Chapter 20 - A Drunken Haze To Solve A Thousand Worries
"The two of them have been in hiding for many years now and figured that no one would know of their whereabouts," Ye Kai said.
"I doubt anyone really did know of their whereabouts," Third Madame Shen said.
"But just today I had mentioned casually that the two of them might be nearby," Ye Kai said.
"How did you know?" Third Madame Shen asked.
"I know a lot of things," Ye Kai said with a slight chuckle.
Ye Kai lifted his cup to take another sip, the wine started to taste a little bitter. He obviously understood just how difficult it must have been for her to have to be with a man she detested.
Third Madame Shen suddenly looked up as she brushed her hair to the side and exclaimed, "Would you believe me if I told you that I've never truly loved a man in my life before?"
Her eyes looked a bit blurry, she looked a bit inebriated.
"Actually, Ma KongQun was very good to me. He could've killed me off a long time ago." she continued.
"Why is that?" Ye Kai asked.
"Because he knew who I was from the beginning." Third Madame Shen replied.
"But he didn't take your life." Ye Kai said.
Third Madame Shen nodded her head and said, "So I should actually be grateful towards him, yet I can't help but hate him."
She tightened her grasp on the wine cup in her hand, as if it was Ma KongQun's neck.
The bottle was empty.
Ye Kai poured half of his own cup into hers. She then slowly drank it down, sip by sip. She wanted to cherish every last drop.
Ye Kai stared at her and said, "I'm assuming that you don't ever want to see Ma KongQun again."
"I can't kill him. All I can do now is avoid him." Third Madame Shen responded.
"You've done all that you can." Ye Kai consoled gently.
Her eyes dropped as she stared into her empty cup, "Do you know why I'm telling you all of this?"
Ye Kai smiled and replied, "Because I'm a very sensible man."
"Not only that, but you're quite adorable as well. If I were younger, I would've definitely tried to seduce you." Third Madame Shen replied softly.
Ye Kai glanced at her and said, "You don't look very old."
Third Madame Shen slowly lifted her head. Her eyes fixed on Ye Kai as the sweetest smile began to surface on her lips as she said, "Even if I wasn't old, it's already too late ..."
The beautiful smile on her face carried an undescribable bitterness with it. A bitterness that carried more character than the sweetest smile. It was painfully bittersweet.
Then she suddenly stood up, turned around and pulled out another jug of wine.
"That's why all I want now is for you to get drunk with me." Third Madame Shen said.
Ye Kai let out a light sigh and replied, "I haven't gotten drunk in quite a while."
"But before we drink, I want you to promise me one thing." Third Madame Shen said.
"Speak." Ye Kai responded.
"Of course you can tell what kind of person Fu HongXue is by now." Third Madame Shen said.
Ye Kai nodded his head and said, "I'm actually quite fond of the kid."
"He's an extremely gifted talent, he can master pretty much anything he sets his mind to. But he is also extremely frail and sickly. Although he often gives off the impression that he is full of vigor, in reality he is trying desperately to control himself. I'm afraid that if one day the impulse is too great that he won't be able to withstand the pain." Third Madame Shen pleaded.
Ye Kai listened very intently.
"I was there when he killed GongSun Duan. You couldn't imagine how much pain he was in afterwards, I've never witnessed anyone throwing up so violently before." Third Madame Shen said.
"So you're afraid that he'll ..." Ye Kai said.
"I'm afraid that he won't be able to bear that kind of pain again, I'm afraid that he'll really lose his mind." Third Madame Shen said.
"He has no other choice but to kill." Ye Kai replied.
Third Madame Shen let out a long sigh and said, "What worries me most is his illness."
"His illness?" Ye Kai asked.
"In the field of medicine, it is referred to as epilepsy, or more commonly, Mad Sheep Disease. When the illness breaks out, the victim loses all control of his body." Third Madame Shen explained.
A look of distress came over Ye Kai's face as he said, "I've seen this type of illness before."
"The worse part is that no one knows when it will flare up, not even himself. That's why there will always be a certain dread in his heart. That's why he is always so nervous and tense. That's why he can never loosen up and relax." Third Madame Shen said.
"Why would the heavens curse someone like him with such a disease?" Ye Kai remarked.
"Luckily, no one knows about his illness, not even the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses'." Third Madame Shen said.
"You're certain that no one else knows?" Ye Kai asked.
"Not a soul." Third Madame Shen replied.
She really was that confident. But what she didn't know was that his epilepsy had acted up recently, and it just happened to be when Ma FangLing was with him.
"You think his illness is much more likely to surface when he's nervous or tense?" Ye Kai pondered.
"I believe so." Third Madame Shen said.
"He'll definitely be in a tense mood when he faces off with the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses'." Ye Kai said.
"That's what I'm most afraid of, if his illness happens to break out at that time ..." Third Madame Shen said as her lips started to quiver. She couldn't even finish her sentence. Not only didn't she dare to, she didn't even want to think about it.
Ye Kai poured her another cup of wine and said, "And that is why you're hoping that I'll watch over him?"
"I'm not hoping, I'm begging you to." Third Madame Shen said.
"I know." Ye Kai replied.
"So will you?" Third Madame Shen asked.
Ye Kai's eyes peered off into the distance. After a long while he finally responded, "I can promise you, but right now I'm worried about something else."
"What is it that you're worried about?" Third Madame Shen asked.
"Did you know that when he returned to town before, not even within two hours, there were two people out for his life?" Ye Kai said.
Third Madame Shen was slightly startled and asked, "Which two people?"
"You must've heard of the names 'Intestine Shattering Needle' Granny Du and 'Boneless Serpent' XiMen Chun before." Ye Kai said.
Of course she had heard of them. The look on her face changed as she asked, "That's odd, why would they want to kill him for?"
"Actually, that's not the strange part." Ye Kai said.
"Then what is?" Third Madame Shen said.
"I had just mentioned not too long ago that the two of them might be in the area, and lo and behold, the two of them suddenly appear." Ye Kai said.
"You think their sudden appearances were too coincidental?" Third Madame Shen asked.
"Not just that, it's as if they were so afraid of someone discovering their secrets that they showed up to forfeit their lives instead." Ye Kai said.
"So you didn't kill them?" Third Madame Shen asked.
"I didn't want them to die that quickly." Ye Kai said with a laugh.
"So you're saying someone must've killed them to silence them." Third Madame Shen guessed.
"It might not be that simple." Ye Kai said.
"I see." Third Madame Shen said.
"The two people who were killed might not even be XiMen Chun and Granny Du." Ye Kai remarked.
"Why do you think that is the case?" Third Madame Shen asked.
"There must've been an extremely important reason why the two of them would suddenly surface here in Bordertown." Ye Kai postulated.
"I agree." Third Madame Shen said.
"The two of them have been in hiding for many years now and figured that no one would know of their whereabouts." Ye Kai said.
"I doubt anyone really did know of their whereabouts." Third Madame Shen said.
"But just today I had mentioned casually that the two of them might be nearby." Ye Kai said.
"How did you know?" Third Madame Shen asked.
"I know a lot of things." Ye Kai said with a slight chuckle.
"I think you know too much for your own good." Third Madame Shen sighed.
"And since I had revealed their locations, it would only be a matter of time until people started to search them out." Ye Kai said.
"But the two of them weren't afraid of others, they were afraid of you. They would've never imagined that you would know that they were in this town. And they simply couldn't imagine what else you would know about them." Third Madame Shen said.
"They were afraid that I was on to them, so they arranged for these two people to suddenly appear and tried their hardest to convince me that they were XiMen Chun and Granny Du." Ye Kai said.
"And how did they go about doing that?" Third Madame Shen asked.
"They tried many things. But the simplest way was to have the 'Intestine Shattering Needle' kill again." Ye Kai said.
"The 'Intestine Shattering Needle' is the signature hidden weaponry of Granny Du. They assumed you would think that the person using it would be Granny Du." Third Madame Shen said.
"Correct." Ye Kai said.
"And an opponent worthy of facing the 'Intestine Shattering Needle' would obviously be Fu HongXue." Third Madame Shen said.
"That was the most ingenious part of their plan." Ye Kai said.
"If the two of them were able to kill Fu HongXue then of course that would be great. But even if they failed, it wouldn't interfere with their plans." Third Madame Shen said.
"Absolutely right." Ye Kai said.
"And after the two impersonators had attacked, the real XiMen Chun and Granny Du would take their lives, leading you to believe that they are dead." Third Madame Shen said.
"No one is interested in the deceased, they assumed that from then on no one would come looking for them anymore." Ye Kai said.
Third Madame Shen's eyes perked up as she commented, "Too bad there are actually people in this world who are interested in the deceased."
"There really are such people in this world." Ye Kai said.
"That's why killing them was not enough. They had to destroy the bodies and leave no trace of evidence." Third Madame Shen said.
Ye Kai let out a sigh and said, "I've heard that beautiful women rarely use their minds. I guess that saying doesn't apply to you."
Third Madame Shen let out a captivating smile and said, "I've heard that men who use their brains rarely know how to use their mouths. I guess that saying doesn't apply to you either."
Ye Kai started to laugh. It really wasn't the time for laughter.
"There are still several things I don't quite understand." Third Madame Shen said.
"Jusk ask." Ye Kai said.
"If the two people who were killed weren't Granny Du and XiMen Chun, then who were they?" Third Madame Shen questioned.
"All I know is that one of them was quite adept at martial arts, he definitely wasn't some lowly henchmen." Ye Kai said.
"But you don't know his identity." Third Madame Shen said.
"I will eventually." Ye Kai said.
Third Madame Shen stared at him and said, "It seems like you always find out everything you want to know eventually."
"That's because I'm a very resourceful person." Ye Kai replied.
"Then you must know why Granny Du and XiMen Chun have been hiding in Bordertown for all these years." Third Madame Shen said.
"What do you think?" Ye Kai said.
A stern and serious look came over her face as she said slowly, "Of the thirty assassins there are still seven alive today. I think we've just found two of them."
"This is a very serious matter so it's best that you don't pass judgement immediately." Ye Kai said.
"Can we assume that the two of them are for now?" Third Madame Shen said.
Ye Kai let out a long sigh. Sometimes sighing can be takeen as a reply.
"If the two of them are still alive, then they would definitely still be around here." Third Madame Shen said.
"Right." Ye Kai said.
"And if they could so easily find two people to be their scapegoats, then they must have a lot underlings in the area as well." Third Madame Shen said.
"Right." Ye Kai replied.
"And they could appear at anytime, like when they ambushed Fu HongXue." Third Madame Shen said.
Ye Kai nodded his head in agreement and sighed.
"You're worried about that as well?" Third Madame Shen said.
"With his level or martial arts, those people aren't his match." Ye Kai said.
Third Madame Shen nodded back.
"Since he's the son of the princess of the 'Demon Cult', he's bound to know quite a few underhanded tactics and tricks." Ye Kai said.
"Quite a few indeed." Third Madame Shen added.
"But he lacks one thing." Ye Kai said.
"What?" Third Madame Shen asked.
"Experience." Ye Kai replied. "In his situation, experience is the single most important thing. But it's something that cannot be taught."
"So ..." Third Madame Shen said.
"So you should go and warn him that the real danger doesn't lie in the 'Hall of Ten-Thousand Horses', but rather the real danger is here in Bordertown. And it will be an enemy that he can neither see nor guess." Ye Kai said.
"You think Ma KongQun had this all planned out already?" Third Madame Shen asked.
"Like you've said before, he is an extremely prudent tactician." Ye Kai replied.
"He really is." Third Madame Shen said.
"It's probably because there is no one left at his side who will fight to the death for him." Ye Kai said.
"GongSun Duan's death must have been a great hit to him." Third Madame Shen said.
"Someone as cautious as Ma KongQun only looks out for himself. Even if GongSun Duan were his most loyal friend, he wouldn't rely on him as his sole means of protection." Ye Kai said.
"GongSun Duan never was a reliable person." Third Madame Shen said.
"Of course Ma KongQun would know this better than us." Ye Kai said.
"So you think he had made precautions for his own safety long before this?" Third Madame Shen asked.
"If he had the ability to take care of Fu HongXue from the very beginning then he wouldn't still be here." Ye Kai said.
"You don't think Fu HongXue has a chance at revenge at all?" Third Madame Shen asked.
"If it was revenge on Ma KongQun alone, then he does." Ye Kai said.
"But on all of the other assassins as well?" Third Madame Shen asked.
"That would be difficult." Ye Kai said.
Third Madame Shen stared at him for a while then sighed. "Whether you're really worried for us or whether you're just a messenger from Ma KongQun sending us a warning, I really can't tell."
"You really can't tell?" Ye Kai asked.
"You've revealed a lot of secrets, but after thinking about it, none of that information is of any use at all." Third Madame Shen said.
"Oh?" Ye Kai said.
"Even If I did go to warn Fu HongXue, it would only serve to make him more anxious and tense, and then he'd be even more susceptible to an ambush." Third Madmae Shen said.
"You don't have to warn him." Ye Kai said.
Third Madame Shen gazed straight into his eyes, trying to pry at what he was thinking inside his mind. But she couldn't see anything at all.
So she couldn't help but sigh. "All I want to know right now is who exactly are you?"
Ye Kai let out a smile and replied, "You're not the first to ask me that question."
"And how come no one knows a single thing about your background?" Third Madame Shen said.
"It might be because I don't remember a single thing either." Ye Kai said.
Ye Kai raised his cup and said, "All I remember now is that I promised to drink with you until the sun rises."
Third Madame Shen flapped her eyelids and said, "You really want to get drunk?"
Ye Kai smiled and replied, "What if I'm not drunk by the end of the night?"
If Ye Kai was drunk, then Third Madame Shen should be drunk as well. But when he awoke, he was by himself. There was a note underneath the empty jar of wine.
The letter was inked with red rouge makeup, almost as red as blood.
It read: "The woman who drank with you last night wasn't me either."
There was still some rouge next to the jar of wine. Ye Kai added another line.
"I wasn't even here last night."
What if he wasn't drunk? He was better off drunk.
The foggy mist of morning hung over the grasslands. To the east the sky was an insipid color of blue while the rest was a misty haze of silver and gray.
And a dark green sea of grass.
Ye Kai stepped out and took a deep breath, the air was moist and fresh.
The grasslands had not yet waken up, not a single person was in sight, not a single sound could be heard. A serenely peaceful stillness enveloped the land.
Ma FangLing was still asleep. Young girls rarely missed two days of sleep in a row. Not even their worries could fend off the temptation of sleep.
But for people getting on in their years, it was a completely different story. Ye Kai was sure that Ma KongQun wouldn't be able to sleep. To have gone through so much at his age, it'd be a miracle if he really did manage to fall asleep.
What was he doing? Was he mourning over his friend? Or was he worried about himself?
Xiao BieLi had probably returned to his quarters, drinking his last cup of wine before he went to sleep. Was Ding Qiu still drinking with him?
And Fu HongXue? Was he able to find somewhere to retire for the night?
But what concerned Ye Kai the most was Third Madame Shen. He just couldn't think of where she would be able to go. But he knew that a woman like her would definitely be able to find a place.
Unless she had lost sight of herself.
A vulture suddenly appeared in the silvery gray sky and circled above him. It looked tired and hungry.
Ye Kai lifted his head and looked towards the sky. He thought to himself for a while, then said, "If you're looking for food then you've come to the wrong place. I'm still very much alive."
Ye Kai blinked a couple times and smiled, "If you're looking for corpses, then you should head for where there are coffins."
The vulture squawked back as if it was asking, "Where are there coffins ...? Where are there coffins ...?"