Bordertown Wanderer 11 Print
Tuesday, 22 July 2008 06:00

Chapter 11 - Midnight Whispers



Several dozen stalks of green bamboo spread out across the small courtyard. A beautiful maiden with thin lashes and no makeup sat by the window with her hands on her chin, staring at him affectionately.

You could say that she wasn't astonishingly gorgeous, but she had eyes that seemed like they could talk, and a mouth that you knew was clever and witty. Although she was just sitting there quietly, you could almost feel the intoxicating aura that surrounded her. She was definitely unique compared to the majority of women that you normally see.

Just being able to talk to a woman like her would be enough for any man.

In attempts to court her, many suitors came trying their best to appear noble, wealthy, gentlemanly, and cultured.

But when Ye Kai walked through her door, he marched straight towards her bed and lied down. He didn't even bother to take off his boots. Those two giant holes in his boots pointed straight at the ceiling.

Cui Nong furrowed her brow playfully and asked, "Can't you afford a new pair of boots?"

"I can't." Ye Kai replied.

"Why not?" Cui Nong said.

"Because these boots protect me." Ye Kai said.

"They protect you?" Cui Nong said.

Ye Kai lifted his legs and pointed to the large crevices in his boots, "Do you see these holes? They bite people. Whoever's not courteous to me will get bitten."

Cui Nong giggled. She stood up and walked over towards him, "I want to see whether they'll really bite me."

Ye Kai grabbed onto her and said, "They're afraid to bite you, but I'm not."

Cui Nong whimpered softly and fell onto his chest.

The doors weren't closed. But even if they were, they couldn't keep the romance from seeping out of that room.

The young servant girl blushed red. She was glancing at them from afar and secretly wanted to get closer to take a look.

The golden songbirds that slept under the brims of the roof were awakened and started chirping incessantly.

Thick green jade, in the thick of Spring.

________________________________________

A figure sprawled over the darkness on the roof, the insipid starlight illuminated her long, slender body. Her face was covered by a thin cotton veil.

She had been chasing someone here and saw a figure flash by the roof. But when she reached the top of that building, not a soul was in sight.

She knew what was below, but she couldn't go down - this wasn't a place for women.

"Who was it? Why was someone eavesdropping on our conversation? What exactly did they hear?" her mind kept asking herself. If someone saw the expression on her face, they would know that she was startled and frightened.

She couldn't let her secret be known. She just couldn't.

She thought to herself for a moment, then finally gritted her teeth and leapt down. She decided to take a risk.

In her lifetime, she had seen a countless number of strange expressions before. But only upon seeing a woman walk into a brothel, could such a look of shock come over the faces of those men. Everybody's eyes widened, as if they had just seen a sheep wander into the wolf's den. To the wolf, this couldn't even be considered a challenge, more like an insult.

None of them could understand why a woman would wander into here. Yet none of them could deny that she was stunningly beautiful.

A half drunk butcher had the widest eyes out of them all. He had come from out of town to procure sheep, so he didn't recognize this woman and had no clue as to who she was. His body swayed back and forth as he stood up and tried to walk over. But someone sitting beside him immediately held him back.

"Don't even think about it."

"Why not?"

"She already has a benefactor."

"'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses'"

Those five words seemed to carry some unseen weight, as soon as they were mentioned, the mood in that room felt like a ball being deflated.

Third Aunt lifted her head and walked in with a smile, pretending not to hear the silent murmurs in the hall, feigning a look of complete indifference. But in reality, she really did mind. When some of those men stared at her, it felt as if she was completely bare.

Fortunately, Xiao BieLi finally called out to her, "Third Madame Shen, what are you doing here? What a rare sight."

She immediately walked towards him and replied, "Mr. Xiao, am I not welcome here?"

Xiao BieLi let out a sigh and said, "Only because I can't stand up to greet you properly."

"I've come to look for someone." she said.

"Me?" Xiao BieLi blinked in reply.

Third Madame Shen smiled and said, "If I came to look for you, I'd come at a time when no one is around."

"I'll be waiting then, since I don't have to worry about my legs being chopped off anymore."

Both of them smiled. They knew that they were both sly and cunning old foxes.

"Is Cui Nong here?" Third Madame Shen asked.

"Yes, are you looking for her?" Xiao BieLi said.

"Mmm." she replied.

Xiao BieLi let out a sigh and said, "Why is everyone, regardless of whether they're male or female, always coming to look for her?"

"I couldn't fall asleep so I wanted to chat with her a bit." Third Madame Shen replied.

"A pity though that you've come too late." Xiao BieLi said.

Third Madame Shen wrinkled her brows and said, "Don't tell me that a guest is staying overnight in her room?"

"It's a very special guest."

"How special?"

"Especially poor."

Third Madame Shen laughed and said, "She would let an especially poor guest stay with her?"

"I wanted to stop him, but I'm really not his match, and I can't run as fast as him either." Xiao BieLi replied.

Third Madame Shen's eyes swiveled, "You're not lying to me?"

"Can anyone in this world deceive you?" Xiao BieLi replied.

"Who is her guest?" Third Madame Shen asked.

"Ye Kai." Xiao BieLi said.

Third Madame Shen's eyes raised up, "Ye Kai."

"You probably don't recognize him. But he's only been here for two days and already there aren't many people in this town who don't know who his name." Xiao BieLi said.

A touching smile appeared on Third Madame Shen's face, but a sharp pricking glance suddenly came over her eyes. Gradually, that look dispersed and her expression calmed.

Suddenly, with a *PENG*, the doors swung open, and in walked a man with giant strides. A giant of a man! GongSun Duan's hand was clenched firmly on the handle of his sabre.

Xiao BieLi sighed and remarked, "Those who shouldn't have come, have all arrived. Yet those who should have come, have yet to show."

He picked up one of the dominoes on the table, then slowly placed it back down. Shaking his head, he said, "Looks like there's going to be a storm tomorrow. If you don't have any business, it's best to just stay home."

"Come over here!" GongSun Duan shouted angrily.

Third Madame Shen bit down on her lips and replied, " ... who're you talking to?"

"You!" GongSun Duan blasted.

That butcher suddenly leapt forward. The people standing next to him were too slow to stop him. He had already rushed in front of GongSun Duan. With his finger pointed straight at GongSun Duan's nose, he yelled, "Don't shout at the lady like that! Don't you have any manners? Be careful I don't ..."

Before he could finish his words, the back of GongSun Duan's hand smacked him across the face. This butcher was a pretty big man as well, but his several hundred pound body was sent flying into the air by GongSun Duan's single slap. The butcher flew over two tables and crashed into the wall. As he stumbled over, his mouth was covered in blood, and his head was covered in blood - even his blood reeked of alcohol.

GongSun Duan didn't even glance at him, his eyes were focused on Third Madame Shen as he ordered sternly, "Come over here."

This time, Third Madame Shen didn't even say a word. She lowered her head and slowly walked over. GongSun Duan walked out and Third Madame Shen followed him from behind. He took extremely long strides, Third Madame Shen looked like she was struggling to keep up with him. When before her single leap could cover thirty feet, now it seemed as if she could barely cover three.

It was late into the night.

The mud on the long street was still damp and wet. Wind blew in from the grasslands.

Freezing cold wind.

GongSun Duan stepped onto the street, not bothering to turn around even once. He suddenly asked, "Why did you leave?"

Third Madame Shen's expression turned pale as she replied, "I'm not a prisoner. I can leave whenever I want to."

"I'm asking you again, why did you leave?" GongSUn Duan slowly repeated. Although he spoke slowly, every word carried an intense ferocity.

Third Madame Shen bit down on her lips and finally replied, "I came out to look for someone."

"Who?" GongSun DUan said.

"Is it any of you business?" Third Madame Shen said.

"Ma KongQun's business is my business. No one may wrong him." GongSUn Duan said.

"When did I wrong him?" Third Madame Shen said.

"Just before!" GongSun Duan shouted.

Third Madame Shen let out a sigh and said, "Just because I went to look for a friend to chat with means that I have wronged him? Don't forget that I'm a woman. And women enjoy chatting with other women."

"Who were you looking for?" GongSUn Duan asked.

"Miss Cui Nong." Third Madame Shen replied.

"She's not a woman, she's a prostitute." GongSun Duan smiled coldly.

"A prostitute? Why, you've called for her before? Would she even see someone like you?" Third Madame Shen replied coldly.

GongSun Duan suddenly turned around and punched her in the stomach. She didn't try to dodge, nor did she resist. Her body bent over from the blow as she stumbled backwards seven or eight steps before falling down. As she hit the floor she began to vomit, throwing up even the bitter acids in her stomach.

GongSun Duan leapt towards her, grabbed her by the hair, and pulled her to her feet. "I know that you're a bitch as well, but you're a btich who will no longer be able to sell herself."

Third Madame Shen gritted her teeth, trying to hold in the pain. But she couldn't hold in her tears as they flowed down her cheeks. "What ... what do you want?" her voice trembled.

"I'm going to ask you a question, and you're going to answer me, you understand?" GongSun Duan said.

Third Madame Shen shut her mouth and didn't respond.

GongSun Duan's large hand chopped sideways at her waist. Her entire body jerked in pain from the blow. Tears started to flow like a river.

GongSun Duan stared at her again and said, "Do you understand?"

After more tears streamed down her face, Third Madame Shen finally nodded her head.

"When did you come out?" GongSun Duan said.

"Just before." Third Madame Shen replied.

"You came here as soon as you left?" GongSun Duan asked.

"You can go in there and ask them yourself." Third Madame Shen said.

"And you saw that prostitue?" GongSun Duan said.

"No." Third Madame Shen said.

"Why not?" GongSun Duan asked.

"She already had a guest with her." Third Madame Shen replied.

"You didn't see anyone else? You didn't go anywhere else?" GongSun Duan questioned.

"I didn't." Third Madame Shen said.

"You didn't?" GongSun Duan asked.

He suddenly rammed her with another fist. As his knuckles hit her flesh, they made a very strange sound. It almost seemed as if he enjoyed hearing that sound.

Third Madame Shen couldn't help but to start screaming, "I really didn't, I really didn't ..."

GongSun Duan gazed at her, his eyes full of murderous intent, his fists clenched ever so tightly.

Third Madame Shen suddenly pounced forward and wrapped her arms around him, screaming, "If you're so fond of hitting me, then beat me to death ... just beat me to death ..."

She wrapped her arms around his neck and her legs around his waist. An odd feeling suddenly came over GongSun Duan's body, he could sense it himself.

She immediately threw herself over his shoulders and wailed painfully, "I know you enjoy hitting me, just hit me, hit me."

Her body and her legs twisted around enticingly. She was breathing right into his ear, over his neck.

His breath suddenly turned coarse and rough.

"It won't matter at all if you beat me to death, I'll never be able to tell anyone." Third Madame Shen groaned.

GongSun Duan had already started to tremble. No one would've imagined that a person like him was capable of trembling. Even more unimaginable was what an enormous person like him looked like when he did tremble. If you were to witness it, you wouldn't think of it as comical. Rather, it was frightening, extremely frightening.

Pain was written all over his face, because he knew that he had to contain the lust that creeped up inside of him. Suddenly, he landed another fist square on her stomach. Her body went into a burst of convulsions again. Her grip loosened as she poured onto the floor like a pile of mud.

GongSun Duan clenched his fists, stared at her, then spit on her face. He stepped over her body and walked towards his horse. The person he hated wasn't this woman, it was himself. He hated himself for not being able to resist this temptation that he dared not accept.

Third Madame Shen wiped her tears dry. GongSun Duan's hands were like the horns on a bull, everywhere he hit stung straight to the bone. Before tomorrow morning, her bruises would definitely turn green and swell.

Yet, she didn't feel resentful or dismayed, because she knew that GongSun Duan would never tell anyone about what happened. Above all, she didn't want Ma KongQun to know that she had left this evening.

Now, there was only one person who knew her secret, that person who was listening to them on the rooftop.

Was it Ye Kai?

She only hoped that it was Ye Kai. Because usually people who had their own secrets rarely divulged the secrets of others.

She felt confident that she could deal with Ye Kai.

________________________________________

"You're really Ye Kai?"

"Why wouldn't I be Ye Kai?"

"What kind of person is Ye Kai supposed to be?"

"He's male, very poor but very intelligent, and he has his ways when it comes to dealing with women."

"How many women have you had before?"

"Try and guess!"

"What kind of women were they?"

"None of them were good, but none of them treated me badly."

"Where are all of them now?"

"They're everywhere of course. The thing I hate most in life is sleeping alone. It's as tasteless as playing chess by yourself."

"And none of them try to strap you down?"

"I can't even tie myself down."

"There's no one else in your family?"

"I don't even have a family."

"Then where did you come from?"

"I come from where I come."

"And you go where you want to go?"

"You got it right this time."

"You never talk about your past with anyone?"

"Never."

"Do you have a lot of secrets that you don't want others to know about?"

Ye Kai sat up and stared at her. In the blurry candlelight, she looked somewhat pale and tired but her eyes were still wide open.

"I have only one secret." he suddenly said, "I'm really an old fox demon, alive with nine thousand seven hundred years of cultivation, finally able to take human shape."

He leapt off the bed, pulled up his boots, put on his clothes, and walked out.

Cui Nong bit down on her lips and watched as Ye Kai left. She suddenly struck at her pillow forcefully, as if that pillow was Ye Kai.

________________________________________

TRANSLATION NOTES

1. In Chinese mythology, Fox Demons were cunning, devious creatures that had mystical powers but always longed to lose their demon guises to live a normal human life. It was believed that if they cultivated their energy for long enough, they could actually transform into real humans.