The Crane Startles Kunlun, Chapter 19, Part 3

The Crane Startles Kunlun, Chapter 19, Part 3.
from Wang Dulu's He Jing Kunlun.


When his feet landed on solid ground, a multitude of crossbow arrows and rocks still came flying from above. Jiang Xiaohe turned and ran, sprinting down one mountain ridge before stopping. The mist had dissipated and he could now see in all directions. There were already a few woodsmen here cutting wood. Jiang Xiaohe caught his breath and then walked over carrying his sword. He gave a careful look and saw that these woodsmen all had their hair pulled up into a Daoist’s topknot. Thus, Jiang Xiaohe threw his sword aside and then approached to ask these men while clasping his fist, “Are you lot busy?” The Daoists all stopped their chopping, and one of them bowed to Jiang Xiaohe and asked, “Might I ask what you’re looking for?”

Jiang Xiaohe sighed and said, “I’m a common man from Hanzhong who was living at my home in peace. To my surprise, a Daoist nun from Jiuxian Abbey on Cloudperch Ridge called Daocheng came seeking alms, but when she saw my wife, she wounded her and carried her away on her back. I reported this to the authorities and they conducted a search of Jiuxian Abbey and found nothing, but according to the people at the abbey, Daocheng took my wife here.” The Daoists heard this and couldn’t help their astonishment. One of them said, “Daocheng! We know her. She is the Iron Staff Monk’s sister-disciple. It is true that she is not a good person.” The men nearby went back to chopping at trees, tok tok, with axes in hand.

This particular Daoist said to Jiang Xiaohe, “It used to be, Daocheng went up the mountain quite frequently, but she never dared to ascend Zhanqi Peak, Wulong Peak or Zixiao Peak, for the good Sword Sages did not permit her to. When she did go she stayed around Shedsword Spring and the area behind the mountain. Yesterday, when I carried some wood into the city, I saw her on the main throughway.” Jiang Xiaohe quickly followed up with a question, “Where was it?” The Daoist nodded and said, “She’s likely somewhere inside the city, though I haven’t a clue where.” Jiang Xiaohe cupped his fist and said, “Many thanks!” And then he departed, picking his sword up along the way, and went all the way down the mountain.

Though the mist had disappeared, the sun remained hidden. All around him were ridges and peaks, one after another, and he couldn’t be sure of the direction. Jiang Xiaohe could only continue his way down. After a while, he caught the sound of a waterfall and knew that he had reached Shedsword Spring. As he walked, he spotted a Daoist standing halfway up the mountain waving his hand down at him, saying, “Benefactor Jiang! The way is here. Come up. I have some things I would like to say to you!”

Jiang Xiaohe looked up and saw that it was one of the Seven Great Sword Sages, Lü Chongyan the Swordsman of Lingyun. Jiang Xiaohe took a great leap up the mountain. Lü Chongyan laughed and praised him, “Such skill!” Jiang Xiaohe smiled and walked two paces closer, asking, “Sir Daoist Lü, when I was battling them just now, you were the only one who did not step up to help them. You are a true friend!” Lü Chongyan said, “I was never really one of them, just an outsider who was pulled in with the Seven Great Sword Sages. In actuality, I am very unhappy.”

Jiang Xiaohe said, “I can tell that your accent isn’t from these parts. Why are you with them?” Lü Chongyan replied, “Not only do I not belong with them, but I’m not even actually a Daoist priest. Three years ago, the authorities were after me after I accidentally killed someone in my hometown, so I came here. Before that, I didn’t know how to chant scripture or meditate.”

Jiang Xiaohe asked, “Where are you from?” Lü Chongyan said, “Weining County in Guizhou. Daocheng and I are from the same town. So if you’d wanted to find her, you should have come to ask me and saved yourself a lot of trouble. You went up to Zhanqi Peak for nothing today, except to sow enmity with them. Your martial arts are powerful, but you have not yet met Yu Xuanqing. Once that old Daoist appears, there would be no preserving your life.”

Jiang Xiaohe scoffed, “Don’t bother raising the first of the Seven Great Sword Sages to frighten me. I came here not to fight. I also know that though you are all arrogant, none of you are terribly bad people. Since you now know Daocheng’s whereabouts, please tell me. As long as I find her and she returns my wife to me, then all will be forgiven and that will be the end of it. I have no intention of harming her life.”

Lü Chongyan said, “If you did want to harm, that’d have nothing to do with me. She and I are from the same town, but while I am familiar with her, she does not recognize me. I’ll give you three possible locations: One is beside the Cao Sea of Weining County in Guizhou; one is the Taiji Temple on Mount Heng; and one is south of the Southern Mountains…” Jiang Xiaohe laughed inside, So smart you are, trying to waste my time on these far-flung places.

Lü Chongyan continued, “She does not often come to Mount Wudang, and when she does, she’s unable to go up. You will not be able to find her here!” Jiang Xiaohe nodded and said, “You have my gratitude. I will continue my search at Mount Heng. Farewell!”

So saying, Jiang Xiaohe jumped back down, exited along this mountain path, and encountered a mountain peak. He climbed up to the top and looked down at Lü Chongyan. Lü Chongyan followed the road along the rock face heading up a ridge. He walked farther and farther away until gradually his figure grew out of sight. Jiang Xiaohe quickly learned the lay of the mountain and recalled that Ji Guangjie had come here before. He had gone up past Shedsword Spring and scuffled with the Daoist throng. Ji Guangjie had fallen off of that mountain. Where Lü Chongyan was heading to just now was filled with more trees, their red leaves covered the mountain, but it was clear that that was the place that Ji Guangjie had previously traveled.

Thus, Jiang Xiaohe calmly listened to the sound of a waterfall in the distance, worked out its direction and headed that way. Before going too far, he saw a cliff in front of him with water crashing down its face from a spot even further up. But because it was autumn, the force of the water was not as furious as it had been when he had come in the summer. He walked up. All along the path were sour date trees obstructing the way, so he hacked away at them with his sword and continued walking. After crossing another couple mountain ridges, he saw a Daoist temple and recalled how Ji Guangjie had previously come here and caused an uproar.

Jiang Xiaohe contemplated, Many lives have already been lost today. If all I, Jiang Xiaohe, do is bully Daoists and kill people on this mountain with little reason, when word gets out, I will be ridiculed. As things look now, Daocheng must be here somewhere, but outside of Lü Chongyan, no one else knows the situation and will just become aggravated. If I simply follow Lü Chongyan closely, I must be able to sniff out Daocheng’s whereabouts. Thus, Jiang Xiaohe backed away several paces, found a path up the mountain, and climbed back up to the mountain’s peak. He found a large boulder and sat for a rest. He lowered his head and peered down from there, and saw with complete clarity the layout of the temple below. It had two layers of halls, but not a single Daoist priest was in sight.

Jiang Xiaohe sat above and watched for a while, before he caught sight of a person coming out of the west hall of the inner courtyard. The man wore a long robe with big sleeves, a Daoist priest. When he looked closely, he could see that he walked nimbly with his head held high and his chest out. It was Lü Chongyan. Jiang Xiaohe thought, So he’s come to this place. I would like to see where this false Daoist is headed. He appears young and handsome and his words are polite, but I’m certain he is actually worse than the rest of them.

Lü Chongyan walked outside and Jiang Xiaohe followed along from above. Lü Chongyan didn’t move too quickly, and before he went far, he started up a mountain ridge, slowly reaching a mountain road that was at about the same height as the one Jiang Xiaohe was walking on. Jiang Xiaohe could only walk slowly behind as he was afraid of being seen. However, Lü Chongyan walked ahead of him without so much as glancing back. The further he traveled on the mountain road, the higher he went and the more rugged the terrain. He didn’t realize how long they had been walking, but above were thick clouds and mist. There weren’t even trees here, nor could he hear the sounds of birds.

Jiang Xiaohe grew suspicious and thought, Could it be that Daocheng isn’t here after all? Even if she were here, she could not bring Aluan to an altitude as high as this with her injured body. Has Lü Chongyan the Swordsman of Lingyun lured me up for some trap he’s prepared? Just as these misgivings surfaced, he then thought, But I have a sword in my hand, so what am I afraid of? Thus he strode forward with determination. He came to another Daoist temple, larger than all the rest, with three layers of halls. Jiang Xiaohe drew nearer and saw that the main gate was shut tightly and covered with a spiderweb. There were dragonflies and other insects with wings stuck on the web and a chestnut-sized spider crawling back and forth across it. By the looks of it, this gate had not been opened for quite some time, and it was unknown whether or not there people inside.

Jiang Xiaohe rapped the butt of his sword against the main gate a few times, but there was no response from inside. Jiang Xiaohe thought, What a great location for Daocheng and Lü Chongyan’s collusion. If she’s keeping Aluan hidden here, truly no one would be able to find her. Anger burned in his heart. He jumped over the wall and came to a completely silent courtyard. The windows and doors of the main and accompanying east and west halls were all tattered and worn out, but there was incense billowing up in spirals from within. Jiang Xiaohe walked further inside. There were no people in the second courtyard either, so he continued into the third courtyard. There, he came face-to-face with a Daoist priest holding a wood axe on his way out. Upon seeing Jiang Xiaohe, the look of surprised appeared across his face. He held fast and said, “Who are you?” Jiang Xiaohe cupped his fist and said, “I am surnamed Jiang, and there are matters that bring me to this mountain. I am looking to have a discussion with Lü Chongyan. I saw him climb up the mountain just now and come here, so I have come as well to find him.”

The Daoist said, “This is the Taixuan Temple on Zixiao Peak. I am only one here attending to the old abbot Xuanqing who is here practicing Daoism. There is no third person who can come up here. Lü Chongyan lives on Wulong Peak. Please go look for him there. Furthermore, how do you dare to bring a sword up the mountain?” Jiang Xiaohe spat, “I just saw him head this way. How dare you try to deceive me? I wish to meet Yu Xuanqing. He may be one of the Seven Great Sword Sages, but I am not afraid of him. Tell him to stop colluding with that evil nun to hide my wife from me.” So saying, he pushed the Daoist aside with one hand. He walked a few steps inward and saw an apricot-yellow curtain hanging inside the western hall. Someone inside directed a question outside, “What is it?” His voice sounded very old.

Jiang Xiaohe hurried over with his sword out and pulled the curtain aside with it. He saw an elderly Daoist priest inside, whose stature was not large, with a white beard longer than three feet. His hair was all white and he wore a blue cloth robe. His appearance was extremely odd. Jiang Xiaohe walked inside with his sword and cupped his fist, saying, “Daoist Yu, I have long admired your great reputation for you are the first of the Seven Great Sword Sages. Your Daoist skill is greater than all those others. My name is Jiang Xiaohe, and I am the disciple of the elderly gentleman of Mount Jiuhua. As my wife Aluan was abducted by the Abbess Daocheng, I have come to find out that she has been collaborating with your Lü Chongyan of this mountain and is hiding here—“

Yu Xuanqing did not wait for Jiang Xiaohe to finish before a scowl crossed his face and he said, “Jiang Xiaohe, I already know that you have caused much trouble today on Zhanqi Peak. Mount Wudang is the place where Lord Zhenwu attained the Dao, and Founder Sanfeng the Perfected Incarnation of Profundity still lives here to this day.” Jiang Xiaohe quickly offered up an explanation, “My purpose here was not to cause a disturbance. The truth is there are bad people hiding up here in your mountain. I understand the rules here. When I climbed the mountain today, I was did not bring a sword with me. This one was actually taken from the hand of one of your disciples!”

He handed his sword over for Yu Xuanqing to look at. Yu Xuanqing saw the apricot-yellow ribbon wrapped around the hilt of the sword and nodded, saying, “You are correct. This is a sword of our mountain, but you must put it down before I can speak with you!” Jiang Xiaohe nodded and said, “Alright!” He tossed the sword down with a clatter. Unexpectedly, Yu Xuanqing took advantage of his unreadiness and lunged forward suddenly, poking Jiang Xiaohe on a spot in his ribs. It came as a complete surprise to Jiang Xiaohe that the old Daoist would do such a thing. He felt his entire body becoming rigid, as he fell to the floor with a plop. His head knocked right into the window and cracked through the rotten wood of the shutters. Jiang Xiaohe burst out laughing, “That’s fine! I now know who you Seven Great Sword Sages of Mount Wudang really are. You are all just disgraceful rats!” He hurriedly refocused his energy inside in an attempt to break free of the dianxue skill.

Yu Xuanqing went inside and retrieved two long, straw ropes and tied up his arms up behind his back, and then tied up his legs as well. Just then someone entered abruptly. It was the Daoist that Jiang Xiaohe had pushed over before. He said, “Master Founder! This man is very strong. I’m afraid straw ropes won’t hold him.” Yu Xuanqing replied, “Go find some more rope, and while you’re out, tell the others to come. There is no way he will be able to free himself and escape under my watch.” The Daoist assented and hurried off.

Jiang Xiaohe said through gritted teeth, “Yu Xuanqing, I caution you to be careful here! I am the disciple of Mount Jiuhua’s elderly gentleman. If you dare to provoke him, then I invite you to kill me!” Yu Xuanqing’s expression changed a little bit, but then went back to being taut. His wrinkles quickly disappeared completely as he said furiously, “Do not bring your master up to scare me! If he comes, then I will tie him up as well. I have been here for more than sixty years in religious practice and I have never harmed another. We will wait for my disciples to come. They will carry you down the mountain and hand you over to the authorities. You will be charged with disturbing the mountain forests and murdering priests!”

Jiang Xiaohe scoffed, “Good! You can make your accusations, but I warn you not to let me go free again, for when I do, I will level your Mount Wudang and leave nothing here!” At the same time as he was yelling loudly, he moved the energies around his body. Just as he was about to render his blood vessels flexible once more and break through the straw ropes so he could serve Yu Xuanqing a beating, three Daoist priests entered suddenly. One of them was the one who’d just left to find more rope, returning with several thick, hemp ropes, which he used to tightly bind Jiang Xiaohe’s hands and feet once more. The other two were Zhang Xuanhai and Lü Chongyan. Jiang Xiaohe cursed at Lü Chongyan.

Lü Chongyan pretended not to hear him and simply asked of Yu Xuanqing, “Master Founder! Will you give this man over to me to deal with? So as not to distrupt the Master Founder’s religious practice!” Yu Xuanqing replied sternly, “He may be able to kill people on the mountain, but we priests cannot violate the commandment against murder. Once we have subdued this violent and irrational man, what do you intend to do with him? Will you go behind my back and harm him?” Lü Chongyan quickly bent at his waist and kowtowed, saying, “I wouldn’t dare!”

Still lying on the floor, Jiang Xiaohe said, “Yu Xuanqing, I see that you remain very reasonable. You are an upright Daoist priest. As long as you release me, I will have no further quarrel with you. I seek only Lü Chongyan, so he can take me Daocheng and I can get my wife back.” Lü Chongyan’s expression switched to fear, saying, “We must not let him go! I know this man. There is no crime he hasn’t committed on Jianghu!” Jiang Xiaohe spat at him, “No crime I haven’t committed? I am nothing like you, colluding with Daocheng to drag an injured woman into the mountains!”

Yu Xuanqing asked, “Do you have any evidence for your claims?” Jiang Xiaohe said, “I do. I became enemies with Daocheng at Cloudperch Ridge, and she instructed me to come to Mount Wudang for a duel. That abbey is where I lost sight my wife. All the old nuns at that abbey affirmed that Daocheng had abducted my wife and taken her here. A moment ago, I asked some of your Daoists who were chopping wood, and they told me that Daocheng had been seen in town just yesterday. Lü Chongyan attempted to deceive me and send me to Guizhou. That’s when I knew that he was in league with Daocheng. He must know exactly where my wife has been hidden.”

Yu Xuanqing focused his glare at Lü Chongyan and said, “From now on, you are not permitted to descend the mountain. You will stay here and wait until I get to the bottom of this matter. If the words of Jiang Xiaohe turn out to ring true, you will become aware of the rules of this our mountain!” Lü Chongyan bowed deeply and kowtowed, saying, “There are all Jiang Xiaohe’s reckless lies. I do not know any Daocheng, and I have never spoken to Jiang Xiaohe before. I invite the Master Founder to carefully investigate the matter. If I, your disciple, have defied any of the Daoist strictures, I am ready for the Master Founder’s firm admonishment!”

Yu Xuanqing nodded and said to Xiaohe, “I put you in bindings because your temperament is fast and impudent, but we resolve not to hurt you. Wait here for three days. By then, I will have determined the situation. If what you say is true, I will set you free and punish Lü Chongyan in front of you. But this is nothing but a pack of your lies and you have come here only to cause trouble?” Jiang Xiaohe sneered, “I have been captured through your use of dianxue because of one moment of carelessness, so you may do with me what you like.” Yu Xuanqing nodded and said, “Good! Within three days, I am certain I will discover what is going on.” He then instructed his attending Daoist priest and Lü Chongyan to take Jiang Xiaohe away.

Jiang Xiaohe was carried to the eastern hall of the second courtyard, which contained three adjoining rooms. Inside there was a statue of a deity, an incense censer, a candle platform, and the like. Lü Chongyan and the other Daoist dumped Jiang Xiaohe onto the floor. At this, Jiang Xiaohe started to feel his legs coming back to life, but his hands and feet were bound very tightly and he was no way he’d be able to free himself. Lü Chongyan did not even glance back as he and the other Daoist left the hall. Jiang Xiaohe cursed angrily another couple times, but outside, Lü Chongyan did not say anything. The only sound was the click of the lock being secured onto the door of the hall. Jiang Xiaohe straightened his body and was actually able to stand up, but he was not able to walk with his feet tied together, nor could he use his hands to untie himself with them bound behind his back. Jiang Xiaohe plopped onto the floor and noticed the stone wall behind him. It was easy for him to rub the rope against the edge of a stone. He kept rubbing it until the evening, but he was not able to sever the rope.

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