered and was rushing towards the door. Where did she disappear to the night before? Where had she gone? Where was she coming back from just now? Ye Kai just couldn't resist asking her, but she totally ignored him.

There was someone else staring at Ye Kai.

Fu HongXue.

Fu HongXue finally showed up.

Just as Ye Kai was about to reach out to grab Cui Nong, he noticed Fu HongXue staring at him.

He was staring at Ye Kai's hand. Those cold and lonesome eyes were filled with despite. His pale-white face was flushed red.

Ye Kai slowly retracted his hand and held the door open instead allowing Cui Nong to walk inside.

As Cui Nong passed him by she turned around and smiled politely, as if she had just met him for the first time.

Ye Kai felt as if he couldn't even let out a smile, because Fu HongXue was still gazing at him. Those eyes of his looked like that of a jealous husband staring down the adulterous lover of his wife.

Ye Kai glanced at him, then back at Cui Nong, but just couldn't figure out what was going on. In fact, this was something that could very well be happening every night.

Ye Kai smiled at him and said, "I was just looking for you."

"Oh?" Fu HongXue replied.

"You killed GongSun Duan?" Ye Kai asked.

"I should have killed him a long time ago." Fu HongXue replied with a cold smile.

"This is his obituary." Ye Kai said as he handed the invitation to him.

"His obituary?" Fu HongXue replied.

"You killed him, yet the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses' is inviting you to his funeral. Don't you find this rather amusing?" Ye Kai said with a smile.

Fu HongXue stared at the letter as a strange look came over his eyes.

"How amusing, how very amusing." Fu HongXue remarked.

Ye Kai stared at his eyes and said, "You will of course attend."

"Why?" Fu HongXue said.

"Because it will definitely be bustling with excitement that day." Ye Kai said.

Fu HongXue lifted his head, stared back at him and said, "You seem to be very interested in my affairs."

Ye Kai laughed and replied, "That's just because I enjoy meddling in other people's business."

"Do you know why Luo LuoShan died?" Fu HongXue asked.

"No." Ye Kai said.

"Because he liked to mind other people's business." Fu HongXue replied coldly.

He didn't cast another eye at Ye Kai as he walked past his side and into the middle of the street. The street was still covered in puddles.

He took a step with his left foot, then dragged his right foot along from behind. The way in which he walked really was odd and quite comical. Usually when he walked through the streets, everyone stared at his leg. But today was different, everyone on that street was staring at the sabre in his hand.

The sabre that took GongSun Duan's life.

Hostility filled each and every one of their eyes.

________________________________________

"Everyone knows that you're the enemy of the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses' now, no one will befriend you ever again."

"Why?"

"Because at least half of the residents of this town depend on the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses' to make their living."

"So you have to be extra careful from now on. Even when you're drinking a cup of water."

Those were Third Madame Shen's parting words. He couldn't understand why that woman was especially thoughtful of him. He didn't even know who she was, only that she was Cui Nong's good friend and Ma KongQun's woman.

Why would Cui Nong befriend a woman like her?

He didn't understand or know just why he held a certain loathing for that woman, he only wished that she would go away. But she didn't seem to get the point. When they were wandering around the wilderness, all he wanted to do was to find a nice spot to sit down with Cui Nong.

It was pretty hard to believe, but that was the first time that he ever killed. Even GongSun Duan would have a hard time believing it so. But it really was the first time that he took someone's life.

When he pulled his sabre from GongSun Duan's stomach, he couldn't help but throw up.

No one could really understand his sentiments, not even himself.

Seeing a person turn into a lifeless corpse in your very hands was not a pleasant sight.

He never wanted to kill.

But he had no choice!

There was no snow, only sand.

Red sand.

Blood gushed forth as he pulled his blade out soaking the yellow sand red.

He was crouched over the ground heaving until the blood had dried.

When he rose to his feet, he noticed that Third Madame Shen was staring at him the entire time with a very peculiar look in her eyes. Was it sympathy, disdain, or pity?

No matter what it was, he just couldn't stand it.

Yet he could endure the hatred and resentment of others, he was accustomed to it.

Fu HongXue straightened his waist and made his way through the middle of the street. All he wanted to do was ie down. To lie down and wait for Cui Nong.

Third Madame Shen had followed them all the way to the town entrance.

He didn't bother asking where she was off to because he really didn't want to see her again. She dragged Cui Nong to the side and talked to her for quite a while.

When Cui Nong returned, she said that she had to return.

"I'm going to tidy up and then go to look for you. I know where you live."

Of course she would know.

But Fu HongXue didn't realize that 'she' wasn't Cui Nong, but Third Madame Shen who he resented.

Perhaps no one would ever know this secret.


- END CHAPTER 16 -
Last Updated ( Tuesday, 22 July 2008 08:56 )