Bordertown Wanderer - Chapter 44
Chapter 44: The Two Heroes of the Ding Family
Autumn. The autumn wind was extremely solemn.
Fu Hongxue slowly walked past the long street. The wind blew against his chest, which suddenly felt filled with a ruthless joy.
He wasn't actually a ruthless person. He was never willing to hurt others, nor was he willing to allow others to hurt him.
But there are some people in the world who have believed since birth that they are entitled to being superior, and are entitled to hurt others, even though others are not allowed to hurt them in the slightest.
Perhaps they weren't truly evil people. But this extreme sense of superiority is not only abominable, but also hateful.
Perhaps the only way to deal with this type of person is to chop off his ears, to make him understand that when he is hurting others, others can also hurt him.
Fu Hongxue had already come to a realization that this method was both proper and effective.
Just as Manager Chen of the "Nine Rosy Clouds" silvershop sat down and picked up a bowl of tea, the tea splattered all over him.
His hand continued to tremble, and his heart continued to jump wildly. He never would have imagined that the young master would be weeping miserably. Right now, he wished he could pretend that he didn't see any of this at all.
Right at this moment, he suddenly saw that ashen-faced youngster from earlier suddenly walk over from across the street. The tea-bowl immediately fell from his hands, splintering on the floor.
Fu Hongxue had already walked inside, passing under that very ancient plaque which was covered with fresh lacquer. Coldly staring at him, he said, "You are the manager of this place?"
Manager Chen could only nod.
Fu Hongxue said, "I delivered that golden good luck charm here in trade for silver. Where's the silver?"
Manager Chen smiled ingratiatingly. "The silver is right here. All of it is here. Sir, feel free to take it."
He actually brought out all the silver in the shop, as though he had taken Fu Hongxue for a plundering bandit.
Fu Hongxue suddenly felt extremely amused.
Naturally, he didn't laugh. Hardening his expression, he continued, "Nangong Qing has only one sister?"
Manager Chen said, "Just the one."
Fu Hongxue said, "Who is she betrothed to?"
Manager Chen said, "The third master of the Ding family. His name is Ding Lingzhong!"
The expression on Fu Hongxue's face changed.
Manager Chen was all the more shocked. He never would have imagined that Fu Hongxue's expression could turn so terrifying after hearing this name.
The rays of the setting sun shone in from outside the door, resting upon his pale face.
His face had turned as translucent as crystal.
The poisoned wine of the Hero's Manor, Yi Dajing's source of information, Wang Dahong's poison sword, the death-dealing flying dagger, and that 'man' outside the Plum Blossom Convent...was everyone all neatly lined up, now?
Suddenly, all of these events, along with this name, coalesced with in his heart.
His thoughts turned as clear as crystal as well.
There's no such thing as a secret which can lie hidden forever. It seemed as though the time for all secrets to be revealed had come.
Fu Hongxue suddenly laughed loudly. Roaring with laughter, he left, leaving behind a totally baffled Manager Chen, who sat there, scratching his head.
He had never imagined it possible for someone's laughter to be so terrifying.
The enormous courtyard was dark and silent. Only a few scattered points of light could be seen, dispersed throughout the trees.
The wind carried with it the fragrance of chrysanthemums and laurels. The moon was full.
Ma Kongqun was lying on the ridge of the roof. The cold, dreary wind and the freezing rooftop once more set his blood to boiling.
It seemed as though he was once more transported back to his younger days, where he would commit murder by moonlight.
Under the cover of darkness, he would sneak into a stranger's house, always ready to unsheathe his sabre to kill someone, and always ready for an ambush.
He had almost forgotten that intense, stimulating lifestyle.
But right now, he wasn't afraid of being discovered by patrolmen, because this place was one of the three most famous, long-standing manors in the martial world. No patrolmen would ever dare to come to this place, nor was there a need for any patrolmen to come here. The light grew fainter, and the darkness roiled and bulged out. It was already midnight.
The people in the manor probably were all asleep. The household rules of this place definitely would not allow people to oversleep and wake up late. Naturally, everyone went to bed early as well. Ma Kongqun's eyes scanned the area like the gaze of an eagle. First he decided upon a good place to alight, before he jumped down.
He wasn't actually afraid of being discovered, but he couldn't help but be cautious. The many life-and-death experiences he had accumulated over the years had caused him to become an extremely prudent person.
After flitting across a number of roofs, he suddenly saw a very unique courtyard. The courtyard was refined and clean. Lights could be seen on the other side of the snow-white paper windows. The strange thing was, not a single flower or blade of grass could be seen in this courtyard. It was filled with nothing but yellow sand.
There were cacti growing in the sand, covered in long, sharp needles. Beneath the cold, dreary moonlight, they looked indescribably ferocious and cunning.
Ma Kongqun's eyes immediately shone. He knew that this definitely must be the place he was looking for. The person he was seeking had not died yet.
No sound came from within the room. The light from within was dim and cold.
Ma Kongqun let out a quiet sigh. Suddenly, he let out a very peculiar sound, much like the dreary howling of a wolf in the mountain wilderness.
The light in the room was immediately quenched. The tightly closed door suddenly opened.
A low, hoarse voice asked from within the darkness, "Which man are you?"
When he said the word 'man', his voice became lower still.
Ma Kongqun let out another sigh. "An old friend of the Plum Blossom."
The voice in the darkness suddenly fell silent. After a long time, it icily said, "I knew you would come, sooner or later."
The door tightly shut once more, but the light remained quenched.
The room remained dark. No one could possibly discern the features of the person inside, who disliked flowers and grass but liked cacti.
The person's voice was so hoarse and low that one could not even discern if it belonged to a male or a female, to a person young or old.
Now, within the darkness, this person and Ma Kongqun began to speak in whisper-like voices.
Ma Kongqun said, "Do you feel that I should not have come?"
The person said, "Of course you shouldn't have come. We agreed long ago that after the affair at the Plum Blossom, we would never meet again."
Ma Kongqun said, "I remember."
The person continued, "You promised me that no matter what happened, you wouldn't implicate me in your affairs."
Ma Kongqun suddenly smirked. "But the person who broke faith was not I."
The person said, "No? Are you saying that I did?"
Ma Kongqun said, "You shouldn't have ordered me killed."
The person said, "Who did I order to kill you?"
Ma Kongqun said, "You know what I am referring to. Why ask me?"
The person was silent for another period of time, before slowly saying, "You've already met the third master?"
Ma Kongqun laughed coldly. "So it was the third master after all. I've long heard people say that the third master of the Ding family is the most intelligent and capable. I never would have imagined, though, that not only would he master all of your skills, but that he would also learn how to use flying daggers."
The person said, "Flying daggers? What flying daggers?"
Ma Kongqun said, "That day at the Plum Blossom Convent, you took away two possessions of Bai Tianyu. One of them was a dagger which Little Li gifted to him. You thought I didn't know about it."
The person was silent. It seemed as though the person was forcefully grinding his teeth.
Ma Kongqun said, "Although the fame of Little Li's Flying Dagger shook the world, there weren't many people who had actually met him. Aside from you, nobody could possible duplicate one of his daggers."
The person said, "Only, even I didn't know that he had mastered Little Li's Flying Dagger."
Ma Kongqun coldly said, "Fortunately, he didn't reach a very high level of mastery. That's why I managed to reach this place alive."
That person was silent for another long period of time. The person suddenly said angrily, "I also know that your Hall of Ten Thousand Horses has been demolished by someone. I hear that a young fellow named Fu Hongxue did it. Can it be that he's Bai Tianyu's son, whom that **** gave birth to?"
Ma Kongqun said, "Precisely so."
The person said, "Just based on his own skills, he was able to demolish the Hall of Ten Thousand Horses?"
Ma Kongqun said, "When his sabre strikes out, it definitely isn't at all inferior to that of Bai Tianyu's in the older days."
The person said, "How could he have mastered that type of sabre technique? Can it be that Bai Tianyu had transmitted the secrets of his godlike sabre technique to that *****?"
Ma Kongqun flatly said, "Bai Tianyu was very genuine and sincere towards Princess Bai Feng."
The sound of teeth being gnashed could suddenly be heard from within the darkness. It sounded like swords grinding against each other, capable of causing listeners to shudder involuntarily. It seemed as though this person really did feel a deep, irreconcilable enmity for Bai Tianyu.
Ma Kongqun said, "But if Ye Kai hadn't been helping him in secret, Fu Hongxue wouldn't necessarily have succeeded."
The person said, "Ye Kai? What sort of relationship does he have to the Bai family?"
Ma Kongqun said, "His background is very murky, and his movements are mysterious. At first, even I was taken in by him, and I took him for nothing more than a person who coincidentally came at just the wrong time."
The person coldly said, "If he can even fool you, it would seem he is a very capable person."
Ma Kongqun said, "Although he is very young, he is extremely shrewd. His skill in martial arts is difficult to fathom as well. He really is even more difficult to deal with than Fu Hongxue."
The person said, "How well do you think he compares to the third master?"
Ma Kongqun said, "Third master Ding is also an exceedingly smart man. Unfortunately..."
The person said, "Unfortunately what?"
Ma Kongqun sighed again. "Unfortunately, exceedingly smart people generally do not live exceedingly long lives."
The person cried out involuntarily, "You killed him?"
Ma Kongqun flatly said, "I only beg that he not kill me. That would more than satisfy me. How could I kill him?"
The person said, "Then who killed him?"
Ma Kongqun said, "Fu Hongxue."
The person said, "How do you know? Did you personally witness it?"
Hesitating for a moment, Ma Kongqun finally nodded.
The person said in a fierce voice, "You personally witnessed Fu Hongxue murder him but didn't go help?"
Ma Kongqun said, "I should've gone to save him, but unfortunately, I was wounded and could barely even save myself."
The person said, "Who wounded you?"
Ma Kongqun said, "He did, with his flying daggers."
The person could no longer speak.
Ma Kongqun said, "No matter what, since I'm already here, there's no way for you to back away from this matter."
The person said, "What are you planning to do?"
Ma Kongqun said, "Nineteen years ago, you and I plotted out the bloody event at the Plum Blossom Convent. Not a single soul in the martial world knows of this. No matter how talented Fu Hongxue might be, there's no way he could possibly guess of this matter."
The person said, "So you intend to hide here?"
Ma Kongqun said, "Right now, that's my only option. Later on, in the future, I'll finish the job we started and kill Fu Hongxue."
The person said coldly, "Although the two of us are not friends, since things have already come to this point, I naturally cannot turn you away."
Ma Kongqun suddenly chuckled. "Of course, nor can you kill me to shut my mouth. You're a smart person. I'm sure you must realize that I would not have dared to come here if I had not made preparations in advance."
That person sneered. "Rest your mind. Although, over the course of the past few years, I've all but closed off this place from the rest of human society. Even if I were to kill an entire group of people within these walls, no one outside would ever know."
Ma Kongqun laughed dully. "It would seem as though I really can put my mind at rest and stay here."
The person suddenly said, "That Ye Kai fellow you mentioned earlier. I've heard of him before as well."
Shocked, Ma Kongqun said, "Oh?"
The person said, "Even if Fu Hongxue doesn't come here, sooner or later, Ye Kai will."
Ma Kongqun said, " Oh."
The person said, "Because right now, he's already all but the son-in-law of the Ding family."
Ma Kongqun cried out involuntarily, "No matter what, that can't be allowed!"
The person coldly said, "Why not? If he were to become the son-in-law of the Ding family, wouldn't I be able to sit back and relax more? In addition, the daughter of the Ding family will not marry anyone but him. At first, I wasn't willing to agree to this, but now, I intend to fulfill their desires."
Ma Kongqun suddenly smirked. "You want to give them your blessings? And when has anyone ever fulfilled your desires?"
The person fell silent once more. Then, within the darkness, the sound of footsteps could be heard. With a thudding sound, the person pushed the door open.
Ma Kongqun seemed to laugh again. Smiling to himself, he mumbled, "Oh, Ye Kai, Ye Kai...it's best if you don't come. Otherwise, I guarantee that you'll regret it."
The dim starlight shone into the room. Remarkably, there was a kettle of wine on the table.
He lifted it up and took a taste. Smiling, he continued, "This really is excellent wine. When a man is feeling lonely, he really should drink..."
But before he finished the thought, the smile on his face froze and he fell to the floor.
The night was as cold as water.
Ye Kai was hugging his knees as he rested on top of the ice cold stone steps. He stared at the bright moon, shining above the tops of the parasol trees. His heart felt cold as well.
The moon was now round, but the people were now separated.
Why must people inflict so much pain on one another? Why must people so often part from one another?
Since there must be a parting eventually, what was the point of having come together to begin with?
He suddenly once more thought of Xiao Bieli, once more thought about those events at that border town, once more thought about that lonely old nun at the Plum Blossom Convent, once more thought about that tomb on top of the mountain.
Right now, he seemed to have come to an understanding about all things. There was just one thing he still did not understand.
And there was just one more problem he could not solve.
Perhaps this was simply a problem that could not be solved, because no matter what he might do, it would be difficult for him to avoid hurting others, and it would be difficult for him to avoid hurting himself.
Although parting is painful, why is it that coming together must also be so vexing? The cold mountain wind blew past him, bringing with it the sound of footsteps from behind, as well as the clear, joyful sound of bells.
He suddenly turned his head and said, "You came at just the right moment. I was just about to go hunt you down."
Ding Linglin pursed her lips in a smile. "Why didn't you?"
Ye Kai said, "Because just then, I hadn't made up my mind yet as to whether or not I should tell you about this matter."
Ding Linglin said, "About what matter?"
Ye Kai said, "At first, I didn't want to let you know about this, but I didn't want to deceive you either. No matter what, you've always been very good to me."
His expression was very solemn, and his voice was extremely indifferent.
This was not how Ye Kai usually behaved.
Ding Linglin was no longer able to smile. She seemed to have already realized that he definitely would not be telling her anything pleasant.
Forcing out a smile, she said, "No matter what you want to say to me, I don't care to hear it."
Ye Kai said, "But you must hear it, because I am going to leave before the sun rises."
Ding Linglin cried out involuntarily, "You're leaving? Why didn't you tell me earlier?"
Ye Kai said, "Because this time, you cannot come with me."
Ding Linglin said, "You...you are going alone? To where?"
Ye Kai said, "I'm not going alone either."
Ding Linglin let out a cry. "Are you taking Third Madame Shen with you?"
Ye Kai said, "Correct."
Ding Linglin said, "Why?"
Ye Kai said, "Because I like her. I've always liked her. You're just a kid, but she is the woman who I hold dearest in my heart. For her sake, I can give up anything."
Ding Linglin stared at him in shock, as though she had never seen him before. In a trembling voice, she said, "She...can it be that she is willing to go with you?"
Ye Kai chuckled. He flatly said, "Of course she is willing. As even you've agreed, I'm a very likable man."
Ding Linglin's face turned ashen, but her eyes had begun to turn red, as though she had been struck heavily on the face by someone.
She retreated, one step at a time, as her tears began to fall, one drop at a time. She suddenly turned around and rushed out, forcefully ramming Third Madame Shen's door open.
Ye Kai didn't stop her, because he knew that Third Madame Shen would say the same thing to her.
Third Madame Shen had already promised him.
But just at this moment, he suddenly heard a cry of alarm coming from Third Madame Shen's room, as though someone had suddenly seen a ghost.
The cry came from Ding Linglin.
The room was still bright with light.
The cold, cheerless light shone upon Third Madame Shen's pale face. There was a very peaceful expression on her face.
But she was already dead.
A dagger was stuck in her chest. Blood had already dyed her clothes crimson.
But her death was a very peaceful one, because she had only taken her own life after very long and serious contemplation.
Aside from death, she had no other way to free herself.
There was a short letter. "Miss Ding is a very good girl. I can tell that she cares for you deeply. I'm a woman as well, and therefore, although I gave you my word, I still can't bear to help you lie to her. And I definitely cannot bear to watch you go kill Ma Kongqun."
These were the last words of Third Madame Shen. She believed that Ye Kai would understand her meaning.
But Ding Linglin did not understand.
Turning around, she stared at Ye Kai. Tears flowing, she said, "So you were deceiving me after all. Why did you lie to me? Why did you want to hurt me?"
A look of pain appeared on Ye Kai's bright and cheerful face as well. He finally let out a long sigh. "Because you will be hurt no matter what, sooner or later!"
Ding Linglin shouted loudly, "Why? Why?"
Ye Kai was no longer willing to answer her. He prepared to leave.
But Ding Linglin seized him by his clothes. "You already promised that you'd go to my home with me. We're already almost at my home now. Why did you suddenly change your mind?"
Ye Kai said, "Because I suddenly find you distasteful."
He forcefully pulled her hand away. Without even turning his head, he walked away.
He didn't dare to look back, because he was afraid to let Ding Linglin see his eyes. Tears had appeared in his eyes as well.
A single lonely parasol tree was groaning as it was blown to and fro by the wind, as though it were sighing on behalf of all affectionate, loving men and women.
Beneath that parasol tree stood a man.
A lonely man, whose face was even more pallid than those of corpses.
Fu Hongxue. He seemed to have arrived long ago and had heard everything. As he stared at Ye Kai, a look of shared pain and understanding seemed to appear in his cold, callous eyes.
Ye Kai cried out involuntarily, "You! You came as well?"
Fu Hongxue said, "I should have come."
Ye Kai suddenly chuckled. His chuckle was very mournful. "The person who shouldn't have come was I? I really shouldn't have come?"
Fu Hongxue said, "Not only should you not have come, you also shouldn't have treated her in such a way."
Ye Kai said, "Oh?"
Fu Hongxue said, "Because this affair has absolutely nothing to do with you, nor is there any enmity between you and the people of the Ding family. The only reason I came to find you is to have you take her away from here. Never interfere in this affair again."
Ye Kai's face was pale as well. He let out a miserable smile. "It seems as though you have discovered many things over the past two days."
Fu Hongxue said, "I know everything now."
Ye Kai said, "You are certain?"
Fu Hongxue said, "I have already met Ding Lingzhong!"
Ye Kai asked nothing else. He seemed to feel as though these words explained everything.
But Fu Hongxue couldn't resist from asking him, "Do you know quite a bit about this as well?"
Ye Kai nodded.
Fu Hongxue said, "How did you find out?"
Ye Kai avoided answering. Instead, he sighed and said, "I'm just surprised that Ding Lingzhong would act in such a risky way by seeking you out."
Fu Hongxue coldly said, "I'm just surprised that you insist on entangling yourself in this affair."
A person suddenly laughed coldly. "That's because he's a person who, by nature, likes to make trouble. That's why trouble follows him as well."
The sound came from the other side of the rooftop.
There was only the voice. No person was there.
By the time the voice was finished speaking, the sight of peanuts being tossed in the air and falling down could be seen.
And then, a hand stretched out, tossing out those peanut shells.
Ye Kai cried out involuntarily, "Lu Xiaojia."
The person laughed. He stood up, a smile on his face. "Yes, it's me."
Ye Kai said, "Why did you come here as well?"
Lu Xiaojia let out a sigh. "I didn't want to come, but I had no choice but to come."
Ye Kai said, "To do what?"
Lu Xiaojia sighed, "Aside from killing people, what else do I know how to do?"
Ye Kai said, "Who did you come to kill?"
Lu Xiaojia said, "Aside from yourself, who else would I kill?"
Ye Kai laughed as well.
Lu Xiaojia said, "You didn't expect it?"
Ye Kai said, "From the very first day I met you, I knew that you would come for my life, sooner or later."
Lu Xiaojia laughed. "I didn't know that you knew how to tell fortunes."
Ye Kai smiled. "At the same time, I also accurately predicted that there is no way you would be able to kill me."
Lu Xiaojia flatly said, "I'm afraid this time, your predictions were wrong."
Ye Kai said, "I also know that no matter what, you will at least make the attempt."
Lu Xiaojia said, "But I don't know if you'd like to battle now, or wait to see the "Twin Swords Shatter the Divine Sabre" technique of the two scions of the Ding family."
Ye Kai said, "Twin Swords Shatter the Divine Sabre?"
Lu Xiaojia said, "The two swords combine into eighty one different stances which flow together without a single gap or opening. The brothers of the Ding family practiced this technique, expressly for the purpose of defending against the Bai family's sabre technique. I imagine you haven't seen it either."
Ye Kai said, "Correct, I have not."
Lu Xiaojia said, "Right now, you have the rare opportunity to see a never-seen sword technique. Wouldn't it be a pity for you to miss it?"
Ye Kai said, "It really would be a pity."
Turning his head, he saw that Fu Hongxue's face had once more turned translucent in its paleness.
Right at this moment, with a dragon-like roar, two swords struck out like bolts of lightning from the opposing room.
From the midst of the brilliant sword like, one could see two men. One was tall and stood as erect as jade. The scar could still be seen on his handsome face. It was the elegant and graceful Third Master Ding.
The other man was dressed as a Daoist and wore a priestly hat. His face was cold and emotionless. The sword in his hands shot out rays of light in all directions. He was none other than the man who was rarely seen in the martial world, the First Master, Ding Yunhe.
Just as the tips of their feet touched the ground, their swords struck out three times. Their two swords blended together in complete harmony, as flawless as a robe woven in heaven. Their swordwork really did flow together without a single gap or opening.
Ding Linglin's eyes widened. Standing beneath the roof, she was riveted as she watched. She was the only person who still had no idea at all what was going on.
In the blink of an eye, those two swords seemed to suddenly turned into dozens of swords. Dozens of sword flashes enveloped Fu Hongxue, preventing others from even seeing him.
Ye Kai sighed. "It seems as though the deadliest aspect of these eighty one strokes is the fact that it prevents their opponent from even drawing his blade."
Lu Xiaojia said, "You really do have excellent eyesight."
Ye Kai said, "It seems this sword technique really was developed for the express purpose of dealing with the Bai family's divine sabre."
Lu Xiaojia chuckled. "The only good way to deal with the Bai family's divine sabre is to not let it be drawn out to begin with."
Ye Kai said, "The inventor of this sword art is a genius who must have labored mightily over this technique."
Lu Xiaojia said, "Because he knows that the descendants of the Bai family hates him, and he hates the Bai family as well."
Ye Kai sighed. "That's the only thing which I do not understand. What is the cause of the hatred between the two?"
Lu Xiaojia said, "Sooner or later, you'll understand."
Ye Kai suddenly chuckled. "And sooner or later, won't these eighty one strokes be exhausted as well?"
Lu Xiaojia said, "There's one more marvelous aspect to this sword technique. After the strokes have been exhausted, they can be reused."
At this time, the two Ding brothers really had just used up all eighty one strokes. With a clear whistle, the two swords spun about in a circle as they started again from the very first stroke. From beginning to end to beginning, there was not a single break or opening.
Fu Hongxue's indescribably, unthinkably marvelous footwork was now on full display. Those twin, lightning-like swords couldn't hurt him in the slightest.
However, all of his own skills had been totally neutralized. He had no opportunity to draw his sabre at all.
Ye Kai suddenly said, "The Ding family brothers definitely could not have invented this sword technique."
Lu Xiaojia said, "Oh?"
Ye Kai said, "The inventor must have personally witnessed Bai Tianyu strike before. That's why he is able to seal off every chance of the sabre being drawn."
Lu Xiaojia said, "Logical."
Ye Kai said, "Mere bystanders couldn't hope to have a deep enough understanding. I imagine that he must have personally fought with Hero Bai."
Lu Xiaojia said, "That's very likely."
Ye Kai dully said, "It's possible that he was one of those assassins who slew Bai Tianyu that night, outside the Plum Blossom Convent."
Lu Xiaojia said, "Oh!"
Ye Kai stared at him. He slowly continued, "Perhaps that person is Ding Chengfeng."
Ding Chengfeng was Ding Linglin's father.
Ding Linglin was listening off to the side. Her expression had changed greatly, as though she had suddenly understood.
But she wished that she would have never come to understand this.
By this time, the brothers of the Ding family had struck out with around seventy more sword strokes. The sound of Fu Hongxue's panting was now clearly audible to all.
Clearly, he was no longer capable of holding out for much longer. But the combination sword art of the Ding family still flowed smoothly and without pause, as though it could go on forever without stopping.
Ye Kai couldn't help but lightly sigh.
Lu Xiaojia stared at him. "Are you thinking of giving him a hand and helping him out?"
Ye Kai said, "No."
Lu Xiaojia smirked. "Really?"
Ye Kai smiled. "Really. Because he has no need of my help at all."
Lu Xiaojia's forehead wrinkled as he frowned. Turning his head, he stared at the shadow hidden within the sword flashes. The expression on his face suddenly changed as well.
The two brothers of the Ding family had finished the second rendition of the eighty one sword strokes.
Their swords spun around again. Just at this moment, when they were right about to change into the original strokes but had not done so, a loud roar could be heard!
Within the roar, a snow-bright flash of sabre light struck out!
Fu Hongxue's sabre had left the sheath!