11.20.2011

The Crane Startles Kunlun, Chapter 10

The Crane Startles Kunlun, Chapter 10.
from Wang Dulu's He Jing Kunlun.

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CHAPTER TEN

He sees flood victims on the road, and valiant deeds vanish his enmity.
He comes to the inn in the night, and expertly plays a trick on a hero.


He traveled through the night, and when the sky lit up the next day, the rain had not yet stopped. Jiang Xiaohe found himself a shop where he had some food and tea, though he didn't rest long before spurring his horse on north. He turned through the northern foothills of Mount Song, and turned his way west. By evening he came to a small town thirty miles east of Luoyang city. Because it was no longer early, Jiang Xiaohe found a hostelry in which to rest one night, and to guard against the possibility that Ji Guangjie knew that he was here and would implement some secret ploy, his sword never left his side.

When the morning of the next day came, he left the hostelry. The rain had already stopped, but a thick fog still covered the earth, making it both humid and hot. On his horse, Jiang Xiaohe took off the short jacket, revealing his sturdy arms, and spurred his horse on to the east gate of Luoyang. He thought, Ji Guangjie isn't some sort of important high official. How could I know where he's staying while he's here? He reined his horse up and thought for a moment. Then he said to himself, "I'll look for a security office and ask around." Thus he turned his horse around and looked around at the shops on either side, suddenly spotting a security office with a sign on the door, reading, "Taiping Security Office, Famous near and far." On the white wall, there was another line of text, though the ink had been mostly washed away by the rain. He could still see it faintly, however, and it read, "Capture Jiang Xiaohe" in large characters.

Jiang Xiaohe saw this and said, "Ah! So it turns out Ji Guangjie that scamp is here!" He jumped off his horse immediately, and leading it, barged through the gate of the security office. At this security office, the front hall was right behind the gate, which was closed. Jiang Xiaohe walked up and kicked it open. There had still been a few people sleeping inside and they were roused by Jiang Xiaohe. Two or three people got up from the kang, and asked angrily, "Hey! What the hell gives you the right to kick our door in?" Jiang Xiaohe replied by pulling out his sword and saying, "Does it not say to capture Jiang Xiaohe in the front? I am that good sir! Which one of you cretins wants to capture me? Come the hell out, and we'll have a little contest!"

When those people heard him, their complexions all changed from fright. One who was about forty said, "Oh! So that's what this is about! Sir Jiang, put your sword away and hear me out. The writing on the wall was not put there by any of us here. It was a few days ago, someone came by the name of Ji Guangjie. He's the grandson of the Xia of Longmen, and he came with two men of the Kunlun School—" Jiang Xiaohe said, "Where are they staying right now? Tell me, quickly!" The man spoke as he put on some clothes, "Ji Guangjie stayed in Luoyang for two days, writing those words in many places in and out of the city. Everyone knew his martial ability, and if anyone displeased him a little bit, he would beat them up. That's why we had no choice but to let him write. We dared not stop him. They left a few days ago, and after they left those of us here washed the words off the wall with water, though we probably didn't wash it completely out."

Jiang Xiaohe asked, "Where did Ji Guangjie and the others go?" The man said, "We heard they went south. We have nothing to do with him, though we all know his name. Sir Jiang! Think. We are all men who travel Jianghu and rely on our friends to eat. Who wants to offend their friends? To say nothing of the fact that we have never sown enmity or hatred. He wanted to write on our clean walls, and we were helpless, because if you stopped him, you had to be prepared to fight!" Jiang Xiaohe asked angrily, "Ji Guangjie and the others, they went south to where?" The man said, "We don't know. You could go to the Zhenying Security Office in the city and inquire there. When Ji Guangjie came, he stayed there. Ji Guangjie and Lu Zhenying are good friends."

Jiang Xiaohe nodded and went outside, carrying his sword and leading his horse. He gave the faint words on the wall a few chops of his sword, sending pieces of plaster down. Then, he mounted his horse and entered the city. Before going far, he saw the Zhenying Security Office. He looked first to the wall, and spotted a large black smear on it, likely having originally read, "Capture Jiang Xiaohe." Jiang Xiaohe asked as soon as he went through the gate, "Which one is named Lu Zhenying?"

There was a man in the yard with bared arms swinging a spear about. Upon seeing Jiang Xiaohe enter with sword in hand, he hurriedly ceased his spearwork. He gave Jiang Xiaohe a once-over and then said, "Lu Zhenying is on a security job. What business do you have with him, friend?" Jiang Xiaohe said, "I'm looking for Ji Guangjie. I heard that Ji Guangjie stayed here." The man nodded, saying, "That's right, because he and our captain know each other. He came a few days ago and stayed here a couple days. Then, he left." Jiang Xiaohe glared at him and asked, "Where did he go?" The man said, "They say he went to Shangshui county to look for Liu Qingkong."

When he heard this, Jiang Xiaohe was taken aback. He thought, That he's gone to find Liu Qingkong is not important, but if he finds out that Yang Xiantai and I are friends, and vents his anger with Yang Xiantai, then wouldn't it be all over? It would mean that I've caused my friend harm! Thus, he led his horse preparing to leave, but then thought, Since the captain of this security office is close with Ji Guangjie, I ought to let them know who I am! So he said spiritedly, "Let me tell you, I am Jiang Xiaohe. When I heard that Ji Guangjie was displaying those words of his, posting notices everywhere and writing on walls that he wants me captured, I came here especially to find him. He needn't capture me. I'm the one who will capture him! I'm leaving now for Shangshui county to look for him."

As he said this, he noticed a stone stake nearby used for hitching horses, very thick and very sturdy. Jiang Xiaohe went over and struck it. All they heard was a loud crack, as he knocked half of it off with his palm, sending splinters of rock falling in a spray. The man who was practicing his spear and a few others who looked like security escorts all paled with fright as they stared at him. Jiang Xiaohe said, "When your captain comes back, tell him about this!" After he said this, he mounted his horse and departed through the gate.

Jiang Xiaohe left Luoyang city and rode east with fury in his heart. He didn't mind that Ji Guangjie was helping the Kunlun School to fight him, but that he was writing "Capture Jiang Xiaohe" everywhere was not something a hero would do. Before riding forty miles east, he entered a narrow ravine with loess plateaus on either side. Into the earthen wall was carved the words, "Capture Jiang Xiaohe," every character of which was writ large. Not to mention that they were carved deep, as if it was done with a sword. Jiang Xiaohe grew even angrier. Sitting on his horse, he brandished his sword and sliced and chopped at those words crazily. Many clumps of dirt fell off until the words were unrecognizable, whereupon Jiang Xiaohe left.

When he came out of the ravine, he kept both of his eyes looking around to catch sight of any place where Ji Guangjie might have left words. In the evening, he lodged at the limits of Xinzheng county and asked the innkeeper if someone by the name of Ji Guangjie had passed through here. He gave a general description of Ji Guangjie, that he was a young man carrying a sword and writing everywhere, with two helpers alongside him. Hearing this, the innkeeper said, "Right, that's it! That man came through here around noon the day before yesterday and even wrote a few words on our earthen wall! It read something like, 'Capture Jiang Xiaohe.' We thought he was an official, so we didn't dare get in his way. After he left, we took an iron shovel and scraped those words off." Jiang Xiaohe grew ever more furious at hearing this and wanted nothing more than to leave and chase after Ji Guangjie that very night, but he truly felt at this time that his body was a bit worn out.

When the following day came, Jiang Xiaohe continued his pursuit, asking people along the way about the route to Shangshui county and the whereabouts of Ji Guangjie and the others. At about the ninth hour of the morning, he came upon a small town. He spotted a large locust tree at the side of the road, upon which where posted in disarray a dozen or so strips of paper, all of which read, "Capture Jiang Xiaohe," "Capture Jiang Xiaohe"! Jiang Xiaohe was so angry his face paled. He dismounted his horse, plucked all the paper strips down and tore then into shreds. There were several people nearby watching him carefully. Jiang Xiaohe then asked the people nearby, "Who put these strips up? It looks to me like they're all new." One of the people pointed to the east and said, "It was Fatty Ma from that tavern."

Jiang Xiaohe was in a rage. Leading his horse, he walked to the front of the tavern and left his horse there. He burst inside with sword in hand and saw that there were no customers here. A portly barkeep was telling a young attendant to grind out some ink. Holding a blunt brush, he was jotting down the same characters "Capture Jiang Xiaohe" over and over again, just like a schoolchild doing his writing drills. Beside him were placed strips of paper in excess of twenty or thirty. Jiang Xiaohe approached, grabbed the inkstone and, slap, struck the barkeep across his pockmarked face with it. Fatty Ma yelled out in pain with both ink and blood on his face. Jiang Xiaohe ripped all the strips of paper to shreds and kicked the table over as well. The young attendant had long fled outside in fear.

Fatty Ma was lying on the floor, unable to get up. He shouted indignantly, "Why did you hit me?" Jiang Xiaohe slapped him on the head with the flat of his sword and asked angrily, "I am Jiang Xiaohe! Why are you writing these strips about capturing me? You're not an official, and I haven't broken any laws!" Upon hearing that this was Jiang Xiaohe himself, Fatty Ma couldn't help his whole body from shaking from fear, hurriedly explaining himself, "It wasn't that I wanted to write it. It was the day before yesterday, a customer gave me five taels of silver and told me to write it, the more the better, and after a couple days, he would come back and give me more money. Actually, I can't even read these few characters!"

Jiang Xiaohe yelled furiously, "You scoundrel! He gives you five taels of silver and you incite things for him, and dishonor me as you wish?" Suddenly raising his head, he noticed a dozen or so jars of wine stacked in a cabinet, and on each of five was written a single character, which put together read, "Capture Jiang Xiaohe." Jiang Xiaohe became even madder at seeing this. It took quite a bit of effort for Fatty Ma to pick himself up. He said, "Good sir Jiang, I didn't write those characters on the jars. It was the customer named Ji himself who did it. There were three of them in all, and he was carrying a sword in his hand. Even our Fourth Sir Zhang here flattered him. Don't say it's because he gave me money. Even if he hadn't, I didn't dare not to listen to him!" Jiang Xiaohe indignant, found a steelyard in the room, held it in his hand, and hammered at the wine jars. Crash, crash, splash, was all they heard! It turned out that while three of them were empty, two of them were still filled with wine, and as soon as the jars were shattered, the wine flowed out! Fatty Ma stamped his foot and cried loudly, "Oh no! Those two wine jars of mine are worth six or seven taels of silver!" Jiang Xiaohe said, "Why don't you go find the one named Ji and have him compensate you for it? If you dare write any more and I find out about it, I'll come back for your life!" When he finished, he turned around and left the tavern angrily. He went out the gate and was about to mount his horse when he spotted six people approaching from the north, all armed with sabers and staffs. Jiang Xiaohe quickly stopped in his tracks and waited for them with his sword held in front of him. [Note: "Capture Jiang Xiaohe" is written with five characters in Chinese: 捉拿江小鶴.]

The men who came were all wearing short pants, with a few of them dressed in small coats, and some with arms bared. One of them was the young attendant who'd fled earlier. The young attendant pointed at Jiang Xiaohe and said, "That's him!" Instantly, the men rushed towards him carrying their weapons, and surrounded Jiang Xiaohe. They said together, "Don't even think about leaving. So you are Jiang Xiaohe. There are people out to capture you!" At this point, Fatty Ma had stuck his head out from the tavern, not yet washed of ink and blood, and bellowed angrily, "Grab him! He hit me! And he destroyed two jars of my wine! Get him to repay me!"

Jiang Xiaohe brandished his sword and asked furiously, "What do you think you're doing? Was it Ji Guangjie sent you here? If he's around, hurry and tell him to come meet me. This has nothing to do with you. If you don't know what's good for you and you get me angry, my sword knows no mercy. If I kill or wound any of you, don't come crying to me!"

The men said together, "Enough with your boasting, you cretin! Throw down your sword while you still can, and come with us to see Fourth Sir. Our Fourth Sir and Sir Ji are kinsmen. When Sir Ji left the day before yesterday, he entrusted our Fourth Sir with a task. To capture you, if you were to come. Since you are a bandit who has committed serious crimes, the Kunlun School and the Xia of Longmen's men all want you captured!"

Hearing these words, Jiang Xiaohe angrily rebuked, "Hogwash!" He swung his sword and sent chops at the five or six men. None of the men knew how great a skill Jiang Xiaohe had, and surged forward, charging at him together, brandishing their sabers and staffs.. However, with casual shakes of Jiang Xiaohe's sword, after three or four exchanges, three of four of the men had thrown down their weapons and fallen wounded to the ground. The street immediately erupted in chaos, with people saying, "There are injured!" Fatty Ma had run out of the tavern as well with his thick arms open, running north like a pig, shouting loudly, "Officer! Officer! Something's happened here!" Jiang Xiaohe flew onto his horse, after which he injured another two men, and then he galloped to the southeast.

It was as if a flame blazed in his heart when he thought of how hateful Ji Guangjie was. If he were to see him, he would kill him for sure. It didn't matter if he was the Xia of Longmen's grandson, and he didn't care about his master's rules! After he rode for ten or so miles, he noticed a group of horses following after him from behind. Jiang Xiaohe reined up his horse and said in surprise, "Could they be coming after me?" Thus, he reached out and unsheathed his sword.

In a short while, the horses caught up to him. There were a total of twelve horses, and atop each horse sat an able-bodied man. The one in the lead was a tall man, dressed nicely and riding a brown horse. Jiang Xiaohe turned his horse around and held his sword out to meet them. He asked them, "Hey! Are you chasing after me?" The tall man on the brown horse looked up and said, "We're just riding on the road. What would we be chasing you for?"

Jiang Xiaohe saw that all twelve of the riders were wearing sabers, though none of them had baggage, so he couldn't help but sneer a little and nod, saying, "All right. You'll go your way and I'll go mine, and neither of us will bother the other." He turned his horse back around and galloped southeast. The twelve horses behind him trotted quickly behind him, and Jiang Xiaohe was enraged! He pulled his sword back out and was about to turn his horse around when he saw the twelve horses charging at him in a row. Hearing a crash like an oncoming tide, Jiang Xiaohe couldn't dodge them in time and he was knocked off his saddle by the horses behind him. However, his body being nimble, when he felt off balance in his saddle, he quickly leapt down and at the same time flashed the sword in his hand. The glimmer of the sword frightened the horses that were charging up from behind into lifting their hooves up, and two of the men fell off their horses. Jiang Xiaohe disregarded all else, and turned to pursue the brown horse.

The tall man riding the brown horse had already run far away with several of the others. The horse ran quickly, but Jiang Xiaohe's legs were not slow. In a split second, the tall man riding the brown horse turned his head to look, and oh! Jiang Xiaohe had nearly caught up to him. There was but twenty-some paces between them. The men nearby were all in shock, saying, "What fast legs! Fourth Sir, watch out!" The tall man on a horse they called Fourth Sir hastily waved his whip and went for the saber next to his saddle. However, before he could pull his saber out, he saw Jiang Xiaohe leap up, just as if he was a red-crowned crane in flight, and the sword in his hand like a crane's wing.

In the blink of an eye, a crack and a doleful cry was heard. Jiang Xiaohe had cut down the tall man with one slash of his sword. The riders nearby quickly withdrew one after the other. Jiang Xiaohe brandished his sword and slapped the tall man across his body with the flat of his sword, and then gave him a kick. A gush of fresh blood flowed from his shoulders as he rolled over a few times and passed out. Of the remaining eleven riders, three witnessed Jiang Xiaohe's extraordinary martial arts and hastily spurred their horses into flight. The other eight knew not their own limitations, together drew their sabers, and dismounted their horses to fight. Jiang Xiaohe's sword turned and jumped, much like a white cricket leaping about in a saber forest. He didn't display any sort of swordwork; he simply needed a quick eye and a quick hand. Seven or eight exchanges and he had sent six men down with stabs. The two left over took hold of their horses and fled.

Jiang Xiaohe didn't chase after them. He withdrew out of his sword stance and looked down at the seven lying about the ground. Because Jiang Xiaohe obeyed his master's instructions, he wasn't willing to harm anyone's life. Thus when he used his sword, he exerted very light strength. Not only did the six strong-looking men suffer from very light wounds, but some of them were even able to get up. And though the tall man who fell from his horse had a heavy sword wound on his right shoulder and his torso was covered in blood, he was gradually coming to. It was only that he cried continuously in miserable pain.

Jiang Xiaohe first went to go find his horse, and then he rode it back. When he came to the wounded men, he scoffed, "Don't say that there were only twelve of you. With your skill, even if there were a hundred and twenty surrounding me and I let you harm one hair on my body, I would not be the one named Jiang! I, surnamed Jiang, did not want to hurt anyone, but your methods were too cruel. Good men emphasize one saber or one spear. Even if a group of people ganged up on one person and triumphed, that would be the conduct of petty men. Just now you lined your horses up and charged me. If it had been any other person, they would already have been trampled to death by your mess of horses. Fuck! Even bandits aren't as vicious as you!" When he said this, he dismounted his horse in fury with sword in hand to punish those men further.

Some of the men then knelt on the ground and begged for forgiveness, pleading with him, "Sir Jiang! We were blind! But don't blame me, and don't blame our Fourth Sir Zhang. This is all because of Ji Guangjie. Not only did he post notices everywhere about capturing you, but he goaded our Fourth Sir. When our Fourth Sir saw you come, he brought us to chase you down. He wanted to knock you down with our horses so it would be easier to capture you, and let Ji Guangjie see his ability. Because our Fourth Sir is Old Sir Ji the Xia of Longmen's nephew, if you think about it, Ji Guangjie is then his cousin!" Jiang Xiaohe impatiently asked, "Where is Ji Guangjie now?" The man kneeling on the ground said, "Ji Guangjie left the day before yesterday, heading to Liu Qingkong's home in Shangshui county looking for you, Sir Jiang!" Jiang Xiaohe immediately nodded and said, "All right. I'll go look for him!"

He turned his horse and was about to leave when he caught sight of a throng of carts in the distance. Jiang Xiaohe wondered if it was more of this Fourth Zhang of the brown horse's friends, but then after a careful look, he discovered it was a band of traveling merchants. Because of the fight that occurred here, they'd all been stopped, afraid to come this way. Jiang Xiaohe put his sword away and approached on his horse. When he drew near, he clasped his fist and said, "You have all come from far away. Did you perchance see any notices posted at the side of the road, or writing on walls that said to capture Jiang Xiaohe?" Some of the merchants replied, "We didn't pay much attention on the road."

Jiang Xiaohe nodded and then said, "The person writing the notices is Ji Guangjie. Jiang Xiaohe, the one he wants to capture is me. I am a straightforward and upright man, and I've never been a thief, nor have I ever broken the law. Ji Guangjie and I are complete strangers, and have no grievances with each other. It's just that he's been prodded by those of the Kunlun School to dishonor me in this way everywhere. I truly cannot put up with this. These men I've wounded now are all henchmen of Ji Guangjie, and you have all likely seen what happened. It was they who first tried to hurt me, not I who wounded them for no reason. I invite you all to bear witness and relate this matter everywhere you go. I also ask from now on that if you see any writing about capturing me, whether on the wall or not, to please rip it up for me, or rub it out."

The entire band of merchants agreed, saying, "All right! If we see anything like that, we'll for certain get rid of it for you." Jiang Xiaohe then cupped his fist and said, "Thank you! Thank you!" When he was done, he abandoned the several injured men and continued spurring his horse on to the southeast. When he thought about it, he still got very angry, speaking to himself, "The master told me I wasn't allowed to harm people's lives at will, but I cannot spare Ji Guangjie. He has mistreated me too deeply. If I meet him, he will have absolutely no mercy under my sword!" He hurried his horse urgently south, and by evening he came to the limits of Shangshui county.

Liu Qingkong was not considered a wealthy man in these parts, but he owned a small farmstead. When Jiang Xiaohe arrived, he dismounted his horse and walked straight into the farm. A few of Liu Qingkong's disciples greeted him and made their salutations together, saying, "Uncle Jiang, you've come back." Jiang Xiaohe had come here a month previous to compare his martial arts with Liu Qingkong. He'd knocked Liu Qingkong over with one fist, and the two ended up becoming good friends. Jiang Xiaohe had stayed here a few times before and had received the hospitality of Liu Qingkong, so these disciples all knew him. Xiaohe hurriedly asked them, "Has anyone come here looking for me?" One of the disciples said, "Ji Guangjie came here looking for you yesterday. There were three of them in all who came."

Upon hearing this, Jiang Xiaohe's stare immediately intensified as he said, "Where are they now?" The disciple said, "They left yesterday, the same day they came. He heard us say that our master had gone to Xinyang, so he suspected that you had gone there as well. He posted some notices on the door before he left, reading, "Capture Jiang Xiaohe." We grew angry when we saw them, but because we knew his martial arts were powerful and since our master was not at home, we didn't dare provoke him. We waited until after they left before we scraped the strips of paper down." Jiang Xiaohe heard this and fumed, "I'm going after them!" Saying this, he mounted his horse while he was still at the farm and galloped out.

He hurried his way through the night and when the next morning arrived, he came to the limits of Zhengyang county in Jiangnan. At this time, Jiang Xiaohe's spirits were still very active, but he was both thirsty and hungry. When he looked up he saw the northern gate of Zhengyang in front of him. He still didn't see any teahouses, but bleak scenes did enter into his sight. There was a large mass of the destitute, wearing clothes even more ragged than those of beggars. Each of them was propping up the elderly or holding the young, carrying worn out travel bundles on their backs or supporting broken clay pots. They were teeming their way south. Jiang Xiaohe was afraid of running over these poor people, so he hastened off his horse. He stopped one of them and asked, "What are you all doing here?" The poor person said something and then hurried away.

What was spoken was in an unfamiliar accent, and Jiang Xiaohe hadn't understood it. Nearby, someone who looked like a businessman said, "These are all disaster victims from Huaibei. The Huai River opened its mouth and caused a flood, flushing over all their fields and destroying them, so they've all fled to Henan. Someone over there is providing relief today, so they're all rushing to receive some money." Jiang Xiaohe nodded and thought to himself that he didn't know who was providing the relief, but it must be a kind and rich man.

More and more of the disaster victims came, and it was hard to count how many hundreds of people there were. They had jammed up an entire street. There were several large carts stuck in the middle of the street, the drivers of which all climbed onto their carts, not daring to go below, afraid of being trampled by the disaster victims. Leading his horse, Jiang Xiaohe naturally could not go forward any either. Luckily, he found an inn to the side, so he shouted, "Give way!" He led his horse through the gates of the inn, and handed it over to an attendant. He thought, I have three or four hundred silvers on me. Why don't I pass some of it out and help save some of these disaster victims?

The attendants and guests inside the inn were all standing by the door watching the activity. One of the guests sighed sadly, "This is what they mean when they say, it's hard to open the doors of charity, and it's hard to close those doors! There's a young guest staying at the Mi Inn on the south side. Looking at him, he doesn't seem like someone who has a lot of money. Not long ago, he took out five taels of silver and changed it into cash, dividing it up among a few of the disaster victims. That was too much! One told ten, and ten told a hundred! More and more of the disaster victims came, so many that they've almost toppled the main gate of the Mi Inn, squeezing through it! Unless that guest can make money from nothing, even if he had five hundred silvers, it wouldn't be enough to provide relief."

Upon hearing this, Jiang Xiaohe thought it very novel, wanting to see what kind of person this young guest was. Perhaps it was the young master of an official's household. Thus he forced his way into the multitude, and though it was congested as if they had rendered the street into a dead stop without even a small gap anywhere, Jiang Xiaohe was strong and light. In an instant, he arrived at the Mi Inn. He saw a mass of people gathered in front of its gates. All shouting out lamentations, "Good sir bodhisattva! I haven't been given anything yet! I'm starving to death! And I have an eighty year old mother too!" There was also a woman holding a bone thin child in one hand, with her other hand raised up, calling miserably, "Help me! Save me!"

The gates of the Mi Inn had already long been closed. He saw a young man climb on top of the wall, and shout with his hands in the air to the hundreds of disaster victims below, "I don't have even one coin left. I've given away all of my hundred or so taels of silver! I've even given out all of my friend's money. I don't have any money anymore!" The disaster victims below refused to leave, still crying out mournfully, "Bodhisattva! ...Save me! ...Give me some!"

Jiang Xiaohe saw that the young man's age was not far from his own. He was short but sturdy and his complexion was slightly dark. He was dressed in a blue silk coat and pants with a blue muslin belt fastened about his waist. His feet wore blue boots, at the tips of which were attached silk tassels. He appeared to be a man who practiced martial arts. Jiang Xiaohe couldn't help but secretly admire him, so he waved his hands and called out to the disaster victims, "He doesn't have anymore money! But I do. Come with me. I have three or four hundred taels of silver, and I'll distribute it to you all at once. Come with me!" He shouted this three times, but the jumble of sounds buried his voice, and no one heard what he'd said, many even thinking that he was asking the man on the wall for money! The mass of disaster victims kept their faces raised, pleading to the young man on top of the wall, calling out, "Sir bodhisattva!"

Jiang Xiaohe was very anxious, and it was hard to bear being crowded on all sides by people. He hated that his money pouch was not at his side. If it was, he would certainly hurl it to the young man atop the wall and tell him to give it out for him. But then he thought, That wouldn't work! My cash is all in whole silvers, and the other half are bills from a Langzhong moneychanger. I wouldn't even be able to break it up into change here.

The young man on the wall, seeing that there was nothing he could do, shouted down again, "I really don't have any money left today! Come back tomorrow, and I'll give everyone two silver coins each for certain. I'll prepare several hundred silvers, and give it all away!" Hearing this, Jiang Xiaohe thought, What a large promise! He figured he must be a very rich man. At this point, two others climbed onto the wall from inside the inn, and shouted out at the same time, "Are you still not leaving? Come back tomorrow morning. We'll give you money for sure." Of the two speakers, one was thin of build and had one eye. The other was a little fat, with dark features and a bit of a black beard.

Jiang Xiaohe felt this man very familiar, and thought it over before saying, "Oh! Isn't that Liu Zhiyuan?" Then he knew. The young man providing relief was none other than Ji Guangjie. At this moment, Jiang Xiaohe expectedly felt very discouraged. He turned around and left, following the continuously dispersing flood victims and returning to his inn. He drank some water, ate some food and rested on a kang. The attendants and guests in the courtyard were all still discussing the disaster relief. He heard someone say, "That young guest is likely a famous constable, here to handle a case. Right now, he's on the streets with some others, posting notices that read, 'Capture Jiang Xiaohe.'" Jiang Xiaohe could hear this clearly from his room, but it didn't stoke much anger. He thought, He can go ahead and post it! As Jiang Xiaohe, my sword will never harm a righteous person.

He didn't leave his room for the rest of the day. When evening came, he had the innkeeper's men go out and ask around, finding out that the young man providing relief that morning was indeed Ji Guangjie and that he was still staying at the Mi Inn. Because the flood victims were waiting until the next morning to receive relief, many of them spent the night in front of the inn. A question suddenly appeared in Jiang Xiaohe's mind. He thought, Ji Guangjie isn't any sort of rich man. He gave all his money away today, so from where is going to prepare several hundred more taels to pass out? Just as an attendant brought by a lamp, Jiang Xiaohe asked him, "With a place as small as this, you probably don't have a hugely wealthy man, do you?"

The attendant said, "How do we not have one? Who is wealthier than Millions Gu of the Gu Farmstead on the north side?" Jiang Xiaohe smiled and said, "So you probably only have one Millions Gu here. Is there anyone else who can be called wealthy?" The attendant shook his head and said, "No! Is one not enough? One of his forebears was a minor official in the Ministry of Revenue. The household says they have millions, but actually they have tens of millions! There isn't even anyone as wealthy in all of Xinyang county in Jiangnan."

Jiang Xiaohe then asked, "A lot of disaster victims have come here. Why doesn't he take out ten or twenty thousand taels to provide relief?" The attendant said, "People with money don't do that sort of thing! Millions Gu, that big landowner, thinks even one copper coin too dear to hand out. Otherwise, why is his other nickname Miser Gu!" Jiang Xiaohe smirked. The attendant placed the lamp on the table for him and left. Jiang Xiaohe immediately blew it out and left his room.

It was now already past the first watch, though there were still more than a few people coming and going through the streets. There were an especially lot of those flood victims who had no home to return to, all pleading after people for money and standing by shops begging. Not all of the shops had closed up, and there was one tavern with a straw shed set up in front of the door, lit with two or three bright oil lamps, in which many men with arms bared and fans waving were drinking, conversing and playing chess. Jiang Xiaohe walked towards it, found himself a table corner and sat down, ordering a few pints of wine. He drank slowly and listened as the people around him discussed the hearsay of the streets.

After a length of time, past the knock of the second watch, the people in the straw shed had mostly dispersed. Jiang Xiaohe had already finished his wine, but did not yet leave, as he gazed out into the street. Shortly, he spotted someone hurrying their way from the south side, wearing a short shirt and pants of blue cloth, with a very long and thin bundle clamped under his arm, appearing as if he was on his way to take care of some urgent business. He passed in front of Jiang Xiaohe's eyes in an instant, but Jiang Xiaohe still saw him very clearly and knew that it was Ji Guangjie. Jiang Xiaohe tossed down the wine money and rushed after Ji Guangjie toward the north.

It was now the dark of dusk all around as Jiang Xiaohe followed closely after Ji Guangjie, with twenty paces or so of distance between them. Ji Guangjie was walking along the main road, while Jiang Xiaohe walked close to the sorghum growing at the side of the road, unbeknownst to Ji Guangjie. Ahead, he walked very quickly, and in a short while he turned east into a dense pine forest. Jiang Xiaohe now couldn't help but be a bit more careful. Before, he had been in shadow, while Ji Guangjie had been in the open, but now it was the complete opposite. If Ji Guangjie had pretended not to see him enter the forest, but was actually hiding in the darkness, he would be in great trouble since he himself had not brought his sword. Thus, he waited a while for Ji Guangjie to proceed further in before he crept slowly into the forest.

Stepping on the green grass in his straw sandals felt both warm and soft. After a few paces, he heard a rustle as something hopped through his legs, though he wasn't sure if it was a rabbit or a fox. Jiang Xiaohe froze in place and bent his ear to listen carefully, but all he heard amid the forest were the jumbled swishing of the pines, the chirping of insects in the brush, and the faint sound of footsteps ahead. Jiang Xiaohe pulled himself up the limbs of the tree and sat atop, peering down. He waited for a time, and when Ji Guangjie exited the forest with sword in hand, Jiang Xiaohe jumped down and followed him out. He saw a small brook before the forest, bright with the light of many stars floating upon the surface of the water. Ji Guangjie slowly made his way west, stepping across a bridge plank across the brook. Jiang Xiaohe followed after him.

On either side here was planted sorghum and corn, and a breeze blowing made their leaves swish. Before walking far, he saw lamp light ahead and knew that there must be a village there. Ji Guangjie walked forward into the sorghum. It was inconvenient for Jiang Xiaohe to continue along the path, so he walked into the field as well, his two hands separating the leaves that hurt when they struck his arm, winding his way forward. He walked a while before he made it through the field, but Ji Guangjie was already nowhere to be found.

Between the trees a country house stood with the light of two lamps still remaining, though they were both very dim. Jiang Xiaohe shifted into the trees, and turned amid them to the rear of the house, where he saw a large courtyard. The walls of the courtyard were built tall with stacked rocks, and the top was covered with sour date branches. It was just like the walls of a prison. Jiang Xiaohe stood under the wall and waited a moment. He heard the third watch ring out from the village. Jiang Xiaohe bent down and tightened his straw sandals a bit, and then leapt upward onto the high wall. One foot came down on the sour date branches, and he quickly exerted himself and jumped onto one of the back rooms inside the walls of the large house. One of the sour date branches was attached to his straw sandal. He pulled it free and set it on the roof tiles. Then he crouched down and crawled to the front, whereupon he saw that the farmstead was quite large. He thought, He's worthy of the name Millions Gu! But with such a wealthy household, why doesn't he take his money and provide relief? Then he thought, Just before I left the mountain, my master instructed me to help the weak and poor and pity the widowed and orphaned. If I took a few silvers from the large house of this miser to help Ji Guangjie provide relief for the flood victims, it wouldn't be considered stealing, would it?

He crawled on the roof tiles and peered downwards, seeing that both the eastern and northern halls were lit, especially so the northern hall where the lamp light was particularly bright. Jiang Xiaohe thought, It's still early, so this won't be easy. He stayed on the roof for a short while longer and then heard the sound of the northern hall's door screen. A servant woman came running out and headed to the western hall. Xiaohe hurriedly crawled from atop the northern hall to the roof of the western hall. He saw that the servant woman hadn't gone inside, but stood outside the door instead and inquired inside, "Sir, the second wife is asking you to come to bed. It's getting late!"

The click-clack of an abacus came out of the western hall and a very impatient-seeming man said, "I'm not finished balancing the accounts yet. Tell her to go to sleep!" The servant woman returned slowly to the northern hall, probably to give their second mistress his response. The door slammed shut, and the light went out suddenly, like it was blown out in a fit of anger. In the western hall the light was low, the fitful sound of the abacus rang out, and people were speaking softly. After a while, it abacus continued to clatter. Jiang Xiaohe laid prone across the eaves, and with one hand holding onto the roof tile, he lowered his body and peeked briefly into the room through a muslin covering the windows. Everything in the room was reflected into his eyes.

The room appeared to be a study, more than a few books and scrolls populating the cabinets. Within, there was a large table and a tin lamp holding very little oil. Around the round table were situated three people, a couple of whom were flipping through books, though someone was using an abacus as he was reading. The one using the abacus was an old man with a white beard, wearing a silk coat and pants. Another's beard was a bit darker, and he'd bared the fat flesh of his upper body. Next to him was a servant girl of twelve or thirteen years waving a fan for him. It was likely that man was the master here. He had in his hand a few thick books, and he recited, "Two-hundred fifty, three-thousand seven-hundred sixty, four-hundred eighty, five-hundred even..." The man with the white beard moved the abacus beads about. Jiang Xiaohe then understood that the old sir wasn't reading, but balancing accounts.

The girl fanning him had probably been doing so for a long time. Her hand was sore, standing had made her legs ache, and she was so tired she was dozing off. In a moment of carelessness, she extinguished the lamp with the flame. It suddenly became very dark inside the room, and Jiang Xiaohe couldn't help moving with a start. He hurriedly straightened his body and pulled his entire body back onto the roof. He heard the old sir yelling from the room below, "You fool!" And then he heard a slap, likely the old sir's hand striking the face of the servant girl, but the young servant girl dared not cry.

Jiang Xiaohe took advantage of the room being dark and jumped off the roof. He gently pulled the door to the room open and slipped inside, all without making a sound. The old sir became impatient and shouted loudly, "Where's the fire? Where's the fire?" The man using the abacus said, "I've got one over here!" He struck a match and relit the lamp. The old sir was so angry the fat on his whole body quivered, yelling again, "You stupid, stupid fool! ...Let's start the calculations over! Seven-hundred sixty, two-thousand thirty, four-hundred fifty strings of cash..." The older man lowered his head once again and manipulated the abacus beads, and the young servant girl wiped her tears away and continued fanning the old sir carefully.

At this point, Jiang Xiaohe crawled slowly from beside a standing cabinet to the space under a bamboo couch by the wall. Fortunately, with the lamp on the table so dim, the two old men concentrating on their accounts, and the young servant both tired and dejected, no one noticed him. Jiang Xiaohe was furious and wanted to overturn the bamboo couch, dash over and rip their account books into shreds, toss the abacus aside, and then demand money from the greedy, ruthless, miserly old sir and force him to provide disaster relief, but he wasn't willing to be so obvious about it.

After waiting for another half hour or so, it was almost the fourth watch. When the old sir and the other man in this room finished balancing the accounts, they were so fatigued they barely looked like people anymore. The old sir took out a key to open the large cabinet. He placed the account books inside, and then locked it up again. Afterward, the young servant girl blew out the lamp. The three left the room and locked the door with a click. Once the door lock sounded out, Jiang Xiaohe crawled out from under the couch and stood by the window to look out. He saw the old man with the white beard heading to the outer courtyard, and the young servant girl returning to the northern hall with the old sir.

The light from the northern hall shone for a little bit, but was put out before long. Jiang Xiaohe walked in front of the large cabinet to handle the lock. It was very heavy and very sturdy, but in Jiang Xiaohe's hands, it did not take very much energy to pry it open. He reached his hand in and felt around, making out a dozen or so account books, two large packs of silvers, and four or five wicker baskets of copper coins. Jiang Xiaohe went first to the windows and pulled down one of them, and then he took the packs of silver and tied them together. He lifted it over his shoulder and felt that it was very heavy, over forty or fifty catties. He thought, It's a lot. It should be enough for Ji Guangjie to give out aid. He snatched the account books up under his arm as well and jumped through of the window. He was about to get onto roof when he abruptly heard the clashing sound of a gong from outside the farmstead. Jiang Xiaohe was startled and hurriedly flew up onto the roof and ran to the top of the northern hall from the western hall. Upon hearing the gong, the old sir in the northern hall, who was probably about to fall asleep with his second wife, shouted out in alarm, "Intruder!"

Jiang Xiaohe employed the mountain leaping, stream jumping skill he learned on Mount Jiuhua and took a heavy step back with both his feet atop the northern hall and then with a whoosh, he bounded nimbly over even that high wall. When he landed on the ground, he moved around the road and walked into the sorghum field, winding his way to the small path. He looked back and saw the village in the woods light up with lanterns and heard the sound of fighting closing gradually in on him. Jiang Xiaohe thought, In the end, Ji Guangjie wasn't good enough. He must have failed and was discovered by the men patrolling the courtyard. He was about to go back and help Ji Guangjie, but then he thought, Who told him to spread word everywhere about capturing me? Now, it's his turn to be captured! Following the path, he sprinted southwest and soon came to the edge of the small brook. Jiang Xiaohe tossed the account books he was carrying under his arm into the water of the brook, and then he jumped across it. With the pine forest behind him, and the brook before him, he stopped running at this point and watched the lanterns moving in disarray.

After staying a moment, he suddenly spotted three men running along the path. Jiang Xiaohe thought to himself, Ji Guangjie is coming. When Ji Guangjie arrived at the edge of the brook and before he could find the bridge plank, there appeared two guards already holding sabers chasing after him, both shouting loudly at him, "Stop, thief!" Ji Guangjie quickly turned around to meet them. Here, Jiang Xiaohe said, "Good! They're going to fight!" He couldn't see very clearly the saber and sword skill of the three men across the brook, but he could see flashes of light and hear the sound of clashing blades. Ji Guangjie and the two guards had probably battled for twenty-some exchanges without outcome, but all the lanterns and torches in the north were coming along the small path, growing closer and closer. Ji Guangjie feinted with his sword and withdrew a few paces, and then he flipped around and hurdled across the brook. Jiang Xiaohe had already run into the forest by now when Ji Guangjie was about to flee within the trees. The guards and villagers were stopped beside the brook, not daring to enter the forest to search for him.

Jiang Xiaohe no longer cared about Ji Guangjie at this point. In a short while, he had run back to a street in the northern outskirts of Zhengyang county. Other than the flood victims huddled this way and that about the ground, there were no travelers on the street. Jiang Xiaohe ran to the gate of the Mi Inn and taking the opportunity of no one paying him notice, he jumped onto the roof. However, here he ran into some difficulty, because he didn't know in which room Ji Guangjie was staying. So he set the packs of silvers on the roof, and sat down beside them, waiting.

Before waiting ten minutes, he saw someone leaping over the wall from outside. Jiang Xiaohe knew that it was Ji Guangjie returning, so he snatched up the packs of silver next to him and tossed them at Ji Guangjie. He heard a thud as the packs fell beside Ji Guangjie in the courtyard. Jiang Xiaohe stood on the roof and had a laugh. Ji Guangjie jumped onto the roof with a whoosh in pursuit, but Jiang Xiaohe had already left without a trace. He returned to his room and felt extremely happy and content. Thus, he rested his head and slept, though he was awakened before long by the clamor of people outside.

Jiang Xiaohe opened his eyes and glanced. The paper on the window was light gray, as the day was very nearly light. He quickly got up. He could hear the noise of people outside in waves. He left his room to look and saw that the gates of the inn were not yet open. Jiang Xiaohe hurriedly opened them and saw the mass of flood victims crowding once again. Some were rushing forward, while others were running back having received relief money. Jiang Xiaohe even caught sight of a bone thin girl holding a piece of silver in her hands, ecstatic. Jiang Xiaohe knew then that Ji Guangjie had distributed the money that he had stolen the night before, and he couldn't help smiling to himself. The flood victims were getting money exceeding what they'd lost, and smiles were appearing where bitter expressions used to be.

The sky was almost bright when he spotted three horses coming from the south. It was Ji Guangjie, Liu Zhiyuan and that man who was blind in one eye. They ran off after having finished distributing the silvers and many of the flood victims were kneeling on the ground calling them bodhisattvas. There was no happy expression on Ji Guangjie's face however. Jiang Xiaohe hurried inside and rushed the inn attendants to prepare his horse. He got some water and hastily washed his sword, and then settled his room and food bill before getting on his horse and leaving. He saw the flood victims in the street slowly dispersing, and the shops had all opened up their door planks.

Jiang Xiaohe spurred his horse on through the northern gate and saw flood victims sitting by the side of the main road, munching on a large piece of flatbread they'd bought. Jiang Xiaohe asked them, "The man giving aid, which way did he go?" The disaster victims pointed and said, "Those three saviors galloped south!" Jiang Xiaohe then urged his horse on south. He chased after them for twenty straight miles, but didn't catch up to Ji Guangjie and the others, and became less inclined to pursue them. He thought, What am I chasing them for? At first, I wanted to cross swords with Ji Guangjie, because he posted bills about capturing me all along the road. Now that I see he's a young xia, why must I decide victory and defeat with him? I'll leave it to him to catch me! I should hurry to Chang'an to see Aluan, and then I'll go to Zhenba and Ziyang for revenge. That is what my proper business is.

He was a little bit hungry, so when he saw a town in the distance ahead, he urged his horse on and galloped over there. When he spotted a tavern, he got off his horse and hitched it outside the door, and then went inside and ordered wine and noodles. Just as he was about to finish eating, he suddenly heard someone calling sternly from outside, "Whose horse is this?" Jiang Xiaohe quickly went outside and saw four men there with horses in hand, two of which were wearing officer's uniforms. The two officers pointed at Jiang Xiaohe's horse and asked, "Whose horse is this?" Jiang Xiaohe said, "It's mine. Is there a problem?"

One of them said, "There's no problem." When he finished speaking, he turned to leave. However one of the men, who was short of stature and wearing a fine silk coat and pants, cupped his fist towards Jiang Xiaohe and asked, "There was a man named Ji who stayed in Zhengyang county and provided disaster relief. Do you happen to know where he's run off to?" Jiang Xiaohe shook his head and said, "I don't. I don't know that man." The man nodded, and was about to leave when Jiang Xiaohe said, "Hey! I was in the middle of drinking wine when you called me out here and asked me questions. Is that all?" The two officers glared at him and said, "What? Are you saying we need to give you some money?"

The short man paid him a smile and said, "I apologize! Since we saw a sword hanging off your horse, we thought the one named Ji might be inside drinking. This Ji is a thief. He went to the house of Millions Gu in Zhengyang county last night and stole over seven hundred taels of silver, and then gave it away as disaster relief. He quickly distributed it and then fled. I am Yang Gongjiu, a guard of the Gu household, and my humble designation is the Xia of Ruzhou. This is my sworn brother Liu Ying the Speckle-faced Leopard. Those two gentlemen are officers of the Zhengyang county government, Eldest Sir Pang and Fourth Sir Jiang. We are on our way to arrest the one named Ji. Very sorry to have troubled you!" After he finished, the four men all mounted their horses and rode south.

Jiang Xiaohe now knew that Yang Gongjiu and Liu Ying were the two men who fought against Ji Guangjie by the brook the night previous, and couldn't help thinking it funny. He thought, The martial arts of these two were far from weak, not to mention the they had two officers with them. If they arrested Ji Guangjie and took him back to the government office, how could that be anything but an injustice? It was I who took the silvers of Millions Gu. As charges are being pressed, I must be the one to face them. I couldn't be called a good man if I let someone else take the fall! Thereafter, Jiang Xiaohe entered the tavern. He took another swig of wine, tossed down money for the food and drink, and then went outside to undo his horse. He mounted it, swung his whip and galloped to the south.

After riding south for fifty or sixty miles, he came once again to Xinyang subprefecture. Jiang Xiaohe trailed Yang Gongjiu the Xia of Ruzhou and the three others the entire way and saw that they met with quite a few acquaintances along the way. When they got to Xinyang, the four men stopped at the security office of Liu Kuang the Peer to Huang Zhong. Jiang Xiaohe had compared martial arts with Liu Kuang and stayed in Xinyang for several days, so there were more than a few people here who knew him. Thus, Jiang Xiaohe felt things very difficult, as he was genuinely afraid of encountering someone familiar and revealing his movements. So he didn't enter the city, planning instead to find a teahouse to drink a few bowls of wine first and then to rest a bit. However, he saw on the streets of the eastern outskirts, on the outer walls of the inns, on the stone tablets at intersections, everywhere there were written the words, "Capture Jiang Xiaohe." Jiang Xiaohe couldn't help his anger when he saw this. He found man who owned an inn and pointed at the words on the wall, asking, "Who wrote these words?"

The innkeeper said, "Someone named Ji wrote them. It wasn't done for free. He spent two strings of cash every time." Jiang Xiaohe grew furious as he thought, Fine! I gave him the silvers I took from the house of Millions Gu, and he must have had some money left over after he provided relief, so he used it to rent space everywhere to taunt me. This is just too unjust for me! Thus, Jiang Xiaohe glowered and said, "Scrape off those words now! Don't you know that Jiang Xiaohe is an acquaintance of the great captain Liu the Peer to Huang Zhong of the Liu Security Office? Jiang Xiaohe came here last month and defeated the Peer to Huang Zhong!" The innkeeper said, "It was even on the walls of the Liu Security Office, though it may have already been washed off. When that Ji came here, he called upon the great captain Liu. When he wrote these words on our walls, the great captain Liu stood beside and watched! He seemed to be quite good friends with that one named Ji."

Upon hearing this, Jiang Xiaohe grew even more angry, saying, "All right! So the Peer to Huang Zhong has turned out to be this hateful as well. I must go find him and give him another beating!" He was about to head fuming to the Liu Security Office when he saw four horses up ahead galloping past him and then turning to the south. The riders were Yang Gongjiu the Xia of Ruzhou, Liu Ying the Speckle-faced Leopard and the two officers. Jiang Xiaohe quickly mounted his horse and went after them, leaving Xinyang and heading southwest. After following them for thirty miles, the four men in the fore all reined up their horses.

Yang Gongjiu the Xia of Ruzhou turned his horse around and rode to meet Jiang Xiaohe. He smiled and asked, "Friend, you've ridden seventy or eighty miles with us. Did you think we didn't notice you? What are your intentions, friend?" Jiang Xiaohe reined up his horse as well and laughed, "I've come to watch the action, to see how you're going to capture Ji Guangjie." The two officers had urged their horses over too, both glaring at him as they said, "Do you know Ji Guangjie as well?"

Jiang Xiaohe said, "I've just come from Zhengyang county myself. I stayed there for a couple days. Ji Guangjie was giving out relief money there. How could I not know of him? I had no idea that he was a thief. I've followed you all now because I want to see the commotion." Liu Ying the Speckle-faced Leopard glowered and said sternly, "He's a liar! He must be in it with Ji Guangjie. Let's arrest him first!"

However, Yang Gongjiu waved his hand at Liu Ying, and then took another look at the sword next to Jiang Xiaohe's saddle. He asked, "Friend, might we know your honorable name? How do you usually make your living?" Jiang Xiaohe smiled and said, "I am surnamed He, and I have a security office in Jiangnan. I've come to the north to spend some leisure time, so I don't have any sort of urgent business." Yang Gongjiu said, "As we are all friends of Jianghu, we can speak frankly. It is Ji Guangjie we are currently after. He's heading west, probably to go through Xiangyang into Hanzhong. No matter where he flees, we must chase after him. If we are to see him, we must arrest him. If you really want to come with us to watch us strike, it's nothing to us. However, if you have things to do, you'd better run elsewhere. There's not much point in coming with us!" When he finished, he smiled coldly, turned his horse around and galloped off.

Liu Ying the Speckled-faced Leopard and the two officers muttered curses under their breath and turned to the southwest. After riding for another one or two miles, to their surprise they saw Jiang Xiaohe again following them from behind. Liu Ying pulled out his saber and said angrily, "What a contemptible man. He must not be harboring good intentions!" The two officers pulled out their sabers as well and shackles too, fuming, "Arrest him! Arrest him!" Yang Gongjiu stood in the two men's way and said, "Don't be rash! This man likely knows some martial arts. He may be Jiang Xiaohe himself. Didn't Liu Ying the Peer to Huang Zhong just tell us that Jiang Xiaohe was wearing a straw hat and straw sandals, that he employed a sword and rode a black horse?" Liu Ying said, "We are going after one such as Ji Guangjie. Who's afraid of Jiang Xiaohe?"

Jiang Xiaohe had by now pressed his horse nearby. He sat atop his horse and smiled, saying, "You mustn't suspect me. I'm heading to the west to take care of my own matters. I'm not going to run with you. However, let me tell you. Ji Guangjie is the grandson of the Xia of Longmen. His martial arts are like those of most people. Not only will you be unable to capture him, but you'll suffer for it!"

Liu Ying brandished his saber and yelled furiously, "Who the hell do you think you are? You look to me like you're in it with Ji Guangjie. You're a thief too!" Having said this, he pressed his horse after Jiang Xiaohe. Atop his horse, he leaned out and whirled his saber at Jiang Xiaohe for a chop. Jiang Xiaohe turned the head of his horse away and dodged the saber, then swung his whip at Liu Ying's wrist. With a crack, pain shot through Liu Ying's wrist and he immediately dropped his saber.

Yet Yang Gongjiu the Xia of Ruzhou had now already dismounted his horse and drawn his saber, and was running towards Jiang Xiaohe to hack at him. Jiang Xiaohe stayed on his horse and waited to him to draw near. He pinched the back of the saber with his fingers and gently snatched it into his own hand. He then smiled, and spurred his horse to gallop away. The two officers chased hard after him and shouted loudly, "Cretin! You are also a thief! Do you think you can get away?" Jiang Xiaohe laughed as he rode, and knocked the saber against his knee. With a clang, he snapped it in two, and then tossed it onto the ground, laughing loudly. When he saw that neither the two officers nor the two guards dared chase after him, dazed by fear, Jiang Xiaohe loosed his horse and galloped away in self-satisfaction.

He headed west, all the way to the border of Hubei. When he arrived at a small town, it was quite late, so Jiang Xiaohe took a room in an inn and spent the night. Afternoon the next day, he entered Xiangyang city and saw two men who looked like inn attendants, carrying a bucket of lime and scrubbing the walls of various places. Jiang Xiaohe followed them and saw them arrive in front of a fodder shop. On the brown earthen wall before the door was written in dripping black ink the words, "Capture Jiang Xiaohe." With brushes in hand, the two men dipped them into the lime and then scrubbed away the words on the wall.

Jiang Xiaohe fumed and laughed, getting off his horse and asking, "What are you doing?"

The two men said, "We were hired by our local Second Sir Pang the Flower Spear. Midday today, Ji Guangjie the grandson of the Xia of Longmen arrived with two men who looked like constables. When they came here, they called upon the Second Sir Pang, and then took up a brush and wrote on every street, 'Capture Jiang Xiaohe.' In these days, Jiang Xiaohe is a hero of the greatest skill in Jianghu. He came to Xiangyang last month, and even Second Sir Pang the Flower Spear wasn't a match for him. When Second Sir Pang heard that the one called Ji wanted to capture him, he thought him too arrogant and went to ask him a few questions. He didn't know that Ji Guangjie would be so vicious, knocking Second Sir Pang to the ground with one fist and angering the Second Sir Pang to an extreme. When they left, Second Sir Pang hired us to blot out all the words they had written on the walls."

When Jiang Xiaohe heard that Second Pang had been struck over his own business with Ji Guangjie, he became furious, asking, "Is Ji Guangjie gone?" The two men who were scrubbing the walls and covering up the words said, "They're already gone half a day! After they beat the Second Sir Pang, they grilled him about Jiang Xiaohe's whereabouts. When Second Sir Pang said he didn't know, Ji Guangjie said, 'If Jiang Xiaohe ever comes to Xiangyang again, tell him that if he has the guts, he can come to Chang'an.'" Jiang Xiaohe listened to here and grew so angry his complexion changed, though he purposefully kept a calm demeanor and asked, "Did you see which way they headed?" The two men said, "They had all come from Chang'an, so they must have gone back that way. However, before they left they did ask people about Mount Wudang."

As soon as Jiang Xiaohe caught mention of Mount Wudang, he perked up, because in the years he had been training on Mount Jiuhua, he'd heard his master say, "Mount Wudang lies in the territory of Xiangyang prefecture. The internal tradition of martial arts came out of this mountain, and nowadays most of the Daoists on the mountain still know martial arts. If you travel there, you must remember to be careful!" Jiang Xiaohe now asked, "How far is Mount Wudang from here?" The two men said, "It's not far. Head north out of the city a few dozen miles and you'll see it." Jiang Xiaohe said, "All right!" He led his horse out, and upon leaving Xiangyang city, he mounted his horse and swung his whip, galloping to the northwest. Before going far, he did indeed see in front of him a lush mountain ridge, about a hundred and ten or so miles of road from where he was. Jiang Xiaohe spurred his horse on faster, and after riding about forty or fifty miles, he spotted three horses ahead of him, all galloping quickly along, and all heading also in the direction of Mount Wudang.

Jiang Xiaohe could see very clearly that it was Ji Guangjie, Liu Zhiyuan and the other one, and he couldn't help feeling a little hesitant. He thought, What should I do now? If I press my horse and pass them, a fight would surely erupt straightaway, and in a fight, it would be hard to keep from injuring Ji Guangjie. Actually, it would not be unjust to hurt him. He's been writing everywhere that he wants me captured, harassing me to an excessive degree! And yet, he is a man who walks the path of the righteous xia. I really respect that he gave disaster relief in Zhengyang. To say nothing of the fact that he is the grandson of the Xia of Longmen! Right now, Mount Wudang lies in front of me. It was there that the founding master Zhang Sanfeng attained the Dao. For us heirs of the internal tradition to be killing each other in the face of the founding master would truly be too shameful!

Thus, Jiang Xiaohe tamped down the anger in his chest, reined his horse up, and purposefully continued slowly. He let Ji Guangjie and the others in front of him gain some distance on him before he started on again. None of them had caught notice of him, but Jiang Xiaohe would still often look ahead into the distance. Jiang Xiaohe thought to himself, If I tail them secretly as I've been doing all the way to Chang'an, and if at that point Ji Guangjie still aids the Kunlun School, then there is no way for me to let him off the hook.

In a short while, he approached a large river obstructing the road. Ji Guangjie and the other two riders made a detour in search of a ferry crossing. Jiang Xiaohe followed them, and waited for the three riders to get into a ferry before he stood by the crossing and called a boat of his own. As he sat on the ferry, he listened to the ferryman and found out that this river was called the Nan River and it was connected to the Han River. Gucheng county laid across the river, and from there, it was not far to Mount Wudang. Most of the people who made pilgrimages to Wudang got off their horses in Gucheng, since there were no inns at the base of Mount Wudang. Furthermore, if one rides their horse to Mount Wudang, the Daoist priests on the mountain will be unhappy.

Jiang Xiaohe was taken aback, asking, "Are there many Daoist priests on the mountain?" The ferryman said, "There are quite a few. There are more than forty Daoists at the Yuzhen Monastery, and even more at the Xuanwu Temple. All these Daoists are very skilled, and even for important security escorts from various places, if they travel within ten miles of the mountain, they must get off their horses." Hearing this, Jiang Xiaohe felt this curious, thinking, I've trained under a great master of the Wudang School for ten years and I still don't know what Mount Wudang looks like. The swordwork passed down by real Daoists may be different than that which we've learned in Jianghu. Perhaps I should go up the mountain for some lessons.

Across the Nan River was Gucheng. Jiang Xiaohe found an inn on its western outskirts, and led his horse inside. It was already rather late, and Jiang Xiaohe instructed an attendant to serve him a meal. The attendant brought out rice and food, and when he saw that Jiang Xiaohe had placed a travel bundle and sword on his couch, he asked, "Might I ask where the guest is headed?" Jiang Xiaohe said, "I'm making a pilgrimage to Mount Wudang." The attendant said, "Might I ask if the guest is an important officer in the security business?" Jiang Xiaohe nodded and said, "I've done some security work in Jiangnan previously, but I don't do it anymore. I'm on my way home for a visit. My home is in Hanzhong, and while I'm passing through here, I might as well stop by Mount Wudang and burn some incense for the Daoist master Zhang Sanfeng."

The inn attendant nodded and said, "The Yuzhen Monastery is but a small temple. The largest on the mountain is Zhenwu Temple. Do you know why this mountain is called Mount Wudang? It's because the lord Zhenwu attained the Dao atop the mountain. Lord Zhenwu was served by the Two Generals Tortoise and Snake, and they were extremely capable! They frequently appear as visions!" He pointed at Jiang Xiaohe's sword and said, "Dear guest, you cannot take your sword up the mountain. There's a place five miles from the mountain called Shedsword Spring. No matter how high your title is, or how strong your skills are, when you arrive there, you must shed your sword and toss it into the water. Otherwise, not only will lord Zhenwu be angry, but the founding master Sanfeng's disciples will also not let you off."

Jiang Xiaohe quickly asked, "Who are the founding master Sanfeng's disciples right now?" The attendant, however, did not answer him, but continued telling stories of lord Zhenwu, saying, "Long ago, there was a great general, an official of the highest rank in the dynasty of the time, who was in charge of the Three Armies. Once, he went to Mount Wudang to offer incense. When he reached Shedsword Spring, the military officials who had come with him exhorted him to take off his sword, but he refused to do it. To his surprise, before he had traveled two miles up the mountain, he met with a sudden, violent wind, and a giant snake pounced at him, immediately scaring the general to death. It turned that the snake was none other than the General Snake who served under the lord Zhenwu, and it was also the sword in lord Zhenwu's hand. The divine image of lord Zhenwu has him holding the Seven-stars Sword with a banner of apricot yellow behind him and the Two Generals Tortoise and Snake on either side. Thus, no one is ever allowed to go before him wearing a sword. Even in his own divine image, the founding master Sanfeng is only holding a flywhisk, for he isn't allowed to carry a sword. There are forty some Daoists at Yuzhen Monastery who know the martial arts, the most famous of whom are the Seven Great Sword Sages, but none dare take their swords out of the temple gates."

This long folk tale flowed out of the inn attendant's mouth with the utmost ease, as if he had imparted these words on more than one occasion and was now very familiar with it. Moreover, it seemed as if everyone within a hundred miles of Mount Wudang already knew these things. Finally, the attendant kindly instructed Jiang Xiaohe, "When you go on your pilgrimage to Wudang tomorrow, you must not carry your sword with you. Otherwise, at the very least you'll come down with a terrible illness!" Jiang Xiaohe nodded and said, "Well, naturally! I came to offer incense, so how could I dare disrespect the gods?" He thought to himself, I wonder if Ji Guangjie knows about this rule or not. If he pays Wudang a visit tomorrow and continues his recklessness by wearing a sword up the mountain, writing "Capture Jiang Xiaohe" everywhere, I'm afraid that not only will Zhenwu's subordinates, the two gods Tortoise and Snake, perhaps become angry, but those Seven Great Sword Sages at the monastery will certainly not let him off easy either.

He finished his meal shortly and went out to stroll through the streets. He ran all over the place, both within the city and along the main road outside of the city, and saw quite a few shops along the streets, though there weren't many people coming and going. When he arrived at the southern outskirts, he saw someone wearing white silk pants and coat with a sword at his waist, a short yet sturdy man walking his way. With one glance, Jiang Xiaohe recognized him as Ji Guangjie and became excited. He watched as Ji Guangjie walked into a small tavern on the west side of the road, and then followed him inside. Lamps had already been lit in the tavern, and there were not yet too many customers inside. Jiang Xiaohe found a space at a table with a lamp at his back and sat down. Ji Guangjie was sitting at a space two tables down from him. He unfastened his sword and placed it on the table. He ordered some wine and poured haughtily for himself and drank.

At first, Jiang Xiaohe had thought, In a moment those two from the Kunlun School will surely come. Liu Zhiyuan knows my face. If he recognizes me, then there'll soon be a fierce battle. And though I don't want to fight with him, it would be unavoidable. However, after a while, the other two men did not show up. Jiang Xiaohe drank as he watched Ji Guangjie. Ji Guangjie abruptly stood up and called out, "Barkeep! Bring me a brush and ink! There's something I want to write on the wall."

The barkeep stood beside a cabinet and said, "Good sir! The wall is newly-painted, and it won't look good after it's been written on. If you want to write something, good sir, we have paper here, and when you finish, we'll post it on the wall. There are a few xiucai in this city who write poetry at our place here, and when they finish, they tell us to post it on the wall. Sometimes a passing customer will see a poem they like, and then give us money to take it off the wall."

Ji Guangjie smiled bitterly and said, "Are you afraid that if I write directly on the wall, you won't be able to sell it? Here, let me give you two strings of silver up front as payment for borrowing your brush and ink!" Upon hearing about the two strings of silver, the barkeep happily had a brush and ink sent over to him, as well as water for grinding ink. Jiang Xiaohe's temper flared now and he stood up suddenly as well. He watched as Ji Guangjie, with brush in hand, wrote on the wall five large characters. They were, "Capture Jiang Xiaohe." Jiang Xiaohe was so furious he wanted to punch him and knock him down, but he suppressed his anger with all his might. After Ji Guangjie finished the five-character inscription, he further wrote three poems: A sword embarks upon the weariness of travel, in all places spreading righteous gallantry; a prodigy is at the Dragon's Gate, his cutting edge yet untested. Riches exhausted at the wave of a hand, ten thousand miles traveled at the swing of a whip; that insignificant Jiang Xiaohe, how can he battle me? I come to Wudang with sword in hand, under boundlessly cloaking mist; far away an earnest heart, for my sake toils away at a dream.

Jiang Xiaohe looked on from the side and couldn't help a smile, as he uttered, "That's pretty good!" Ji Guangjie was going to write a fourth poem, but with this, Jiang Xiaohe broke his poetic mood. He glanced at Jiang Xiaohe, but because Jiang Xiaohe had not brought his sword with him and was wearing clothes of coarse material, he didn't much care about him. He tossed down money for the wine, picked up his sword and left. Jiang Xiaohe quickly paid for his wine and followed him outside. He walked in front, and Jiang Xiaohe trailed him from behind. Shortly, Ji Guangjie entered an inn, and Jiang Xiaohe followed him inside. Jiang Xiaohe ascertained which room he was staying in before leaving and returning to his own inn.

That evening, Ji Guangjie lit a lamp in his room and picked up a brush, wanting to compose another poem to make a set of four. Then, when he and Aluan wed, on the night of the bridal chamber, he could form these four poems into an adornment-hastening poem and read it for her, in order to show himself to be a man well-rounded in both the martial and the literary. But regardless of how he planned it out, the fourth poem would just not come to him. Instead a lovely vision of Bao Aluan appeared before him, which pleased him greatly. He thought himself truly unworthy of such a life. He had traveled to Guanzhong by chance and ended up with a xia woman as talented and beautiful as Bao Aluan for his wife. It really was a match made by the heavens. My foray into the south in search of Jiang Xiaohe, it too is a show for Aluan. I've now traveled hundreds of miles and written "Capture Jiang Xiaohe" in no less than a hundred places, and I have yet to turned up Jiang Xiaohe. But to hear Liu Qingkong, Liu Kuang, and Second Pang tell it, Jiang Xiaohe is certainly dithering about in Henan and Hubei. It's clear he fears me and is afraid to meet me. Then he thought, Ever since that dark night in Zhengyang county when an unnamed xia gave me silvers to help me in providing relief, Liu Zhiyuan and Jiang Zhiyao have refused to sleep in the same room as me. And while on the road Liu Zhiyuan is always on edge. It's obvious to me those men of the Kunlun School are so afraid of Jiang Xiaohe that their nerve is broken. Even if we were to encounter Jiang Xiaohe en route, Liu Zhiyuan would be reluctant to point him out. I fear that I'll never in a lifetime find him, searching for Jiang Xiaohe like this. Not only am I wasting my energy, but Bao Aluan is also in Guanzhong yearning for me day and night. It would be better to remain here another half day, visit Mount Wudang tomorrow, and then leave in the afternoon. I'll return first to Guanzhong and marry Bao Aluan, and then I'll deal with Jiang Xiaohe. I also need to try and find out who that xia was that helped me with disaster relief.

Ji Guangjie pondered for a while, and then felt his body tired. Without packing his brush and inkstone away, he put out the light, laid down on the bed, still wearing his white silk pants and shirt, and fell into a deep sleep. The night was very peaceful and uneventful. When he opened his eyes the next day, it was already bright outside, and his door was still closed tightly. However, when Ji Guangjie got up, he saw a bit of ink on the bedding. He figured he must have gotten some ink on his hands when he was composing poems and had inadvertently gotten it onto the bedding, so he paid it no mind. He opened the door and called for an attendant to fetch him some water for washing up.

The attendant came into the room and took up the water basin, but then didn't leave. He stood staring at Ji Guangjie's back with his two eyes as if in a daze. Ji Guangjie became annoyed and said, "Go get me some water! What the hell are you looking at? Are you an idiot?" The attendant quickly left carrying the basin, but looked back once more as he did. Ji Guangjie thought it both irritating and laughable. Liu Zhiyuan had now already gotten up. He came in and said, "Guangjie, are we still going to climb Mount Wudang today? I don't think it's necessary..." He suddenly began to stare as well, saying with surprise, "Why have you written on your clothes too?"

Ji Guangjie was taken aback, and quickly took his shirt off. He saw on the back of his white fine-woven silk shirt were written the words "Capture Jiang Xiaohe" in large characters. He couldn't help breaking out in a sweat, though it was a cold one! He thought, Who did this? They took advantage of my deep sleep and snuck into my room to play this trick on me. His astonishment immediately turned to anger, and his face became deathly pale. Liu Zhiyuan though spoke with sympathy, "Look, a perfectly good shirt, and you've written on it. Why did you do that?" Ji Guangjie pretended to laugh and said, "I've just written these words too many times. They're too familiar to me now! I drank some wine yesterday, and when I got back here, the more I thought about that thug Jiang Xiaohe, the madder I got, so I couldn't help but write these words on my shirt." As he said this, he angrily flung the shirt to one side and rubbed his fist continuously.

Liu Zhiyuan's expression changed, as if he was a little doubtful, but he spoke still as if nothing had happened, "Jiang Xiaohe has likely already caught wind of us and gone far away. We needn't run around blindly because of him. Let's go back to Chang'an! Otherwise, if we stay out here too long, something might happen back there!" Ji Guangjie seemed as if he had not listened to any of this. He impatiently said, "We'll discuss it later!" Liu Zhiyuan withdrew back to his own room.

Ji Guangjie stared into space and fumed for a while. Then he picked up that shirt and looked at the scribbling on the back. He saw that he handwriting was clumsy, and he couldn't tell who had written it. The anger he held tightened up inside him and he ripped the shirt to shreds, putting on another one. He took up his sword and went outside, walking on the street with his head held high, though he didn't notice anyone who looked suspicious. He thought, In my life as a hero, how was I toyed with in such a way? He returned to the tavern he had written poetry at the day before and went inside, calling out, "Bring me wine!" He then suddenly noticed that after the three poems he had written on the wall himself, another had been added in characters larger than his own. It said, "In vain he calls himself a heroic figure, for his arts are in fact pedestrian; if an aspect of mercy was not yesterday, in mourning you would already be for the remainder of your life."

Ji Guangjie broke into another sweat, but he also grew furious, seizing the barkeep and saying, "How dare you allow another to write nonsense after my poems?" The barkeep said, "He also gave me two strings of silver! I don't even know what he wrote on the wall!" Ji Guangjie held out his fist and asked, "What did he look like?" The barkeep said, "He...he was young! He just now finished writing." As he said this, he heard someone laughing heartily outside, saying, "Ji Guangjie! Come with me if you have the skill, and we'll meet atop Mount Wudang!"


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