11.11.2017

The Crane Startles Kunlun, Chapter 20, Part 1

The Crane Startles Kunlun, Chapter 20, Part 1.
from Wang Dulu's He Jing Kunlun.

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CHAPTER TWENTY


The autumn winds whooshed by and the light rain falling on their faces chilled them. The three men walked up the mountain step by step, a wall of mist in front of them. They could see nothing and the road was indistinct. They were unable to rush, afraid they would lose their footing and tumble down the mountain. Not only did they not see any other people, but they heard not one bird call. It was extremely quiet all around them, save for the sound of the rainwater pattering against the rocks. Neither Li Fengjie nor the mute had come to Mount Wudang before, so they did not much know the way. Ji Guangjie was now the only one who could be considered a little bit familiar. Ji Guangjie vaguely remembered the mountain road and headed straight for Shedsword Spring.

After crossing over another mountain ridge, they caught sight of a waterfall flowing off from a high cliff. Because of the rain, there was a large volume of water, truly like white silk, pounding against the mountain rocks, sending countless droplets spraying out. These droplets danced about with the rain, and in the distance they could hear the rushing torrent of water. Li Fengjie had never been to Mount Wudang before and found it hard to believe that this mountain, famous for its internal martial arts, could also be so beautiful in its scenery. If they had not rushed here to rescue Jiang Xiaohe, he would certainly choose to linger and compose a poem under the haze of these autumn showers.

Ji Guangjie turned back and urged them on, saying, “Let’s hurry up now. This is the Shedsword Spring, and just past it are the temples.” Now impatient from being soaked by the rain, the Mute Xia also bounded forward and ascended quickly. After traveling a bit longer, they saw a red wall reveal itself before them out of the boundless mist, surrounded by a pine forest. The three of them quickened their pace, and when they drew near they saw that it was not a large temple. When they found the gate, Ji Guangjie knocked against it with his sword and hollered, “Daoist dogs, show yourselves!” But after much cursing, there came no sounds in response.

The Mute Xia and Li Fengjie had already jumped over the wall. The temple was quiet and empty, and under the steps of the side hall laid a leopard covered in spots. Li Fengjie quickly raised his sword in fright, ready to take on the leopard, but after a moment, the leopard didn’t move at all, as if it was sound asleep. When he took a closer look, he saw that the leopard laying on the ground had already had its head smashed in. It had been killed earlier by someone else.

By now, Ji Guangjie had jumped over the wall as well, and the three searched the inside of the temple, hoping to find a Daoist whom they could ask the whereabouts of Jiang Xiaohe and Aluan. However, this temple looked like someone had caused a scene here, not to mention they were unable to find even one Daoist. Even the cats ducked away from them hastily. Ji Guangjie and the others stood in the temple and yelled, but did not come closer to the their goal, so he hacked furiously at the temple altar with his sword and then went outside in search of Daoists.

The three departed from this temple and ran northward. The fog outside remained thick, but it had thinned out quite a bit since before. At the same time the rain had also stopped and they could see vaguely the mountain roads and trees before them. A faint light came from the horizon, and the mountain birds which had previously disappeared to places unknown, were now flitting about the trees. They current terrain went higher and higher and the mountain roads became harder and harder to traverse. The summit was just a bit further, but they couldn’t tell how much higher it was, as the upper portion of it was concealed in the mist. The lower portion looked like it had been hacked out by an ax or saber, its entire face was rugged rocks and strangely shaped stones. The road became rougher the further they went. One misstep could send them tumbling off a cliff, their body ending up in a place never to be found. Thus, the three tread cautiously as they continued upward.

They were now just a short distance from the summit when they heard the droning of a bell coming from the temple they had just visited. Ji Guangjie knew then that the Daoists there had all been hiding from them. Thus, he said to Li Fengjie ruefully, “Let us return to that temple and kill the lot of them!” As he was about to turn around and run back, an urgent bell rang out from the summit. Li Fengjie said impatiently, “The Daoists of the mountain must all know that we are here and have sounded the alarm bells. It’s best for us to hurry to the summit!” Hearing this, Ji Guangjie nodded and pointed ahead, signaling to the Mute Xia to continue up the mountain together. Just as they were about to step foot on the rocks of the summit, they met with a crowd gathered there of about thirty or forty Daoist priests, each in their short Daoist attire. Three of them brandished their swords and ran toward them. One of them was white at his temples, this one Ji Guangjie recognized, for he was the one that had caused Ji Guangjie to fall off a precipice when he had been here last: Chu Jianxiong.

Upon seeing the three, Ji Guangjie, the Mute Xia and Li Fengjie, Chu Jianxiong was taken aback. He glared and waved his sword at Ji Guangjie asking him angrily, “Ji Guangjie! What is your intention, bringing these cohorts of yours here?” Ji Guangjie sniggered arrogantly, saying, “Chu Jianxiong, today is the final day for your Mount Wudang. You Daoist dogs have committed grave crimes, going so far as to hold a woman against her will, harboring bandits, and using your numbers to gang up on others. You best throw down your sword now and quickly bring out Sir Ji’s wife Aluan. Otherwise, my sword will show you no mercy!” Chu Jianxiong’s white sidelocks flung about and he stared wide-eyed in his fury, saying, “Silence! The one named Ji, you were defeated here before. How dare you come back and insult our Wudang School! Last night, Jiang Xiaohe too fell to our old master Yu Xuanqing’s dianxue skill and was captured. What do you suppose a man like you will find here except certain death?”

Hearing that Jiang Xiaohe had been captured, Li Fengjie couldn’t help feeling shock. As the Mute Xia could not hear anything they were saying, he could only stand by and look on. When he saw the color of Ji Guangjie’s face turn, he became confused and hurried over to tug on Li Fengjie sleeve, inquiring with gestures and an “ahh.” Li Fengjie pointed at the Daoists, then waved his arms like a flying bird, and then moved his arms into a pose to express being bound. The Mute Xia saw this and became immediately angry. He advanced on Chu Jianxiong, drew his sword and struck at him. Chu Jianxiong was still speaking to Ji Guangjie when he suddenly saw the Mute Xia coming for him. He swung his sword up to block, and the two other Daoists brandished their swords and stepped up to attack. At this time, Li Fengjie said loudly, “Gentlemen, please stay your hands. Let us talk this over first!” Chu Jianxiong had hopped to the side and was asking, “Who are you?” Li Fengjie said, “I am Li Fengjie of Jiangnan!” So saying, he pointed over at the Mute Xia and said, “And this fellow is Jiang Xiaohe’s brother-disciple…“

When Chu Jianxiong heard that Jiang Xiaohe’s brother-disciple had come with them, he was alarmed and assessed the Mute Xia’s body. He thought this: Oh no! This cannot be! I can’t even beat Jiang Xiaohe, so how am I supposed to face his brother? In addition, he’d heard people mention before that the Mute Xia had spent many a year training with the elderly gentleman of Mount Jiuhua. His martial arts were not far from those of the old man. Thus, he couldn’t help but feel a bit of dread in his heart. He listened to Li Fengjie continue, “We undertook this journey to come to the aid of Jiang Xiaohe. This Mount Wudang of yours is a sacred place of the Three Pure Ones. How could you have let brigands in to muddle in your ranks and hide away a laywoman?”

Hearing this, Chu Jianxiong couldn’t help his face turning red and hastily argued, “We on Mount Wudang have always adhered to the rules of our order, but because the mountain is tall and the area remote, it is impossible for us to always know when a brigand infiltrates our midst. We are investigating this matter right now. If all this turns out to be true, our old master will certainly return Aluan to you and hand over any bandits for you to deal with. However, if we find you have all been false with us and come here for the purpose of causing trouble? Then there is no way our old master will spare you.” Ji Guangjie listened to this and yelled in rage, “More nonsense from you Daoist dogs. If it weren’t for these matters, what do you think we’re doing here on Mount Wudang? Don’t even try mentioning your acursed old master to try to frighten us. I, Ji Guangjie, fear nothing. Bring us to see that damned old man immediately!”

Chu Jianxiong heard these insults from Ji Guangjie and was prepared to charge at Ji Guangjie with a swing of his sword, but he was afraid of the Mute Xia, who was standing beside and glowering at him. And so he suppressed his fury with great effort and nodded to Ji Guangjie and the others, saying, “Fine! I’ll lead you to meet with the old master, but you must behave yourselves!” So saying, Chu Jianxiong turned back and instructed his Daoist subordinates to go to Zhanqi Peak to give notice. Chu Jianxiong then led Ji Guangjie and the others toward Zhanqi Peak.

After walking a while, they arrived at Zhanqi Peak and saw several Daoists dressed neatly in short Daoist garments, each of them carrying a sword and standing in rows in front of the temple at the summit. When they came to the square before the temple, they saw an old Daoist with a youthful face and white hair come out. The two Daoists to either side of him stepped immediately to one side. The Mute Xia knew that this old Daoist must be the master of this mountain. The old Daoist priest was not great or tall in stature, and his white beard was more than two feet long. His hair was entirely white, and under his two long, white eyebrows, he had a pair of bright, shining eyes. He wore a Daoist robe of blue cloth and his appearance was exceptionally odd. He wobbled like an old man when he walked, but the Mute Xia could see he was not to be trifled with, so he quickly walked up to meet him.

Yu Xuanqing came to the three men and bowed at them slightly, asking, “What counsel do the three benefactors offer us after coming to our humble mountain?” With sword in hand, the Mute Xia pointed and slashed it about while crying out, “Ah! Ah!” Li Fengjie saw this and hurried to meet Yu Xuanqing to say, “This here is Jiang Xiaohe’s brother-disciple. He has come to your magnificent mountain to find Jiang Xiaohe.” Upon hearing this, Yu Xuanqing couldn’t help his astonishment, but followed up by saying, “Jiang Xiaohe caused a great scene here on this mountain yesterday. He charged that we had bandits on this mountain, and I am currently in the process of investigating these claims. I will be able to ascertain the truth within three days. If I can verify these facts, I will punish the bandits according to our customs. If we find these claims to be false, I, Yu Xuanqing, cannot allow any of you to carry swords on Mount Wudang and call yourselves heroes!”

Ji Guangjie heard this and cursed with eyes wide, “You old Daoist dog! You still do not know what you are talking about. If you regard yourselves as open and honest, then let us do the investigating! We will not harm you in the slightest. If that were not so, then the sword in Sir Ji’s hand would never have let you go. In three days, you would all already be in the palace of King Yama for a long time!” Yu Xuanqing’s silver sidelocks shook in anger when he heard this and spat, “It is no problem if you want to search the mountain yourselves, but I will only let you do so if you can defeat the sword in my hand! I will not get in your way.” So saying, he furiously took the sword from one of the Daoist priests standing behind him.

Ji Guangjie grew incensed and was about to brandish his sword and charge at the elderly Daoist with killing intent, but the Mute Xia had already met him with sword in hand. It was thus that the most renowned adherent of the internal school’s founder Zhang Sanfeng came head-to-head with the finest disciple of the peerless mysterious xia, the elderly gentleman of Mount Jiuhua. They were each holding stances with swords in their hands, but the two swords never actually touched nor did they dance about very quickly. However, every single posture and every single movement was made with lethal skill. The two of them circled each other a few times in the square without a determination of who would win an who would lose. Ji Guangjie could no longer hold his temper and was about to approach with his sword when Li Fengjie quickly came forward to hold him back.

It was then that an uproar was happening among the Daoists at the summit, as they saw some of the priests coming down from the peak carrying swords. It was because two people were coming up from below, one in front of the other. When the two drew near, the one in front was dressed in Daoist garments and the one in the back was unexpectedly Jiang Xiaohe. Li Fengjie delighted at the sight of him and called out, “Sworn brother Jiang! Come here quickly!” Thus, Jiang Xiaohe hurried his way up to the summit. The Mute Xia and Yu Xuanqing were now locked in what was truly an even match, so after Jiang Xiaohe arrived and clasped Li Fengjie’s hand, he was unable to exchange pleasantries, but first stood and looked on.

At this time, someone with a familiar voice asked him, “The one named Jiang! Did you find the whereabouts of my wife?” Jiang Xiaohe turned to look and saw Ji Guangjie. Jiang Xiaohe cupped his fist and said, “Let’s speak of it in a moment, but you can rest assured!” He turned back forward and saw the two men’s bodies at some distance from each other whenever the two swords were not clashing. But Jiang Xiaohe could tell that all of their swordwork was ruthless. Yu Xuanqing employed the Leap and Lunge Horse-returning Sword a few times, his body leaning left as his two feet leapt forward with a back thrust from the top left, his motion nimble to the extreme. But the Mute Xia immediately employed the Linked Chain Horse-returning Sword to parry his opponent’s sword, and then changed his stance to jump with his two feet, flip and send a reverse chop with his sword. Yu Xuanqing pulled his sword out too for another thrust. The swords of the two men darted about quickly, their bodies like flying birds, their variations so incredibly fast that they could hardly be measured.

1 comment:

Stephanie said...

Yes!!!!!!! Delighted to see this, Andy, thank you!