2.23.2017

The Crane Startles Kunlun, Chapter 18, Part 4

The Crane Startles Kunlun, Chapter 18, Part 4.
from Wang Dulu's He Jing Kunlun.

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Upon hearing this, she became worried for Jiang Xiaohe and also lamented the endless grudges those on Jianghu had between each other. It would never stop and that frightened and chilled her. She thought, The Jiuxian Abbey on Cloudperch Ridge must be in a very secluded location, and being protected by a woman Daoist with high martial skill, it is likely to escape the harassment of wicked men. To go to the mountain and dedicate myself to religious practice is just what I need to do to remove myself from all these troubles. Thus, she said to Jingxuan, “I would very much like to go to the nunnery and dedicate myself to religious practice. Point me in the right direction and I’ll go there myself.”

Jingxuan said, “The place is very remote. There is no way you’ll be able to find it. Abbess Daocheng also someone with an odd temperament. She would not take you in if you went by yourself. Come with me to the western mountain entrance now and I’ll get you a wagon. You can ride it while I follow you covertly. I guarantee that nothing will happen while you travel while it takes you to Cloudperch Ridge.” Seeing that this short and slight monk had so thoroughly considered her situation inevitably caused Aluan some hesitation. She stared into space silently.

Jingxuan seemed to parse out her feelings and declared, “Please don’t be suspicious. We ascetics do not harbor reckless ideas. We simply want to save this life of yours. Because you are a woman and wounded, it would be dangerous to leave you here. I know you are weary now all for the sake of your grandfather. He should not have sent you, a lone woman, to face Jiang Xiaohe alone.” Aluan wiped her tears and agreed to everything he’d suggested. She followed the monk Jingxuan out of the mountains and they arrived at a town.

After the monk Jingxuan and Aluan left the mountains, he procured a mule wagon for her and gave her twenty-some taels of silver to use for traveling expenses. Afterward, he gave the wagon driver instructions and then departed. Aluan was very grateful for the Iron Staff Monk and his disciple. But then she thought, This master and disciple, the master utilizes a heavy iron staff and the disciple knows dianxue skill. If the two of them were to engage Jiang Xiaohe in battle, even with Jiang Xiaohe’s superior martial arts, I’m afraid he would still not be a match for them both. Because of this, she couldn’t help but feel sorrow.

The wagon traveled all day and at night she lodged at an inn. She took out her silvers and paid the innkeeper’s wife to help her buy semi-new clothes, shoes and socks. When she put them on, they did not quite fit her, but she thought, When I get to Cloudperch Ridge, I’ll don the attire of a Daoist, so how long would I actually be wearing this? And so she didn’t much care. The following day, she continued on the winding route. She was not very familiar with the way, so she could only rely on the wagon driver. She traveled for two and a half days when she saw the Iron Staff Monk and Jingxuan coming towards her on the road. They led the wagon through the mountains and when they were on a mountain ridge thick with pines, they stopped the wagon.

Since the mountain road was so arduous, the wounds on Aluan’s body suffered several days of the way’s bumps and appeared to get worse. When she came off the wagon, she could hardly walk. The Iron Staff Monk ordered Jingxuan to carry her on his back once more, and they proceeded up the mountain, arriving finally at Jiuxian Abbey which seemed so remote as to be up in the sky. The abbess Daocheng was not there presently, so the Iron Staff Monk delivered her into the care of a nun of the abbey, who found her a room to recover in. The Iron Staff Monk and Jingxuan went into town to stay at an inn.

Two days later, Abbess Daocheng returned to Jiuxian Abbey. To Aluan, the old abbess appeared quite fierce, her lips sharp and her eyes round like a vulture. She was very kind to Aluan, however, and told her to recuperate calmly here. When her wounds were healed, she would accept Aluan as her disciple. She said, “Your family’s sworn enemy, Jiang Xiaohe, has killed Long Zhiqi in Ziyang. He escaped, probably into Northern Sichuan. But don’t you worry! Sooner or later, we will help your Kunlun School take revenge!” Hearing this, Aluan could only nod in assent while inside she couldn’t help being anxious for Jiang Xiaohe. The Iron Staff Monk stopped by the nunnery several more times, though Jingxuan did not. Every time the Iron Staff Monk came, he needed to speak with Abbess Daocheng about Jiang Xiaohe. The place of discussion was always next to the shrine to Progenitor Lü in the outer rooms, while Aluan recovered in the inner quarters.

After a long time, she was able to clearly understand the Iron Staff Monk’s difficult accent. Because of this, she knew now that the monk Jingxuan had been dispatched by his master to Northern Sichuan to inquire about Jiang Xiaohe’s situation. He’d returned one or two times and then departed again. The information he’d gathered was that Jiang Xiaohe had robbed an official’s family on Riversnail Ridge and killed an officer. Daocheng and the Iron Staff Monk took this nonsense as fact and became indignant. Both of them wanted nothing more than to immediately capture Jiang Xiaohe and put him to death. It was as if this gave them even more reason not to permit the more famous Jiang Xiaohe to walk Jianghu. In the eastern hall, Aluan knew Jiang Xiaohe’s character much too well to believe what she’d heard. He was never a cruel or brutal man. The dark, fat man with a big head and a saber in his hand sounded much more like her uncle Long Zhiqi. These matters wound their way around her mind all day, so although the environs of the nunnery were tranquil, she was unable to calm her mental state.

There suddenly came a few days in which she saw neither Daocheng nor the Iron Staff Monk. Because she had recuperated in bed every day, Aluan’s injuries had gradually healed. She’d now spent nearly a month here. Abruptly one evening, the Iron Staff Monk came again with his disciple Jingxuan, and they brought with them an elderly man with hair and beard as snow. It was Aluan’s grandfather, Bao Zhenfei. Aluan burst into tears when they met face-to-face. She declared to him that because of her weariness and anguish, and since she had lost all faith in the world, she would rather become a Daoist nun. She never wanted to return home, nor did she ever want to see Ji Guangjie again. She said, “Grandfather! You should hide yourself in the mountains for a few days, and then find another place where you can worship Buddha and burn incense! I will be alright here, don’t worry. When Master Daocheng comes back in a few days, I will change into the garb of a Daoist. From then on, please don’t come and find me, and don’t tell anyone where I am!”

As she said these things through her tears, her grandfather was dumbstruck, not saying a word. Her grandfather’s clothes were severely torn up, his beard was tangled up like a clump of white wool felt, and there were patches of bloodstains on his body. His once dark, purple face had now turned pallid and there were fresh cuts all over it. Aluan brokenheartedly pulled on her grandfather’s hand and cried, “Grandfather! What’s happened to you? What did you encounter out there? Where have you come from now?” Old master Bao sighed weakly and shook his head, but said nothing.

The Iron Staff Monk left the room first, and Jingxuan pulled the old master outside as well. Aluan saw them go to the courtyard and put her ear out to listen. She heard the Iron Staff Monk’s coarse voice ask, “Why did Jiang Xiaohe capture ya, but no kill ya?” The old master sighed, “I suppose he wanted to bring me back to Zhenba, to the place where I killed his father, and do me in there. Perhaps that is the only way he can let go of his hatred!” Then she heard the Iron Staff Monk ask, “Who was responsible for the incident on Riversnail Ridge?” The old master replied, “I haven’t a clue! But I swear on my life, I am certain it was not Long Zhiqi!” She then heard Jingxuan ask, “Was it really you who killed the boy, Qin Xiaoxiong?”

The old master let out a long sigh, but did not reply. The Iron Staff Monk held his anger and asked, “I heard me disciple say, ya killed a teenaged boy in Northern Sichuan, so I’m thinking ya’re no so good a man. Today, had I no seen ya so pitiful as Jiang Xiaohe’s captive, I would no have bothered to rescue ya. Tell me, how do Jiang Xiaohe’s martial arts compare to me, the Iron Staff Monk?” Old master Bao sighed gravely, “Jiang Xiaohe’s martial arts are undoubtedly powerful. I, Bao Zhenfei, am strong and sturdy, and yet I had no choice but to admit defeat to him. Master, I have long admired your reputation these past thirty years. But if you were to face him, I’m certain that—“

The Iron Staff Monk stamped his foot fiercely, causing the windows and doors to clatter noisily. The Iron Staff Monk gave orders loudly, “Jingxuan! Ya go to Zhenba and bring his disciples here so they can take him away.” Then he said to the old master, “I saved yar granddaughter’s life, so we will see how ya repay us in the future. Now I am gonna go find Jiang Xiaohe and tomorrow I’ll bring ya down the mountain so I can show ya Jiang Xiaohe’s dead body!” So saying, he stomped off. It seemed as if everyone had departed.

Inside the room, Aluan covered her face and sobbed for a while. She then heard another long sigh from outside, the sound of her grandfather. She couldn’t help but lament, “Grandfather! How could you be so cruel! What did you do in Northern Sichuan? The incident at Riversnail Ridge was surely the work of Long Zhiqi, so why are you protecting him? Jiang Xiaohe didn’t kill you because he couldn’t bear to, and now you’ve provoked the Iron Staff Monk to go and kill him. You’re terrible! My—“ She’d wanted to say, My whole life, haven’t you destroyed that as well? Why did you force me to marry Ji Guangjie? But these words never came out. Outside, her grandfather angrily stamped his foot and went to the outer yard. Inside, Aluan stopped crying as bewilderment hit her, thinking, Why has my grandfather’s character changed? I don’t know what he’d been like when he was younger, but for a time later on, he was good and kind. Now, he’s suffered a few misfortunes during this spell on Jianghu and he’s become violent and cruel. Could it be senility…?

After the old master left, Aluan began to worry once more, scared that he might momentarily get it in his head to seek death. She was also afraid that in his gloom, he would descend the mountain to go help the Iron Staff Monk battle against Jiang Xiaohe. Thus, she came out of her room and walked through the various courtyards and halls once over and even the deer garden, but saw no signs of her grandfather. By now the heavy darkness of night combined with the thick growth of trees on the mountain so that even starlight was not visible, and the pines rustled against each other. Her tears sprung forth again, as she returned to her room and laid awake all night.

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