Bordertown Wanderer 18 Print
Tuesday, 22 July 2008 08:57

Chapter 18 - The Flying Dagger That Saves Lives


 
A dagger three and seven-tenths inches long.

A flying dagger!

When Li MaHu saw that dagger, his face suddenly twitched.

Then, his entire body fell to the floor as if he was struck by a silent, invisible bolt of lightning.

As he collapsed, something dropped from his hands onto the table.

When Fu HongXue turned around, he saw Ye Kai.

Ye Kai walked in with a smile on his face, he was not carrying a blade.

Fu HongXue stared at him, then at the Li MaHu who was on the floor, and asked sharply, "What is the meaning of this?"

Ye Kai simply smiled. He really liked to respond with a smile to questions that didn't have to be answered.

Fu HongXue didn't have to ask any further either. He caught sight of three needles that lay on the table, three jade-colored needles. The needles that fell from Li MaHu's hands.

If it hadn't been for that dagger, Fu HongXue would probably be sharing the same fate as Luo LuoShan right now. Could this wishy-washy store owner really be the cruel and vicious Granny Du?

Fu HongXue clenched his fists. After quite a while, he finally lifted his head. His eyes were met by Ye Kai's smile.

"How do you know that I couldn't have avoided his strike?" Fu HongXue asked coldly.

"I didn't know." Ye Kai replied.

"Then why did you come to save me?" Fu HongXue said.

"Who said that I came here to save you?" Ye Kai replied.

"Then why are you here?" Fu HongXue asked.

"All I did was bury my dagger into that person's hand. It was his hand and my dagger, what does any of it have to do with you?" Ye Kai remarked.

FU HongXue had nothing to say.

Ye Kai slowly walked over and sat down. He took a deep breath and said with a smile, "This rice looks pretty delicious, it smells great."

"Hmph." Fu HongXue grunted.

"The wine probably isn't bad either, pity that there's none left." Ye Kai added.

Fu HongXue looked like he was about to say something but Ye Kai suddenly looked down at Li MaHu and asked, "Is my dagger worth exchanging for a jug of wine?"

Li MaHu remained motionless. There was no reply.

"If it's not, then I'll have to ask you to return my dagger." Ye Kai said.

There was still no response. Ye Kai bent down and patted that person on the back and said, "Granny Du, I've already seen through your guise, there's no point in ..."

His voice suddenly stopped, a look of surprise came over his face.

That person who had fallen to the floor would never get up again. His face was frozen stiff, his hands and legs were ice cold, and that dagger was still protruding from his hand.

Fu HongXue stared at that person's face, and then at the dagger, then said to Ye Kai, "Is your dagger dipped in poison?"

"No." Ye Kai replied.

"If it wasn't then how come he's dead?" Fu HongXue asked.

"It looks like he's getting old in his years, the elderly do not take very well to fright." Ye Kai said.

"You're saying that he was frightened to death?" Fu HongXue said.

"Well, the back of the hand is not a fatal spot, and my dagger was not dipped in poison." Ye Kai replied.

"This person is really 'Intestine Shattering Needle' Granny Du?" Fu HongXue said.

"If the 'Boneless Serpent' could pretend to be an old granny, why couldn't Granny Du to be a man?" Ye Kai said.

"Right. I know what kind of person Granny Du is." Fu HongXue remarked.

"You should know very well." Ye Kai said.

"A person such as Granny Du would really be scared to death by a dagger?" Fu HongXue asked with a cold smile.

"The fact of the matter is that he's really dead." Ye Kai said.

"Just what kind of dagger is that anyway?" Fu HongXue exclaimed.

Ye Kai simply smiled. He really liked to respond with a smile to questions that didn't have to be answered.

He retrieved his dagger. The blade was thin and extremely sharp, a weak glimmer of light reflected off its surface. When his eyes looked at that dagger, they would light up as well.

After a long while, Ye Kai slowly said, "Whatever the case, you can't deny that this is a blade."

Fu HongXue paused, then replied, "I would've never imagined that you wielded a blade as well."

Ye Kai smiled in reply.

"I've never seen you carry a blade before." Fu HongXue remarked.

"Blades aren't meant for others to see." Ye Kai responded.

Fu HongXue could only agree.

"Perhaps the most frightening blade in the world is the blade that cannot be seen." Ye Kai said.

"There is no such thing as a blade that cannot be seen!" Fu HongXue replied.

Ye Kai stared at the dagger in his hand and slowly said, "Maybe you can see this blade, but by the time that you do, it might already be too late."

A blade that can frighten a person to death is usually a blade that cannot be seen.

Because when you do see that blade, it would already be too late.

Then, the blade could no longer be seen.

It suddenly vanished from Ye Kai's hand like magic.

Fu HongXue stared down at the sabre in his own hands. A strange expression came over his face, it seemed as if he finally understood what Ye Kai had meant.

GongSun Duan had never seen his sabre's blade. GongSun Duan had only seen its handle and its sheathe.

"A blade that can be seen is a blade that cannot kill." Ye Kai remarked.

Fu HongXue listened attentively.

"That is why people who truly understand sabreplay will know how to conceal their blades." Ye Kai added.

Fu HongXue let out a sigh and replied, "That's something much easier said than done."

"Concealing your blade is much more difficult than using it." Ye Kai said. "But I think you already understand that."

"I understand very well." Fu HongXue replied. He looked up at Ye Kai who still had that warm and amiable smile on his face.

Fu HongXue's expression sunk as he coldly exclaimed, "I want you to understand one thing."

"What's that?" Ye Kai asked.

"Don't ever help me again. You can go on your way, and I will go on mine. There is no relation between us. I could care less if you died in front of me."

"We're not friends?"

"No!"

Ye Kai sighed lightly, then smiled and replied, "I understand."

Fu HongXue gritted his teeth and said, "So you can be on your way then."

"What about you? You're not leaving?" Ye Kai asked.

"Why should I leave for?" Fu HongXue said.

"There's somebody waiting for you outside." Ye Kai replied.

"Who?"

"An old lady who isn't an old lady."

Fu HongXue crossed his brows and asked, "What does he want?"

"He's waiting for you to ask him about why he tried to ambush you." Ye Kai said.

Fu HongXue's eyes lit up as he suddenly stormed out.

But there really was no reason for him to be in a hurry. Because the person outside could wait for as long as he wanted.

The dead are never in a hurry.

XiMen Chun was a tall and massive person, but now he was curled up on the floor. He was sprawled over in a corner behind the counter, his eyes protruded out from their sockets. Even in death, there was fear and dread written all over his expression.

Who killed him?

Even he would've never imagined that that person would come to take his life.

A steel awl was pierced into his chest. Blood poured from the wound and had not yet dried.

There was nobody around. It was supper time and very few people walked the streets at this time.

Fu HongXue stood there silently, his hands and feet frozen stiff. When Ye Kai finally walked out, he asked him in a deep tone of voice, "This person is the 'Boneless Serpent' XiMen Chun?"

After a long while, Ye Kai let out a sigh and replied, "Yes."

"I'm aware of just what kind of person he is as well." Fu HongXue said.

"I would've expected you to." Ye Kai said.

"He didn't even have a chance to resist or scream before he was killed." Fu HongXue said.

"An awl that takes lives." Ye Kai remarked.

"Not many people have the ability to kill him that swiftly." Fu HongXue said.

"Actually, there are quite a few." Ye Kai said.

"Oh?" Fu HongXue asked.

"Anybody could've killed him, because he was completely powerless to resist." Ye Kai explained.

"Why is that?" Fu HongXue said.

"I was afraid that he would be unwilling to wait for you, so I sealed his accupoints before." Ye Kai said.

He paused for a moment before continuing, "The only thing is ... although anyone would've been able to kill him, there should be only one person who would want him dead."

"Who?"

"Someone who doesn't want him to expose his secret to you."

Fu HongXue thought for a while, then said, "About why he ambushed me in the alley? And who ordered him to do so? ... Would that be his secret?"

"Exactly." Ye Kai said.

Fu HongXue laughed coldly, then turned around and started to walk out.

"Where are you going?" Ye Kai asked.

"I'm going my own way, why don't you do the same?"

Fu HongXue didn't bother to turn around as he slowly limped onto the street outside.

The town was quiet, the lantern above the door across the street was lit.

A gust of wind blew through and carried that red parchment pasted outside the small alley into the distance.

The breeze was frigid, darkness filled the night. Had autumn already arrived?

Although hints of Autumn were in the night winds, it was still as warm as Spring inside that hall. In the eyes of men, it was always Spring here.

There was a group of men sitting at a table in the corner. Although the night was still young, it looked like they were already well on their way to inebriation.

Ye Kai took a seat. Xiao BieLi pushed a cup towards him and said with a smile, "Don't forget that you promised to drink with me."

That cup was full to the brim.

"Don't forget you promised that I could drink on a tab." Ye Kai replied.

"It'd be difficult for anyone to forget a promise that they've made to you." Xiao BieLi said.

"Difficult indeed." Ye Kai said.

"So you can go ahead and drink with no worries." Xiao BieLi said.

Ye Kai smiled and finished his cup in one sitting. He looked around and commented, "Your patrons are sure coming in early."

Xiao BieLi nodded his head and replied, "As soon as that lantern is lit, the people start pouring in."

"That's why I really wonder if they stare at that lantern all day long." Ye Kai said.

Xiao BieLi laughed and replied, "This really is quite a place. As soon as somebody visits just once, they can't help but come back again and again. It's like an addiction. If they don't get their daily fix, they won't even be able to sleep."

"I think I've fallen under that addiction as well, I've already been here three times today." Ye Kai said.

"That's why I like you." Xiao BieLi said.

"That's why you trust me enough to open a tab."

Xiao BieLi let out a loud laugh.

The group of people in the corner all turned and looked in surprise. They had all been here at least a hundred times and not once had they ever heard this owner laugh.

But his laugh soon subsided as his tone of voice became serious again.

"Is Li MaHu really Granny Du?" Xiao BieLi asked Ye Kai.

Ye Kai nodded his head.

"I really would have never thought. How did you figure it out?"

"I didn't figure it out ..."

"It was just a guess?"

"I just found it odd that XiMen Chun would ask Fu HongXue to go to that general store to retrieve his belongings." Ye Kai explained.

"On just that one hunch?" Xiao BieLi said.

"Well, when I arrived, I saw that he had already taken Fu HongXue to the back room for dinner." Ye Kai recounted.

"What's so strange about that?"

"Everything. The whole town knew that Fu HongXue was the bitter enemy of the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses'. How would someone like Li MaHu dare to offend them?" Ye Kai said.

"Right. He shouldn't have even given Fu HongXue his belongings." Xiao BieLi added.

"But he did." Ye Kai said.

"So he must have had ulterior motives." Xiao BieLi said.

"That's how I figured that he must've been Granny Du." Ye Kai said.

"And you were right on the mark." Xiao BieLi said.

Ye Kai suddenly let out a sigh as he exclaimed, "At least I hope I was right."

"Why?" Xiao BieLi asked.

"Because I frightened her to death." Ye Kai said.

Xiao BieLi looked shocked.

"You didn't think I would?" Ye Kai asked.

"And what of XiMen Chun?" Xiao BieLi said.

"He's dead as well." Ye Kai replied.

Xiao BieLi slowly picked up the wine cup in front of him and took a sip, then said coldly, "You're really not as soft as you look."

Ye Kai stared back at him and said, "Do you regret opening a tab for me now?"

Xiao BieLi let out a sigh and said, "I just can't figure out why the two of them would come to a place like this. In addition, why did they choose to stay for so long."

"Maybe they were in hiding, or maybe they were enemies of Fu HongXue." Ye Kai said.

"But when they came here, Fu HongXue was probably still just a child." Xiao BieLi said.

"Then why would they want him dead?" Ye Kai said.

"Did they say anything to you?" Xiao BieLi asked.

"I haven't asked." Ye Kai replied.

"Why not?" Xiao BieLi said.

"I'm not really in a hurry, and neither are they." Ye Kai said.

Xiao BieLi smiled as he looked at Ye Kai and replied, "You really are a strange person."

"As strange as the Third Boss ..." Ye Kai said.

"Even more so ..." Xiao BieLi responded.

But before he could finish, the sounds of copper gongs suddenly erupted and were followed by several voices shouting, "Fire! Help, fire!"

A fierce fire caught blaze.

The fire broke out from Li MaHu's general store. Columns of smoke poured out from the back of that building as the entire store was engulfed in flames. And since most of the buildings on that street were made of wooden planks, it seemed as if that fire might spread throughout town.

Very shortly, the entire street was caught in the midst of confusion and panic. Villagers brought water in whatever they could find and tried to douse the flames.

Red flames illuminated Xiao BieLi's pale white face as he said, "It seems like that fire ignited from the kitchen in back of that general store."

Ye Kai nodded his head.

"When you left, did you forget to put out some lights?" Xiao BieLi asked.

"There were no lights in there." Ye Kai replied.

"The stove must have still been lit." Xiao BieLi said.

"Every stove is always lit." Ye Kai said.

"Do you think someone deliberately set that place on fire?" Xiao BieLi said.

Ye Kai let out a laugh as he said, "I should've known that someone would set that place on fire."

"Why's that?" Xiao BieLi asked.

"Because a burnt corpse really wouldn't be able to talk anymore." Ye Kai said with a weird smile on his face.

He suddenly grabbed a nearby bucket and joined in on the efforts to put out the flames.

Very soon, Xiao BieLi lost sight of him, but his eyes still looked deep in thought.

Suddenly, someone crept up next to him and whispered, "What are you thinking about?"

Xiao BieLi didn't even bother to turn to see who it was and simply replied, "I learned an important lesson today."

"And what lesson is that?"

"The only way to truly silence someone is to make sure their body burns to ashes."

Although there were a lot of people helping to put out the fire, there just wasn't enough water. Luckily it had just rained earlier that day so conditions weren't too dry. Although they couldn't quite extinguish the fire, it wasn't spreading very rapidly either.

Ye Kai stood in the middle of the large crowd. His eyes were like an eagle's, scanning the entire area. The person who started that fire could very well be in the same crowd. That person probably didn't want to draw suspicion or really enjoyed watching the suffering of others.

It really was quite a cruel and demented way of thinking, but what else but cruel and demented could that person be?

Unfortunately, it's usually very difficult to tell them apart from normal people.

Ye Kai felt slightly dejected when he suddenly felt someone tugging at his shirt from behind. When he turned his head, he saw a figure turn and squeeze through the crowd. A person in green robes and a felt cap.

Ye Kai followed suit and squeezed his way through the crowd as well. When he got through, all he saw was the figure of that person's back.

Ye Kai was quite fond of studying how people looked from the back. He felt that everyone's back had certain unique characteristics that you could tell apart. So to recongize someone from the figure of their back was not very hard for him.

But the figure of this person in green looked totally foreign.

He was not of very tall stature and his movements seemed agile and nimble, he was able to disappear from that street quite quickly.

Very soon, not a single person was in sight.

A great number of stars filled the sky, the wilderness was quiet and still.


- END CHAPTER 18 -