Bordertown Wanderer 19 Print
Tuesday, 22 July 2008 08:58

Chapter 19 - Cutting The Weeds And Pulling The Roots


 
Ye Kai took a few large strides forward and whispered politely, "My friend, did you have a reason for beckoning me? Please stay so that we may have a word."

The person in green didn't slow down, but instead quickened the pace. After another length of road, that person leapt into the air, exhibiting the unmistakable lightness skill, 'Following The Cicada In Eight Steps'.

Not only was this person's lightness skill incredibly fast, it looked exquisite as well. As Ye Kai watched that person's flowing robes gracefully dancing in the wind, his eyes couldn't help but widen. That figure looked so familiar but he couldn't quite place where he had seen it before.

The farther they went, the thicker the night became.

But Ye Kai was not concerned about losing that person. If that figure in green was really trying to get away, why bother signaling to Ye Kai earlier? It was obvious that this person wanted to see him, so what was the point in pursuing?

The winds blew through the fields. In the middle of the long, thick grass there lay a narrow path. That figure seemed very familiar with the surroundings, turning east and darting west. Before he knew it, Ye Kai had lost sight of that person.

But Ye Kai didn't seem the least bit worried. He stopped altogether and waited.

After a short while, a voice really did emanate from the the long grassy fields, "You know who I am?"

Ye Kai let out a slight laugh and sang softly, "Emperor of the skies, emperor of the earth. With skin like jade, jade-like perfume. Third Madame Shen of the Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses."

That person laughed back, her voice was soft and sweet. "Excellent eyesight, you will be rewarded."

"Rewarded with what?" Ye Kai asked.

"With a cup of wine." Third Madame Shen replied.

Where would there be wine in the middle of the wildnerness?

Ye Kai walked forward and finally understood. Third Madame Shen had constructed a small underground chamber in the middle of this wilderness. If she didn't guide you herself, you would never be able to find this chamber even if you had ten thousand people searching.

It was a strange place indeed. Not only was there wine, but also a tidy looking bed and an ornately decorated dresser. On top of that dresser were fresh flowers, and on top of the wine table were several plates of food.

Ye Kai stared in disbelief.

Third Madame Shen smiled at him, it was the kind of smile that could melt men's souls.

"You find this all very unusual?" Third Madame Shen asked with a smile.

"Not really." Ye Kai suddenly replied with a laugh.

"No?" Third Madame Shen said.

Ye Kai stared at her and said, "Coming from a woman like you, nothing really strikes me as out of the ordinary."

"I have to say, you are indeed a very sensible man." Third Madame Shen replied.

"And you're a very sensible woman." Ye Kai said.

"So we should act like two sensible people and sit down for a cup of wine." Third Madame Shen said.

Ye Kai flashed his eyes and asked, "And afterwards?"

Third Madame Shen giggled and bit down on her lips, "A sensible man such as yourself should know not to say such things to a woman."

Ye Kai let out a sigh and smiled, "Actually, I only wanted to hear you tell a story."

"What kind of story?" Third Madame Shen asked.

"The story of the 'Hall of the Divine Sabre' and the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses'." Ye Kai said.

"Why would you think that I would tell you that story?" Third Madame Shen asked.

Ye Kai laughed, then said plainly, "I know about much more than just that."

Third Madamde Shen didn't say another word. Candlelight glanced off her face making her look even more beautiful. But it was a very bitter and depressing beauty, like the setting sun in the fading days of autumn.

She slowly poured a cup of wine and presented it to Ye Kai. He took a seat.

Wind from the chamber entrance above blew through as the candlelit flames wavered back and forth. It was very late into the night.

The earth was silent and still. Who would've guessed that there would be two such people underneath sitting there the way they were. And just who knew what exactly was on their minds?

Third Madame Shen poured herself a cup of wine and drank it down slowly. Then, she looked up and asked, "Do you know who the Master of the 'Hall of the Divine Sabre' was?"

Ye Kai nodded his head.

"And you know that Bai TianYu and Ma KongQun used to be comrades who braved life and death together?" Third Madame Shen asked.

Ye Kai nodded again.

"They fought countless battles together, from the border regions to the central plains. They eventually established quite a name for the 'Hall of the Divine Sabre' and the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses' in the martial-realm." Third Madame Shen explained.

"I was long aware that Elder Master Bai was an exceptional talent." Ye Kai said.

Third Madame Shen sighed and continued, "It was because he was such an exceptional person that he suffered such a horrible fate."

"Why is that?" Ye Kai asked.

"Along with his success, the power of the 'Hall of the Divine Sabre' grew as well. It soon overshadowed the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses' and its influence was practically unparalled in the entire martial-realm." Third Madame Shen said.

"He must have made a lot of enemies throughout his life." Ye Kai said.

The hands of an unrivaled hero in the martial-realm were always seeped in blood.

Third Madame Shen gritted her teeth and said, "He always knew that there were many people who hated him, but he had no idea that the person who hated him most was also his closest friend."

"Ma KongQun?" Ye Kai asked.

Third Madame Shen nodded her head, "He despised Bai TianYu because he was jealous of him."

"So Elder Master Bai really did die at the hands of Ma KongQun?" Ye Kai said.

"Of course there were others involved as well." Third Madame Shen said.

"GongSun Duan?" Ye Kai guessed.

"GongSun Duan was merely a servant. Just the two of them alone would never dare to challenge the 'Hall of the Divine Sabre'. In addition, Madame Bai and Second Hero Bai were otherworldly masters as well." Third Madame Shen retorted.

A venomous look came over her face as she continued, "On the night that they were ambushed, they were attacked by at least thirty people."

"Thirty?" Ye Kai replied with a bewildered look.

Third Madame Shen nodded her head, "Each one of them were first rate experts as well."

"You know the identity of these people?" Ye Kai asked.

Third Madame Shen let out a long sigh as she replied, "No one does, except probably for those people themselves." She didn't let Ye Kai speak and continued, "That snowy night Ma KongQun invited Brother Bai and his family to enjoy the scenery at the Plum Blossom Monastery just outside the city where he had prepared a feast of food and wine."

Ye Kai listened very attentively, hanging on every minute detail. "Why would there be food and wine at a monastery?" he asked.

"How many monks in this world can really let go of the four desires?" Third Madame Shen asked.

Ye Kai nodded his head and poured her another cup of wine. He understood how she felt. It was hard for someone like her not to look at the world in a much more cynical light.

After Third Madame Shen finished that cup of wine, she continued, "That night Brother Bai was in very good spirits, so he brought his entire family along with him. Who would've known ... who would've known that what Ma KongQun had invited them to admire was not the beautiful white snow, but a horrid snow of red!"

Her hands started to shake as her eyes shot red. The look on Ye Kai's face was very heavy as well.

"Ma KongQun must've arranged for those thirty some odd people to lay in wait for them at that monastery." Ye Kai said.

Third Madame Shen nodded her head and continued bitterly, "It was on that night that the eleven members of Bai TianYu and Bai TianYong's family were all brutally murdered. Not one person was left alive."

"Always remove the roots when cutting the weeds, never leave even a single sprout. Their methods are extremely vicious." Ye Kai remarked.

Third Madame Shen lightly wiped away at the tears forming on the corner of her eyes as she said, "The saddest part is that Brother Bai and his wife had to endure watching those murderers slaughter their four year-old son in front of their eyes."

She poured herself another cup of wine and drank it down quickly. "Of the thirty or so masked assassins that ambushed them that day, over twenty were killed by Brother Bai and his family."

"The fingers missing on Ma KongQun's left hand must've been lost during that fight as well." Ye Kai said.

"If he hadn't severely injured Brother Bai's right arm by attacking him by surprise with his 'Golden Iron Palms', they might've not even succeeded in their plot." Third Madame Shen hissed hatefully.

"'Golden Iron Palms'?" Ye Kai asked.

"Ma KongQun was quite a talent himself. He was highly skilled in executing 'Mountain Splitting Palms' with his right arm while executing 'Golden Iron Palms' with his left. He had mastered both these martial arts to about ninety percent." Third Madame Shen explained.

"And Elder Hero Bai?" Ye Kai asked.

Third Madame Shen's eyes lit up as she spoke, "Brother Bai's skills were unrivaled under the heavens. Whether it was in martial arts, wisdom, or courage, there wasn't a single person that could compare to him."

You only had to see the look in her eyes to realize how much she respected and admired her Brother Bai.

Ye Kai let out a sigh and exclaimed, "Why is it that all the great heroes throughout the ages come to suffer such wretched and tragic fates?"

Ye Kai finished his cup of wine and continued, "After Hero Bai's entire family was killed, Ma KongQun must've pushed the blame onto those masked assassins."

Third Madame Shen let out a cold laugh and remarked, "The most despicable part is that he actually swore that he would avenge Bai TianYu's death."

"Of those thirty some odd assassins, how many of them are still alive?" Ye Kai asked.

"Seven." Third Madame Shen replied.

"And no one knows of their identities?" Ye Kai said.

"No one." Third Madame Shen responded.

"And of course those seven would never let out their secret. Ma KongQun would've never imagined that this secret would leak out." Ye Kai said.

"Not even in his wildest dreams." Third Madame Shen added.

Ye Kai smiled and remarked, "Even I can't figure out how this secret got out."

"Of the seven assassins who survived, one of them suddenly had a strike of conscience and revealed his secret to Madame BaiFeng." Third Madame Shen said.

"People like them actually have consciences?" Ye Kai said.

"That person had wanted to die under Brother Bai's sabre. But Brother Bai was able recognize that person from his martial arts, and felt that that person's life still had some worth, so he showed mercy." Third Madame Shen said.

"Who was that person?" Ye Kai asked.

"Madame BaiFeng promised to never reveal that person's name." Third Madame Shen said.

"What worth could his life still possibly have?" Ye Kai asked.

"If it were made to be known, then it'd be pretty easy to identify who this person was." Third Madame Shen said.

"Since Hero Bai was able to recognize that person's martial arts, they must've been close friends." Ye Kai surmised.

"And wasn't Ma KongQUn one of Brother Bai's supposed friends as well? I wouldn't be surprised if all of those assassins were friends of his." Third Madame Shen said.

"It would seem that friends are much more dangerous than enemies." Ye Kai said.

"Fortunately, that person did have a change of heart after Brother Bai spared his life. Else, the tragic deaths of the Bai family would've gone on forever unavenged." Third Madame Shen said.

"That person never revealed the identities of the other six?" Ye Kai asked.

"Never." Third Madame Shen replied.

"Why was that?" Ye Kai said.

"Because that person had no clue either. Ma KongQun had always been an extremely cunning and cautious person. Before he selected those people to help assassinate Brother Bai, he observed them all very closely and noted that they all held resentment and jealousy towards Bai TianYu." Third Madame Shen said.

"That must've been the case." Ye Kai said.

"But all of them only spoke directly to Ma KongQun. They all had no idea who the other assassins were." Third Madame Shen said.

"All first rate masters in the martial-realm have their distinctive weaponry and martial styles. That person must've been able to identify the other killers based on that." Ye Kai said.

"On the night of the assassination, all of the killers were clothed in black from head to toe and purposely brought different weapons to mask their identities. That person was too caught up in emotions , having to face Bai TianYu, there was no way that that person could've paid attention to the other assassins." Third Madame Shen said.

Ye Kai lowered his head and fell into thought. After a while, he asked, "And who is this Madame BaiFeng?"

Third Madame Shen let out a sigh, "She ... she is an incredible woman, but also a very pitiful woman. Although she is extremely smart and beautiful, the fate that the heavens delivered her is sadder than anyone's."

"Why is that?" Ye Kai asked.

"Not only was the man she loved a husband to another, but their two families were bitter enemies." Third Madame Shen explained.

"Bitter enemies?" Ye Kai asked.

"She was originally the princess of the 'Demon Cult'." Third Madame Shen said.

"The 'Demon Cult'?" Ye Kai exclaimed.

"In the past three hundred years, not a single person regardless of clan or sect wouldn't ache at the sound of those two words. But the members of the 'Demon Cult' are people as well, they are flesh and blood. In fact, if you never bothered them, they would never seek to cause you any harm." Third Madame Shen explained.

"I always figured that the 'Demon Cult' was some ridiculous myth. Who would've known that such a thing really exists." Ye Kai said.

"In the past twenty years, no one from the 'Demon Cult' has ever shown their face." Third Madame Shen said.

"Why is that?" Ye Kai asked.

"Because the Lord of the 'Demon Cult' made a wager with Bai TianYu on Tianshan that the first to lose a single move would never again set foot inside the borders." Third Madame Shen said.

"Hero Bai really was a hero among men, incredible beyond imagination." Ye Kai praised.

"It's a pity you were born twenty years too late, you were never able to witness his greatness." Third Madame Shen said.

"But I can still imagine the heroism and bravery that he displayed." Ye Kai said.

Third Madame Shen stared at him intently as a soft tenderness came over her eyes. She looked like she wanted to say something but was holding back.

Third Madame Shen downed another cup of wine and continued, "Because of that one battle on Tianshan, every single person in the 'Demon Cult' regarded Bai TianYu as an enemy they couldn't exist with under the same sky."

"It would seem that the people of the 'Demon Cult' are a bit narrow-minded." Ye Kai said.

"Madame BaiFeng was the only daughter of the Lord of the 'Demon Cult'." Third Madame Shen said.

"And the man she fell in love with was Hero Bai?" Ye Kai asked.

Third Madame Shen nodded her head. "For Brother Bai, she didn't even hesitate to leave the 'Demon Cult'."

"Did she know that Hero Bai was already married?" Ye Kai asked.

"She knew, Hero Bai never lied to her. It was because of that, that she fell in love with him." Third Madame Shen said.

Ye Kai let out a sigh and said, "To have someone truly fall in love with you, you must always be truthful."

Third Madame Shen's eyes suddenly became tender and soft again, as she said softly, "Even though she knew that Brother Bai couldn't meet with her, she was willing to wait whole-heartedly. Even if she had to wait a year just to see him for a single instant, she felt that it was worth it."

Ye Kai's eyes seemingly gazed into the distance. After a long while, he finally asked, "Hero Bai's wife must not have known about the feelings they shared."

"Even in death, she had no idea. Because even though Brother Bai was an unequaled hero, he was always some what afraid of his wife." Third Madame Shen said.

Ye Kai let out a sigh and said, "I understand."

Of course he understood. The most tragic thing that could happen to a woman was to fall in love with someone who she shouldn't fall in love with.

Third Madame Shen suddenly added, "The saddest part was that she was with Brother Bai's child at the time."

A look of hesitation came over Ye Kai's face, he finally couldn't help but ask, "The child you are talking about ..."

"That child is Fu HongXue." Third Madame Shen replied.

"So he really has come for revenge on the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses'!" Ye Kai exclaimed.

Third Madame Shen nodded her head. "Mother and son have suffered innumerable hardships for just this one day."

"Why hadn't Madame BaiFeng ever asked her father for help?" Ye Kai asked.

"She is a very proud woman, she never liked having others pity her. Plus, the people of the 'Demon Cult' hate Brother Bai with a vengeance. Why would they help her avenge his death?" Third Madame Shen answered.

"Since she was the princess of the 'Demon Cult', she of course wouldn't have had many other friends." Ye Kai said.

"So the only thing that she could do was to raise her son in hopes that he would one day avenge Brother Bai's horrible death." Third Madame Shen said.

"He really can be considered one of the top fighers in the martial-realm of this day and age, I would dare to say that only a few people in this world could match up to him. But who knows just how much he had to suffer throughout the years during his training?" Ye Kai said.

"No matter what you pursue in this world, in order to succeed, you must be willing to endure hardship." Ye Kai added.

Third Madame Shen glanced at him and suddenly asked, "And you?"

Ye Kai smiled and replied, "Me ...?"

There was a hint of grief in his smile, before finally saying, "I had it much better than him, because no one ever watched over me."

"Can that really be considered a good thing?" Third Madame Shen said.

Ye Kai let out a laugh. But all he did was laugh, he didn't utter a single word.

Third Madame Shen let out a sigh, then said gently, "I really believe that you want someone to watch over and take care of you. Not having anyone to care for you leads to nothing but sadness and loneliness. Trust me, I know it well."

Ye Kai suddenly changed the subject, "I think I finally understand everything about the situation now."

"I went over everything in great detail." Third Madame Shen said.

"But you forgot about one thing." Ye Kai said.

"What's that?" Third Madame Shen asked.

"Yourself." Ye Kai replied.

He stared at her and asked, "Just who exactly are you and how are you related to this whole incident?"

Third Madame Shen fell silent for a while, then calmly replied, "Ma KongQun thinks that I'm Madame BaiFeng's sister, but in fact he is wrong."

"Oh?" Ye Kai said.

Third Madame Shen smiled bitterly and explained, "I was once part of the 'Demon Cult', but I was just a servant girl at Madame BaiFeng's side."

"Fu HongXue recognizes you?" Ye Kai asked.

"No. When he was still very young, I had left Madame BaiFeng's side." Third Madame Shen responded.

"Why?" Ye Kai asked.

"Because I wanted to find an opportunity to sneak into the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses' to dig up information." Third Madame Shen said.

"About the identities of those six people?" Ye Kai asked.

"Yes, that was the most important part." Third Madame Shen said.

"But you weren't able to find anything out?" Ye Kai said.

"No." Third Madame Shen said. A look of deep pain came over her eyes as she continued, "That's why these past few years have all been for nothing."

Ye Kai looked at her and asked, "You were just one of Madame BaiFeng's maids, yet you were willing to give up the ten best years of your life to try and settle this blood feud?"

"She had always been very good to me. She treated me as if we were really sisters." Third Madame Shen said.

"There was no other reason?" Ye Kai said.

She lowered her head and fell silent for quite a while. Finally, she answered, "Brother Bai had always been the person that I admired most."

She suddenly lifted her head and stared at Ye Kai, "You won't be satisfied until you find out every last detail, will you?"

"I've always been the kind who likes to dig to the very bottom." Ye Kai said.

A strange look came over Third Madame Shen's eyes as she said, "That's why you also enjoy eavesdropping on other people's conversations from the rooftops."

"It seems like you need to know about every last detail as well." Ye Kai replied.

Third Madame Shen bit down on her lips and said, "But the woman in the room that night was not me."

A strange look came over Ye Kai's face as well. After a while, he finally asked, "If it wasn't you then who was it?"

"Cui Nong." Third Madame Shen replied.

Ye Kai's eyes suddenly lit up. Only now did he realize why Fu HongXue had that angry look on his face when he tried to pull at Cui Nong earlier.

Third Madame Shen slowly poured another cup of wine for him, then said, "That means the woman who you spent the night with the other night wasn't Cui Nong either."

"If it wasn't Cui Nong then who was it?" Ye Kai asked.

Third Madame Shen's eyes suddenly shined like the moon as she slowly murmured, "You can imagine that it was whoever you want, just as long as it's not Cui Nong ..."

"I understand." Ye Kai said with a sigh.

"Thank you." Third Madame Shen replied.

"But I still don't understand, why did you do this for?" Ye Kai asked.

Third Madame Shen lowered her head, as if not wanting Ye Kai to see the expression on her face. After a long while, she finally replied, "For the sake of revenge, I've done many things that I was unwilling to do!"

"Perhaps everyone has done things in their lives that they normally wouldn't be willing to do." Ye Kai said.

"But that time I just couldn't bring myself to do it anymore." Third Madame Shen said.

Sympathy swept over Ye Kai's eyes as he said, "Of course it wasn't for yourself."

"I was afraid that I'd hurt him. He really shouldn't have anything to do with a woman like me. But ... it really was for my own sake."

"Oh?" Ye Kai said.

Third Madame Shen bit down on her lips and said, "I've already done all that I can. But from now on I no longer want anything to do with any man who I'm not in love with."

- END CHAPTER 19 -