Sword of the Yue Maiden #4
Translation by Jenxi Seow.
Goujian laughed and said, “Haha, I fear I am no match for Wu Zixu.”
Fan Li said, “Wu Zixu has been removed by Your Majesty’s clever scheme. How could he still threaten Yue?”
Goujian laughed heartily and said, “Well said, indeed. Xue Zhu, after your shixiong heard Wu Zixu’s words, he helped him to forge sharp swords, right?”
Xue Zhu said, “That’s right. Feng shixiong went with Wu Zixu to the forge on Mount Mogan1莫干山 – Mògānshān. See Wikipedia. right away.He saw a thousand over swordsmiths forging swords. However, their techniques were lacking, so Feng Shixiong gave them pointers. Since then, swords forged by Wu were sharper than anything made by all other kingdoms.”
Goujian nodded and said, “So explains it.”
Xue Zhu said, “After forging for a year, Feng shixiong burnt out from exhaustion. He was too tired to continue and mentioned my name to Wu Zixu, who prepared gifts for Feng shixiong to recruit me to go to the State of Wu to help Feng shixiong forge swords. I thought of the feud between Wu and Yue. If Wu made sharp swords to kill the people of Ji and Jin, they could also kill my people of Yue. So I urged Feng shixiong not to return to Wu.”
Goujian said, “That’s right, you are a man of foresight.”
Xue Zhu kowtowed and said, “Many thanks to Your Majesty for the praise. However, Feng shixiong did not listen to my advice. He slept in my home that night. He suddenly put his sword around my neck at the middle of the night, and then chopped off my four fingers to make me a cripple.”
Goujian was furious and said sharply, “f I ever capture Feng Huzi, I’ll turn him into minced meat.”
Wen Zhong said, “Gentleman Xue, although you can’t forge swords, you can teach our swordsmiths. We can also forge tens of thousand sharp swords.”
Xue Zhu said, “Please, Wen dafu, both Wu and Yue have the iron needed to forge swords. However, copper is found in Yue, while tin is in Wu.”
Fan Li said, “Wu Zixu had long sent troops to guard the tin mines and forbade commoners from mining tin, right?”
Xue Zhu’s expression was one of surprise. He said, “Fan dafu already knew about this.”
Fan Li smiled and said, “I was only speculating. Now that Wu Zixu is dead, the people of Wu might not follow his orders. If we offer a high price, it won’t be difficult to obtain tin.”
Goujian said, “Nevertheless, distant water can’t put out a nearby fire. To gather the copper, refine the tin, build the furnaces, forge the swords, and start over if the the forging is poor, it will take us at least two to three years. If Fuchai doesn’t live that long, won’t it become a lifelong regret?”
Wen Zhong and Fan Li bowed at the same time and said, “Indeed. We will come up with another plan.”
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…”
The thought of this brought a dull pain within his chest as the image of that stunning beauty appeared instantly in his mind. She was Xi Shi from the banks of Huansha River2浣纱溪 – Huánshāxī. See Wikipedia. He personally sought out this peerless beauty Yiguang,3夷光 – Yíguāng. Xi Shi’s name was Shi Yiguang. Xi Shi literally meant Shi of the West. who accumulated the essence of Yue’s lands in her body. Yet he was the one who personally sent her into the Wu palace.
The journey from Kuaiji8会稽 – Kuàijī. A former commandery named for Mount Kuaji in modern day Shaoxing, Zhejiang. See Wikipedia. to Gusu was short. It took only a few days by by river, yet even the short period of a few days was unbearable for two deeply in love to be apart. Two drops of pearl-like tears fell on Xi Shi Yiguang’s pale cheeks as she said with a voice that sounded like the soft whisper of Ruoye Creek,5若耶 – Rùoyēxī. “Young sir, promise me that you will fetch me, the sooner the better. I will be waiting for you day and night. Tell me once more that you will never ever forget me.”
Yue’s vengeance must be exacted, but it could wait. However, Yiguang in Fuchai’s embrace made jealousy and worry gnaw at his heart. They must forge a large number of sharp swords as soon as possible. Swords sharper than those wielded by the Wu swordsmen…
He strolled along the street and eighteen guards trailed far behind.
Suddenly, a chorus of Wu song came from the western end of the street, “My sword is sharp and my enemy is terrified. My sword is fast and my enemy is beheaded…”
Eight men in black strode forth with an arrogant swagger hand in hand, singing at the top of their lungs. People on the street avoided them. They were the Wu swordsmen who were victorious in the Yue palace yesterday. They were drunk and rampaging along the street.
Fan Li frowned and felt his anger rising within his chest.
The eight Wu swordsmen walked up to Fan Li. The foremost man leered at him with drunken, groggy eyes and said, “You… you’re Fan dafu6大夫 – dàfū. Dafu was a scholar-official in the Warring States period. See Wikipedia.”… Haha, haha, haha!”
Two of Fan Li’s guards rushed before Fan Li and roared, “Show some respect. Get out of the way!”
The eight swordsmen laughed out loud. They mimicked the guards’ tone and laughed as they said, “Show some respect. Get out of the way!”
The two guards drew their swords and cried, “His Majesty’s orders are to behead anyone who offend the dafu!”
The leader of the Wu swordsmen swayed as he said, “Behead you? Or me?”
Fan Li thought, “These are emissaries from Wu. We can’t touch them even if they are rude.”
He was about to say, “Let them pass!”
Suddenly, there was a flash of light and the two guards cried out in agony. Their hands fell noisily onto the ground along with the swords they held. The leader of the Wu swordsmen slowly sheathed his sword, his face full of arrogance. The sixteen guards escorting Fan Li drew their swords and surrounded the eight Wu swordsmen.
The leader of the Wu swordsmen laughed and said, “We came from Gusu7姑苏 – Gūsū. The capital of the State of Wu. See Wikipedia. to Kuaiji8会稽 – Kuàijī. A former commandery named for Mount Kuaji in modern day Shaoxing, Zhejiang. See Wikipedia. with no intentions of returning alive. We want to the see what force Yue needs to mobilise to kill eight Wu swordsmen.”
With the last word, he let out a long roar. All eight of them drew their swords in unison and stood with their backs against each other.
Fan Li thought, “A lack of tolerance in small matters will spoil the great plans. Our country is not ready right now. We can’t kill these eight Wu swordsmen, lest we provoke Fuchai to aggression.”
He yelled, “These are the esteemed emissaries from an honoured country. Do not be disrespectful! Stand down!”
The guards were furious, as though fire was about to spew out of their eyes. It was only because they dared not defy the dafu‘s orders that they stepped to the side of the street to give way.
The eight Wu swordsmen laughed out loud and sang in unison, “My sword is sharp and my enemy is terrified. My sword is fast and my enemy is beheaded!”
Suddenly, bleating could be heard as a young girl in light green herded a dozen over goats from the east end of the street. When the goats came before the Wu swordsmen, the goats circled past them.
A Wu swordsman dissatisfied that the battle did not happen swung his sword and sliced the goat in half from head to hip. It was as though he was cutting through a specific line. Even the nose was neatly cut into halves. The two halves of the goat fell to each side and its innards fell out. The perfection of the swordsmanship was truly terrifying. The seven other Wu swordsmen cheered loudly. Fan Li could not help but cry out silently, “Great swordsmanship!”
The young girl waved her bamboo staff to herd the remaining goats behind her. She then said, “Why did you kill my goat?”
Her voice was delicate and clear with a tinge of anger.
The Wu swordsmen waved his bloodstained sword in the air in mock slashes and said, “I want to split you into halves as well, lass!”
Fan Li called out, “Hurry over, young lady. They are drunk.”
The young girl said, “Even if they are drunk, they can’t just bully others.”
The Wu swordsman circled his sword above her head and laughed, “I was going to cut off your little head. It’s only because of…