Bordertown Wanderer - Chapter 43

Chapter 43: The Descendants of an Aristocratic Family

Night. Deep, dark night.

The cold, desolate light of the crescent moon shone upon his pale face. It also shone on his pitch-black sabre!

Fu Hongxue quietly stood there, beneath the moonlight. In front of him, there was a desolate forest. Behind him, there was a desolate mountain.

Alone, he faced the boundless desolation and darkness. He seemed to have already left the world behind.

The world seemed to have forgotten him as well.

He had not a single coin to his name. He was cold, hungry, and weary.

He had no place to go, because although he had a home, he could not return to it.

He had personally buried his lover. He wanted to avenge her, but did not even know who caused her death.

He knew that one of his enemies was Ma Kongqun, but didn’t know where he should go to seek him out. Ye Kai treated him as a friend, but not only did he refuse the gesture, he fled from it.

But aside from Ye Kai, there was no other person in the world who considered him as a friend. Even if he died on a street, no one might pay him any mind.

Although the world is large, it didn’t seem to hold a place capable of accommodating a person such as him.

His continued existence in this world seemed to be unnecessary.

But he absolutely had to keep on living.

So what if he could keep on living? Which road should he take? Where should he go? He didn’t know.

He didn’t even know where he should go tonight. He didn’t even dare enter the darkest, shabbiest of guesthouses, because he didn’t have a single copper on him.

Could it be that he was just going to stand here and wait for sunrise? But what to do after the sun had risen? Fu Hongxue tightly gripped his sabre. His heart was suddenly filled with an inexpressible emptiness and fear.

In the past, at least he had someone he could think about. Although longing is painful, at least he had someone to long for. But now? What did he have now? What was left? He only felt that his heart was empty. Even that bone-deep hatred had become very distant, very illusory.

This is what is truly terrifying.

He ground his teeth and forced himself to stay under control. Although no witnesses were present, he still didn’t want to let tears flow down his face.

Just at this moment, he suddenly saw someone rush out from the dark, desolate forest.

It was a man in black whose face was covered with blood.

He looked as though she was being pursued by evil spirits. He didn’t even look ahead, nearly colliding with Fu Hongxue.

When he did see Fu Hongxue, he could no longer look away. That bloody face which had been smashed in by someone suddenly became even more deformed from his shock.

Fu Hongxue didn’t think this was strange. No one would imagine that, so late at night, someone would be standing here like he was.

He seemed disinclined to so much as spare the man in black another glance.

But the man in black stared at him in shock. He retreated, one step at a time. After taking a few steps back, he suddenly said, “You are Fu Hongxue?”

Fu Hongxue couldn’t help but feel this was a bit strange. “Who are you? How do you know me?”

The man in black didn’t answer his question. Instead, he pointed at the barren forest behind him. “Ma Kongqun is right behind me. You…you should go kill him, quickly!”

Every single muscle in Fu Hongxue’s body seemed to immediately tighten.

He had undergone many bitter experiences and walked for so long that his feet had calluses, but still remained unable to find any trace of his enemy. He couldn’t believe, didn’t dare believe that this stranger in the night could suddenly reveal his enemy’s location.

The man in black seemed to have already understood what he was thinking. He immediately continued, “The two of us aren’t acquainted. Why would I deceive you? You should at least go check it out. You won’t lose anything from checking it out.”

Fu Hongxue asked no more questions.

Regardless of who the man in black was, it was true that he had no reason to lie to Fu Hongxue. In addition, so what if he was lying? If a person had nothing whatsoever, why would he be afraid of losing anything? Fu Hongxue slowly turned around, and then he suddenly charged into the desolate forest.

The man in black never would have imagined that such a crippled, weak looking young man could move so quickly and gracefully.

A look of worry appeared in his eyes. He suddenly shouted in a loud voice, “That man, Ma Kongqun isn’t just your enemy, he’s also my enemy! No matter what he says, don’t believe him!”

He’d always been an extremely careful, meticulous man. Clearly, he was afraid that after hearing Ma Kongqun’s words, Fu Hongxue would turn back and seek him out.

He couldn’t have guessed that in saying these words, he made the deadliest mistake he had ever made in his entire life.

Just after he finished speaking, Fu Hongxue suddenly appeared in front of him again. There was a strange, terrifying expression on his ashen face. Staring at him, he said, one word at a time, “What did you say about Ma Kongqun?”

His cold, weary eyes suddenly appeared sharper than knives.

Pierced by his gaze, the man in black involuntarily took two steps back. “I said…I said that man is my enemy!”

“That man…man!” Fu Hongxue stared at him. His entire body seemed to have stiffened like a wooden log.

“Whenever he says the word ‘man’ [Ren], he doesn’t seem to be totally capable of curling up his tongue. It always sounds a little bit like ‘able’ [Neng]…”

The words of Third Madame Shen roared in his ears like a thunderbolt.

His pale face suddenly began to blaze.

His entire body began to tremble.

Only that hand, that sabre-wielding hand, was still steady.

He had already concentrated every single bit of his strength into that hand. That pale hand. That pitch-black sabre.

The man in black stared at him in surprise. He couldn’t help but ask, “You…don’t you believe me?”

Fu Hongxue didn’t seem to even hear his words. He suddenly turned around and then knelt while facing the east.

The man in black was stunned. He simply could even guess at what this strange young man was doing. The cold, desolate moonlight shone down on Fu Hongxue’s face. His eyes seemed to be shining as well. He murmured to himself in a low voice, “I’ve finally found your enemy for you. Now, in the underworld, you can finally close your eyes in death.”

The man in black didn’t understand what he was saying either, but suddenly felt an eerie, ominous feeling of doom. He couldn’t help but continue retreating, one step at a time, preparing to leave.

But Fu Hongxue suddenly once more appeared in front of him. He coldly said, “Where is your dagger?”

The man in black was stunned. “What dagger?”

Fu Hongxue said, “Flying dagger.”

An unspeakable terror appeared in the eyes of the man in black. He cried out in fear, “What flying dagger?”

Grinding his teeth, Fu Hongxue glared at him. “I should kill you with this sabre immediately, but I have questions to ask you first!”

Fu Hongxue’s voice had turned hoarse. He fiercely said, “I ask you, why did you do something like that? Why did you harm Cui Nong? Who are you?”

The man in black said, “I…I don’t have any clue what you are talking about. I don’t even know you!”

Livid, Fu Hongxue trembled. But that sabre-gripping hand was still as steady as a rock.

Suddenly, the sabre left its sheath! The sabre flash flew out like a lightning bolt, but the man in black had already fallen to the floor and rolled twenty feet away.

As soon as the sabre flash was seen, he had immediately dropped to the ground.

Not only had he long ago taken precautions against this sabre, he seemed to also have devised many methods to dodge it.

Once this sabre struck out, its keen, sharp, overwhelming force was simply all-conquering. There was no one in the world capable of blocking it.

But he was actually able to dodge it.

As soon as the sabre flash appeared, he had immediately dropped to the floor. In this situation, there was no better way to dodge than this.

Such a dodging method definitely couldn’t have been devised on the spot. He clearly had practiced for a long time in order to dodge that blow.

As his body flipped up, his hand made a waving motion.

His flying dagger finally shot out.

With a clanging sound, sparks flew about as the two bolts of lightning intersected. And as they did, his flying dagger fell to the ground.

With another roll, the man in black tumbled up the mountain slope. He suddenly felt an extreme pain coming from his lower chest. It was the area where Ma Kongqun had struck just earlier. Right now, piercing pain was shooting from his chest.

He wanted to stir up his energy but no longer was able to.

Another sabre flash. The cold tip of the sabre reached his throat.

The energetic, irresistible sabre suddenly halted.

The sabre-wielding hand had already totally brought all of his force under control again. The sabre only slightly lacerated the throat of his flesh, causing a thin trickle of blood to flow forth. Fu Hongxue angrily stared at him. In a fierce voice, he said, “Are you going to answer my questions or not?”

The man in black finally let out a sigh. “Fine. I’ll talk. I have no enmity towards you. The person I hate is Ma Kongqun. The reason I killed that woman was only because she was Ma Kongqun’s daughter.”

Fu Hongxue’s body suddenly turned stiff again. He suddenly roared furiously, “You lie!”

The man said, “I’m not lying. But there really aren’t many people who know of this…”

Gasping, he stared at Fu Hongxue.

Fu Hongxue’s body began to shake again, even more strongly than before.

The man in black continued, “She and Ma Fangling weren’t born from the same mother. Her mother originally was the wife of a ginseng gatherer from the central Shaanxi plains. When she followed her husband away from the plains, Ma Kongqun forcibly took her. That’s why that group of ginseng gatherers have always hated Ma Kongqun to the core. Once, they organized a hundred and thirty people to ambush Ma Kongqun at Mt. Changbai, precisely because of the hatred between them. Elder Hero Bai was present at that bloody battle as well.

That battle was an extremely famous battle in the annals of the martial world. Fu Hongxue had heard his mother mention it in his youth as well.

Can it be that the man in black was telling the truth? Fu Hongxue only felt as though every single blood vessel in his body was filled with flame.

Looking at him, the man in black spoke again, “Cui Nong had been secretly obtaining news for Ma Kongqun all along. I imagine you know of this as well. She betrayed Third Madame Shen as well as Hua Mantian. She was always faithful to the Hall of Ten Thousand Horses, precisely because she knew that her father was Ma Kongqun. Her mother told her this secret just before her death.”

He sighed before slowly continuing, “Blood is thicker than water. No one can blame her for this. The only reason I killed her was to gain revenge on Ma Kongqun.”

Cold sweat poured down Fu Honxgue’s forehead like the rain.

The man in black said, “You are Ma Kongqun’s enemy as well. Are you going to kill me in revenge on behalf of his daughter?”

Fu Hongxue said, “I still don’t believe you. No man would be willing to send his own daughter to Xiao Bieli’s place.”

The man in black coldly said, “It’s true that no man is capable of doing such a thing. Only, Ma Kongqun simply can’t be considered a man.”

He suddenly gritted his teeth, letting out a loud, hoarse cry. “He’s a vermin, he’s a beast!”

Fu Hongxue’s head was covered with cold sweat. His entire body was trembling. He had totally fallen apart.

Could it be that the lover whom he would never forget in life and death, who stirred his soul and filled his dreams, really was the daughter of an absolutely irreconcilable enemy? He didn’t dare to believe it, but he couldn’t disbelieve it.

He suddenly felt the muscles around his lips begin to twitch. That detestable, terrifying illness was once again beginning to stir!

His heart sank.

Watching him, a satisfied look appeared in the eyes of the man in black. He coldly said, “I’m done speaking. If you want to kill me, go ahead!”

Fu Hongxue gritted his teeth. He didn’t speak.

He couldn’t speak, didn’t dare speak. He had to use all of his strength and all of his focus to oppose his terrifying illness.

If he spoke, he might immediately collapse, might fall down like a wild dog who had been struck by a whip.

The man in black’s eyes shone. He already felt the sabre on his neck slowly sliding down, slowly weakening…

Only, the sabre was still in Fu Hongxue’s hand. That terrifying hand. That terrifying sabre.

The man in black suddenly used all of his strength to roll away from underneath the sabre. Crawling with both hands and feet, he scuttled up the mountainside like some wild beast on all fours. While hurriedly fleeing, he even managed to toss out a dagger.

But he didn’t even dare to turn around to take a look. Right now, his only hope was to flee far away from that terrifying sabre, the faster the better.

Everything he had said and done had only one motive; to enable him to stay alive. Some people are willing to use any means necessary in order to stay alive.

Naturally, he wouldn’t have guessed that the dagger he threw out hastily actually didn’t miss.

This dagger had already pierced Fu Hongxue’s chest! Fresh blood oozed out along the sides of the cold dagger. Fu Hongxue collapsed.

Collapsed onto the cold, moist earth.

The cold, cheerless crescent moon sank behind the barren mountains.

The earth became even darker. Was the person who had collapsed still capable of standing back up? Who exactly was the man in black? Was he speaking the truth or not? Many successful people had once collapsed, but they stood back up again!

Many had even collapsed more than ten times, but they always got back up.

They weren’t afraid of others attacking them! Because they knew that so long as they had strength and the courage to stand back up, there was nothing wrong with falling down.

Fu Hongxue slowly stood up.

The dagger was still stuck in his chest.

The blood was still flowing. But the vicious illness seemed to have flowed away along with his blood.

The agonizing pain had suddenly awakened him and made him clear-headed.

But this clear-headedness immediately made him realize how tired, weak, and hungry he was! The hunger was especially acute. He had never imagined that hunger could be such an unendurable sensation.

The man in black had already scurried up the barren mountain and disappeared.

Fu Hongxue didn’t pursue him. He knew that right now, based on his current condition, there was no point to pursuing him.

He had exhausted all of his strength.

A golden light was flickering beneath the grass at the foot of the mountain. It was a good luck charm made of pure gold.

It had fallen out of the bosom of the man in black when he scurried up the mountain and threw that dagger.

Fu Hongxue stared at the flickering golden light. He slowly walked over to it, then quickly lifted it up.

Three months ago, perhaps he would rather starve to death than pick up someone else’s dropped belongings. He might not even glance at it.

But during these past three months, he had learned a great deal and changed a great deal as well. He had come to understand that success had its costs.

The most important thing was that he needed to continue living.

Right now, he definitely couldn’t die. He wasn’t willing to quietly die like this.

Even if he was going to die, he would make the people who harmed him pay a price!

Right now, if it would give him the strength to stand up and to remain alive, he would be willing to steal, to plunder!

He ran past the desolate forest. Past the forest, at the foot of the mountain, there was a dark and shabby old inn. He had just passed it earlier.

He no longer hesitated. He immediately walked in with the greatest speed he could muster, not even daring to pull out the dagger in his chest. He couldn’t lose any more blood. Blood loss had already made him weak.

There was actually still a lit lamp within the inn.

There was a lamp, but neither people nor sound. The door was still open.

Was it because the owner of this inn no longer had enough strength to close the door, or because there simply was no reason to close the door of a place like this? There was no one behind the counter either. The fallen leaves in the courtyard rolled about in the wind. The light was coming from a small room inside.

Judging from the chimney at the top of the room, this was probably the kitchen.

Isn’t a kitchen like a symbol of warm flame? Piping hot food…isn’t this what gives one strength in life? Fu Hongxue walked over very quickly, but found neither food nor strength in the kitchen.

He only found death yet again!

The stove was cold, and the lamp was almost dead as well.

A white-haired, rickety old man lay collapsed on the floor, facing the sky. A blood clot was visible on his throat. He was still tightly clutching a pair of chopsticks, but his body was already cold and stiff.

Not far from his body, there was a torn, ripped purse, but the purse was empty.

Clearly, while this old man was eating his noodles, someone had punched him in the throat, killing him immediately.

He was still clutching his chopsticks in his hands. Clearly, he hadn’t even finished eating his noodles.

Who ate the noodles in the bowl then?

Most likely, the few scattered bits of silver in his pouch had been taken by the murderer as well.

But could it be that after killing him, the murderer would actually eat the dead man’s remaining half bowl of noodles?

On the old man’s cold, stiff face, there was a look of terror and disbelief as well.

Even he himself could not believe that someone would be so vicious towards a half-blind, half-deaf old man for the sake of a few broken bits of silver and half a bowl of noodles which he had spat into.

He really did die with an everlasting grievance.

Fu Hongxue’s heart was filled with anger and pain as well, because he was in the process of asking himself a question.

In this world, there were very few people who understood better than him what it felt like to be hungry and poor.

Yet he didn’t know if he himself could bear kill someone for half a bowl of noodles and a few bits of silver!

Only when a man has set upon the road to ruin will he do such a thing.

Who was the murderer?

Can it be that he really had stepped upon the road to ruin?

Fu Hongxue suddenly remembered what the man in black had said. He suddenly thought of Ma Kongqun.

Right. It must be Ma Kongqun.

He must have already seen Fu Hongxue, which is why he had to flee.

But he was simply too hungry. He had to eat something, even if it was just a half-bowl of noodles.

But what taste must have been left in his heart for him to eat this half bowl of noodles and to kill this man? When he thought of his glorious past, how must this half bowl of noodles tasted in his mouth?

Fu Hongxue tightly clenched his fists. He suddenly wanted to vomit.

He hated, he raged, but he could also feel that misery and grief in his heart.

The illustrious, world-renowned, incomparable lord of the Hall of Ten Thousand Horses, who dominated northeast China…would actually murder someone over half a bowl of noodles!

After eating this bowl of noodles, did he want to vomit as well?

Ma Kongqun really did want to vomit.

But he used all the strength in his body to resist the urge. No matter what, he could not vomit right now.

The noodles in muddy water, the spittle in the soup, the broken yellow teeth of the old man, and his eyes filled with scorn and cynicism…everything made him want to vomit.

But any type of food can provide one with strength.

If he were to vomit the food out, it would be just as though he were vomiting his own strength out. Right now, it was imperative for him to be strong!

He needed every ounce of strength he could get!

Because right now, he was about to exert every ounce of strength he had, just like that day at Mt. Changbai when he had to flee.

That time, he had even drunk his own urine.

But this situation was more dangerous than that one, because this enemy was far more dangerous, far more terrifying than the previous ones!

He had personally witnessed Fu Hongxue’s irresistible, swift-as-the-wind sabre!

He seemed to have once more seen that long-departed man, in front of whom he would never dare to raise his head! Once more he seemed to see how, with each flash of the sabre, blood would blossom out even more gaily-colored than the plum blossoms.

Perhaps what he really was afraid of was not Fu Hongxue, but that man!

He once more seemed to see that man’s terrifying spirit and strength within Fu Hongxue’s sabre!

He no longer dared to meet that man again, be it in the world of the living or the dead. He no longer dared to face that man’s sabre!

He feared death, precisely because he knew that man was waiting for him in the underworld!

Thus, he must flee, must stay alive!

But how much longer could he survive for?

The night grew deeper still, as was autumn.

The chilliness of the autumn wind was becoming more severe.

Before much longer, all the leaves would have fallen from the trees. The north wind would sweep down at dusk. And then, one cold morning, he would open his window and see the earth covered with ice and snow.

A penniless old man in thin, flimsy clothing would find it very difficult to survive in a world of ice and snow.

Ma Kongqun balled up his fists, tightening his grip around ten or so copper coins. He had found them within that old man’s purse. Perhaps he could use them to purchase two bowls of warm noodles or something.

But what then?

Based on his skills, he could have easily plundered several rich households. He could even have robbed an entire team of escorted carriages.

It wasn’t as though he’d never done these things in the past. But now, he definitely could not do it.

It wasn’t because he was tired of that sort of lifestyle. It was because right now, he definitely couldn’t leave behind a single clue for Fu Hongxue to follow.

Raising his head up, he stared at the nearly bare branches, stripped of its leaves by the autumn wind. Right now, there was only one place for him to go.

There was only one more path he could take.

He originally didn’t want to take this path, but now, he had no choice whatsoever!

Beneath the bed behind the counter, there was half a pouch of flour and a rusty metal box.

Within the box, there was an embroidering handkerchief. Within the handkerchief, there was a neatly folded banknote worth just ten taels of silver, a very fine steel dagger, and an exquisitely made matchbook.

Aside from these three things, there was just a bunch of random little bits of things. Clearly, they had all been left behind by customers who had passed by. The old man had actually carefully collected them and kept them here, waiting for them to retrieve their items.

He had always been a very honest man, even though he knew that there was no way the rightful owner of these things would ever come back to retrieve them.

The embroidering handkerchief had been left behind by a young married woman.

One night, she had quietly arrived in a broken down carriage and met with a young man who had already waited three days and three nights for her here. In the middle of the night, she had quietly snuck out again.

When the young man woke up, he didn’t see what she had left behind. He stood there by himself in the courtyard, wildly sobbing for a long time before lifting his chest up and striding away.

Had that young woman been forced to marry into a rich family, but managed to secretly slip out and meet with her old lover one final time? In the future, would that man bestir himself to vigor and forget about those miserable past events?

The old man didn’t know, nor did he want to know. He just hoped that the young man wouldn't become like him and be forevermore downhearted.

The dagger and matchbook had been left behind by a big fellow dressed up in night-black clothes. When he came here during the middle of the night, he was injured.

In the wee hours of the morning, before dawn, there was a storm of abuse and curses which came from his room. The sound of weapons clashing could be heard as they battled their way into the courtyard.

The old man just covered his ears and slept. Only after all sound came to an end did he put his clothes on and get up.

There were a few bloodstains in the courtyard. The matchbook and dagger were left behind on the pillow in the room. But that injured man in night-black clothes had disappeared.

After these people left, of course they would never return. The only reason the old man kept their things was to keep a few interesting memories to accompany his dull, uninteresting life.

Fu Hongxue left the banknote and matchbook behind.

Using that pouch of flour, he cooked himself a large bowl of paste-like noodles. Mixing in a few dregs of oil, he ate it.

And then he went into the room where Ma Kongqun had been staying, washed his face, and prepared to go to sleep.

The room was dark and damp. It was filled with the smell of mold. The wooden planks of the bed were cold and hard, but for Fu Hongxue, this was comfortable enough.

There is no such thing as an ‘absolute’. It is all a matter of perspective.

He quietly lay within the dark room. He wanted to sleep, but could not fall asleep.

He was thinking too much.

Ma Kongqun’s serious, solemn face. The man in black’s bloody face. Ye Kai’s ever-smiling face…

One face after another seemed to float up in the darkness, suddenly transforming into a different face. A beautiful face, with beautiful eyes, staring at him with a sorrowful yet joyful gaze.

It didn’t matter who she once was, or if she was Ma Kongqun’s daughter. She died for me.

If one didn’t sincerely feel a fierce love for another in their hearts, how could they be willing to sacrifice themselves? Fu Hongxue felt a piercing pain in his own heart. He knew that for the rest of his life, he would never be able to find someone who shared such a deep love with him again.

His destiny was already fixed. He would forevermore be alone.

Right at this moment, he suddenly heard someone’s voice, a voice even softer than satin.

“When did you arrive?”

Someone suddenly pushed the door open and entered, like a ghost in the night.

Although Fu Hongxue couldn’t see this person, he recognized her voice.

He would never forget that voice…

In that lonely border town, in that gloomy alleyway, in that small, dark, and yet warm room.

She was waiting for him. He seemed to remember that on that first night, her words had been, “When did you arrive?”

“I will make you into a real man…”

He remembered her hands guiding him, making him into a real man.

“…because there are many things which only real men can do…”

He could never forget her body, as soft and as sleek as satin. He could never forget that moment of amazing, overwhelming joy.

Cui Nong! Could it be Cui Nong? Could she be Cui Nong?

Fu Hongxue suddenly jumped up, tightly embracing the figure in the darkness.

Her body was still as soft, still as warm as before. Her breath was still filled with that irresistible, unforgettable sweetness.

She whispered into his ear, “You didn’t think that I would come, did you.”

Fu Hongxue’s throat was sealed. He couldn’t even breathe.

“I know that your life has been very miserable, but you cannot give up hope. You will definitely be able to find Ma Kongqun. If you sink down, all of us will be very disappointed.”

Fu Hongxue’s hand was trembling. He slowly reached into his clothes.

Suddenly, a flame blossomed.

The dark room suddenly became bright again. He had lit that match.

He immediately saw this person, the first woman he had ever enjoyed.

The woman who had changed his life and whom he would never forget…was not Cui Nong.

It was Third Madame Shen!

Beneath the light of the flickering flame, Fu Hongxue’s face became even paler. He couldn’t help but let out a shocked shout, “You!”

Third Madame Shen’s face was also pale, terrifying pale. Was it due to her loss of blood, or because she didn’t imagine that there would be a source of light here?

She half-turned, as though she wanted to cover her face with her clothes. But then, she turned back and smiled at Fu Hongxue. She sweetly said, “It’s me. You didn’t think it was me, did you.”

Fu Hongxue stared at her in shock. After a long time, he nodded.

Third Madame Shen said, “You thought it was Cui Nong?”

Fu Hongxue didn’t answer her. He had no idea how to respond. He didn’t even dare to look at her.

But Third Madame Shen’s beautiful eyes were fixed upon him. She slowly said, “I know that she’s already dead, and that this has been a great shock to you. The reason I came here was in the hopes that you would no longer be too miserable over her death.”

Biting her lips, she hesitated for a moment. She seemed to only be able to force out these next words with a great deal of effort. “Because the person you should have fallen in love with was not her, but me!”

Fu Hongxue stood ramrod stiff. His pale face seemed to have turned stiff and translucent.

Third Madame Shen sighed. “I know that all this time, you mistook her for me, and that you didn’t know a person like me existed in the world. That’s why you…”

Fu Hongxue interrupted her. “You’re wrong!”

Third Madame Shen said, “I’m wrong?”

Fu Hongxue lifted his head up. He stared at her with a very strange expression in his eyes. He slowly said, “Although I didn’t know who you were, I knew long ago that you were not Cui Nong.”

Third Madame Shen was stunned.

This time, she was the one to be shocked. She was even more shocked than Fu Hongxue was earlier.

After a long time, she managed to speak. “You knew? How could you know? Did she actually tell you herself?”

Fu Hongxue said, “She didn’t tell me, nor did I ask. But I could feel it…”

He didn’t continue, because he didn’t need to continue.

With a man and a woman are in love with each other, there are some sweet, subtle moments which others cannot possibly understand.

Third Madame Shen was a very mature, very intelligent woman. Naturally, she understood this.

A very subtle feeling suddenly arose in her heart as well. For whatever reason, this feeling made her very uncomfortable. After a long time had passed, she forced herself to nod. She softly said, “Looks like you didn’t make a mistake in loving her after all.”

Fu Hongxue said, “No, I didn’t.”

His bearing suddenly became very solemn, very tranquil. He slowly continued, “The reason I loved her is because of her. The person I fell in love with her, because of who she was. There definitely were no other reasons.”

Third Madame Shen lightly sighed. “I understand.”

She really did understand. Although he knew that she was his first woman, the person he loved was still Cui Nong.

Love is without conditions and without regrets.

She suddenly thought of Ma Kongqun. Even she herself was not sure; did she truly love him? Did she make a mistake in loving him?

Fu Hongxue suddenly said, “Where’s Ye Kai?”

Third Madame Shen said, “He…he didn’t come.”

Fu Hongxue said, “Was it his idea for you to tell me about this?”

Third Madame Shen said, “The only reason I told you about this was because I thought you had the right to know the truth.”

Fu Hongxue was silent. After a long moment, he slowly said, “But I only wish that I can forever forget about this.”

Third Madame Shen forced out a chuckle. “I’ve already forgotten.”

Fu Hongxue said, “Very good, very good…”

The two of them stared at each other, as though they were nothing more than ordinary friends.

When they thought about what had happened within that small, dark room, it was as though they were remembering things which happened to someone else.

Because at that time, although their bodies had become one, there was no love between them at all. This sort of union will never leave behind any marks behind in one’s heart.

Right at this moment, the match in Fu Hongxue’s hand went out.

The small room once more became dark.

Although the darkness was the same and the people were the same, they were now in totally different frames of mind.

Earlier, Fu Hongxue’s entire body felt blazing when he imagined her hot lips and warm body.

But now, although she was standing right in front of him, he didn’t have the slightest desire to touch her. They no longer spoke, because they no longer had anything to say to each other.

And then, Third Madame Shen heard the sound of Fu Hongxue’s particular walking gait as he slowly strode out.

“I didn’t make a mistake in loving her. The reason I love her is because of she herself. There are definitely no other reasons.”

Ye Kai quietly listened as Third Madame Shen finished speaking, but he was still pondering over these words.

He also felt many things in his heart as well. Was it sweetness, sourness, or pain?

Ding Linglin watched him. She suddenly laughed. “What he just said, I said to you long ago.”

Ye Kai said, “Oh?”

Ding Linglin softly said, “I told you that you are the person I am in love with. No matter whom you are or what type of person you are, I will love you just the same.”

Ye Kai’s eyes once more seemed to be filled with an indescribable look of pain and worry. Uplifting his head, he turned to stare east, at the slowly brightening horizon. He suddenly asked, “You won’t regret it?”

Ding Linglin said, “Definitely not.”

Ye Kai chuckled. His chuckle really was a bit forced. “What if, hypothetically speaking, I did something unforgivable to you? You still won’t regret it?”

Ding Linglin’s expression became very resolute as well, just like Fu Hongxue’s earlier expression.

Smiling, she said, “Why would I regret it? I love you willingly, of my own free will. There’s no other reason at all. Nobody compelled me to; I just do.”

Her smile was just like the brightening light of dawn, filled with inexhaustible, boundless hope.

Looking at her, Third Madame Shen thought of Fu Hongxue. She suddenly thought that they are really the fortunate ones.

Because they dared to love, and could love sincerely.

She couldn’t resist letting out a light sigh. “Perhaps I shouldn’t have come to see him this time.”

Ye Kai said, “But you weren’t wrong in coming to see him either.”

Third Madame Shen said, “Oh?”

Ye Kai said, “Because this meeting of yours let us all understand something.”

Third Madame Shen couldn’t resist asking, “What?”

Ye Kai said, “He wasn’t wrong to love Cui Nong, because his love for her was sincere and whole-hearted.”

Smiling, he continued, “This made me understand that sincere, genuine love can never be wrong.”

Facing the door, Fu Hongxue watched the people who walked inside the small restaurant and the people who left it. He suddenly felt as though he were more tired and more sallow than any of them. Only now did he realize how terrifying this sort of aimless, wandering lifestyle could be.

This sort of lifestyle made him feel exhausted, an exhaustion bordering despair.

He had already spent the banknote worth ten silver taels which had been wrapped within that embroidered handkerchief. He didn’t know who it belonged to, nor did he want to find out.

But he very much wanted to discover the owner of that golden good luck charm. Unfortunately, although the charm was exquisitely made, it didn’t have a single inscription engraved onto it. At the moment, he no longer had any choice but to sell it for some money, and then use the money to aid him in his search for its owner. If it weren’t for the charm, he might not even be able to remain living. And yet, he had made up his mind to kill the charm’s owner. This really was a form of mockery. For events like this to happen in the world…this is life.

Sometimes, life is the biggest mockery of all.

Fu Hongxue suddenly wanted to go drinking again. Just as he was forcefully controlling his urges, he suddenly saw a very striking figure stroll in through the door.

This person’s clothes were very gaudy, and there was an expression of great self-assurance on the person’s face. He was very satisfied with everything he had, and very confident regarding his future as well.

And he truly was a very handsome, very cocky young man. He seemed to be cut from a very different cloth from the likes of Fu Hongxue, as the latter now appeared. And perhaps it was for this reason that Fu Hongxue suddenly found himself filled with an indescribable sort of disgust. But perhaps the person Fu Hongxue was truly disgusted with was not this youngster, but himself.

The young man’s shining eyes scanned the four corners of the room. Suddenly, he walked over, actually seating himself in the chair facing Fu Hongxue. Although there was a smile on his face, the smile looked very false and very haughty. He suddenly said, “I am Nangong Qing.”

Fu Hongxue had no intention of paying this man any heed, and so he acted as though he could neither see nor hear this person. The name “Nangong Qing” thus was meaningless to him. Even if he knew that Nangong Qing was the eldest scion of the aristocratic Nangong family, he would not have cared.

Although the “Nangong Family” was very illustrious, it was just as meaningless to him.

This attitude clearly took Nangong Qing by surprise. He stared at Fu Hongxue’s snow-white face for a moment, then suddenly removed that golden good luck charm from within his clothes. “Was this the item which you, sir, just traded to the waiter for silver?”

Fu Hongxue finally nodded.

Nangong Qing suddenly smirked. “That’s strange.”

Fu Hongxue couldn’t resist from asking, “Strange?”

Nangong Qing icily said, “Because I know that this charm does not belong to you.”

Fu Hongxue suddenly lifted his head up, staring at him. “You know? How do you know?”

Nangong Qing said, “Because I gave this to a good friend of mine as a gift. The reason I came here was to ask you how it fell into your hands.”

Fu Hongxue’s heart rate suddenly sped up. He barely managed to control himself in time. “You’re saying this golden charm originally belonged to you. Can you be sure of this?”

Nangong Qing smiled coldly. “Of course. This was forged by the illustrious smith of the “Nine Rosy Clouds” silvershop, Old Dong. Unfortunately for you, that waiter had brought this charm to the “Nine Rosy Clouds” silvershop, with the intention of trading it for some silver. Even more unfortunately for you, I just so happened to be there.”

This really was an extremely unlikely coincidence. And yet, sometimes, this sort of thing happens. That is why life is filled with so many unpredictable tragedies and comedies.

Fu Hongxue was silent. Suddenly, he smiled coldly as well. “Even if this golden charm originally belonged to you, you shouldn’t have come to ask me about it.”

Nangong Qing said, “Why not?”

Fu Hongxue said, “Because you already gave it to someone else.”

Nangong Qing said, “But he definitely wouldn’t have given it to you, and even less would he have sold it to you. That’s why I said this is strange.”

Fu Hongxue said, “How do you know that he wouldn’t give it to me?”

Nangong Qing composed his face. Hesitating for a moment, he finally said, slowly, “Because this was originally a token by which I engaged my sister to him.”

Fu Hongxue said, “Truly?”

Nangong Qing angrily said, “How can this sort of matter be faked? In addition, there are many people in the martial world who know about this matter.”

Fu Hongxue said, “How many sisters do you have?”

Nangong Qing said, “Just one.”

He realized that this pale-faced youngster’s questions were become more and more odd. The only reason he answered this questions was because he was growing curious as well. He wanted to see what Fu Hongxue meant by all this.

But Fu Hongxue suddenly stopped asking questions. He no longer needed to ask any more questions.

Since many people in the martial world know about this matter, he already knew enough to discern the identity of the man in black by himself.

Nangong Qing said, “Are you done with your questions?”

Fu Hongxue looked at him, looked at his handsome, arrogant features, his luxurious, gaudy clothes. Looked at his slender, clean, and elegant hands. Upon one of his fingers was an enormous jade ring…all of this suddenly once more filled Fu Hongxue with an indescribable disgust towards the man.

Nangong Qing was watching him as well. He coldly said, “Are you done talking?”

Fu Hongxue suddenly spoke. “I have one more thing to say.”

Nangong Qing said, “Speak.”

Fu Hongxue said, “I urge you to cancel your sister’s wedding agreement as quickly as possible.”

Nangong Qing’s expression changed. “Why?”

Fu Hongxue coldly said, “Because the person to whom your sister is engaged will not live for long!”

He slowly lifted his hand, then rested it on the table. His hand was still tightly gripping his sabre.

A pale hand! A pitch-black sabre!

The pupils of Nangong Qing’s eyes contracted. He involuntarily cried out, “You!”

Fu Hongxue said, “Me.”

Nangong Qing said, “I’ve heard of you. Over these past few months, I’ve often heard others speak of you.”

Fu Hongxue said, “Oh?”

Nangong Qing said, “I’ve heard that you are like a pestilence, that any place you visit will meet with disaster.”

Fu Hongxue said, “What else?”

Nangong Qing said, “I’ve heard that not only have you laid waste to the Hall of Ten Thousand Horses, but that you’ve laid waste to many illustrious martial arts masters. I imagine that you are very skilled in martial arts.”

Fu Hongxue said, “You aren’t impressed?”

Nangong Qing suddenly laughed. Sneering, he said, “You want me to be impressed by you? Why don’t you go die?”

Fu Hongxue stared at him coldly. He waited for Nangong Qing to finish laughing, before slowly saying four words. “Draw your sword, now!

A three foot, seven-inch long sword was hanging off a golden hook attached to his silk belt. The sheath was made from exquisitely worked sharkskin leather, and upon it was seven gleaming gemstones. Nangong Qing’s hand was already gripping his sword’s hilt. His hand had turned pale white as well.

He sneered. “I hear that people only have a chance to see your blade in the moment before they die. But my sword is different. There’s no harm in letting you take a look.”

Suddenly, he charged forward, his sword having already left its sheath. The flashing light from his sword seemed to carry with it a clear, high-pitched, dragon-like roar as it flew towards Fu Hongxue.

With a ‘Ding’ sound, the bowl of noodles in front of Fu Hongxue had already been chopped into two pieces. Next, with a swishing sound, the sturdy wooden table was also chopped into two pieces.

Fu Hongxue watched as the two halves of the table slowly fell apart. He didn’t even move.

But there were many people off to one side who were cheering!

Nangong Qing lightly stroked the flat of his blade. He swept a glance out of the corner of his eyes at Fu Hongxue. He arrogantly smiled. “What do you think?”

Fu Hongxue flatly said, “I also seem to have heard people discuss this sword technique, used for chopping firewood.”

Nangong Qing’s expression changed. He fiercely said, “Only, my sword can do more than just chop wood. It can also kill.”

With a quiver of his hand, the steel sword in his hand, which had been refined over a hundred times, suddenly shone with tens of points of light.

Then, all of those points of light suddenly coalesced into a flying rainbow, chopping towards Fu Hongxue’s arm.

Fu Hongxue didn’t draw his sabre. He still didn’t even budge, as he sat there, staring at the approach of this sword light which was akin to a bolt of lightning. Only just as the sword was about to pierce the skin of his arm did he suddenly drop his arm. With a flip of his hand, the pitch-black scabbard struck Nangong Qing on his wrist.

This attack seemed to be very ordinary and commonplace, but the timing of it was absolutely perfect. Only after he had calculated when the opponent’s technique was coming to an end did he strike.

But if one didn’t have nerves of steel, how could one wait so long before making his move? How could one dare!

Nangong Qing only felt his wrist suddenly go numb. Then, he realized that his sword had already flown out from his hand and had nailed itself into the wall.

Fu Hongxue was still seated there. Not only was his sword still sheathed, he still hadn’t even budged.

Nangong Qing ground his teeth. He suddenly stamped his foot and charged forwards, flipping over Fu Hongxue’s head. Stretching his hand out, he seized his sword. Then, kicking off from the wall with his right leg, he flipped over and flew towards Fu Hongxue with a “Slender Chest, Ingenious Somersault” attack. His sword, aimed at Fu Hongxue’s throat, shot down with great practiced skill. Off to the side, cheers could once more be heard.

Although this youngster had lost a moment ago, it surely must have been only due to him overly underestimating his opponent.

His strike truly was neat and nimble. Not only were his movements graceful and beautiful to behold, the ingenious transformations of his sword art appeared akin to the dancing of a dragon in the heaven, capable of making people sigh in admiration. They simply did not see Fu Hongxue make his move. They simply couldn’t see.

They only heard a swishing sound. The sword had pierced the chair, but Fu Hongxue had disappeared from the seat.

Once again, he waited until he was just a hairs-breadth away from death before he dodged this sword.

Nangong Qing had clearly seen his sword pierce into Fu Hongxue, and yet, in the blink of an eye, his adversary had disappeared.

He didn’t even have the chance to change his move. He could only watch his sword pierce into the chair.

Only then did he feel the pain. An intense pain in his ribs, as though someone had pounded him there with two massive clubs.

Before his body had landed on the ground from his charge, it had already been knocked flying backwards. He slammed into the wall. Only after forcing himself to summon up his strength did he slowly manage to slide down the wall. But he was no longer capable of even standing steady.

Fu Hongxue was coldly staring at him. “Impressed yet?”

Gasping for breath, Nangong Qing suddenly shouted, “Go die!”

As he shouted, he once more pounced forwards. His sword swished through the air, sounding like the shattering of bamboo. He had already launched four forehand strikes and three backhanded strikes.

Although these seven chain strikes lacked the power and impetus of the earlier strokes, they were even sharper and deadlier. Each attack was a killer move!

Fu Hongxue’s body flickered. In the blink of an eye, he had dodged all seven strokes.

Although he was a cripple, when he moved, his movements appeared poised, graceful, and natural.

Someone who had not seen how he normally walked would never know that he was a cripple.

But he himself knew. It was precisely because he knew that he was a cripple, that he was able to train himself to move three times faster than most people. He put three times more effort and bitter toil into his training than most people as well; three times, at the least.

After finishing his seven strokes, Nangong Qing wanted to change to a different attack. But he suddenly realized that a sabre was already in front of him.

The sabre had not yet left the sheath. The pitch-black sheath.

Just as Nangong Qing saw this pitch-black sheath, it smote him heavily across his chest.

He suddenly could see nothing. When the golden stars in his vision disappeared, he realized that he was sitting down on the floor. His chest felt as though it were being scorched by flames. He couldn’t even breathe.

Fu Hongxue was standing in front of him, coldly staring at him. “Impressed yet?”

Nangong Qing did not speak. He couldn’t speak.

But this scion of an illustrious family still appeared to have an unimpressed, arrogant look on his face.

Struggling, he rose to his feet, puffed out his chest, and glared angrily at Fu Hongxue.

Fresh blood was already flowing from his lips without pause, but he actually still used all the strength in his body to bellow out, “Go die!”

Fu Hongxue coldly said, “I haven’t died yet, and you still have your sword in your hand. You can come kill me.”

Nangong Qing ground his teeth. He forcefully brandished his sword, but as soon as he lifted his arm up, he felt a splitting pain in his chest. How could this thrust contain any killing power?

Fu Hongxue no longer needed to dodge. As the sword neared him, it fell to the floor.

The earlier shouts of acclaim had turned into sympathetic sighs. To a proud young man, this sort of sympathy can be even more unendurable than mockery and laughter.

Nangong Qing’s body suddenly began to tremble. He suddenly said in a loud voice, “Since you hate me, why don’t you go ahead and kill me?”

Fu Hongxue said, “I hate you?”

Nangong Qing said, “There’s no enmity between us, but I know that you hate me. You hate me because you know that you’ll never be able to match up to me.”

A cruel, vicious, mocking light suddenly appeared in his eyes.

Although his sword no longer had the power to harm Fu Hongxue, he knew that sometimes, vicious words could harm far more deeply than a blade can.

He loudly continued, “You hate me because I am a dignified, honorable man, while you are nothing more than a pathetic cripple. A bastard who can’t stand the light of day. If Bai Tianyu were still alive, he definitely wouldn’t accept you as his son. You don’t even have the right to take revenge on his behalf.”

Fu Hongxue’s pale face had turned crimson. His body began to tremble as well.

Nangong Qing couldn’t help but reveal a trace of self-satisfaction on his face. He sneered, “That’s why it doesn’t matter how you choose to humiliate me, because I will always be better than you and never submit to you.”

Blue veins were bulging from the hand with which Fu Hongxue gripped his sabre. He slowly said, “You will never submit to me?”

Nangong Qing said, “Even if I were to die, I still would not submit to you!”

Fu Hongxue said, “Truly?”

Nangong Qing said, “Of course!”

Fu Hongxue stared at him. He suddenly sighed. “You really shouldn’t say such things…”

His sigh seemed even grimmer and more callous than Nangong Qing’s cold laughter. In the midst of this bizarre sigh, his sabre left the sheath.

Nangong Qing only felt a cold wind pass by his left cheek as something fell onto his shoulder.

He couldn’t help but reach out and pick it up. He suddenly realized that his hand and his shoulder were both splattered with fresh blood. Spreading his palm, he realized that this cold, icy object was actually an ear. His own ear.

Only now did he suddenly feel an intense pain where his ear once was, a pain more intense than that of being roasted by flames.

His upper body suddenly became rigid and stiff, but his legs went soft. With a plopping sound, he sat down.

A countless myriad of poisonous snakes seemed to be writhing on the arm with which he held his ear. Cold sweat was already pouring from his forehead like raindrops. His handsome, arrogant face now looked like the face of a corpse.

Fu Hongxue coldly said, “I haven’t died yet. I still have my sabre in my hand. And you?”

Nangong Qing looked at the ear in his hand.

His teeth were chattering. He couldn’t even speak.

Fu Hongxue said, “You still would rather die than submit to me?”

Tears began to flow from Nangong Qing’s terror-stricken eyes. His voice quavering, he said, “I…I…”

Fu Hongxue said, “Do you submit or not?”

Nangong Qing suddenly shouted as loudly as he could, “I submit. I submit!”

As he shouted, tears began to flow down his face. He had always fancied himself as a person who would never surrender, even in the face of death. But now, he realized that terror is as unstoppable as a hurricane or a flood. In the blink of an eye, it destroyed his courage and self-confidence.

He was totally incapable of controlling himself now.

Fu Hongxue’s face had turned so pale, it was almost translucent. He no longer even bothered to spare Nangong Qing another glance. He slowly turned around and slowly walked out.

His walking gait looked queer and clumsy, but right now, there was no one who would consider him a laughable cripple.

There definitely was no one!