The Crane Startles Kunlun, Chapter 20, Part 3

The Crane Startles Kunlun, Chapter 20, Part 3.
from Wang Dulu's He Jing Kunlun.


The servants standing nearby had all lowered their despairing faces. The Mute Xia stood in a daze while tears fell endlessly from his eyes. Old landlord Yan used his sleeve to wipe eyes that laid under his frost white eyebrows, shaking his head and sighing, “This poor young lady! She had cuts in three or four places, the one in her chest the deepest. The night she died, her growns grew weaker and weaker, but she called out faintly Xiaohe’s name!” Hearing this, Jiang Xiaohe began wailing loudly.

During all of this, Ji Guangjie had a pained look on his face, but he did not shed any tears. He simply clenched his hands tightly, his eyes wide in anger, as he watched the grief and tears of the others. After a long time, he suddenly wept loudly, saying, “The one named Jiang, why is a great hero like you crying? I, Ji Guangjie, have always admired you. You are truly worthy of being a brilliant disciple, taught by the elderly gentleman of Mount Jiuhua or wherever. You were actually able to scatter the Kunlun School and even driven a twenty-some year old woman to her death. We can say that Jiang Zhisheng has a good son, how capable he was in taking vengeance. The vengeance was utterly complete! Everything really does fall into place for you! …Great! Ha, ha, ha!” Jiang Xiaohe stood up suddenly and turned around to question Ji Guangjie sternly, “Brother Ji! With matters as they are, how do you still have the heart to insult me?”

Ji Guangjie raised his face as before and laughed loudly, “What purpose would I have to insult you! I am just letting you know how much I respect you! Before Aluan died, she did not mention me at all. It’s obvious there was absolutely no kindness or loyalty between her and Ji Guangjie. Well then, I’ll leave the funeral rites for you to handle! While she was living, I was like an actor on a stage. During this time, we were husband and wife in name only. Now, it’s your turn, Jiang, to perform as the Bao family’s damned son-in-law! May we meet again!” Ji Guangjie spat out these words ferociously, cupped his fist and stormed off, never looking back.

Here, Jiang Xiaohe wiped his tears and then gestured towards his mute brother, drawing a route on his palm, telling him to head to Zhenba to find one or two members of the Kunlun School. At that point, the Mute Xia also departed in a hurry. The coffin was still open now and Jiang Xiaohe stared wordlessly at Aluan’s dead body, his brow knit tightly. It was a while before old landlord Yan finally directed his servants to replace the coffin’s cover. He invited Jiang Xiaohe into the drawing room inside the farmstead to rest. Old landlord Yan asked about how Aluan came to be injured and Jiang Xiaohe’s relationship to the deceased. Jiang Xiaohe sighed and wept as he recounted everything in detail, starting from how his father had crossed the Kunlun School and was murdered, to the mutual admiration he and Aluan had had when they were children, and then finished with all the various things that have happened since.

The old landlord Yan listened both with astonishment and sighing, and at the end, he said, “You two were an ill-fated connection. Your lives were fixed when created and it was unavoidable that they led to this moment. However, the correct path is that of Jianghu righteousness and sacrificing oneself to aid others. This sort of vengeance will continue without end, never to stop if you let it. Noble Jiang is young and full of promise. You must not lose yourself in your grief. If you were to devote yourself to your calling hereafter, you will have the life of a worthy man!” Jiang Xiaohe sighed at this. He stayed here for a couple days and the Mute Xia returned with Lu Zhizhong.

Upon seeing Lu Zhizhong, Jiang Xiaohe felt great shame. He bowed deeply and addressed him, “Uncle Lu!” A look of grave concern covered Lu Zhizhong’s face as he inquired of Jiang Xiaohe the cause of Aluan’s death, and then he sighed and said, “No one can really understand these matters, but we can place the blame on two people: one is the old master Bao, and the other is your father who died ten years ago, Jiang Zhisheng!” Jiang Xiaohe lowered his head and sighed. Lu Zhizhong wiped his tears and told the men he brought with him to nail the coffin shut. He then hired porters who specialized in transporting coffins, who placed Aluan’s coffin on two wooden poles tied between two mules. Lu Zhizhong offered the old landlord Yan his gratitude and then instructed Jiang Xiaohe, “You should get back to your own matters. There is no need to be sad over this!” Lu Zhizhong took his men and followed the coffin mules out.

Here, the Mute Xia slapped Jiang Xiaohe across the face, puzzling Jiang Xiaohe with this strike. He pointed up toward the east. stroked his beard, stamped his foot hard, and then tugged at Jiang Xiaohe to leave. Jiang Xiaohe planted his feet on the ground and gestured, his meaning was to tell the Mute Xia, “You head back to Mount Jiuhua first. I’m going to go back to Zhenba for a visit, and then I’ll return to Mount Jiuhua to see master. I promise never again to misuse the dianxue skill!” The Mute Xia nodded, then mimed blowing on a trumpet and beating a drum, and then waved his hand, expressing, “Your wife’s death is not an urgent matter, so do not worry too much about it!”

After Jiang Xiaohe watched his brother ride his horse east, back to Mount Jiuhua, he went back insdie the farmstead to thank the old landlord Yan, and then he also mounted his horse and rode west. Before riding a distance of thirty files, he caught up with Aluan’s coffin. Atop his horse, he couldn’t help his endless tears. He did not have the face to ride alongside Aluan’s coffin, so he stayed behind and followed in secret. But because the mules in front were so slow, it took them three days before they arrived in Zhenba. The coffin made its way into Bao Village.

Jiang Xiaohe could not countenance entering the village. He stopped his horse, and stared into space on the roadside south of the village. He creased his brow and looked up into the sky. The clouds in the sky appeared to form into countless worried souls. He then turned his gaze downward and saw the ground covered with autumn grass. A distant mountain had been dyed red by the autumn leaves. Water flowed lazily through a small creek. Several girls came running across a plank bridge and pointed a him, saying, “Horse rider, the Bao girl used to ride a horse too.” Jiang Xiaohe quickly urged his horse on a few paces to get away from those girls who brought him sorrow. But he unexpectedly caught sight of a willow tree whose trunk seemed to have been scarred by a blade. He could tell that the person who’d chopped at the tree, did not only harbor hatred in their heart, but also repressed a bit of warm affection. Now, this tree had a number of branches hanging decrepitly from it that could be counted, resembling a person lowering their heads and weeping. Jiang Xiaohe became dizzy and almost fell from his horse. He quickly recomposed himself, and spurred his horse to slowly walk around Bao Village. He couldn’t bear even to look back. He continued all the way to Zhenba city, but when he arrived, he did not seek out his uncle Ma Zhixian. He simply found an inn, checked himself in and slept. He laid there for two days, as if he had come down with a serious illness, never taking any food.

It wasn’t until the third day that the sorrow in his heart began to lessen just gradually, but even after he ate, his body still felt lethargic. He forced himself to rouse his spirit and he went to the Ma Smithy to see Ma Zhixian. Upon seeing him, mxz said, “So you’ve come back? Oh! If you and Aluan had felt that way about each other back then, why didn’t you say anything? Now look at things, people have died and families torn apart. In the end, what is called hatred? What is called love? You might as well consider all of us in Jianghu scoundrels. We all fail to understand what’s going on and make complete mess of our own affairs!”

Jiang Xiaohe frowned and waved his hand, saying, “Uncle, let us stop bringing it up! No matter what, we are subject to our destinies. I just want to see my mother once again and then I’ll go!” Ma Zhixian was taken aback, saying, “Don’t you know?” And then seemed to remember, saying, “That’s right, we’d not met again since that time we parted. Your mother died a month ago. She’d had consumption, and Eldest Dong’s business was not doing well, so they fought constantly, blaming her for remarrying and being a hindrance of a wife. She never stopped missing you and was never able to recover, and so she died. She left Eldest Dong with two children, but both of them are also in poor health!”

Hearing this, Jiang Xiaohe wiped away several more tears, and then inquired of Ma Zhixian the location of his mother’s grave. He first returned to the inn and grieved for another day. On the following day, he resolved to leave Zhenba, this place of sorrow. He took out his money and had the innkeeper go out and buy a good amount of gold and silver paper and paper for burning. Once his horse was prepared, he hung all these things on the horse. He settled his bill and left the city, driving the horse to first enter the northern mountains where he burned a lot of sacrificial paper money and prayed to himself, Father! Your son has taken revenge on those who killed you. That is all I can do. Long Zhiqi cut you with a saber, and I’ve ended his life. Anything else, I am unable to do! In avenging you, I have had to do many heartless things, and in this life I have lost the will to do more! I hope you are content now in death!

He then peeled his horse away from the mountain and located his mother’s grave. Again he burned some paper and prayed to himself, Mother, please rest easy! Find the peace in death you weren’t able to have in life. I can stand on my own now and I have finished my quest for vengeance. I still have yet to go and see my brother who’s learning business in Shanxi. He’s better than me. He’s content in learning commerce, but I’m unable to. In this life, I am to forever disappear deep into the mountains. I no longer wish to even traverse Jianghu! Lastly, he rode his horse south and came back to the withered willow where he’d started. He dismounted his horse and piled the rest of his burning papers below the willow tree. He produced a flame and lit them. The firelight roiled and ash flew up like fluttering butterflies. He couldn’t help but choke on his grief, saying, “Good Aluan! You must not be buried far from here, and perhaps your spirit is here by my side, but what can we say? …I must go now, but I will come here every three years to burn paper for you, so please rest in peace! The grudge between the two houses Jiang and Bao has ended. Both your body and my heart have died with much pain! …I am going now! Farewell!”

The uneasy clouds on the horizon pressed very low and a cold rain was about to fall. The colors of autumn were endless in all directions and a chilly wind blew urgently. All the boys and girls who were playing outside the village were returning home, shouting, “It’s going to rain!” Jiang Xiaohe drew his sword and cut off a piece of bark and put it at his side, and then he promptly mounted his horse and shook his whip, winding his way north. Before he was far from Zhenba, the rain started to fall. Braving the rain and shedding tears, he traveled and lodged by turns, crossing the Qin Mountains and arriving in Chang’an.

He did not want to enter the city, so he found a small tavern by the southern gate to take lunch and planned to continue east from there. However, before he led his horse out of the southern gate, he suddenly heard someone calling to him, “Jiang Xiaohe.” Jiang Xiaohe was startled and looked over, seeing that it was Liu Zhiyuan of the Kunlun School, who was wearing all white mourning garments. Jiang Xiaohe cupped his fist and Liu Zhiyuan said, “Jiang Xiaohe, did you just come here from Zhenba? Look how tragic is the end of the Bao family! I’ve already received notice of Aluan. And now, my master has died as well. His coffin is resting at the Wolong Temple in town. We found him hanged yesterday. In another couple days, there’ll be another coffin on its way to Zhenba!”

Jiang Xiaohe stared into space and said, “You master’s death has nothing to do with me. I let him go on Cloudperch Ridge.” Liu Zhiyuan said, “It’s not to do with you. What’s befallen the Bao family is my master reaping all of what he’s sown! He treated some of his disciples too harshly and sheltered the Long brothers too deeply! When you were first taken into the Bao household, if my master had been an understanding man, he ought to have stopped his two sons from mistreating you and even more so, paired you with Aluan. In making you family, the enmity would naturally have undone itself. But he didn’t, stubbornly making an enemy of you and even going so far as to bring Ji Guangjie into all of this!”

At the mention of Ji Guangjie, Liu Zhiyuan couldn’t help but curse, “What a piece of work he was! He told us to go through the Tong Pass to face you in battle, and then wrote “Capture Jiang Xiaohe” all over every wall, but you wrote those words on his person and he felt nothing. Later on, when he met you on Mount Wudang, he didn’t recognize you and suffered a trick you played on him, which then made him hate us. In Gucheng, when officers from Zhengyang caught up with us, he abandoned us and ran. Jiang Zhiyao and I were locked away in place of him for two or three months in Zhengyang in place of him for burglary. Fortunately the guardsman of the Gu farmstead Yang Gongjiu the Xia of Ruzhou was a just and honest man. He helped us clear our names and get us released from prison. Jiang Zhiyao and I talked it over and agreed not to return and get ourselves caught up in your business any longer to avoid trouble. Jiang Zhiyao knows how to make medicinal salves, so the two of us shadowboxed and sold salves on the road and when we arrived in Lushi in Henan, we saved up some money and went into business together, opening up a small medicinal salve shop there, about half a month ago. Our master Bao Kunlun suddenly appeared in Lushi, covered head-to-toe in wounds, having lost both his saber and his horse. He said there was a woman pursuing him, telling him to give his life in exchange for the life of a child. If he hadn’t encountered us then, that old man would have died on the street there from a combination of his injuries and hunger. Jiang Zhiyao and I invited him back to our shop and used our salves on his wounds, but the old man had gone completely mad. He didn’t eat a thing, he just wept. One day, when Jiang Zhiyao and I were attending to business and had left him alone, the old man hanged himself from a beam in the front room of the shop, and by the time we cut him down, the old man had already breathed his last!” Liu Zhiyuan couldn’t help shaking his head and sighing when he said this.

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