Bordertown Wanderer 15 Print
Tuesday, 22 July 2008 08:53

Chapter 15 - Soaring Flowers Fill The Sky


 
Blood dripped down from the tip of his sword. Hua MenTian turned around to face Ma KongQun.

Ma KongQun stared back at him and slowly said, "You killed him!"

"Because he betrayed you." Hua MenTian replied.

"So you understand as well?" Ma KongQun said.

"I don't. But what I do know is that those who betray you must die!" Hua MenTian said.

"Do you know how he betrayed me?" Ma KongQun asked.

"I'd really like to know." Hua MenTian said.

"MuRong MingZhu and Luo LuoShan were both invited here by him." Ma KongQun said.

Hua MenTian looked slightly surprised as he asked, "The two of them were brought here by him? But, what do they have to do with Yun ZaiTian?"

"Nothing." Ma KongQun said.

"If they have nothing to do with him, then why'd he invite them here? I don't understand." Hua MenTian said.

The questions he asked were incredibly stupid, 'Soaring Flowers Fill The Sky' was not a stupid person. But Ma KongQun didn't seem to mind. He was never one to answer stupid questions, but for some reason he answered these stupid questions.

"It was exactly because they had nothing to do with them that he brought them here." Ma KongQun explained.

"For what?"

"To kill! All the people who we've lost these past two days died under their hands."

"It was them? Wasn't it Fu HongXue?"

Ma KongQun shook his head and replied coldly, "There is only one person who Fu HongXue wants dead."

Even if Hua MenTian really were stupid, he wouldn't ask any further. Because he knew exactly who Fu HongXue was here to kill.

"So why did Yun ZaiTian bring them here to kill all those people for?" Hua MenTian asked.

"He was trying to pressure me into leaving." Ma KongQun said.

"Pressure you into leaving?"

Ma KongQun sneered coldly and replied, "If I were to leave, then everything here would fall into his hands."

Hua MenTian let out a sigh and said, "He should've known that you weren't someone who could be so easily swayed into fleeing."

"But he was aware of the fact that I had powerful enemies coming after me to exact revenge. He killed those people mainly to try to make it seem as if that enemy had arrived."

A sly smile leaked from the corner of Ma KongQun's lips as he added, "In the beginning, I actually believed all of it."

"Then what was it that lead you to suspect that it was all just a ploy?" Hua MenTian asked.

"Although his plan was very thorough, he made several mistakes." Ma KongQun responded.

"Oh?"

"Of course he never would've predicted that my enemy really would show up."

"It was quite a coincidence." Hua MenTian remarked.

"It wasn't out of coincidence that Fu HongXue showed up. It was because he knew of Yun ZaiTian's plan that he chose to come now, because it presented the perfect opportunity. Only when the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses' was in disarray would he have such an opportune chance." Ma KongQun said.

"How did Fu HongXue know all about Yun ZaiTian's plans?" Hua MenTian inquired.

A look of pain and sadness came over Ma KongQun's face. After a long while he finally replied, "Because Third Madame Shen was in leagues with them."

Hua MenTian looked slightly startled. "But how did Third Madame Shen know about their plot?"

"Because Cui Nong was one of them as well." Ma KongQun said.

"Cui Nong?"

Ma KongQun sneered and said, "He leaked information to Cui Nong to spread to me, but Cui Nong in turn leaked inforation about him to Third Madame Shen."

Hua MenTian sighed and remarked, "If a man puts too much trust in a woman, then he is doomed to fail."

"He underestimated Cui Nong, and he underestimated Flying Spider." Ma KongQun remarked.

"No one could've guessed that Flying Spider was working for you at that time." Hua MenTian said.

"That's why Flying Spider was able to uncover their secrets."

"And that's why Flying Spider had to die."

"Correct. He must've been silenced by MuRong MingZhu." Ma KongQun said.

"But then who killed MuRong MingZhu?" Hua MenTian asked.

"Before Flying Spider was killed, he was able to seize some sort of evidence in his hands. That evidence must've had something to do with MuRong MingZhu."

Hua MenTian nodded his head. He remembered the look of Flying Spider's crooked clenched fingers.

"Of course Yun ZaiTian didn't pay any notice to that hand because he already knew who Flying Spider's killer was." Ma KongQun added.

"But he never would've thought that someone else would notice that hand, and would be able to snatch away the evidence as well." Hua MenTian said.

"He was afraid that someone would discover the connection between MuRong MingZhu and him, so he had to kill MuRong MingZhu to eliminate all traces of his plot." Ma KongQun said.

"I would've never imagined that Yun ZaiTian was such a cruel and vicious person." Hua MenTian said.

Hua MenTian's expression sunk as he continued, "But there are still two things that I don't understand."

"Go ahead and ask." Ma KongQun replied.

"Luo LuoShan is a prominent figure in the martial-realm, and MuRong MingZhu comes from a well-respected martial arts family. With their statuses, why would the two of them agree to cooperate with Yun ZaiTian?"

"MuRong MingZhu had long salivated at the prospects of taking my land for himself. When greed sets in, people are very easily manipulated." Ma KongQun replied.

Hua MenTian nodded his head and added, "The wealthier the person, the greedier their hearts. This I can understand very well, but ... how did he convince Luo LuoShan to go along?"

Ma KongQun's expression sunk as he slowly replied, "Luo LuoShan wasn't brought here by him."

Hua MenTian furrowed his brows, "If not him, then who?"

"Yun ZaiTian never was the true mastermind behind this plot."

"Oh?"

"The other night when Luo LuoShan, MuRong MingZhu, Fu HongXue, and Flying Spider were all in their rooms, thirteen of your underlings were killed." Ma KongQun said.

"At the time, I figured that the killer was Ye Kai." Hua MenTian replied.

"The killer was obviously trying to frame Ye Kai, but who knew that Ye Kai would actually had an alibi."

"You think that the killer was Yun ZaiTian?"

"No."

Hua MenTian crossed his brows and asked, "Why wouldn't it be him?"

A serious expression came over Ma KongQun's face. "I know very well the level of his martial arts and the abilities of those thirteen men. In all honesty, I don't think he'd be able to take on all thirteen of them at once."

Hua MenTian had a very heavy expression on his face as well. "So you think that there is someone else working behind the scenes?"

"Correct."

"Do you know who that person could be?" Hua MenTian asked.

Ma KongQun didn't give a straight answer, instead he replied, "Firstly, that person must have quite a close relationship with Luo LuoShan. That's the only reason why Luo LuoShan would agree to come here."

Hua MenTian slowly nodded his head and replied, "Makes sense."

"Secondly, this person probably holds a relatively high position in the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses'." Ma KongQun said.

"How do you figure?" Hua MenTian asked.

"If I really were to leave, he would have to have high enough status so that he could assume leadership here."

Hua MenTian was quiet for a while before slowly nodding his head and replying, "Makes sense."

"He must be someone that Yun ZaiTian trusts dearly such that Yun ZaiTian would actually follow his orders."

"Makes sense." Hua MenTian said.

"In addition, he must've been someone that those thirteen men trusted as well. Because they had no prior suspicions of him, he would've had the perfect chance to dispatch of them quite easily."

Hua MenTian suddenly started to laugh, a very eerie laughter. "And because he had quite a deep friendship with Luo LuoShan, he had to pretend to hate him with great enmity on the outside, so that no one would suspect anything."

"Exactly." Ma KongQun replied.

Hua MenTian stared at him and asked, "You saw through everything by yourself?"

"Not quite." Ma KongQun said.

"Someone revealed this to you?"

"Correct."

"Who?"

"Cui Nong!"

Hua MenTian knitted his brows, "Her again?"

"Yun ZaiTian thought that she was completely loyal to him, Third Madame Shen trusted her entirely as well, too bad that ..."

Hua MenTian couldn't help but cut him off as he said, "They were all wrong."

Ma KongQun nodded his head.

"The truth is that Cui Nong is your woman." Hua MenTian said.

"Not quite." Ma KongQun replied.

"Then she ... ?"

"Do you know what kind of woman she is?"

A look of disgust came over Hua MenTian's face as he replied, "Of course I do. She is a prostitute."

"Have you ever met a prostitute who was totally devoted and loyal to a single person before?"

"You're right. If she can betray herself, then of course she wouldn't even blink when betraying another person." Hua MenTian said.

"But in actuality, she doesn't seem like that type of person." Ma KongQun said.

Hua MenTian suddenly started to laugh. "This whole incident has taught me a valuable lesson."

"What kind of lesson?" Ma KongQun said.

"A prostitute will always be a prostitute. Even if she was as kind and serene as an angel, she's still a prostitute." Hua MenTian said.

"You're rarely this coarse with your words." Ma KongQun said.

"Not only have my words been coarse today, they've been foolish as well."

"Do you finally understand everything now?" Ma KongQun asked.

"Isn't it already too late?" Hua MenTian replied.

"It would seem that way." Ma KongQun said.

Hua MenTian lowered his head and fell silent for quite a while. Finally, he slowly asked, "Your enemy is really Fu HongXue?"

"Yes."

"I can kill him for you."

"It is my own business."

Hua MenTian fell quiet again. After a while he sighed and said, "I've served under you for almost twenty years."

"Sixteen to be exact."

"In these sixteen years, I've bled and sweat for this place." Hua MenTian said.

"The 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses' is what it is today not because of any one man's work." Ma KongQun replied.

"I only wanted to force you to leave, I never planned on killing you." Hua MenTian said.

"I take it that you've seen that large tree in the courtyard before." Ma KongQun said.

Hua MenTian nodded his head.

"In these years, that tree has grown extremely fast and extemely tall." Ma KongQun remarked.

A look of nostalgia came over Hua MenTian's face as he replied, "When I first came here it was barely as tall as the fence, but now I don't think two people could even wrap their arms around its trunk."

"But if you were to move it elsewhere, it would undoubtedly wither and die." Ma KongQun said.

Hua MenTian clenched his fists as he replied, "That's why ... that's why you can't leave me alive."

Ma KongQun stared back at him and slowly pronounced, "You said it yourself just before. Those who betray me must die."

Hua MenTian stared at his own hand as it wrapped around the handle of his sword. With a sigh he replied, "Those really were my own words."

"I could have easily forced you to go to face Fu HongXue." Ma KongQun said.

"And I would have definitely went." Hua MenTian replied.

"But I would much rather kill him myself. And I wouldn't want anyone else to kill you either." Ma KongQun paused before he continued slowly, "Because you belong to the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses', and because you are my friend."

"I ... I just don't understand." Hua MenTian said.

"What."

Hua MenTian suddenly lifted his head, stared at him, and grilled sharply, "I gave my all for the past sixteen years and what do I have to show for any of it? Absolutely nothing. I still follow your orders like a slave. If you were in my situation, wouldn't you have done the exact same thing?"

Without even thinking, Ma KongQun replied, "I would have, except ..."

A brightness flared in his eyes as he continued, "If I had been uncareful and my plans were discovered, I would've died without regrets."

Hua MenTian stared at him, a smile came over his face as he replied, "Very well, a death without regrets, except that I might not die under your hands."

He flashed his sword, a flurry of light danced about the hall. "If you can really defeat me, then I will die without regrets."

"Excellent. Those are the words of a true man." Ma KongQun said.

"Why haven't you stood up yet?" Hua MenTian said.

"I don't have to stand to be able to kill you." Ma KongQun replied.

Hua MenTian's smile disappeared. The veins on his hand were already bulging out.

Ma KongQun still sat there silently, his eyes fixed on the curved sabre in his hands. He didn't even look at Hua MenTian anymore. All the blood and flesh on his body had seemingly turned into steel.

Hua MenTian's eyes were fixed on Ma KongQun as he walked over to him, the tip of his sword wobbled incessantly, his hand trembled incessantly as well.

Suddenly, he let out a shout, his blade flashed like an arching rainbow as his body followed from behind.

But that sword was not aimed towards Ma KongQun. His blade and body both flew towards the window.

Ma KongQun let out a sigh and exclaimed, "What a pity ..."

Before those words were finished, his body shot out as well as the curved blade flashed.

With a *DING*, their blades clashed. The sabre suddenly froze and then scraped its way upwards along the blade of the sword.

Hua MenTian was not an amateur when it came to swordsmanship. His techniques had more variations and changes than the waves in the ocean. But this time, he suddenly found that all his moves were completely blocked and sealed off.

His body started to feel extremely light and empty. When one's body was totally exerted and exhausted, that was what it felt like. A flash of silver light glanced across his face and he suddenly felt like he couldn't breathe. Then, everything felt cold. So extremely cold.

"If you had the courage to face me, I might've spared your life."

Those were the last words he heard.

The lightning and thunder had stopped, but the skies looked even darker.

Ma KongQun sat there silently, he looked extremely tired and exhausted.

GongSun Duan, Yun ZaiTian, and Hua MenTian's bodies all lay in front of him. They were his closest friends, his most able helpers. And now they were all lifeless, emotionless corpses, like three faceless strangers.

But the living were definitely not emotionless. Just who could empathize with this tired old warrior? Just what did he have left to live for?

The blood on the walls had dried. Drops of blood were splattered on the walls like specks of paint in a mural.

Two people slowly walked into the hall. Under these circumstances, they didn't even dare to breathe.

Ma KongQun didn't bother to turn around either. After a long while, he said solemnly, "Pass on the following decree, all members of the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses' are to start fasting and prepare for the funeral rites of the two Field Masters and Master GongSun."


- END CHAPTER 15 -