Bordertown Wanderer 07 Print
Tuesday, 22 July 2008 05:55

Chapter 7 - Dark Clouds, Ominous Sky


 
The windows were shut tight, the room totally devoid of light.

Raindrops beat down on the roof and windows like the drums of war and galloping horses in battle.

Ye Kai sat lazily with his two legs outstretched. He looked at his battered old pair of boots and sighed, "It's really coming down hard outside."

Xiao BieLi carefully lifted up the last domino from the table, his eyes laid fixed for a very long while. Finally, he turned to Ye Kai with a smile and said, "It rarely ever rains around here."

"That's probably why when it does rain, it pours this hard." Ye Kai said.

Xiao BieLi nodded his head as he listened to the downpour outside. He let out a sigh and said, "The rain is really untimely."

"Why's that?" Ye Kai said.

"Because they come to town every month on this day to purchase bolts of cloth, embroideries and perfume." Xiao BieLi said.

"They? Who are they?" Ye Kai said.

A slight smile came over Xiao BieLi's face as he replied, "Well, let's just say that among them is someone who you'd really want to see."

Ye Kai understood what he meant and replied, "How do you know that I want to see her?"

"I can tell." Xiao BieLi said.

"How can you tell?" Ye Kai said.

Xiao BieLi glanced at the dominoes in his hand and slowly replied, "Even if you don't believe me, I'm able to see a lot of things from these dominoes."

"What else do you see?" Ye Kai said.

"I see dark and ominous clouds hovering over the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses'. There is a sabre in its midsts, drops of blood slowly trickling down from its edge ..." Xiao BieLi said.

He suddenly lifted his head and stared at Ye Kai, "Did something horrible happen at the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses' last night?"

Ye Kai stared back at him for awhile before replying, "You really should switch professions to being a fortune teller."

Xiao BieLi sighed and said, "But all I ever see is misfortune, rarely do I ever see good luck or happiness."

"Have ... have you ever looked into my future?" Ye Kai said.

"Do you want to know the truth?" Xiao BieLi said.

"Of course." Ye Kai replied.

Xiao BieLi's eyes suddenly looked very empty, his gaze shifted off into the far distance. "Dark clouds hang over your head as well, it appears that your life is going to be filled with adversity."

"Do I look like someone who ever lets those things get to me?" Ye Kai said.

"Well, those troubles don't necessarily have to be your own. Because it seems that in your lifetime, you're destined to be enveloped by the worries of others. For you, that fate is inescapable." Xiao BieLi said.

"Do you see a blade in the midsts of those dark clouds as well?" Ye Kai said jokingly.

"But because your life will be filled with many important people, you'll be able to overcome any danger that falls your way." Xiao BieLi said.

"Important people?" Ye Kai asked.

"As in those people dear to you, and who will be able to help you, for example ..." Xiao BieLi said.

"Like you?" Ye Kai interrupted.

Xiao BieLi let out a laugh and shook his head as he replied, "The important people in your life are almost all girls. For example, a girl such as Cui Nong!"

He looked at the pearl flower on Ye Kai's shirt and said, "She was up waiting for you all night last night, why didn't you go to see her?"

"'When the gold at the head of the bed is depleted, the scholar is bound to lose his dignity'. Since I'd get kicked out sooner or later, why go in the first place?" Ye Kai said.

"You're wrong." Xiao BieLi said.

"Oh?" Ye Kai remarked.

"Not all the girls here worship gold." Xiao BieLi said.

"But I think I'd much rather have it that way." Ye Kai replied.

"Why's that?" Xiao BieLi said.

"Well, that way there's no longing and responsibility, and there's much less to worry about." Ye Kai said.

"So are you saying that as long as love is not involved, then there will be nothing to worry about?" Xiao BieLi said.

"Correct." Ye Kai replied.

"I think you're wrong about that as well. If a person goes through life without a worry in the world, then it wouldn't be very interesting." Xiao BieLi said.

"Well, I can stay here peacefully for as long as I want. Well, until the day that this place doesn't accept guests." Ye Kai said.

"You're an exception. You can come as you please and go as you please, but I ..." Xiao BieLi said.

He let out a sigh and continued with a smile, "I'm getting old, I'm not as lively as I used to be. When I go to bed at night, it feels like my entire body is falling numb."

"But you're awake now." Ye Kai said.

"The elderly never like to sleep very much, because they know that the time they have left on this earth is not much. Besides, I've always been a night owl." Xiao BieLi said.

He picked up the crutches that lay beside his chair, propped them under his shoulders, and slowly rose to his feet.

"It'll probably stop raining by noon, perhaps you'll be able to see her then." Xiao BieLi said as he slowly made his way up the flight of stairs.

As he made his way up, Ye Kai noticed that the leggings of his garments swayed hollowly. Both of his legs were severed at the knees.

How were his legs cut off? And for what reason?

Anyone could tell that he wasn't an ordinary person. How did he end up in Bordertown running this underground business?

Was he hiding from his past? Did he really have this mysterious power to predict the calamities that were to befall others?

Ye Kai was deep in thought. He caught sight of the dominoes lying on the table and couldn't help but to walk over. He reached out and felt them with his hands and realized that they were made of solid metal.

He heard a raspy cough coming from the floor above.

Ye Kai let out a sigh as he thought to himself that this certainly was a very mysterious person. Everything he said seemed to have a mysterious meaning to it, everything he did also seemed to have a mysterious purpose. Even the small room on the second floor in which he lived seemed to be hiding some mysterious secret.

Ye Kai looked at those narrow, long stairs and suddenly smiled. For some reason, he just found this place incredibly amusing.

________________________________________

High noon.

It really did stop raining. Ye Kai walked through the middle of the mud covered streets towards the general store that was directly across. The owner of that store was a jolly looking middle-aged fellow. He had a large round face and his eyes winced into tiny slits whenever he smiled.

Even when customers tried to short change him a couple of qian while taking a couple extra batches of peas, he would still smile gleefully and oblige.

He was surnamed Li, everyone called him Li MaHu.

Ye Kai recognized Li MaHu, but forgot to check whether his store sold cloth, silk, and embroideries. Since everyone was busy having lunch at this time, the store was rather empty. Li MaHu was napping at the counter as usual.

Ye Kai didn't want to wake him so he perused through the store leisurely. Just then, the rumbling of wheels and the neighing of horses was heard as a large carriage rolled through the streets. The carriage was glistening black like a mirror, eight horses that pulled the carriage were white.

It was the same carriage that had brought Ye Kai to the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses' the previous night. Who was riding inside that carriage now?

Just as Ye Kai was about to chase the carriage to find out, he heard a voice behind him say, "That must be the esteemed aunt and the young misses of the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses'. I wonder if they'll want chicken eggs today?"

"They don't work in the kitchen, why would they need chicken eggs for?" Ye Kai asked.

He turned around to see that Li MaHu had woken up, his eyes squinting and smiling as he said to Ye Kai, "You don't understand, women like to use chicken eggs to wash their face. The more they wash, the younger they look."

"Does your daughter-in-law wash her face with chicken eggs every morning?" Ye Kai asked.

Li MaHu crumpled his lips and replied with a cold laugh, "That woman, even if she washed her face with three hundred catties of chicken eggs every day, her face would still look like an orange peel - in fact, it'd look like sun-dried orange peels."

He suddenly broke into a smile again as his tiny eyes became even tinier, "But those two from the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses', they're like goddess flowers, they're incredibly beautiful. If you're really lucky maybe one day ..."

Suddenly, a child's voice was heard from outside the door, "Li MaHu, what are you babbling on about now?"

When Li MaHu peered towards the door to see who it was, his expression immediately changed as he replied, "Oh nothing, nothing at all. I was just about to make the young master a sugar-gourd candy."

A young child with his hands at his waist stood just outside the doors. He had two large eyes and his clothes were even redder than the sugar-gourd candy.

Although he was still small, his reputation and standing were not, as soon as Li MaHu saw him his face immediately turned pale. But as soon as the child saw Ye Kai standing in the store, his face turned pale as well. He turned around and wanted to slip away.

Ye Kai immediately darted out after him and caught his shoulder and said, "So you're a little tiger are you? Well, even if you were a little fox, you still wouldn't be able to get away from me."

XiaoHu Zi looked slightly impatient as he shouted, "I don't know you! Who are you! Why are you grabbing on to me for?"

"You recognized me earlier this morning didn't you? How come you seem to have forgotten all of a sudden?" Ye Kai said.

XiaoHu Zi's face flushed red and looked like he wanted to cry out.

"If you behave like a good boy and listen to what I tell you, I'll buy you all the sugar-gourd candy you could ever want. But if you don't, I'm going to tell your dad and fourth-uncle that you were lying this morning." Ye Kai said.

"What ... what lie did I tell?" XiaoHu Zi said.

"You were fast asleep last night. You didn't sneak out and hide under your sister's horse's belly, did you?" Ye Kai asked.

XiaoHu Zi's eyes sharpened as he replied, "Well, I was just trying to help you."

"Who taught you to say those words?" Ye Kai asked.

"No one, I taught them to myself ..." XiaoHu Zi said.

Ye Kai put on a stern face and said, "If you don't tell me, I'm going to have to bring you back and tell your dad."

XiaoHu Zi's face turned pale again. Whenever he heard his dad being mentioned, he would immediately tell the truth, "Fine, I'll tell you. It was my third auntie."

"Your third auntie? Was she the one who brought you out earlier this morning?" Ye Kai said.

XiaoHu Zi nodded his head.

Ye Kai knitted his brow and asked, "How did she know that I was with your sister last night?"

"How shoud I know? Why don't you ask her yourself?" XiaoHu Zi replied.

As soon as Ye Kai let go of him, XiaoHu Zi dashed across the street and then turned around. XiaoHu Zi made a face at him and said, "You can go ask her if you want, but you can't hug her like you hugged my sister or else my dad will get jealous!"

Before he had finished his sentence, XiaoHu Zi had already raced down the street into one of the fabric stores at the corner.

Ye Kai knitted his brow and looked deep in thought. This matter was not what he anticipated it to be.

Who was this 'Third Auntie'? How did she know about his actions last night? He really couldn't figure it out. As Ye Kai lifted his head, he saw that same Third Aunt walking out of the fabric store.

She looked very refined and elegant, her garments were white as snow. She didn't have any make-up on but still carried a certain intoxicating aura around her.

When Ye Kai first saw her, her eyes that looked like autumn mist, were looking right at Ye Kai as well. And whether it was intentional or not, she smiled at him too.

No one in the world could imitate that smile.

Ye Kai felt slightly foolish, after a while, he finally realized that there was another pair of eyes beside her. A pair of eyes that were staring right at him.

That pair of eyes had always looked bright and clear but right now they appeared rather cloudy and dim.

Could it be that she didn't sleep well last night? Or had those eyes been crying?

Ye Kai's heart suddenly jumped, it started to beat faster and faster.

Ma FangLing looked at him amorously as she winked at him with her eyes.

Ye Kai immediately nodded.

Ma FangLing looked down and drooped her head as a grin came over her face and a cloud of red flooded her cheeks.

They didn't have to say a word to each other. She could tell his feelings just by the look in his eyes. He could tell what was on her mind by a single glance. What need did they have for words?

________________________________________

Everything was quiet and still. The table that was usually covered in dominoes had been cleaned up. Although the windows were opened, it was still very dark inside that room.

Ye Kai sat quietly waiting. Although he understood Ma FangLing, he just couldn't make light of that Third Aunt.

Ma KongQun's wife had already passed away, but a man like him would certainly never have a woman lacking by his side. And only a woman like her could match up to a man like him.

Ye Kai had figured out who she was, but he still couldn't figure out what her intentions were.

He let out a sigh and didn't want to think about it any longer ... if he did, he'd feel slightly sorry towards FangLing. But that smile really was unforgettable.

What were the two of them doing right now? Were they in that store buying eggs?

Could a woman really regain her youth by washing herself with chicken eggs?

Ye Kai tried really hard to think about other things, but for some reason, his mind kept wandering back to the two of them. It was at that moment that the doors gently slid open.

Ye Kai really wished that the person who came in would be Ma FangLing. But just as he was about to stand up, his heart sunk.

The person who stepped in was Yun ZaiTian - Ye Kai silently let out a sigh as he realized that it'd probably be very difficult for him to see Ma FangLing again today.

When Yun ZaiTian saw Ye Kai sitting inside, he felt rather awkward. But since he had stepped in already, it'd be even more awkward to step back out.

Ye Kai let out a laugh and said, "Are you here to look for Lady Cui Nong? Perhaps to ask her why she gave away this pearl flower that you gave to her?"

Yun ZaiTian coughed drily twice but didn't respond as he took a seat.

"A man looking for a woman is a perfectly normal thing. Why don't you just go up?" Ye Kai said.

Yun ZaiTian slowly regained his composure as he replied, "I've come to look for someone, but it's not her!"

"Who are you looking for?" Ye Kai asked.

"Fu HongXue." Yun ZaiTian replied.

"Why are you looking for him?" Ye Kai said.

Yun ZaiTian's expression sunk, no reply came out.

"Isn't he still at the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses?" Ye Kai asked again.

"He's not anymore." Yun ZaiTian said.

"When did he leave?" Ye Kai said.

"This morning!" Yun ZaiTian responded.

Ye Kai furrowed his brow and said, "If he left in the morning, then how come I haven't seen him return to town?"

"How about everyone else?" Yun ZaiTian said.

"I don't think anyone else came back either. This town's not very big, if they had returned, I definitely would've seen them." Ye Kai said.

Yun ZaiTian's expression changed. He knitted his brow and looked up at the second floor.

"Mr. Xiao is right upstairs. Do you want to go ask him about this matter?" Ye Kai said.

A look of doubt came over Yun ZaiTian's face. He stood up and walked out of the doors.

Right at that time, about ten mule-drawn carts slowly made their way through the streets. On each one of those carts were coffins, each cart carried four coffins.

A pale-faced humpback who was covered in a green robe was riding on the donkey that was in front. From the looks of his face, he appeared to have been sleeping in a coffin for most of his life as well. Not a hint of radiance could be found.

Anyone who saw that many coffins march down the street wouldn't be able to help but be startled.

Yun ZaiTian wasn't an exception. He couldn't help but ask, "Where are all these coffins being delivered to?"

The humpback looked him up and down and replied, "From your appearance, you look like someone from the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses'."

"I am." Yun ZaiTian replied.

"Well that's exactly where these coffins are being sent to." the humpback said.

Yun ZaiTian's face turned colors as he said, "Who ordered you to send them there?"

"A paying customer of course. That person ordered a total of one hundred coffins. We've been working day and night to ..." the humpback said before he was interrupted.

Yun ZaiTian flew towards him and grabbed him off his saddle and asked sharply, "What kind of person was this?"

The humpback's face turned even paler as he replied, "It ... it was a woman."

"What kind of woman?" Yun ZaiTian said.

"It was an elderly woman." the humpback said.

"Where did they come from, and where is this old woman?" Yun ZaiTian questioned.

Well, she did come along with us. She's ... she's ... she's lying inside that coffin in the first cart." the humpback said.

"Lying in the coffin? What is she, a corpse?" Yun ZaiTian said with a cold laugh.

"No, she's still alive. She just hid in the coffin to avoid the rain before. It's the one that's opened just a crack, she needed it for air." the humpback said.

With a laugh, Yun ZaiTian let the humpback go. He flew towards the first cart and knocked open the coffin with a single push ...

There really was a person inside that coffin, but it wasn't a woman, and he wasn't alive!

A dead man lay inside that coffin. This person was clothed entirely in black. Blood at the corner of his lips had dried up. His face had started to shrivel. There wasn't a single wound anywhere else on his body. It appeared that his innards had been shattered by powerful internal energy.

Ye Kai stood on top of the high steps in front and saw that person's face clearly. When he realized who it was, he couldn't help but shout out, "Flying Spider!"

Of course he wasn't mistaken. That corpse really was the corpse of Flying Spider.

Flying Spider was dead. Where were Fu HongXue, Luo LuoShan, and MuRong MingZhu?

If they all left the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses' at the same time, how did Flying Spider end up dead in this coffin?

Yun ZaiTian suddenly turned around and stared at the humpback, "This person is not an elderly woman!"

The humpback started to tremble, he forced himself to nod slowly and replied, "Yes ... he's not."

"You said she was an old woman?" Yun ZaiTian blasted at him.

The humpback shook his head and said, "I ... I don't know."

The driver of the second cart suddenly cut in and said, "Strange ... I was originally riding in front too."

"How did you end up in front?" Yun ZaiTian said.

"Well, this cart was originally the last cart. We got lost along the way and decided to turn around. So my cart became the first cart." The driver replied.

"Whatever the case, an old woman wouldn't suddenly turn into a dead man. How did this happen?" Yun ZaiTian said.

The humpback shook his head and replied, "I really have no idea."

"If you don't know, then who in the world would?" Yun ZaiTian said.

With a flash of his body, his five fingers shot out and seized the humpback by the collarbone.

The humpback looked as thin as a flagpole. But as soon as Yun ZaiTian made his move, the humpback immediately stopped trembling. With a slight shift of his body, he slipped behind Yun ZaiTian as his palm grazed Yun ZaiTian's own right shoulder.

Not only was this move swift, the timing and positioning of the move were almost perfect. The force of the palm wind was unyielding and powerful.

Just by that one palm strike, you could tell that this humpback had probably expended about thirty plus years of toil and practice.

"You're really something!" Yun ZaiTian exclaimed.

As soon as those words were finished, Yun ZaiTian's body turned twice as five fists shot out!

His style had always been swift and light. Although he didn't use his full force, the changes in his moves were quick and unpredictable, and extremely difficult to block.

"Nice! You're not so bad yourself!" The humpback exclaimed.

Laughter erupted as the humpback suddenly somersaulted into the air and landed on the roof of one of the houses. This humpback was able to change stances as he pleased, and dash away as he pleased. His skills were definitely exceptional.

However, his opponent just happened to be someone who shook the martial-world with his lightness skill and had the nickname "Clouds in the Sky, Ethereal Dragon".

Yun ZaiTian leapt into the air as his body appeared as light as smoke drifting away. His five fingers lashed out like the claws of an eagle and seized the humpback by his hump. With a *SI*, a huge piece of his robe had been torn off, revealing a shiny golden light.

With a *QIANG*, three frigid star projectiles shot out from the golden light at the tip of his hump and shot towards Yun ZaiTain's chest.

With a scream, Yun ZaiTian flipped backwards with the move, "Opening the windows, peering at the moon cloud flying stance" and landed on the roof directly across.

If it weren't for his extremely fast speed and agility, those three frigid stars would have lodged themselves inside Yun ZaiTian's chest rather than simply graze his shirt.

The humpback was already seven or eight houses away. With another flash of gold, he could no longer be seen.

Yun ZaiTian leapt down and didn't bother to pursue any further. His normally iron clad face was covered in cold sweat. As he watched the humpback disappear into the distance, he let out a sigh and said, "Who could've imagined that the 'Golden-Backed Dragon' Ding Qiu has resurfaced in Bordertown again."

Ye Kai let out a sigh as well as he shook his head and said, "I could've never imagined that it would be him."

"You've heard of him as well?" Yun ZaiTian asked.

"How many people haven't heard of this person?" Ye Kai replied.

Yun ZaiTian didn't say another word. The expression on his face became heavier.

"This person's been in hiding for more than ten years and he suddenly shows up today just to deliver these coffins. Could it be that he has some realtion to your enemies and the events of eighteen years ago?" Ye Kai said.

Yun ZaiTian still didn't reply.

"Then Flying Spider must've been killed by him as well. I wonder why they wanted him dead?" Ye Kai said.

Yun ZaiTian turned to look at him and coldly replied, "That was something that I was hoping you could tell me."

"If you ask me, then who am I supposed to ask?" Ye Kai said.

He suddenly let out a laugh. His eyes shifted towards the far end of the street as he added, "Maybe I should ask him."
Last Updated ( Tuesday, 22 July 2008 06:00 )