8.19.2011

The Crane Startles Kunlun, Chapter 8

The Crane Startles Kunlun, Chapter 8.
from Wang Dulu's He Jing Kunlun.

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CHAPTER EIGHT

As two exemplars decide victory and defeat, blood sheen stains a sword.
Holding his enmity for ten years, a letter brimming with anger is sent.


The youth turned around and waved his hand, saying, "Never mind! Just let him go! Anyway, he knows he was defeated." Aluan turned and ran over to her horse, taking it in hand to cross the bridge and chase after Li Fengjie. The youth rushed over with one hand holding a sword and the other grabbing hold of Aluan's arm. He laughed and insisted, "Miss, why are you going after him? I dare guarantee once he's crossed this river, he won't venture west of the bridge again." Aluan flushed red as she wrested her arm away and stamped angrily, saying, "But then he'll just run away! We'll have let him killed for nothing!" The youth smiled and said, "It's you were in the wrong, with all of you fighting just him!" Qin Deyu came over to talk her down as well. Lu Zhizhong clasped his fist toward the youth and asked, "What is this brother's honorable name?" The youth said, "I'm surnamed Ji." Qin Deyu asked in surprise, "Could it be that our friend here is Ji Guangjie?" The youth nodded and smiled.

Upon hearing that this was the Xia of Longmen's grandson Ji Guangjie, Ge Zhiqiang and the others hurried over to greet him, all saying, "Brother Ji, it is a true honor to finally meet one as great as you!" Ji Guangjie cupped his fist as well and said some polite words. The young lady Aluan had originally admired the youth's exceptional swordwork and martial arts that surpassed Li Fengjie's, but then grew angry at the frivolity of his actions. Now that she heard this was the much talked about Ji Guangjie, she was even more startled into attention. She saw that Ji Guangjie was no older than twenty-four or twenty-five years. He looked confident and open, and his body was short but robust. His complexion was a little bit dark, and he wore blue creased coat and pants. A tassel of red thread was tied to his sword.

Ge Zhiqiang and Lu Zhizhong called over idle men to lift the dead and wounded into wagons while also trying their hardest to involve Ji Guangjie, asking him to wait here a moment and then to enter Chang'an city together and go to the Lishun security office to rest up. However, Ji Guangjie said, "I've come to Chang'an to see my uncle, and I'll be staying here for at least two or three months. There will be many days for us to gather together to come, so allow me to trouble you another day!" He went beside the bridge where a servant of his was holding on to two white horses, and he sheathed his sword. The three, Ge Zhiqiang, Lu Zhizhong, and Qin Deyu walked over and asked, "Might we know which lane of the city your esteemed kin lives on?" Ji Guangjie said, "My humble kin lives on the salt shop street and runs the Guangyifu money dispensary. You will be able to find me there." He mounted his horse, cupped his fist and said, "Farewell!" He departed with his servant in tow. He went a short distance and looked back. He cupped his fist again, and then turned around and rode off.

Aluan, Ge Zhiqiang and the others watched the two horses grow distant before turning back around. They saw that the idle men they had temporarily employed had already carried the injured Cheng Fengshan, Jin Zhiyong and Eighth Zhang, and the tragically dead Han Bao, all into wagons. Ge Zhiqiang couldn't help but sigh and wipe away tears. It wasn't until then that two officers from this town dared approach. Ge Zhiqiang said, "The attacker's already fled. You needn't report this to your higher-ups." He gave the officers ten taels of silver and entrusted them to distribute it to those who had helped and those who had come to watch, instructing them not to tell anyone else what happened here today. Then, Ge Zhiqiang and the others mounted their horses and returned to Chang'an city with the wagons.

Ge Zhiqiang sighed all the way, saying, "The decades-long heroic reputation of our Kunlun School is all but lost! We've let this one insignificant Li Fengjie cut and hurt us, twice wounding and killing seven or eight of us. And then once another comes, this Ji Guangjie, he defeats Li Fengjie without breaking a sweat. What a disgrace! How can we run security offices like this, or travel upon Jianghu? It seems to me it's best for all the disciples of our Kunlun School to go see our master together to cry bitterly. Then, we'll shutter all the security offices!" The sunlight had already dried the muddy water on his person, but his appearance grew increasingly pitiful. Lu Zhizhong, Liang Zhen and the others all sat silent on their horses with their heads lowered.

Aluan was so furious her delicate countenance was entirely purple. She fumed, "On what basis would you close all the security offices of the Kunlun School? If none of you will run them, I'll do it. Not only will I still be called a hero in Jianghu, but two days hence I will have a martial contest with Ji Guangjie. In a few days, I'll take revenge on Li Fengjie. This feud must be settled. If you had all allowed me to fight him one-on-one, I guarantee you I wouldn't have let him go. With all of you a confused mess in there, I couldn't even properly display my saberwork!" At these words of hers, even Ge Zhiqiang stopped talking.

When they returned to the city interior, Ge Zhiqiang had the dead and wounded brought back to their homes first. When he got back to the security office, he laid troubled on his bed. Aluan sat angry in the room she was staying in and cursed ceaselessly with rage, slamming the table and stamping her feet. All the people in the security office hung their heads, disheartened, none of them were as happy as they had been in days past. Lu Zhizhong sat fretting in Ge Zhiqiang's room for a while and thought things over. Then, he lifted his head and said, "Brother, there's no use in us just worrying here. Among men, there are martial arts both strong and weak, and when they fight, there are winners and losers. This incident can't be counted as much. The security offices can remain open, Jianghu can still be traversed, and vengeance must also be taken. If Jiang Xiaohe comes, we must still deal with him!" Ge Zhiqiang said, "I'm not afraid of Jiang Xiaohe coming. But right now, I truly do not have the face to go out and meet with people!"

Lu Zhizhong shook his head and said, "It seems to me the imminent danger is still Jiang Xiaohe! Ah! Let's not mention him for now and speak only of the present. We saw Ji Guangjie's martial arts today. Not only are his martial arts stronger than ours, they surpass Li Fengjie's. A character like him is truly worthy to be the Xia of Longmen's grandson. We were in the wrong today when we fought Li Fengjie, a group against one, but he can help us drive Li Fengjie away. It was clear he thought highly of our Kunlun School. He was very genial, both young and enthusiastic. Wouldn't it be better for us to become good friends with him? On one hand, it will guard against Li Fengjie's retaliation, and on the other, it will prepare for Jiang Xiaohe's arrival when we'll have a good helping hand."

Before his disciple-brother finished speaking, Ge Zhiqiang shook his head and said, "So we have to ask the grandson of the Xia of Longmen to boost our strength because our Kunlun School can't do it alone. Well then our master's thirty years' reputation will be completely smashed!" Lu Zhizhong said, "No, the master would surely agree. On the day that brother Jiang Zhiyao arrived at Dasan Pass with Miss Luan, he told me that this journey wasn't only to allow Miss Luan to see the world, but also to find a husband for the young miss. Before he departed, the master whispered this to Brother Jiang. No matter where it is, if they encountered a young man of talent, someone whose martial arts surpassed Miss Luan's own, he could have them get married." Ge Zhiqiang jumped off his bed, saying, "All together, Ji Guangjie is true enough a young man of talent. Not only do his martial arts far surpass the young miss Aluan's, but even the master may not be able to beat him. In terms of family background, how thunderous it is to say the grandson of Ji Junyi the Xia of Longmen!"

Lu Zhizhong said, "This match is sent from the heavens, and we must not pass this opportunity by. What's more, Jiang Zhiyao is already on his way back to Hanzhong to ask our eldest brother to come." Ge Zhiqiang said, "Even if our eldest brother didn't come, we can still make decisions for his daughter." Ge Zhiqiang had Lu Zhizhong remain at home to keep a close eye on Aluan and to not let her leave the house. He hurried back to the northern house to change his clothes and told those outside to prepare a wagon. Shortly, Ge Zhiqiang changed into a clean set of clothes, so that he looked like a different person than the one who had previously crawled out of the river. Bringing a servant with him, he departed in a wagon toward the salt shop street to call upon Ji Guangjie.

Ji Guangjie was currently staying at the Guangyifu money dispensary. It was not a large business, and it was run in partnership by his uncle Zhao Baofu and another man. Ji Guangjie was resting in the counter house, so when Ge Zhiqiang came to visit, he was there to receive him. The two exchanged some words of Jianghu courtesy first, before Ge Zhiqiang inquired into Ji Guangjie's family background. Ji Guangjie said, "My late father passed away before my late grandfather. My grandfather had long been disillusioned with Jianghu, so when my father was still living, he gave up his arms and took up scholarly study. The examination rooms were unfavorable, however, and he only attained xiucai status and had a rough life until the end. In my childhood, I studied under my father and achieved xiucai rank at fifteen years. Yet, my grandfather didn't want the transmission of his martial arts to end with him, so he had me learning literature from my father and martial arts from him, for the sake that if I couldn't rise in the ranks of the civil service, I would still be able to make a living using martial arts. In the ten years since, both my grandfather and my father have passed on and all that remains at home are my widowed mother and a cousin and his wife. The examination rooms have not been advantageous to me either, so I've set forth for some experience and made some friends in Henan. I've come now to Guanzhong to see my maternal uncle, and after two or three months, I'll set out for the capital to seek out an official position."

Ge Zhiqiang listened to Ji Guangjie's words and came to like him even more, quickly saying, "Brother Ji, you should stay here longer and enjoy yourself. You needn't hurry off to Beijing. Our brothers feel an immediate familiarity with you, and our master Bao Kunlun may come to Chang'an after a few days. The old man would be pleased to meet one as great as you." Then he added, "If you hadn't helped us by beating Li Fengjie away today, our Kunlun School would have lost all our men! Afterwards, the master's granddaughter praised you highly at the security office and asked me to bring you back, so she could meet you and consult with you about martial arts."

Hearing this, Ji Guangjie couldn't help but smile. He nodded and said, "Very well. I'll go over there tonight and we'll speak more then!" Since this counter house was rather small and the attendants were often going out or coming in, it wasn't convenient to talk. Ge Zhiqiang sat for a while longer before taking his leave. After he left the money dispensary, he went to the homes of Han Bao, Eighth Zhang and the other wounded to check up on them, earning himself a chest full of worry and grief. However, the sliver of comfort in his heart was that he had already made friends with Ji Guangjie. With such a highly skilled man, they could safeguard their current occupations. Moreover, if the match is made for Aluan, he would be family to the Kunlun School.

When he returned to the office, he ordered a feast to be prepared and also had people clean out a room across from the counter house. That day, many friends of the security trade came to ask after them. Ge Zhiqiang had no choice but to put on a face, saying, "We very quickly overpowered Li Fengjie, but because he is the disciple of the Dragon of Shu, his martial arts were quite remarkable. The escorts Han and Cheng, Eighth Zhang, and our brother Jin Zhiyong were wounded, the worst of which was truly the escort Han's, who was injured for our sake and died." The others all gave Ge Zhiqiang some encouragement and then brought up the matter of Ji Guangjie. Ge Zhiqiang naturally boasted some, saying that Ji Guangjie and I were old acquaintances, and that his grandpa and our master were also old friends; that he was heading into the province today and when he crossed the Ba Bridge, he came upon us as we surrounded Li Fengjie, about to take his life; and that it was because Ji Guangjie had hurried over to talk us down that we let Li Fengjie go. In actuality, the others had already found out all the details about what happened during the fight that morning by the Ba Bridge, but they couldn't point out the truth, so they commended Ge Zhiqiang and then all left.

After these men departed, Ge Zhiqiang felt very ashamed. He went into the inner yard to check up on his son's wounds and saw that they were still very serious. He listened as his daughter-in-law said that a moment ago, Aluan had wanted to leave, but when Lu Zhizhong stood in her way, she almost raised her saber against Lu Zhizhong. Upon hearing this, Ge Zhiqiang couldn't help but be extremely concerned. He hurried to Aluan's room and said, "Young miss, don't be impatient. In any event, Li Fengjie has fled, but eventually we will capture him and settle our grudge. Not long ago, a person coming from Hanzhong told us that your father would set off in half a day. He'll probably arrive in four or five days. I've also sent friends to Zhenba county to invite over the old master. The old master hasn't ventured out in many a year, but our Kunlun School has encountered a great enemy this time. The old master can't afford to set out."

After Aluan heard that her grandfather and father were on their way here, she believed it to be the truth, and though her anger had not yet abated, she nodded and said, "All right. I'll wait for my grandpa. The old man and I will go out and look for Li Fengjie together. No one else's help would be of any use." Then she asked, "Where is that Ji Guangjie staying right now? Didn't I hear some time ago that he wanted to fight our Kunlun School?"

Ge Zhiiang shook his head and laughed, "All that talk before was all people spreading misinformation. Actually, he's just like family to all of us. See that he helped us drive Li Fengjie away today by the Ba Bridge and you'll know this. This man is truly a young hero, only twenty-five years this year. He hasn't yet started a family, and he's come now to see his uncle. I plan on keeping him here to stay a few days, a perfect chance to consult him about the martial arts of the Longmen School. I've invited him here tonight for food and drink, so you can meet him, young miss."

Aluan shook her head furiously and said, "I'm not meeting him!" Ge Zhiqiang said, "Don't get angry, young miss. If you were still at home, I wouldn't be able to bring him to meet you, no matter who it was, but now that you've ventured out to travel upon Jianghu, you can't be so particular about rules and etiquette. Not to mention, Ji Guangjie has long been a friend of our Kunlun School. You and he are just like sister and brother with different surnames, so there's no great harm in seeing him. I went to call on him just now, and right when he saw me, he said, 'Who was that young lady who was confronting Li Fengjie at the Ba Bridge?' I told him that it was my master's granddaughter. He then said, 'No wonder her martial arts are so good.'"

Hearing that Ji Guangjie had praised her, Aluan couldn't help but feel a little happy, but when she thought more about it, she still shook her head, saying, "I'm not meeting him, unless he wants to compare our martial skill a bit. Uncle Ge, when he comes later, inquire about Li Fengjie's background, and ask him where Li Fengjie's now run to. The way I see it, he let Li Fengjie go today at the Ba Bridge, so the two of them have probably known each other a long time. Perhaps they are even disciples under the same master. Otherwise, why are they both called something-jie?" Ge Zhiqiang cut in, "That is not the case. They definitely don't know each other, or else how would Ji Guangjie be able to help us out? No matter how you look at it, Li Fengjie was considered defeated today."

When he finished, Ge Zhiqiang went to the outer courtyard again to attend other matters. He discussed a long while with Lu Zhizhong what to say to Ji Guangjie, and how to ingratiate themselves with him. When evening came, there came only Qin Deyu of the Huazhou security office, whom Ge Zhiqiang had asked to come to assist him.

It wasn't until they lit the lamps that Ji Guangjie arrived. He brought his servant as before, riding atop two horses. The servant was carrying his sword for him. Ji Guangjie was wearing a purple garnet silk vest on his person, a cap on his head and thin-soled officials' boots on his feet. In his hand he held a folding fan. He had a natural charm and a straight-forward bearing. The three Ge Zhiqiang, Lu Zhizhong and Qin Deyu invited him into the western house with the utmost modesty and politeness. When Ji Guangjie saw the table laden with a lavish feast, he clasped his fist and said, "Sirs, there's no need to be so courteous. It would have been enough just to have a bit of any sort of wine. This really concerns me!" Ge Zhiqiang laughed, "It's the first time we've invited you. In the future, we'll see each other daily and it'll be as if we were family. We won't be so courteous again."

Ji Guangjie laughed and took off his long coat, revealing a rice-colored silk shirt and pants. Ge Zhiqiang and the others motioned him toward the seat of honor. He declined it weakly before sitting down at the head of the table. Ge Zhiqiang offered him a toast first, and Ji Guangjie said, "Why don't we pour our own and drink our own? You needn't be so polite." Thus the four sat facing each other, drinking enjoyably and talking loudly. Ji Guangjie spoke of his grandfather the Xia of Langzhong's life's deeds, and of his own experiences knocking about various places in Henan this time. He told them about how he wounded Liang Gao the Iron-armed Monkey with his sword in Luoning, and how he defeated Gao Qinggui the Divine Hawk with his fist in Kaifeng. He narrated with brows flying and his expression dancing, causing Ge Zhiqiang and the others to truly revere him.

Lastly, Ji Guangjie spoke of Li Fengjie, saying, "I have known his name for a long time, and I even encountered him in Kaifeng briefly. He probably failed his civil service examinations as well, and according to him, he's the disciple of the Dragon of Shu, but I don't know whether that's true or not. Yet, his sword technique is quite good, and in these last couple years he's conducted himself quite honorably on Jianghu. Thus that I only defeated him today and didn't take his life was for this reason. But this was just the first time. If there's a second time I am presented with his offenses, it would be difficult to guarantee he won't be hurt!"

Ge Zhiqiang nodded, threw back a cup of wine and then said heatedly, "Brother Ji, you may have been unwilling to hurt him and released him, but we have an enmity with him that cannot be undone. In the last ten days, he's wounded my son and killed my disciple-brother Miao Zhiying. Today, he's killed and wounded another good many. If we let him go, it would reflect too much incompetence on all of us in the Kunlun School and the escorts and fighting masters of Guanzhong. Thus, we now have people going to various places to ask our friends to come. When they arrive and after our funereal rites are finished, we will split up and look for Li Fengjie. We may not have to harm his life, but we must make him answer for his wicked injustice."

Ji Guangjie said, "When the time comes, I will certainly help all of you out. Li Fengjie was spared my sword today by the Ba Bridge, but if he doesn't accept defeat, he will be back to face us sooner or later. I, however, do not fear him one bit. Forget about the Dragon of Shu's disciple. Even if the Dragon of Shu himself was still living and had treated me poorly, I would give him a fight!"

When Ge Zhiqiang and the others heard Ji Guangjie consent to aid them against Li Fengjie, they all became extremely cheerful. Lu Zhizhong asked at this time, "Brother Ji, you've come from another province. Do you know of anyone in Jianghu called Jiang Xiaohe?" Ji Guangjie shook his head and said, "I've not heard of this name. Might I know where he comes from and how Brother Lu knows him?" Ge Zhiqiang sneered, "He is an insignificant one of the younger generation, and he has accumulated much ill-will with the Kunlun School. He was then accepted by an old master, another insignificant personage in Jianghu." Ji Guangjie waved his hand, saying, "Then that's nothing to worry about! Besides my late grandfather the Xia of Longmen, the only other renowned man of Jianghu in the last century is the Dragon of Shu. Lately, we've seen that the skill of the Dragon of Shu's disciple Li Fengjie is only so great, so how good could the disciples of any other be?" Qin Deyu nodded and said, "Well spoken!"

Thus, Ge Zhiqiang raised a full cup of wine and passed it over to Ji Guangjie. Ji Guangjie laughed and accepted it. He was about to bring it to his mouth to drink, when they suddenly heard a very loud whack as a roof tile flew in from outside, shattering the porcelain plates on the table. The men in the room all stood up in alarm. Ji Guangjie ordered the lights extinguished, whereupon the few lamps and candles in the room were all immediately put out. Ge Zhiqiang and the others took their blades down from the wall, while Ji Guangjie pulled his sword from the hands of his servant into his own. He instructed Ge Zhiqiang and the others in a whisper, "Don't panic! This must be work of Li Fengjie. Just leave him to me!" By the time he said this, people had already started fighting atop the eastern house. They heard the striking of blade against blade ringing out loudly.

Ji Guangjie rushed out of the room with his sword in hand and Ge Zhiqiang and the other followed behind. They heard a woman's voice shouting out from the roof of the eastern house, "No one is permitted to help me. If anyone tries to do so, I'll cut them with my saber!" Ji Guangjie couldn't help but smile when he heard her. He leapt onto the roof with his sword and the woman turned her saber at him, asking him sternly, "Who are you?" Ji Guangjie dodged her saber and raised his sword to engage Li Fengjie. Li Fengjie used the time to jump onto the neighboring roof and stood laughing brashly. Ji Guangjie grew indignant and tread as if flying across the roof tiles to give chase. Li Fengjie dashed from roof to roof as if he was running on level ground and soon he disappeared without a trace. Because the buildings under Ji Guangjie's footsteps were all inns, the people inside all woke up in distress and lit lanterns and shouted out about catching the thief. It was no longer opportune for Ji Guangjie to continue his pursuit, so he could only return with his sword to the security office in frustration.

At this point, Ge Zhiqiang and Lu Zhizhong had already urged Aluan off the roof and blocked her from giving chase. Aluan stamped her foot repeatedly and yelled loudly, swinging her saber erratically. Ge Zhiqiang snatched the saber from her hand and said, "Niece, you cannot be so petulant in this matter right now. With him hidden and us exposed, how are we to chase him? If anything were to happen to you, how will we face our master and brother when they come in a few days?" Aluan stamped her foot and said, "What are you talking about? You are all too timid, too weak and powerless! You've let him humiliate our Kunlun School to the end and you are still loath to put it all out there!"

Ji Guangjie had already jumped off the roof by now. He waved his hand and said, "Miss Bao, don't be impatient. It's good that Li Fengjie has come looking for me. I don't think he'll be able to leave here within half a day. I will surely be able to catch him tomorrow, tie him up and hand him over to this security office!" Aluan stamped her foot angrily and said, "Who says you can butt into our business? Could it be you think that we wouldn't be able to capture him without you and your Ji surname?" Ji Guangjie simply smiled. At this time, two of the rooms were lit once again. Ji Guangjie said, "I invite Miss Bao to come and have a drink with us. I think Li Fengjie might come back again later. If he does, none of us will raise a hand. We'll rely on you to fight him, miss." He then laughed and walked into the western house, giving his sword to his servant to sheathe. He sat tall at the head of the table and poured himself some wine to drink.

Aluan followed Ge Zhiqiang inside, but she didn't drink wine. She simply sat on a stool with her saber firmly in her hand. Her eyes were directed out the window, as if she anxiously craved for Li Fengjie to come again. Ji Guangjie remained at ease and continued raising his cup and drinking with Lu Zhizhong and the other two, sneaking a glance every now and then at Aluan. At this point, Ge Zhiqiang was very upset and he couldn't shake it, though he forced himself to talk and interact with Ji Guangjie. By the time they were done with the food and wine, it was already late at night. Ji Guangjie was a little drunk and was looking over at Aluan more often. He praised repeatedly, "The miss's martial arts are truly powerful. I really respect you. There aren't very many xia women in Jianghu right now." Aluan did not say one word to Ji Guangjie. She sat in the room a while before she left the room with her saber. She leapt onto the roof and went in search of intruders.

That night, Ge Zhiqiang kept Ji Guangjie in that room to spend the night after they cleared it out, and Qin Deyu slept in the counter house. Refusing to let go of the saber in her hand, Aluan walked back and forth atop the roofs of the various houses in the front and back courtyards, not sleeping a wink all night. Ge Zhiqiang and Lu Zhizhong were constantly on the alert for intruders as well. By no means did they close their eyes, though fortunately, nothing else happened that night.

When the following day came, Ji Guangjie ordered his servant to return to the Guangyifu money dispensary to retrieve his belongings, for he had decided to stay here long-term. Wearing a silk vest and clasping his sword, he roamed through the streets of Chang'an. Taverns and teashops and numerous inns, he searched them all, but found no trace of Li Fengjie. In the evening, he returned smiling to the security office and Ge Zhiqiang prepared wine so that they could drink in the western house again. Saber and sword were both at the ready, and the door to the western house was opened wide, especially for the sake of their awaiting Li Fengjie's arrival. The young lady Bao Aluan too had ridden her horse with saber in hand, searching all around for half the day, and in the evening, she walked back and forth on the roofs, carrying her blade. However, they heard not the slightest about Li Fengjie, making all of them extremely nervous.

After another two or three days, Ji Guangjie had numerous strips of paper cut out and wrote on them under his own brush: "Wanted: Li Fengjie. The outlaw Li Fengjie killed and wounded several escorts from this office a few days ago. In his cowardice, he fears punishment, and has gone into hiding without a trace. If anyone knows of his whereabouts, and they disclose the information to the Lishun security office, they will be rewarded with twenty taels of silver, absolutely guaranteed." In total, he wrote more than a dozen slips of paper. When Ge Zhiqiang entered the room, he saw this and furrowed his brow, saying, "I'm afraid this might be an empty exercise. Li Fengjie is very cunning. If someone comes to inform on him, I'm afraid he'll have long fled before we go looking for him." Ji Guangjie smiled and said, "Don't worry about it. I'm sure my method will bring results and we'll be able to capture Li Fengjie tonight." Thus, he had the attendants at the security office split up and post the bills. The bills were posted in and out of the city as well as at various important intersections, causing a lot of people to crowd around to look at it. This caused even more of a stir around the matter. Ge Zhiqiang also went to every government office to call in favors and explain the situation. Bao Aluan still rode her horse to search everywhere, and Ji Guangjie sharpened his sword at the security office while he waited, but straight into nightfall they heard nothing of Li Fengjie.

Ji Guangjie was truly annoyed, so he went out the door without wearing his long coat or taking his scabbard, carrying only his brightly glimmering sword as he walked through the jumble of people. Many people looked at him as he crossed several streets, and he listened closely to the conversations of others, but he still didn't obtain the whereabouts of Li Fengjie. He entered a large inn and gloomily drank wine until he was half-drunk before he left with his sword. The drum of the second watch had already rolled past and the people walking the streets were now sparse. The moon and the stars were vastly arrayed above the horizon.

When he walked to the front gate of the Lishun security office, he suddenly heard a clap as someone slapped his lower back with a blade. Ji Guangjie was surprised and his drunkenness left him. He twisted, brandishing his sword, and sent a chop behind him. The person behind him hurriedly used their sword to meet his. Clang, clang, clang, the swords clashed against each other a few times. The other person abruptly stepped back, smiling with his sword held up, and said with the voice of Li Fengjie, "Stop!" Ji Guangjie extended his arm and sword and sneered, "Afraid are we?" He stabbed at his opponent's chest fiercely, like a viper striking a heart. Dong, Li Fengjie knocked it away with his sword. Li Fengjie countered with a horizontal sweep of his sword and Ji Guangjie hit it away with his own. The two advanced at the same time with sword pressing against sword, hand grabbing onto hand, and foot stepping down on foot, but they were evenly matched in every aspect.

Li Fengjie grinned again and said, "If I were afraid of you, why would I come looking for you?" He pressed down heavily with his foot. Ji Guangjie quickly stepped back and used his right hand to hold down Li Fengjie's sword, intending to knock it outwards and counter with a stab of his sword. At the same time, his left hand went for Li Fengjie's chest for a strong strike. However, Li Fengjie had already freed his hand and retracted his sword. He changed his sword form and ducked straight forward with his left foot ahead and his right up, coming in for a sudden thrust using the thenar of his right palm. Ji Guangjie, however, hastily bounded back to stoop and then shook his blade in a horizontal cut using the Returning Wind form. At that, the two swords rang out with another clang. Li Fengjie stepped back and laughed loudly, saying, "My admiration and respect! It's too bad this place is narrow and we can't display our swordwork!" Ji Guangjie hollered angrily, "Quit your nonsense! Today I will have your life, the disciple of the Dragon of Shu!" Li Fengjie kept smiling and exerted his strength to block with his sword. By this point, there were people who had seen the two of them fighting and run into the Lishun security office to make it known.

Li Fengjie withdrew his sword and retreated. Ji Guangjie hurried after him and when he reached the lane opening, Li Fengjie suddenly turned and held his sword out crosswise, saying, "The one named Ji, don't push me too far! That day by the Ba Bridge, it was because I was one person in a bitter fight with many, and you hurried over when I was spent that I was defeated under your hand. Yours was all a triumph by luck. We don't know who would emerge victor if we really crossed swords! There are many problems with having a fight here, since the place is too narrow and you have too many cronies." Ji Guangjie shook his head and said, "Those people aren't my cronies, and I'm not releasing my wrath for their revenge. It is just that I detest when others use a sword against this sword of mine. If you were to relinquish your sword and take up a saber, I may be able to spare you!"

Li Fengjie scoffed, "What big words! Is your single Ji family of Longmen the only one who is allowed to use the sword? It's late now and if the two of us fought, we wouldn't be able to see whose swordwork was good or bad. We are not far from where I'm staying. What's the harm in going there to converse for a while? We'll work out a place for our sword contest, and not let anyone else know about it. When the time comes, the fight will only be between the two of us and we'll decide victory and defeat. Also, don't worry. There's no ambush waiting for you where I'm staying." Ji Guangjie laughed derisively, "Would I be scared even if there was an ambush? Lead the way!"

At this time, men of the Lishun security office had made their way into the alley. Ji Guangjie said to Li Fengjie, "Go!" Thus, the two stopped fighting and departed with their swords. After turning their way through several dark, narrow lanes, they arrived at Li Fengjie's dwelling. They stood outside the gates of a residence. Li Fengjie stepped forward and knocked on the door, and someone opened the door after a brief amount of time. Ji Guangjie saw that it was an elderly woman. Li Fengjie invited Ji Guangjie in and the elderly woman closed the door behind them.

The courtyard was exceptionally quiet, with only a faint light coming from the northern house. Ji Guangjie followed Li Fengjie inside and saw no one there. The four walls dazzled him, all of them filled with books, and a stack of scrolls sat on the table. Ji Guangjie asked, "What is this place?" Li Fengjie said, "This is the home of a friend of mine. I stayed here the day before yesterday after coming back from the Ba Bridge. But when you return, you mustn't tell anyone about this." Ji Guangjie laughed, "You think me, Ji Guangjie, not a hero at all!" He sat down next to the table and couldn't help but flip through the books on top of it with his left hand, while holding onto his sword in his right. He saw tucked into a volume of the New Book of Tang a slip of verse paper threaded with crimson and green. It was a new composition by Li Fengjie, a couple lines of which read, "The chill waters of a river at night surprises the jade sword. The spring evening of passes and mountains releases the fine colt." Ji Guangjie looked it over and couldn't help but be struck with esteem.

Li Fengjie had placed his sword on the table and was trimming the candles when he smiled, asking, "You see, this outlaw here can write poetry. You posted only twenty taels for my capture. Isn't that a bit too low?" Ji Guangjie flushed red and replied, "I didn't know you were this sort of person. What's more, I had people post notices everywhere to goad you into showing your face. It wasn't really to capture you." Li Fengjie smirked, saying, "If you had really planned on catching me, I'm afraid it wouldn't have been as easy as capturing any other outlaw!" Upon hearing this, Ji Guangjie threw down the book and sprang up, holding his sword and intending to fight with Li Fengjie again. Li Fengjie waved his hand and smiled, saying, "This isn't the place for fighting. The friend who lives here has very little courage and we mustn't alarm him. Moreover, I've allowed you here with good intentions. You should be more courteous, as I hear you are a scholar as well."

Ji Guangjie lowered his sword and looked at Li Fengjie. He asked, "You are young and your learning and martial arts are quite good. Why don't you seek an official position, instead of doing this sort of thing?" Li Fengjie scoffed, asking, "What have I done? Have you told it true? Am I an outlaw?" Li Fengjie became a little infuriated at this point, continuing, "Ji Guangjie, your grandfather and my master were both successors to the Wudang School, and they were good friends in their day. According to reason, you and I cannot become enemies, and yet now you've falsely accused me of being an outlaw. You have done me too great a wrong! I am unwilling to fight with you amid the trouble stirred up here with those of the Kunlun School. If you have the guts, we can meet each other at the Tong Pass tomorrow."

Ji Guangjie said, "A meeting at the Tong Pass would be very good. When the time comes, will you show up?" Li Fengjie said, "Of course I'll show up. We are to bring no help. We'll meet tomorrow afternoon at the Tong Pass to have a simple contest to see who's stronger, with no regrets even if either of us are killed or wounded!" Ji Guangjie nodded, saying, "All right! It's settled then. I'll be going!" He turned and left the room, and then jumped onto the roof while carrying his sword. Li Fengjie did not see him out. Ji Guangjie walked from the roof of the northern house to the eastern, and saw a light flickering inside. It was Li Fengjie's shadow as he read inside. Ji Guangjie couldn't help but hold a secret admiration, thinking, What a young, scholarly xia. It's a pity we have inadvertently come to adversarial positions.

When he returned to the Lishun security office, it was in an uproar. Ge Zhiqiang and the others were in front of the gate with sabers in hand, looking around. When he saw Ji Guangjie come back, he asked, "Did you let Li Fengjie go again?" Ji Guangjie waved his hand and said, "It wasn't Li Fengjie, but another friend of mine. We sparred a little, and then went to his home to talk." Lu Zhizhong and the others were all very taken aback and regarded Ji Guangjie suspiciously. Just then, Aluan returned and made straight for Ji Guangjie, saying irritably, "What's the matter with you? Could it be you're colluding with Li Fengjie to cause us trouble here?" Ji Guangjie waved his hand, saying, "Miss, you've truly wronged me with these words. If I really knew him and we were deliberately causing you trouble, just the one of him would be enough for you to handle. Why would I have to help him?" The young lady Luan was about to quarrel angrily with Ji Guangjie, but Lu Zhizhong urged her back into the inner courtyard.

Ji Guangjie sighed and said to Ge Zhiqiang, "Just now, my friend told me that Li Fengjie really is the Dragon of Shu's disciple. He is well-versed in literature and martial arts. We should have been friends, but for the sake of your business, I've sown hostility with him. It's possible in the next day or two that we may fight to the death with our swords!" When he finished, he returned sulkily to the room he was staying in, though he was also so excited he couldn't fall sleep.

After the third watch, the main gate of the security office was already closed, and the attendants who were frantic for half the day had all gone to sleep. Ji Guangjie's ears perked up at noises coming from outside and heard continuous, light footsteps as well as the faint sound of the roof tiles. Ji Guangjie thought it funny and opened the door, stepping outside with his sword. He heard a woman's voice ask, "Who is it?" Ji Guangjie laughed, replying, "It's me." On the roof, Aluan didn't say anything, treading on the roof tiles toward the houses in the rear courtyard. Ji Guangjie looked all around, noticing that the lights in all the rooms had already been put out. He leapt onto the roof without making the slightest bit of sound. Then, he placed his sword on the roof tiles and crept slowly to the rear courtyard as well.

At this time, Aluan had already jumped down from the roof to the surface of the rear courtyard. She made a few circuits in the rear courtyard with saber in hand and appearing quite exhausted, he entered a lit room on the western side. Ji Guangjie jumped off the roof as well, and suppressing the sound of his footsteps, he walked to the window of the western house. He waited a while, holding his breath, and then, after wetting his fingernail with saliva and gently scratching open a small hole in the paper window, he peered inside. He saw the young lady Aluan undoing a button in her shirt, as if she was going to change clothes or go to sleep. Ji Guangjie suddenly pulled open the door.

Aluan cried out in shock and instantly brandished her saber. Ji Guangjie waved his hand and said, "Miss, don't worry. I've come to say some things to you!" Aluan immediately turned a dark shade of red, and then from red it became purple. She glared furiously at him and said, "What are you doing, coming into my room in the dead of night?" Ji Guangjie smiled and said, "I actually did meet with Li Fengjie earlier. We've agreed on a place to meet on the morrow to compare our martial arts. Miss, if you'd like to come, I can bring you to watch, but you can't let anyone know about it!" Upon hearing this, Aluan asked impatiently, "Where are you meeting tomorrow? I'll go too when the time comes!" Ji Guangjie waved his hand and said, "Please speak quietly, miss! I saw Li Fengjie earlier and he ridiculed us, saying the Kunlun School relies on their numbers to match up to him, and that in actuality you are all useless." Aluan said, "When there are so many people, our hands are all in disarray. That's why he was able to overcome us those few times. As for tomorrow, you needn't go at all. Just tell me the arranged place and I'll go fight him on my own."

Ji Guangjie smiled and said, "How could I do that? He agreed to fight and compare martial arts with me. If you went, he surely wouldn't fight you. He would try to run away and then it would be hard thereafter to find him. How about this? I invite the miss to ride your horse to Ba Bridge. I'll meet you there, and then we'll go find Li Fengjie together. When the time comes, miss, you can watch the two of us contest with swords. You can't join and help though, lest we suffer ridicule again. If my strength isn't enough, then the miss can come forward and capture him." When he said this, he grinned and looked at Aluan with his bright and spirited eyes. Aluan nodded and said, "Let's plan on meeting at the Ba Bridge, early in the morning tomorrow. Now, go!" Ji Guangjie smiled and instructed Aluan again not to let anyone else know about it, before turning and leaving the room. Aluan closed the door behind him.

Ji Guangjie vaulted onto the roof, padded across the roof tiles to the front courtyard, and picked up his sword. Then he jumped off the roof, entered his room, closed the door, and went to bed. However, his mind kept fantasizing about Aluan, as he felt her to be a true beauty, rare in the world, and a xia woman, hard to find upon Jianghu.

When the following day arrived, Ji Guangjie got up early in the morning and found that Aluan had already led her horse out the gate, taking her saber with her. Ji Guangjie smiled to himself as he calmly changed his clothes. He then instructed the attendants at the security office to go everywhere without delay and tear down all the notices concerning a reward for the capture of Li Fengjie that they had posted the day before. In a short while, Ge Zhiqiang came to his room and said, "Counting the days, those people we've invited here are to arrive soon. There may be some coming today from Hanzhong. If Li Fengjie has fled the province, we have to go out and find him. Brother Ji, I'd like to ask you to stay here with us for a few more days and help us take care of this matter. In the future, all of us in the Kunlun School will call you a good friend!" Ji Guangjie nodded and said, "I'll definitely help you resolve this matter. In fact, I'm leaving the city today to search for Li Fengjie!"

After Ge Zhiqiang left the room, Ji Guangjie ordered his horse prepared. Then, he left the security office, carrying his sword with him, and headed east. He spurred his horse through the east gate of Chang'an, and then loosened the reins and sped off. Though was morning time, it was blisteringly hot. Ji Guangjie rode too quickly. By the time he reached the Ba Bridge, he was drenched in sweat. He lifted his eyes and looked ahead, seeing a red horse hitched under the shade of a willow by the river and Aluan, wearing a small white silk jacket and scallion green silk pants. She was standing under a tree as she held her whip up high toward him. Smiling, Ji Guangjie hurried his horse closer. Aluan had already unhitched her horse and was straddling it. Ji Guangjie said, "The day's too hot. Why don't we rest here for a bit?" Aluan said, "Rest? It would not be too late to hurry and capture Li Fengjie, and then rest when we return to Chang'an!" She started riding off as she said this. She waved her whip and continued across the bridge.

Ji Guangjie could only spur his horse across the bridge after her. When he was behind Aluan's horse, he said, "Although, we are not meeting with Li Fengjie until the afternoon. Even if we were to prevail right away, I don't think we'd be able to make it back today." Aluan asked, "Where did you arrange to meet?" Ji Guangjie said, "At the Tong Pass, over two-hundred and seventy miles from here." Aluan scoffed, "You consider that far? Let's go!" When she said this, she released her horse and flew off in a gallop. Ji Guangjie followed closely behind, shaking his silk whip and regarding Aluan's elegant rear view. He kept sweating, but he completely forgot about the heat of the weather. He developed a fantasy in his mind, thinking, It looks as though those of the Kunlun School really respect me, and this young lady has probably yet to be engaged. If I mention it to Lu Zhizhong, Ge Zhiqiang and the others, they would surely be willing to make the match for me. I'm the Xia of Longmen's grandson, so my background is not humble. How could the old master Bao be unsatisfied by that? In the future, after we have formed our marriage bond, we'll set off upon Jianghu together. Who wouldn't envy us pair of hero lovers? The more he thought, the happier he got, as he urged his horse on.

When he hurried ahead of Aluan's horse, he turned and smiled, saying, "Miss, your martial arts are truly strong. I think the old master must have been a little bit partial to you when he imparted his martial arts. Otherwise, how is it that the miss's martial arts are better than those of your uncles? I have many friends who don't believe there are still xia women in Jianghu nowadays. In the future, I'd like to invite the miss to come with me to meet them, to give them a surprise." He continued, "Miss, I really admire your martial arts. Asking just the miss to come and help me out today is much superior to asking all the men in Chang'an who know martial arts for help." The young lady Aluan could withstand Ji Guangjie's continuous complements no longer. She smirked and said delicately, "It looks to me your martial arts are really pretty great as well. No wonder you are already so famous, even though you haven't traveled upon Jianghu for very long!" When she said this, she couldn't help the blush that rose to her pretty cheeks, but then she seemed abruptly to have thought about something else. Her expression changed and she waved her whip impatiently, saying, "Hurry up! Hurry up! Let's stop the idle chatter already!"

Ji Guangjie became ever more thrilled. With his horse in front and Aluan's at back, the pair of riders kicked up a cloud of dust as they drove hard toward the east under the flame-like sunlight. Because the day was hot and it was approaching noon, there were not many people, horses or wagons on the road as they arrived in Weinan county. Ji Guangjie suddenly spotted a white horse not far ahead of them, and on the horse there was a man dressed in blue, looking back periodically. It was Li Fengjie, and he had a blue cloth wrapped about his head. Ji Guangjie waved his whip to catch up with him, yelling, "Good! We've no need to go to the Tong Pass. Since we've run into each other here, the earlier we decide victory and defeat, the earlier we finish our business!" Aluan pursued close behind and shouted sharply, "Li Fengjie! Don't let him get away!" Ji Guangjie turned around and urgently implored her, "Miss, you must by all means hold your temper. Wait until he and I are done fighting before you proceed. Otherwise, he will laugh at us!"

By now, ahead of them, Li Fengjie had already reined his horse in and was looking back at them. He waited for the two horses of Ji Guangjie and Aluan to draw near before he tilted off his horse, drew his sword and walked towards them, laughing, "Ji Guangjie, can't you travel by yourself? Are you afraid to fight on your own?" Ji Guangjie flushed red with anger and said, "The lady isn't here to help me. She's just here to watch." By the time he finished speaking, he had already pulled his sword from his horse into his hand. He tilted his leg, jumped off his horse and charged forward. His sword tilted up from below in a Reverse Blossom, and he stabbed viciously at the center of Li Fengjie's chest.

Li Fengjie stepped back and flipped his sword, turning his opponent's sword away with a clang, and then used his momentum to lean and advance, sending a chop straight at Ji Guangjie. Ji Guangjie met it with his sword and another clang rang out. The two swords struck each other and shook their spirits. At one side, Bao Aluan couldn't restrain herself any further. She hurried off her horse, drew her saber and flew forward. Li Fengjie took a few steps back, Ji Guangjie swung his sword after him, and Bao Aluan brandished her saber and charged. Li Fengjie's sword alone was a match for Aluan's fiercely chopping saber and Ji Guangjie's wildly thrusting sword. The gleam of the blades went back and forth, and the agile bodies flipped and turned.

After battling for another twenty exchanges, Li Fengjie suddenly felt a pain in his right flank and couldn't hold in a yelp. He turned around and ran east with his horse running alongside him. Aluan shouted loudly, "You miscreant! Stop running away!" She swung her saber and gave chase, but Ji Guangjie gripped her left arm, saying, "I've already given him a stab and wounded him gravely. Just let him go! Or else, with the two of us capturing the one of him, we wouldn't be considered any sort of heroes!" Aluan brandished her saber and stamped her foot, saying, "Stop pulling on me!" She pushed Ji Guangjie aside and went forward in pursuit. By now, Li Fengjie had already grabbed onto his horse and was heading east at a flying gallop. At this, Aluan mounted her own horse and chased him hard, swinging her saber about. Ji Guangjie urged his own horse on and likewise followed.

After a pursuit of another thirty or so miles, Li Fengjie's horse had run far ahead, and they could see no trace of him. Aluan reined her horse in and gasped continuously. Ji Guangjie sheathed his sword and walked forward, saying, "Doesn't this count for washing away the humiliation the Kunlun School suffered these few days? I'm willing to bet Li Fengjie won't get past the Tong Pass. He'll surely fall off his horse and die miserably. Miss, let's go back!" Bao Aluan still appeared not to have completely let go of her anger. She sheathed her saber and looked back at Ji Guangjie, saying, "You go first. I don't want to go back with you." Ji Guangjie laughed and said, "What's the reason for this? Miss, for those of us who travel upon Jianghu, we cannot be particular about the separation of men and women!" Bao Aluan stroked the hilt of her saber and glared briefly at Ji Guangjie before she said crossly, "You're not a good person!" Ji Guangjie smiled and said, "There's nothing bad about me. It's just that I've grown fond of the miss!" Bao Aluan turned her horse and set off. Ji Guangjie followed behind her.

The two horses were once again like flying dragons, galloping intensely to the west. Aluan rode ahead, not looking back once. Ji Guangjie said to her from behind, "Miss, don't be angry at me. I'm twenty-five this year and have not yet taken a wife. I really like that your martial arts are so strong and your person so elegant. Miss..." Aluan seemed not to hear him as she whipped her horse to run faster. Before it was the third hour of the afternoon, she had returned to the Lishun security office inside Chang'an city. Right when she arrived at the gate, she saw a few wagons stopped there, as well as several hitched horses. Someone in front of the gate called out with open hands, "The young miss is back! Quickly, come off your horse! Your grandpa is here!" The one speaking was her disciple-uncle Jiang Zhiyao the One-eyed Vanguard.

Upon hearing that her grandfather had come, Aluan was immediately both alarmed and happy. She jumped off her horse and ran inside, asking, "Where is my grandpa?" She glimpsed the bamboo curtain to the western house raised up and her granddad, the old master Bao talking to his disciples. Ge Zhiqiang, Lu Zhizhong, Zhao Zhilong and Yuan Zhixia were all beside him, listening intently. Aluan called out as soon as she walked in the door, "Grandpa, why have you come on such a hot day?" Old master Bao had bared his upper arms and his over-seventy-year body was sturdy as a rock.

Zhao Zhilong was continuously fanning his master with a large, goose feather fan so that the old master's silver side locks fluttered. The old master was speaking furiously, but when he saw his granddaughter enter the room, he began to smile a little, saying, "Aluan, do you see how badly our Kunlun School has been brutalized? I have accepted more than thirty disciples, and worked as a security escort for over forty years, but have I ever encountered anything like this before? In a place as big as Chang'an city, with your Uncle Ge and Uncle Lu here, we've let the insignificant Li Fengjie run amuck!" Aluan said, "Grandpa, don't you be angry. Li Fengjie was just wounded by us." Ge Zhiqiang quickly asked, "Where did this happen?" Aluan related to them what had just occurred.

Ge Zhiqiang, Zhao Zhilong and the others all expressed pleasure, while old master Bao sneered, "We've been shamed so deeply by another brutalizing the Kunlun School, and our grievance was settled by the Xia of Longmen's grandson!" Aluan shook her head and said, "No, it was when Li Fengjie and I were locking sword against saber that Ji Guangjie took advantage of the situation to stab Li Fengjie. Ji Guangjie alone did not have any great ability." Then she said, "Li Fengjie suffered a heavy wound in his chest and fled atop his horse. He probably won't have ridden past the Tong Pass before dying!" But the old master Bao sighed, "Though we've made yet another enemy!" Lu Zhizhong then asked, "Where did Ji Guangjie go?" Aluan replied, "He's likely come soon after!"

The old master Bao put on a light brown shirt and said to Aluan, "I haven't journeyed away from home for twenty years now, yet since you've left, I don't know why but I've not been able to be at ease. So when your Uncle Ge returned to find me, I came back out with him. When we got to Hanzhong, we didn't even enter the city gates. We hurried across the Qinling Mountains and then ran into your uncle Yuan Zhixia. It wasn't until then that I got a rough idea of what had happened here, so we rushed here that very night." Aluan asked, "Grandpa, have you eaten lunch yet? I still haven't even eaten breakfast!"

While she talked, Ji Guangjie returned as well. The old master Bao rose to meet him, saying, "Worthy nephew Ji, it is fortunate we have you to help us. Otherwise, it would have been all over for these disciples of mine and their disciples. I've come to offer you my gratitude." Ji Guangjie bowed very respectfully and said, "The honored elder is too kind. I truly do not deserve such praise!" Because he was thirsty, he entered the room to speak briefly with old master Bao before he hurried off in search of water to drink. Ge Zhiqiang knew that he and Aluan had not eaten anything, so he called on the kitchen to quickly prepare food. He set out some wine first, and then sat down to drink with the old master and Aluan.

Ji Guangjie recounted how he had arranged for a martial contest the day previous with Li Fengjie, how they had battled that day in Weinan, and also how he had stabbed Li Fengjie with his sword. He didn't mention though that it was he who had invited Aluan the night before, saying instead that he had encountered her outside the east gate by happenstance that morning. Seeing this young hero speak so assuredly, the old master Bao couldn't help but intensify his interest several-fold, drinking deeply and talking loudly. They did this until they finished eating, and the old master told his granddaughter to go back to the inner courtyard to rest. Then he and Ji Guangjie kept on, the more they talked, the happier they got. That day in the city, another great number of security escorts and fighting masters came to them to pay their respects to Bao Kunlun, and shortly the Lishun security office became especially lively again.

When evening came, the old master Bao and Ji Guangjie passed the night in the same room. The elder and the youth, both of them gallant heroes, spoke of much, discussing the Xia of Longmen, the Dragon of Shu, and old master Bao's proud feats over the course of his lifetime. Then they conversed about the state of Ji Guangjie's family and also his current journey, passing all over Henan, fighting Gao Qinggui, defeating the Iron-armed Monkey, and thrice climbing Mount Song the Central Peak. Even the Chan master Taiwu the Golden-faced Bodhisattva fled from him, daring not to compare martial arts and the like with him. There was food and wine as they talked straight into the third watch, and it wasn't until then that they slept. This night was a peaceful one.

When the morning of the next day arrived, old master Bao took his granddaughter into the courtyard to spar with fists and swing their sabers. Ji Guangjie showed off his grandfather's secret technique, running through a few courses of sword skill that astonished people. Old master Bao watched and couldn't help nodding and exclaiming praise, "These are the internal martial arts at their purest. It is much stronger than that of our Kunlun School!" That day, he gathered Ge Zhiqiang, Lu Zhizhong and others in private to discuss the matter of betrothing Aluan to Ji Guangjie, and then he sent Lu Zhizhong to speak of this to Ji Guangjie. During lunchtime, Lu Zhizhong especially invited Ji Guangjie to a restaurant and mentioned it to him. It was exactly what Ji Guangjie wanted, so when he heard this, he quickly became elated and wanted to offer a bride price then. Lu Zhizhong said, "Since you're willing to do this for us, I will go back and report this to my old master. He cannot stay long in Chang'an, so he may have you both complete this happy occasion quickly, in order that he can leave here with his mind at rest." Thus, Lu Zhizhong returned to the security office and related this to the old master. The old master nodded, but didn't say anything.

After Lu Zhizhong left his room, old master Bao walked to the inner courtyard and entered the house his granddaughter was staying in. Bao Aluan had just finished taking an afternoon nap and was in front of the mirror fixing herself up. When she saw the old master enter, she looked back with a smile, saying, "Grandpa, look how hot the day is. Didn't you take a rest?" Old master Bao smiled and shook his head, saying, "I don't think it's too hot, and I'm not tired. I haven't journeyed out in twenty years, but now that I've left, it's as if I was young again." As he said this, he sat down on a stool and stroked his snow-white beard. Then he smiled and said, "Aluan, I've come to give you some happy news!"

Aluan was taken aback, seeing her grandfather through the mirror a face full of smiles. For as long as she could remember, she had never seen the old man as cheerful as he looked this day. She heard her grandfather say, "When you departed, I told you I was sending you out, first of all to gain some experiences, and second to find a good husband. You are of more than twenty years now, and you shouldn't waste your youth any longer. I now consider that young chap Ji Guangjie to be very good, and I plan to betroth you to him..."

Aluan listened to here and couldn't help but feel a gust of sadness pass through her, as well as a hidden bitterness she was unable to express aloud. Tears began falling from her eyes. She was about to shake her head in protest when she heard her grandfather sigh and then say, "There are many things that I have no choice but to tell you. I'm old now, and your father and those uncles of yours have skills that just won't do. In the years gone by, those of Jianghu we've offended are not an insignificant number, and now successors of the Wudang School have entered the world as well. Just look how powerful Li Fengjie's swordwork is! If we didn't have Ji Guangjie now, it would've been all over for the Kunlun School. Furthermore, I've heard that the Xia of Langzhong of ten years past want to go to Hanzhong to fight our Kunlun School again. If we don't find someone highly-skilled to help us, in the event that I die, your father, your uncle and all your disciple-uncles will suffer mistreatment at the hands of others. Ji Guangjie is the grandson of the Xia of Longmen, he's very accomplished in learning and martial arts, and he comes from a good family. His age and character are also well-suited for you, which is why I've thought to betroth you to him. With a heroic son-in-law like him, our Kunlun Bao family need fear no one from now on."

The old master spoke with a slightly mournful tone as he looked upon his granddaughter with a pair of old, woeful eyes. Aluan cried for a while, and though she tried a few times to articulate what was causing her pain in her heart, she couldn't. In the end, she wiped her tears and nodded. Seeing his granddaughter give her consent, the old master Bao revealed a smile and said, "Good child. You've really saved me from worry. I'm already of over seventy years. After I take care of this business of yours, I will have considered all the matters of my life completely finished. If I were to draw my last breath now, I would do so without apprehension!" When he finished, the old master stood up and left the room.

That evening, they had another great banquet at the security office and Ji Guangjie offered the bride price. From then on, Ji Guangjie became a perfect son-in-law of the Kunlun School, waiting until the cool of autumn before marrying the young lady Aluan. During this time, Ji Guangjie was the happiest he'd ever been, spurring his horse all day long to various locales in and out of the city with his sword beside him, going on excursions and assembling feasts. Near or far, there was no one who didn't know the handsome youth that was the Xia of Longmen's grandson and the worthy son-in-law of Bao Kunlun, and the security escorts and fighting masters all strove to come and curry favor with him. However, the young lady Bao Aluan's mood had changed greatly from days past. Before, she had been vivacious, wanting to ride out into the streets every day, but ever since her engagement with Ji Guangjie, she hardly went outside. The old master Bao, Ge Zhiqiang and the others thought the young lady was being shy and following custom, so they weren't very concerned. Yet, Ge Zhiqiang's daughter-in-law Cheng Yu'e and the serving women of the inner residence often saw Aluan alone in her room, sitting unhappily or shedding tears. They neither dared to speak of this to anyone else, nor could they guess what it was in Aluan's heart that made her miserable.

A dozen or so days passed in succession and the weather became ever hotter. Miao Zhiyin's coffin had already been interred, and though Ge Shaogang, Jin Zhiyong and the others' injuries had not yet healed completely, they were no longer a danger to their lives. Within these days there also came Chang Zhigao, Chen Zhijun, Zheng Zhibiao, and Yang Zhijin. Including Liu Zhiyuan, Lu Zhizhong, Ge Zhiqiang and the others, there were a total of ten-some disciples of the Kunlun School here.

Aluan's father Bao Zhiyun came too from Hanzhong. As soon as he arrived, he wept bitterly because Miao Zhiyin, who had been wounded and killed by Li Fengjie, had once been his capable aide, previously taking escort trips for him with their disciple-brother Zhang Zhiqi to Sichuan Province. Zhang Zhiqi had been killed below Trunk Mountain by a lowly bandit, and though Miao Zhiying had escaped with his life that time, Bao Zhiyun hadn't thought that he would then meet his end here. Thus, it made him incredibly aggrieved. He cried a while, and then met with Ji Guangjie. When he heard that his daughter Aluan had already been betrothed to Ji Guangjie, he became very happy.

The old master Bao was also happy and sad at the same time, and in the evening, he had Ge Zhiqiang prepare wine and set up three tables in the main hall. Old master Bao sat at the place of honor, beside him were his eldest son Zhiyun, his granddaughter Aluan and his grandson-in-law Ji Guangjie, and the rest of them were all his disciples. They all raised their cups, made toasts and drank merrily. Lu Zhizhong was about to discuss with the master and his brothers how to deal with their enemies in the future, but Ji Guangjie quickly stopped him and said, "Uncle Lu, let's speak no more of Li Fengjie or the Xia of Langzhong. If they come, we needn't all take action. With just my sword, I, Ji Guangjie, can wound them into retreat. The weather's too hot right now, but after the autumn cool I will raise a contest platform in Chang'an, and sell off all my family possessions for the prize. I'll beat away a few men of Jiang who've overrated their own strength, and win fame for our Kunlun School. We will display our might. Today, we will not permit anyone to speak demoralizing words to the elder sir. Let us instead enjoy this wine to the fullest!"

Chen Zhijun, Liu Zhiyuan and the others all said together, "All right!" Yuan Zhixia carried the wine pot over and laughed, "I must offer Master Bao three large cups of wine today. Eldest brother must also drink three cups. Ji Guangjie and Miss Luan should drink at least one. On the one hand, to show my filial thoughts and respect, and on the other, to be the first to offer my congratulations on the happy event!" As he said this, he held up a pot with both his hands and deferentially filled his old master's cup to the brim. The old master smiled and poured it into his mouth.

Yuan Zhixia poured out a second cup, and the old master received it smiling. As he was about to take a drink, Long Zhiqi the Mountain-moving Tiger rushed in, distraught and covered in the dust of travel. Upon entering, he first bowed to his master and then clasped his fist at all of his disciple-brothers. Ge Zhiqiang approached and asked, "Third Brother Long, why have you come just now? Do you know of all the happy and unfortunate events that have occurred here?" Long Zhiqi gasped for breath and waved his hand, saying, "Let's not talk about the matters here just yet! I have news of the utmost importance to tell all of you!" The old master Bao hurried out of his seat and asked, "What is it?" Lu Zhizhong too stared straight at Long Zhiqi. They watched as Long Zhiqi pulled out a written message from his side, saying "I...I received a letter in Ziyang. It's about Jiang Xiaohe, the one we've been watching out for for ten years. He has learned his martial arts and he's almost come to call on us!" Old master Bao slammed the table and raged, saying, "Quickly, read the letter to me." Breathing heavily, Long Zhiqi handed the letter to Lu Zhizhong. Lu Zhizhong read the letter under the lamplight with his brow creased, reciting:

"Addressed to Long Zhiteng and Long Zhiqi of Ziyang county. Pass this on to the father and sons of the Bao family in Zhenba. Let it be known: We parted ten years ago, but the enmity arising from the murder of my father has never been forgotten. During that time, I was young and weak, and suffered at your hands mistreatment, humiliation and attempts to hurt me, nearly to the point of death. There was resentment in my heart, but there was nothing I could do. I have now become an adult and learned true internal martial arts from a great master. I am confident that I have sufficient ability to annihilate the Jianghu thugs that you are, and eliminate your great wickedness for all humanity. I will be concurrently avenging the numerous and grave offenses of the last twelve years, as the death of my father and my mother's remarriage, the estrangement of brothers, the misery of being cold and hungry, and being coerced by blade and lashed by whip. Among the Kunlun School, all but two or three are my sworn enemies. I will set out west within a day. I will go first to Ziyang, and then I will go to Zhenba. I am telling you the particulars because I hope that you will take care in protecting yourselves! Signed, Jiang Xiaohe."

Hearing this, the old master Bao's purple face had turned blue, and of his disciples, some were angry and some were silent in a daze. Ji Guangjie turned around and drew his sword with a shoom and slammed it loudly onto the table, stunning everyone. He said haughtily, "Everyone, do not fear! What does he count for, this Jiang Xiaohe character? We needn't wait until he comes to Ziyang city. I will head south first and intercept him. When I face him, I guarantee I can kill him in three sword moves!" Bao Zhiyun stepped forward and asked, "Who brought this letter to you?" Long Zhiqi replied, "It was a customer from Henan, a medicine peddler. He saw Jiang Xiaohe in person in Xinyang subprefecture in Henan. According to him, Jiang Xiaohe's renown has shaken lands north and south of the River. There are none who can match up to his sword and his dianxue technique. Second Pang the Flower Spear in Xiangyang city, Liu Kuang the Peer to Huang Zhong in Xinyang subprefecture, and Lu Boxiong the Divine Whip in Shangcai county have all suffered defeat at his hand. It's said he's first to head north to battle the Chan master Taiwu of Mount Song, then Gao Qinggui of Kaifeng prefecture, and also Ji Guangjie the grandson of the Xia of Longmen, before turning at the Tong Pass to go to Ziyang and Zhenba!"

Ji Guangjie heard these words and laughed bitterly, saying, "Good Jiang Xiaohe. He's not too bad, as he knows my name. That's even better. Since he's coming to Guanzhong first, I won't have to take to the road to meet him. I'll wait for him to come and I'll teach him a thing or two with my sword!" He then turned to look at his intended wife Aluan. He saw that Aluan's delicate face had already turned purple, but he didn't know if she was angry, apprehensive, or if it was some other sadness. She soon pushed her cup away, left her seat and went into the inner courtyard.

Within the time it took her lithe body to slip out the door, in his daze the old master Bao suddenly remembered an old occurrence ten years past. It was that snowy night when Jiang Xiaohe hid a blade at his chest to take vengeance. The old master had given him an explanation, pushing the killing of Jiang Zhisheng completely onto the heads of the Long brothers, and Xiaohe promptly left. But then Aluan chased after him, and the sight of the two children fighting had been most endearing. From that day on, the old master had taken Jiang Xiaohe into his home for a time, and he'd had the notion to betroth Aluan to Xiaohe. At that time, he had very much reflected upon his regrets, but he hadn't expected the hatred not to go away. Now, the feuding sides were about to face each other, and it was inevitable that there would be fierce battle in the offing. However, was it a certainty that Ji Guangjie could stand up to a Jiang Xiaohe who has learned his martial arts? Upon thinking this, he couldn't help sadness from piling atop his worried indignation and his very quickly his gaze became fixed and he started to tremble. Ge Zhiqiang saw his old master growing unwell and rushed over to offer his support. The room immediately erupted into disorder.

Old master Bao was carried to a bed by his disciples. His stiffness was like that of a corpse. It was a long while before he came to and recovered his senses. He said to his disciples, "Jiang Xiaohe is not to be feared. When he comes, I will face him. At most, my death will end this. It's just that I urge all never to sow enmity in your lifetimes, and not to behave too selfishly, or else it will too late for regrets. I'm old now, but you are all still young. You must always remember my words! You must act with leniency and tolerance!" When he finished, he turned to Ji Guangjie and exhorted, "I've given my granddaughter to you, so you are very nearly a man of my Bao family and you must remember as well. If Jiang Xiaohe comes before I die, then leave him to me. I'll allow none of you to participate. If he doesn't come until after my death, you should first try resolving this matter with him through courtesy, and only if that fails should you fight him. Though when you fight him, you must be merciful!"

Ji Guangjie fumed, "Elder sir, what need is there for you to worry so much? How skillful can that Jiang Xiaohe be? Can his master's abilities really be stronger than those of the Dragon of Shu and my late grandfather the Xia of Longmen?"

Hearing these words, old master Bao couldn't help but sigh deeply and gave a pained smile, saying, "Worthy grandson-in-law, you haven't traveled Jianghu for long, so how could you know? Forty years ago upon Jianghu, the Xia of Longmen and the Dragon of Shu were called the Two Pinnacles, but over the course of their lives, the Xia of Longmen never dared cross the Great River, and the Dragon of Shu never dared leave the Three Gorges. Now why was that? Very few likely know the real reason, and it was that outside of the Two Pinnacles, there was the One Enigma. The martial arts of this mysterious xia were so powerful they were immeasurable by others, and he could toy with the Xia of Longmen and the Dragon of Shu if he wished. I was in my prime at that time, and my martial arts were much stronger than they are now, but when I encountered this mysterious xia in the Tongbai Mountains, aih! There's no need to say it, for if I did, none of you would believe me. When I, the Bao Kunlun who had crossed the entire world, came into his hands, it was just as if I was an ant!" Ji Guangjie stared intently, asking, "Could it be that this man is the master of Jiang Xiaohe?" The old master Bao furrowed his brow and said, "If Jiang Xiaohe had taken another to be his master, why would I have worried and feared to such an extent these past ten years?" Ge Zhiqiang retold once more of his confrontation with this mysterious xia ten years ago on the Qinling mountain road, and he did so with a bit of remembered dread.

Ji Guangjie couldn't help his indignation. He thought things over and then laughed coldly. He comforted the old master, saying, "Elder sir, you are advanced in years and you can't be bothered to settle a feud with that one of the trifling generation. The elder sir should go back first, and soon after I will head east with my sword. I'll simply face Jiang Xiaohe, and the two of us shall decide victory and defeat!" Ge Zhiqiang and the others all heard this approach and thought it very good. They all urge the old master to do this, and in the end that was what they decided.

The following day, the old master took his granddaughter Aluan with him as they headed to the Dasan Pass. Ji Guangjie took up his sword, his manner imposing. That same day, along with Jiang Zhiyao, the two set off to the east to face Jiang Xiaohe in battle.


[Note, concerning the chapter title: The word I've translated "exemplar" is jie (傑), which appears at the end of both the names of Li Fengjie (李鳳傑) and Ji Guangjie (紀廣傑), so the title is a pun on their names. Bao Aluan remarks on this aspect of their names in this chapter as well.]


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