Treasured Sword, Golden Hairpin, Chapter 1, Part 2.
from Wang Dulu's Baojian Jinchai.
The old escort Yu had not thought he would encounter this now with his wife and daughter here and no weapon in his hand. What was there to do? He was about to say a few things to them when the young lady Xiulian leaned out of the wagon and waved her hand at the four men, urgently saying, "Before you act, I ask you, why are you doing this?" The four men looked the young lady Xiulian over and said to old escort Yu, "Hey! So you have this pretty a daughter, eh?" The old escort Yu protected Xiulian and angrily rebuked the four men, "You step back first and I'll come off the wagon. Then you can cut and kill as you like!"
But how could these four obey him? One with a yellow face swung his sword at old escort Yu’s head. The young lady Xiulian quickly jumped off of the wagon and caught the man’s hand with the blade in it, stealing the saber over into her own. Whoosh, whoosh, she brandished the saber a couple times, forcing the four men to withdraw a couple steps. The old escort Yu called out from the wagon, “Xiulian, give me that saber!” But there was no way the three still with weapons in their hands would allow Xiulian to pass hers to her father, so they brandished their sabers and advanced on Xiulian. The young lady Xiulian swung her saber as if it was flying and in five or six moves, she cut the fat one in the back. He fell to the ground with a yelp. As the young lady Xiulian held her own with the other two, the old escort Yu jumped off the wagon as well and took the saber from the injured fat man. He brandished his saber and approached. He battled with the two men while urgently saying, “Xiulian, step back!” But the young lady Xiulian’s glimmering and dancing saber was pressing on the man with the purple-red face, so why would she want to withdraw!
Old escort Yu was fighting with one with a black beard, but that man was no match for the old escort Yu, so he turned and ran. The man with the purple-red face was now all alone, his single saber against the old escort Yu and his daughter. His martial arts were quite good, but not enough to claim victory. Many travelers had now gathered at the side of the road, calling out, “Hey hey! If they go any further, it may become deadly!” However the glare from their sabers twisted around, confusing everyone’s eyes so that no one dared step forward to intervene.
The three sabers fought through another dozen or so exchanges. At that moment, a young man suddenly ran to them from the crowd with sword in hand and separated the closely clashing sabers of old master Yu, his daughter and the purple-faced man, saying, “Stop fighting! Stop fighting! If there is a problem, let me know what it is.” The purple-faced man was relieved that such a person had come between them. He withdrew his saber stance, stepped a few paces back, and gasped for air. His face resembled a seared eggplant, both black and purple. The driver poked his head out of the wagon, while Madame Yu remained trembling. The two thugs who had fled came back to lift up their cohort from the ground who’d suffered Yu Xiulian’s saber.
Twenty or thirty of the other travelers drew closer to them. One of them recognized old escort Yu and said, “Uncle Yu and the young miss must be shaken!” Another said, “Let’s tie up these bandits and take them to the yamen!” Old escort Yu cupped his hands at the crowd in gratitude and said, “No need to tie them up. They aren’t bandits, but men who have a grievance with me. It is better for foes to let go of enmity than to feed it. Ask them, if they do not wish to take this to court, then let them go.” Supporting the injured one, the three men picked up two of the sabers and led their horses away to the north without saying a word.
Some of the people gathered here departed after a glance at Yu Xiulian. Others asked old escort Yu about the grudge those men had against him. And still others showered praised onto the young lady Xiulian for her exceptional martial arts. The sword-wielding young man who had intervened just now also asked the old escort Yu of the reason he was fighting with those men. The old escort replied to the young man, “I made my living as a security escort and traversed Jianghu for most of my life. It was unavoidable that I would make enemies, so what happened today was a result of that. We are fortunate that your eminent self broke up the fight. Otherwise, lives would have been lost. In truth, I am not afraid of the courts, but I am old now, and having one less thing to worry about is always better than having one more.” So saying, he told his daughter to thank the crowd. The young lady Xiulian put her two hands in front of her chest and bowed to those gathered, and then got back into the wagon. Old escort Yu cupped his fist toward the crowd as well, and subsequently straddled the wagon shaft. The driver shook his whip and they set off. The other travelers and the young man went their own ways as well.
After the old escort Yu’s wagon entered the city and arrived back at their home, old escort Yu told her daughter to first help her mother down from the wagon and then to open the gate and go inside. Old escort Yu paid the wagon fare and followed them in with the two taken sabers in hand. Third Cui met them and said, “Old uncle has returned!” Old escort Yu nodded and said, “We have. You must be tired from watching our home! Why don’t you go now and tell Sun Zhengli to come?” Third Cui assented and looked over the two sabers in the old escort’s hands before leaving.
The old escort closed the gate himself and buttressed it with a large rock, before going inside. The young lady Xiulian quickly poured her father some tea. Madame Yu asked what on earth was going on? Why were those four men so nasty? Old escort Yu heaved a very long sigh and said, “Let me rest a moment, and then I’ll tell you!” He leaned the two sabers against the wall and sat down into a chair, all the while catching his breath. Xiulian only wanted to hear from her father where those thugs had come from and asked, “Father, why don’t you drink some tea?” The old escort accepted the teacup his daughter handed to him and took a gulp, and then looked at the young lady Xiulian and said, “It was lucky that you were with me today, or else I would have fallen to my enemies’ malice!” Hearing her father’s commendation of her, the young lady Xiulian thought back to the pressing danger of that situation and felt apprehension. Tears fell from her eyes. The old escort never cried, but at this moment he couldn’t help shedding a few old tears. He sighed again and said to his daughter, “Six years ago, when you were already eleven years old, you may not remember, but I took a trip to Henan. When I returned, I shuttered my security firm and closed up shop. The deep enmity I hold with those men was sowed then!” When he said this, his tears started flowing like a gushing spring and he continued bleakly, “You have a Second Uncle He…”
He motioned over to his elderly wife who was beside the table wiping her own tears and said, “Your mother’s met him before. His name is He Feilong the Precious Saber. When we were young, we’d been the best of friends. At that time he and I were both security escorts in Beijing. I was at the Taixing Security Firm and he was the Bao’an Security Firm. When we weren’t working, we drank together, we talked together, just as if we were brothers. Although his martial arts were outstanding and his character was pretty good, he was a bit too lustful and he would often seduce women from good families. I urged him to stop, but he didn’t listen. Later, he came to know a married woman, and while in the midst of a rivalry over her, he killed a man. Fortunately for him I gave him thirty taels of silver to help him escape Beijing and flee to Henan. I’d heard he was a bandit for a few years out there, and then I wasn’t sure where he made his fortune, but he changed his name to He Wenliang and acquired an estate in Weihui with a wife and son. There was no contact between us. Then six years ago, I accepted a contract. The juren Hu from Xinhe had been appointed magistrate of Wuzhi county in Henan, so I assigned two of my men to carry my banner and protect the juren Hu and his wife as he traveled to take up his post. Who could have imagined that while they were in Weihui, He Feilong raided the juren Hu in league with mountain bandits? Neither money nor luggage were stolen, just the juren Hu’s twenty year old wife, taken to a shrine in the mountains and not released until three days later. When my men returned and reported back to me, I was furious and went personally to Weihui to confront He Feilong. I initially spoke to him of the friendship we’d had forty years ago, but when I spoke sternly to him, he unexpectedly turned on me and became very hostile. A fight erupted between us, and before I knew it, I’d cut him down with my saber!”
When he spoke of this, the old escort Yu became very sad. The young lady Xiulian was captivated. Madame Yu thought back to the He Feilong she’d met forty years ago when she and her husband were living in Beijing. At the time, Hu Feilong had been around twenty years old, with a fair complexion and large eyes, always wearing satin clothes. He’d called her sister-in-law and spent every day with her husband. When he fell on the wrong side of the law, he disappeared without a trace. He would have been nearly sixty now, were it not for the fact that her husband killed him six years ago!
Old escort Yu continued, “After I killed He Feilong, his family didn’t dare bring up charges with the authorities because there had been bandits involved. As the juren Hu’s wife had been dishonored, he did not wish to publicize it, so the matter remained private! Aside from my nephew Yu Tianjie and the men who escorted the wagon, no one else knows the particulars of this situation. When I returned home, I felt terrible inside. First, because something had happened to one of my caravans on the road. Even if only a few knew about it, I was too ashamed to keep my Security Firm open. Second, because He Feilong had been a good friend for many years. Though he’d been corrupted later, committing that unconscionable act and turning against me, it was I who struck and killed an old friend of fifty-some years. Even thinking back now, I cannot help but feel sorrow over it. That’s why I closed up my security firm and withdrew from Jianghu.
“After five or six years, I’d nearly forgotten about it. But then two months ago, when Yu Tianjie was here for his new year visit, he suddenly told me that He Feilong’s two sons were now grown. One was called He Sanhu the Iron Tower, and the other was He Qihu the Purple-faced Ghost. There was also his son-in-law Zhang Yujin the Golden Spear and his daughter He Jian’e the She-devil. In the years since, they have all learned some astounding martial arts. Now they have a mind to take revenge. Someone heard them say that sometime in the next three months, they were to come to Julu to kill me. After Yu Tianjie left, I immediately took precautions, but no enemies came looking for me, so I became careless. Who could have thought this would have happened during a tomb visit to burn paper!”
After hearing her father detail the entire story of his feud with the He family, the young lady Xiulian comforted him, saying, “Father, you need not worry after the events of today. The skills of his son and son-in-law were no greater than that. They were beaten away by us and must be afraid of us now. They wouldn’t dare come back to bother you, father. “ The old escort Yu shook his head and sighed, “That’s but a child’s understanding! Two of the four who stood in the way of our wagon were likely He Feilong’s sons. I am not afraid of them. The one I am worried about is Zhang Yujin the Golden Spear.”
The young lady Xiulian asked quickly, “What kind of man is Zhang Yujin?” Old escort Yu said, “I’ve never met him before, but these few years, I’ve heard others say that his martial arts were exceptional and his spear yet unrivaled. He is a man of thirty-some years. I could not have imagined that he would marry He Feilong’s daughter. To hear Yu Tianjie say it, Zhang Yujin hates me down to the bone and curses me as unrighteous. Sooner or later, he will come to find me and avenge his father-in-law.” After hearing her father’s words, the young lady Xiulian could not help but scoff with a look of anger upon her delicate face. She said to her father, “Worry not, father. If Zhang Yujin comes, let me ward him off. Whether it is Zhang Yujin himself, or several dozen of them, I will not let them harm even one whisker of yours!”
Hearing these words from his daughter, the old escort Yu couldn’t help but smile. He had ordinarily not paid much attention to his daughter’s martial arts, thinking that no matter how good a girl’s saber or fist work was, she would not be able to surpass a man who was bigger and stronger than her. However, today he watched Xiulian snatch a saber away unarmed and take on four fools with her power, even wounding one of them. Her movements were agile, her saberwork was proficient, and she was brave in battle. She had exceeded all expectation, and he could see that having a son was not necessarily better than having a daughter. Now hearing his daughter’s impassioned and courageous talk soothed his heart a bit. He nodded and said, “Alright. I won’t worry. After all, they seek vengeance. No matter where I hide, they will come in pursuit. While we are living here now, we must be a bit careful every day. Who knows what other tricks they might have to deal with me? If that Zhang Yujin the Golden Spear comes, perhaps the two of us will be enough to turn him away.”
Seeing her father seeming to feel a little relief, the young lady Xiulian happily continued talking to him about other matters. Madame Yu busied herself with preparing dinner.
After their meal, Third Cui the Underground Ghost brought Sun Zhengli over. Sun Zhengli was over thirty years old, tall of stature, with extraordinary strength. Both his fists and his kicks were great, which is why people gave him the designation of “Five-taloned Hawk.” He had originally worked under the old escort Yu and done many things for the old escort. Old escort Yu had often shown him some martial arts, and so Sun Zhengli always called old escort Yu his master. Today, Sun Zhengli was teaching fists at Moneybags Liu’s home when Third Cui the Underground Ghost came to find him, telling him that old escort Yu was calling for him today, so Sun Zhengli the Five-taloned Hawk went to go see old escort Yu with Third Cui after finishing dinner.
Because of what occurred today, old escort Yu could no longer keep secret the matter of his enemies, so he repeated the story of how he became enemies with He Feilong’s sons He Sanhu and He Qihu, and Zhang Yujin the Golden Spear. And then he said, “I’m old now, and my spirit and strength have diminished. Xiulian has learned some exceptional martial arts, but when all is said and done, she’s still a girl. Not to mention, she has long been promised to another family. If something were to happen to her, it would be difficult to face them. So I’ve invited you here to help me.”
Sun Zhengli the Five-taloned Hawk pounded his chest and said, “Worry not, master. Leave it to me! I am teaching two disciples at the Liu household, but when I am finished teaching, I will be available. From today on, I will stay with you. Regardless if it is day or night, if some reckless Jianghu nobodies come, neither master nor young miss need mind it. I will beat them until they are scared witless!” Old escort Yu knew that Sun Zhengli was not boasting. In recent years, his martial arts had become quite good, so he nodded, “Good. You and Third Cui should both bring your bedding here and stay in the outer quarters.”
Sun Zhengli and Third Cui brought their bedding over and took up residence in two of the westerns rooms of the Yu household’s outer quarters. Thus, besides leaving for a moment to teach fists at the Liu household, Sun Zhengli stayed at the Yu household. He had polished a saber until it was bright as snow and made three or four circuits around the residence and on top of the roofs every night, but two or three days passed in succession without anything happening.