Sword of the Yue Maiden #1
Translation by Jenxi Seow.
The two swordsman pointed the tip of their swords downwards. With the right hand holding the hilt, they wrapped their left palm over the right hand and bowed deeply in salute.
Before either of them straightened, there was a sudden flash of white light was followed by a loud clang as their blades clashed. Both took a step backwards. The crowd around them gave out a soft cry.
The black-robed swordsman slashed thrice and the brocade-clad swordsman parried each strike. The black-robed swordsman shouted as he slashed his sword downwards diagonally from the top left with speed and power.
The brocade-clad swordsman was nimble. He leapt backwards and dodged the attack. His left foot had barely touched the ground when sprung forward and struck twice at his opponent. The black-robed swordsman stood his ground. A sneer tugged at the corner of his lips as he parried the attacks with a flick of his sword.
The brocade-clad swordsman suddenly dashed forward to circle the black-robed swordsman. His steps became faster and faster. The black-robed swordsman stared at the tip of his opponent’s sword. As soon as it moved, he brandished his sword to strike it away. The brocade-clad swordsman first ran one way, then suddenly changed directions. He kept changing his line of attack.
The black-robed swordsman started to feel dizzy. He bellowed, “Are you here to duel, or run for your life?”
He slashed twice with his sword. The brocade-clad swordsman was running very fast. When the blade reached where he was, he was already gone. His opponent’s sword always fell at least a foot short.
The black-robed swordsman brought his sword back to his side and bent his right leg slightly. Seeing the opening, the brocade-clad swordsman lunged at his left shoulder with his sword. The move a feint from the black-robed swordsman. His sword suddenly circled and struck swiftly at his opponent’s throat.
The brocade-clad swordsman was shocked. He flung his sword at his opponent’s heart. It was a desperate move to perish together. If the opponent followed through his attack, his heart would be struck by the flying sword. In such a situation, the opponent must pull back his sword to parry, allowing him to escape from this dreadful outcome.
However, the black-robed swordsman did not block or dodge the attack. With a flick of his wrist, the tip of his sword pierced the throat of the brocade-clad swordsman. The sword that was flung at him struck his chest with a clang and fell onto the ground. The black-robed swordsman chuckled. He withdrew his sword and and stood aside. He had hidden a bronze mirror under his clothes to protect his heart. Although the tip of the sword struck him, he was unharmed.
Crimson blood blood spurted from the throat of the brocade-clad swordsman as his body kept twisting on the ground. Servants carried the body away and cleaned up the blood stains. The black-robed swordsman sheathed his sword and took two steps forward. He bowed at a king who sat in a large cushioned seat in the north end of the hall.
The king wore a purple robe and had a strange appearance. He had a long neck and a mouth as sharp as a beak. He smiled and said in a croaking voice, “Exquisite swordplay by the victor. Reward him with ten pounds of gold.”
The black-robed dropped to his right knee and bowed. He said, “I am grateful for the honour!”
The king waved with his left hand. To his right, a tall and thin official around forty years old shouted, “Second round, swordsmen of Wu and Yue!”
A burly man strode forth from the group of brocade-clad swordsmen at the east end of the hall. He carried a large sword. The sword was over five feet long and was exceedingly thick. It was evidently heavy.
A black-robed swordsman approached from the west end. He had a medium build and his face was filled with sword scars. There were at least a dozen lines all over his face, making his face no longer appear human. It was evident that he had fought hundreds of battles and had duelled with others countless times. Both men bent their knees to pay respects to the king. They then turned, stood facing each other, and bowed.
The black-robed swordsman straightened his body and grinned hideously. The smile made his already grotesque face even more revolting. Upon seeing the ghostly appearance of his opponent, the brocade-clad swordsman could not help but shudder. He exhaled deeply and slowly stretched out his left hand to grip the hilt of his sword.
The black-robed swordsman suddenly howled wildly like a wolf as he stabbed ferociously at his opponent. The brocade-clad swordsman roared and lifted his huge sword to swing it downwards at his opponent’s head. The black-robed swordsman dodged and slashed horizontally with his sword from left to right. The brocade-clad swordsman gripped his sword with both hands and brandished it, making a whirring sound. The large sword weighed around fifty pounds, but his moves were fast.
The two engaged and exchanged thirty moves in no time. The black-robed swordsman was forced to retreat by the sheer weight of his opponent’s sword. Seeing that victory was for the taking this round, the fifty odd brocade-clad swordsmen standing in the east end of the hall appeared cheerful.
The brocade-clad swordsman gave a thundering roar and swung his huge sword sideways. Unable to dodge the blow, the black-robed swordsman struggled to block it with his sword. The swords clashed with a clang. Half of the big sword flew out. The sword in the hands of the black-robed swordsman was so sharp that it cut the huge sword into two. The blade slashed downwards, splitting the brocade-clad swordsman from throat to crotch.
The brocade-clad swordsman roared in fury as he crumpled onto the ground. The black-robed swordsman looked at the burly figure on the ground for a moment before sheathing his sword. He knelt in salute to the king, unable to hide the joy on his face. The official beside the king said, “Sharp sword and skilful swordsmanship by the victor. His Majesty rewards you with ten pounds of gold.”
The black-robed swordsman gave his thanks and retreated. There were only eight black-robed swordsmen in the west end. Compared to the fifty odd brocade-clad swordsmen, there was a disparity in numbers. The official said slowly, “Third round, swordsmen of Wu and Yue!”
A representative came forth from each group. They paid respects to the king before facing each other. There was a sudden dazzling light and everyone could feel a cold seeping into their bones. The three-foot long sword wielded by the black-robed swordsman quivered like a piece of glimmering satin ribbon.
The official said, “What a sword!”
The black-robed swordsman bowed slightly and thanked him for the compliment. The official said, “We have seen two rounds of duels. This time we’ll have two-on-two fight!”
One of the swordsmen in blue responded and drew his sword. The blade was bright as autumn water. It was another fine sword. Another person came forth from among the black-robed swordsmen. The four of them paid their respects to the king and bowed to each other. Then with a flash of their swords, they begun fighting. In a two-on-two fight, the swordsmen from the same side coordinated with and covered for each other.
After several exchanges, one of the brocade-clad swordsmen’s sword was broken with a clang. He was very brave, launching himself at the opponent with only half a sword. The sword of the black-robed swordsman flashed and slashed him from the right arm to shoulder, then followed up by stabbing into his heart.
The other two persons were still fighting intensely. The victorious black-robed swordsman watched at the side. He suddenly struck with his sword and broke the blade wielded by the brocade-clad swordsman. The sword of other black-robed swordsman stabbed into the opponent’s chest and exited from the back.
The king laughed and clapped. “Exquisite sword! Exquisite swordplay! Reward them with wine and gold! Let’s have a four-on-four fight.”
Four persons came forward from both sides. After dispensing with the courtesies, they drew their swords and started battling. The brocade-clad swordsmen had lost three successive rounds and four of their comrades had died.
The four brocade-clad swordsmen in the battle fought with all their might to try and finally win one round at all cost. Two black-robed swordsmen flanked a brocade-clad swordsman. The other three brocade-clad swordsmen rushed to support him, but the other two black-robed swordsmen blocked their path with their swords.
The two dark-robed swordsmen focused on defending with cautious moves. They did not counter attack, yet they kept the three brocade-clad swordsmen from aiding their companion. The other two dark-robed swordsmen had the advantage of numbers and killed their opponent within a dozen moves. They then moved attack another brocade-clad swordsman. Once more, the other two black-robed swordsmen defended without attacking to hold back two brocade-clad swordsmen. With the numerical advantage, their companions killed their opponent.
Seeing that only two of their companions were left standing, the brocade-clad swordsmen watching on the sidelines knew they had been defeated. They clamoured and drew their swords. They wanted to charge forth and chop up the eight black-robed swordsmen. The official shouted loudly, “Students of the sword must abide by the Way of the Sword!”
His expression and tone carried an awe-inspiring authority that made the brocade-clade swordsmen fall silent instantly. It was obvious to everyone how the four black-robed swordsman’s swordplay were completely different. Two had extremely tight defence while the other two were swift and ruthless with their attacks. They split up and concerted their attacks. The defenders held back the opponents and singled out one person for the attackers to overwhelm with numbers, slowly slaughtering them one at a time.
By engaging their opponents this way, the black-robed swordsmen if they faced more skilful opponents had a high chance of winning. Even if it were four against six or eight, they would still be victorious. Let alone four against four. The moves of the two defenders seemingly formed a net of swords. By only defending, they kept their opponents at bay.1The original text is literally, “The opponents were unable to cross Lake Lei.” Lake Lei is located in Wangjiang County in Anqing, Anhui. The phrase is used to describe an unsurpassable limit. They could easily hold back five or six people.
As Fan Li left the palace, he thought, “His Majesty is unable to wait two to three years. For me to even wait one more day, I…”