Hours passed. Xi Shi felt that Fan Li’s hand became warmer. He lost his fear and began to smile.
The rising sun cast its rays through the window.
Suddenly the the sound of a fight came from outside the palace door. Then the incessant sound of weapons dropping to the ground. The sound drew closer and closer, like a giant serpent worming its way into the palace. Then the sound of dropping weapons came from the walkways just outside the room they were in. Two thousand warriors were not enough to stop A’qing.
A’qing’s voice said, “Fan Li, where are you?”
Fan Li said calmly, “A’qing, I’m here.”
Before he even finished the word, “here”, the curtain parted and a green shadow came flying in. A’qing, dressed in her usual green stood before them. She pointed her bamboo stick at Xi Shi. She stared at the face of Xi Shi, the killing rage on face gradually disappeared, replaced with disappointment and self-pity, then it changed to surprise, admiration and finally worship. She whispered, “There… there really is such beauty under heaven! Fan Li, she is even more… more beautiful than you described.” Her slender waist turned. With a cry, she flew up through the window. The cry went farther and farther until its reverberation was left.
The surviving guards ran inside the room. One of them bowed, “Minister, are you all right?” Fan Li merely dismissed them with a wave of his hand. Then he held Xi Shi’s hand and said, “Let’s change into the clothes of commoners. We’ll go rowing a boat upon Lake Tai and never return to this place.”
Happiness shone from Xi Shi’s eyes. Suddenly she frowned and she reached toward her heart. A’qing’s bamboo stick didn’t touch her, but the pure chi from the stick had reached into her body and did her some slight harm.
In the next two thousand years, all people know that the most beautiful image in the world was Xi Shi holding her hands in front of her bosom.
Where are they now?
King Goujian finally got his vengeance, but something had happened to him during all those years when the only emotion he could feel was hate. Fan Li must have sensed it. He resigned his post and told his buddy Wen Zhong to resign with him. He said, “Goujian is someone who you can depend on during hard times, but it will be impossible to share good times with him.” Wen Zhong didn’t believe his old friend. He believed that he could finally enjoy the rewards he deserved.
Fan Li disappeared from history. Some said that he became a hermit. Some said that he became a merchant prince who owned the wealth of kingdoms. Xi Shi became the Chinese version of Helen, the beauty who destroyed a great kingdom. Some said that Xi Shi went with Fan Li and they lived happily ever after. Some said that Xi Shi died when Goujian’s wife, fearing losing her husband, tied a rock to the woman’s back and sank her in a lake, gloating, “Now, you never have to grow old.” You can pick the ending you prefer.
Goujian became as Fan Li predicted, cruel and merciless. Wen Zhong was forced to commit suicide when he was wrongfully charged with treason. The end he inflicted upon Wu Zhixu became his own end. Goujian became full of pride. He made war with the great powers of northern China. The wars brought no decisive victory. Then he died. After his death his kingdom fell apart. Eventually, Chu absorbed the territories of Wu and Yue. The Yue people fled south. Over the centuries, they were pushed farther south by the expanding Chinese empire until they entered present day Vietnam. They are there still.
Recently, an archaeological excavation in Hunan uncovered two bronze swords. One of them was thought to be the sword of Fuchai. The other was attributed to be the sword owned by Goujian. The legends of the precious swords have some basis in fact. If anyone know more about the archaeological findings, please e-mail me. The swords Fish Intestine and Defeater of Evil were buried with King Helu, Fuchai’s father. The locals swore that they periodically saw a white tiger standing upon the tomb of Helu. The white tiger was the symbol of metal, so the locals believe that the tiger was the personification of the magic swords under there. Believe it or not.
As for the Yue Maiden, she never existed in real history. She always existed in the land of legends and there, presumably, she roams still. Doubtlessly she has performed many great deeds there, deeds which will remain unknown until some scribe comes and tell the tales as they deserve to be told.