Jin Yong

Mandarin Duck Blades
Chapter 3

Translation by Jenxi Seow.

The scholar said, “I’m a traveling scholar in search of my mother. I’m honoured to have the great fortune of meeting four kind brothers. The name of the Four Xias of Taiyue1太岳 – Tàiyuè. Taiyue is the ancient name of modern day Mount Tianzhu in Anqing, Anhui. See Wikipedia. must be renowned in the jianghu2江湖 – jiānghú. The world of martial arts. A sub-society involving all who are related to the martial arts scene. See jianghu. for aiding those in distress and upholding justice.”

Xiaoyaozi3逍遥子 – Xiāoyáozǐ. Literally the carefree wise man. Zi is a Chinese honorific used for a wise or learned man. Not to be confused with the Xiaoyaozi from Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils. said, “Your words ring true indeed.”

The scholar said, “It is truly a fortune of three lifetimes for me to encounter such heroic xias4侠 -Xiá. A person adept in martial arts and conducts in a chivalrous manner. as yourselves today. I happen to have a troubling matter at hand, and I seek the four great xias to draw your swords in aid.”5An idiom that means to intervene in an injustice. See Wiktionary.

Xiaoyaozi said “Easy! As xiakes,6侠客 – xiákè. Another term for xias. if we encounter those in distress and not offer our aid, we would bear the name of chivalry in vain.”

Gai Yiming7盖一鸣 – Gài Yīmíng. said, “Who’s bullying you?”

The scholar said, “It’s a rather embarrassing matter. I’m afraid you four brothers would laugh at me.”

Hua Jiangying lit up and said, “Ah, your lover’s beauty led to a tyrant seizing her by force.”

The scholar shook his head, saying, “No, I don’t have a lover.”

Gai Yiming clapped and said, “Hmm, then it must be a wealthy man or corrupt official who has taken your wife.”

The scholar said shaking his head, “That’s not it either. How could I have a wife if I’m not married?”

Chang Changfeng8常长风 – Chẳng Chángfēng. was starting to be impatient. He exclaimed, “What is it, then? Just give it to me straight and clear.”

The scholar said, “Fine, I’ll tell you, but don’t take offence, four great xias.”

Although the Four Xias of Taiyue call themselves xias, no one had ever addressed them with such reverence in the jianghu and kept referring to them as great xias. Hearing the profound respect in the scholar’s words, they puffed up their chests and said in unison, “Speak quickly, speak quickly. Whatever problem you face, we the Four Xias of Taiyue will help you deal with it.”

The scholar bowed deeply at each person present, and then said, “I’ve wander the jianghu and pass through your noble lands with a shamefully empty purse having spent all my savings. I can only humbly beseech the Four Xias of Taiyue to lend me a few dozen silver taels. I hereby thank the four xias in advance for your immense righteousness and famed kindness.”

Hearing this, the four xias frowned and found themselves unable to utter a word. They had originally intended to rob the scholar, but his speech had unexpectedly left them unable to gracefully back out.

Chang Changfeng the Twin Palms of Slab-splitting thumped his chest and proclaimed, “A true man wouldn’t hesitate to be stabbed on both sides for a friend. What more a mere dozens of silver taels? Big brother, third brother, fourth brother. Come, take out your money. I have—”

He reached into the bosom of his robes and found himself grasping at nothing. His pocket was completely empty without even a single copper coin.

Fortunately, Hua Jiangying9花剑影 – Huā Jiànyǐng. and Gai Yiming still had a few spare silver taels on them that they took out and handed to the scholar. The scholar bowed deeply in gratitude and thanked them profusely. He said. “I’ll never forget this favour. I’ll definitely repay your kindness should we meet again amidst the mountains and rivers.”

Saying this, he took his page boy by the hand and strode out of the woods.

Upon exiting the woods, he burst into laughter and said to the page boy, “You can have these silver taels!”

The page boy tidied the luggage that the four had rummaged through and took out an old book. Blinding gold light shone under the sun. There were countless thin gold leaf pressed between the book pages. He laughed as he said, “Sir told them that there’s gold within the book, yet they refused to believe.”

Although the Four Xias of Taiyue failed to steal the chicken and lost some grain in the process,10A proverb meaning to attempt to gain an advantage only to end up worse off than before. they still felt rather pleased with performing a chivalrous deed. Gai Yiming said, “This scholar roams the lands and would surely spread the good word about us Four Xias of Taiyue…”

Before he could finish, the sound of bells rang out suddenly and rapid hoofbeats of a horse came from the south. Xiaoyaozi said, “Brothers, judging from the speed of the mount I hear, it must be a fine steed. We’ll seize the horse first and talk after. Even if there are no treasures, the mount would also serve as a gift.”

Gai Yiming said, “Big brother, your insights are profound and your words sensible.”

He removed his belt hurriedly and said, “Quick, take off your belts and make a trip rope.”

They tied the four belts together and were going to stretch it between two trees when the horse galloped into the woods.

Seeing the four of them crouched and pulling on the rope, the rider reined in the horse and asked, “What are you doing?”

Gai Yiming said, “Setting up the trip rope…”

As soon as he spoke, he realised his mistake and turned sharply, only to see a beautiful young woman on the horse. He felt a larger part of his apprehension dissipate at the sight. The maiden asked, “Why are you setting up a trip rope?”

Gai Yiming straightened and dusted off his hands, saying, “To trip your horse, of course! Fine, now that you know, we don’t even need the rope. Get off the horse and leave the horse. And you may go unharmed. We the Four Xias of Taiyue would never tarnish our reputation by bullying a lone woman.”

The young woman smiled charmingly and said, “Aren’t you bullying me by making me leave my horse here?”

Gai Yiming stammered as he said, “Well, there’s… a logic to that.”

Xiaoyaozi said, “We‘re not bullying you, just your mount. What does it matter to an animal?”

The horse had an imposing stature and a sleek, lustrous coat that made it look majestic. Moreover, the gold bridle and silver bells on it were already of considerable value. He grew more fond of it the more he looked at it.

Gai Yiming said, “Indeed. We, the Four Heroes of Taiyue, are staunch heroes in the jianghu and would never make life difficult for women and children. You only need to leave your mount and we won’t touch a hair on your head. I’m the Eight Steps Chasing Toad, Rivalling Zhuan Zhu, Treading Snow Without a Trace…”

The young woman covered her ears with her hands and said curtly, “Enough. Enough. You don’t know who I am. And I don’t know who you are either. Right?”

Gai Yiming exclaimed, “That’s right! So what if we don’t know?”

The maiden smiled and said, “Since we’re strangers, Father can’t find fault me if I offend you. Ho! Such daring bandits, I’ll take on all four of you at once!”

There was a blur before the four and the maiden was brandishing a pair of daos.11刀 – dāo. A single-edge sword used for slashing and chopping. See Wikipedia. Her attacks were as swift as the wind. She spurred her horse to charge forward. She leaned down and cut the trip rope with the blade in her right hand, while her the dao in her left hand slashed downwards on the top of Gai Yiming’s head.

Gai Yiming shouted, “A real man doesn’t fight a woman! Why resort to violence…”

With a flash of light, the long blade was slashing towards his face. He hurriedly raised his steel piercer to block. The weapons clashed with a clang. He felt a powerful binding force on the maiden’s blade. With a push and then a pull, he lost his grip on his weapon and it flew from his grasp in an instant, arcing high into the air for several feet before impaling itself in the bough of a towering tree.

Hua Jianying and Chang Changfeng both rushed forward from the sides. The maiden had the higher ground on her horse. She slashed at both sides with her blades. Hua and Chang barely able to cope with her attacks. The young woman was intrigued to see the stone slab in Chang Changfeng’s hands. She asked, “Hey, big fellow, what are you holding?”

Chang Changfeng said, “This is Second Xia Chang’s unique weapon. It’s not among the eighteen types of weapons in the wulin.12武林 – wǔlín. Literally martial forest. It refers to the martial arts community within the jianghu. These are people who practice martial arts. More information. Its techniques are extraordinary. Ah oh… Ow!”

The maiden had flipped her long blade and slapped his wrist with the back of the blade. Chang Changfeng winced in pain and his unique weapon slipped from his hands. By sheer coincidence, it smashed onto the very same toe that was already swollen from the earlier mishap.

Seeing the situation turning unfavourable, Xiaoyaozi advanced with his dry pipe raised to flank her. His pipe was made of exquisite iron and he wielded it with technique of a judge’s brush strokes. He struck to seal and strike her acupoints. However, he was not very accurate when identifying the acupoints, missing by inches but erring by miles.13An idiom that means a minimal deviation resulted in wide divergence.

The young girl was amused and exposed an opening on purpose, allowing him to tap on her left leg with his pipe. She felt a slight sting and exclaimed, “Feeble fellow, what acupoint did you hit?”

Xiaoyaozi said, “This is the Zhongdu point.14中渎穴 – zhōngdù xuè. Middle Ditch point in the Gallbladder Meridian. See Wikipedia. Striking it causes numbness”

The maiden laughed, “This isn’t the Zhongdu point. You’re off by two inches to the left.”

Xiaoyaozi was taken aback. He said, “Off to the left? It can’t be.”

Raising the pipe, he prepared to strike again. The young woman slashed downwards and knocked his pipe to the ground. Transferring both daos to her right hand, she grabbed his collar with her left hand. At a gentle tap of the horse’s flank with the tips of her feet, the horse let out a long neigh and shot out of the woods.

With her seizing him by the nape of his neck, Xiaoyaozi found his whole body paralysed and his limbs went limp. He could only surrender and allowed himself to be captured. The remaining three of the Four Xias of Taiyue cried out, “The wind is rising! The wind is rising!”15风紧 – fēngjǐn. Literally the wind is rising. A phrase is often used metaphorically to indicate that a situation is becoming tense or dangerous.

They sprinted at a frantic speed in pursuit.

The horse galloped covered a considerable distance in the blink of an eye. As she held Xiaoyaozi, his feet dragged along the ground to the point of bleeding. He said, “You seized my Fengchi point.16风池穴 – fēngchí xuè. Located at the back of the neck, at the base of the skull. Also known as the Wind Pool point. It is part of the Gallbladder Meridian. See Wikipedia. That’s where the Foot Lesser Yang17足少阳脉 – zúshàoyáng mài. One of the Twelve Primary Meridians. Also known as the Gallbladder Meridian because of its association with the gallbladder organ system. It runs along the side of the body, from the head down to the feet. See Wikipedia. and Yang Link18阳维脉 – yángwēi mài. One of the Eight Extraordinary Meridians. Unlike the twelve primary meridians that are each associated with a specific organ, the Eight Extraordinary Meridians serve as reservoirs of qi and blood, providing additional connections between the primary meridians and helping to regulate the body’s qi flow. See Wikipedia. Meridian meet. I naturally can‘t move and it isn’t surprising. There’s no shame in defeat under such circumstances. There is still honour in defeat.”

The maiden chuckled and reined in her mount before tossing him to the ground. She said, “You are right about your own acupoints!”

Then, she suddenly let out a cold laugh and raised her blade against his neck and exclaimed, “You disrespected me, so I must kill you!”

Xiaoyaozi sighed, “Very well! But you’d better cut at my Tianzhu point19天柱穴 – tiānzhù xué. Located at the back of the neck on either side of the spine. Also known as the Upper Pillar point. It is part of the Bladder Meridian. The Tianzhu point is one of the acupuncture points located near the base of the skull. It is believed to be a critical point for instant incapacitation or death if struck with precision. See Wikipedia. for a swift end to avoid unnecessary pain!”

The young woman could not help but laugh. She thought to herself, “Even when he was facing death, this feeble fellow is still preoccupied with acupoints. I’ll scare him a little more and see what happens.”

She pressed the edge of her blade between the Tianzhu and Fengchi points on his neck and said, “So, that’s right here.”

Xiaoyaozi cried out, “No, no! You got it wrong, lass. One and a half inch higher…”

The three others arrived along the path and shouted in desperation, “Kill the three of us as well, miss …”

It was Chang Changfeng and his the other two xias. The maiden said, “Why seeking your own deaths?”

Gai Yiming said, “We the Four Xias of Taiyue are sworn to brotherhood. Though we may not be born on the same day, we hope to meet our end together.20This is a popular phrase from the famous Peach Garden oath from Romance of the Three Kingdoms. It literally means we seek not to be born on the same day, in the same month and in the same year. We merely hope to die on the same day, in the same month and in the same year. See Wikipedia. If you kill our big brother, then my brothers and I refuse to live without him. Please kill us all. Any who frowns is not a hero!”

Saying that, he walked to Xiaoyaozi’s side and stood tall and awaited execution with his neck bared.

The young woman raised her dao in mid-air, poised to strike. Gai Yiming flashed a smile without flinching. The maiden said, “Fine! The four of you might be mediocre in martial arts but your loyalty makes you heroes. I’ll spare you.”

Saying that, she sheathed her blade. The four were overjoyed and expressed their profound gratitude. Gai Yiming said, “What is your esteemed name? We the Four Heroes of Taiyue will remember it and repay your kindness of sparing our lives.”

Hearing him still referring to themselves as the Four Heroes of Taiyue without any trace of shame, the young woman could not help but chuckle and said, “You need not ask for my name. Instead, I want to ask why did you try to rob me of my mount?”

Gai Yiming said, “The tenth day of the third month this year marks the fiftieth birthday of the great xiao Xiao Banhe from Jinyang…”