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Tuesday, 22 July 2008 20:00

Chapter 22 - Prelude and Postlude To A Murder


 
Chen DaGuan, Boss Zhang, Ding LaoSi, and the others had all come in by now. They all stood idly by as if waiting for Lu XiaoJia's commands, but Lu XiaoJia acted as if they didn't even exist.

Up until now he hadn't even bothered to turn to look at them once. Finally, he said coldly, "Is there anyone here willing to spare me money?"

"There is, of course there is." Chen DaGuan immediately replied.

"You will be able to do everything I ask?" Lu XiaoJia said.

"I will try my best." Chen DaGuan responded.

"You had better." Lu XiaoJia replied coldly.

"Please, go ahead." Chen DaGuan said.

"I want five catties of peanuts, dry-roasted, and I want them not too cooked and not too raw."

"Yes."

"I also want a large tub of hot water, in a wooden tub six feet tall."

"Yes."

"Also have someone prepare two sets of garments of either silk or cotton."

"Two sets?"

"Two sets, one to put on before I kill, and one to put on afterwards."

"Yes."

"If there is a single broken peanut, then I will cut off your hand. If there are two, then I will take your life."

Chen DaGuan felt as if he inhaled a breath of cold air, "Yes."

"You have to take a bath before you kill?" Ye Kai suddenly asked.

"Killing people is not like killing swine. Murder is an immaculate and joyous act."

Ye Kai smiled and replied, "So your victims have to wait for you to cleanse yourself before you take their lives?"

"They don't have to wait. I can cut their legs off first, then take a bath before taking their lives." Lu XiaoJia said coldly.

"Who would've known that you have to go through so much trouble before you kill." Ye Kai said with a sigh.

"I have to go through trouble after I kill as well." Lu XiaoJia said.

"What kind of trouble?"

"The biggest kind."

"Women?"

"That is the second smart thing you've said today." Lu XiaoJia replied.

"Man's biggest trouble has always been women. I think even the stupidest man knows this."

"So go and prepare a woman for me as well, the best that you can find."

Chen DaGuan looked slightly hesitant as he replied, "But what if that lady clothed in red should return?"

Lu XiaoJia laughed and said, "You're afraid that she'll be jealous?"

Chen DaGuan smiled bitterly and replied, "How can I not be afraid? This head of mine is very fragile."

"You really believe that she's here to find me?"

"That isn't the case?"

"I've never seen that person before in my life."

A startled look came over Chen DaGuan's face, "Then what she said before ..."

"Don't tell me you didn't realize that she was trying to stir up trouble on purpose?" Lu XiaoJia said.

Chen DaGuan looked perplexed.

"It must be because you leaked out the news of my arrival that she found out, so she rushed to get here before me." Lu XiaoJia said.

"What were her intentions?" Chen DaGuan asked.

"Why don't you ask her yourself?" Lu XiaoJia replied coldly.

Fear shot through Chen DaGuan's eyes, but he still feigned a smile. That smile seemed to be permanently engraved on his face.

________________________________________

Chen DaGuan's silk and satin shop wasn't the largest, but around here it could be considered rather grandiose. There wasn't going to be much business today, and it showed on the faces of the two workers inside who appeared rather bored and listless. All they wanted was for the sun to set so they could hurry home. Although they were workers in the shop, they became masters once they got home.

Chen DaGuan didn't bother stopping by his shop. As soon as he returned he headed straight towards the back. After passing through a small courtyard was the house where he lived.

But he would've never imagined that there would be someone waiting for him in that courtyard.

In the courtyard was a banyan tree. Underneath that tree stood Ye Kai, "You wouldn't have guessed that I would be here, huh?"

Chen DaGuan was shocked, he tried his hardest to maintain his smile as he asked, "Master Ye isn't accompanying Master Lu? The two of you seemed like you had a lot to talk about before."

"He wouldn't even let me have a single peanut, I'm so hungry now that I could eat an entire horse." Ye Kai said.

"I came back here to heat up some water for his bath, there are still some dishes left in the kitchen, if Master Ye doesn't mind ..."

Ye Kai cut in and said, "I've heard that Mrs. Chen is quite a chef, I can't believe that I'd actually have the fortune of tasting her wonderful cooking."

Chen DaGuan let out a sigh, "What a pity that you chose to visit at this time. Unfortunately, my wife is sick at the moment."

Ye Kai raised his brows and asked, "Sick?"

"Indeed, she is very sick. She can't even leave the bed right now." Chen DaGuan said.

Ye Kai smiled coldly and said, "I don't believe you."

Chen DaGuan looked startled, "Why would I lie about something like this to Master Ye?"

"She was perfectly fine last night, how did she get so sick all of a sudden? I really should see her and see what kind of illness she has contracted." Ye Kai said coldly. His expression sunk and he looked as if he was about to rush into the house.

Chen DaGuan lowered his head and replied, "Since that is the case, then I will take Master Ye to go see her."

He walked with Ye Kai through the main room to one of the bedrooms in back, lightly pushed open the door, and lifted back one of the curtains. Not much light reached that room, the windows were all shut tight, and the smell of medicine filled the air. A woman lay sleeping in bed with her face to the wall, her hair was in disarray and she was covered up in blankets. It really did look like a woman who was very sick.

Ye Kai let out a sigh and said, "It looks like I've wrongly accused you."

Chen DaGuan smiled and replied, "Think nothing of it."

"It's such a hot day today, why is she still wrapped up in blankets? Even if she wasn't sick, she'd catch an illness from all the heat." Ye Kai said.

"She is fighting malaria. Last night she had on two blankets and was still shivering." Chen DaGuan said.

Ye Kai laughed and replied, "I didn't know that dead people can shiver?"

Before his words were even finished, he dashed towards the bed and lifted the covers. The covers were soaked in red, the bed was soaked in red, the body was already frozen stiff!

Ye Kai slowly placed the blanket back, as if careful not to stir her dead body awake. He let out a sigh and slowly turned his head. Chen DaGuan was still standing there silently, with that crooked smile on his face.

"Looks like I won't ever have the fortune of tasting Mrs. Chen's cooking." Ye Kai said.

"The dead really can't cook." Chen DaGuan said.

"What about you?" Ye Kai asked.

"I'm not a dead person." Chen DaGuan replied.

"But you should be." Ye Kai said.

"Oh?"

"Because I've seen you in a coffin before." Ye Kai said.

Chen DaGuan's eyelids started to flicker, yet he was still wearing a smile -- that smile really was etched on to his face.

"Disguising oneself as Chen DaGuan really isn't that difficult, because that person wears a fake smile every day of his life, as if there is already a mask on his face." Ye Kai said.

"That's why that person deserved to die." Chen DaGuan said.

"But no matter how well your disguise was, you could still never fool his wife. Such a powerful form of disguise doesn't exist in this world." Ye Kai said.

"That's why she had to die as well."

"I just find it strange that you didn't put her in one of the coffins like the others."

"It's better to have her sleeping here, so as to avoid the suspicion of the workers if anything."

"Yet you still wouldn't have imagined that someone would get suspicious."

"I really wouldn't have imagined."

"That's why I have to die as well."

Chen DaGuan let out a sigh and said, "You really have nothing to do with this situation whatsoever."

Ye Kai nodded his head, "I know, your end goal is getting rid of Fu HongXue."

Chen DaGuan nodded as well, "He really deserves to die."

"Why?"

Chen DaGuan smiled coldly, "You don't understand?"

"All enemies of the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses' must die?" Ye Kai asked.

Chen DaGuan's mouth immediately shut closed.

"So you people were beckoned here by the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses'?"

Chen DaGuan's mouth stayed shut. But the palm of his hand slowly opened. His hand was originally empty, but suddenly, a cold flash of steel shot out. And at that exact moment, a silver star shot in from the window and fanned out like the petals on a flower. That silver star turned into a blinding rain of light. The whole room was flooded with silver light, so bright that you couldn't open your eyes.

But at that exact moment, a dagger also found itself stuck in Chen DaGuan's throat.

Even in death, he couldn't figure out where that dagger had come from. All those projectiles that were shot out were visible, but the dagger couldn't be seen. The silver rain of light that filled the room instantly died out.

Ye Kai was no longer in sight either.

Wind blew in from the window, not a single breath was heard inside the room.

After quite a while, a hand lightly pushed open the window. A very beautiful hand, with long and delicate fingers. But the sleeves were totally different, filthy, oily, and greasy. This couldn't be Boss Zhang's hand, but those were definitely Boss Zhang's clothes. A face slowly peeked into the window, it was Boss Zhang's face. He didn't see Ye Kai anywhere, but he did see the dagger protruding out from Chen DaGuan's throat.

Then, his hand stiffened. Suddenly, a dagger found itself stuck in his throat as well. Even in death he didn't seen that dagger. A dagger stuck in someone else's throat wasn't dangerous, that's why he was able to see it. Unfortunately for him, all that could be seen of the dagger in his own throat was the handle.

Could it be that the most formidable blade is the blade that cannot be seen?

Ye Kai leapt down lightly from one of the beams on the ceiling. He first went and picked up the projectiles, then retrieved his daggers. As he gazed at the dagger in his hand, his expression turned extremely solemn, almost to the point of admiration and respect.

"I will never force you to kill unncessarily. I guarantee to you that I've killed only when there was absolutely no other choice!"

________________________________________

Boss Song opened his eyes.

There were two people in the room, both in bed. A woman lay facing the wall, almost in the exact position as Chen DaGuan's wife, except her hair was completely gray. The couple were getting on in their years. They both appeared to be sleeping.

But as soon as the sound of a third person in the room was heard, Boss Song opened his eyes. The first thing that he saw was a hand. That hand was holding two very strange things. The first was what looked like wild grass found in the mountains, the second was a flower made from mercury. Then, he lifted his head and saw Ye Kai.

It was very dark in the room, but Ye Kai's eyes looked as bright as lanterns as he stared at Boss Song, "Do you know what these are?"

Boss Song shook his head. Shock and dread filled his eyes, his neck froze still.

"These are hidden weapons. Weapons designed to kill with the least chance of being detected." Ye Kai said.

It wasn't clear whether Boss Song heard any of what Ye Kai said, but he nodded his head anyway.

"Of these two weapons, one is called 'Five Poisons Happiness Grass', and the other is called 'Fiery Arbor Silver Flowers'. They are the two signature hidden weapons of Cai HuaFeng and Pan Ling." Ye Kai said.

Boss Song licked over his dry lips and said with a forced smile, "I have never heard the names of these two heroes before."

"They are not heroes." Ye Kai replied.

"They aren't?"

"They are despicable thieves of the 'Lower Five Gates' and rapists as well." Ye Kai's expression sunk as he continued, "I've always valued human life immensely, but those two are exceptions."

"I understand ... rapists don't deserve any remorse." Boss Song said.

"They are members of the 'Lower Five Gates', five people who love using hidden weapons more than anyone." Ye Kai said.

"Five people?"

"In the martial circles they are known as the 'Five Poisons of Jiang Hu'. Besides the two of them, there are three more who are even more vicious." Ye Kai replied.

"Have the five of them all come to Bordertown?"

"Not a single one less."

"When exactly did they get here?"

"A few days ago, the day when those coffins were carried in."

"How come I haven't seen thse five strangers walking around town since then?"

"It wasn't just the five of them that came that day. They were hidden away in those coffins so no one noticed their arrival."

"So the reason that humpback brought all those coffins here was to smuggle these people in?"

"Most likely."

"Are they all still hiding in those coffins?"

"Only corpses are lying in those coffins now."

Boss Song sighed and said, "So they're all dead now."

"Too bad they weren't the ones who died."

"What do you mean?"

"Because when they came out, they replaced themselves with somebody else."

"Who did they put in the coffins instead?"

"What I know now is that Cai HuaFeng replaced himself with Chen DaGuan and Pan Ling replaced himself with Boss Zhang."

"How ... how did they switch places like that?"

"There is someone in this town who is probably the greatest disguise artist in the world!"

"Who?"

"XiMen Chun."

"And who is this XiMen Chun? How come I've never heard of him before?"

"Actually, I really want to know who he is as well. But it'll only be a matter of time." Ye Kai said with a confident smile.

"So you're saying that he turned Cai HuaFeng into Chen DaGuan and Pan Ling into Boss Zhang?"

Ye Kai nodded his head, "Too bad not even the greatest disguise could fool one's own wife. That's why the first person they targeted was Boss Zhang."

"Why?"

"Because Boss Zhang wasn't married nor did he have many friends. Also, he rarely ever bathed so not many people liked to keep his company."

"So even if he looked slightly different, not many people would even notice."

"It's a pity that there aren't a lot of people in this town like Boss Zhang and Ding LaoSi."

"So why did they choose to target Chen DaGuan?"

"Because he is a very detestable person. Not many people like him either."

"But he has a wife."

"That's why his wife had to die."

Boss Song let out a sigh, "Like the old saying goes 'Locking one's door at home, yet calamity still strikes from the heavens.'"

After he finished his sentence, Boss Song tried to sit up, but Ye Kai held him down by his shoulders.

"I've told you so much already, now it's my turn to ask you something." Ye Kai said.

"Go ahead."

"Since Boss Zhang is really Pan Ling and Chen DaGuan is really Cai HuaFeng, then who are you?"

A look of shock came over Boss Song's face as he mumbled, "My surname is Song, my full name is Song DaJi, rarely has anyone asked for my name before."

"Is it because you're old, so you assume no one will bother asking your name?"

Boss Song forced a smile and replied, "Luckily those people haven't picked me to be one of their replacements."

"Oh?"

"Master Ye wouldn't think that I'm a fake, right?"

"Why not?"

"This old wife of mine who's been with me for several decades, wouldn't she be able to tell the difference?"

"If she was dead, then she wouldn't be able to tell the difference now would she?"

"Would I really sleep with a corpse in the same bed?"

"Is there anything that you people wouldn't do? Forget about a dead person, even if it was a dead dog ..."

Before he could finish his words, the old woman in bed let out a grunt and turned over. Ye Kai could no longer speak, dead people shouldn't be able to turn over. The old woman kept mumbling to herself, as if talking aloud in her sleep ... dead people shouldn't be able to talk in their sleep.

Ye Kai withdrew his hand.

Boss Song looked very pleased with himself as he said, "Would Master Ye liket me to wake her up so that he can ask for himself?"

Ye Kai smiled and replied, "No need."

Boss Song finally sat up and said, "Then would Master Ye like to follow me to the living room for some tea?"

"No thanks."

It didn't seem appropriate for him to stay any longer, so he got ready to leave.

But suddenly, Boss Song grabbed the old woman's wrist and tossed her entire body towards Ye Kai. This move was certainly unexpected. Ye Kai couldn't decide whether or not to catch her.

It was then that the room suddenly filled up with smoke. A light purple screen of smoke, as beautiful as the afterglow of sunset. Ye Kai reached out and pushed the old woman back onto the bed as he was enveloped in the thick smoke.

Boss Song watched with a ferocious look in his eyes, waiting for Ye Kai to fall over.

But Ye Kai didn't fall. When the smoke finally cleared, Boss Song saw that Ye Kai's eyes were just as bright as before. He was in total disbelief. As soon as someone sniffed even a bit of 'Bone Dissolving Powder', even the strongest of men would fall over like a pile of mud.

Boss Song's entire body froze with fright.

Ye Kai stared at him and sighed, "So it really is you."

"You knew who I was all along?"

"If I didn't, I would be on the floor right now."

"So you came prepared?"

Ye Kai smiled and said, "Since I've revealed everything I know, there was no way that you would let me leave here alive. If I wasn't prepared beforehand, would I dare to come?"

Boss Song clenched his teeth and said, "But I still can't figure out how you were able to withstand my 'Bone Dissolving Powder'."

"Take all the time you need."

Boss Song's eyes lit up.

"If you tell me who helped disguise you, then you can spend the next ten or twenty years trying to figure it out."

"And if I don't?"

"Then I'm afraid that you'll never have time to think again."

Boss Song smiled at him coldly and said, "Maybe I don't want to think about it, maybe I want you to just tell me."

"Then you won't have a chance at all."

"Oh?"

"If you even move your hand, I'll make sure you die right on this bed." The tone of his was warm, but it was filled with a fearsome confidence.

Boss Song let out a sigh, "I don't even know who you are, but I can't help but believe you."

"I promise that you won't regret it." Ye Kai said with a smile.

"If I didn't tell you, then you would never be able to guess who it is ..."

He never got the chance to finish his sentence. His entire body suddenly convulsed. His eyes turned deathly black, like two lanterns that had suddenly been extinguished.

Ye Kai quickly lounged towards him and discovered a needle stuck in his neck. A jade blue needle.

Granny Du had struck again! She really was alive. Where was she? Was she the one pretending to be Boss Song's wife? But that person's body was limp and weak, and her breath was short, not everyone could counter the 'Bone Dissolving Powder' like Ye Kai.

Where did the 'Intestine Shattering Needle' strike from?

Ye Kai looked up and noticed a small window in the roof that was open just a crack. He didn't immediately leap up because he knew what kind of weapon the 'Intestine Shattering Needle' was.

The way that he came from would be the way where he left to. Because he knew that this was the safest route.

- END CHAPTER 22 -