3.04.2017

The Crane Startles Kunlun, Chapter 18, Part 5

The Crane Startles Kunlun, Chapter 18, Part 5.
from Wang Dulu's He Jing Kunlun.

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That night, Bao Zhenfei took a walk through the mountains. He knew that the Iron Staff Monk had already fought against Jiang Xiaohe, but he wasn’t sure if he was a match for him. Adding to that the remorse for accidentally killing that boy in Northern Sichuan and his granddaughter’s condemnations through the window, he felt all kinds of sorrow. He thought, If the Iron Staff Monk’s disciple were to bring Zhang Zhicai and Ma Zhixian here tomorrow, how could I possibly face them? Even if they brought me down the mountain and back home, as long as Jiang Xiaohe remained alive, he would not let matters rest as they are! He wandered the mountain all night long and eventually fell asleep under a pine tree. It was no longer early when he awoke, so he gathered some pine nuts and shelled and ate them. Three deer came over to sniff at him as if they were very familiar with him.

The old master had nothing else to do, so he picked some grass and fed it to the deer, and then rubbed their antlers. He spent time with the deer for a while, and didn’t see the Iron Staff Monk return, nor did Jingxuan bring his disciples here, so he began to feel uncertainty. He thought, Could it be that the battle between Iron Staff Monk and Jiang Xiaohe has not concluded? Or has the Iron Staff Monk already lost under Jiang Xiaohe’s hand and is too humiliated to show his face here again? Do those disciples nearer to here, Lu Zhizhong, Ma Zhixian and Zhang Zhicai, no longer recognize me as their master? So they are unwilling to come and get me! He was filled with doubts and lamentations and they mixed with anger and fear. At the same time, he was hungry, but he was unwilling to go back to the nunnery and beg his granddaughter for food.

It was then that Jiang Xiaohe arrived. Upon seeing the figure of Jiang Xiaohe, his spirit fled him in fright, and he hurried back to Jiuxian Abbey. He saw Aluan in the hall of Progenitor Lü and said to her, “Jiang Xiaohe is here! Please save me!” The old master grabbed his granddaughter’s arm, trembling. Aluan felt both sorrow and anger, and thought, Jiang Xiaohe, you are too single-minded. My grandfather has retreated into these mountains and already submitted to the world and divested himself from conflicts with others. Why must it only end with his death?

Jiang Xiaohe knocked on the gate and Aluan came out angrily. When she saw Jiang Xiaohe, affection and resentment intertwined within her and her suffering and desire to die surged up together, so she quickly wrested Jiang Xiaohe’s sword from him in order to kill herself. Unexpectedly, Jiang Xiaohe rushed to stop her just before the sword slit her throat, but she had already sliced across her delicate chest. Her grandfather came out and Aluan, wounded and bleeding, admitted that she had loved Jiang Xiaohe since they were young. She had hoped her grandfather would have a change of heart, but to her surprise he stormed off instead in a fit of anger.

She was brought into the abbey by Jiang Xiaohe. As he focused on taking care of her, she moaned and told him all the things that had been on her heart. Everything that Jiang Xiaohe said to her touched her. That was when Abbess Daocheng returned to the abbey to face Jiang Xiaohe. Jiang Xiaohe broke Daocheng’s saber, ruined her iron slingshot, and then let her go. In the evening, Jiang Xiaohe came before Aluan’s couch and told her he wanted to make Aluan his wife and revisit the feelings they’d had when they were younger. He also said that he would descend the mountain to Plaguetown and find a wagon and return the next day to take Aluan to Northern Sichuan where she could recover and then they could become husband and wife.

Aluan was moved by Jiang Xiaohe’s straightforward tone, sincere emotions and honest words. It was as if they tore into her soul and eased her suffering, so she agreed to everything. Jiang Xiaohe departed in better spirits. Aluan bore the wounds to her body on the couch, as both sorrow and comfort crossed in her mind. She thought of things past and guessed at what might come in the future. Her heart was like a long-dead tree that had suddenly come back to life, stoking the flames of love and uncovering glimmering hope. She thought remorsefully, From the beginning it had been no one’s fault but my own. In my heart, I loved Jiang Xiaohe, and I should have simply said so. I should not have obeyed my grandfather’s wishes and married Ji Guangjie. If I had not gotten mixed up in the affairs of the Kunlun School and had some resolve to find Jiang Xiaohe on my own, and if I’d just married him when I found him, he likely would not have continued to pursue my grandfather. Oh! Why didn’t I do that when this all began…?

By now, Jiang Xiaohe had been gone for a while. There were no watches sounded at the temple, but the nuns had already completed their chants and gone to bed. There remained only the wave-like sound of the pines, the fluttering of the owls flying and their hooting calls. The nun who had been taking care of Aluan had probably gone to sleep as well. Aluan’s wound was causing her constant pain, though her heart continued to beat.

Abbess Daocheng unexpectedly returned then. She was the Iron Staff Monk’s disciple-sister and they were of a kind. Their bodies held amazing skill and their whereabouts were never fixed. On Jianghu, they never engaged in wanton behavior, but it was still hard for them not to steal or kill people. They’ve done bad things before, but they also performed good deeds on occasion. It was just the one thing that they would never permit anyone on Jianghu to exist who surpassed them in the martial arts. Once upon a time the Dragon of Shu was the xia of wonder all the way from Bazhong to the Min River, and in his prime years, neither the Iron Staff Monk nor Daocheng had been born. However, when the Dragon of Shu reached old age, the two of them descended on him and forced the Dragon of Shu to leave the province and go into hiding.

But there was one person, the elderly man whose location always remained indistinct and whose martial arts were peerless, under whose hand, the disciple-brother and sister suffered a grave defeat, forcing them to touch their heads to the ground in utter submission. The elderly man, however, did not have the intention to kill them, only warning them, “Though you are causing trouble across Jianghu, killing not a few people, I know you have done good at times too. Thus, your achievements and crimes have balanced out and I will spare your lives this time. However, you both ought to retire into the mountains and dedicate your life to religious practice, never to walk Jianghu again!”

This happened twelve or thirteen years ago. At the time, she and the Iron Staff Monk filled their mouths with promises, but the two had not been subdued in their hearts, wanting one day to attempt vengeance. The elderly man would often appear amid the Qin Mountains or on Mount Emei, so the two of them couldn’t help but give up for now. They had intended to accept disciples so they would have help. Ten years later, the Iron Staff Monk had since accepted under his tutelage Jingxuan and Black Tiger Zhang, which meant he had two to help him. Daocheng had not accepted even one disciple, because if she were to take on disciples, they had to be women, and not only women, but ones who had trained in martial arts. In all of Sichuan and Southern Shaanxi, of the women who knew martial arts, one was Aluan, another was Qin Xiaoxian, and there was no third. One of them was the granddaughter of the old master of the Kunlun School and one was the daughter-in-law of the Xia of Langzhong. Even if either of them had learned martial arts from her, they would not remain with her forever to do her bidding.

Now the power of the Kunlun School had been brought down, and Bao Aluan, alone and wounded, had been brought to the abbey by the Iron Staff Monk. She thought it the perfect time to accept Aluan as her disciple, to be her right hand or at least a servant. She had not expected Jiang Xiaohe to come. That Jiang Xiaohe was the disciple of the elderly man was the first thing to stoke her hatred. That Jiang Xiaohe killed the Iron Staff Monk the night before was the second thing to deepen her grudge. Today, Jiang Xiaohe destroyed her slingshot and snapped her saber, and left her paralyzed for a while with dianxue. This third thing humiliated her. Thus, she harbored loathing in her heart and did not run far, hiding up inside a pine tree. When she saw Jiang Xiaohe go down the mountain, she returned to the abbey.

Upon entering Aluan’s room, Aluan heard her footsteps and groaned, “Why have you returned once more? You don’t need to hire a wagon. My injury is too heavy, and my old wounds haven’t healed completely yet. I can’t leave with you. However, you mustn’t worry! I’ve thought it over! I don’t want to live in regret any longer. I will be your…wife!” Daocheng cackled and said, “The day before yesterday, you were saying how you wanted to become a nun. Now you want to get married. Not only that, but you want to abandon your husband and marry anew. You shameless hussy!”

Aluan was startled. Daocheng was holding a pine resin fire piston in her hand which she shook to produce a flame. Aluan saw that vulture-like face of hers in the firelight and began to weep, “Abbess! You know nothing of what’s transpired between me and Jiang Xiaohe these last ten years!” Daocheng cackled as she found two cords of rope and extinguished the piston. She came over and tied Aluan up. Her hands heavy, she used the rope on Aluan’s wounded body, tying her up with all her strength. Aluan was helpless to struggle, only crying out in pain before fainting. Daocheng spoke viciously as she fastened tight knots, “I’m taking you away and I’m going to marry you off. For every marriage you have, I’ll take a life, and you can have new husbands forever!” She lifted Aluan onto her back, left the abbey and started down the mountain. Aluan was unconscious and did not feel a thing. She eventually came to gradually, but she was still bound tightly as Daocheng carried her on her back. For every step Daocheng took, pain would course through Aluan’s body, but Daocheng had no intention of stopping. In fact, she ran faster and faster and as her speed picked up, she ran more erratically.

Aluan suddenly heard the sound of horse hooves in the distance. As a result, Daocheng escaped off the road. She heard a splash and realized that Daocheng had dodged into water. It wasn’t deep, but both her legs were soaked. With Aluan on her back, Daocheng hid under a bridge and spat out a directive, “Don’t you dare make a sound!” She heard the sound of horseshoes galloping across the stone bridge above them. When the sound grew distant again, Daocheng carried Aluan out of the water onto the bridge, and continued running.

Aluan thought to herself, That must have been Xiaohe hurrying back. Daocheng is afraid of him. Because her physical pain combined with her heartache, she couldn’t help moaning miserably. This angered Daocheng, who immediately released her grip, slamming Aluan onto the ground, and giving her a couple kicks. Aluan cried out in pain a couple times and then fainted once more. She was unconscious for a while and by the time she awoke again, she was back on Daocheng’s back, and Daocheng was hurrying her way forward.

It was now starting to get light, though there were not yet other travelers on the road. Daocheng stopped abruptly where a horse was sitting at the side of the road, untethered to anything. Daocheng put Aluan down and stood dumbstruck for a while with a surprised look on her face. She then looked in all directions, stepped forward and grabbed the reins, tugging the horse up. Just as she was about lift Aluan onto the horse and ride off, a man ran out from the autumn wheat grass at the side of the road. Daocheng threw Aluan back onto the ground and approached the man to engage him in combat, asking, “Who the hell are you?” The man said nothing as they exchanged two or three blows before the man knocked Daocheng down. Daocheng was about the get back up, but the man give her a kick, sending Daocheng rolling. The man took this opportunity to snatch up Aluan, mount the horse and gallop away.

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