-->

Bordertown Wanderer - Chapter 27

Chapter 27 - The Sabre Emerges From Its Sheathe

Autumn. Deep in a sea of mountains, the colors of autumn painted a forest of maple trees red.

Thirty-four steeds, twenty-six people. The riders on horseback were cheering, cheering that they had reached that forest. Their horses were swift, the riders looked fierce.

Their faces looked tired and weary and some even appeared to be carrying injuries. But they didn't seem to care, because the bounty from this hunt was extremely plentiful.

What they hunted for was the blood and sweat of other people. Their catch was on the backs of several horses, forty heavy chests filled with silver.

Others scorned them for beind bandits and thieves but they paid no mind. Because they believed themselves to be righteous -- righteous men of the outlaw-realm.

When outlaws drank wine, they used large bowls as their cups. When they ate, each slice of meat was cut as thick as possible.

Big bowls of wine, big slabs of meat, and chest after chest of silver were all placed onto the table, waiting to be divided up by their boss.

Their boss was a man with only one eye, that's why he was given the nickname 'One-Eyed Dragon'. He wore a black piece of cloth because he felt that it made him appear much more dignified. In reality, he really was a dignified man. Although he was quite ruthless, he was always fair and impartial. Only a fair and impartial person could lead a band of outlaws.

Plus, he had two aides who would throw their lives for him at a moment's beckon. One was brave and strong, the other one tactful and crafty. The brave one was called the 'Tiger Slayer', the tactful one was called the 'White-Faced Wanderer'.

All outlaws had to have resounding monikers. They were used so prevalently that most of them forgot their original names.

Tiger Slayer was never much smarter than a tiger to begin with. In fact, after a bottle of wine he was probably dimmer than a tiger, but certainly twice as fierce. He was most formidable with his fists. It is said that he could take down a live tiger with one punch. This was something that no one had ever witnessed before, but it was something that no one would dare to doubt. Because the number of people that he had struck dead with one fist were not few. On this expedition, the Second Head Escort of the Zhenyuan Escort Agency, who was had the nickname 'Iron Diamond' was struck dead by a single fist of his. That's why his cut of the silver was the greatest this time, as was his share of the compliments.

"When that 'Iron Diamond' came up against the fists of our Second Master, it was like crumpling paper."

Tiger Slayer smiled, he felt overjoyed.

Suddenly, he noticed that the laughter and compliments had stopped. Every pair of eyes was looking at the grand doors. As he glanced towards the door, his laughter stopped as well. He simply couldn't believe his eyes.

A person slowly walked through the main doors into the hall. A person who should never have appeared here.

A woman, so beautiful that she could make men forget to breathe.

The 'Den of Dragons and Tigers', hidden deep behind a maple forest and surrounded on all sides by mountains, was like a wild beast with its jaws wide open, waiting for humans to prey upon. And the bandits that inhabited this place were like a pack of wild beasts as well.

Who would want to be devoured by a pack of wild beasts? That's why strangers seldom wandered into this bandit stronghold. Even birds rarely flew over it.

But there she stood, this mysterious woman who had wandered straight into a den of wild beasts. She was wearing an exquisite green dress made of the finest materials. Her long black hair glistened with pearls, which in contrast made her hair appear even more black and her skin even more white. She wore the sweetest smile on her face but her expression echoed a dignified maturity. She made her way into the hall, tiny step after tiny step, as if she was skipping on lotus blossoms. She was like a majestic beauty walking into a fabulous banquet that was being held in her honor.

Everyone's eyes were fixed. They weren't men who had never seen women before, but they had definitely never seen this kind of woman.

Although their boss was as clear-headed as the morning sun, he rarely opened his mouth. He gathered himself and shot a look at Tiger Slayer. Tiger Slayer slapped his hand onto the table and blasted, "What kind of person are you?"

The green dressed beauty smiled alluringly and replied softly, "Can't you all tell that I'm a woman?"

From head to toe, she was obviously a woman. Even the blind would be able to tell that she was a woman.

"Why are you here for?" Tiger Slayer asked.

"We want to stay here for the next three months, will that be alright?"

This woman must be insane, she wanted to stay in a den of thieves for three months?

"I would like the best room you have. The blankets in the room should be changed at least twice a day. We are very used to cleanliness, but are not that picky when it comes to food. We will be satisfied as long as there is beef in our three meals a day. But we want the best cuts possible, the beef everywhere else we've been is unbearable. We don't drink very often during the daytime, but would like several jars of wine prepared for us at night. Preferably Persian grape wine and thirty year-old Green Bamboo Leaf wine."

"..."

"When we sleep, we would like three shifts of guards standing watch outside, but they mustn't make a single sound to disturb us. Because we are very light sleepers, and it takes us quite a while to fall asleep again if we are awakened. As for anything else, we don't really mind. We know that you are all ruffians so it's to be expected."

Everyone stared at her in amazement as she rambled on, it was like listening to a lunatic singing to herself. But she spoke very naturally, and her demands were not outrageous by any degree.

When she was finally finished, Tiger Slayer burst out into laughter and said, "What do you think this? An inn? A restaurant?"

"We haven't any money with us." the green dressed beauty said.

"Do you want us to provide you with silver as well?" Tiger Slayer mocked.

"If you hadn't reminded me, I would've forgotten. We want a cut of the silver that is on the table." she added with a smile.

"How much of it?"

"Just half will be enough."

"Are you sure half isn't too little?"

"Like I've said before, we aren't very demanding people."

Tiger Slayer burst out laughing again, as if he had never heard something so hilarious before in his life. Everyone else started to laugh as well. Only One-Eyed Dragon and White-Faced Wanderer retained serious expressions on their face.

White-Faced Wanderer's face looked ever paler as he suddenly asked, "You keep mentioning 'we', just how many people are with you?"

"Only two." the woman replied.

"Who is the other person?"

"My husband of course. Who else would I be staying with if not my husband."

"Then where is he?"

"He is right outside."

The White-Faced Wanderer smiled and asked, "Why didn't he come inside with you?"

"His temper has never been that good, I was afraid that he would hurt some of you."

"Are you sure that it's not the other way around, that you were afraid that we would hurt him?" the White-Faced Wanderer said with smirk.

"Whatever the case, I've come today as a guest, not as someone looking to pick a fight."

"Then you've come to the right place, we aren't people who like to pick fights." the White-Faced Wanderer's expression sunk as he continued, "We only like to kill!"

The maple forest was still visible from the courtyard outside. That person stood in the middle of the courtyard, staring at the mountains in the far-off distance.

The evening sun was a hazy dark blue, the distant mountains were pale gray. Traces of verdant green dotted the vast expanse of gray. On these autumn days, the sunset always carried an inexpressible sense of melancholy.

That person's eyes looked just as desolate and hazy as the mountains in the distance. His arms were wrapped behind his back. He seemed even more distant than those mountains, as if he was no longer part of this world.

The last gleam of sunlight shined insipidly onto his face. The wrinkles on his face were deep and plentiful. It seemed as if each of his wrinkles hid within them countless tragedies and sadness. Perhaps he was getting on in his years, but he still stood tall and straight and his posture emanated a formidable aura of strength.

He wasn't especially tall or well built, but the strength that showed in his poise was one that demanded respect and admiration. It was a pity that these bandits never respected or admired anyone.

Tiger Slayer let out a laugh and exclaimed, "If I can't kill him with a single punch, then I'll call the two of you my ancestors and treat you as such for three years."

"Why don't you go ahead and try?" the green dressed beauty replied.

"You're not afraid of being a widow?" Tiger Slayer snickered back. With a hearty laugh he lumbered towards the old man. He was of big stature and his laugh rang loudly throughout the hall.

But it was as if that old man didn't notice at all, it was as if he didn't hear the laughter either. His expression became even more solemn and tired. This place looked extremely serene ...

"If you're looking for a place to rest, feel free to stay here. But I must warn you that there are no beds, only coffins." Tiger Slayer mocked.

The old man replied without turning an eye, "If you aren't willing to accomodate us, then we will leave."

"Now that you're here, you think that you can come and go as you please?"

A cynical smile leaked from the corner of the old man's mouth as he replied, "Then it's best if I just wait right here."

"What are you waiting for?"

"Your fists."

"Then you have to wait no longer."

Tiger Slayer lunged forward with his outstretched fist. It really was a lethal fist, quick, precise and powerful. Extremely powerful. Before the fist had even arrived, the air displaced by its force was blowing aside the old man's hair.

The old man didn't move, he didn't even blink. He simply watched as that fist closed in, then smiled and launched his own fist. He was shorter, and his fist appeared slower. But when Tiger Slayer's fist was still more than three inches from him, the old man's fist had already smashed into the bridge of Tiger Slayer's nose.

Everyone heard the painful sound of shattering bone. As soon as that crackle was heard, Tiger Slayer's one hundred plus catty body was sent flying into the air. He was thrown over forty feet away into the wall. As he fell to the floor, everyone noticed that his nose had been pushed sideways and his entire face had been disfigured.

The old man still didn't turn to look at him. He pulled out a silk scarf and wiped the blood off his knuckles as he continued to stare at the mountains in the distance. His eyes were the same hazy gray color as the mountains.

The expression on One-Eyed Dragon's face changed. After getting over the initial shock, the rest of the bandits were in an uproar and ready to pounce at the old man. But White-Faced Wanderer held them back as he whispered a couple words into One-Eyed Dragon's ear.

One-Eyed Dragon hesitated for a moment, then nodded his head. He raised his thumb and smiled.

"Excellent! Excellent skills. We couldn't invite such a guest even if we wanted to. How would we even consider refusing your stay."

"I knew that big brother would certainly welcome such esteemed guests." White-Faced Wanderer said with a smile.

One-Eyed Dragon walked over to the old man and cupped his fists, "May I have the honor of knowing this friend's name?"

"You don't have to know who I am, and we are not friends." the old man replied coldly.

One-Eyed Dragon didn't change his expression and simply continued, "How long do you plan on staying here as our guests?"

"You don't have to worry, we already said that we would only stay for three months." the green dressed beauty interjected. "When we leave in three months time, we won't stay any longer even if you begged us to."

But she knew that no one would try to keep them.

"After three months, where would we go then?"

"Whatever the case, that is something we will worry about in three months. Why bother thinking about it now."

________________________________________

He slowly walked forward. His left leg took a step, and his right leg dragged along from behind. His hand was grasping tightly onto his sabre. An ebony black sabre!

His eyes were ebony black as well, dark and unfathomable, the same as the approaching night.

Autumn night, narrow alley.

In this manner, he had walked countless streets and alleys for what seems like countless full and empty moons. How much longer did he have to wander?

He hadn't heard a single thing about the person he was trying to find. And he had asked countless times.

"Have you seen an old man?"

"Everyone has seen an old man, do you know how many old men there are in this world?"

"But this old man is different, one of his hands has four fingers cut off."

"That I have never seen."

All he could do was continue to look.

She lowered her head and slowly followed him from behind. It wasn't that she didn't want to walk alongside him, she just felt that he wasn't willing to let her walk beside him. Although he had never said so himself, he always seemed to treat her with slight contempt.

Perhaps, it wasn't her that he held contempt for, but himself.

She had never lectured him or tried to convince him to stop looking. She simply followed him quietly from behind. Perhaps she already knew in her heart that he would never find this person.

On the wide street outside of the empty alley, lantern lights were bright and pervading.

What could be the reason? If it weren't for the fact that he was trying to gather information, he would've much rather stayed in the dark alleys. The two of them finally walked out.

Her bright eyes immediately lit up, a smile formed across her beautiful lips, her whole body came to life. She wasn't like him. She enjoyed the festivity, she enjoyed luxury, and she enjoyed the compliments. Although she would usually turn down their advances, she only did so to elevate her own status. She had always understood how to make men fall for her. Men would never fall for a woman that they looked down upon.

The restaurant was the busiest at this time of night. If you wanted to scour for information, there wasn't a better place. And this street had the most restaurants on it than anywhere else.

The two of them walked out from the alley and onto this street when they suddenly heard a voice cry out, "Cui Nong!"

Two people strode down from one of the restaurants. Two very exquisitely dressed men, one had a sabre at his side, the other had a sword at his waist.

The sabre-wielder tugged at her arm and asked, "Cui Nong, what are you doing where? When did you arrive here? Like I've told you before, stop bothering with this two-bit town. If someone as beautiful as yourself were to make a living in the big city, I guarantee that within two years you'd be making cart fulls upon cart fulls of gold and jewels."

"Why aren't you saying anything? We're old acquaintances, aren't we? Don't tell me you've forgotten!"

The sabre-wielding fellow had a couple of glasses to drink already and was berating and yelling in public as if he wanted everyone to know that he was acquainted with this beautiful girl.

Cui Nong kept her head lowered and glanced over occasionally at Fu HongXue.

Fu HongXUe didn't turn his head. He had stopped walking and the hand that held his sabre was beginning to tense up with green veins.

The sabre-wielding fellow looked at him, then back at Cui Nong, and finally understood.

"No wonder you won't say a word to me, you've already found a man. But why in the world didn't you look harder, why are you settling for this cripple?"

Before his words were finished, he noticed that the beauitful flutter in Cui Nong's eyes had been replaced with fear and dread. He followed the line of sight of Cui Nong's eyes and he saw another pair of eyes. These eyes weren't very big, nor were they very sharp, but they carried an unbearable coldness to them.

This sabre-wielding fellow was no coward, and he also drank a couple of glasses of wine, but when those pair of eyes looked at him, he couldn't help but feel as if his hands went cold.

"Fu HongXue stared at him coldly and suddenly asked, "You are surnamed Peng?"

"What's it to you?" the sabre-wielder replied sharply.

"You're from the 'Five Tigers Severing Sabre of Shanxi, Peng Family'?"

"You recognize me?" the sabre-wielder asked.

"I don't recognize you at all, but I recognize that sabre!" Fu HongXue replied coldly.

That sabre was excessively ornate and decorative, just like the clothes he wore. The shape of the sabre was strange, its head was rather broad while its body was especially narrow while its hilt was covered in five different colored satins.

The sabre-wielder puffed up his chest, gathered his voice and said, "That's right, I am Peng Lie!"

Fu HongXue slowly nodded his head and said, "I've heard of you."

Peng Lie cracked a smile and replied, "As well you should have."

"I've also heard that the Peng family and Ma KongQun are friends." Fu HongXue said.

"He is definitely a friend of our family." Peng Lie said.

"Have you been to the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses'?"

Of course he had been there before, how else would he know Cui Nong?

"Do you know of Ma KongQun's whereabouts?" Fu HongXue inquired.

"He's not at the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses'?"

Peng Lie was caught somewhat by surprise, that he didn't even know what happened to the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses'.

"You're also acquainted with the Third Boss?" Peng Lie asked.

Fu HongXue slowly started to smile. His eyes moved towards Peng Lie's sabre as he remarked, "Your sabre is really pleasant to look at."

A hint of glee showed on Peng Lie's face. His sabre was definitely much more pleasant to look at than Fu HongXue's.

"A pity though that sabres aren't meant to be admired." Fu HongXue said.

"Then what?"

"You didn't know that sabres are for killing?" Fu HongXue said.

"You don't think that this sabre can kill?" Peng Lie asked.

"At least I haven't ever seen it kill."

The color of Peng Lie's face changed, "Do you want to see it kill then?"

"I actually do." Fu HongXue replied.

The color of his face changed as well. It became pale, almost pale enough to be transparent. Peng Lie looked at his face and subconsciously took half a step back.

"And what about your sabre, you think it can kill?" Peng Lie said loudly. The more afraid he became, the louder his voice got.

At that point, Fu HongXue didn't say another word. He wouldn't talk from his mouth any longer, the next words he said would be spoken by his sabre! Words spoken with the sabre were always more effective than words spoken with the mouth.

The other fellow who had a sword at his waist was very handsome young man. He was tall and had a pair of thin eyebrows. His face wore a constant look of disdain, as if everyone simply wasn't worth his time.

He had kept quiet the entire time but suddenly he spoke up, "Someone said that exact same thing before."

"Said what?" Peng Lie asked.

"Said that his sabre coulnd't kill."

"Who said it?"

"Someone who is now dead."

"Who?"

"GongSun Duan!"

"GongSun Duan is dead?" Peng Lie asked in shock.

"He died under that sabre." the young swordsman replied.

Beads of sweat suddenly formed on Peng Lie's forehead.

"And in addition, the Third Boss has been forced to flee the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses'" the young swordsman added.

"How ... how do you know all this?" Peng Lie asked.

"I've just returned from the Northwest."

Fu HongXue's glance turned towards the young swordsman as he asked, "What business did you have there?"

"I was looking for you." the young swordsman replied.

This time Fu HongXue didn't look very surprised.

"I wanted to meet you." the young swordsman said.

"You went there just to see me?" Fu HongXue asked.

"I didn't want to see you, I wanted to see your blade! I wanted to find out just how fast your blade is!"

Fu HongXue's grip tightened, his face turned even more pale.

"I am surnamed Yuan, my name is Yuan QingFeng. The Yuan family and the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses' are also very good friends."

Fu HongXue nodded his head and said, "I understand."

"You should understand." Yuan QingFeng said.

"Do you still want to witness my blade?" Fu HongXue asked.

"Yes."

Fu HongXue lowered his glance and stared at the hand that held his sabre.

"You still aren't willing to draw your blade?"

"Fine, draw your sword first!"

"Disciples of the Tianshan Sword Clan never draw their swords first!" Yuan QingFeng replied haughtily.

A strange expression came over Fu HongXue's face as he started to mumble, "Tianshan ... Tianshan!"

His eyes wandered off into the distance, they looked full of remembrance and grief.

"Draw your blade!" Yuan QingFeng demanded.

Fu HongXue's hands tensed up even more. His sabre was in his left hand when suddenly, his right hand reached for the handle. Peng Lie subconsciously took another step backwards. Cui Nong's beautiful eyes lit up with anxious intensity. Yuan QingFeng's expression hadn't changed at all, but his hand held tightly onto the hilt of his sword.

"Tianshan ... Tianshan ..."

Suddenly, a blade flashed! There was only a single flash!

As soon as he saw that flash of light that was faster than lightning, the blade already returned to its sheathe.

A gust of wind blew by. Lines of red silk drifted into the sky. The red silk sash that adorned Yuan QingFeng's sword had been cut off.

Fu HongXue's head was still lowered, his eyes stared at the hand that held his sabre as he said, "And now you've seen my blade."

There was still no change in Yuan QingFeng's expression, but cold sweat had started running down his forehead.

"My blade was never meant to be admired, but I have made an exception for you." Fu HongXue said.

Yuan QingFeng didn't say another word. He slowly turned around and walked off behind one of the restaurants. He still hadn't seen Fu HongXue's blade, all he saw was the blade's flash. But that was more than enough. The man had gone, but one or two strands of red silk were still floating around in the wind.

Peng Lie's sabre hand was soaked in sweat.

Fu HongXue's gaze shifted towards him as he asked, "You saw my blade?"

Peng Lie nodded his head.

"Now I want to see your blade." Fu HongXue said.

Peng Lie gritted his teeth. The sound of his grinding teeth was like the sound of a blade being sharpened.

Suddenly, a voice shouted out, "There's nothing interesting about that sabre."

A sedan chair slowly made its way down the street and came to a stop. That voice came from inside the sedan chair. It was a female voice, a beautifully melodic female voice. But its owner was nowhere in sight. The windows of the sedan chair were closed.

"If there's nothing interesting about that sabre, then what's there to look at?" Fu HongXue asked coldly.

The voice from the sedan chair replied, "I am much more interesting to look at than that sabre."

Not only did her voice sound like the ringing of bells, but there really were bells ringing. Crisp clear bell chimes rang as a person stepped out of the sedan chair, like a white lotus in bloom. She had on a moon white gown, her wrists were adorned with golden ringed bells.

Ding LingLin.

Fu HongXue's eyebrows raised as he exclaimed, "It's you?"

Ding LingLin's eyes moved as she replied charmingly, "I'm surprised that you recognize me."

Fu HongXue didn't actually know who she was, he only remembered that she was with Ye Kai.

"There's nothing interesting to see about that sabre because that's not really the 'Five Tigers Severing Sabre'." Ding LingLin said with a smile.

"It's not?"

"If you want to see the real 'Five Tigers Severing Sabre', you should go to the 'Five Degrees Manor' in the border regions."

She suddenly turned to Peng Lie and said, "He doesn't want to see your sabre anymore, you might as well go and drink, Little Ye has been waiting forever."

"Little Ye?"

"Little Ye has invited several guests tonight, we are among his guests." Ding LingLin explained.

She smiled and added, "He doesn't like dead guests, and he certainly doesn't want his guests to die."

"Ye Kai?" Fu HongXue asked.

"Who else?"

"He's here as well?"

"He's in the Heaven's Fortune restaurant. He'll be delighted to see you."

"He won't see me." Fu HongXue said.

"You're not going to go?"

"I'm not his guest."

Ding LingLin let out a sigh, "If you don't want to go, then no one can force you, it's just that..." she squinted her eyes at Fu HongXue and continued, "The guests that he has invited today, they are quite traveled and have very good sources. There probably wouldn't be a better place to gather information."

Fu HongXue didn't say anything else. He turned and walked towards the Heaven's Fortune restaurant. It seemed as if he had forgotten that there was another person waiting for him.

Ding LingLin glanced at Cui Nong and let out a sigh, "He seems to have forgotten you."

Cui Nong let out a smile and replied, "But I haven't forgotten him."

Ding LingLin flashed her eyes and said, "Why didn't he bring you with him?"

"Because he knows that I will follow along by myself."

She really did follow him. Ding LingLin stared at her graceful figure as she elegantly walked away. "It looks like that is a really good way to handle a man." she mumbled to herself.

Her voice was barely a whisper, but Cui Nong had extremely good ears. "You could learn a thing or two from me." she quipped back.

"I don't like using other people's methods." Ding LingLin answered back.

________________________________________

There were many guests at the Heaven's Fortune restaurant. Everyone was dressed very exquisitely and carried themselves very highly. Ding LingLin wasn't bragging, extremely knowledgeable people would undoubtedly have status and wealth. Inviting such people wasn't an easy task at all, inviting this many at once was close to impossible.

It seemed as if Ye Kai had become quite an important person these last two months. He had on a fifty silver tael garment, his feet were adorned with gilded boots, his hair was shiny black and had on a shiny pearl crest. He had always dressed like this, but Fu HongXue almost didn't recognize him. Ye Kai recognized him though, as soon as he stepped into the restaurant, Ye Kai caught sight of him.

The lantern lights were glaring.

Fu HongXue's face looked darker under the light. A lot of people had caught sight of his sabre. They first glanced at his blade, then at his face. But it seemed as if Fu HongXue hadn't seen anyone at all.

Ye Kai walked up to him and had a smile on his face. This smile was the only thing that didn't seem to have changed, it was just as warm and amiable as before. Perhaps it was because of this, that Fu HongXue afforded him a look, a very cold look.

"I really didn't think you would've came." Ye Kai said.

"I really didn't think so either." Fu HongXue replied.

"Please have a seat."

"No thanks. I can talk while standing just as well."

Ye Kai smiled and said, "I know what it is that you want."

"Do you?"

Ye Kai nodded and sighed, "A pity that I haven't heard a single thing about this person though."

Fu HongXue fell silent. After quite a while, he suddenly replied, "Farewell."

"You don't want to have a few cups?"

"No thanks."

"A single cup won't hurt."

"But I would never treat you to wine."

"I've heard this before."

"I would never drink your wine either."

"We aren't friends?"

"I do not have friends."

He suddenly turned around and started to walk out. His left leg took a step forward, and his right leg dragged along from behind. As Ye Kai watched him walk out, his smile slowly turned sour. But before Fu HongXue could reach the door, Ding LingLin and Cui Nong suddenly walked in.

The stairs were very narrow and Cui Nong stood at the bottom as if she was startled. She saw Ye Kai as well as he was staring back at her. Fu HongXue was staring at her as well, as Ding LingLin stared at Ye Kai. The look in all four pairs of eyes were different, no one could describe their expressions.

Cui Nong lowered her head. But Ye Kai kept his eyes on her. Ding LingLin sprinted up the stairs. Fu HongXue made his way down. Cui Nong turned and followed him out without casting Ye Kai another glance. But Ye Kai still kept staring at the empty stairs as if in a daze.

Ding LingLin couldn't help but pat him on the shoulder as she scolded, "Everyone's left."

"Oh?"

"Why don't you leave with them."

"Oh."

"If you want to snatch away a lover at knifepoint, you'd best be careful. That person's knife is quite fast." she said coldly.

Ye Kai laughed. Ding LingLin laughed back, but it was a dry laughter, "That woman is really pleasant on the eyes, I hear that was how she made a living in the past. I'm sure she's swindled quite a lot of your money before."

"You think that I was looking at her?"

"Don't tell me you weren't?"

"I was just thinking ..."

"Thinking with the heart is much worse than thinking with the eyes."

Ye Kai let out a sigh, "You'd never believe what my heart is thinking."

"As long as you tell me, then I will believe you."

"I just really hope that she is sincere about Fu HongXue, that she is really willing to spend her life with him, or else ..."

"Or else what?"

A look of worry came over Ye Kai's eyes as he said hesitantly, "Or else I'd have no choice but to kill her!"

"You'd be willing to?"

"I've always been a cruel and hearltess person." Ye Kai said bluntly.

Ding LingLin bit down on her lips and stared at Ye Kai through the corner of her eyes, "I know what kind of person you are."

"Oh?"

"You're a hypocritical little pervert, so I'll never believe a single word that comes out of your mouth."

Ye Kai smiled. It was a bitter smile.

Just then, a loud voice called out from below, "Ye Kai, Ye Kai ..."

A young man clothed in purple with a straw hat reeled his horse in outside the Heaven's Fortune restaurant. He tied his horse with one hand and was peeling peanuts with his other hand.

A blade without a sheathe, thin and sharp.

Someone else in the restaurant cried out, "Lu XiaoJia!"

Those three words in his name seemed to have a mysterious attraction to them. Everyone who heard that name flocked to the windows to have a look.

Ye Kai walked over and said, "Why don't you come up for a drink?"

Lu XiaoJia looked up and replied, "You can't have any of my peanuts, why are you inviting me for a drink?"

"Those are two different things." Ye Kai said. He picked a cup off the table tossed it over. That cup lightly flew towards Lu XiaoJia, as if there was someone holding it steadily from underneath. Lu XiaoJia let out a laugh and lightly flicked the cup with his finger. The cup shot up into the air and flipped over as its contents casually poured into Lu XiaoJia's mouth.

"Good wine!" he exclaimed.

"Another cup?" Ye Kai offered.

Lu XiaoJia shook his head. "I only wanted to ask whether you've received an invitation or not?"

"I received it yesterday."

"Do you plan on going?"

"You know I've always been fond of festivities."

"Good. We'll meet again on the fifteenth of the ninth month at 'White Cloud Manor'." Lu XiaoJia replied. He tossed a peanut into the air and was just about to catch it in his mouth. Who would've guessed that at that exact moment, Ye Kai flew out into the air and snatched the peanut with his mouth. With a light flip, his body floated back into the restaurant.

He let out a laugh and said, "I've finally gotten to taste your peanuts."

Lu XiaoJia looked startled. With a whip of his hands, his horse started and rode off. In the distance, he let out a laugh as he said, "What a guy. That guy, his mother be damned, what a guy."

________________________________________

The noodles had gone cold, the soup had turned muddy. A few shoots of scallions had floated to the surface. The roughest of vegetables, the roughest of noodles, held in a broken looking bowl.

Cui Nong's head was lowered. In her hands were a pair of chopsticks that had been used by who knows how many people. She picked up a few strands of noodles, then dropped them back down. Although she was hungry, this bowl of noodles simply couldn't stir her appetite. The noodles she usually ate were braised in chicken broth. The bowls she usually ate from were made of fine porcelain. Looking at the bowl of noodles before her, she couldn't help but let out a sigh as she put her chopsticks down.

Fu HongXue's bowl was already clean. He looked at her quietly and asked, "You can't eat it?"

Cui Nong forced a smile and replied, "I ... I'm not hungry."

"I know you're not used to eating this kind of food, you should just head to Heaven's Fortune restaurant."

Cui Nong lightly replied, "You know I wouldn't go, I .."

"Are you afraid that you wouldn't be welcome there?"

Cui Nong shook her head.

"Then why won't you go?"

Cui Nong slowly raised her head and looked at him, "Because you are here, I will stay here with you. There's nowhere else in the world that I will go to."

Fu HongXue kept silent. Cui Nong slowly reached out and held onto his hand -- the hand without a sabre. Her hands were soft and delicate, her gentle touch was tender as well. She knew how to alleviate a man's burdens.

Fu HongXue coldly brushed her off and asked, "You knew that person?"

Cui Nong lowered her head and replied, "Just a ... just a normal customer."

"What's a normal customer?"

"You know that I used to ... in that kind of place, I'm bound to meet a lot of ruffians."

A look of pain started to come over Fu HongXue's face.

"Please forgive me, you should know that I never wanted to bother with that type of person."

Fu HongXue clenched his hands and replied, "All I know is that you were staring at him the entire time."

"When was I staring at him? Whenever I look at him I just want to throw up."

"Oh?"

"I really can't help but want to kill him everytime I see him."

Fu HongXue smiled coldly and replied, "You thought I was talking about the one named Peng?"

"You weren't?"

"I was referring to Ye Kai."

Cui Nong looked startled.

"Do you know him as well? Was he also a normal customer?"

A look of pain came over Cui Nong's face as well as she replied sadly, "Why do you have to say such things? Are you trying to torture me? Or are you torturing yourself?"

Fu HongXue's pale white face suddenly flushed red. He forced himself under control and asked, "All I wanted to know was whether you knew him or not."

"Even if I knew him before, I don't anymore."

"Why?"

"Because the only person I know now is you. You and no one else."

Fu HongXue looked at her hands as a look of frustration came over him. "

"I'm sorry that I can't give you the life that you used to enjoy. If you follow me, all you will have to eat are these kind of noodles."

"There's nothing wrong with these noodles."

"But you can't even stomach them."

"I'll eat." She picked up her chopsticks and started stirring up the noodles in that bowl. As she shoveled the noodles into her mouth, a forced smile came over her face and she looked as if she was eating poison.

Fu HongXue stared at her, and suddenly snatched the chopsticks away. "If you can't bear it, then why eat it? I'm not forcing you to."

His voice started to crack and his hands started to tremble. Cui Nong's eyes turned red as tears started to bubble. She finally couldn't help it and said, "Why are you treating me like this? I ..."

"You what?"

Cui Nong bit her lips and said, "I just think that there's no reason why we have to live like this."

She sighed and continued, "You're out of bank notes, but I still have a lot."

Fu HongXue's chest went up and down as he panted, "Those are yours, it has nothing to do with me."

"I'm already yours, why must you still separate things out like this?"

Fu HongXue's pale face was completely red, his entire body started to quiver.

"Have you ever thought about how dirty your money is? Whenever I think about where your money came from, I want to vomit."

Cui Nong's expression changed as she started to tremble as well. She bit down on her lips and replied, "Maybe not just my money, my body is dirty too, isn't it?"

"You're right."

"You don't have to tell me, I already knew that you looked down on me." she bit her lips so hard they started to bleed, "I hope you think about this as well."

"About what?"

"Think about just why I would do such things? For whose sake? For what reasons?"

She tried her best to control herself, but tears covered her entire face. She suddenly stood up and cried, "Since you're ashamed of me, then why should I bother with you, I ..."

"You're right. You have cart fulls of gold that you could be earning, why are you following me for? You should've left a long time ago."

"You really don't want me anymore?"

"Yes."

"Fine, fine, fine ... just fine."

She covered her face with her hands and stormed out in tears. Fu HongXue didn't stop her, nor did he look at her. She left and slammed the door with a *PENG*. Fu HongXue still sat there motionless. His body had stopped shaking, but the veins in his hands were bulging out, and cold sweat covered his forehead. He suddenly fell over onto the floor and started to convulse, white froth leaked out from the sides of his mouth. He started to roll around the floor, gasping and panting like an animal. Gasping for breath ... like an animal that was on the verge of death.

The door suddenly opened.

Cui Nong slowly prodded back in. The tears on the floor had dried up, they dried up very quickly. Her eyes were filled with brightness again, but her hands were still shaking. But it wasn't because of sadness, it was because she was worried for Fu HongXue. She slowly walked over, step by step ...

She suddenly heard a very strange sound, the sound of chewing! No one knows when this person had leapt in but he was sitting on the windowsill chewing peanuts.

Lu XiaoJia!

Cui Nong's expression changed as she asked sharply, "Why are you here for?"

"I can't come here?"

"You're here to kill him?"

Lu XiaoJia laughed and sneered, "Am I trying to kill him? Or are you?"

Cui Nong's face changed colors, "You're crazy, why would I want to kill him for?"

Lu XiaoJia let out a sigh and replied, "A woman could find many reasons for wanting to kill a man."

Cui Nong walked in front of Fu HongXue and said, "I don't care what you say, I won't let you touch him."

"Even if you begged me to I wouldn't. I was never interested in touching men."

"Just what do you want then?"

"I just wanted to ask the two of you whether you received the invitations or not."

"Invitations? What invitations?"

Lu XiaoJia let out a sigh and said, "It looks like the two of you have been wandering aimlessly for quite a while."

"We don't need to wander."

"If you don't wander, then how will you find who you're looking for?"

He suddenly pulled out his sword and in the blink of an eye carved eight words onto the wall.

'Fifteenth of the Ninth Month, White Cloud Manor'

"What does that mean?" Cui Nong asked.

"What it means that I hope that the two of you make it alive to 'White Cloud Manor' on the fifteenth day of the ninth month. Dead people aren't welcome there." Lu XiaoJia said with a smile.

A gust of wind blew by. A peanut shell fell from the windowsill. Lu XiaoJia had been carried away by the wind.

The wind rustled the leaves and branches outside.

Fu HongXue's frantic panting started to subside.

Cui Nong stood idly by for quite a while. She finally bent down and took him in his arms. Her embrace was warm and sweet. She always knew just how to hold a man.