Sword of the Yue Maiden – Part 6


8 min read

Translation by Jenxi Seow.

Fan Li was both surprised and pleased. “Where does Grandpa Bai live? Can you bring me to him?”

Aqing said, “He lives in the mountain and can’t be found. He’s the one who looks for me. I’ve never gone looking for him before.”

Fan Li said, “I wish to meet him. Is there any way?”

Fan Li said in a low voice, “Yes, follow me to herd the goat. We’ll wait for him at the mountainside. It’s just that I have no idea when he would come.”

She sighed and said, “I haven’t seen him for a long time!”

Fan Li thought to himself, “For the sake of Yue and Yiguang, so what if I herd the goat with her?”

He then said, “Very well, I will herd the goat with you and wait for Grandpa Bai.”

He thought, “Miss Aqing’s swordsmanship is naturally imparted by that elderly Grandpa Bai in the mountains. Grandpa Bai most likely thought she was she was young and naive, so he pretended to tease her with a bamboo stick. Since he was able to teach a country girl such astounding swordsmanship, asking him to train the Yue warriors would mean the fall of Wu!”

After inviting Aqing to dine at his residence, he accompanied her to the mountains in the outskirts to herd goat. His subordinates did not understand his reasoning, and were shocked. For days, Fan Li wielded a bamboo stick and sang to the goat with Aqing in the rustic mountains as they waited for Grandpa Bai to appear.

On the fifth day, Wenzhong paid a visit to Fan Residence and noticed that the chamberlain of Fan Residence appeared troubled. He asked, “I have not see Fan dafu for days. The King is worried about him and ordered me to come visit. Is Fan dafu unwell?”

The chamberlain said, “Reporting to Wen dafu, Fan dafu is in good health, but… but…”

Wen Zhong said, “But what?”

The chamberlain said, “Wen dafu is a good friend of Fan dafu. What us lowly officials dare not say, perhaps Wen dafu might be able to advise him.”
Wen Zhong was even more perplexed. He asked, “What’s the matter with Fan dafu?”

The chamberlain said, “Fan dafu is fascinated with that… that beautiful country maiden who knows how to wield a bamboo stick. He accompanies her to herd goat daily. He refused to allow guards to escort him and returns only when it is dark. Even if I had official matters requiring his instructions, I dare not disturb him.”

Wen Zhong laughed out loud. He thought, “When younger brother Fan was in Chu, the people of Chu called him Fan the Lunatic. He had an unusual way of doing things that only unorthodox people would understand.”

At the same moment, Fan Li sat in the grass on the mountainside as he told the story of Consort Xiang of Chu and the mountain ghost. Aqing sat beside him listening intently. Her pair of bright eyes stared at him. She asked suddenly, “Is Consort Xiang really that beautiful?”

Fan Li said softly, “Her eyes are brighter than this stream, and clearer…”

Aqing said, “Are there fish swimming in her eyes?”

Fan Li said, “Her skin is paler than the clouds and softer, gentler…”

Aqing said, Are there birds flying in the clouds?”

Fan Li said, “Her lips are more delicate than the petals of this blood sage1See Wikipedia., and more vibrant. Her lips are moist and shinier than the dew on this petal. Consort Xiang stood by the water as her reflection was visible on the clear surface of Xiang River.2湘江 – Xiāngjiāng. See Wikipedia. The flowers on the river bank were so ashamed by her beauty that they withered. The fish dared not swim in the river, for fear of disturbing her winsome reflection. Her arms that were as white as snow reached into the Xiang River. It was so gentle that it seemed to dissolve in the water…”

Aqing asked, “Fan Li, you have seen her before, right? How are you able to speak in such detail?”

Fan Li sighed softly and said, “I have seen her. I observed very, very carefully.”

He was referring to Xishi, not Consort Xiang.

He lifted his head to look northwards. His gaze swept across the turbulent river. This beautiful lady was in the Wu royal palace in Gusu City. What was she doing at that moment? Was she keeping the King of Wu company? Was she thinking of him?

Aqing said, “Fan Li! Your beard is very peculiar. May I tough it?”

Fan Li thought, “Is she crying? Or is she laughing?”

Aqing said, “Fan Li, there are two strands of white in your beard. That’s so amusing. It looks like the wool of my goat.”

Fan Li thought, “On the day we parted, she cried on my shoulder. Her tears wet half my robe,3衣衫– yīshān. See Wikipedia. the robe that I’ll never wash. I added my tears on on her tear stains.”

Aqing said, “Fan Li, I want to pluck a strand of white hair from your beard. May I? I’ll pluck gently so it won’t hurt.”

Fan Li thought, “She said she loved sitting on the boat and drift slowly in the river and lake. When I get her back, I’ll give up being a dafu and sit with her on the boat all day. We’ll drift in the river and lake for the rest of our lives.”

Suddenly, he felt a slight pain on his chin. Aqing had plucked a strand of his beard. He heard her charming giggling that was suddenly cut off. He then heard her shout, “You’re here again!”

A green blur flashed. Aqing had dashed forth. A whirl of green and white entwined together rapidly.