The Crane Startles Kunlun, Chapter 18, Part 7

The Crane Startles Kunlun, Chapter 18, Part 7.
from Wang Dulu's He Jing Kunlun.


Ji Guangjie’s wounds had healed and he’d just arrived in Zhenba a few days ago with Lu Zhizhong. The monk Jingxuan had delivered word to Bao Village to have them send men to Cloudperch Ridge to retrieve the old master Bao. But ever since Zhang Zhicai had been injured at Bao Village, Bao Zhilin had moved into his wife’s family’s house to hide out. The main gate was locked tightly and no one remained inside. He asked the neighboring people where the men of the Kunlun School were living. They all shook their heads. Thus, Jingxuan went in search of old master Bao’s disciples. He wandered Zhenba the entire day and in the evening he went to a tavern for food, where he encountered a man with a sword drinking wine. He inquired with him and discovered that this man was Ji Guangjie.

When he heard Jingxuan’s reasons for coming, Ji Guangjie didn’t care much whether or not old master Bao was on Cloudperch Ridge, but at the mention of Aluan’s whereabouts, he became happy and excited and quickly took Jingxuan to call upon Ma Zhixian and Lu Zhizhong. Because the gates of the city were already closed, Ji Guangjie had to endure his eagerness for a night, and when they arrived today, they saw that the “birds had flown the nest”! There was no trace of either old master Bao or Aluan. Ji Guangjie looked for the nuns to inquire, but the nuns could not say where they had gone. He could do nothing but share his amazement with them. Ji Guangjie went with Jingxuan to investigate in other parts of the mountain. They only discovered the corpses of Wu Jinbiao and the hunter and his wife, and also the Iron Staff Monk’s weapon next to his two legs and hunk of flesh.

Jingxuan wept tragically amid the mountains for his master, while Ji Guangjie returned to Jiuxian Abbey. Gripping his sword, he impatiently herded all the nuns of the abbey together and interrogated them each individually. This was when the Mute Xia arrived. Ji Guangjie was shouting angrily, but no matter how he threatened them, no one could tell him Aluan’s location. All he heard was that yesterday Jiang Xiaohe had come to stir up a commotion all day and beaten their abbess Daocheng. Then early this morning, Jiang Xiaohe returned again to cause trouble when he learned that the injured woman had disappeared. By the time Ji Guangjie and the others arrived, Jiang Xiaohe had already caused a fuss and left.

Ji Guangjie was dizzingly furious. He was certain all the nuns knew where she was but didn’t tell him, and so he wanted to use his horsewhip to extract the information from them, but Lu Zhizhong and Ma Zhixian stood in his way. Just as he was stomping mad, he suddenly saw a man inserting himself in the situation while looking directly at him. Ji Guangjie sent an angry kick at the Mute Xia, which the Mute Xia dodged. Ji Guangjie yelled, “Where did you come from, little one? How dare you intrude on us!” With a shink, he revealed his sword and sent a chop at the Mute Xia. Lu Zhizhong and Ma Zhixian both shouted, “Son-in-law Ji, do not be reckless!” But all that rang out were two sounds, a clang and a crash. The Mute Xia remained uninjured, but Ji Guangjie’s sword had been taken from him and flung far away, while he laid on the floor after being kicked in the stomach.

Lu Zhizhong and Ma Zhixian both paled in fright. Ji Guangjie got back up, his intensity reduced, took a couple steps back and asked, wide-eyed, “Little one! What are you doing? Who do you think you are that dares to strike good sir Ji?” The Mute Xia did not hear him. He extended his thumb and pointed at himself, and then extended his little finger and flapped around again. Ji Guangjie burned with rage and yelled, “Little one, do you think you can pretend to be some butterfly and I’ll let things be?” He rushed at the Mute Xia with fists out, but the Mute Xia ducked to the side again, all the while waving his hands, meaning, “Stop fighting!” He then pointed to himself, mimed flying again, and then imitated the bashful movements of a woman. Ji Guangjie laughed crossly, asking, “Are you a madman?”

Lu Zhizhong hurried over and pulled Ji Guangjie aside, saying, “Do not be reckless! I can tell he’s mute. He must be here for a reason. Let me try to guess his meaning.” Thereupon, Ma Zhixian came forward as well and watched the Mute Xia’s gestures. The Mute Xia pointed at the nuns nearby, swiveled his hips and then mimed carrying something on his back. Lu Zhizhong was starting to understand somewhat, saying, “This mute man is here with good intentions. He is telling us that Aluan was carried away by a nun on her back. That nun must be the abbess Daocheng of this abbey.”

It wasn’t until this that Ji Guangjie’s anger subsided a little. He furrowed his brow and said to Lu Zhizhong, “Find a way to ask him where Daocheng took Aluan. Tell him to take us there.” Thus, Lu Zhizhong made gestures of his own, patting the Mute Xia on the shoulder and then pointing to the door. He then mimed walking, but the Mute Xia shook his hand and waved his hand. Ji Guangjie’s anger ignited once more as he said, “It looks to me like he’s playing us for fools. He must be pretending to be mute. Otherwise, why does he keep his mouth shut? He should be making some ah, ah sounds.” Ma Zhixian exhorted him quietly, “Do not be impatient! I am certain he is a mute xia. His martial arts are powerful and we are complete strangers to him. He is not intentionally toying with us.”

Just then, the monk Jingxuan barged into the abbey. Jingxuan had just come from cremating his master, the Iron Staff Monk’s remains amid the mountains, and the tears at the corners of his eyes were not yet completely dry. The Mute Xia recognized Jingxuan immediately, went over and grabbed hold of him. Jingxuan’s color drained in surprise. Ma Zhixian and Lu Zhizhong came over to urge his release, but the Mute Xia smiled at Jingxuan and performed more gestures.

Ma Zhixian said, “Master Jingxuan, please do not be angry. This man is a mute. He arrived just now and revealed a few of his martial arts moves. We believe he has inherited a genuine tradition. He made some gestures for us and we guessed at his meaning. We think he’s here to tell us that the young miss, Bao Aluan, has been taken away by Abbess Daocheng. It is likely Jiang Xiaohe came here early in the morning and saw that Aluan was gone, so he must be in pursuit as well. Master Jingxuan, do you know where Abbess Daocheng has gone?” Jingxuan’s face was still pale. He stood in thought for a moment before first pointing to the Mute Xia and saying, “I know this man. He is Jiang Xiaohe’s disciple-brother. Before my master died, he told me that Jiang Xiaohe had a mute disciple-brother whose martial arts were nearly equal to those of his master.”

Lu Zhizhong and the other two were altogether astonished at hearing this and all of them turned their gaze toward the Mute Xia. Right then, the Mute Xia ran to the base of the wall and carved out a piece of the lime mortar. He drew on the brick an image more or less of a red-crowned crane, and then he sketched out several routes that looked like worms. Jingxuan seemed to understand his meaning and said to Lu Zhizhong, “The Mute Xia is asking us where Jiang Xiaohe is. I know that Abbess Daocheng was headed to Mount Wudang. The Seven Great Sword Sages of Mount Wudang are all good friends of hers. She must have taken the young lady Bao in that direction. Jiang Xiaohe will surely pursue them there.”

Upon hearing of Mount Wudang, Ji Guangjie couldn’t help but exert his vigor again, saying, “I know my way around Mount Wudang. Alright! He will go to look for his disciple-brother, and I will go to look for my wife. Let us go to Mount Wudang together then!” He patted his chest over his heart and then he indicated the Mute Xia’s heart. He then extended a thumb to express mutual admiration and that they were now friends. He then pointed at the red-crowned crane drawn on the floor and nodded, saying, “I know where Jiang Xiaohe is heading. I’ll take you to him.” Ji Guangjie walked over and picked up his sword, and then said to Lu Zhizhong and Ma Zhixian, “Go quickly down the mountain and look for the old man! He left here the day before yesterday, but he didn’t go home. He likely feels himself ashamed, but he can’t have gone far.” He then cupped his fist at Jingxuan and said, “Master Jingxuan, may we meet again!”

Jingxuan asked of him, “When you see Abbess Daocheng, you must speak well with her. Do not approach her with hostility. Her temperament can be brutal, but as long as you do not press her, she will not kill Aluan. However, if you anger her, then the young lady Bao’s life cannot be guaranteed. I also ask that if you see Jiang Xiaohe, please tell him that though my master, the Iron Staff Monk, died at his hand, I will not seek revenge from him. Firstly, because he and I are old friends, and secondly, because I am now focused on retreating into the mountains to dedicate my life to religious practice. I no longer wish to involve myself with the frivolity of Jianghu.” Ji Guangjie agreed, and with no more left to say, he pulled the Mute Xia outside by the arm and departed. The two men descended the mountain together and mounted their horses. With Ji Guangjie’s horse in front and the Mute Xia’s horse behind, the two rode as if flying through the winding and circuitous route, traveling seventy or eighty miles to the east.

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