The Crane Startles Kunlun, Chapter 18, Part 2.
from Wang Dulu's He Jing Kunlun.
The wife conversed with Aluan a little as she continued mending the shoe sole, but she seemed to have something else on her mind. Her feet hurt so her foot cloth was loosened and she was wearing a pair of worn shoes, but she still often hopped off the kang to go outside. She kept leaving to stand just outside the yaodong and look one way and then the other, as if she was urgently waiting for someone to arrive. She also raised her head and hollered loudly, as if she was calling out to the mountain god’s temple, saying, “Little Fiver! Scabhead! Are you there?”
No matter what she shouted, it didn’t seem as if anyone came from up the mountain. No one walked along the narrow path outside of the yaodong. She didn’t even see a dog. The wife came back inside disappointed and complained, “Those deadbeats! When you’re happy, you come and I can’t get you to leave! When you’re unhappy, you forget all about me. I haven’t even seen a ghost these past eight or ten days!”
Aluan looked at her manner and listened to her words and finally understood that this woman was restless with her husband, so there must be many bad men out there who often come calling. Thus she asked, “Auntie, does anybody else live around here?” The wife became annoyed, “Who else would there be? Maybe in the temples up the mountain there are a few robbers…” When she got to here, she changed what she was saying, “One of my brothers is also a woodsman. He and Frivolous Second Yang live at the temple, both of them bachelors. They don’t rob people, but they’re wicked to the bone. Any money that comes into their hands, they’ll take it Guanwang Abbey to gamble and drink! They don’t come back until they’ve lost the clothes off their asses!”
Aluan then asked, “Is Guanwang Abbey far from here? Is that a nunnery as well?” The wife shook her head and looked crossly into space for a moment before saying, “No, it’s a Daoist monastery. It’s very far away, almost all the way to the exit out of the mountains. Today’s the fourth, so there’ll be a gathering there. That good-for-nothing husband of mine gathered firewood to take to the market over there.” After she finished, she went back outside the yaodong to wait. Aluan stayed inside and gave shoe sole a careful look to pass the time. By evening time, the person the wife had been waiting for still had not arrived. She came back inside and cursed, no longer showing Aluan a good face.
A short time later, Honest Zhang returned with a bare shoulder pole and a face that glowed red, as if he had drunk a bit of wine. He held in his hands half a bundle of rice and a short string of cash. He said to his wife as soon as he entered, “I was afraid no one would want the firewood I picked up this morning. Who would have thought that I’d exchange it for half a liter of rice as soon as I got there, and I got about two hundred coins in change too. I used it to buy myself dinner. I also ran into Little Third Huang! He won some money betting, so he gave me back the money he took from me last time. Here, have it!”
He handed the cash over to this wife and pulled a couple pieces of flatbread from his clothes, one of which he handed to his wife, and the other he gave to Aluan. He then sat on the floor to rest. As the wife ate the flatbread, she asked her husband, “Did you see Scabby Little Fiver at the abbey?” Honest Zhang waved his hand and looked up at his wife, “Don’t mention it! I’m taking a break tomorrow. I’m not going gathering the next couple days! Young miss, please stay here with us and we’ll figure it out after a few days!”
The wife scowled at him and said, “What’s the matter! Are you that afraid?” Honest Zhang spoke quietly, “Everyone at Guanwang Abbey knew about what happened at Harrierfall Peak. A man of the Kunlun School, Jiang Xiaohe struck Captain Hu dead!” Upon hearing this, the wife was so stunned she stared at him and said, “Oh my! How are the men of the Kunlun School so powerful! Wasn’t it them that killed both Hu Baoshan and Yu Dabiao? Didn’t Captain Hu know how to use silver darts? How could he…”
Aluan listened closely and heard Honest Zhang say, “They deserved it! Even Scabby Little Fiver, Frivolous Second Yang, the Red-faced Monkey and the White Tiger, none of them will come to a good end. The mountain god has eyes!” He waved his hand again and said, “I don’t know the details, but I heard someone talking about it at Guanwang Abbey, so I got the heck out of there! I was afraid to run into any of the mountain people. When Frivolous Second Yang comes back, maybe he knows the details. I can go and ask him! I’ve only heard that Jiang Xiaohe is the strongest of the Kunlun School. Harrierfall Peak is very tall, but he can come off the mountain with a single leap. They say he knows magic and how to use magic weapons. How could Hu Li’s darts match up against that? Hu Li fell after not much of a fight!”
Aluan saw that the wife was in a daze, as if she couldn’t move her mouth anymore. She herself couldn’t help but feel a rush of delight that stirred up her admiration for Jiang Xiaohe. She also thought, We are not far from Harrierfall Peak. That Frivolous Second Yang and Scabby Little Fiver that the wife knows are likely bandits of that mountain. If they were to know I was here, they would lead the whole lot of them to me. I’m injured and weaponless. How could I beat them back in this state? I was unsuccessful in ending my life. If I were to then fall into their vile hands, it would be a true disgrace! Thus, she wanted to get out of there immediately.
She then heard Honest Zhang say, “Without a leader, those brigands will probably become even more wild! It will be hard for me to even gather firewood. But I did hear someone at the gathering say, there’s now someone even stronger than Jiang Xiaohe, a monk. Some people saw this monk yesterday in the town of Chongfu by the northern mountain entrance. They say he’s big and tall and carries an iron pole on his shoulders. That thing must be at least three to five hundred catties. Old Fei the Ox, who performs at Guanwang Abbey with his big saber, said that even ten big men like him couldn’t raise that iron pole. The monk is in that town asking for alms right now, but maybe he’ll come up into the mountains soon. Then this place will really flare up, like all of the Eighteen Rebel Kings are here!”
Aluan heard this and was startled, thinking, I’ve heard grandfather mention a strange xia called the Iron Staff Monk whose strength is matchless. Grandfather has never met him before or compared skills with him, but he often instructed his disciples to be particularly cautious if they ever encountered him. The strange monk that Honest Zhang is talking about must be him. I wonder what he’s doing here. Not for alms, that’s for sure. Perhaps he’s come to set himself against my grandfather or Jiang Xiaohe. Thus, she started to worry again.
After Honest Zhang was finished speaking, he sat on the floor and yawned. After a moment, he laid some tattered bedding down and fell asleep, snoring. A lamp had been lit inside the yaodong, the door and windows were all shut tightly, and a large rock had been propped against the door. The wife hadn’t finished her flatbread. She just sat with a blank stare, completely unlike how lively she had been during the day, and she was not very fond of talking to Aluan anymore. Aluan remained calm and drew closer to the oil lamp to mend the shoe sole for the wife. Other than the sound of Honest Zhang snoring on the yaodong floor, there was only the sound of string being pulled in Aluan’s hands. The wound on her arm was caused by a dart and not very serious, but whenever she extended her arm to pull the string through, it would pulse with pain. Thus, after a few loops, she would rest a moment, and in this way she idled away her time.
After a while, the wife had laid down on her side and fallen asleep. Aluan was also of a mind to blow out the lamp and go to sleep herself. Unexpectedly, she heard the sound of footsteps outside, very faintly. Aluan then heard a grunt on the other side of the window and quickly turned inside, whereupon she heard a whistle. This repeated a few times and caused the wife’s body to stir. Aluan hurriedly laid down and pretended to be asleep as the wife got up. The person outside blew against the window paper. The wife made a spitting sound at the window and a hoarse laugh came from outside. The wife blew out the lamp and carefully moved the rock to open the door.
Aluan slipped off the kang and went over to the window to eavesdrop. She heard a smack, probably the sound of the wife slapping the man. He chuckled quietly. The two of them said a few things to each other that she couldn’t make out, and then she heard the man say, “Is she pretty?” She then heard the wife say, “So what if she’s pretty? Don’t get any ideas!” The wife said a few more things, but Aluan could only discern a couple sentences, “She’s got wounds on her body and blood on her clothes. It was all done by you lot.”
The man seemed to be stunned in his moment of silence, and then she heard him say, “Woman! Is the one in your home none other than Bao Kunlun’s granddaughter?” Aluan was taken aback and thought, The thug outside knows it’s me. He’ll come in for sure! When he does, I’ll take the opportunity to knock him out. Even better if he has a weapon with him. I’ll use my might to kill him and take his weapon. She stood by the door at the ready, but a while passed without man coming inside.
Now, their conversation outside grew quieter to the point that Aluan could no longer make out what they were saying. In the end, all she heard was the wife say, “Quickly, and tell them to hurry!” She then heard the sound of footsteps, as if the man rushed off. Aluan was certain now that the man the wife knew was a bandit of the mountain, one of Hu Li the Silver Dart’s men. He must have gone to bring back other bandits to bring harm to her, and so fury poured into her chest.
The wife stood outside for a while before opening the door and sneaking back inside. Aluan suddenly punched the wife in the back. The wife yelped and toppled down onto Honest Zhang who had been sleeping on the floor. Honest Zhang had been sleeping very soundly, so when someone suddenly fell on top of him, he yelled out in fright. Aluan held the wife down, grasping onto her throat while threatening Honest Zhang, “Don’t scream! If you do, I’ll end both of you!” She loosened her grip on the wife’s throat and interrogated her, “Who were you talking to outside?”
The wife trembled as she said, “That was Scabby Little Fiver. He’s one of Captain Hu’s men!” Aluan followed up by asking, “What did you talk about? Tell the truth!” The wife wept and said, “He said you were Bao Aluan or something. He went to go get the Red-faced Monkey—“ Aluan gave her another fist in anger and knocked her into a daze. Aluan stood up and asked Honest Zhang irately, “Do you have weapons here?” Honest Zhang quaveringly said, “No swords or spears, just the one axe.” Then said, “Miss! I don’t know anything about what they’ve done. If my wife deserves to die, I am but an honest man!”
Aluan said, “I know that!” She originally wanted to ask Honest Zhang for his axe, but then she thought, Would an axe for firewood even be a match for a bandit’s blade? Not to mention that I’m injured and I only have one shoe. The Red-faced Monkey is also a bandit captain, so he won’t be coming alone. I should just take the opportunity to run! Thus, she hurried out of the yaodong and looked around. The moonlight was hazy amid the misty clouds.
Aluan followed the mountain road urgently without any regard to the direction. After traveling a while, she came to a mountain rock that she could climb. She bore her pain as she carefully grabbed hold of trees and climbed upwards. The mountain rock was rugged so Aluan used both her hands and her feet, but whenever she put pressure on her arm, a pain flared up in her chest. However, she grit her teeth to endure the pain and continued upward. She expended quite a bit of energy to climb over one peak. She looked down and saw several torches lighting the way for twenty or thirty men traveling on the mountain road. She thought, That must be the Red-faced Monkey, Scabby Little Fiver and the rest of them coming to get me! Another several shouts and whistles pierced through the air and into Aluan’s ears. Aluan didn’t think this place suitable, so she strove to climb further up the mountain, again clenching her teeth to endure the pain of her injuries.