3.09.2017

The Crane Startles Kunlun, Chapter 18, Part 8

The Crane Startles Kunlun, Chapter 18, Part 8.
from Wang Dulu's He Jing Kunlun.

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The sun was now in the west. The Mute Xia had not eaten a midday meal, so he shouted hungrily from atop his horse. Ji Guangjie raised his whip and pointed to the east, and then turned around to beckon, “Come on!” He did not stop his horse. The Mute Xia became annoyed and spurred his horse to catch up. He grabbed onto Ji Guangjie with one hand and yanked him off his horse. Panting, Ji Guangjie yelled, “You damned mute! If I, the great sir Ji, did not recognize your skill, do you think I would have brought you with me to Mount Wudang?” The Mute Xia pointed to his mouth and then rubbed his stomach. Once Ji Guangjie saw him gesturing, he started to feel hunger in his own stomach, so he nodded and puffed as he got back on his horse and continued on more slowly.

Before going too far, they arrived at a town. Ji Guangjie came off of his horse in front of a tavern and the Mute Xia smiled with pleasure. Ji Guangjie fastened his horse to a post by the door and walked in with the the Mute Xia close behind. Ji Guangjie was impatient and troubled, so he ordered some wine for himself and food for the Mute Xia. In a short while, the server brought both. The Mute Xia swallowed his rice in mouthfuls, and Ji Guangjie drank his wine gloomily. Right now, he couldn’t stomach even one grain of rice. He thought, If I’d known earlier that there had been something between Jiang Xiaohe and Aluan, I would never have so much as laid a finger to help the Kunlun School. And now just look at the state I’m in, neither man nor ghost. My body was wounded and has just now healed up. I’m heading to Mount Wudang and I might not even find Aluan there, or perhaps I do find her, but only after a great, big fight. Even after that fight, my wife might go back to Jiang Xiaohe. It’s just not worth it. But it’s as if I have people pressing me on, and I can’t just stand by and do nothing. He truly loathed himself, as a long sigh escaped him and he pounded the table.

The Mute Xia saw the worry in his manner and pointed at the plates of food, smiling. His meaning was that he was inviting him to eat, but Ji Guangjie shook his head. The Mute Xia looked puzzled, seeming not to understand what was bothering Ji Guangjie. After a few bowls of wine, the Mute Xia had also finished up his meal. Ji Guangjie was about to pull out some money, but the Mute Xia took the bill. He pulled a small, very dirty cloth bundle out, inside of which were several pieces of silver and a few coppers. The Mute Xia stacked a bunch of it on the table, probably more than enough to cover the wine and the food. He then smiled at Ji Guangjie and pointed outside, his meaning being, “Let’s go!” Ji Guangjie felt that the Mute Xia really understood the way of friendship.

Thus, the two left the tavern, mounted their horses and continued east. After another thirtysome miles, they checked into an inn and rested. They awoke first thing the next day and traveled until noon, when they found another place to eat. The Mute Xia could not speak, but could do nothing but listen to him on everything. The Mute Xia was unworried and not in a hurry, but a flame often roared in Ji Guangjie’s heart. Though because he was depending on the Mute Xia’s help for when they arrived at Mount Wudang to face the Seven Great Sword Sages, he didn’t dare abandon the Mute Xia mid-journey.

After riding for three days, they arrived at Zhuxi, a county a little more than a hundred miles from Mount Wudang. With Ji Guangjie’s horse in front and the Mute Xia’s in the back, at the moment they entered the city, he suddenly heard someone behind them calling out loudly, “Ji Guangjie!” Ji Guangjie was startled and quickly turned around to look. He saw two horses approaching, one black and one white. On the black horse rode a large man in his twenties, and on the white sat a young pale-faced scholar. Ji Guangjie looked more closely and snorted, “Well, look at that! Li Fengjie, when we fought in Weinan, you escaped wounded, but it looks like you didn’t die, eh? How are you now? Want to give it another go?”

Li Fengjie’s horse drew nearer and he laughed, “When a man of Jianghu suffers a little injury, it doesn’t mean certain death, not to mention I only had a light sword wound in my ribs. If I’d died from that, then you, Ji Guangjie, wouldn’t have stood a chance with your injuries and dart wounds and long been dead by now!” Hearing this insult from Li Fengjie, Ji Guangjie immediately unsheathed his sword with a shink and glowered at Li Fengjie. Li Fengjie didn’t even flinch. He simply smiled and said, “There’s no need for that. Even if you stabbed me again with that sword, your reputation will never surpass that of Jiang Xiaohe.” Ji Guangjie continued to hold his sword and laughed grimly. Before he was done, the Mute Xia suddenly called out. Ji Guangjie quickly leapt off his horse and saw it simply stumble a couple paces and fall onto the ground.

It turned out that while Ji Guangjie was laughing with his sword out, the man riding the black horse next to Li Fengjie had already peeled off and made his way next to Ji Guangjie. A hammer was hanging below his saddle, with a handle two feet long and a round metal head about the size of a muskmelon. He quietly detached it and swung it at Ji Guangjie’s lower back. It was fortunate the Mute Xia cried out. Ji Guangjie was just able to dodge away, but the hammer struck the back of his horse. The Mute Xia laughed loudly with his two hands spread open, while Ji Guangjie twisted his sword and took a stab at Li Fengjie. Li Fengjie pulled his horse away, drew his own sword and dismounted his horse. The large man got off of his horse as well and swung his hammer brashly at Ji Guangjie, when Li Fengjie yelled sternly, “Stop!” to halt the large man. Ji Guangjie was too angry to speak. He lunged forward, brandishing his sword and hacked at Li Fengjie.

Li Fengjie parried Ji Guangjie’s sword with his own, as he waved his hand back and forth, saying, “Ji Guangjie, listen to me! It was not my intention to ambush you. It’s simply that man with me is a bit boorish. I am not afraid of you, but I do not want to fight you again. Those of us with skill should make our way to Mount Wudang. At this moment, Jiang Xiaohe is battling the Seven Great Sword Sages by himself. We ought to go and help him!” It wasn’t until Ji Guangjie heard this that he pulled his sword in and stepped back a couple paces.

There were by now not a small number of passersby who had stopped to watch the two men face each other. The Mute Xia sat on his horse laughing and gesturing, as if to say, “Go ahead and fight! Let me see which one of you has the greater skill!” Li Fengjie slipped his sword back in its scabbard and pushed to the side the large man who had come with him. He came over and patted Ji Guangjie on the shoulder, smiling while saying, “You know, it’s your fault. If you hadn’t drawn your sword first, this friend of mine wouldn’t have used his hammer on you. His name is Hu Erzheng. He’s here to protect me!” Ji Guangjie sneered, “Who could have thought that you hired a bodyguard?”

Li Fengjie sneered back at him, but didn’t reply. He only pointed at the Mute Xia, still atop his horse, and asked, “Who is that?” Ji Guangjie said, “That mans is a mute. He’s Jiang Xiaohe’s disciple-brother. I’m taking him now to Mount Wudang to look for Jiang Xiaohe.” Li Fengjie laughed and patted Ji Guangjie’s shoulder again, saying, “So it looks like you need a bodyguard too, eh?” Ji Guangjie couldn’t help his face flushing red.

Li Fengjie walked over and cupped his fist at the mute. The Mute Xia did the same, dismounted his horse, and then mimed flying. Li Fengjie stared blankly, so Ji Guangjie came over and said, “He’s asking if you know Jiang Xiaohe or not.” Li Fengjie chuckled and nodded at the Mute Xia. The Mute Xia smiled. Li Fengjie then turned again to Ji Guangjie and said, “Why don’t you and I go into the city and find a place to drink some wine and talk. How about that?”

Ji Guangjie shook his head and said, “I am anxious to get to Mount Wudang with the Mute Xia and haven’t the time for a chat. If you really wish to be friends, then I ask you first to replace my horse!” Li Fengjie nodded and said, “With ease!” He turned around, went over and scolded Hu Erzheng sternly. Then he demanded Hu Erzheng’s horse from him and delivered it to Ji Guangjie. He even untied Ji Guangjie’s scabbard and brought it over himself. Ji Guangjie felt a bit self-conscious at this, so he asked Li Fengjie, “Let’s be off. How should we take care of the wounded horse? I’m thinking we should just sell it.”

Li Fengjie shook his head and said, “There’s no need. The horse will be able to recover. We can have Hu Erzheng wait for me here. When we’ve finished our business, we’ll be back to find him.” Thus, Li Fengjie went over and told Hu Erzheng, “Find an inn to stay at here! And take that horse to a veterinarian to get it healed up. Wait for me here in Zhuxi. Don’t leave no matter what! Once I’ve finished my business on Mount Wudang, I’ll return here and find you. You must not stir up any trouble in this place!”

Hu Erzheng audibly agreed to each directive. Li Fengjie left him some silvers, and then waved over at Ji Guangjie, saying, “Let’s go!” Ji Guangjie gestured to the Mute Xia, and the three of them all mounted their steeds. The three horses kicked up clouds of dust as they flew eastward. The onlookers formed a circle and laughed as they watched Hu Erzheng expended a great deal of strength to lift up the fallen, injured horse.

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