This is an old fan translation of the Sword of the Yue Maiden originally published on another site and reposted here. A newer translation of by WuxiaSociety is available here. Both translations use the Third Edition of the novel.
Xue Zhu said, “Feng Huzi finally said to Wu Zhixu that he had little skill except forging swords. In return for Wu Zhixu’s favours, he will forge a few precious swords for him.”
Goujian slapped his thigh and said, “Got him!”
Xue Zhu said, “But Wu Zhixu said the kingdom of Wu already had many precious swords and needed no more. Besides, the forging of a precious sword is a tremendous labour. Years ago, when Gan Jiang and Mo Ye were forging their sword, the sword refused to come into being until Mo Ye flung herself into the fire. Wu Zhixu had no intention of repeating that kind of tragedy.”
Goujian said, “He didn’t want Feng Huzi to forge swords for him? Strange.”
Xue Zhu said, “Feng Huzi was baffled too. Then Wu Zhixu visited him again. They said that the army of Wu was fully capable of fighting with superpowers like the kingdoms of Ji and Jin. Wu’s warriors were courageous, but their skills in chariot warfare were inferior. Moreover, their swords and spears were not sharp enough. Feng Huzi began to talk to Wu Zhixu about the way of forging swords. What Wu Zhixu wanted wasn’t a few precious swords with mysterious powers, what he wanted was thousands and thousands of sharp swords.”
Goujian understood and looked at Fan Li and Wen Zhong. Worry filled Wen Zhong’s face. He asked, “Minister Fan Li, what do you think?”
Fan Li said, “Even though Wu Zhixu is crafty, he is not wise enough to escape Your Majesty’s schemes.”
Goujian laughed, “I am afraid that I have never been Wu Zhixu’s match.”
Fan Li said, “Wu Zhixu is already dead. What more can he do to threaten Yue?”
Goujian laughed, “True. Xue Zhu. Did Feng Huzi finally started forging swords?”
Xue Zhu said, “Yes. He went to Mount Mogan. He saw one thousand sword smiths working there. He corrected and improved their techniques. After this, every sword in Wu is sharper than anything made in other kingdoms.”
Goujian nodded, “So that’s why.”
Xue Zhu said, “After one year, Feng Huzi became too fatigued to continue, so he told Wu Zhixu my name. Wu Zhixu readied lavish gifts and asked Feng Huzi to invite me to work for him as well. I remembered the hatred between Wu and Yue. If Wu’s sharp swords could kill the people of Ji and Jin, they could also kill the people of my home, so I counselled Feng Huzi not to return to Wu.”
Goujian nodded in approval, “You have foresight.”
Xue Zhu said, “Thank for your praise, Your Majesty, but he didn’t listen to me. That night he slept in my home. In the middle of the night, suddenly he put his sword at my neck, then he chopped off four of my fingers so I’ll never forge another sword.”
Goujian became angry, “If he fell into my hands, I would chop him into meat paste!”
Wen Zhong said, “Master Xue Zhu, even though you cannot forge swords by yourself, but you can teach our sword smiths. We, too, can make as many sharp swords as the Wu sword smiths.”
Xue Zhu said, “Minister Wen, both Yue and Wu produce the necessary iron needed for sword blades, but Yue produces copper and Wu produces zinc.”
Fan Li said, “Wu Zhixu is guarding the zinc mines and forbids any private mining, is that right?”
Xue Zhu showed surprise on his face, “So you knew already.”
Fan Li smiled, “No, I am merely speculating. Now that he’s dead, his order may not be followed anymore. We now can purchase zinc, if we’re willing to pay for it.”
Goujian said, “But a source of water far away cannot extinguish a nearby conflagration. By the time we gather all the materials, train the sword smiths and start production, at least two or three years would have passed. That’s not counting any setbacks along the way. If Fuchai died before we’re ready, wouldn’t that be the greatest regret in our lives?”
Fan Li and Wen Zhong bowed deeply, “Yes, we will find another way.”
Fan Li walked out of the palace, thinking, “His Majesty couldn’t wait two or three more years? Why, I can’t even wait one more day…” A dull pain came to his chest as he remembered the image of that unmatched beauty which could stun the world.
She was Xi Shi from the banks of Huansha brook. He found that woman who gathered all the beauty of the land of Yue into her person and he had to send her away into the palace of Wu.
The road from the capital of Yue to the capital of Wu was not long, only a few days by river, but that was long enough for love to grow beyond control. The white face of Xi Shi was full of pearl-like tears and her voice was soft as a whispering stream, “Young Sir, promise me that you will come and get me as soon as possible. I will wait for you, day and night. Say that you will never forget me, forever and ever.”
Vengeance against Wu could wait, as far as Fan Li was concerned, but Yiguang, was in the embrace of King Fuchai. Love and jealousy gnawed at his heart. He must find to way to make as many sharp swords as possible, even sharper than those wielded by the invincible Wu swordsmen….
He walked aimlessly on the street. Eighteen armed guards followed him faithfully. Suddenly someone was singing a Wu song, “My sword is sharp! My enemy has no courage! My sword is sharp! My enemy has no head!”
Eight men in blue, arm in arm, swaggered down the street, showing no concern for the pedestrians who were hurrying out of their way. They were the eight Wu swordsmen. They were obviously very drunk.
Fan Li frowned. He could feel his anger rising.
The eight swordsmen stopped in front of Fan Li. One of them looked sideways with his drunken eyes and said, “You… you are Minister Fan Li?” Then he broke into uncontrollable giggles. Two guards leaped in front of Fan Li and said, “Don’t be so rude. Make way!”
The eight swordsmen merely laughed and mimicked their words, “Don’t be so rude. Make way!”
Two guards pulled out their swords and cried, “By royal decree, those who dare to interfere with Minister Fan Li’s welfare is to be executed!”
One of the Wu swordsman’s body swayed as he said, “Execute you, or me?”
Fan Li’s mind was working. “They were the subjects of Wu. Even though they are rude. We cannot afford to fight them.” Before he could tell his guards to pull back, a bright sword flashed. The guards screamed. Then their swords dropped to the ground. One of the Wu swordsman returned his sword into the sheath, his face was full of gloating pride. The rest of Fan Li’s guards pulled out their swords and surrounded the eight Wu swordsmen.
The leader raised his head and laughed, “We never planned to return to Wu alive anyway. Let’s see how big an army you need in order to kill us!” With a shout, eight swords leaped out of their sheaths. Eight swordsmen stood back to back, forming a circle.
Fan Li thought, “If one could not endure small slights, then one would never achieve great things.” He shouted, “These eight are ambassadors from the Great Kingdom. Don’t treat them with ill manners. Back!” Then he retreated to the side of the street. His guards were angry enough to spit fire from their eyes, but they dare not disobey him. Reluctantly they retreated to the side of the street as well.
Then they heard the cries of a herd of goats. A young maiden dressed in pale green robe herded tens of goats down the street. The goats started to go around the eight Wu swordsmen. One swordsman was feeling cheated of a good fight, so his sword moved and a goat was neatly bisected. The cut was so neat that even the nose of the goat was severed into two precisely equal parts. His seven friends cheered. Even Fan Li could not fault his sword skill.
The young maiden’s bamboo stick moved and herded the rest of goats behind her. Then she said, “Why did you kill my goat?” The voice was feminine and clear, but it also contained anger.
The goat killer cut his sword into air a few times and laughed, “Little girl, I will cut you into half just like this goat!”
Fan Li cried, “Lady, please come over here. They are drunk.”
The maiden said, “Even if you are drunk, that’s no excuse to behave rudely.”
The swordsman’s sword circled above her head., “I was thinking of cutting off your head, but now I see you’re quite pretty, so I changed my mind.” His seven friends laughed again.
Fan Li looked at her. She had an oval face, long eyelashes and clear, white skin. Her face was pretty and her body was slender, even seemingly frail. He cried again, “Lady, over here.” The maiden said, “Of course.”
The Wu swordsman’s sword reached out toward toward her belt., “Why…” Before he could finished, the maiden’s bamboo stick flickered and stabbed into his wrist. The swordsman only felt a sudden pain on his wrist and dropped his sword. The bamboo stick raised upward, followed by another stab into the swordsman’s right eye. The swordsman screamed as he covered his blinded eye.
The maiden’s movement might be simple, but for some reason, the Wu swordsman could not block or even avoid her bamboo stick. The other seven swordsmen was much surprised. One of them pulled back his sword and thrusted it toward the maiden’s right eye. As the sword sped forward, everyone could hear a loud whoosh, signalling the strength behind the thrust.
The maiden didn’t even move her feet. Her bamboo stick moved again. This time she stabbed at the swordsman’s shoulder. The stab was so fast that although it started after the thrust, it arrived well before the thrust could reach her. The swordsman cried out in pain as all the strength went out of his thrust. Then the maiden’s wrist flicked and the bamboo stick went into his right eye. The swordsman screamed like a butchered pig as his two fists waved aimlessly.
Now, the maiden made four moves and two Wu swordsmen were disabled. The spectator only saw her making some movements with her bamboo stick. Even though she moved too fast to be seen clearly, but the technique she used was clearly derived from some sort of high sword skill. Fan Li was both surprised and gladdened, but now he saw that the maiden had to face six Wu swordsmen. He hurriedly said, “Swordsmen of Wu. It would be bad for the honour of Wu if the six of you gang up on a defenceless girl. Even you win with you superior numbers……” He clapped his hands together. His guards leaped into the street and surrounded the Wu swordsmen.
The maiden smiled, “Even the odds of six against one is not enough for you.” Her left hand lifted slightly. The bamboo stick on her right hand thrusted toward yet another swordsman’s eye. She moved her stick and stabbed toward another swordsman’s chest. Three swords sped toward her. She moved agilely and avoided all three sword, then she counterattacked. One swordsman was stabbed on the wrist and lost hold on his sword.
Fan Li’s guard was ready to leap into battle, but they could not penetrate into the sword net formed by the Wu swordsmen. The maiden moved between the six swordsmen. Her long sleeves and long belt waved in the wind beautifully. Then the cries of pain came from one after another Wu swordsmen as their swords dropped to the ground. The fight was over. Each of the Wu swordsmen lost an eye. Some lost the right eye. Some lost the left eye.
The maiden pulled back her bamboo stick and said, “You killed my goat. Now compensate me.”
The Wu swordsmen were angry and scared. Some were roaring in fury. Some were shivering in fear. These eight were battle-hardened veterans. Ordinarily they would not lose control of their demeanour even if someone cut of both of their hands, but what happened to them was so beyond their comprehension that they had not idea how they should act.
The maiden said, “If you don’t compensate me for my goat, I will take your other eye.” The Wu swordsmen jumped back involuntarily.
Fan Li said, “Lady, I will give you one hundred goats, but let these eight men leave.”
The maiden smiled, “You’re a nice man. I don’t want one hundred goats. I only want one.”
Fan Li said to the guard, “Accompany the ambassadors from the Great Kingdom back to the palace. Summon the physicians to treat their wounds.” The eight Wu swordsmen left crestfallen, like cocks who had lost a fight.
Fan Li walked toward the maiden and said, “Lady, what is your respected surname?” The maiden said, “What did you say?” He rephrased the question, “What is your name?” The maiden said, “Oh, my name is A’qing. What is yours?”
Fan Li smiled and thought, “So she is just a simple country girl unversed in courtly manners. Yet she learned this godlike sword skill. I only have to learn who her master is, then I can invite her teacher to train Yue warriors. Wu will not be able to stand against us.” His heart warmed as he realised that he’s closer to bring Xi Shi back. Then he said, “I am called Fan Li. Lady, why don’t you have a meal in my home?” A’qing said, “No, I have to herd the goats to pasture.” Fan Li said, “I have a large lawn in my home. Your goats can feed there, then I will compensate you with ten fat goats.”
A’qing clapped her hands together and laughed, “You have a big lawn? Good, but I don’t want any goat from you. You didn’t kill this goat.” She knelt to the ground and petted the dead goat. Then she said sadly, “Old White, bad man killed you. I can’t save you this time.”
Fan Li ordered his guard, “Sew the body back together and bury it next to this lady’s house.”
A’qing stood up. Her face was stained by tears, but her eyes was happy. “Fan Li, you won’t let them eat Old White?”
Fan Li said, “Of course not. That’s your Old White. No one is permitted to eat him.”
A’qing sighed, “You are nice. I always hate to let other people kill my goats so they can eat the meat, but mother said that unless we sell our goat, we will not have money for rice.”
Fan Li said, “From today on, I will ask people to send your mother rice and good clothes. You don’t have to sell your goats anymore.”
A’qing became happy and embraced Fan Li, “You are a good man.”
Fan Li held her hand, afraid that she might disappear like some immortal from legend. The goats followed them back to his mansion.
As A’qing herded her goats into the mansion she said, “Your house is so large! How can you live here alone?”
Fan Li smiled, “Yes, I think this house is too big for me. Why don’t you come live here with your mother? Who else do you have in your family?”
A’qing said, “Just me and my mom. I don’t know if my mom wants to come. She always says that I shouldn’t talk to strange man, but you are a good man. You won’t harm us.”
Fan Li told A’qing to leave the goats in the garden and ordered his servants to pick out the best snacks for A’qing. The servants watched in shock as the goats devoured the expensive flowers in the garden. They were even more shocked when they observed their master watching the destruction with a happy smile. A’qing ate the pastries and drank the tea. Fan Li talked with and discovered that she’s innocent of the intrigues of the world. Finally he asked, “A’qing, who taught you sword skills?”
A’qing’s large, clear eyes opened wider and said, “Sword skill? No one ever taught me anything.”
Fan Li said, “The way you used that bamboo stick. That’s sword skill. Who taught that?”
A’qing shook her head, “No one. I always knew how to play with the bamboo stick.”
Fan Li saw that she was too innocent to lie and thought, “Did heaven finally send down a miracle?” He asked again, “Do you know how to play with this bamboo since you’re a child?”
A’qing said, “No. When I was thirteen, Grandpa White came to ride my goats. I wouldn’t let him and beat him off with my bamboo stick. He returned with a bamboo stick. I then fought with him. At first, he always score hits on me and I can’t score hits on him. I play this everyday. Now, I score hits on him most of the time and he can’t score hits on me. He isn’t coming back as often now.”
Fan Li thought he finally hit something and said, “Where does this Grandpa White live? Can you take me to him?”
A’qing said, “He lives in the mountains. You can’t find him. He usually comes and find me. I never tried to find him.”
Fan Li said, “I want to meet him. Is there a way?”
A’qing said, “Hmm. You can follow me to pasture. We will wait for him on the mountain side. I don’t know when he’ll show though.” She sighed, “I haven’t seen him for a while now.”
Fan Li said to himself, “This is for Yiguang and the kingdom of Yue. A little goat herding won’t hurt.” So he said, “Good, I’ll accompany you and wait for Grandpa White.” He thought, “Grandpa White must be the sword sage who taught this girl. He must have loved her youth and innocence, so he used play to teach her. He could make a young girl into the such a great master, then he could make our warriors destroy Wu.
After the meal, Fan Li followed her to mountain pastures to her goats. His subordinates didn’t understand the reason. They were all baffled. Day after day, Fan Li went with A’qing to herd goat and sang songs, waiting for Grandpa White.
On the fifth day, Wen Zhong came to Fan Li’s mansion and saw a very worried chamberlain. He asked, “I haven’t seen Minister Fan Li for a few days now. The King is worried and ordered to me to visit. Did Minister Fan Li come down sick?”
The chamberlain said, “Minister Fan Li is healthy, but… but..”
“Minister Wen is the best friend of Minister Fan Li. You can say things to him that are not appropriate for us to say. Why don’t you try to talk some sense into him?”
Wen Zhong was baffled, “Sense? What’s wrong with Minister Fan Li?”
“Minister Fan Li fell love with that little shepherdess. Every morning he leaves with her and don’t return until after sundown. He won’t permit any guards following him. He will not be bothered even when I have urgent affairs.”
Wen Zhong laughed and thought, “When Brother Fan Li was living in the kingdom of Chu, everyone called him Fan Li the Crazy. He never does things like other people.”
At that time, Fan Li was sitting on a mountain side grassland and telling A’qing the story of the goddess Consort Xiang. A’qing was sitting close by his side and listened to him intent, her large bright eyese never left his face. Suddenly she said, “Consort Xiang is really that beautiful?”
Fan Li said, “Her eyes are clearer and brighter than the water in this mountain stream…”
A’qing said, “Does she have fish in her eyes?”
Fan Li continued, “Her skin is like the clouds, but fairer.”
A’qing said, “Are there birds flying in those clouds?”
Fan Li continued obliviously, “Her lips are softer than the petal of this flower and redder. Her lips are moist, even more than the dews on this petal. When Consort Xiang stands next to the river, the beauty of her reflection made all the riverside flowers wilt in shame. Even fish dare not swim in water for fear of rumpling her reflection. When her white hand is dipped into the river, it was so soft that it could almost melt into the water…”
A’qing said, “You saw her, didn’t you. How else can you describe her so clearly?”
Fan Li said, “I saw her. I saw her very, very clearly.”
Of course, he was referring to Xi Shi, not the goddess Consort Xiang.
He looked at the north. His eyes looked beyond a wide, roaring river. Is the beauty in the royal palace of Wu. Is she with King Fuchai? Is she thinking about me?
A’qing said, “Fan Li! Your beard is strange, can I touch it?”
Fan Li thought, “Is she weeping, or laughing?”
A’qing said, “Fan Li, you have two strands of white beard, just like my goats.”
Fan Li thought, “When we’re separated, she wept on my shoulder. Her tear soaked half of my robe. I never washed that robe. My tears were mingled with hers on that robe.”
A’qing said, “Fan Li. Can I pull out one of your beard? I will pull gently. You won’t feel a thing.”
Fan Li thought, “She said she loved riding in a boat and float with the currents. After I take her back, I will not be a court minister anymore. I will ride a boat with her, floating in rivers and lakes, for the rest of my life.”
Suddenly, he felt a sharp pain on his chin. A’qing pulled out a strand of his beard. She laughed prettily. Suddenly the laugh was cut off and she said, “You’re here again!”
A green shadow flashed as A’qing shot forward. A green blur and a white blur was moving quickly around each other.
Fan Li cried gladly, “Grandpa White’s here!” It’s a while before the two combatants slowed down enough for him to get a good look. Then he got a great surprise.
The one fighting A’qing wasn’t human. It was a white ape.
The white ape, too, was holding a bamboo stick. The white ape performed intricate sword forms. The whooshing sound of the stick signalled the great strength it put into each form. But every time he attack, A’qing was always able to block or redirect each blow and counter attack using even more intricate sword forms.
When A’qing fought the Wu swordsmen, the forms she used were minimal. Only now Fan Li witnessed the vast skill A’qing wielded. He was no expert in swords, but he had looked at the Yue swordsmen train for many years. Now, he realised that the best swordsmen of Yue were but children playing with toys when compared to A’qing and Grandpa.
The white ape’s attacks sped up faster and faster. A’qing slowed down instead. She stood still, but each time she thrust with her bamboo stick, the white ape was forced to jump back.
A’qing forced the white ape three steps, then she pulled back her stick and stood still. The white ape held his stick in two hands and jumped to attack. Fan Li saw the strength of the attack and cried out, “Watch out!” A’qing’s stick moved too fast to be seen. There were two muffled sounds of impact, then the white ape’s bamboo stick dropped to the ground. The white ape howled and jumped up to a tree. Then it leaped away. The howl was intense, but became muter as the it went farther away. The howl reverberated long after the white ape was gone.
A’qing turned back and sighed, “Grandpa broke both of his arms. Now he won’t come play with me anymore.”
Fan Li said, “You broke his arms?”
A’qing nodded, “Grandpa is very angry today. Three times, he tried to leap over and kill you.”
Fan Li said in surprise, “Kill me? Why?”
Xue Zhu said, “Feng Huzi finally said to Wu Zixu that he had little skill except forging swords. In return for Wu Zixu’s favours…