Bordertown Wanderer 12 Print
Tuesday, 22 July 2008 06:02

Chapter 12 - Hidden Projectile Experts


 
Although the small courtyard was quiet and still, a light was lit in the building in back.

Had Xiao BieLi gone back to his quarters? What exactly was he doing when he was up there? Was there a set of dominoes up there? Or maybe a secret woman?

Ye Kai felt that he was certainly a mysterious and amusing person.

Just then, figures appeared in the window.

Three figures.

They were standing up as their silhouettes shined onto the window. But in an instant, they suddenly disappeared.

Why were there three figures up there? Who were the other two?

Ye Kai's eyes started to flash back and forth, he simply couldn't control his curiousity.

The courtyard wasn't very far from that small building. He lifted his garments and dashed into the air.

The building was encircled by banisters on all four sides. It was constructed in the style of a traditional pavilion.

The tip of his feet rested on the banisters as he hung from the roof of the house. The top window was opened just a crack. From where he stood, he could see a circular table in the middle of the room. That table was set with food and wine.

There were two people drinking, one of them was Xiao BieLi who sat facing the door. The other person was dressed very elegantly, almost to the point of extravagance. His hands grasped onto a pair of chopsticks. On his finger was an odd looking three-piece ring. They appeared to be three stars. That person was actually a humpback.

The light in that room wasn't very bright, but the food and wine were exquisite.

That extravagantly dressed humpback picked up a cup of wine with the hand that bore the ring. The cup was completely transparent, it was carved out of an entire piece of crystal.

"How is the wine?" Xiao BieLi said with a smile.

"The wine is average, but the wine glass is not bad." the humpback said.

This humpback seemed to know how to enjoy the finer things in life even more than Xiao BieLi.

Xiao BieLi let out a sigh and said, "I knew you'd be difficult to please, so I arranged for authentic Persian grape wine to be brought in from the south. Who would've imagined that this wine tastes only average to you."

"There are many grades of Persian grape wine, I believe that this is only the average kind." the humpback said.

"Why didn't you bring some good wine with you yourself then?" Xiao BieLi said.

"I was originally planning to, but something came up along the way. So I had to hurry here." the humpback replied.

Apparently, they had planned this meeting for quite some time. Ye Kai felt even more intrigued, because that humpback was obviously none other than the 'Golden-Backed Dragon' Ding Qiu. Who would've thought that the 'Golden-Backed Dragon' Ding Qiu would be hiding out here? In addition, he had long planned this meeting with Xiao BieLi. Why did he bring those coffins with him? Were he and Xiao BieLi concocting some plot to take down the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses'?

Ye Kai hoped that Xiao BieLi would ask Ding Qiu about why he was delayed!

But Xiao BieLi unexpectedly changed the subject and instead asked, "Did you happen to meet any beautiful women along the way?"

"No. It seems that beautiful women are getting rarer by the day." Ding Qiu replied.

"Maybe it's because your interest in women is getting lesser by the day." Xiao BieLi said.

"I've heard that there's a girl here who's not too bad." Ding Qiu inquired.

"More than just not bad, she's simply magnificent." Xiao BieLi said.

"Why didn't you bring her here to accompany us?" Ding Qiu said.

"She can't these two days." Xiao BieLi replied.

"Why not?" Ding Qiu asked.

"These past two days her heart's been with someone else." Xiao BieLi said.

"Who?" Ding Qiu said.

"Only a handful of people could make a woman like her fall for them." Xiao BieLi said.

Ding Qiu nodded his head. He rarely agreed with what others said, but he couldn't help but agree this time.

Xiao BieLi smiled and continued, "But sometimes this person appears to be an idiot."

"An idiot?" Ding Qiu said.

"He gave up a warm and comfortable bed for a cold night with the north-westerly winds." Xiao BieLi said.

Actually, Ye Kai was quite comfortable. Any man, upon hearing someone else compliment them about their prowess with women, will undoubtedly feel good about themselves.

Xiao BieLi turned his head and smiled at the window.

That hand that wore the three starred ring put down the wine cup and made a weird gesture.

Ye Kai laughed loudly and said, "The master is inside sipping wine while the guest is outside eating wind. I'd say that you're quite a bad host."

He pushed open the window and leapt inside.

There were only two sets of chopsticks on the table. There were three figures in the window before, where was that third figure? Who was it? Could it have been Yun ZaiTian? Why did that person suddenly slip away?

The room was lavishly decorated. Everything in that room seemed to be placed where you could conveniently access it. Xiao BieLi reached out to the cabinet next to him and pulled a Han-styled jade cup. He smiled and said, "I'm lazy and handicapped. I really don't like to move when I don't have to."

Ye Kai let out a sigh and said, "If there were more lazy people in this world like you, then everyone would probably be much more comfortable."

He wasn't complimenting him. Great, elaborate inventions often allow people to live even more lazily and comfortably.

"Those words alone are worth a cup of Persian grape wine." Xiao BieLi said.

"It's a pity that this wine is only average." Ye Kai said.

He raised his cup towards Ding Qiu and continued, "The last time I encountered Mr. Ding, I was not able to pay the proper respects. My apologies, my apologies."

"You were not disrespectful, there is no need for apologies." Ding Qiu replied.

"It's just that I especially admire men who are knowledgable about both women and wine." Ye Kai said.

Ding Qiu's ugly pale face suddenly turned rather cheerful as he said delightedly, "Master Xiao was wrong about one thing before though."

"Oh?" Ye Kai said.

"Not only are you talented in dealing with women, you're not too shabby in dealing with men as well." Ding Qiu responded.

"Well that all depends on whether that person is a real man or not. Real men are quite rare nowadays." Ye Kai said.

Ding Qiu couldn't hold in his laughter. Ugly men always believed that they were manlier than handsome youngsters. Likewise, ugly women always think they they are smarter than beautiful women.

Ye Kai drank down the wine in his cup. The mood in the room had loosened up considerably, he knew that he had given out enough compliments. What should he say now?

Ye Kai slowly took a seat. It seemed that this seat was originally for that third person in the room. How could he find out who that person was? How could he get them to reveal their secrets? Not only would he have to phrase his words carefully, he would have to hide his intentions as well. Ye Kai fell silent, silently thinking to himself.

Suddenly, Ding Qiu said, "I know that you must have a lot of questions for me."

There was still a smile on his face, but that smile was totally lacking from his eyes, as he continued, "You must be wondering, why I came here for, why I sent for those coffins, and how am I acquainted with Xiao BieLi? And what exactly were we discussing?"

Ye Kai smiled back, but his eyes looked dead serious. He realized that Ding Qiu was far more difficult to deal with than he had thought.

Xiao BieLi sat sipping his wine quietly.

"Would you have answered even if I did ask those things?" Ye Kai asked.

"Nope." Ding Qiu replied.

"That's why I didn't bother to ask." Ye Kai said.

"But there is one thing that I do want to ask you." Ding Qiu said.

"Oh?" Ye Kai said.

"Some people say that there are projectiles hidden in almost every part of my body, have you heard this before?" Ding Qiu asked.

"I have." Ye Kai said.

"Hearsay is rarely ever reliable, but this saying is an exception." Ding Qiu remarked.

"So there really are projectiles hidden on every part of your body?" Ye Kai said.

"Correct." Ding Qiu replied.

"How many different types in total?" Ye Kai asked.

"Twenty-three." Ding Qiu said.

"Is every single type dipped in poison?" Ye Kai said.

"Only thirteen of them are poisonous. Sometimes I want to leave my opponents alive for questioning." Ding Qiu said.

"I've also heard that you can unleash seven or eight different projectiles at the same time." Ye Kai said.

"Seven to be exact." Ding Qiu responded.

Ye Kai let out a sigh and said, "What an extremely fast release."

"But there's someone who's probably even faster than me." Ding Qiu said.

"Who?" Ye Kai replied.

"The person sitting right next to you, Master Xiao." Ding Qiu said.

Xiao BieLi had been smiling the entire time. He sighed lightly and explained, "If I didn't take the time to master a couple of hidden projectiles, how else would a lazy and crippled person like me survive?"

"Makes sense." Ye Kai said.

"Can you tell where his projectiles are hidden?" Ding Qiu asked.

"In his iron canes?" Ye Kai guessed.

Ding Qiu smacked his hand onto the table and exclaimed, "Excellent! Where else?"

"There are projectiles hidden elsewhere as well?" Ye Kai said.

"At least eight more, and he can unleash all of them at once." Ding Qiu said.

"I'm afraid there aren't many who can surpass you two masters here in the field of martial arts." Ye Kai said.

"I'm afraid that there probably isn't even one." Ding Qiu boasted.

"I can't believe that I would be sitting here with two of the world's most heralded masters of hidden projectiles, I am really fortunate." Ye Kai said.

"You've got some guts though, because if you made the slightest move, there would be at least sixteen different projectiles shooting at you at once." Ding Qiu said.

His expression sunk as he continued, "I can assure you that there isn't a single person in the world who can evade all sixteen projectiles at this distance."

"I believe you." Ye Kai said.

"That's why whatever we ask, it's best that you answer immediately." Ding Qiu said.

Ye Kai let out a sigh and said, "Luckily I'm someone who carries no secrets that he wouldn't mind sharing with others."

"You'd better hope so." Ding Qiu said.

He suddenly pulled a piece of paper from his sleeves, and asked, "You're surnamed Ye, given name Kai?"

"Yes."

"You were born in the year of the Tiger?"

"Yes."

"You were born near here?"

"Yes."

"But you left when you were still an infant?"

"Yes."

"Prior to the age of fourteen, you lived in a Taoist monastery on Mount Huang?"

"Yes."

"You originally practiced 'Mount Huang Swordsmanship'. Afterwards as you wandered the world, you secretly learned many different kinds of martial arts. At the age of sixteen, you became a monk for a couple of months in order to learn Shaolin's 'Ambushing Tiger Fist'?"

"Yes."

"Afterwards, you were involved with a protection agency in the Capital, but ran up a large debt, and had no choice but to leave."

"Yes."

"In Jiangnan, you killed the 'Three Heroes of the Gai Clan' for a girl name Xiao BeiJing, so you had to escape back to the Central Plains."

"Yes."

"In the last few years, you've been to both sides of the Great River, causing trouble everywhere you go, and have made quite a name for yourself."

Ye Kai let out a sigh, and said with a smile, "You two seem to know me better than myself. Why'd you even bother asking me in the first place."

Ding Qiu stared back at him and asked, "All I want to know is why exactly have you come back here for?"

"If I were to answer that leaves always return to their roots, that I came back because this is my home town - would you believe me?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"Because you're a wanderer at heart."

"What if I said that there's no where left for me to go anymore? Would you believe me then?"

"That's somewhat more believable." Ding Qiu replied. He put that parchment aside and continued, "The last amount of money you made, was a bag of golden beans you won from an old gamling den, right?"

"Right."

"And that bag of golden beans is no longer in your hands anymore, is it?"

"I hate beans. Whether they be peas, hyacinth beans, or golden beans, I hate them just as much."

Ding Qiu lifted his head and asked, "Did someone invite you to come back to this town?"

"No."

"You know that there's not much opportunity to make a profit here right?"

"I can tell."

"So how exactly do you plan on making a living?"

Ye Kai smiled and replied, "Well I have yet to see someone starve to death around here."

"If you knew that there were ten-thousand taels of silver to be made elsewhere, would you go?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"Because there just might be more to earn right here."

"Oh?"

"I can tell that this town is starting to need more people like me."

"And what type of person are you?"

"Someone with decent martial arts and who can keep his mouth shut. If someone were to hire me to work for them, they would not be disappointed."

Ding Qiu fell silent, his eyes started to slowly light up. Suddenly, he asked, "How much do you usually charge to have someone disposed of?"

"It depends on who the target is."

"If it were the most expensive kind?"

"Thirty thousand."

"Very well. I can pay ten thousand in advance. When the job is done you'll get the other twenty."

Ye Kai's eyes started to light up as well, "Who is it that you want dead? Fu HongXue?"

"He's not worth thirty thousand." Ding Qiu said coldly.

"Then who is?" Ye Kai asked.

"Ma KongQun!" Ding Qiu replied.

Xiao BieLi still sat there quietly, as if he were listening to two people who had nothing to do with him discussing something that had no relevance to him whatsoever.

Ding Qiu's eyes were glowing as he stared at Ye Kai unblinkingly. The hand that bore that three-starred ring made another peculiar gesture.

Ye Kai let out a long sigh and said with a smile, "So you're the ones who are trying to kill Ma KongQun."

"You couldn't have guessed?" Ding Qiu said.

"What kind of feud do you two have with him? Why do you want him dead?" Ye Kai asked.

"You should understand that we're the ones asking the questions, not you." Ding Qiu said.

"I understand." Ye Kai said.

"Do you want to pocket that thirty thousand taels of silver?" Ding Qiu asked.

Ye Kai did not reply, nor did he have to reply. He stuck out his hand.

Twenty brand new bank notes, each worth a thousand taels each.

"This is twenty thousand?"

"Yes."

"At least you're generous." Ye Kai said with a smile.

"Not generous, but careful." Ding Qiu replied.

"Careful?"

"You can't kill Ma KongQun alone."

"Oh?"

"So you'll need someone to help you."

"Ten thousand for me, ten thousand for my helper?"

"Correct."

"Who's worth that much around here?"

"You should know."

Ye Kai's eyes flashed, "You want me to look for Fu HongXue?"

Ding Qiu nodded silently.

"How are you so sure that I can convince him to?" Ye Kai said.

"Aren't you his friend?" Ding Qiu asked.

"He has no friends." Ye Kai replied.

"Thirty thousand taels of silver is good enough reason to make a friend." Ding Qiu said.

"And if he doesn't accept?" Ye Kai said.

"You should at least try." Ding Qiu suggested.

"Why don't you try approaching him yourself." Ye Kai said.

Ding Qiu sneered coldly, "If you don't want that thirty thousand, you can still back out now."

Ye Kai smiled, stood up, and started to leave.

Xiao BieLi suddenly said, "Why don't you stay for a couple more cups of wine first?"

Ye Kai waved the bank notes in his hand and said, "I'm in a hurry to spend the first ten thousand."

"The money is already in your hands, what's the rush?" Xiao BieLi urged.

"Because if I don't spend it now, I probably won't have a chance to in the future." Ye Kai replied.

Xiao BieLi watched as Ye Kai leapt out of the window. He sighed lightly and exclaimed, "He's definitely a smart person."

"He really is." Ding Qiu said.

"Do you trust him?" Xiao BieLi asked.

"Not at all." Ding Qiu replied.

"Is that why you went ahead and made a deal with him?" Xiao BieLi said squinting his eyes.

"It really is quite some deal we have." Ding Qiu said with a smile.

When a person with empty pockets suddenly finds himself ten thousand taels richer, he'll feel like he's floating around wherever he goes. But for some reason Ye Kai's foot steps became even heavier. Perhaps he was simply too tired.

Cui Nong tended to tire men out very easily. The light in her room was extinguished, she probably was already asleep. To be able to sleep comfortably next to her until daybreak, breathing in the fragrant scent of her hair, gently caressing her smooth back, it was a temptation that even Ye Kai could not refuse.

He snuck quietly to her room and pushed open the door - the door wasn't shut. She must have been waiting for him. Starlight leaked through the windows into the room. She slept with her blanket covering her head and looked extremely sweet.

Ye Kai smiled and gently lifted one corner of the blanket.

Suddenly, there was a flash of light. A sword shot out from underneath the covers aimed straight at his chest!

Under these circumstances, from such a close distance, no one would be able to dodge that sword. But Ye Kai was like a fox that was long used to being hunted, he was alert at all times.

His waist looked like it had suddenly snapped as he bent backwards. The tip of the sword glanced past his chest. He flipped over and landed a kick on the hand that held that sword.

The assailant leapt up from the bed but didn't counter attack. Instead, the sword circled back around and covered his face as he rushed towards the back window.

Ye Kai didn't give chase. Instead he smiled and said, "Yun ZaiTian, I already recognize you. It's pointless for you to run."

That person had already knocked open the window when he suddenly stopped. After a long pause, he finally turned his head.

It really was Yun ZaiTian. Veins were bulging out from the hand that held his sword. His eyes were filled with killer intent.

"So the person you were looking for wasn't Fu HongXue, nor was it Xiao BieLi. It was Cui Nong." Ye Kai said.

"Am I not allowed to look for her?" Yun ZaiTian replied coldly.

"Of course you are." Ye Kai said. A smile broke on his face as he continued, "A man like you coming to look for a woman like her is a pretty normal thing. I don't know why you had to hide it from me."

Yun ZaiTian's eyes flashed. He suddenly smiled and replied, "I was afraid that you'd be jealous."

"You're the one who should be jealous, not me." Ye Kai said.

Yun ZaiTian fell silent, then asked, "Where is she?"

"I wanted to ask you the same thing." Ye Kai said.

"You haven't seen her?" Yun ZaiTian asked.

"Have you seen her?" Ye Kai asked in reply.

Yun ZaiTian shook his head and said, "She wasn't here when I arrived."

Ye Kai furrowed his brow and said, "Maybe she went to look for another man ..."

Yun ZaiTian interrupted him, "She never goes out to look for men, the men who come to look for her are enough."

Ye Kai let out a laugh, "That's what you don't understand. The men who come to look for her and the men who she goes out to look for are vastly different."

"Who do you think she went to look for then?" Yun ZaiTian said with a serious look on his face.

"How many people are worth her looking for around here?" Ye Kai said.

The expression on Yun ZaiTian's face changed. He suddenly turned around and rushed out.

This time Ye Kai didn't bother to stop him, because he had already found out several things that he wanted to know.

He learned that Cui Nong was a very mysterious woman and that she must have many secrets as well. A woman in her profession could make a living anywhere, she had no reason to rot away in these wastelands. She must have an extremely important reason for staying around this town.

But when Yun ZaiTian came to look for her, it didn't seem like he was seeking the same thing as other men. There must be some hidden connection between the two of them as well.

Ye Kai suddenly felt that everyone around here had secrets to hide. Of course he had his own. But it seemed as if the time was right for all these secrets to gradually be exposed.

Ye Kai let out a sigh. There would be even more for him to do tomorrow. He decided to sleep first and think about it tomorrow. He shed his boots and curled up under the blankets.

It was then that he discovered her undergarments on the bed. What were her undergarments doing on the bed if she wasn't here? Did she have to leave in such a hurry that she even forgot to put them on? Or perhaps, was she kidnapped? Why wouldn't she at least struggle or scream?

Ye Kai decided to wait here, to wait until she returned. However, she never did return that night. It was only a little more than two hours until dawn.

Fu HongXue had yet to fall asleep.

Ma FangLing was awake as well.

Xiao BieLi and Ding Qiu were still drinking wine in that pavilion.

GongSun Duan was drinking as well down below.

It seemed as if everyone was waiting, waiting for some mysterious news to surface.

And what of Ma KongQun, Hua MenTian, Luo LuoShan, and Third Madame Shen? Where were they? Were they waiting as well?

________________________________________

It was an extremely long night.

During the night, the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses' lost another eighteen lives!

Wind and sand danced in the sky. It was always particularly dark, particularly cold just before dawn in these parts.

The fierce winds brought with them the sound of hoofbeats. Seven or eight people were slouched over their horses, looking half conscious. Luckily, their horses still knew the way back. These lonely horse masters had spent most of their adult lives on horseback. Most of their thighs were blistered and callused. Except for visiting town for a night of drinking, there was not much else that they took delight in.

"I don't think I'll be on duty for tomorrow, I really should go look for a woman to hug and hold on to tonight." one of them muttered.

"It's a pity that your wallet probably doesn't agree with you."

"I really should remember to save up a couple taels the next time we get paid."

"I think you should just find a nice cow from the fields to sleep with tonight, I doubt that any woman would be willing to take you anyway."

Everyone in the group broke into laughter, they sounded mad and unrestrained. But who could recognize that their laughs were filled with bitter blood and tears? They had no money, no women, and no family. If any one of them were to suddenly fall dead in this dark wilderness, not a single person would shed a tear for them.

What kind of an existence was this? What did these people live for?

A person rode forward furiously on his horse, shouting out loud as he went along.

Some of the others laughed as he rode by, remarking "Looks like Little Blackie's gone mad."

"If only I could spend a night with a woman like Cui Nong, I'd even be willing to give my life."

"I think I'd rather have Third Madame Shen. Her entire body looks so soft and tender that you could squeeze water out of it."

Suddenly, a painful scream rang out. It was that Little Blackie from before who had just rode out into the darkness.

A person appeared from the darkness, in his hands was a 'Horse Severing Sabre'.

Hot wine suddenly turned into cold sweat.

"Who are you? Are you a ghost?"

That person smiled and replied, "All of you don't even recognize who I am?"

The two who stood furthest in front finally got a clear look. "Oh, so it's ..."

As soon as they spoke, the Horse Severing Sabre hacked down. Fresh blood splattered across the ground. In the darkness of the night, the blood actually looked black. As that person fell over, his eyes were still fixed at the mysterious figure, his expression filled with surprise and disbelief.

He would've never imagined that he would die under this person's hands!

Fine steeds neighed in fright, people all around screamed in horror.

Some of them tried to escape on their horses, but that person chased them from behind and more bodies toppled from their horses.

"Why? Why are you doing this?" one of them shouted.

"Don't blame me for this, blame yourselves for being in leagues with the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses'!"

________________________________________

Flames danced in the violent wind. In the distance, that giant sky lantern started to grow dimmer.

Two people gathered by the fire, their eyes fixed on the metal pot that hung above the flames. The water in the pot had already started to boil. One of them took a tough, dry piece of horse meat and flung it into the pot.

"I grew up in Jiangnan. When I was young, I always wanted to know what horse meat tasted like. Now I've finally gotten the chance." he bit down on his teeth and continued, "But damn, if I have to eat another piece of horse meat in my next life, I'd rather stay in the eighteen levels of Hell."

The other person seemed to pay him no attention as he reached his hands into his pants. When he pulled them out, his palms were full of blood.

"What happened? Did your thighs chafe again? Who told you to have such delicate skin? Even if you can't stand it anymore, you'll have to deal with it again tomorrow."

But really, who could endure such an existence? Riding nonstop on horseback for twelve hours a day? The first hour might be fine, but after the tenth, it felt like your saddle was full of needles.

He looked down at the blood in his hands and couldn't help but curse under his breath, "Luo LuoShan, you son of a *****, where the hell did you crawl to? Making us suffer like this just to look for you."

"I've heard that he's a drunkard. Maybe he's fell off his horse somewhere and broke his neck."

The sound of snores came from the tent next to them. The water in the pot started to bubble. Was the horse meat ruined? The older one of the two picked up a branch and began to stir the pot.

Just then, the sound of a rider and a horse approached.

The two of them lunged up and grabbed for their sabres at the same time, "Who's there?"

"It's me."

That voice sounded very familiar. The youngster raised one of the burning branches with his blood soaked hands. The light from the flames shined onto that person's face.

The two of them smiled at once and asked, "What are you doing here so late? What can we help you with?"

"I had something to discuss with you."

"What is it?"

There was no response. The rider's blade suddenly flashed. A head fell to the floor.

The youngster's mouth dropped wide open. Even his startled cry seemed to have gotten stuck in his throat. Why was he attacking them? He couldn't figure out for the life of him.

Snoring still came from inside the tent. People who've been toiling for an entire day have a tendency to sleep through almost anything. The first one to awaken was the most startled. He heard what sounded like a horse trampling on mud, then saw drops of blood splatter all over the tent.

He wanted to scream, but the blade had already reached his neck.

________________________________________

It was still an hour until daybreak.

Ye Kai's eyes were shut as he lay on the bed, he had already fallen asleep.

Fu HongXue was filling up a basin with water in the back kitchen and was about to wash his face.

GongSun Duan was heavily drunk. He staggered out of the door, leapt onto his horse, and rode away.

The light in the small pavilion was no longer lit.

Ma FangLing's eyes were still wide open as she lay on her bed.

And what of Ma KongQun, Yun ZaiTian, Hua MenTian, and Third Madame Shen?

Where were they when fresh blood started to spill in the barren wilderness?

And where was Cui Nong?

Ma FangLing was holding on tightly to her blanket, her body was still covered in cold sweat. She thought she had just heard agonizing cries echoing in the night. She would've went to take a look if it weren't so late.

But she had already witnessed so many horrifying events lately, she really didn't want to see anymore. She couldn't bare to see anymore. Her room was dark and gloomy, but she didn't even dare to open the windows.

The building they lived in was wide and spacious. With the exception of two old nannies, only she, her father, GongSun Duan, and Third Madame Shen lived there.

Maybe it was because they were the only ones who could be trusted in the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses'.

XiaoHu Zi was deep asleep as well. The nanny that watched over him was half-deaf and half-blind. There really wasn't much of a difference when she was awake and when she was asleep.

Now it felt like Ma FangLing was the only person left in that entire house.

Loneliness was always a type of fear. In addition, there was the darkness, the deathly quiet darkness. That person from the darkness who sought vengeance.

Ma FangLing bit down on her lips and sat up.

Wind blew against her shutters. Suddenly, a figure appeared at her window. It was a long, slender figure. She knew it couldn't be her dad or GongSun Duan.

Ma FangLing felt her own stomach slowly shrinking. There was a sword hanging from the wall. The black figure remained motionless, as if it was listening in on the movements inside the house. Ma FangLing bit down on her lips as she slowly walked towards the wall and pulled out that sword.

The figure started to move, as if it was about to push open the window. Cold sweat from her palms had already soaked the purple cloth covering the handle of the sword.

Ma FangLing gathered herself and tried hard not to tremble. The room was extremely dark, she got into position and was prepared to strike. She only hoped that the figure outside hadn't seen her yet.

But before her sword could even move, the figure in the window had already disappeared. Afterwards, she heard hoofbeats trailing off in the wind. The figure outside her window probably saw someone returning and fled.

"At least someone has finally come back."

Ma FangLing fell on top of her bed, her entire body felt like it had just crumbled to pieces. She finally knew what real fear tasted like.

Who was outside her window?

When she finally gathered enough courage to push open her window to take a look, the sound of hoofbeats again rang out from outside. She heard her father's stern voice, "Don't say a word, follow me upstairs!"

Ma KongQun didn't come back alone! Who came back with him? She only heard one horse return, why would Ma KongQun be willing to share his saddle with another person? Ma FangLing felt quite perplexed when she heard a woman grunting softly, then the sound of footsteps ascending the stairs. Why would Ma KongQun bring back a woman with him?

She knew that the woman wasn't Third Aunt because that voice sounded young and flirtatious. She sat up, then fell back down. She wasn't really upset at her father.

The more nervous that men become, the more that they needed women. The older that men become, the younger that they needed their women to be. Third Aunt was starting to age, Ma FangLing suddenly felt sorry for her. Men could bring women home at anytime, but women leaving the house at night was almost unforgivable.

Her windows slowly filled with white.

Where was that figure from before?

"That figure probably didn't just disappear into the night, and is still hiding in some dark corner somewhere, waiting for the chance to strangle it's victim. And that victim could very well be me."

Ma FangLing was filled with fear again, but luckily her father had returned and it would soon be light out. She hesitated, but finally grasped onto that sword and walked out her door - but there was no one to be seen. The hallway was still very dark and very quiet.

She walked along the ice cold floors, hoping to spot that figure, yet in her heart she was quite afraid that that person would suddenly spring out.

Just then, she heard the sounds of splashing water. That sound was coming from Third Aunt's room.

Had Third Aunt returned? Or was that figure hiding in Third Aunt's room?

Ma FangLing felt her heart beating so fast that it seemed like it could jump out of her chest at any time. She gritted her teeth and slowly approached the room. Suddenly, the floor boards creaked.

She almost leapt up in fright. She noticed that Third Aunt's door was opened just a crack. A pair of bright eyes looked out from inside, they were Third Aunt's eyes.

Ma FangLing let out a long sigh of relief and exclaimed, "Thank heavens you've finally returned."