Sword of the Yue Maiden #7
Translation by Jenxi Seow.
The next morning, Aqing held a bamboo stick in the fencing room of the King of Yue and faced twenty of the top Yue swordsmen. Fan Li knew Aqing did not know how to teach others how to wield a sword, so he could only ask the Yue swordsmen to imitate her swordplay.
However, none of the Yue swordsmen were able to fend off three moves from her.
Whenever Aqing moved her bamboo stick, her opponents were either struck on the wrist and dropped their swords, or were hit in vulnerable spots and crumpled to the ground. Fan Li already requested her not to blind them or take their lives. The Yue swordsmen knew Fan Li favoured her and dared not go all out for blood.
On the third day, the thirty swordsmen fell to her stick. On the fourth day, she made another thirty swordsmen retreat in shameful defeat with broken wrists and arms using a bamboo stick.
On the fifth day, when Fan Li went to bring her to fight Yue swordsmen, she was nowhere to be found. He went looking for her at her home but it was empty and only a dozen over goats remained. Fan Li sent hundreds of men to search inside and outside Kuaji city, and in the wilderness and mountains. Yet they were unable to find any trace of this young maiden.
While the eighty Yue swordsmen did not learn a single move of Aqing’s swordplay, they witnessed divine swordsmanship. Everyone knew that such legendary swordplay existed in the world. The eighty men taught others the little traces of the swordplay they barely grasped. These traces alone already made the swordsmanship of Yue swordsmen invincible.
Fan Li ordered Xue Zhu to oversee the forging of tens of thousands sharp swords.
Three years later, Goujian raised his army to invade Wu and the battle took place on the banks of the Five Lakes.1五湖 – Wǔhú. It is generally used to refer to various lakes in China, but ancient texts use the term to decribe only Lake Tai that was claimed by the State of Wu. See Wikipedia. Five thousand Yue soldiers advanced with swords in hand, and the Wu soldiers struck back. The two armies clashed. The swords of Yue soldiers flashed and routed the Wu soldiers. Wu suffered a crushing defeat.
King Fuchai of Wu retreated to Mount Yuhang. The Yue soldiers pursued him and the armies battled twice. The Wu soldiers were unable to withstand the fast swords of the Yue soldiers both times. His army defeated, Fuchai committed suicide. The Yue army invaded Wu’s capital of Gusu.
Fan Li led a thousand swordsmen and charged into the Guanwa Palace2馆娃宫 – Guǎnwá gōng. Also known as Palace of Beautiful Women. On Mount Lingyan in modern day Suzhou, Jiangsu. See Baidu (auto-translated). of the King of Wu. That was where Xi Shi lived. He took several guards and dashed into the palace, calling out, “Yiguang, Yiguang!”
His footsteps echoed clearly as he sprinted down a long, empty corridor. Xi Shi was light-footed. Each step she took was like playing a musical instrument and carried a wondrous beat. Fuchai built this long corridor to better listen to the music of her footsteps.
Musical footstep sounded at the end of the long corridor, like a joyous jinse[^jinse] or a gentle yaoqin.3瑶琴 – yáoqín. A plucked seven-string Chinese musical instrument. See Wikipedia.)) A soft voice said, “Young lord, is it truly you?”
Emotions welled up in Fan Li’s chest and he said, “It’s me, it’s me! I’m here for you.”
He heard the hoarseness in his own voice, as though it was someone else talking, or a very distant voice. He stumbled over with haste.
The musical sound in the corridor became increasingly rapid and a soft body fell into his embrace.
It was a magnificent spring night. The fragrance of flowers drifted through the curtains from the garden into Guanwa Palace. Fan Li and Xi Shi were pouring their hearts out about their pining for each other since they parted.
Suddenly, several bleating of goat sounded in the silence.
Fan Li smiled and said, “Did you miss the sights of your hometown so much that you reared goats in the palace?”
Xi Shi smiled as she shook her head. She was somewhat curious. Why were there goats bleating? However, other than tender loving, nothing else remained in her mind for long when she was in the company of the one she loved. She slowly reached and held Fan Li’s left hand. Both of them burned with the rapid flushing of blood in their bodies.
Suddenly, a woman’s voice sounded in the quiet night. “Fan Li! Get your Xi Shi to come out. I want to kill her!”
Fan Li stood abruptly. Xi Shi felt his palm suddenly turn cold. Fan Li recognised Aqing’s voice. Her cry drifted in over the high walls of Guanwa Palace.
“Fan Li, Fan Li. I want to kill your Xi Shi. She can’t escape. I’ll will kill your Xi Shi. ”
Fan Li was both frightened and confused. He thought, “Why would she want to kill Yiguang? Yiguang had never offended her!”
Then realisation struck him and he understood instantly. He thought, “She is not an ignorant country girl after all. She had affections for me all along. ”
As his confusion cleared, his fear intensified.
Fan Li faced major events and overcame tribulations all his life, and experienced countless dangers. Even the time when he was besieged on Mount Kuaiji and ran out of food supplies did not fill him with as much dread as he felt at this moment. Xi Shi could feel his the moist cold sweat in his palm and noticed his hand trembling.
Fan Li would not be afraid if Aqing wanted to kill him. However, her target was Xi Shi.
“Fan Li, Fan Li. I want to kill your Xi Shi. She can’t escape!”Aqing’s voice came from all directions outside the palace wall.
Fan Li composed himself and said, “I’m going to meet this person.”
He gentle let go of Xi Shi’s hand and walked briskly to the palace gate.
Eighteen guards followed behind him. Everyone heard Aqing’s cries and were very surprised to hear her repeatedly call out the name of the heroic Fan dafu who defeated Wu.
Fan Li walked out of the palace gate and looked into the moonlit pavement. Seeing no one, he said loudly, “Miss Aqing, please come over. I’ll have a word with you.”
There was silence all around. Fan Li continued, “Miss Aqing, it has been a long while. How are you?”
There was no answer once again. Fan Li waited for a long time, but Aqing never showed herself.
He gave instructions to his guards in a low voice, and summoned a thousand armoured soldiers and a thousand swordsmen immediately to guard the front and back of Guanwa Palace.
He returned to Xi Shi. They sat down and he held her hands wordlessly. When he walked from the palace gate back to Xi Shi’s side…