Bordertown Wanderer - Chapter 1
Chapter 1 - One Who Doesn't Carry A Blade
His companion blade wasn't by his side.
As soon as he had entered, he saw the -red snow-!
As soon as he had entered, he saw Fu HongXue!
Many different kinds of people frequented this place, people of every class and every type. But for someone like him, he really shouldn't have come. Because he wasn't welcome here.
It was a very strange place indeed.
It was late into the wretched Autumn months, but the warmth and fervor of this place made it seem like Spring was in the air.
It was deep into the gloomy night, but inside it was still as bright as the sun in the afternoon sky.
This wasn't a liquor store, but there was plenty of wine.
This place wasn't a casino, but there was plenty of gambling.
This place wasn't a brothel, but there were women willing to satisfy your every wish.
This place had no name, but it was the most popular place in the vicinity of several hundred miles. In the main hall there were eighteen tables laid out. You could sit at any one of those tables and enjoy the best dishes they had to offer - but if you wanted to enjoy something more, you'd have to open one of the doors.
There were eighteen doors surrounding the main hall.
No matter which door you chose, you wouldn't regret it, and you wouldn't be disappointed.
In the back of the main hall there was also a very lofty set of stairs.
But nobody knew what was upstairs, nobody had ever been up there.
Because there was no need for you to go up there.
Everything you could ever want was right downstairs.
At the foot of the stairs was a smaller table. And at that table sat a lavishly but neatly dressed middle-aged man.
He appeared to be sitting all alone at that table entertaining himself with a set of dominoes.
Rarely did anyone ever see him do anything else. And rarely did anyone ever see him stand up. The chair that he sat on was comfortable and spacious.
Two walking sticks made of red lumber laid next to his chair.
He paid very little attention as everyone came and went. He rarely even bothered to lift his head to take a glance.
Everything that everyone did seemed to be of no interest to him at all.
Yet, it turns out that he was really the proprietor of this place.
A strange and mysterious place will often have a strange and mysterious owner.
Fu HongXue had his sabre in hand.
An extremely peculiar looking sabre. Its scabbard was black and its handle was black.
He was eating a meal. He had a mouthful of rice and then a mouthful of vegetables. He was eating very slowly.
Because he only had one hand to spare.
His left hand was glued to his sabre. No matter what he did, that hand never left its hilt.
His black sabre, his black robes, his black pupils, were black enough to radiate light.
So although he sat rather far from the entrance, Fu HongXue was still the first person he saw when he walked through those doors. He also saw the sabre in Fu HongXue's hands.
But -opening leaves- couldn't carry blades.
Ye Kai was one who never carried a blade.
Late autumn, late night.
This was the only building that still had lamps hanging from its doors.
The door was very narrrow. The dim lights illuminated the parched dirt outside as the autumn winds kicked up dust into the skies. A chrysantheum fluttered in the wind as it drifted far and near, it could no longer remember from where it came and it had no idea to where the winds would blow.
Wasn't life so very like that chrysantheum flower? Who could claim they knew what fate had planned for us?
So why even worry about the future?
If the chrysantheum knew its fate, it would hold no hate. For it already had its time to be admired, it already had its time to shine.
And that was more than enough.
On one end of the street was an unending barren wasteland. On the other end of that street was more of the same.
The single lamp that hung from that building was like a diamond in the rough.
The skies accompanied the yellow sand, yellow sand accompanied the skies. Man stood at the ends of the earth.
Ye Kai had seemingly come from the ends of the earth.
He followed the path of the street as he made his way through the darkness towards that solitary light. He sat down right in the middle of the street and lifted up his feet.
The boots on his feet were made of leather, the kind that the noamdic herders of the desert wore. Those boots were exactly like the herders that wore them, light enough to be blown away by the wind, yet durable enough to withstand toil and labor.
But by now, the bottom of his boots had been worn into large holes, and the soles of his feet were battered and bloodied. He looked at his wounds and shook his head in disgust, as if he was disappointed not with the pair of boots but with his own two feet.
"How come these feet of mine get scraped just like everyone else's?"
He scooped up a handful of sand and poured it into the holes in his boots.
"Since you're so useless, I'm going to make you endure some more pain and suffering."
He stood straight up so that the sand could grind into the wounds on the soles of his feet.
And after that he smiled.
His smile was like a penetrating ray of sunshine in that dusty sand filled sky.
The lamp swung back and forth in the wind.
A gust blew through and swept up a withered chrysantheum into the air. He reached out and grabbed it.
The flower was almost completely bare, only a few of the petals remained perched on its lonely stem.
He brushed off his garments, which should've long been sent to the trash, and carefully planted the chrysantheum into one of the holes on his shirt.
He was acting like a well-dressed nobleman who was putting the finishing touches on an exquisite robe by adorning it with a beautiful red flower.
When he was done, he looked like he was very satisfied with himself.
He let out another smile.
The doors were closed.
He lifted his head and chest, walked over and pushed open the doors.
And that was when he saw Fu HongXue.
Fu HongXue and his sabre!
The sabre was in his hand. A pale white hand. An ebony black sabre!
Ye Kai glanced from his sabre to his hand, and then from his hand to his face.
A pale white face. Ebony black eyes.
A smile escaped from Ye Kai's eyes, as if he was very satisified in whta he saw. He took several big strides and sat down directly across from Fu HongXue.
Fu HongXue's chopsticks hadn't stopped. A mouthful of vegetables, a mouthful of rice. He was still eating very slowly, and he didn't bother to look at Ye Kai.
Ye Kai looked at him and suddenly said with a smile, "You never drink wine?"
Fu HongXue didn't lift his head, and he didn't stop what he was doing.
After he had finished the last grain of rice, he slowly put down his chopsticks and glanced up at Ye Kai.
Ye Kai's smile was as bright as the sun.
Not even the single trace of a smile could be found on the pale white face of Fu HongXue. After a long while, he replied, "I don't drink wine."
"Since you don't drink, how about you treat me to two cups of wine?" Ye Kai said.
"You want me to treat you to wine? Why is that?" Fu HongXue said.
He spoke very slowly, as if he had carefully thought about each and every word before they came out. Because he was willing to carry the burden of every word he said.
So he never liked to utter a single wrong word.
"Why? Because I think that you're very pleasing to the eyes." Ye Kai let out a sigh and added, "Besides you, I don't find anyone here pleasing at all."
Fu HongXue lowered his eyes and stared at his hands.
It was a habit of his when he didn't want to open his mouth.
"Are you willing to treat me?" Ye Kai said.
Fu HongXue kept on staring at his hands.
"This is your one and only chance. It'll be a pity if you let this chance pass." Ye Kai said.
Fu HongXue finally lifted his head and slowly said, "It wouldn't be a pity."
Ye Kai let out a hearty laugh and remarked, "You're really someone that has his charms. Honestly speaking, even if anyone else knelt down and begged, I still wouldn't sip a single drop of their wine."
He talked loudly as if everyone else was deaf, it'd be difficult for anyone there not to hear him. And it'd be impossible not to get upset once you heard those words.
Several people had already risen to their feet. The quickest one was a young swordsman clothed in purple.
He had a slender waist and broad shoulders. His sword was gilded with brilliant lustrous jewels, its sheathe was purplish red and matched his outfit perfectly.
He had a cup of wine in his hands, a cup filled to the brim. With a swift turn he was already standing in front of Ye Kai, but not even a single drop had spilled.
It would appear that this person was not only meticulous in choosing his attire but also in training his martial arts as well. It was a pity that Ye Kai didn't see him, Fu HongXue didn't see him either.
The youngster in purple put on a proud and confident smile because he knew that all eyes were on him.
He lightly tapped Ye Kai on the shoulder and asked, "May I treat you to a cup of wine?"
"No." Ye Kai responded.
The youngster in purple started laughing loudly, everyone in the hall started laughing as well.
Ye Kai was also laughing as he smiled and said, "Even if you were to get down on your knees, I still wouldn't drink your wine."
"Do you have any idea who I am?" the youngster in purple said.
"I'm not too sure. In fact, I'm not even sure that you're a man at all." Ye Kai said.
The youngster's smile froze over, his fingers gripped the handle of his sword.
*QIANG*, the sword was unsheathed.
But the only thing that was in his hand was the handle.
The blade remained in his sheathe.
As he was pulling out his sword, Ye Kai shot his hand out and flicked the steel blade, severing it an inch away from the hilt. So when the youngster brandished his sword, all that came out was the handle, as the blade slid back down into its sheathe.
When the youngster in purple saw what was in his hands, his face fell into disbelief.
No one inside the hall dared to laugh, laughter just wouldn't come out. In fact, everyone even held their breaths.
Only one sound remained.
The sound of dominoes being shuffled.
It seemed as if he was the only person who hadn't seen what had just happened.
Although Fu HongXue saw what had just happened, his face was still void of expression.
Ye Kai looked at him and smiled, "You see? I wasn't lying to you."
"So will you treat me or not?" Ye Kai said.
Fu HongXue slowly shook his head and replied, "I won't."
He stood up and turned around as if he no longer wanted to discuss the matter.
But he actually glanced back at the youngster in purple and said, "You should use the rest of your money to purchase a better sword. Actually, you'd be better off not carrying a sword at all. Having a sword as an ornament is a very dangerous thing."
He spoke very slowly but sincerely, they were really precious words.
But in the ears of the youngster in purple, those words were insufferable.
He looked over at Fu HongXue, such a pale white face.
Fu HongXue started to head towards the exit. He walked even slower than he spoke, and his gait was even more peculiar.
He would take a single step with his left foot and then followed by dragging his right foot from behind.
"So he's a cripple."
Ye Kai was rather surprised and also felt kind of sorry for him.
But besides that, he had no other conceptions.
The youngster in purple clenched his two fists in anger. He was infuriated and also disappointed - he was hoping that Ye Kai would have stopped Fu HongXue.
Although Ye Kai's skills were formidable, this cripple looked the least bit intimidating.
The youngster in purple gave the signal and two people who had been sitting with him slowly stood up and looked like they were about to give chase.
At that moment, a strange voice filled the large hall, "You're not willing to let anyone treat you, but are you willing to treat someone else?"
The voice was soft and gentle, but everyone heard it very clearly.
The person sounded like they were speaking right into your ear but was nowhere to be seen.
Finally everyone saw the magnificently and neatly dressed middle-aged man had turned his head and was looking at straight at Ye Kai's grin.
"Others treating me to a drink is one thing, but me treating others to a drink is something else." Ye Kai said with a smile.
"Right, they are two totally different things." the middle-aged man said.
"So if it was on me, I'd be willing to treat every single person in this entire room." Ye Kai said.
He talked as if he owned the place.
The youngster in purple gritted his teeth and looked away towards the door.
"But if it were to be my treat, then everyone must drink, and everyone must drink until they're drunk!" Ye Kai said leisurely.
The youngster suddenly turned to him and said, "You do know that treating people to wine requires silver, right?"
"Silver? Do I look like someone who would be carrying silver?" Ye Kai said.
The youngster laughed and said, "You really don't."
"But you don't have to use silver to buy wine. You can use beans too, right?" Ye Kai said.
The youngster had a startled look as he said, "Beans? What kind of beans?"
"These kind of beans." Ye Kai said.
A brown sack suddenly appeared in his hands. With a gentle shake, beans suddenly spilled out. It all looked like some sort of magic act.
But the beans that had spilled out were made of gold.
The youngster stared at the gold beans that covered the floor. After he got over the shock, he forced a smile and said, "There's only one thing that I don't understand."
The youngster in purple continued, "You don't want anyone to treat you, but you're willing to treat everyone here. What's the big difference?"
In the flash of an eye Ye Kai appeared before his face and asked, "If a dog came over and offered you his s*hit, would you eat it?"
The youngster's face changed colors as he replied, "Of course I wouldn't."
"I wouldn't either. But I rather enjoy feeding dogs." Ye Kai said.
When Fu HongXue was walking out, there suddenly appeared two more lanterns at the door.
Two men in white with lanterns in their hands standing in the middle of the road.
As Fu HongXue walked out of the door and down the stone steps, he noticed that there was a thrid person behind the two men holding lanterns.
Their lanterns wavered in the wind as the three stood as still as statues, not moving a single inch.
The lantern light shined on their bodies, hair, and clothing. Yellow sand was collected all over them and coupled with the dark night, they gave off an unearthly aura.
But Fu HongXue didn't bother to pay any attention to them.
When he walked, his eyes were always looking into the distance.
Was it because there was someone eternally dear to him waiting somewhere far away?
But why were his eyes so aloof and indifferent? If any emotions did escape from them, it certainly wouldn't be tenderness. It would more likely be pain, hatred, and sorrow.
As he made his way towards the street, the statuesque person standing behind the two men holding lanterns suddenly spoke out, "Sir, please wait."
Fu HongXue stopped in place. Whenever someone asked him to stop, he would stop. It didn't matter who it was, and he never asked the reason why.
That person appeared to be very courteous. But as he bowed, his eyes were staring at the sabre. His muscles tensed up as alertness flooded his entire body.
Fu HongXue didn't move. The sabre in his hands didn't move either. Even his eyes were still glaring into the distance.
A vast expanse of darkness in the distance.
After a while, the man in white's expression started to loosen up. He smiled and said, "Please forgive me for asking, but did you just arrive here today?"
"Yes." Fu HongXue said.
His response was only one word but it came out after a long while of thought.
"From where did you come?" the man in white asked.
Fu HongXue lowered his eyes and looked at the sabre in his hands.
After a long while, the man in white forced a smile and asked, "Will you be leaving anytime soon?"
"Perhaps." Fu HongXue said.
"And perhaps you won't be?" the man in white said.
"Perhaps." Fu HongXue replied.
"If you're not planning on leaving anytime soon, our Third Boss would like to invite you to meet with him tomorrow night." the main in white said.
"Third Boss?" Fu HongXue said.
"I'm of course referring to the Third Boss of the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses'." the man in white said with a grin.
This time his grin was for real.
There was someone who actually had no idea who the Third Boss was, it was really something worth laughing about.
But to Fu HongXue, there was probably nothing in the entire world that was worth laughing about.
The man in white suddenly couldn't laugh anymore. He feigned a cough and said, "The Third Boss had instructed that I must succeed in requesting your presence, otherwise ..."
"Otherwise what?" Fu HongXue said.
"Otherwise I'll have no way of facing up to him. I'd have to stay standing here and never leave." the man in white said.
"Stay standing here?" Fu HongXue said.
"Yes. Until you are willing to accept my invitation ..." the man in white said.
Just as the man in white was about to continue, Fu HongXue had already turned around and started to walk away.
His left leg took a step and then his right leg dragged along from behind. His right leg appeared to be completely stiff.
The man in white's face changed colors, his entire body started to tense up again. But as Fu HongXue's image disappeared into the darkness, he still stood in place, not moving a bit.
A gust of sandy wind blew through, but he didn't even blink.
One of the men holding a lantern couldn't help but ask, "Are we just going to let him go like that?"
The man in white shut his mouth tight and didn't say a word. A tiny drop of blood leaked out from the corner of his mouth, but in the blink of an eye it was carried off by the wind.
Fu HongXue never turned around.
As soon as he started walking, he would never turn back.
The winds kicked up. A line of wooden shacks in the dark alley wobbled back and forth like they were about to be blown away. He walked up to the last shack and stood outside the door.
There were no sounds coming from within. There were no lights either, it seemed even darker than the outside.
Fu HongXue didn't say a word as he made his way in. He turned to close and lock the door behind him.
He seemed to be very accustomed to the darkness.
A hand suddenly reached out from the darkness and grabbed onto his hand. It was a warm, smooth, gentle hand.
Fu HongXue just stood there, letting that hand caress his hand - it was the hand that wasn't holding a sabre.
Then, a voice suddenly rose from the darkness, "I've been waiting for a very long time." It was a tender, sweet, young voice.
It was a girl's voice.
Fu HongXue slowly nodded his head and said, "You have waited for a very long time."
"When did you arrive?" the girl asked.
"Today, at dusk." Fu HongXue replied.
"You didn't come straight here?" the girl asked.
"I didn't." Fu HongXue responded.
"Why didn't you come straight here?" the girl said.
"I've come here now." Fu HongXue said.
"You're right. You're here now. As long as you're here, any wait was worth it." the girl said softly.
How long had she been waiting for?
Who was she? Why was she waiting here?
No one knew. Besides the two of them, not a single person in the entire world knew.
"Has everything been prepared?" Fu HongXue said.
"Everything has been prepared. If you need anything at all, you simply have to ask." the girl said.
Fu HongXue didn't say a word.
The girl's voice became even more affable, "I know what it is that you want, I know ..."
Her hand searched around in the darkness and made its way to the buttons on his shirt.
Her soft and skillful hands ...
Suddenly, Fu HongXue was completely bare.
There was no wind in the shack but his skin shook and shivered.
The girl's voice was like a dream, as she gently said, "You've always been just a child, but now I want you to become a man. Because there are some things that only a man can do."
Her lips were warm and wet as they pressed against his chest.
Her hands continued to searched about ...
Fu HongXue fell over onto the bed, but still that sabre never left his hand.
That sabre was like a part of his body, a part of his life.
They could never be separated!
The morning sun shined through a small window. He was in slumber, his sabre was in his hand.
There were only two rooms, the one in the back was a kitchen.
A delightful aroma drifted in from that room.
A pale old woman with white hair carefully shoveled two fried eggs from the pan onto a dish.
Her posture was crooked and her skin was shriveled.
Her hands were coarse and ugly from innumerable hardships and labor.
The outside room was furnished very comfortably. Everything looked neat and tidy. The mattress on the bed was hard and stiff.
Fu HongXue appeared to be sleeping.
But as soon as that old lady stepped out from the kitchen, his eyes immediately opened.
They were the only two people in those two rooms.
Where was that tender and passionate young girl? Had she disappeared into the darkness?
Or was she just a wandering spirit of the night?
When Fu HongXue saw that old lady, there was no expression on his face. He didn't say a word and he didn't ask a single question.
Why didn't he ask anything?
Had he already concluded that the happenings of the previous night were just a dream?
The eggs were pan-fried. There was also fresh bean curd, lettuce, bamboo shoots, and salt-boiled peanuts.
The old lady placed the dishes onto the table and said with a smile, "Breakfast is five silver fens, board is four qian and seven fen. For a month, that adds up to ten taels of silver. That's very cheap for a place like this."
There were way too many wrinkles on her face. You couldn't really tell the difference from when she was smiling and when she was not.
Fu HongXue took out a spindle of silver and placed it on the table. "I'll be staying for three months. Here's fifty taels of silver."
"That's twenty taels too much ..." the old lady remarked.
"I'll need a coffin after I die." Fu HongXue said.
The old lady laughed and said, "And what if you don't?"
"Then you can save it for your own coffin." Fu HongXue said.
Out of that narrow alleyway was a long street.
The winds had subsided.
The sun shined down onto the street, yellow sand sparkled and glistened.
There were already people on the street. The first person that caught his eye was the man in white.
He was standing in the same place that he was at last night. His posture hadn't even changed.
His snow white clothes were buried in sand, even his hair was yellow. But his face was still completely pale.
He was trying to persevere.
There were curious eyes staring at him from everywhere. Their gazes were even harder to endure than the scorching sun.
Perseverance was a pain, but sometimes it could also be a skill.
Those who have mastered this skill are usually able to get what they want.
Fu HongXue walked towards him but his eyes were still looking into the distance.
Dust and dirt suddenly filled the sky.
The loud rumbling of hooves. Seven horses raced through the street in a line.
The riders were extremely skilled. As soon as they arrived in front of the man in white, they reached backwards for their blades, stood straight up on their horses' saddles and saluted him all in one motion.
This was one of their most important customs.
From their greetings, one could tell that the rank and position of the man in white was not low.
There was no reason that he had to endure such ridicule, yet he calmly stood there and took it.
Anyone who was willing to inconvenience himself like this must have a purpose.
What was his purpose?
Flashes from their blades shined onto his face. In a flash the seven horses had already sprinted to the end of the street.
Suddenly, the last horse let out a long neigh as the rider pulled on its reins. The horse came galloping back.
The rider was standing on the saddle, in his hands he lifted up a black steel pike wrapped in white.
As the horse dashed over, the pike flew out of his hands and into the ground next to the man in white.
The white sashes that wrapped the head of the spear unraveled in the wind and what unfolded was actually a three-sided flag.
On the flag read the following words in blazing red: 'GuanDong Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses'.
The great flag stretched out in the wind and conveniently shaded the man in white from the sun.
By then the rider had already caught up with the other six horses as they kicked up a trail of dust.
Man and horse abruptly came and went. All they left was a street full of sand and a large flag.
The brilliant sun shined down onto that grand flag.
The several dozen pairs of eyes on the streets were all frozen stiff, they were all too speechless to even cheer.
A person suddenly let out a long laugh and exclaimed, "'GuanDong Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses'! A splendid 'GuanDong Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses' indeed!"