Bordertown Wanderer 05 Print
Tuesday, 22 July 2008 05:52

Chapter 5 - A Night In Bordertown


Yun ZaiTian, with a lantern in hand, led the five guests in front.

Fu HongXue, with his deep, heavy footsteps, drudged along at the end of the group - there are some people who just' don't like having anyone behind their backs.

Ye Kai purposely slowed down his steps until he was walking beside him. His slow, heavy steps dragging along the road of rocks and sand was like a blade gridning up against bare bone.

"I really didn't think that you would actually stay." Ye Kai said.

"Oh?" Fu HongXue said.


"I know that Ma KongQun asked all of us to spend the night because he wanted to test to see which one of us wouldn't be willing to stay." Ye Kai said.

"You aren't Ma KongQun." Fu HongXue said.

"If I were him, I would've done the exact same thing. If someone wanted to completely annihilate an entire clan, I'm sure that person wouldn't be too happy about spending the night here." Ye Kai said.

He thought for a while and added, "And even if that person did stay, he'd probably act very strangely throughout the night. That person might even try to pull something before morning arrives."

"If it were you, would you make a move?" Fu HongXue asked.

Ye Kai changed the subject and instead replied, "Do you know who Hall Master Ma is most afraid of?"

"Who?" Fu HongXue said.

"You and I." Ye Kai said.

Fu HongXue suddenly stopped, his eyes were fixed on Ye Kai as he asked one word at a time, "Are you the one?"

Ye Kai stopped as well. He turned to face Fu HongXue and replied, "That's the same thing that I wanted to ask you, are you the one?"

The two of them stood there silently in the middle of the night. Ye Kai stared at Fu HongXue, and Fu HongXue stared at Ye Kai. Suddenly, both of them smiled at the same time.

"I think that's the first time that I've ever see you smile." Ye Kai said.

"And it will probably be the last time as well!" Fu HongXue said.

Hua MenTian suddenly appeared out of the darkness. With a bright glow in his eyes, he grinned at them and asked, "So what are you two smiling about?"

"Something that's not really that funny." Ye Kai said.

"Not the least bit funny at all." Fu HongXue added.

________________________________________

GongSun Duan was still downing cup after giant cup of wine.

Ma KongQun sat there watching him. After a long while, he let out a sigh and said, "I know you're trying to drink yourself unconscious, but getting drunk won't really solve anything."

GongSun Duan suddenly slapped his hand down onto the table and shouted, "And what if I wasn't drunk? I'd still have to sit here and take other people's crap."

"You're not taking crap, it's called perseverance. Everyone has to endure something like that at least once in their lives." Ma KongQun said.

GongSun Duan started to clench his fists again. The wine from his cup slowly started to spill over. He looked at the flattened cup of gold in his hands and said, "Perseverance indeed! Thirty years ago you and I went through life and death together, we've endured over a hundred and seventy battles, and the blood that we've bled is more than enough to drown people. But now you're telling me to just take it - you're telling me to just sit idly by and take crap from that stupid little cripple?"

Ma KongQun's expression was still very calm. He let out a sigh and said, "I know this must be hard on you, but I ..."

"You don't have to say another word, I understand your reasons. You have a family now, and a daughter too. You can't act as brash and impulsive as you did in the past." GongSun Duan said.

He slammed his hand onto the table again and laughed coldly, "I'm just a small peon in the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses'. It's only fair that I have to take crap for the Third Boss."

Ma KongQun turned and stared at him, but his eyes didn't carry the slightest trace of anger. Rather, he looked somewhat moved.

After a long while, Ma KongQun calmly remarked, "Who said I'm the boss? And who said you're just a peon? Everything we have today was forged by the blood and sweat from the both of us. Even the closest of kin aren't as close as the two of us are. Half of everything here is yours. Whatever you wanted you could just take at any time - even if you asked for my daughter, I would happily oblige to give her to you."

Although the tone of his voice was very calm, all of the pent up emotions in his words were enough to bring even men of iron to tears. GongSun Duan lowered his head as his eyes couldn't help but water as well.

It was right at this time when Hua MenTian and Yun ZaiTian happened to return.

Hall Master Ma appeared to be in a very somber mood as he asked the two, "Did all of them stay for the night?"

"Yes." Yun ZaiTian replied.

The emotional look in Ma KongQun's eyes had disappeared by now as it was replaced by cold keenness, as he continued, "I had figured that Luo LuoShan, MuRong MingZhu and the Flying Spider would stay for the night, that doesn't surprise me."

"You don't believe that there's any suspicion about the three of them?" Yun ZaiTian asked.

"Very little, if any." Ma KongQun replied.

"Not necessarily." Hua MenTian said.

"Why's that?" Ma KongQun said.

"MuRong MingZhu is no ordinary person, I think what we saw before was all an act. Considering his lofty reputation and position in the martial arts world, there's no way that he would've kept spouting nonsense like he did after being humiliated several times." Hua MenTian explained.

Ma KongQun nodded his head in agreement and said, "I've noticed that too, he definitely has ulterior motives in mind, but I doubt they concern the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses'."

"And what about Luo LuoShan? That wannabe scholar has been known to enjoy flaunting his senior status around the realm. What motives could he have for coming thousands of miles to the middle of nowhere?" Hua MenTian said.

"Maybe he's on the run from powerful enemies and figured that a remote place like this would be ideal for him." Ma KongQun said.

"Wudang Sect's power and influence reaches far. Normally, their enemies would be the ones hiding from them, since when did they start hiding from their enemies?" Hua MenTian said.

Ma KongQun suddenly let out a sigh and said, "You still can't let go of that incident that happened twenty-three years ago at the base of Wudang Mountain?"

Hua MenTian's expression changed as he replied, "I will never forget."

"But hasn't the Wudang swordsman who injured you, HuiYun Zi, already died under your sword?" Ma KongQun said.

"Yes, but it's a pity that all of Wudang haven't yet suffered horrible deaths." Hua MenTian said scathingly.

Ma KongQun stared at him and said with a sigh, "You're a level-headed person, your vision and perception is sharp and keen, and you handle tough situations better than anyone I know. Your only shortcoming is your narrow-mindedness, I can only warn you that this may be the cause of your downfall in the future."

Hua MenTian lowered his head and didn't speak, but his chest rose up and he didn't appear to be at ease.

Yun ZaiTian tried to change the subject and said, "Out of the five of them, Fu HongXue does look like the most suspicious one. But like Ye Kai said, if he really was here to ... exact vengeance, would he really come to the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses' with a sabre in hand?"

Ma KongQun looked deep in thought and finally replied, "What about Ye Kai?"

"This person's martial arts seem incredibly powerful. His demeanor is even more unfathomable. If it really were him, then he'd be quite a formidable opponent." Yun ZaiTian said.

"You guys have been guessing back and forth for a while now, have you come to a conclusion yet?" GOngSun Duan asked.

"No." Yun ZaiTian said.

"Since we can't figure out who it is, then why don't we just kill all five of them and be done with it!" GongSun Duan said.

"What if we kill the wrong person?" Ma KongQun said.

"Then we'll just kill some more!" GongSun Duan said.

"And we'll just keep killing until when?" Ma KongQun said.

GongSun Duan clenched his fists in anger as green veins started to bulge out from his hands.

Suddenly, the sounds of a child came from the outside, "Fourth Uncle, I can't sleep. Can you please come and tell me stories?"

GongSun Duan let out a sigh and seemingly turned into an entirely different person. All the muscles on his body loosened as he slowly stood up and walked towards the door.

Ma KongQun watched on as his enormous figure made its way towards the door, yet the look in his eyes were like that of the child outside.

Ma KongQun remarked calmly, "Logically speaking, I doubt any of them will make a move tonight since they've decided to stay the night. But I still don't think that we should let our guards down."

"Yes." Yun ZaiTian replied.

"Pass the following order: Divide up the guards who are on duty for the night into eight watches, and have them patrol three times every hour. If any suspicious person or activity is seen, have them sound the alarms immediately!" Ma KongQun said.

Ma KongQun nodded his head as he stood up and walked towards the door. He looked extremely tired as his eyes spanned the vast darkness that had enveloped the open fields.

Yun ZaiTian followed him out and said with a sigh, "If this night really were to pass by without incident, then you'd be able to get a decent night's rest. But tomorrow would then surely present a host of new troubles to worry about."

Ma KongQun patted him on the shoulder and said, "After this battle is finally over, we really should be getting long needed rest ..."

A gust of wind blew by. The sky lantern was suddenly extinguished. Only its lonely shell remained hanging in the moonlight.

Yun ZaiTian glanced up at the lantern, his eyes suddenly filled with worry and apprehension.

Would the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses' meet the same fate as that lantern? Although it was hung up high, and its brightness radiated out for as far as the eye could see, who knew just when it would suddenly be extinguished?

Deep into the night, the moonlight begins to dim, even the sound of ten thousand flutes would be muffled.

In the middle of this barren wasteland, under the bitter, cold moonlight, who would be able to fall asleep?

Ye Kai's eyes were wide open as he stared out of his window at the night sky.

His smile was nowhere to be seen.

When no one was around, that ever-present smile on his face disappeared from sight.

He didn't sleep either.

Although not a sound could be heard anywhere, his thoughts were as raucous as a marching army of thousands. But no one knew just what exactly was on his mind.

He was lightly rubbing his own hands. The space between the thumb and index finger on his right hand was hard and calloused. This was usually the result of holding a blade for many years.

But where was his blade?

He was someone who never carried a blade.

Was the blade hidden deep within his heart?

Fu HongXue was still clenching tightly onto his blade.

He didn't sleep either.

He hadn't even bothered to take off his boots.

The bitter, cold moonlight shined down onto his pale, emotionless face, and onto the ebony black scabbard of his sabre.

Had his hands ever left that sabre before?

Suddenly, the urgent sounds of the alarm gongs broke the silence of the night.

Four figures dashed like arrows shooting through the darkness towards the western fields of the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses'.

A raw, vomit-inducing stench that smelled like rotting flesh suddenly passed through the wind.

The lantern in Ye Kai's room was the first to light up. Half a moment later, he quickly leapt out.

MuRong MingZhu and Flying Spider opened the doors to their rooms at about the same time.

The door to Mr. Luo's room was still shut as loud snoring could be heard coming from within.

Not even a single sound came from Fu HongXue's room.

"Did someone just sound the alarms?" MuRong MingZhu said.

Ye Kai nodded his head.

"Do you know what's going on?" MuRong MingZhu asked.

Ye Kai shook his head.

It was at this time that two figures suddenly shot towards them. The sword in one of their hands shined like flower blossoms, while the other one's movements looked as light and fluid as a flying crane.

Hua MenTian stared at the three of them standing outside of their doors but didn't stop until he reached just outside of Luo LuoShan's room. He came to a halt as soon as he heard the snoring that was coming from within.

Yun ZaiTian lightly somersaulted in midair and drifted towards Fu HongXue's door. He pushed out with his hand and the door slid right open.

Fu HongXue was standing right at the doorway, his hand still firmly clenching on to his sabre. The brightness that shined from his eyes were simply frightening to behold.

Yun ZaiTian subconsciously took several steps backwards as he addressed the group, "All of you were here the entire time?"

None of them responded. It was a pointless question to begin with.

"Did anyone hear anything just now?" Hua MenTian asked.

No one responded again.

MuRong MingZhu looked like he was about to say something but before he could open his mouth, he suddenly bent over and started to throw up.

That vile odor had reached them by now.

Then, the sound of about ten thousand horses neighing was heard. Even the cold moon looked like it had been scared out of its wits!

"Emperor of the skies, emperor of the earth. Blood drips from the eyes, the moon doesn't shine. Ten thousand horses lament as intestines are crushed ..."

What exactly was the most horrifying sound in the entire world?

It wasn't the wail of lonely ghosts wandering in the night, but rather the sound of ten thousand horses neighing at once in the middle of the barren wastelands!

No one could ever describe the horrible sound that it was. No one had ever heard such a sound before either.

If the sky hadn't just come crashing down, if some calamitous disaster hadn't just occurred, why else would thousands of horses suddenly cry out at once in the middle of the night? Even the bravest and hardiest of men upon hearing such a frightful cry, wouldn't be able to stop their skeletons from jumping right out of its skin, and having their souls shook right out of them.

The horses housed in the two rows of stables were all one-in-a-thousands, hand picked and purchased with countless amounts of gold.

Fresh blood kept gushing out from the stables, the thick horrid stench of blood filled the air.

Ma KongQun did not throw up.

He stood in the middle of a pool of blood and looked like someone had just yanked his soul right out of him.

GongSun Duan was embracing a tree that stood in front of the stables. Although he was holding on extremely tightly, his entire body was still trembling uncontrollably. The tree shook with him as all of its autumn leaves fell down one by one into the pool of blood.

The blood was thick enough that it kept all of the leaves of that tree afloat.

When Ye Kai arrived, he didn't have to ask to know what had just happenend.

Anyone who had eyes could tell what had just happened.

Anyone who had a heart wouldn't dare to come see.

There probably wasn't a single animal in the world that could match the beauty of a horse's mane. And very few animals could match the liveliness and vitality of a horse. The beautiful structure of its body and the grace and vivacity of its movements were practically flawless and perfect.

Who in the world could bear to hack off its head in a single slash?

It was almost as vicious as killing another human being!

Ye Kai let out a long sigh as he turned his head. In the distance, he saw MuRong MingZhu vomitting incessantly.

Flying Spider's face was pale as ash and full of cold sweat.

Fu HongXue stood quietly in the cold distance. Although the night enveloped his entire body, the reflections of the moonlight still glistened brilliantly off the ebony black scabbard of his sabre.

GongSun Duan caught sight of that sabre and rushed towards him and screamed, "Pull out your blade!"

"Now is not the time to pull out my blade." Fu HongXue replied blandly.

"Now is the perfect time to pull out your blade, I want to see whether or not it is stained with blood!" GongSun Duan demanded.

"This sabre is not for people to see." Fu HongXue said.

"What do I have to do to get you to draw your sabre?" GongSun Duan said.

"I only draw my sabre for one purpose." Fu HongXue said.

"And what would that be? To kill?" GongSun Duan said.

"It all depends on what type of person I'm going to kill. I only kill three types of people." Fu HongXue replied.

"Which three kinds?" GongSun Duan said.

"Enemies, villains, ..." Fu HongXue said.

"And what's the last kind?" GongSun Duan said.

Fu HongXue stared at him coldly and responded, "People like you who force me to draw my sabre."

GongSun Duan let out a hearty laugh and said, "Great! Well said! That's exactly what I've been waiting to hear ..."

His hand flew to the handle of his curved sabre. Before the sounds of his laughter had even dissipated, his sabre was already firmly in his grasp.

Fu HongXue's eyes started to shine even brighter, he was waiting for the perfect moment.

The perfect moment to draw his sabre! But in that moment, from the midsts of the grassy fields blanketed in darkness, an eerie voice broke through the silence, "Emperor of the skies, emperor of the earth. Blood drips from the eyes, the moon doesn't shine. Dark moon, high winds, tonight is a perfect night for murder, ten thousand horses lament as intestines are crushed."

The voice rang out into the night sky. Although it sounded like it came from the distance, each and every word could be heard clearly.

GongSun Duan's had changed colors by now. His shook his fists in the air and shouted out, "After them!"

As soon as he gave the signal, several dozen lanterns could be seen scattering towards the voice from every direction.

Yun ZaiTian lifted his arms, 'Following the Cicada Chasing the Clouds in Eight Steps', his body became as light as smoke. In about three or five steps, he was already seventy meters away.

"No wonder they call him the 'Flying Crane in the Clouds', his lightness skills are definitely top-notch." Ye Kai said.

He appeared to be talking to himself, but he also looked like he was talking to Fu HongXue. Yet, once Ye Kai turned his head towards where Fu HongXue had been standing the entire time, he was suddenly nowhere to be seen.

The pool of blood had stopped growing by now. The light from the lanterns slowly faded into the distance.

Ye Kai stood all alone in front of the stables - it was as if he was the last person remaining under the heavens.

Ma KongQun, Hua MenTian, Fu HongXue, MuRong MingZhu ... they all seemingly disappeared into the darkness of the night.

Ye Kai fell deep into thought. A smile started to form from the corners of his lips as he said, "How amusing, how amusing! Every single one of them is quite amusing!"

Dozens of flames flickered in the grassy fields, as if the stars in the sky had fallen to the earth.

Ye Kai was stumbling around in the darkness, he wandered towards the east, and ran towards the west, without a single purpose in mind. He appeared to be the most carefree person there.

The sky lantern had been lit again.

He lifted up both his hands and started roaming about from under the sky lantern.

Suddenly, hoofbeats thundered and the sound of bells rang out. A horse charged out of the darkness, the rider's eyes were like autumn dew. He glanced at her for a moment, when a soft cry suddenly arose. Rider and horse both stopped abruptly right in front of him. A talented horse, a skillful rider.

Ye Kai smiled and said, "Auntie really didn't fall to her death, how fortunate, how fortunate."

Ma FangLing stared at him coldly and replied, "You little brat, what are you still doing here?"

"How could I bear to leave before catching a glimpse of Ms. Ma's countenance?" Ye Kai said with a smile.

"You shameless little brat with your honey lips and golden tongue, I'm gonna beat you to death." Ma FangLing replied angrily.

Her whip lashed out like a snake towards Ye Kai.

"You can't beat shameless brats to death." Ye Kai said.

Before his words were finished, he suddenly mounted the horse and sat right behind Ma FangLing.

Ma FangLing swung one of her fists backwards and shouted, "What are you trying to do?"

But as soon as her fist struck out, her arm had been caught.

"The moon is dark, the winds are high, and I can't seem to find my way around. May I trouble the Misses to escort me back to my quarters?." Ye Kai said.

"Why don't you go to hell instead." Ma FangLing hissed back at him.

She struck out with her other fist but her arm was caught again. She struggled but couldn't even move an inch. All she felt was a man slowly breathing on the back of her neck.

She wanted to contract her neck and throw her body backwards at him, but for some reason she didn't have the strength to move a single muscle in her entire body.

The 'Rouge Servant' that they were sitting on, which appeared to be a mare, suddenly became incredibly gentle and obedient. It took tiny little steps as it trotted forward.