Bordertown Wanderer 17 Print
Tuesday, 22 July 2008 08:56

Chapter 17 - The Mysterious Old Lady


 
The red parchment advertising a room for rent still hung from the outside of that small alleyway.

When Fu HongXue walked passed, he caught sight of that white-haired woman staring at him with her crafty , hate filled eyes. She really didn't look too amiable.

"Please step aside." Fu HongXue said.

"Why should I?" the old lady replied.

"I want to go inside."

"I heard that you weren't too fond of this place and were planning to move out. Why have you come back?"

"Who said that I was planning to move out?"

"I did."

Fu HongXue knitted his brows. "Who said that I wasn't fond of this place?"

"Even if that wasn't the case, this place isn't very fond of you." the old granny sneered.

Fu HongXue finally understood, so he didn't say another word. What else could he say?

"I've already sent your belongings to that general store across the street, you can go pick them up any any time."

Fu HongXue nodded his head.

"And as for this silver ingot you paid me, I suggest you buy yourself a coffin." the old lady remarked sinisterly, as she tossed the ingot towards him.

Fu HongXue extended his hand out to catch but that ingot never reached him.

Something knocked the ingot right out of the air and back towards the old lady. That solid ingot shattered into a slew of silver needles.

If that something hadn't struck that ingot in mid-air back at the old lady, even if Fu HongXue didn't lose his life, his arm would've definitely been crippled.

But now those silver needles had been sent flying back at her. That old lady, who normally had to support herself against the wall to walk, suddenly leapt high into the air and somersaulted backwards onto the roof of the house. She had revealed her true skills and looked like she had no choice but to slip away.

Who would've known that there was already someone on that rooftop waiting for her?

The expression on that old lady's face changed, fear filled her crafty little eyes.

Ye Kai smiled at her and exclaimed, "Old Granny, when did you suddenly become so young?"

The old woman forced a dry laugh and replied, "I didn't get younger, but I think my bones became lighter. Whenever I see a youngster such as yourself, my bones always feel lighter."

"I've heard that if the elderly drink human blood, they can regain their youth." Ye Kai said.

"You want me to drink your blood?" the old lady asked.

"Didn't you just feast on Luo LuoShan's blood?" Ye Kai replied.

A fierce smile came over her face as she exclaimed, "That old chap has too much alcohol in his blood. I think I'd much rather drink yours."

She swiped forward and two silver needles shot out from her sleeves straight at Ye Kai's neck. Not only was her weaponry strange, it was extremely malicious as well.

But Ye Kai was especially adept at dealing with vicious weaponry. His body skated to the side as he spun around. It looked like he pulled a dark object out from his sleeves, and with a *DING*, the two silver flashes could no longer be seen.

The old lady's claw-like hands suddenly froze stiff. Ye Kai stood tall with his hands behind his back and smiled at her. "Do you have any more novelties that you'd like to try? I'd be really interested in witnessing them first hand."

The old lady stared at him blankly as she cackled, "Who in the world are you?"

"My surname is Ye, my given name is Kai. Ye as in 'leaf', like the leaves on a tree. Kai as in 'open', like when one opens a door. It is also the same Kai as in 'happiness'."

He laughed and added, "It's a shame that when I'm feeling happy, you're probably going to be feeling quite sad."

The old granny didn't say another word. Her body suddenly lifted into the air as she leapt some thirty or forty feet away. But she could've never imagined that as soon as she landed, Ye Kai would be standing right next to her with a big smile on his face, a smile that resembled a sly little fox.

The old lady let out a sigh and exclaimed, "Excellent. Excellent lightness skill. It looks like your bones are even lighter than mine."

Before her sentence was finished, her hands shot out like claws and unleashed four moves at Ye Kai. Her techniques were just as strange and crafty. Ye Kai struck back, his moves were neither strange nor crafty, but extremely fast. Inconceivably fast.

As the old lady struck out with her hands, she suddenly felt something lightly tap one of her accupoints. Her arms instantly drooped to the side and she could no longer move them.

Ye Kai was still standing there with his hands behind his back. His smile made him look even merrier than before. What a shame that when he was happy, others would feel pretty miserable.

The old lady let out a long sigh and said, "I don't know you. Why are you interfering for?"

"Who said I was interfering?" Ye Kai replied.

"Then what do you want?" the old lady asked.

"I want to have a cup of wine with you." Ye Kai said.

The old lady looked puzzled, "You want to what?"

"I rarely invite people for a drink, it'll be a pity if you pass this by." Ye Kai said.

The old lady bit down on her teeth and asked, "Where do you want to drink?"

"Of course we'll go to Xiao BieLi's, we can drink on a tab there." Ye Kai replied.

________________________________________

Fu HongXue's hand was clenched around his sabre, clenched extremely hard.

He was still standing exactly as he did before, his posture hadn't changed an inch. But his pale-white face began to fill with red.

The old lady leapt down from the roof and walked with her head lowered as she passed Fu HongXue's side. Fu HongXue didn't even look at her, but suddenly exclaimed, "Wait a moment."

The old lady stopped still, she had suddenly become much more compliant.

"I've killed before."

The old lady heard him clearly.

"And I wouldn't mind killing again."

The old lady's hand began to tremble.

Ye Kai had made his way over to them as well as he remarked, "Killing is just like drinking wine. The first cup is always the hardest to swallow. But after that, each cup just goes down easier. Except that ..."

"Except what?" Fu HongXue said.

"Killing is exactly like drinking, doing it too much can lead to addiction." Ye Kai stared at Fu HongXue and continued, "It's best that you don't get addicted to something like that."

"You're not the one I want to kill." Fu HongXue replied.

"You want to kill her?" Ye Kai asked.

"Originally, I thought I'd only kill two types of people. But now, I think there's a third type."

"And what type is that?"

"Those who want me dead."

Ye Kai nodded his head, "She tried to kill you before, and now you want to kill her. That is pretty fair."

"Step aside." Fu HongXue warned.

"Why?" Ye Kai said.

"Because she wants to take my life." Fu HongXue replied.

"But she didn't kill you, you're still alive, aren't you?." Ye Kai said.

Fu HongXue stared at him, his pale-white face started to turn transparent. After a long while, he slowly asked, "Just who exactly are you, huh?"

"You know exactly who I am, why do you bother asking for?" Ye Kai replied.

"I just wanted to be certain, because I owe you something." Fu HongXue said.

"What's that?"

"My life."

He slowly turned around and continued, "This is a debt that I'll repay sooner or later, but for now you can ask for me at anytime."

His left foot treaded forward, his right foot dragged along from behind. His steps looked even heavier this time. Ye Kai suddenly realized that he very much resembled Xiao BieLi from the back. Both were just as lonesome, both were just as melancholy.

But maybe his situation was even more tragic, because there was only one road that he could go.

A road that he could never turn back from.

________________________________________

There was wine on the table.

Ye Kai poured a cup for Xiao BieLi and a cup for the old lady.

"How is this place?"

"Not bad." the old lady replied.

"And the wine?"

"Not bad as well."

"Then you should be thankful. If it weren't for me, how else would you have the chance to drink here?" Ye Kai said.

"Why wouldn't I be able to drink here?" the old lady asked.

Ye Kai let out a laugh, then replied, "Because this place is a man's world. Although 'Intestine Shattering Needle' Granny Du is an earth-shaking figure in the martial-realm, she is still a woman."

The old lady stared at him and said, "So I'm supposed to be Granny Du?"

"When I saw the 'Intestine Shattering Needle' embedded in Luo LuoShan, I had a hunch that it was you." Ye Kai said.

"Marvelous percetion." the old lady said.

Ye Kai let out another laugh and said, "But I have no intentions of avenging his death."

"Oh?"

"I just wanted to ask why you are aligning yourself with the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses'?"

"So you think that I killed him under the orders of the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses'?"

Ye Kai nodded his head.

"Because I was close by at the time, and because I am an old lady, you're certain that I am Granny Du?"

"It's a rather simple conclusion to draw."

"Then of course Granny Du wouldn't be a man,"

"Of course."

The old lady started to laugh, a very strange and unusual laugh.

"What do you find so funny?" Ye Kai asked.

"Just one thing." the old lady replied.

"And what is that?"

"I am not Granny Du."

"You're not?"

The old lady smiled and remarked, "I really wouldn't mind being Granny Du, but unfortunately I'm really a man."

Ye Kai was shocked. That old granny really was a man. He pealed off an elaborate skin mask from his face, undid his garments, and stood straight up. That shriveled old lady had suddenly changed into a thin middle-aged man! Anyone could clearly tell that he was really a man.

Ye Kai was no longer as confident in his perception as he previously was.

That person smiled back at him and exclaimed, "Do you still want to examine for yourself whether I am male or female?"

Ye Kai let out a long sigh and replied with a smile, "No need."

"Granny Du obviously wouldn't be a man." that person said.

"Obviously not." Ye Kai said.

"Then that means I'm obviously not Granny Du."

"You aren't."

"And likewise, I wasn't the one who killed Luo LuoShan."

Ye Kai could only agree, everybody knew that the 'Intenstine Shattering Needle' was solely Granny Du's secret weapon!

"I didn't kill Fu HongXue either."

Ye Kai couldn't deny it, Fu HongXue was still breathing and alive.

That person let out a long breath. In a single gulp, he drank his entire cup of wine, then exclaimed, "A fine cup of wine indeed."

When he finished that cup, he rose to his feet, turned around, and started to walk out.

A cynical look came over Xiao BieLi's eyes as he said, "Please come back again next time."

"Of course I'll be back, I can drink on a tab here. Those run-down shacks of mine are barely bringing in any rent." that man said with a laugh.

Ye Kai suddenly shouted out, "XiMen Chun."

That person immediately turned his head. There was a smile on his face, but as soon as he realized what he had done, that smile was gone.

But a smile came over Ye Kai's face.

When he smiled, the other person was usually miserable.

That person tried to force a smile, but the muscles on his face had frozen stiff.

"Since the wine is not that bad, Mr. XiMen should stay for a few more cups." Ye Kai said.

That person stood still for quite a while. He finally let out a sigh and replied, "I obviously have no need to ask what kind of person you are anymore."

"Indeed." Ye Kai replied.

"But what I want to know is whether you're really human or not." that person said.

Ye Kai smiled, he suddenly felt that his perception wasn't as bad as he had thought. With a laugh, he replied, "A true disciple of the 'Thousand-Faced Living Demon', with crafty techniques and unsurpassed skill in the art of disguise. I should've recongized you long before."

XiMen Chun let out a sigh and said, "It's not too late that you saw through now."

"Of course Granny Du wouldn't be a woman, and she wouldn't be a granny either. If she was, then everyone would recognize her instantly." Ye Kai said.

"A logical deduction." XiMen Chun replied.

"Then just who exactly is Granny Du?" Ye Kai asked.

Xiao BieLi let out a laugh and said, "Maybe it's you, maybe it's me."

"Or maybe ..." Ye Kai pondered, then suddenly leapt up and exclaimed, "I understand now, Granny Du must be him!"

XiMen Chun sighed and mumbled, "It's a little too late that you've realized only now."

________________________________________

Fu HongXue slowly made his way toward the general store. He had never been to this store before, he had never been to any general store before.

He wasn't the type of person who lived a normal life, he lived in a world that was all his own. In that world there was only vengeance. And nothing else.

Li MaHu was slouched over the counter, dozing off as usual. It seemed as if this person was never awake.

Fu HongXue walked over and knocked on the counter with the scabbard of his sabre.

Li MaHu was startled as he finally came to and saw the jet black scabbard of Fu HongXue's blade.

The scabbard was black, the handle was black, but there were still traces of red on its blade.

Li MaHu's face turned pale as his voice cracked, "What ... what do you want?"

"My belongings." Fu HongXue replied.

"Your belongings ... oh, that's right. Your belongings are here." Li MaHu said.

He reached behind the table and grabbed a bag with both of his hands. Fu HongXue caught the bag with one hand. The other hand was still firmly clenching onto his sabre.

GongSun Duan died under this very sabre, who would be next? He probably didn't know either.

As he turned around, Fu HongXue caught sight of eggs that were for sale and asked, "How much are these?"

"You want to buy some?"

Fu HongXue nodded his head. He realized that the feeling of hunger was sometimes even stronger than revenge.

Li MaHu stared back at him, shook his head and replied. "I can't sell them to you."

Fu HongXue understood. Every single door in this town was shut in his face. This general store was no exception. If he really wanted those eggs, of course nobody could stop him. But he wasn't that kind of person.

His hatred wasn't directed at that old lady or at the boss of this store.

The moon slowly started to rise, a cold breeze blew though.

Would there really be no place for him to sleep?

He clenched firmly onto his sabre and his knapsack -- he lived in an entirely different world anyway. The people of this world could never affect him.

But suddenly, Li MaHu added, "I can't sell these eggs to you because they're raw. You can't eat raw eggs."

Fu HongXue stood still.

"There's a stove in the back, not only can you cook with it, you can heat up wine as well."

Fu HongXue turned around and asked, "How much are you going to charge?"

Li MaHu smiled and replied, "Since you cut straight to the chase, let's say twelve silver taels."

Twelve silver taels for a single meal was quite a hefty price. But all the silver taels in the world couldn't fill your stomach, that was how unbearable hunger really was.

Li MaHu was frying the eggs. Eggs with fried rice, warm wine, and peanuts.

"The peanuts are free, drink as much wine as you'd like, we'll figure out the price later."

Fu HongXue didn't even touch a drop of the wine. When he drank, he was bound to get drunk. And now was not the time for him to get drunk.

Li MaHu brought over the plate of eggs and rice and saw his cup of wine.

"Patron, is the wine not good enough?" Li MaHu asked.

"The wine is fine." Fu HongXue replied.

"Even if it was bad, you should at least have a cup to loosen your mood."

Fu HongXue started to eat his rice. He was not afraid that there was poison in that wine. There were thirty six ways to tell if food or drink was poisoned and of those he knew twenty.

But if he simply didn't want to do something, no one could ever force him.

Li MaHu never liked to force people either. Since Fu HongXue didn't want to drink, he drank the wine himself. He started guzzling down the warm pot of wine. With a smile he exclaimed, "To tell you the truth, I just don't understand why so many people in this world enjoy drinking wine. It tastes even worse than poison."

"You don't enjoy drinking wine?" Fu HongXue asked.

Li MaHu sighed and said, "I usually never drink, but now I'm already drunk."

Fu HongXue knitted his brows and said, "If you don't usually drink, then why did you drink just now?"

"The wine was already warm, I didn't want it to go to waste." Li MaHu said.

"So instead you get drunk?"

"Anyone who opens a business has to first learn one thing." Li MaHu sighed.

"What is that?" Fu HongXue asked.

"You shouldn't waste anything, even if it's at your own expense." Li MaHu replied.

He let out another long sigh and said, "That's why only the lowliest of people open general stores. Not only can they never find a wife, they never have any friends either."

Fu HongXue slowly dug at his rice. He suddenly sighed lightly and said, "You're wrong."

Li MaHu sat down beside him and asked, "What am I wrong about?"

"There is only one type of person in this world who doesn't have friends."

"What type is that?"

"People like me."

He lifted his head and stared into the distance. His eyes were filled with loneliness and emptiness. He never had a friend before, and he probably never would. The sole purpose of his life was revenge, a thirst for vengeance that would never die. But why was it that deep inside his heart was a certain longing for friendship?

Li MaHu, whose eyes which were all red by now, looked at him and asked, "That Young Master Ye, is he not your friend?"

"No." Fu HongXue coldly replied.

"But he sure treats you like one." Li MaHu said.

Fu HongXue's expression sunk as he replied, "That's because he has a sickness."

"A sickness?"

Fu HongXue clenched onto his sabre and said, "Anyone who treats me as their friend has a sickness."

Li MaHu let out a laugh and said, "From the looks of it, I think I'm coming down with that sickness as well."

"You?" Fu HongXue exclaimed.

"Because I really would like to have you as a friend."

Even his tongue had swelled up when he talked, he really did get drunk fast. But aren't the words of a drunkard usually honest ones?

Fu HongXue suddenly put down his chopsticks and said, "The rice isn't that good."

He didn't cast another eye at Li MaHu. Fu HongXue stood up and turned around, because he didn't want to let that person see the expression on his face.

But Li MaHu was still staring at him, staring at his back. His shoulders were contracted, he could tell that Fu HongXue's mind wasn't at ease.

A strange expression suddenly came over Li MaHu's eyes. He slowly extended his hand out as if he was trying to tap Fu HongXue on the shoulder.

Suddenly, there was a cold flash of light!

And then, a dagger struck the back of his hand!


- END CHAPTER 17 -