The seven freaks of Jiangnan.
Original translation by Moinllieon
Just as Yan Lie walked out of the door, he saw a middle aged scholar walking his way in the hallway, dragging his feet and yawning constantly. He was sort of smiling but not really and kept on giving him curious looks, all the while looking very relaxed and lazy. He was covered with dirt and oil and his clothing was a mess. He obviously hadn’t taken a bath in a long time. He had an old broken black oil paper fan in hand that he was fanning himself with as he was walking.
Seeing such an obviously refined scholar looking so dirty, Yan Lie frowned and picked up his pace in fear of getting some dirt on himself. Suddenly the scholar began laughing dryly; a laugh that was very harsh on the ear. As he was walking by him, he casually reached out with his fan and patted Yan Lie on the shoulder. Even though Yan Lie knew martial arts, he was not able to get out of the way in time, this set him off and he shouted: “What do you think you’re doing?”
The scholar laughed dryly again as he kept on walking, dragging his feet all through the hallway. He approached the manager and said: “Hey, fellow, even though I look really rough, I have lots of money. You have to watch out for some people though; they trick people with their nice and refined looks. They put up a show for everyone, seducing women, eat free food, live in inns for free, you know the type, so be on the lookout for them. To be safe, make them pay the bill beforehand.” He didn’t wait for the manager to respond before walking off, still dragging his feet. Yan Lie got even angrier, knowing that that whole conversation was aimed at him.
After that little comment from the scholar, the manager turned his eyes toward Yan Lie; he now couldn’t help but feel a little suspicious. Walking up to Yan Lie, he yawned a little, smiled and said: “Sir, please don’t mind too much, it’s not that I want to be impolite….” Yan Lie knew what he meant as he humphed and replied: “Put this money in the drawer!” He put his hand into his shirt to take the money out and was shocked. There had been at least forty or fifty taels of silver in his shirt, but, now that he was reaching for it, there was nothing there. The manager saw the expression on his face and actually thought that the scholar’s words were true. Immediately his expression became less polite as he thrust his chest out and asked: “What? No money?”
Yan Lie replied: “Wait here, I’m going to get some right now.” He thought that he had forgotten his money because he was in a hurry to leave. As it turned out, when he went back to the room and looked into the bag that he had with him, even the taels of gold he’d had were gone as well. As to where his money went, he had no idea at all. He thought: “Just a bit ago Madame Bao and I both went to the water closet, but that only took several minutes or so, how could anyone have entered and messed around with the room? The thieves here in Jiaxing are really getting good.”
The manager stuck his head in through the door and looked around; seeing that he did not have any money, he got angry: “Is this woman your wife? If you’re doing something indecent, then don’t come here because it’ll bring us trouble as well!” Bao Xiruo was thoroughly embarrassed and her face turned burning red. Yan Lie took one quick step towards the door and swung his arm, slapping the manager so hard that his face was covered with blood and he lost several teeth. The manager had his face in his hands as he began to scream: “I see! First you don’t pay, now you want to fight!” Yan Lie added a kick to his behind and the manager went tumbling out of the room.
Shocked, Bao Xiruo suggested: “Let’s get out of here; we can’t stay here any longer.” Yan Lie smiled: “Don’t worry, if we don’t have any money then we’ll just ask them for some.” He grabbed a chair and sat down by the door. Not long afterwards, the manager came back with twelve or so men, each with a club or stick in hand as they charged into the room. Yan Lie let out a big laugh and shouted: “So you men want a fight?” He suddenly jumped forward and confidently grabbed a stick from one of the men; faking left and hitting right, in a blink of an eye he had already knocked four or five men down. These ruffians usually got by using intimidation and bullying the weak, but seeing that their opponent was actually a match for them, they immediately threw down their weapons and scrambled out of the room. Those who were on the floor were crawling and rolling with all their might in fear of being left behind and hit again.
Bao Xiruo, who had been frightened a long time ago, said in a shaky voice: “Things are getting out of hand and the authorities might catch wind of this.” Yan Lie smiled and replied: “I want the authorities to show up.” Bao Xiruo could not figure out his plan, so she decided to stay quiet and see what happened.
In less than an hour’s time, a ruckus occurred outside as ten or so government officials came bursting in with iron sabers in hand. The rings on the sabers were banging against each other, making all kinds of noise; they shouted above the cacophony: “Not only kidnapping, but assault as well, how dare he? Where is the scoundrel?” Yan Lie sat there motionless in the chair. Seeing his fancy clothing and his proud arrogance, the officials didn’t really dare to charge up to him. The leader of the group shouted: “Ay! What’s your name? What are you doing here in Jiaxing?” Yan Lie shouted back: “Go get Gai Yuncong!”
Gai Yuncong was the governor of the prefecture of Jiaxing; hearing that he dared speak their superior’s name directly, the government officials were both shocked and furious. The leader shouted: “Are you crazy? How dare you shout the Honorable Prefect Gai’s name in public?” Yan Lie took out an envelope from inside his shirt and put it down on the table; he looked up at the ceiling and said: “Take this to Gai Yuncong and see if he comes or not!” The leader took the envelope, seeing the words on it, he took a step back in shock; unsure if it was real or not, he whispered to the other men: “Look after him, don’t let him get away.” He then went flying off. Bao Xiruo just sat there in the room nervously, not knowing what would happen next.
Soon another ten or so government men came running in, along with them came two men wearing official uniforms that scrambled in front of Yan Lie and knelt while saying: “Humble Prefect Gai Yuncong of the city of Jiaxing and District Magistrate Jiang Wen of the district of Xiushui are honored to meet your Excellency. Your humble servant did not know that your Excellency had arrived, so please forgive us for not welcoming you properly.” Yan Lie waved his hand a little and shifted his weight slightly: “I lost a little bit of money in this county and would like to request that you two brilliant judges investigate the matter.” Gai Yuncong immediately nodded: “Yes, of course.” He then waved his arm, two of the followers came walking up with a plate in each of their hands; one of them was glowing yellow because of the gold yuan bao [boat shaped ingot] on it, the other one, needless to say, had silver yuan bao on it.
Gai Yuncong spoke up: “To think that there are such brazen thieves in my jurisdiction, it is my fault as well. I hope your Excellency will accept this as a slight compensation.” Yan Lie smiled and nodded. Gai Yuncong reverentially held up the envelope and said: “Your humble servant has just cleaned up my humble dwelling and would be honored if your Excellency and Madame would move there.” Yan Lie replied: “This place is suitable; I enjoy the peace and quiet.” His face suddenly darkened, “Don’t come around disturbing us anymore.” Gai Yuncong immediately nodded and said: “Yes, yes of course! If your Excellency still needs anything, then please do not hesitate to ask your humble servant.” Yan Lie did not reply, he only shook his head and waved his arm repeatedly. The two men quickly led the other men away.
The manager was scared out of his wits as the owner of the place dragged him into the room. The owner kneeled down and kowtowed asking for mercy for them both. He said that as long as they are left alive, they would be willing to accept whatever other punishment might come their way. Yan Lie took out a silver yuan bao from the plate, threw it down on the floor, and said smiling: “Take it, it’s a reward. Now get out of my sight.” The manager couldn’t quite believe it all, but the owner saw that Yan Lie had no ill will in his expression, so he immediately picked up the silver yuan bao, kowtowed a couple of times, and dragged the manager out of sight in fear that Yan Lie might change his mind.
Bao Xiruo could not quite believe what she had just seen: “What kind of magic does that envelope hold? How come the authorities were frightened out of their wits when they saw its contents?” Yan Lie smiled: “I actually have no power over them really, but these officials are hopeless. Zhao Kuo only has this kind of people serving him; if he doesn’t lose this country, then there is no justice in the world.” Bao Xiruo asked: “Zhao Kuo? Who is that?” Yan Lie casually replied: “The present Song Emperor Ningzong.” Shocked, Bao Xiruo immediately admonished: “Quiet! How can you say His Majesty’s name out loud like that?” Seeing that she cared about his safety, Yan Lie was ecstatic; smiling, he said: “It’s no big deal if I say it out loud. Up north, what would we call him if we don’t call him Zhao Kuo?” Bao Xiruo was confused: “Up north?” Yan Lie nodded and was about to explain when hurried hoof beats suddenly come from outside as ten or so riders came and stopped in front of the inn. Some color had just returned to Bao Xiruo’s white face; but upon hearing the hoof beats, the events of that night all came back to her. This made her face turn white as a sheet again. Yan Lie was frowning, looking as if he wasn’t very pleased.
Then came sound of boots as several soldiers in fine clothing came walking in. Upon seeing Yan Lie, their faces immediately broke out in smiles as they simultaneously shouted: “Your Majesty!” All of them kneeled down and saluted. Yan Lie smiled: “So you’re finally here.” Hearing that they called Yan Lie “Your Majesty”, Bao Xiruo was both surprised and puzzled. As those men got up off the floor, she noticed that they were all very strong and well built. Yan Lie waved his arm and said: “Go wait outside.” The soldiers answered and quickly left. Yan Lie turned to Bao Xiruo: “How do you think my men compare with those Song soldiers?” Bao Xiruo was even more surprised: “They are not Song soldiers?” Yan Lie smiled: “I guess I have to be honest now, they are all Great Jin’s elite soldiers!” He could not help but laugh out of pride.
Bao Xiruo suddenly realized: “Then… you… you are…” Yan Lie smiled and answered: “To tell Madame the truth, my surname needs one more word: ‘Wan’ and my given name also has one more word: ‘Hong’. Wanyan Honglie, the Sixth Prince of Great Jin, and titled the Prince of Zhao, at your service.”
Ever since she was small, Bao Xiruo had heard from her father the devious ways that the Jin used to take the land of her Great Song. The shame caused by the capture of the two emperors, and the cruelty with which the Jin torture and treat the Han peasants up north. It was the same after she married Yang Tiexin, who hated the Jin even more. To find out that the person that she had spent all this time with these last couple days was actually a prince of the Jin, she was left speechless.
Seeing the expression on her face change, Wanyan Honglie smiled and continued: “I have always been fascinated by the south. Last year I asked my father to let me travel down to Linan as the good will ambassador for the New Year celebrations. Besides, the Emperor of Song still owed a couple hundred thousand taels of silver in annual tribute, so father wanted me to collect that on my trip as well.” Bao Xiruo interrupted: “Annual tribute?” Wanyan Honglie replied: “Yes, the Song Emperors, in order to convince us not to invade, pay us a tribute every year in silk and silver. But they always complain that not enough revenue was generated through taxes, so they never gave us the tribute on time. This time I didn’t leave any room for Han Tuozhuo to fall back on. I told him that if he didn’t get all the money together within the month, I would personally lead an army down to collect it ourselves: then he wouldn’t have to worry about it anymore.” Bao Xiruo interrupted again: “What did Chancellor Han say?” Wanyan Honglie proudly replied: “What can he say? By the time I left Linan, the silk and silver were all north of the river! Ha…ha!” Seeing Bao Xiruo was looking downwards and not responding he went on: “Actually, this tribute stuff didn’t really need me; any emissary could have done the job. What I really wanted was to see the south, to experience its beauty and to meet its people for myself. Who knew that I would meet Madame, I dare not hope for such good fortune.” Bao Xiruo was at a loss as to what to make of the situation and still did not reply. Wanyan Honglie offered: “I’m off to buy some clothes for Madame now.” Bao Xiruo replied with her head down: “No need.” Wanyan Honglie smiled and said: “The traveling money Chancellor Han gave me under the table wouldn’t be gone if I bought a new set of clothes for Madame every day for a thousand years. Madame, don’t worry, my soldiers are stationed all around this place, nobody would dare to trouble you.” After he finished, he walked off. Bao Xiruo thought about all that had happened since she met him; a royal prince like him, treating her as politely as he does, what does he plan to do? Then her thoughts drifted to her husband’s love and caring for her, yet he was killed and left her here alone. She really didn’t know what she should do or could do. In desperation, sadness and confusion, all she could do is clutch her pillow and cry her heart out.
Wanyan Honglie, having put the gold and silver into his shirt, walked out onto the street. Seeing the friendly attitude of the place and the people, even though most of them were peasants, there were still many refined and educated people, he could not help but be impressed. Suddenly, hurried hoof beats came from ahead of him as a horse galloped through the streets towards him. This street wasn’t very wide to begin with and now it was filled with people and merchants; added to that, people had sent up small vendor booths on both sides of the street, how could a horse gallop through it? Wanyan Honglie immediately dodged to the side of the street and, in the blink of an eye, a yellow horse came bursting through the crowd of people. This was no ordinary horse; it was tall and fit with muscles rippling throughout its body, obviously it was a very rare thoroughbred. Wanyan Honglie was admiring the horse and when he looked up at the rider he was surprised yet again. Such a beautiful horse, but its rider was a sorry looking fellow who was both short and fat; he looked like a giant slab of meat riding on that horse. This person’s arms and legs were amazingly short, he did not have a neck, yet his head was extraordinarily big, as if his neck was sucked into his shoulders. It seemed rather odd that horse was galloping through the crowd of people at full speed, yet it did not run into a single person or knock over a single object. Its hooves landed on the ground softly and nimbly, jumping over pottery, side-stepping vegetables; it seemed to be flashing through some non-existent gaps in the crowd, as though this crowded street was a wide open plain. Wanyan Honglie could no longer contain himself and shouted out loud: “Excellent!”
Hearing that praise, that short chubby fellow turned his head and glanced at him. Wanyan Honglie noticed that his entire face was covered with red spots caused by drinking too much wine; his big and round as well as equally red wine nose looked as if there was a red tomato stuck on his face. He thought to himself: “Such an excellent horse; I have to have it, no matter the price.” At this moment, two kids playing tag ran onto the street just in front of the horse. They came out of nowhere and gave the horse quite a scare as it had no room to get out of the way. The horse’s left foot was just about to land on one of the kids when the rider lifted up the reins and jumped off of the saddle. Suddenly becoming lighter, the horse’s stride became higher and longer, easily flying over the kid’s head. That rider then softly and gently landed back onto the saddle.
Shocked, Wanyan Honglie immediately decided, that even though there were a great number of skilled riders among the Jin, none were a match for this man. If he could get this man to go back with him to train the cavalry, then his cavalry would be almost invincible; this was something much more important to him than a great horse. On this trip south, he made mental notes on where an army could be stationed and where the rivers could be crossed; he even asked around about the skills and names of every administrator in the counties he crossed. Seeing the amazing skill of this short fellow, he couldn’t believe how stupid the Song authorities were for letting a talent like this go to waste. He decided then and there that he was going to somehow convince this man to go back to Yanjing with him. Having made the decision, he immediately started running after them, fearing that, with the horse’s speed, he would lose him. He was just about to shout at them when he saw the horse had run to the corner of the street and stopped. This was quite unexpected as he figured that, with the speed that the horse was running, he would have to slowly come to a stop, yet this horse was able to stop instantly. This is something he had never ever seen before; even some great martial arts practitioners wouldn’t be able to come to a complete stop when they are exerting themselves like this. The short, fat fellow jumped off the horse and charged into a building.
Wanyan Honglie hurried to the front of the building, inside the building was erected a large wooden sign: “Handed Down from Venus”; it was a two-storied restaurant. Looking up, a huge sign hanging from the roof had the words “Pavilion of the Drunken Immortal” written on it; the calligraphy was very elegant. On the side was written, in smaller characters, “By Resident Dongpo”, it turned out that the words were written by Su Dongpo [One of the greatest scholars of the Song dynasty as well as all of Chinese history.]. Seeing the grandeur of this restaurant, Wanyan Honglie thought: “Since he is here, then I might as well invite him to a great big meal; that way I can become great friends with him and everything after that would be simple.” All of a sudden that fellow came running down from upstairs to the horse’s side with a wine jug in hand. Wanyan Honglie immediately got out of the way.