The Crane Startles Kunlun, Chapter 19, Part 1.
from Wang Dulu's He Jing Kunlun.
As he had been in pursuit of Daocheng and the kidnapped Aluan, Jiang Xiaohe had already arrived at Mount Wudang by now. He’d made inquiries in the vicinity and knew that the leaders of the “Seven Great Sword Sages” were Yu Xuanqing, Zhang Xuanhai and Ma Xuantao. Zhang Xuanhai had two disciples: Chu Jianxiong and Ni Jianchao. And Ma Xuantao had one disciple named Chen Jianfei. In addition, there was a Daoist priest from the outside called Lü Chongyan the Swordsman of Lingyun.
These seven Daoists were together called the “Seven Great Sword Sages.” But besides Lü Chongyan, who would often travel Jianghu and make friends with distinguished xia, and Chu Jianxiong and Chen Jianfei’s eagerness for martial contests, the rest of them were Daoist priests who adhered closely to their religious strictures and were not easily coaxed off the mountain. They lived separately at Zhenwu Temple atop the highest summit, Yuzhen Palace on Zhanqi Peak, Wulong Peak, Zixiao Peak, and other similar places. They were all heirs on a direct line of the true internal martial arts of the founder Zhang Sanfeng, so their martial arts were all very powerful. There were also more than six hundred Daoists on the entire mountain whose responsibility it was to oversee all of it. The incense burned abundantly and their influence was robust, but not a single one of them engaged in disrespectful or oppressive behavior. However, there was one thing. Regardless of whether you were an important official, a high-ranked general, a wandering xia of Jianghu, or a security escort of the various roads, when you came to the place called the “Shedsword Spring,” it was compulsory to remove your sword. If you carried a saber or a spear up the mountain, it was no matter to them, but they did not permit you to take a sword. If anyone dared to take their sword past Shedsword Spring, this was unforgivable to them.
From the very time Jiang Xiaohe discovered that Aluan was missing, he was certain that Daocheng must have abducted her. Fury filled his chest and he arrived here that very night. However, when he inquired, no one had seen a Daoist nun go up the mountain, and he was told that the Seven Great Sword Sages did not allow bandits to stay there, so he began to hesitate. After a moment, he decided on a plan. He thought that since he did not have a weapon on him, why not ascend the the mountain and pay the Seven Great Sword Sages a visit and inquire of them with the utmost respect. If they could ensure that there was no way that Daocheng could have abducted a woman and taken her there, then he would disturb the mountain no further. He could no nothing but search elsewhere.
It was early morning when he climbed the mountain and the sky was overcast. All of Mount Wudang was shrouded in the densest of fogs. A thick frost also covered the ground, turning the mountain completely white. The autumn wind whistled through and touched his body with a deep chill. Jiang Xiaohe was wearing a pair of blue, unlined, cloth pants with a blue, cloth short coat, and straw sandals on bare feet. He made his way step by step up the mountain, the vision before him an impenetrable drizzle. He couldn’t see anything and he couldn’t discern where the path was, so he was afraid to rush. Beside that, without mentioning other people, there wasn’t the sound of a single bird calling out.
After walking for a while, he had worn holes in his straw sandals, so he thought it better just to toss them. Fortunately, the callouses on his feet actually made walking barefoot easier for him than while wearing shoes. After walking a bit longer, the drone of bells pierced through the mist and into Jiang Xiaohe’s ears. It sounded very clear, as if there was a Daoist sanctuary nearby. Jiang Xiaohe quickly bent his ear to concentrate on figuring out what direction the bell sounds were coming from, and while he did this, he started walking slowly towards them. After a short distance, he came to the edge of a cliff. Below, the boundless mist looked a great sea, every single thing was hidden from view. The sound of the bells seemed to come from the bottom of the cliff.
If he had wanted to find a mountain path and slowly make his way down, it would have been impossible! Jiang Xiaohe stood for awhile perturbed atop the cliff. The bells had stopped, though their lingering sound spiraled up through the mist. Jiang Xiaohe steeled his heart, took a deep breath and leaning, took a sudden leap downwards. With a whoosh, Jiang Xiaohe’s body fell into a large pine tree. His hands and feet hurt from all the pine needles piercing at him, but he pulled the branches aside and landed his feet on a level surface. He was now inside a temple.
Just as Jiang Xiaohe straightened up, he saw the half window of the side hall flip open. Out leapt a spotted leopard, around whose neck hung a copper chain. He pounced at Jiang Xiaohe with teeth and claws out. With great alarm, Jiang Xiaohe flew up and climbed back into the tree. The leopard crawled up the tree after him. Jiang Xiaohe jumped down next to the main hall, upon which were laid iron tiles, black with rust, and the leopard followed closely behind him. It sprung at Jiang Xiaohe and he faced it directly by grabbing hold of its neck. The leopard was standing upright like a person as he opened his mouth widely, but his head was being held back so he wasn’t able to bite down. He clawed fiercely with his front paws and his tail thrashed about, as he roared impatiently.
Jiang Xiaohe quickly reached out with his right hand and jabbed the leopard’s snow white chest with his finger. The leopard yelped and fell supine onto the ground as if he’d died. Jiang Xiaohe ripped a couple tiles down from the roof of the hall and bashed the leopard’s head with all his strength, hitting it until it cracked open and his own anger subsided. Afterward, he used a tile to knock at the window of the side hall. Jiang Xiaohe yelled loudly inside, “Who’s the damned priest raising the leopard? Get yourself out here!” The window flipped closed once more. Jiang Xiaohe was afraid the hall might be concealing another creature, so he dared not charge inside rashly. He picked the two metal tiles up from the ground before approaching the door of the hall and cursing loudly. Someone inside replied, asking, “Where do you come from, bandit? How dare you stir up trouble in this sacred place?”
Jiang Xiaohe shoved the door open. Inside, a young Daoist priest brandished his sword and sent a chop his way. Jiang Xiaohe hurriedly backed away a couple paces. The Daoist followed him out and thrust his sword at Jiang Xiaohe’s chest. Jiang Xiaohe darted to the left and dodged the attack. The Daoist swung his sword for another go and Jiang Xiaohe flung one of the tiles at him, striking him in the chest. The Daoist quivered in pain and Jiang Xiaohe took the opportunity to snatch his sword from him. The Daoist reached out to take it back, but Jiang Xiaohe extended a foot and kicked him, plop, bottom first onto the floor.
The Daoist was undeterred. He straightened his legs and stood up, and with hands bare tried to take the sword from Jiang Xiaohe’s hand. Jiang Xiaohe spun the sword with a glimmer and then swung it at the Daoist’s head, causing the Daoist to quickly lower his head and bend at the waist. At that point, another Daoist entered the courtyard and rebuked him, “Stop! How dare you come here to cause trouble?” Jiang Xiaohe pulled the sword in and stepped back one pace to carefully size up the situation. This Daoist’s appearance was particular. He was slender and handsome and looked to be of just over forty years. Jiang Xiaohe said, “Priest, please do not be unreasonable! I came to the mountain to find someone, and I did not carry a sword here with me, because I know the rules of your mountain. See that I come in good faith. It is you all who have acted oddly and viciously. At my arrival here, you sent a leopard out to bite me. If I were anyone but Jiang Xiaohe, I would’ve already been food for that leopard, and there would not even be a dead body to look at.”
Upon hearing Jiang Xiaohe declare his own name, the slender Daoist’s face shifted to surprise and said, “So you are Jiang Xiaohe. I have heard that you are also a descendent of the Wudang School. When you are here, it is even more important that you must abide by the rules, so as not to offend our founder!” Jiang Xiaohe said, “Even the founder should not be raising leopards. You were keeping it inside as if it were a dog. What kind of people are you?” The Daoist replied, “I am the one who raised that leopard, and it has never hurt anyone. It is very friendly!” As he said this, he caught sight of the dead leopard, covered in spots, lying on the ground with its head smashed up. Pain flashed across his face, followed closely by ire.
The young Daoist who had been kicked said, “This man jumped down from the cliff. He didn’t look like a good man, so I let the leopard out.” Jiang Xiaohe scoffed and asked the Daoist his name. The slender Daoist said, “I am called Chen Jianfei and he is my disciple.” Jiang Xiaohe said, “I know that you are one sage of the Seven Great Sword Sages, and that you are all good men with the exception of Lü Chongyan the Swordsman of Lingyun. I have gathered all this information while on the road and the reason I have come now is to find one person.” Chen Jianfei asked, “Who are you looking for?” Jiang Xiaohe said, “I am looking for the abbess of Jiuxian Abbey, Daocheng. She kidnapped my wife Aluan and brought her here!”
Chen Jianfei furiously castigated him, “Nonsense! Mount Wudang is a peaceful place. What’s this about a nun or woman coming here!” Jiang Xiaohe said, “Perhaps you do know the whole situation. There are many temples on this mountain. If Daocheng came and hid my wife somewhere else, you would have no way of knowing. You are but a junior member of the Seven Great Sword Sages. I wish to see Yu Xuanqing, Zhang Xuanhai or Ma Xuantao. Bring me to them! I will make my request to them and it will have nothing to do with you!”
Chen Jianfei took a glance at Jiang Xiaohe and then looked down at the dead leopard. He nodded, saying, “Fine! I am eating right now, so wait for me a moment and I will take you to Yuzhen Palace.” So saying, he turned and walked back into the inner courtyard. The young, beaten Daoist glared at Jiang Xiaohe for a moment before leaving to eat as well. Other than Jiang Xiaohe, there was no one else left in this yard.
Jiang Xiaohe tucked one of the metal tiles into his breast, and then looked around until he had completely investigated the main and side halls, but he found nothing suspicious. It was just the fact that a Daoist priest was raising a leopard caused maddened him. He paced back and forth around the courtyard for a moment before the temple gates were pushed open and five Daoists, none very old, came through to eat food, seeming to have heard the sound of the bells. After coming upon the dead leopard lying on the ground and Jiang Xiaohe standing nearby with a sword in hand, these five Daoists couldn’t help being startled. One of them asked, “What is your business here?” Jiang Xiaohe replied, “Tell Chen Jianfei to hurry up and finish eating. When he’s done, tell him come and take me to Yuzhen Palace already.” Encountering Jiang Xiaohe’s harsh manner, these Daoists dared not enquire further and all continued into the inner yard.
Jiang Xiaohe fumed as he paced another few circuits around the courtyard. Then he spotted Chen Jianfei and two young Daoists coming out of the inner yard. This time he was very courteous. When he saw Jiang Xiaohe, he took a bow and then said calmly, “We will take you up to Zhanqi Peak now. Once you’re there, no matter how angry you are, you must not meet the master with rudeness, otherwise even I would be guilty of it as well. You must also put down that sword. It is not only for outsiders. Not even those of us at temple may carry our swords out.” Jiang Xiaohe nodded and said, “Alright!” He tossed the sword aside with a clatter. With the two younger Daoists walking ahead, Chen Jianfei accompanied Jiang Xiaohe out of the temple. The fog was still abundant, though it seemed a bit thinner than it had been. One could faintly see the trees and the mountain before them and the sound of birds chirping could be heard crisply in their ear.
As they walked north together, Chen Jianfei conversed with Jiang Xiaohe, saying, “Last year I had never heard tell of your name, but this year, the men of this mountain who leave to beg for alms hear your name being spoken often by others. It is said that you are the disciple of the elderly xia of Mount Jiuhua, but I don’t know if this is true or false. If your master still alive and well?” Jiang Xiaohe said, “Let’s keep the idle chatter to a minimum. I’ve come here solely to find Daocheng. As long as I find her, I will leave you be. I’m not here to cause you trouble.” Chen Jianfei said, “I am certain no one called Daocheng has come to this mountain.” Jiang Xiaohe said, “I cannot accept what you’re saying. I must meet with your master.” Chen Jianfei stopped talking after that.
The mountain road below this precipice was extremely hard to navigate, and became more and more difficult the further they walked. A little further on there was a mountain peak. It was uncertain how many feet tall it was, the top portion was cloaked in misty clouds and the bottom section looked like it had been chiseled out with a knife or axe. There were numerous stone steps beside which was hung a very, very long iron chain. If one did not take hold of the chain, it would be impossible to proceed up the steps. It was practically a straight up and down progression. The two younger Daoists were first to clutch onto the chain and head up. It seemed as if they walked this path often, so their advancement was very natural. Chen Jianfei said, “This is Zhanqi Peak. Once you go up, you will arrive at Yuzhen Palace. Would you like to go first, or would you prefer I did?” Jiang Xiaohe smiled and said, “After you!” Chen Jianfei grabbed hold of the chain and made his way up. He walked very slowly and would often turn around and say, “Be careful! Your life will be over if you fall!”
When Jiang Xiaohe first started climbing, he gripped the iron chain tightly with both hands, but later on, after he’d gone thirty or so feet up, he relaxed his grip and ascended the steps using only his bare feet. His body was upright and nearly stuck against the stone wall, as if he were a gecko. When Chen Jianfei saw this, his face showed astonishment and he said, “You cannot continue on like that!” Jiang Xiaohe said, “Pay me no mind. You walk however you like! If I fall from here, then consider it recompense for having taken the life of your leopard. I will not come looking for you as a ghost!” Just as he said this, Chen Jianfei, who was ahead of him, abruptly swung down while holding the iron chain with both hands and suddenly trampled on Jiang Xiaohe’s head. Jiang Xiaohe lost his balance and wanted to grab the iron chain, but it was too late. He immediately tumbled downwards.